Sunday, June 16, 2019


Today’s camp lesson from the AT: nothing in God’s creation does not belong. Every expression of life on planet earth is intrinsically good and of sacred worth; and everything has a purpose, a special role to play, because the Creator of us all made it that way. This good earth and the living community that inhabits it is a space of belonging for all that has life. The love of God in Jesus says to each of us, that as members of the family of creation holding infinite value in the eyes of God you too are good, valued, loved, and made for a purpose. We are all made for more than we usually settle for; so as a responsible member of life on planet earth, Dream big and live boldly and love sincerely in Jesus’ name; if we do this we will all enjoy life together as we celebrate our collective belonging.

The health of the whole is dependent on the well-being of all of its members. Everything belongs; so we should treat all things as if each DOES belong in our lives. This is the golden rule; treat others as we’d like to be treated. When we treat other creatures and parts of the environment as if it does not belong, the land will spit us out as if we do not belong. 

We should treat other living things with the same respect and care that we afford our own bodies; because we all belong in God’s world as each new day we are embraced in our Creator’s amazing love.

Saturday, June 15, 2019


Today has been a day for spiritual recalibration. It started with a walk across town in Wellsboro with Ivy. Then I drove 3 hours south to State Game Lands 169 just outside the town of Newburg, PA where I was overjoyed to locate and photograph one prothonotary warbler (perfect swampy forest habitat!) and two white-eyed vireos (the photo target of the day). That big oxbow of the Conodaguinet River is totally awesome on a number of levels!

After a couple hours of birding I drove one more hour to the south to Camp Penn where I’ll be staying for the week as a camp counselor. I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of campers tomorrow afternoon but I’m also very thankful for the time of reflection, retreat, and adventure I have had today and will have more of in the morning.

I need this day of recalibration because we all need a time of retreat every once in a while to take a step back from the busyness of life and recalibrate, and in doing so establish healthier rhythms and go deeper in our relationship with God and our understanding of ourselves.

Jesus took time to go to isolated places to pray. So will I, surrounded by thousands of flickering fireflies, a big moth, and a magnificent chorus of gray tree frogs. That’s how my day ends today. Thanks be to God.

 (Me at SGL 169)

 (SGL 169 prothonotary warbler habitat)

(SGL 169 white-eyed vireo habitat)

Friday, June 14, 2019

Morning for the birds

If you've been following this blog for a while you know by now that I am passionate about living into community with all that has life in Jesus' name; this means treating everything that has life as a neighbor to me. Jesus teaches that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Furthermore, everything that has life is created by God and is loved by God, which brings me to this truth: one of the very profound ways that we can love God is by loving what God loves, and a critical step towards loving our neighbors is getting to know our neighbors enough to understand our neighbors, to care for our neighbors in ways that matter, and to give our neighbors the space they need to thrive. To care for another's well-being is to love another.

And so, let me share with you one of the ways that scientific study can pave the way towards love and understanding of our wild neighbors. Long story short, this morning was for the birds.

In my love for God and my love for my winged neighbors I participated in a United States Geological Survey North American Breeding Bird Survey for the second consecutive year with my friend Kathy. We followed a strict protocol so our efforts and observations will continue to be a valuable piece of the puzzle of analyzing local, regional, and national trends in bird population fluctuations and dynamics.

Our Breeding Bird Survey route starts in Austinville, PA. At daybreak we drove the 25 mile survey route, making 50 stops along the way. I have the responsibility of identifying as many birds as possible within 1/4 mile radius during our (exactly!) 3 minute time frame at each stop and Kathy has the responsibility of recording the number of each species on the data sheets as I call it out. The route has to be done in the morning since that's when the birds are most active and vocal and most of the identifications are made by listening.

We started the route at 5am and completed our route at 9:40am. The species count varied at each of our 50 stops but altogether we located a total of over 600 individual birds that were representatives of 70 different species that are most likely breeding or attempting to breed in the vicinity of our 25 mile route.

A couple of our favorite birds that we encountered today were yellow-throated vireo, grasshopper sparrow, orchard oriole, and green heron. While I did not take time to photograph any of these today due to the rigorous (but exciting!) nature of a USGS North American Breeding Bird Survey, I have attached photos I've taken of each of these birds from other birding trips.

To me it is a great joy to be part of something much bigger than myself for the sake of our wild neighbors, and to do so in my love for God.

(My friend Kathy and I, upon completion of the 50th and final stop of today's BBS)

(yellow-throated vireo- taken a couple years ago at Ives Run Recreation Area)

 (first year orchard oriole- taken a couple years ago at Delmar Ridge, near Wellsboro, PA)

 (green heron on its nest- taken last year at Hershey, PA)

(grasshopper sparrow- taken last year in Gettysburg, PA)

Thursday, June 13, 2019


My friends Darren and Dinah have a water well drilling business near Clarion, PA. About a week ago a bird nest fell out of their drilling rig and in that nest was a baby bird. They tried reuniting this young bird with its parents but after a while it was clear that the little bird had been abandoned when the nest fell.

