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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.



The sheer number of birds above me is staggering.

I have joined a good friend on a private island off the coast of Georgia for the purpose of experiencing nature – primarily birds – and this morning, looking up into the cloudless sky, I am overwhelmed by what I see.

The air is full of tree swallows. It is a frenetic, swooping, chirping mass of them. My friend, a seasoned naturalist and bird researcher, estimates their number at 40,000. Having rested from their migration overnight, they are aloft and seeking food. They descend on bushes like a swarm of locusts, snapping up the ripe berries.

It is an awe-inspiring spectacle; unlike anything I’ve seen before.

It is why this island is preserved. And why an ecolodge has been built here. It safeguards a small section of Georgia saltmarsh for migrating birds. And give those who cherish them a chance to see them up close.

It’s an interesting culture for me to be in. The guides are keenly aware of the ever-changing avian population (around 250 species interact with the island), keying in on every new sighting, excited by each day’s arrival.  They are intensely aware of this ecosystem.

When we pass a small, freshwater pool where dozens of wading birds have temporarily stopped, our naturalist guide is delighted to see them in this particular locale for the first time.  She rattles off the names of the various species, including this spoonbill.

These are people dedicated to providing sanctuary for birds.

Refuge is a concept that runs throughout the Old Testament.  It’s fascinating that in a few instances, it’s linked to bird imagery:

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.   Ps. 36:7

But providing shelter doesn’t stop with God.  His people are to be a refuge, as well – welcoming strangers, caring for outsiders who come to them in need.  We are to be the people who preserve and display the way God intended the world to be.

On this island, the native muhley grass thrives.  We are here, fortuitously, during the brief few weeks when it blooms.  Filled with morning dew, the clusters of fine blossoms look like cotton candy.

The scene is wild and beautiful, as impressive, in its quiet way, as my encounter with the swallows.

I am thankful for those who preserve unspoiled places like this -- who enable nature-dabblers like me a chance to be taken aback by beauty and spectacle.  It’s hard in our world of artificial wonders to be wowed by anything, let alone by creation.

It does make me pause.  How can I give others glimpses into the world that God declared “very good”? But, more than that, how can I help them to see the powerful reality of Christ’s kingdom? For it’s there that we can see how it all fits together – humanity and nature in concert with the God who created all.

Every believer is build – to be – that kind of sanctuary.

Lord God, help us to preserve and present an unencumbered view of your greatness – in the natural world and in our spiritual communities. 

Reader: In what way do you think your life has provided a refuge?  I’d like to hear about it.

Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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