The Black Phoebe and God

Black_phoebe_sayornis_nigricansA few Sundays ago I took a leisurely ride along the river on   the Old Broadbent Road. Near Catching Creek, I heard the pi-tsee, pi-tsee of a bird. Slowing to a near stop, I said to myself, “black phoebe” and looked around. There it was sitting on a bare branch, wagging its tail in typical flycatcher fashion. The late afternoon sun illuminated the black head and white body.

What’s surprising is that had you asked me what a black phoebe sounds like, I would have said, “I have no idea!” It is not a bird I grew up hearing. Only recently has it extended its range from northern California into Oregon. On walks around town and up to the cemetery, I have often watched them dart from branches to catch insects. Evidently, I have been listening to their call as well. But I have never tried to learn it.

And yet when I heard the call I immediately knew it was a black phoebe. As I continued my ride along the Coquille River, I reflected on how I really have no idea what God’s call sounds like either. To be honest, I ask God many questions and get no replies. I don’t hear his voice often, but I listen.

I have even annoyed people by objecting to the phrase “personal relationship with God.” Conversation with God seems essential to a personal relationship,  but God and I don’t converse. Yes, He has spoken volumes through His Word and in the revelation of His Son, but this seems more like a form letter sent to everyone than a conversation.

Recognizing the call of the black phoebe, however, greatly encouraged me. God told me that I know more than I know I know (if that makes sense). True, I can’t tell you what God’s voice sounds like, but I know it when I hear it.

About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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