Work in Progress"
you ever spent time watching eagle's, they're so
majestic and powerful.
Well in many ways the
eagle reminds me of God not only because of their
majesty and power but because of the way they prepare
their children for life.
And when I think about
how God has interacted with me throughout my faith
journey, often times it has been in a way that is best
illustrated by how a mother eagle interacts with her
The mother eagle builds
her nest on the side of a cliff, not on the top where it
would be vulnerable but on the side.
It's built with great
skill, a nest largely constructed of branches
intertwined to make it strong.
On top of the branches
there are smaller sticks and then they are held there by
briars woven over them, and then on top of the briars
lies a covering, which is often the skin of animals or
rags collected by the eagles, or soft downy feathers and
grass to make it soft and comfortable.
And once the eggs have
been laid, it becomes a great place for the eagle to sit
until they are hatched. Then it becomes a mother's duty
to feed those little eagles, a seemingly endless task.
She feeds one at a
time, going away, bringing back food, then another, then
another, and I am told by people who study eagles that
if you mix the eaglets up while she's gone, when she
comes back she pauses a moment and then she knows
exactly which one got fed last and goes on to the next
That's uncanny in and
of its self. She makes sure they are all equally
nourished. One day when she comes back however, she
doesn't rest on the side of the nest as she had been
doing. She's got nothing in her mouth to feed the little
eagles and they are puzzled. This time she flies up and
hovers almost motionless in mid air about three feet
above the nest.
I don't know if you
knew an eagle could do that or not but it can do what a
hummingbird can do. Almost remaining stationary with all
of its weight, moving its wings ever so gently above its
nest. And I suppose if little eagles could talk, one
might say to another "well, look how big mother is.
I never knew mother was so big and so powerful and so
And that's the point.
The mother eagle must
now teach her little ones that they are destined not to
stay in that nest but to fly. They are supposed to fly.
And that those curious appendages on their backs
actually have some useful function. They are called
wings and they are to be used when they've grown enough.
So on this particular
day, hovering overhead, the mother eagle descends into
the nest, snuggles up against the little ones with her
great head beside them, and begins to move them out of
the center of the nest ever so slightly to the edges,
then all the way to the edge she nudges them.
Then again if they
could speak one would say "Mother, you
wouldn't!" and just as the eagle says that, the
mother tosses them out of the nest. What a moment as
they go plummeting downward, downward toward the earth.
Surely thinking that they were about to be destroyed by
their own mother. But not so.
Quick as a flash, the
mother eagle swoops down, catches them on her wings or
her back, and brings them back up to the nest. Does she
do this because she doesn't like them anymore? No,
because she loves them and they have to learn how to
fly, and they never will as long as they are safe and
secure in the nest.
And on another day
sometime later, when the mother returns to her young,
she stands on the edge of the nest and begins to pull
out the feathers and the leaves. Then she breaks up the
sticks and gets rid of those. And she pushes them down
on those briars.
they might say, "what are you doing to us?"
She pays no attention,
continues to pull the nest apart, and as long as they
stay in the nest, she will never teach them how to fly.
So she lets them down in the bottom of the nest, all the
grass is gone, all the downy feathers, and she lays down
one of her soft strong wings, and she invites them to
get up on the wing.
They don't want to do
that so she beats on them. That's called tough love, I
think. She beats on them, and then finally one of them
will take its little claws, and hold on. Then they all
get on there and then she takes off. Flying, soaring,
and lifting herself straight up, and they are flying.
Those little eagles
hold on for dear life as she goes up, mile after mile,
soaring, drifting, winging her way across the sky. Then
she returns to the nest, puts her wing down again, they
get back on those briars, and say "Whoops!"
Jump back up on her
wing and away they go again. It's a marvelous thing.
Then sometimes when she's flying, she puts on the brakes
in mid air, lurches forward, and they all fall off.
Again plummeting to the earth, and again she swoops
down, and catches them amazingly on her wings with
superb accuracy. And then finally, she repeats this
until they stretch out their own wings and fly.
