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A Word for 2012

They take my breath away sometimes, those ugly birds.

I don't do New Year's resolutions, but I do have a word to recommend for your contemplation throughout the coming year:


Yep, that's it. Here in Hamilton, VA, population 723, we play host to anywhere from 30 to 60 (or more) turkey vultures. They roost on the water tower and in the pine tree behind the Baptist Church on main street, and, frankly, nobody much likes them.

They are, after all, exceedingly ugly. And disgusting - they eat only dead things. Their hideous red heads and faces are enough to scare a child, and they tend to make a mess of things when they stay in one place for very long.

The township has, I'm told, both a gun (blanks only) and a horn which officials use to try to scare the big birds off. I'll hear the "thud-thud" of the gun from time to time, and I think I've heard the air horn, too.

But they just keep coming back - a mess of ugly spoiling the foothills beauty of Pleasant Valley and Hamiliton, VA.

But I love them. In the morning I watch as they head out, soaring and flapping their six-foot wing span, making for the highways to the east (plenty of deer, skunks, and raccoons to be had after a busy night of traffic). Mid-day I'll catch a few of them kettling off in the distance or even right overhead, riding unseen thermals with splayed feathers in a slow-motion spiral that is a thing of beauty.

At times I've seen them soar past my front porch at about eye level, following the street as they head in or out, barely 15 feet from where I'm sitting. And when they come in low over our back yard, as they sometimes do, then I can really see those magnificent wings with their tri-color pattern of black, gray, and light gray underneath (gray is my favorite color).

They take my breath away sometimes, those ugly birds. And that's why I've decided to recommend "vultures" as a word for you to contemplate throughout 2012.

Because as ugly as things can get, as many nuisances and headaches as you'll be forced to deal with in the year ahead, if you just hang on a bit and look a little more closely, you'll see the beauty and the glory and the goodness of God, right there in the midst of your most persistent irritation or your worst-case scenario.

As ugly as things can get down here - and let's not forget, the political season begins officially on Tuesday - we need to train our eyes for the beauty, for the glory of God. It is the glory of God to conceal His beauty among the ugliness of the world. It is the glory of us, His vice-regents, to discover that glory, enter into that beauty, and point it out to one another. To the praise of the glory of God's grace!

So whenever life begins to get you down in the year to come, just close your eyes, lean back in your chair, and slowly breathe the word of the year: "V u l t u r e s!"

That should do it.

Have a blessed New Year.

Related texts: Psalm 191-4; Psalm 27.4; Proverbs 25.2

A conversation starter: "Have you ever noticed how much beauty there is to discover in the midst of the ugliness of life?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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