Monday, March 13, 2017

POTM*: Near the Cross

(*Photos of the Month)

Two years ago late in Lent, while we were serving a wonderful church in southern New Mexico, Gail and I became aware of a lovely and lively little woodpecker pair seeming to take more than a casual interest in a large cross in the church’s landscaping. Within a couple days, believe it or not, we realized that they had chosen the cross in which to build their nest. Note: not on which to build their nest, mind you, but in which, adding a whole new meaning to the concept of finding new birth and life within the cross of Jesus Christ! Woodpeckers are cavity nesters, and there, right smack in the middle of the vertical beam and just up from the crossbeam, they had begun their hammering, chipping demolition.

Over the days that followed we kept as close track as we could while being careful not to drive them off with our curiosity. By Easter Sunday the hole was about an inch deep, but the little duo (he with a red cap, she without) really got into it once they went all out. A few days into Eastertide it was five inches deep. (OK, OK, I like things like this, and in their absence I’d check periodically with a ruler!) But then the cavity began heading downward, and soon after, when their presence became constant, I lost the ability to measure.

We researched them and found them to be Ladderback Woodpeckers. Typically these woodies nest in cactus, but this pair seemed to have a different plan that year. And yes, within several weeks time, they fledged several chicks. We even had some fun with the folks at the church and had a naming contest, though I cannot remember the winning entry.

Now, the beams from which the cross was made were solid, not hollow. The cross was sturdily built, and completely painted without so much as a blemish to get the creatures thinking. In other words, this spot was chosen — chosen over cactus, over hollow trees, over snags with holes already started, chosen over countless other available options. Chosen. In the cross! We all should be so smart as to make such a choice.

Which has gotten me to thinking... First, I wonder if the pair or its offspring have returned to the nest in subsequent years. Perhaps we’ll hear from one of our Las Cruces friends to let us know. But the other thing I get to wondering about is this whole idea of staying close to the cross of Christ. In 1869, Fanny Crosby, that prolific, blind, gospel hymn writer, penned a poem that has become one of her most beloved songs, “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross.” Here it is, and if you need a reminder of the tune, you can hit this YouTube recording while you read:

Jesus, keep me near the cross. There, a precious fountain --
Free to all, a healing stream -- flows from Calvary’s mountain.

In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever,
‘Til my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.

Near the cross! A trembling soul, love and mercy found me.
There the Bright and Morning Star shed His beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me.
Help me walk from day to day with its shadow o’er me.

Near the cross! I’ll watch and wait, hoping, trusting ever,
‘Til I reach the golden strand just beyond the river.

In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever,
‘Til my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.

This Lent, like a couple of my former avian friends, I am finding my comfort near the cross of Jesus. Join me?

~~ RGM, March 12, 2017

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