Why Lynyrd Skynyrd Should Have Tried Bird Watching

One of the greatest symbols of freedom in the world is a bird on the wing. He has no restraints, he owns the sky – not even gravity can keep him down. The bird can go where he wishes, when he wishes, and no one can stop him. He has a freedom of movement far beyond our own, and it’s little wonder that his wings have become a symbol of unrestricted liberty. All of which inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd to sing that he was “free like a bird” when he left the girl who loved him, because he “must be travelling on now”. Sorry girl, but “this bird you cannot change”. 

Which makes me think that Lynyrd Skynyrd was no bird watcher. If he had been, he might have done things differently.

A few years ago we had the opportunity to watch two blue tits take up residence in a bird house outside our kitchen window. Every day we saw them coming and going, going and coming, coming and constantly going. They certainly made good use of their wings! And every time they came back, they had more bits of straw and grass and twigs for their nest. Then, after the nest was finished, one of the birds stopped coming out. Instead, she sat for weeks inside the birdhouse on her eggs. Meanwhile, Dad was doing double-time: he was running for food constantly, in and out, out and in, feeding both himself and herself, bringing a steady stream of worms and grubs and such. When the babies hatched, it was an even more hectic schedule, Mum and Dad both searching for food for their little family. Finally (and we had the joy of seeing it happen), the little ones took to their own wings, and flew out to build their own nests. Yes, it was a wonder to see them soaring through the sky, to imagine what it must be like to have so few restraints. The bird is free. And where does he go with all his freedom? He goes to get food for his family. 

If Lynyrd Skynyrd had been a bird watcher, he would have known that birds don’t use their freedom to run away from the ones they love. If he really wanted to be “free like a bird”, he should have used his liberty to help others, to provide for their needs, and give the best of his strength so that they could flourish. Instead of running away from the girl who loved him, he would have run towards her. If he had looked more closely at the birds he claimed to imitate, he would have seen that real “free birds” are not isolated wanderers who refuse to tie themselves down to anything or anyone. Real “free birds” know that their freedom is not an end in itself. It is meant to be used. It is meant to be spent. It is meant to be freely given. 

Some Dreams Need To Die

I know. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? “Follow your dreams” sounds a lot better. It’s the message of Disney princesses and rock stars and pretty much everyone else. And a lot of times the princesses are right. A lot of times we really do need encouragement to keep going towards a goal. It’s good advice.

Except when it isn’t.

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On Being An Immigrant

Growing up in Alabama, I knew the rules: I knew when to say “yes, ma’am” and how to order a Sprite by asking for a Coke and waiting for the server to say “What kind?” I knew what was expected of me, and I knew what to expect from others. I knew how to say things so that people would listen, and when I needed opportunities, I was confident that doors would open and people would give me trust. And I was right. Even when I made mistakes, the trust remained and I knew I would have the help I needed to get back up and try again. Alabama was good to me, and I learned to expect it. I didn’t even think about it.

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When my days here on Earth have come to an end
I want to go out like an Autumn leaf

Not like a flower, that gradually drops
Not like a tree, that inwardly rots

I want to go brighter than ever
As weakness takes hold, let glory shine through

And when strength finally fails, and falls to the ground
Let it fall on the promise of Spring

Do Great Minds Really Think Alike?

I’ve said it many times, as an automatic reflex. Just like “bless you” after a sneeze or “you’re welcome” after a “thank you”, the phrase “great minds think alike” rolls off the tongue naturally whenever two people have a similar idea. It’s a friendly way of complimenting others and ourselves simultaneously, a verbal pat on the back for being mutually great. It’s a bit of fun. But that doesn’t make it true.

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The Importance Of Doing What Anyone Could Do

A good friend of mine got an award in recognition of his work with a charity that teaches job skills to men in Birmingham, Alabama. He has been their scissors, cutting them through all the red tape required to actually be able to support people. As a lawyer, he has the skill set needed for the job. As a Christian, he has a driving motivation to give himself for the sake of others, just as God has given to him. Still, he was modest:

“A lot of people could have done it.”

Which is true, I’m sure. The thing is, they didn’t. The charity didn’t need people who could do the job. They needed someone who would do it. My friend was (and is) that person, and I say the world needs a lot more like him. And it doesn’t always have to be complicated or specialised. Often the most helpful acts of support and kindness are also some of the most mundane – the kinds of things almost anyone could do. 

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