Today's Devotions

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Showcase: Assorted Treats

  • Magnificent +

    Few songs capture the entrancing, humbling, overwhelming awe I experience in the presence of God. Magnificent, a song by U2 Read More
  • I'll Go Crazy +

    I'll go crazy if I don't go crazy tonight Every generation gets a chance to change the world - U2 Read More
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eaglestatue1How do birds soar?

Not by their own effort, but by relying on the the force of winds–thermals, or currents of air created by the heating of the earth. In a similar fashion, to soar in our life as Christians, we must do as Moses does in Exodus 17, and rely on God’s direction to lift us through crises, to help us avoid creating crises, and to live our lives in glory to God. By himself, Moses cannot do what God asked him to do. How willing are we to recognize when we cannot do what God asks us to do, and ask others to support us? How willing are we to be the Aaron & Hur–supporters of Moses–rather than the star of the show? How willing are we to be someone who needs help? What does it say about God, that he puts Moses in a position to do something he cannot? How is this different from the Moses who argued with God about being able to speak to Pharoah, to do what God asked him–now he is willing to forge ahead, trusting in the almighty. The following scriptures highlight how we can only soar in life by surrendering to God, and as Moses did, rely on the community of believers to help us in whatever God places in our path. 

  1. Exodus 17: 8-13 (Amalek Fought) 8 Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. 13 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
  1. Exodus 19: 3-5 3 Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
  1. Isaiah 40: 27-31 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord,

And the justice due me [z]escapes the notice of my God”?

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth

Does not become weary or tired.

His understanding is inscrutable.

29 He gives strength to the weary,

And to him who lacks might He increases power.

30 Though youths grow weary and tired,

And vigorous young men stumble badly,

31 Yet those who ]wait for the Lord

Will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,

They will run and not get tired,

They will walk and not become weary.

  1. Philippians 4: 12-14 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things [a]through Him who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.
  1. 1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Through soaring, birds gain altitude and travel quickly by taking energy from wind currents in the atmosphere. When they glide, they use the position of their wings to deflect air downward, which creates a force called "updraft" that keeps them up in the air. There are different kinds of soaring and gliding, and birds use them in a variety of ways.

Research published recently showed that the Andean Condor—the heaviest soaring bird, at 35 pounds—flaps less during flight than any other free-ranging bird. After following eight Andean Condors for five years, a team of European and Latin American scientists found that even young birds soar about 99 percent of their flight time. “They are the extreme version of a soaring bird. It was fascinating to us,” says Emily Shepard, the lead author of the study.

The researchers found that these giant birds flap only during take-off and landing. They are so massive that they lose altitude even when flapping as fast as they can. This means that their reliance on wind currents is nearly absolute, says Shepard. So, to stay in the air, Andean Condors mostly use thermals to elevate. Once they’re high enough, they can glide between thermals looking for food. Less frequently they use another type of air current called “orographic updraft” that forms when the wind collides with an object—like a mountain or a building—and changes its direction to go upwards.

For many birds on this list, soaring is a largely passive activity. They travel in a general direction, guided largely by wind currents, and keep their eyes open for food to scavenge or prey that's relatively easy to catch. Golden Eagles, though, engage in more complex activities while soaring. They hunt small and medium-size mammals. They stake out and defend territories of around 6,000 acres. They even play fetch with themselves. That complexity in behavior sets them apart from other large soaring species like vultures and condors, says Todd Katzner. “Golden Eagles, and other big eagles, are kind of unique because not only do they soar, but they soar to do all this crazy stuff,” he says. They don’t do very much flapping at all: It only takes up between 3 and 15 percent of their flight time.

Turkey Vultures are different from other vultures throughout the world. Most vulture species rely heavily on soaring and gliding through the air at very high altitudes (up to 37,000 feet), says Katzner, and they rely heavily on sharp vision to see the carcasses of dead animals from such a height. But Turkey Vultures have adapted to fly at lower altitudes to sniff the best pieces of carrion. In fact, they have one of the best smelling systems of all birds. In 2017, after comparing them with other 32 species, a team of researchers proved that Turkey Vultures has more mitral cells, which transmit information about odors to the brain, than any of the other measured species.

These birds fly using a type of soaring called “contorted soaring.” Through this technique, Turkey Vultures ride the upward wind generated when air currents collide with treetops. This allows them to stay closer to the ground compared to other carrion eaters, like Black Vultures in North America, giving them an advantage. They can also rock side-to-side while flying to counteract the wind forces in turbulent scenarios, which allows them to have a lot of control and stability in their flight. “They can fly with almost no wind and in very turbulent settings," Katzner says. "They are just one of the coolest species in North American to me." 

Thermal: A relatively small-scale, rising air current produced when the Earth's surface is heated. Thermals are a common source of low level turbulence for aircraft. Air currents are caused by the sun's uneven heating of Earth. As sunlight beams down on Earth, it warms some areas, particularly the tropics, more than others. As Earth's surface is heated, it warms the air just above it. The warmed air expands and becomes lighter than the surrounding air.

(Webster’s dictionary) Soar: 1a: to fly aloft or about

b(1): to sail or hover in the air often at a great height : GLIDE

(2)of a glider : to fly without engine power and without loss of altitude

2: to rise or increase dramatically (as in position, value, or price) stocks soared

3: to ascend to a higher or more exalted level makes my spirits soar

4: to rise to majestic stature

Reflections to Consider

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  • River of Love

    There's a river of love that runs through all timeBut there's a river of grief that floods through our livesIt Read More
  • I Am Nothing

    I stutter when I tryTo speak the language of lifeI want to shout out loudBut I just cry insideSometimes it Read More
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Audio & Video

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  • Transforming this World: The Hope of Glory by NT Wright +

    Wright confronts the perspective that this world doesn’t matter, and that we live only to be in heaven. He shows Read More
  • What is Good in a World that Defies Hope: a talk by NT Wright +

    This is the second part of three talks by NT Wright at Harvard University in November, 2008 on the topic Read More
  • The Stream, the Lake and the River: NT Wright +

      Acts 2.1-21; John 7.37-39; a sermon at the Eucharist on the Feast of Pentecost, 11 May 2008, by the Read More
  • Jesus in the Perfect Storm by NT Wright +

    Zechariah 9.9-17; Luke 19.28-48; A sermon for Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011, In the University Chapel of St Salvator, St Read More
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Hidden Blessings

  • Christ is a Great Savior: a review of the movie Amazing Grace +

    Amazing Grace is a historical drama about William Wilberforce who was elected to British Parliament at the age of 21 Read More
  • Wilberforce, Hollywood's Amazing Grace, Charlotte Allen +

    William Wilberforce's relentless campaign eventually led the British Parliament to ban the slave trade, in 1807, and to pass a Read More
  • Making Beauty out of Ugly Things: Grace by U2 +

    Grace, she takes the blame She covers the shame Removes the stain It could be her name Grace, she carries Read More
  • The True Nature of Grace and Love: a movie review of the Soloist +

    The 2009 movie The Soloist is based on a book by the same name, written by Los Angeles Times columnist Read More
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