Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

Here is a barn swallow. The picture is fuzzy because of the speed of the bird, but you can still see the distinctive swallow tail, and some of the white highlights in his tail feathers. I enjoy watching these birds because of their highly aerobatic flights. They will zip in and out and around man-made structures with ease.

A couple of decades ago, I was birding alongside a pond in California when I noticed these birds doing mid-air stalls, followed by a flip turn and flight back in the direction they came from. In my mind I visualized the perfect picture this would provide as the bird stopped in mid-air for a fraction of a second with his feathers on both, wings and tail, spread fully apart showing the details most birders only get slight glimpses of. Unfortunately, this was before the age of digital cameras and it was impractical to keep trying to get the picture given the cost of film and developing after the first few failures.

A mid-air stall is when the bird turns to fly straight up, without flapping or continuing to propel himself forward. Pretty soon gravity overpowers momentum and the bird begins to fall backward. This is when he would effortlessly flip himself, flying back in the direction he came from.

There is that brief moment when gravity and flight are at odds with each other over the fate of the swallow. For just the briefest of moments it looks like gravity is going to win, but very quickly the truth is revealed. Gravity might have had a plan. It might have built up its own hopes of sending the bird splashing into the pond below. Those hopes were futile. The truth is, even when gravity was on the verge of defeating the bird, it was unknowingly serving the bird and its planned flight.

So it is with Christ in the crucifixion. Satan, sin and death all thought for a moment they were going to overwhelm God and His Son. They hoped to see His pathetic attachment to lowly humans to become His downfall. Since He was foolish enough to take on their weak and decaying flesh, they would use this loving choice against Him. Crucifixion was accomplished. Satan’s victory seemed to be assured.

Then came the resurrection, and the realization that Satan’s schemes served God’s will. It was our victory, not the devil’s, that was secured.

When this corruptible is clothed
with incorruptibility,
and this mortal is clothed
with immortality,
then the saying that is written will take place:
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your sting?
Now the sting of death is sin,
and the power of sine is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our  Lord Jesus  Christ!

1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (HCSB)


Mercy Killing


In desperation I sought out this great physician. My condition was fatal, but he had a plan. It was radical and it would either succeed or fail. He was more honest than my other doctors, they said the same thing in pages of legalese on consent forms they hardly expected me to read.

He hauled me down to his river. He asked me to trust him. He lifted me up and carried me out into swift, deep water. I clung to him in fear, until he reminded me I promised to trust him. I reluctantly released my grip on his hair.

He plunged me down into the river. At first I just looked up at him through the surface of the water. But when I needed to draw a breath I struggled. Then, I fought with all my might, but to no avail. I blacked out and yet he still held me. I died in that river.

I watched my killer from the shore as he drew me out of the water and back into his arms. He behaved with a remarkable tenderness, now when compassion was too late. Back in his office he laid my body out on a table. The rest of me followed and watched and wondered what was I supposed to do in a situation like this?

The entire second day my body lay there on the table while I paced nervously around the room. I tried touching it, but found I could not touch anything save the ground beneath my feet. He occasionally checked on me. And when he spoke to me, I realized he knew both parts of me were present.

The third day he prepared a funeral for me. My body was placed in a casket, and I was delivered to a chapel. The doctor stood up to address the empty chairs, there was no congregation. There were none to mourn my broken remains.

He began his eulogy by detailing my condition and its deadly outcomes. He described aloud my faults, my frailty, my failings—these things were why I had to die. No kind words about my good deeds, or the quality of my character; he just pronounced judgment.

Murderer, I thought. I had to die, but not yet. It was your choice to kill me before my time. You decided to take my trust and execute me because of your intolerance of my descent into death.

Then he did what I thought was impossible. He grabbed me by the arm, not the arm of my body, but my arm. He wrestled me into the coffin, he forced me back into the corpse.

A moment later I was gasping for breath. For the first time in three days, I drew air. I saw through eyes. I could smell the dust of the room.

“You killed me!” I said.

“No, I killed the diseased body, but you have been raised to newness of life.” His voice was not angry, despite my accusations. The opposite of anger, he was full of joy. As these thoughts came to me, another I scarcely understood crept into my heart.

“What do you mean?” I asked, failing to believe yet this glimmer of hope was possible.

“I mean you are no longer sick.”

There was a long silence, while hope began to become acceptance. I felt better, I felt new.

“How did you do this?”

“I killed the diseased body and then raised you up in a new body.”

“So the frailty will never come back?”

“Actually it will come back. Every day you will experience it again in one way or another. But I will train you how to deal with it.

“What will I do?” I asked with familiar fear creeping up my spine.

“I will teach you to kill every new attack. I will teach you to daily take up death, and thereby to also take up life.”

“You can teach me to do that.”

“Yes,” he said, “I will give you the tools to crucify yourself daily.”

“What kind of a tool do I need for that?” I asked.

“Your cross, of course.”