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A New Year’s Tern

By Tim Hartzell
     
 

In last week’s article, I wrote about the incredible migratory journey of the fragile Monarch butterfly to illustrate the powerful instinct to worship that God has placed in every human being.
Well, my ADD kicked again this week, and I found myself studying about the amazing migratory habits of a little bird that weighs in at a whopping four ounces. But before I share the name of this bird with you, let me explain why I chose to write about it.
First, it spends a good portion of its life inside the Arctic Circle, so it most likely catches a glimpse of Santa Claus now and then. Hey, if you’re going to write an article over the Christmas season, why not include a mention of St. Nick?
Second, this tiny bird spends its life following the sun. Since I’m writing this article on the darkest day of the year, it only makes sense to write about a bird that seeks to live in perpetual summer. I’m really missing those long, warm days of July.
Third, it flies with the wind. Scientists speculate that its global S-shaped migratory pattern is based on taking advantage of wind currents. You’ll understand why that is important in a minute.
Fourth, this bird is just crazy awesome. Thanks to newly developed micro-transmitters, we know more about the migratory patterns of the Arctic Tern than ever before. These little birds travel approximately 44,000 miles a year as they migrate from their summer breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle to their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic Circle and back again. Remember, the southern hemisphere is enjoying summer while we’re shivering through winter. That means that the Arctic Tern is always enjoying summer. I’d call that one smart critter.
Arctic Terns have a life span of 30 years or more. Do the math, and it adds up to 1.32 million migratory miles in its lifetime. That’s more than two trips to the moon and back! And I call them migratory miles because that mileage doesn’t include the flying it does while breeding and feeding.
So why write about Arctic Terns in an article about faith? Thanks for asking!
First, the Arctic Tern follows the sun. Wherever the sun goes, that’s where the bird goes. Sounds like good advice. In John 1:5-7 we read, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him, there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” Like the Arctic Tern, keep following the Son and living in the light.
Second, the Arctic Tern flies with the wind. When Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit, He illustrated it by talking about the wind. In John 3:5-8 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” By riding the wind, the Arctic Tern accomplishes amazing things — by riding the wind of the Spirit, you will do the same.
Third, the migratory journey of the Arctic Tern is just plain awesome — and my friend, so are you. As you yield to your God-given instinct to worship, love and serve, you will accomplish amazing things during your time on earth. You’re crazy awesome too!
Sadly, too many people resist the instinct provided by their holy design — and in the process, they sabotage the purposes for which God created them. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Our God is a God of redemption, and regardless of how much life you have lived, you can still yield to His sovereign design, and He will redeem your life — even the rough stuff! Listen to this Psalm of Kind David — a guy who knew a little something about messing up in life, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” I can’t think of a better time than the turn of a new year to yield your life to God’s sovereignty. Happy New Year!