Side by side, soaring,
gliding with their mother. Returning to their nest, they
look, and then fly back to the sky. Done forever with
In many ways this is
how God helps us leave our comfort zone by getting us to
fly, encouraging us to move forward on our spiritual
And as I look back on
my spiritual journey thus far I can see where God threw
me out of the nest several times, and said Wade you have
to fly, but don't worry I'm there to catch you if you
fall. This was never more true then my call to ministry.
Some of you have heard
this story before, but I share it again because for me
it illustrates God's desire for us to move out of our
comfort zone so we can continue to grow. To move out of
our pews which have become our nests, if you will, to
the world where it is uncomfortable and challenging. It
also illustrates how God attempts to communicate with us
when pushing us out of the nest.
One Sunday in 1994 I
read the scripture lesson during the morning worship
service. This was the first time in my life that I had
ever spoken in front of a congregation. Immediately
after the service a member of the congregation came up
to me and stated he thought I did a great job reading
and he asked me if I had ever given any thought of going
into the ministry.
I certainly appreciated
the comments and thanked the person. But then I said to
myself, me a Pastor, you have got to be kidding. Again
in 1995 I read the scripture lesson during the morning
worship service. Immediately after the service a women
in the congregation came up to me and stated she thought
I did a great job reading and she asked me if I had ever
given any thought of going into the ministry.
Once again I expressed
my thanks to the person for the kind comments, But as I
had done before I said to myself, me a Pastor, you have
got to be kidding.
It's clear to me now
God was using these people to get through to me, like
the mother eagle beating on her baby eagles, and at the
very least to plant a seed, an idea.
Then in the spring of
1997 my pastor asked me if I would serve as the
Stewardship Committee Chairperson. I reluctantly said
yes and quickly added I have no clue what I'm supposed
to do. My pastor gave me an overview of the position and
handed me 3 books on Christian Stewardship so that I
could brush up on the subject.
That year as we left
for our summer vacation I threw the books into a bag,
and I can remember saying something like, "I'll
take these along in case I get bored." I wasn't
much for reading back in those days I found it boring,
but I took them along anyway. By the end of our week's
vacation I had read all three books and was looking for
more. You see these books opened my eyes to a lifestyle,
a Christian lifestyle, which I had not experienced in
quit the same way before. God was beginning to make the
nest uncomfortable. Of course once again I didn't
realize it at the time.
Then in the fall of the
same year my pastor asked me if I would be willing to
preach a sermon on Stewardship. My jaw about hit the
floor as I said, me are you crazy? But once again I
hesitantly said yes. Although extremely nervous I
enjoyed preaching that Sunday morning about a topic I
have become very passionate about, Christian
As before, several
people came up to me after the service to express their
kind thoughts on my effort, and once again a member of
the congregation ask me that question, have you ever
thought of going into the ministry? This time that
question resonated even louder within me. But as I did
two years earlier I dismissed the notion and didn't
think anymore of it.
At this point God was
probably saying, "What do I have to do to get
through to this guy?" We all need to understand
that one way God reveals His plans is through others. In
my case God was using members of the congregation and my
pastor on a repeated basis to get my attention, kind of
nudging me with his wing if you will.
But as before I
continued to ignore God, and continued to view these
comments as just being very kind and thoughtful. But God
being persistent didn't give up on me, and I thank Him
for that. Since nudging me with his wing wasn't working
God decided to try a more direct approach in the summer
of 1999. It was time to be thrown from the nest.
For 16 years my family
had gone to the beach in the summer to enjoy a week's
vacation. The first 10 years we always went with John
and Helene, very good friends of ours. John and I always
had a mission when we went to the beach. That mission
was to find a large conch shell. You know the kind of
shell you can put up to you ear to hear the ocean
through. We knew finding such a shell on the area of the
Outer Banks we frequented would be somewhat of a rare
find because of the ever present sand bar just off the
shore line. Finding any shell intact larger then a
50-cent piece, other then clamshells, on that beach was
considered a good find. However, that didn't deter us
from our annual quest and it always gave us something to
do. Unfortunately John and I never did find a conch
About ten years ago my
good friend John died of a rare disease. At his
graveside I vowed to continue looking for
"our" shell anytime I went to the beach
knowing he would be with me in spirit. So every year
since John's death I looked for "our" shell
with no luck.
