Of Raptors, Gannets and Swans

gannetThe other evening I was listening to Saving Species on Radio 4, discussing the persecution of raptors (birds of prey). At the end of the programme, one of the contributors said ‘one thing we haven’t discussed is the sheer joy of seeing these birds.’ Amen! There is definitely a joy in seeing hunting birds. I regularly stand out on deck whilst I’m travelling across the Minch, watching Gannets (my favourite seabird) fishing. These hunting birds speak of the wildness of creation. God placed wildness in the creation at the beginning – in Gen 1:24 God creates both domesticated and wild animals.

It’s not just raptors and hunters that bring joy, but other birds and animals. This morning I stood watching two beautiful white swans slowly swimming by on the loch, their streamlined shapes tapering to a fine point at their tails. There is a deep sense of place and of peace that accompanies such experiences.

Genesis 1 tells us that we have an profound relationship with all of these creatures. We have a deep connection to them and the divine intention is that we live amongst them, observing them, understanding them. It concerns me that the urbanised culture that redefines humans as consumers (witness the perverse idea that shopping is a recreational activity) is so prevalent amongst  so many young people and adults too. Our grandfathers and grandmothers embraced the bicycle as a means of escape to the countryside. Now, we drive in our cars into the cities on our days off. A technologised culture draws people like moths to bright screens. But all the while there is a neglect of interaction with the natural world, with the creatures that make our hearts sing.

Dave Bookless calls us to cultivate our sense of wonder: ‘like a sensitive plant, it withers unless nurtured.’ It’s a call I would echo. It is part of our discipleship, of our obedience to God, to cultivate a sense of wonder in the things that God has created. We can do this in the countryside, and in the cities. Green spaces are never far away. The sky is always over our heads. But, if we live in cities, we often have to prioritise time to find spaces where we can meditate and worship the Creator. It takes discipline and effort. But the rewards are very great:

I have found on many occasions that when my relationship with God is dry and hard going, it is a sense of God’s wonder in creation that draws me close again… I constantly find that as I bring my praise  and prayers to God, the natural world inspires, challenges and helps me, reminding me of God’s power, creativity, care and attention to detail. If I have worries or burdens, they are often put into perspective as I find my place in creation. Planetwise, Dave Bookless

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