A Golden Christmas


December 19, 2015, brought me one my most memorable hawk watching sightings: a golden eagle flying through snow flurries and patches of sun. This poem is an attempt to share the moment, and is dedicated to the staff and volunteers of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. (Note: the phrase “under three” refers to a landmark used at the Sanctuary’s North Lookout.)

‘Twas six days before Christmas, and up on the mount,
three hearty birders were keeping the count.
We were wrapped in clothes layered a-plenty,
for temps were freezing and wind was at twenty.
The skies were cloudy with bursts of sun;
and we were saying, “This is great fun!
But are there yet birds coming our way?
Perhaps it is time to call it a day.”

When what to our wondering eyes should appear,
but a bird under three that was drawing near.
We watched through optics as snow flurries flew,
and it wasn’t long till we realized and knew,
that this marvelous bird was a full grown golden:
what a wonderful sight to enjoy and beholden!

Closer and closer it came flying low,
drifting along on the windy flow.
Its color and streaking were easily seen;
it sparkled and glittered with golden sheen.
Feeling awe and majesty all around,
we stood in silence, not making a sound.
Then when it sailed to sun’s westering light,
we broke into applause for the glorious sight!


Now it is the birds that draw us together,
in heat, in cold, in all sorts of weather.
But what’s most golden about Hawk Mountain place
is the smile seen in each person’s face.
So thank you staff, and volunteers, too,
thanks and gratitude I give to you.
To all whom I enjoy seeing each fall:
Merry Christmas to each, Merry Christmas to all!

(Written 2015, in appreciation of the birds and people of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.)

Gray Ghost Halloween


On October 31, 2016, a male Northern Harrier flew past Hawk Mountain’s North Lookout. Seeing it, Catherine Elwell said, “Gray ghost on Halloween. How fitting.” Her words inspired this poem.

Gray Ghost, floating through the blue sky,
You are a fitting spectral sight
For these hours leading to Halloween night.

And I wonder, as you go by,
What do you note with eye, with ear,
That speaks to you of Halloween here?

“From my position up on high
The trees in valley down below
Wear costumes in yellow and reddish glow.

“When to the lookout I draw nigh,
I see a copse of leafless trees
Whose gnarled trunks look like witches’ knees,

“And whose limbs reach out to the sky
Seeking to grasp and grab and trap
A young passing bird in spidery wrap.

“The hills resound with raven cry,
Perhaps issuing a warning
That before the dawning of the morning

“Report will come of some who die
By deeds most cruel and craven,
In the dark shadow of Schambach’s Tavern.

“This is what I hear and espy.

“Therefore I will now quickly fly,
In order to escape the fear
That this All Hallows’ Eve is bringing near.”




Hawk Mountain photo

At Hawk Mountain’s North Lookout on October 28, 2016, Laurie Goodrich twice “commanded” golden eagles to turn and give us better looks. Both birds “obeyed,” prompting me to say to Laurie, “That shows the power of your doctorate.” Her reply–“That’s how legends are started”–inspired both this poem and its title.

Like Gandalf, Laurie worked wizardry
–Twice, not once, but twice!–
She told golden eagles in the sky
–“Circle and be seen more clearly”–
And they behaved obediently!

When Gandalf and friends were victorious,
Sauron’s darkening cloud fled away.
So it was for us that autumn day,
As the clouds rolled into the distance
And sunlight began to hold sway.

The Lehigh Valley was ablaze in light!
O’er power plant bright an eagle took flight!
Red-shoulder hawk gave a glowing sight!
Robins flashed by in late-day sun!
What a glorious day of birding fun!

Was it the presence of Gandalf the White
Which made the day sunny and bright?
Does Laurie have special powers
To summon these amazing hours?
I suppose not–but I can’t be certain;
For without doubt, there’s magic on the mountain.

Mountain Pilgrimage


IMG_0855 Hawk Mountain sign

When August comes with sun so hot,
And land is blessed with flowing  crop;
When butterfly skips round and round,
And dragonfly is also found;
When northwest wind picks up its pace,
And hearts begin to stir and race:
Many set out on pilgrimage
To visit rocks of ancient age.

Drawn by wonder of creation
And the magic of migration,
Some will come as they have before,
Ten, twenty, thirty years or more.
In their minds are memories kept
Of wondrous days of birds wind-swept,
Of sunlight gleaming on the land,
And good friends standing near at hand.

Others arrive for the first time,
Including some from distant clime:
One in zeal for conservation,
Varied in their tongue and nation,
These young trainees from many lands
Eagerly offer helping hands;
And through their smiles and what they do
They help to keep the old hill new.

Together all share this wonder:
Eagle first seen at a number–
Then dipping into woods below,
At Hunter’s popping up to show
Its head ablaze like fiery crown.
Then flying along field of brown,
The raptor climbs to horizon,
And over steeple continues on
Its journey of migration flight,
Headed toward day’s final light.


Alleluia! Grace Appearing!


