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Archive for July, 2019

A few months ago I taught Philip a new phrase.  It was a simple one: “wanna come?”  I would say it to him in the evening after supper when I was ready to take him with me to the office.  The office is his favorite room in the whole house, so he was always willing to come.

I had been saying that to him for a couple of weeks when he found an entirely new and endearingly cute use for the phrase.  We had just come back from his boarding place (at his vet, where they love him) and I had him in his travel palace, I mean, cage.  I needed to unlock the door and take a couple of things into the house, so I set him down by my car.  As I was walking through the front door, I heard this little voice behind me, “wanna come?”

In other words, “ummm, Mom, you aren’t going to leave me out here in the garage all by myself, are you?  I want to come with you!”

African Greys are famous for their talking, but it is not just talking.  The commonly used phrase “parroting it back to you” probably came from the avian ability to mimic our sounds.  And there are a lot of species who don’t do much more than that.  But there are a few that actually understand the action that goes with the word.  An African Grey’s power of association is about the same as a four year old child.  Not only can they use the right words to get what they want, they can apply the right words to a new context, like Philip did.

This is the reason a lot of people get African Greys, and it is certainly endearing, amusing, and awe inspiring.  But for me, there was a deeper reason.  I wanted to do more than just train Philip to use words.  I wanted to communicate with him non verbally, in a way that demonstrated that I had established a connection with him, not just a vocabulary.  For me, this was a significant part of unpacking design.  I believe there is a component of our stewardship of nature that involves language in a much broader and more spiritual sense.

My first go at it was by accident, or rather, because of an emergency trip back to Michigan for a funeral.  It was only a month or two after I brought Philip home and I was really worried about leaving him.  On the way to the vet where he was going to stay, I tried talking to him.  Not out loud, but in my mind and in my spirit towards him.  I think, sometimes, we put ourselves in a box of spoken words.  Words are powerful because of the concepts that are greater than the words themselves.  They clothe them, so to speak, and make them visible.  But there are other ways of communicating those same powerful concepts, and I believe we grow our spiritual capacity when we learn them.

I felt a little better by the time we got to the vet, but I wasn’t sure if anything had really landed.  Therefore, I was quite pleased when I got a text before I even got home – Philip was already munching on his snacks and playing with his toys!  For a bird in a brand new environment, that was amazing.

The second time I tried was under more relaxed circumstances and had immediate, measurable results.  Philip was playing around on his cage and on a corded rope perch I had attached for him to hang on.  A couple of times when he was hanging upside down, I put my hand under him and tried to get him to let go.  He hadn’t done it yet.  So, this time, I did the same thing, only I didn’t say anything, I tried to communicate to him again from my spirit.  He looked straight at me and let go.

I was so thrilled, I almost dropped him.   Not a good idea when you just tried to communicate boatloads of trustworthiness!  That was a special moment.

But the one that will forever stand out in my memory was his ladder.

Before I brought Philip home, I bought his big cage and outfitted it with a bunch of toys.  One of the accessories was a dowel ladder that I leaned up against the side of the cage so that he could easily climb up and down.  So, I gave him a while to get used to his new digs.  He showed a modicum of interest in the ladder.  He would climb down just far enough to get back into his cage. I tried a variety of tactics to show him it was safe.  I put some of his favorite treats on the rungs.  He would just stretch down and grab them without actually moving down the ladder.  Cheater.

So, one evening I was sitting on the floor by his cage and he was on his customary half-way point on the ladder.  I could tell that he wanted to come to where I was, but he still didn’t feel safe.  So, I talked to him again, non verbally.  He just sat still for a few seconds, and then, lo, and behold … he started coming down!  He stopped every couple of rungs to look at me, but he came all the way down to the ground and over to where I was sitting.  WOW.  What a moment of celebration that was!

And then it dawned on me.  Probably the same way it dawns on most parents after watching their toddler take his first steps.

Lord have mercy, WHAT will he get into now?!

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**We interrupt this regular birdy broadcast for an important message.  Or at least a message that bears some thought.  Or one thought, at least, if you can’t spare a few.**

I recently went on a road trip with a friend and we had eleven hours in the car together.  Both ways!  The crazy thing is that we are still friends, even after my attempts to save a turtle detoured us to the worst gravel road in North America, and the abundances of tiny frogs on another road caused me to drive like a drunken maniac to avoid hitting them.

Somewhere in that 22 hours of road time, we got to talking about preparedness.  Not the “retreat to a converted shipping container in the mountains to avoid the zombies” kind of prepping, but more like the “how can we be ready, spirit, soul and body, to be nimble and responsive to the King in the midst of a crisis” kind of prepping.  And yes, for me that still involves a Go bag – complete with first aid supplies, a ham radio, and crowbars in the trunk of my car.  I like to be practical.

But God apparently decided I needed a reminder about the abstract.  Odd that He would have to remind a Mercy about that.

We are all familiar with Philippians 4:8.  In a nutshell:  think on good stuff because it is good for you.  I have always related to that verse in a general sense.  Don’t defile your mind with junk from books, TV, movies, etc.  Focus on God, not the devil, because whoever you concentrate on will become bigger to you.   Don’t have a fear-based worldview.  Things like that.  It was more of a broad application and it was about keeping your mind right in the present.

Well, I recently saw the verse and the concept in a whole new light – painfully specific and about keeping your mind right for the future.  A different kind of prepping.

I have one of those challenging dynamics in community where you have history with a particular personality and there is some truth in the opinions you have formed.  This is a soil in which all kinds of interesting plants can grow, some of them not very pretty at all.  Well, there were a couple of them that I let grow, and threw some fertilizer on from time to time.  There is a sickening kind of satisfaction that can come out of nursing those ugly little plants.

So, a situation came up, as situations often do.  I made a bad call and had to choke down the fruit of one of those aforementioned ugly little plants.  I wouldn’t recommend it.  I will be washing my mouth out for a week.

It was one of those rare and profound moments in life when you look at yourself from the outside and can, for an instant, clearly see the chain of events that got you there.  I had done everything possible to prepare myself for failure.  I grew that plant and then had to eat the fruit.

Our thoughts and attitudes are going to condition us for some kind of reaction in the future.  Many of our decisions are not the result of the moment, but of a thousand moments leading up to it.  They form our worldview and they color our every day interactions.

You know, it really isn’t worth it.  Who knows how your mind will be tested in the future.  What will be the force of the thousand thoughts and emotions that will direct it?

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