Two years ago, a friend invited me to go bird watching in northern Indiana.
I’m not really much of a “birder,” but I do really like my friend, and I decided that at the very least, we would be able to spend the day together.
She certainly must have told me the name of the birds we were going to see, but I kept forgetting. And so a few days before we went, I did some heavy duty Googling.
We weren’t just going to look at birds, I discovered. We were going to be part of an annual migration. The Sandhill Cranes stop over in the wetlands about 3 hours northeast of Indianapolis in gaggles hardly imaginable. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources keeps statistics about the thousands, yes thousands, of cranes that are sited each year. In 1991, they estimated one of the largest migrations of more than 32,000 birds. Recently, the sitings have been around 12,000.
Once I realized what it was we were going to see, I did more research. I looked at migratory paths, heard a sample of their call, saw pictures of their body structure and wing span.
When we finally made it to the nature preserve that cool fall day, we were running late, and the clouds made it darker at dusk than we expected. We were trying to time our visit with their evening nesting.
But as soon as we got out of the car, I heard that familiar call from the internet. We followed our ears and were amazed by the sheer numbers of birds already settling in for the night in the field. Others were flying in from all around, calling out to their mates and their families to reunite for rest and feeding.
If I had accompanied my friend on the trip without preparing, I still would have seen a bunch of birds that day. But by looking ahead and understanding what I could expect, I became part of history.
That’s the lesson I recently learned from Anna in the New Testament.
We know very little about this prophetess from the tribe of Asher, except that she had been waiting her whole life for Messiah. In that way, she wasn’t much different than the rest of Israel. But the way she waited — by fasting and praying and serving and committing — she was one of the few who actually recognized Messiah when she saw him. Even when he was only 41 days old.
It’s one thing to be looking for something in life. It’s another to be prepared to recognize when it comes.
Lord, help me to be ready to see.
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holy experience
Today, I am writing in community with Ann Voskamp and friends, discussing the spiritual practice of Seeing. Follow the link above to read Ann’s thoughtful post and then scroll to the bottom and see what others have written.

Photo from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources