Following the flock

Sanderlings are small sandpipers who are full of energy and fun to watch.

We’ve just returned from several days of birding on the east coast of Florida. In our first year of birding, which was actually only nine months long, we counted 107 species of birds. While on our trip, we saw 80 species, 35 of which were brand new to us. That’s an amazing count in just a few days. But what was more amazing to me personally were all the quiet moments watching the birds as God spoke to me. We spent hours watching birds on salt marshes, coastal beaches, and inlets. So, I’m dedicating the month of February to coastal birds and how God used them to speak to me.

One of my new favorite birds is the sanderling. Sanderlings are probably the smallest bird on the shore, and they run around on tiny legs, barely leaving the ground. They’ll be surrounded by larger gulls and terns, and, all of a sudden, the entire group will run in a different direction. It’s like one of the sanderlings says, “Hey, y’all, follow me!” All of the little birds will take off running in one direction and then stopping at some point as if it was meant to be. Occasionally, one of the sanderlings will seem to be left behind, but as soon as the bird realizes the group has moved on, he (or she), too, takes off, running to catch up.

These little birds are fun to watch as they move around the beach during the day. They never seem to put their legs in the water if they can help it. They seldom take flight. But they move together in what seems like a choreographed dance.

These tiny birds spend their lives surrounded by other sanderlings as they search for food and chase the waves on the beach. (Photo by Craig Taylor)

When we left Georgia to head south, one of the ladies in our women’s ministry group had a death in her family. The group started texting in a rush, asking what we could do and what they needed. Within minutes, a food chain had been started and food was delivered to the family within hours. As I watched the sanderlings, I thought about our group’s response, and how groups within the church ordinarily respond to emergency needs.

It’s like we flock together, running to the need and doing whatever we can to help. And then, after the immediate need has been met, we’ll be running off to meet another need.

Sometimes, that need is met through prayer support. My phone will almost blow up as the group begins to pray specifically to meet a need.

Sometimes, that need is met through food or by running an errand or by lending something needed to someone.

I’ve always thought that the support of believers may be one of the greatest blessings we receive within the church. I feel sorry for families who are going through an emergency who face it alone, without the support of caring church members.

My dad had heart surgery at Emory years ago. We shared the waiting room with another family. During the morning, as the waiting drug on and on, we were visited by ministers and friends from the church. The other family had no one. Every time we would gather with those who visited in prayer, we invited the other family to join us. I’ll never forget how grateful they were.

Standing on the beach, I realized anew how blessed I am. I’m a sanderling in a flock of sanderlings. I know I’ll never be left behind, and that they’ll always be there when I need them. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of what the church is?

If you can’t get to the beach any time soon to watch the sanderlings in action, enjoy this video:

Margie’s latest devotional book, 8 Days in Jerusalem, is available for Lent through amazon.com and christainbooks.com.

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