Well in the summer of
1999 my family once again ventured to the beach, as we
always did for our annual summer vacation. I was
especially looking forward to this vacation because for
a year I had been struggling with feeling empty not
really knowing what I wanted to do with the rest of my
I had become very
frustrated because by most "worldly standards"
I was very successful. I had a successful professional
life, a wonderful family, and seem to have what most
people strive for. What more could there be and what
could possibly be missing. My frustration grew and grew,
and was taking a toll on me. I experienced restless
sleep every night, a feeling of inadequacy, and
self-doubt. I just felt unfulfilled and felt something
was missing in my life.
But being the proud
person I am, the man that can resolve any problem, I
kept trying to figure this out on my own. Once again I
believe God was trying to get through to me. He was
trying to get my attention, he was nudging me. Anyway, I
was bound and determined to figure out what was
bothering me. I figured a vacation was just what I
needed to sort everything out.
So that summer as we
arrived at the beach I once again did what I had done
every year since John's death. The first day on the
beach, I stood on top of the sand dune, faced the ocean,
looked to the heavens with out stretched arms and asked,
"John, is this year I find our shell?"
This year, while I was
standing there, without really thinking about it I also
started to pray "God I am frustrated with what I am
doing with my life and don't know why. I need your help
so I am turning my life over to you. You lead and I will
Following that quick
prayer I walked down to the beach to join my family and
friends where they had set up our towels and chairs. My
boys, as they usually were, were down in the water
playing so I went down and stood in the water with Susan
to watch them. I waded into the water just far enough so
the waves would break at my knees. As I stood there
watching the boys I felt something hit my leg. It
startled me and I jumped thinking it was a crab or some
other sea creature attacking me.
When I looked down to
see what it was I saw a white object next to my foot so
I quickly bent down to grab it before it washed back out
to sea. To
my amazement that object was this conch shell.
Needless to say I was
As I walked back to our
beach towels with the shell I remembered the prayer I
had said earlier. As I stood looking at the shell I was
overcome with this indescribable feeling, I truly felt
the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout my body. I
immediately knew that the shell in my hand was God's
invitation for me to open my heart to Him, to leave the
nest and to fly. At that moment I knew God was there
with me, he was there to help; all I had to do was turn
my life over to Him and fly.
For the rest of our
vacation my mind was filled with thoughts of nothing but
becoming a pastor. God used this moment to call me, to
reveal his plan to me. The key was I had to surrender
myself to him, trust him, and open my heart to let him
in. By the way this conch shell was the only shell of
any kind we found the entire week, and I've never found
another one since.
Now my spiritual
journey much like most peoples has been filled with
peaks and valleys, and long and winding roads. But
without exception I find that when I stop asking God how
he can fit into my agenda, and ask God how I can fit
into his agenda I tend to walk a straighter path.
Now it's not without
it's challenges and I clearly remain a work in progress.
Often times when we speak of our spiritual journeys we
want to speak of the final destination. But I don't
believe our final destination is what we should focus
on, it's the journey.
Through the blood of
Christ our final destination is assured.
And I think all to
often if we focus solely on our final place with God,
rather then on the journey and the excitement of
growing, learning, and sharing with others what the
ultimate destination is all about, we miss an important
part of life.
I want to encourage all
of us as we walk with God to leave the nest and to fly,
to step out in faith and trust that no matter what we do
God will be there to catch us, to support us, and to
Spread your wings and
allow the gentle blowing breeze of the Holy Spirit to
carry you as you continue to grow and mature in faith
remembering that "God will raise you up on Eagle's
wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine
like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his
other homilies by Pastor Wade