Dinah made the decision to adopt this little bird and faithfully fed it and cared for it during the past week. As you can see in the photos the little bird was doing well in her care; that is, until something truly remarkable happened. The parent birds had constructed another nest in the same rig and upon noticing this, my friends placed "Prince" into the newly constructed nest and shortly thereafter the adult pair accepted and resumed care for their little one. Dinah has reported that, as of today, Prince continues to develop well under the care of his bird parents.

This story gets me thinking about family. When we think about family we may think about our biological family; of parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and siblings who are related by blood. Then again, our immediate human family may include people who are both biological and adopted. When we think about family maybe we also include pets and other animals whom we have adopted as part of our family. As strange as it may sound, some may even include in their concept of family their favorite house plant or tree. When we think about family we may think about the human family at large in all of our beautiful diversity; of how God would have all 7 billion human beings on planet earth live at peace with one another; when we think about the human family we may think of the golden rule, that we should treat one another as we'd like to be treated ourselves. When we think about family we may think of the family of creation; of how everything that has life is created by God and is of sacred worth; what a wonderful thing it is to be part of the family of creation!

When we think about family we may also think about church, because the church is the people who are the family of faith in Jesus Christ. I love being part of this family in which we are bound together by our faith in Jesus and by the values of faith, hope, and love.

As I think about family in all of its forms and expressions, I'm thankful to have had the joy of sharing how Dinah and Darren adopted little Prince into their family by fostering him for a week.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


When I was young something that brought joy to my heart was pinching (but not breaking) the heads of snapdragon flowers. I found some today outside of the hospital in Wellsboro, PA. If I’m being honest, at 32 years of age it still stirs up joy in my heart when I make those colorful little flowers open and close their mouths; although I didn’t give the flowers a voice-over...what would a snapdragon say if it could talk?

Whether you’re making a snapdragon talk, climbing a tree, spending time in the garden, watching wildlife in the forest or just taking in a good sunset I hope that we can all take time to interact with wildlife and wild spaces (or cultivated exotics in the case of my snapdragon today!) because it’s good for the soul.

Many times I find myself thanking God for the experience.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

To those who helped a bird in need, I'm thanking God for you!

I hope today's story will be an encouraging one for all of us. It is a story about a bird, a local veterinary clinic, a volunteer transporter and one of the few wildlife rehabilitation organizations in Pennsylvania. Every part of the story involves kind people doing for an animal in need what nobody ever said they had to.

Yesterday an injured broad-winged hawk was delivered to Grand Canyon Veterinary Hospital in Wellsboro, PA. During his time there he received the name George. The staff worked to keep George stable and made arrangements for him to be transported to Centre Wildlife Care in Port Matilda, where he could receive the best possible care.

At about 11am Erin (my wife) left Wellsboro with George in her car (in a carrier, of course!). At about 1:00pm George was delivered to Centre Wildlife Care.

I am filled with hope for the way that I see God working through this whole situation from beginning to end.

When we take time to care for animals the best of our humanity inevitably shines forth.

Thank you to all who stepped up to the challenge to help a bird in need.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Spot, my wild neighbor

I've found immense joy in noticing some of the animals that live in close proximity to me; the pair of bluejays that frequent the tall pines in the back yard; the mourning dove that perches at its regular spot on the eve of the garage roof; the chipmunk who lives in the drainpipe whom we can often hear rattling around in there as Erin and I eat our life is enriched by these wild neighbors who live nearby each and every day.

There is one in particular whom, for some reason or another, I feel I have a special appreciation for.

This is the male American robin whom I've taken to calling "Spot." As an individual he is easy to identify since he has a white spot in his plumage behind his right eye; this unique characteristic is very noticeable in the photo above.

Spot migrates elsewhere during the winter months but from April to September he is reliably encountered on the front lawns of the three houses just down the street from mine. I've lived in Wellsboro, PA for four years and Spot has been present for all four of them.

(my house is represented by the blue dot. Spot's territory is represented by the yellow circle.)

Spot and I are fellow sojourners in this life; each of us praising God our creator by allowing our authentic selves to find expression in our lives; a natural task for most animals (certainly for Spot!), but a lengthy process of self-discovery for most of us humans.

Spot is one of those animals who I see every day. When I'm walking across town usually to or from the church building I often see him perched on the branch of a tree, hopping or swiftly walking across the grass in search of worms, or zipping past me in flight.

I sense the Spirit of God speaking into my heart through my experiences with Spot; he is a reminder for me to be my authentic self; a daily reminder to me to allow the person whom God made me to be to shine forth each day; in my love for God, for others, and for all that has life, and in the ways I enjoy life with those around me.

I hope we all have a "Spot" in our lives to help us value our wild neighbors and to remind us to be our authentic selves as God has made us.

Thank you, Spot.


Today’s camp lesson from the AT: nothing in God’s creation does not belong. Every expression of life on planet earth is intrin...