The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The surprise of peace

When we really look, we might discover it

A noisy bird woke us up, crunching through the branches on our juniper bushes—Who-whooo, who-whooo, right outside our living-room window. We heard two birds. This noisy one was a hoot owl, we thought, competing for territory in the shrubs.

My husband went out to have a look at what the commotion was all about. When he came back to the kitchen, where I was making coffee, he told me about the time when he was a child and his family had thought an owl lived in their backyard. They caught glimpses of the bird over a few Pennsylvania summers and realized, as we realized this morning, that the great rapacious predator was actually ... a dove.

I wonder how often God’s creation fools us?

This case of mistaken identity brought peace, instead of worry, to our morning coffee. How often we rush through our routine and forget, as poet Mary Oliver says, to look “as though with arms open” for what might really be there.

Our suburban, brick house is, in fact, surrounded by doves. My husband, garden shears in hand, had observed their traces over the summer while I had been busy with things. These (usually) quiet birds hide high in the maple tree by the street and peer down from the leafy branches in the morning as we back out of our driveway, leaving for work.

But today an argumentative bird woke us up: And so we discovered that an “owl” might, in fact, be a dove. A cantankerous bird of prey might not be a predator—but really a bird of peace, albeit in disguise.

What do we make of this? Might peace begin with setting one’s assumptions aside, with a willingness to be proved wrong—and really looking. Just look. My husband, a scientist, understands the power of observation. It allows us all to open our lives to God’s peace. Praise Jesus, Prince of Peace, for sending a dove to bless our coffee.


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