IMG_0850 Alleluia Grace Appearing

I wrote this hymn text in 2012 as a celebration of resurrection hope for all creation. It was dedicated “in honor of Roy Gulliford, and in appreciation of his calling to proclaim Christ and to care for creation.” (An ordained pastor, Roy was the founding director of Bear Creek Camp, an outdoors ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.) Sung to the tune “In Babilone,” it was first used in public worship on Easter Sunday, 2012, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Orwigsburg, PA

Alleluia! Grace appearing! All creation moved to say:
“Praise to God and all the wonder for the glory of this day!”
Alleluia! Light is streaming! Sun and sky join in the praise.
Hope arises, new life granted, day breaks out in beaming rays.

Alleluia! Death defeated! Phoenix and the butterfly
Witness to the resurrection, freely given from on high.
Alleluia! Laughter takes hold! Frog, hyena, blue jay, too,
Sounding joy of Easter story, sharing God’s good news with you.

Alleluia! Joyful tears flow! Ground and plants receive new life.
Oceans cleansed and rivers made pure, all released from fear and strife.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Fish, and bird, and ev’ry tree
Lift their voice in endless singing to the One who sets us free.


Cosmos Threatened



IMG_0802 Cosmos Threatened number 2

This hymn text was written in 2013, while I was re-reading Scott Weidensaul’s book “Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds,”  and is dedicated in appreciation of Scott’s writings. It may be sung to the tune Ebenezer.

Cosmos threatened, life in danger
Is there time to save it yet?
Can we hear the cries of nature;
And upon right paths be set?
God has made a good creation,
To provide our ev’ry need.
Can we now avoid the danger
Of destroying it with greed?

Lord, on knees we fall before you,
Filled with thankful gratitude
For rich blessings you have given
Latitude to latitude.
Singing warbler, rich rainforest,
Glacial ice and polar bear.
South and north is your creation,
Gifts of your great loving care.

Lift us, Lord, to new beginnings
To protect your cherished earth.
Fill our hearts, our minds, our actions
With your Spirit of new birth.
Grant that we may steward wisely
River, mountain, land and sea.
Keep us living in your image:
Caring for the wild and free.

A Child, a Dandelion, and God


IMG_0775 dandelions

My granddaughter Zoe is now eight years old. She has touched my life with memorable moments, including the one described in this sermon from Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2010.

If you would know something about the eighth chapter of the book of Proverbs, spend time with a child. Proverbs 8 speaks of wisdom. Or rather, Wisdom speaks. This is one of the places in the Bible where “wisdom” does not refer to sayings or stories that instruct in good living. Rather, “Wisdom” here is a living being. Because the Hebrew word for wisdom is in the feminine form, it is sometimes translated “Lady Wisdom.”

Drawing upon Eugene Peterson’s “The Message,” here’s a portion of what Lady Wisdom says: “God made me before anything else. And so I was there when God created the earth, the oceans, the mountains, the sky. I saw all things come into being. Day after day I was there, with my joyful applause, always enjoying God’s company, delighted with the world of things and creatures, happily celebrating the human family.”

“Lady Wisdom” tells us she was present at the beginning of all things, and saw God’s creation unfold. Of course, I did not see the beginning of God’s world. But I have been watching the creation of Zoe’s world. And in doing so, have seen something of “Lady Wisdom” and God’s creativity.

Zoe is my granddaughter, age one year, four months, eleven days. I spend a few hours with her each week. And recently, she showed me something of Proverbs, chapter 8. She and I were going for a walk. I said, “Zoe, there are no sidewalks here, so you absolutely must hold my hand.” She’s not always happy about that; she sometimes bolts and goes her own way. But this time she was very good about it. She never let go, not even when she suddenly stopped, leaned over, and picked a dandelion that had caught her attention. She carried the small flower as we continued our walk. A bit later, we turned around, and headed back the way we had come. When we reached the spot where she had picked the flower, she stopped, knelt, placed the flower on the grass, and gently patted it into the ground.

Given my overactive theological imagination, I could see her looking at me and saying, “There, that’s where it belongs! God planted it, we borrowed it for awhile to enjoy, and now it’s back in its place.”

Of course, I have no idea what Zoe was thinking. But it seems fair to say that something about the flower caught her attention and brought her delight. And it was fascinating that she put it back in the spot where she found it.

Spending time with a child opened my eyes anew to the eighth chapter of Proverbs. I was shown something of  “Lady Wisdom” and her delight in God’s world.

Proverbs 8 is a reading for Trinity Sunday because this day we stand in marvel before the mystery and marvel of God. The Feast of the Holy Trinity reminds us that we know only a tiny bit of the grandeur of the God we name One-in-Three, Three-in-One. This is a day we are reminded that no matter how old we may be, there is always more to know, new things to experience, and surprising joys to behold.

Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I feel tired and old. Sometimes I lose sight of the mystery of the Trinity, and the marvel of creation. But a walk with a child opens me again to the delight and wonder that is all around us.

Seminary professor William P. Brown writes, ” . . . [A]ll knowledge and insight never arrive within a giving lifetime. The aged still have much to learn. As Wisdom’s growth begins in joy, may the wide-eyed delight of children never be lost on the wise. For in Wisdom’s eyes there are really no grown-ups. The quest for wisdom is ever ongoing, and progress on the path will always be marked with baby steps.”

Sometimes we fail to see the wonder of the world, and the One who made it. When that happens, walk with a child. Or at least, walk with child’s eyes. And you will be opened anew to the wonder of God.

To the joyous and astonishing mystery of the God we name Holy Trinity, be all honor and glory and power, forever and ever. Amen.