Ashley Crowder Stanley, Pastor
The people next door to a family member’s coastal river house were obviously aggravated that an osprey couple had started building their nest on top of their motor boat’s canvas cover. A few days before the neighbors arrived, I had watched the fascinating birds haul limb after limb through the air, swooping and gliding until they could make a perfect landing on the cover. The nest was taking shape in a rather miraculous way. But, with each additional stick, I got more stressed: what would happen when the boat’s owner turned up?
Within an hour of the neighbor’s arrival, he began to rake the sticks off of the canvas. Plop, down into the river they went with a shake of his head in frustration. I’m sure he knew that state law says that “osprey nests can be removed without a permit …as long as there are no eggs or young in the nest.” The neighbor needed to work quickly before there were eggs and so, he was resolute to undo the masterpiece, pronto.
Within an hour, the ospreys were back and they started over: limb, twig, limb. Soon, the neighbor came out with the rake again: scrape, plop, head shake. And then, for the third time in the same day, the birds returned, determined, their desperation to make a home in time to start their family almost heartbreaking.
Overnight, the neighbor got creative: under the shelter of darkness, he placed a large roll of chicken wire and held it down securely by a 2x4. There! Even though I was pulling for the ospreys, I had to admit to a certain amount of admiration for the neighbor’s non-violent “solution.” When the neighbor backed out of his driveway to return to his other home in the city, I imagined he was brushing his hands together, saying “that’s that!”
Not so much. At dawn the next day (see picture abpve), I noticed that there were sticks laying alongside the chicken wire, the makings of a new nest. And perched there, was the mama osprey, awaiting her breakfast which was efficiently provided to her with impressive fly-by service. This drama of their homemaking continued for the week, resulting in an ever-growing, magnificent nest, watched over by an osprey couple (did you know they mate for life?) whom we affectionately named “Oscar” and “Olivia.” I am glad I won’t be there to witness what happens when the neighbor returns in a few weeks.
For all “creatures great and small,” there is a potent internal force to make a home, to create a nest that fits us, smells like us, is familiar to us and is big enough to hold those we love. Mention the word “home,” and humans often get misty eyed or become dreamy, wistfully thinking of the home they grew up in or a favorite they left behind. For some, the word “home” connects them to the promise of an eternal place, promised by their faith. Try to paint a picture of “home” and I believe you’d be hard pressed to come up with one more inspirational than an osprey nest.
Along with a physical home, humans long for and need a spiritual home, a God-meeting place where our souls can find nurture, where we can feel safe to be honest about who we are, a place to turn when we need help, a place where we can rest in the arms of God. It is more than a building; it is essentially a beloved community that worships, prays and serves together.
My new spiritual home is Wellspring Congregation; it is a home I’ve longed for and as I am discovering, many feel the same way. From the beginning of the dream that blossomed into this grace-filled new faith community, God called us to joyfully find ways to say :”you are God’s beloved child, you belong here, the world needs you, Jesus loves you always.”
Wellspring Congregation is and will be a safe, worshipful, meaningful, Jesus-centered, grace-giving, spiritual home for all who long for a strong, creative and hope-filled “nest” for their soul. No chicken wire or 2x4’s allowed!
It was hard to leave Oscar and Olivia behind. Their presence during the week had given me a holy vision: they were created to do everything possible, to overcome great obstacles, to try and try again, so that whoever shows up will find a lovely place of welcome.
I look in the rearview mirror as we drive away, I smile to myself: Olivia is sitting on top of the chicken wire, in her nest, fat and singing. It’s not long now.