May 23, 2008

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Winging our way toward meditation with birds

Shirley Vogler MeisterRecently, one very chilly morning before the sun rose, my husband and I headed to the car to drive to our three-morning-a-week exercise regimen at a nearby fitness center.

I stopped to listen to birds “tweet-tweet-tweeting” so beautifully. Of course, we couldn’t see them in the dark, but Paul was sure that these distinctive calls were from male cardinals.

Neither of us are bird experts. Mostly, what we know is what we have learned when visiting my sister and her husband in Belleville, Ill., because they have a small bird and wildlife refuge around their home. It’s delightful to listen to and view God’s critters from their quiet deck.

Shortly after hearing the cardinals tweeting in the early-morn darkness, a publisher sent me a copy of Under His Wings: Devotionals for Bird Lovers by Nancy Rose Wissinger.

Wissinger is “a country girl from central Illinois,” mother and grandmother. She and her husband now reside in Townsend, Del. She is a retired elementary school teacher and speaker for Stonecroft Ministries. She enjoys classical music, college basketball and collecting bird nests.

Collecting bird nests? What memories that brought to me! An Academy of Notre Dame high school friend, Judy, and I—after a suggestion from our science teacher, Notre Dame Sister Mary Joecile—decided to collect old and vacated birds’ nests for a science fair project.

I began reading Wissinger’s book from Pleasant Word, a division of Winepress Publishing Group (, and savored the book slowly.

Each of the author’s observations on birds is accompanied by an appropriate Bible verse followed by a constructive suggestion and a prayer.

I have learned more about birds from this book than any other text I have read. That’s because the focus is not limited to the facts. The author shares in such personal and pleasant ways.

Wissinger writes from such a heartfelt admiration for God’s fine-feathered creatures that I consistently found myself smiling.

Yet, fascinating facts answer questions like these: What bird can circle the globe in 20 weeks of flying? Who wrote an opera based on a stealing bird? Why does the redheaded woodpecker cry, “Cheat, cheat”? What bird encouraged Christopher Columbus and his men to stop sailing? Why is Shakespeare to blame for starlings arriving in the United States?

Wissinger’s observations, facts, wisdom and 105 devotionals demonstrate God’s love for us through birds. She stresses how God is protective and cares about the details in our lives, and how God wants our attention and provides for our needs.

Perhaps a sequel to Under His Wings is in order. Not only is the book wonderful for adults, but through it parents can teach their children how to learn more about God’s love through his winged creatures and other wildlife.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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