By: Rev. Dr. Dosia Carlson
Spiritual Life Volunteer
Every morning whenI step outside the door of my volunteer apartment here at Abernethy Laurels retirement community, a spritied chorus of cardinals and finches serenade me. Such a daybreak symphony is nearly impossible in Phoenix, Ariz., where I live. In that fifth-largest city of the USA, I can scarcely hear above the din of traffic the gentle cooing of mourning doves. They really can't compete with North Carolina songsters.
However, all feathered creatures remind us of God's amazing gift of birds. Whether we watch teeny hummingbirds darting around feeders or marvel at the six-foot wingspan of a crane in flight, our minds ponder the mystery of winged animals.
How awesome to realize that a hummingbird's heart may race at 1,260 beats per minute and that some migrating birds like the Arctic Tern travel more than 22,000 miles in a year! What powerful reasons for praising God's creative powers. God seems to be surrounding me with feathered friends.
Throughout the Bible from the opening chapters of Genesis, we read about the significance of birds. Of course, birds come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
The prophet Isaiah reminds us, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up iwth wings of eagles." (Isaiah 40:31).
In the New Testament, we find Jesus referring several times to sparrows which may include other types of little birds. "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight." (Luke 12:7)
In 1976, I wrote a hymn reflecting on God's presence through symbolic eagles and sparrows. This first verse still seems relevant to me:
"God of eagles, God of sparrows, soaring sprit, earthly guide,
"Help our nation know true greatness free from all-consuming pride.
"Strengthen us for global duties sharing progress that is just.
"LIke the eagle may we venture, like the sparrow may we trust."
During this, my ninth summer of serving at abernethy Laurels with Chaplain Larry Bolick, I am leading a variety of sessions focused on birds. As you have no doubt experienced, when you have a primary emphasis in your brain, suddenly you see reminders of that theme all around you.
For example, whenI move around the halls of our Community center, I discover bird statues or framed Audubon prints that I had overlooked before. Even visiting at a friend's home in Newton, I became aware of pillows with embroidered doves and drinking glasses with Eagles, sparrows, cardinals, hummingbirds - just like the diversity of our human family, god has a place for each of us. And every one of us has a song to sing.
Whether we soar to great heights or find our place closer to the ground, God treasures us and cares for us. The next time you hear a songbird serendading you, thank God for the marvel, the mystery of our feathered friends.
And thank God for the marvel of your life.
Dr. Dosia Carlson is pastor emeritus of the Church of the Beatitudes, United Church of Christ, in Pohenix, Ariz.
Answering the Call of Christian Service
By Chaplain Larry Bolick
Director of Spiritual Life of Abernethy
Laurels Retirement Community Newton
From the time I was a child, I was taught the role of a Christian is to love and serve God and neighbor. As one comes to know the blessings of faith, the call comes to every Christian to love and serve God. At Abernethy Laurels Retirement Community, we are the recipients of many who accept this call of Christian service and live it out in our community, in local churches and in the larger community. For many years, we have received volunteers to our campus for brief and extended periods of time through United Church of Christ Volunteer Partners in Service, a national network of volunteers who give of their time and talent in human service agencies, confernce centers and camps. This summer at Abernethy Laurels, we have Dr. Dosia Carlson, who is a retired United Church pastor, musician and promoter of volunteer services from Phoenix, Ariz. Dr. Carlson is in her ninth year of spending one to three months as a volunteer on our campus. Also, in our midst for the fourth time are Bill and Pat Lincoln, natives of Vermont, who during the past five years have devoted themselves to a lifestyle of volunteering. This past winter, UCC Volunteer in Service Betty Mae Shear, made her tenth visit to our campus to volunteer for three months avoiding the cold, snowy winters of Ohio and volunteering in support services.
Why do people like Dosia, Bill, Pat and Betty Mae give themselves to a life of volunteer service after 40years of productive work? They are motivated out of their love for God and neighbor to answer the call of Christian service in a unique way during their retirement years. They know that God is not finished with them. There is much that they can contribute to the life of the church and our campus through their generous gift of talen, time, and love. Their talents are varied and diverse, but they continue to answer the call of discipleship through their Christian love and service.
Not only do we have United Church Partners in Service, but we also have a core of volunteers through our residents who log in an amazing 25,000 volunteer service hours each year in our community, their churches and in just being a good person who wants to contribute their time and talent for the well-being of others. In many ways, they are just being a good neighbor and a responsible Christian, who are living our the Christian commandment to love God and neighbor.
I have heard it said many times by our faithful residents and volunteers, "You can never out do or out give God." The love of God motivates Christians to live unselfishly in sharing their lives with others as volunteers. As an ordained minister who served over thirty years in parish ministry and now as a chaplain for seven years, I have always believed in practicing volunteer service in the communities in which I have lived through nonprofit agencies whose mission it is to help others gain a better life. Early in my life it was the resettlement of refugees, Habitat for Humanity, Civitan Club International, and now through Catawba valley Behavior Healthcare and work camps to the Mississippi Gulf after Hurricane Katrina.
In 1984, I was challenged by a nationally known speaker and teacher for missionaries to a be a missionary right where you are. This is what many volunteers who are giving of their time, talen and love are doing. They are a work force that are moving mountains, obstacles that challenge the lives of people who need a hand up to live a better and fuller life. If you are volunteering your time or talent in some act of service in your community or church, thank you for what you are doing. If you are not presently volunteering, I hope you will consider doing so. Many volunteers who give of themselves for the well-being of others say, "I am not just doing this for them, but for me because of what i get out of giving my time and talent to others." Doing and being with others as a volunteer is a rewarding commitment to God and neighbor we cannot do without. Your community and church needs you to volunteer. Why hold back what you can give so freely?