Consider the Birds

Perched bird.

Photo: Julia Ozab

I’m in a bit of a conundrum when it comes to my blog. First off, I’m a writer–if I wasn’t I wouldn’t use the word “conundrum.” And as a writer I need to find an audience. In the 21st Century, that means the Internet. As an up-and-coming writer, I need a net presence (blog and/or social media) or I’m invisible. So I need to put myself out there, but then I see my hits and follows and like stagnating while others’ seem to skyrocket and I wonder what I’m doing wrong.

I get so frustrated that I don’t want to blog or tweet or post or pin (or whatever) anymore. That’s the other reason why I’ve been so quiet. Yes, I was fighting a bad chest cold for most of May, but the slowdown began before that. Because the burnout began before that.

So what does this have to do with birds?

Two weekends ago, I took a day off, got away from my laptop, and drove to the Finley Wildlife Refuge with my wife and daughter. Birds were everywhere. We could see them flitting from tree to tree, but even when we couldn’t see them we could hear them.

At the first stop, while Julia and Anna had their cameras out waiting to spot a bird on a perch or in flight, I stood still, closed my eyes, and listened.

I heard music, a counterpoint of bird songs in surround sound. And through that wondrous polyphony, God spoke to me.

Listen to “the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” –Matthew 6:26

And I realized that all the worry wouldn’t add one more view, one more click, or one more meaningless web stat. That’s not why I write anyway. I write to capture just a snippet of the profound beauty we all experience in life.

And I was more inspired in that moment than I could be by a year’s worth of tweets or posts. Because in that moment, I got in touch with the Source of everything.

So consider the birds singing, or the leaves whispering their secrets to each other in a nearby tree, or a child praising her Creator in her infectious laugh. Consider the ongoing symphony, sonata, and song multiplied by a million that God conducts for his and our pleasure every day.

And leave tomorrow for tomorrow. That’s how I plan to write, blog, and live from now on.

With God’s help, I pray, at those times that I will inevitably stumble.

Amen.

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Last!

"Why people write 'first'" venn diagram

Image: Jack Shepherd (Buzzfeed.com)

Back when the internet was a little bit younger, when blogs were a new idea, and when comment boards were a novelty, there was an annoying trend that thankfully has since died out.

The very first comment on each and blog post was always the same.

“First!”

That was it. No response. Just a boast. “First!”

And in the push to be first, I wonder if the commenter even read the post.

We all do this. A lot. We want to be first. The first to talk, the first to be heard. We want to be heard so badly that we don’t stop to listen.

I notice it when my daughter jumps into a conversation without realizing it and talks over everyone. But she’s a kid. She’s still learning.

I notice adults doing it too. Especially on cable TV “news ,” where so-called discussions are really shouting contests, and one who shouts loudest wins. They should know better.

We’re all so determined to be heard that we’ve forgotten how to listen. I wonder if we might learn again if we strive for a new goal.

Not first, but last.

Speak last, so we can hear what other people are saying.

Speak last, so we can consider our words rather than blurting them out.

Speak last, so we can measure our response and be sure it does no harm.

And maybe, while we’re at it, we can get a little bit of a break from all the noise. Maybe we can realize that while some circumstances demand an immediate outcry, others require quiet contemplation.

And ultimately, instead of always jumping in, always wanting to be first, we realize that—in some cases—it’s better to wait.

It’s better to be last.

Five Minute Friday

Patience, Part II

Back in April I wrote about my difficulties with patience, and how I was determined to wait a year before I got involved in church. I also wrote about a conversion story I hoped to get published. I submitted it at the end of February, wrote a followup email a month later, and then a second followup in May.

I heard nothing. Not a “no thank you,” not a “we’ll get back to you.” Nothing.

I gave up. Like I said, patience is hard for me. So is taking my own advice.

Today, I finally heard back:

Dear David Ozab,

First, my most sincere apologies for the delayed response! For some reason your emails were being automatically sorted into an incorrect folder and were not seen (the problem has been fixed now). I’m terribly sorry for the delay and confusion.

Thank you so much for sharing your sincere and heartwarming story with us!

If you’re still interested, we would be delighted to share your experience with our readers.

I should have trusted my instincts. I knew it was a good piece—I’d gotten great responses from several people, all of whom loved it—and yet I hadn’t heard anything for almost five months. I never stopped for a moment and thought maybe it was just a foul up. No, I jumped to the worst conclusion and said some pretty nasty things (in casual conversation only, not in print or online) about the publication in question.

For that I offer my most sincere apologies.

And next time, I’ll try to take my own advice.

Patience

For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.
—Psalm 62:1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer).

Patience has always been hard for me. I want to rush into things, and I hate waiting. That’s why I keep coming back to the above quote: “For God alone my soul in silence waits . . .” God moves in his own time, not mine.

It took me decades to finally become a Catholic (a story I’d tell here, but I’m hoping to get it published), and now that I have joined the Church the temptation is there to jump in right away. There’s so much I feel drawn to: music ministry, liturgy, education, Benedictine oblation—all areas of interest, and I certainly can’t do all of them. I need to take the time to discern my path.

Without realizing it, my priest has just given me that time. In his homily on Saturday night, he told us we were entering the next stage of our journey. As full members of the Catholic Church we would be considered Neophytes for one year.

Neophyte: a Greek word—via Latin—meaning new growth. In other words, a sapling. A little tree like the one that sits on our back balcony. A nice image.

And I realized as I sat there listening to his homily that my priest had just given me license to slow down, to wait, to be patient. So I decided, at that moment, that I would take the next year—up until Easter 2012—to just sit in the pews and be a new Catholic.

During that time I’ll be prayerfully discerning my path beyond next year, but I won’t take any steps beyond prayer and discernment until after next Easter.

Waiting won’t be easy. Patience is still hard, but I will do my best to rest in the Lord and wait in silence for his guidance.