A month after the tragic Covenant school shooting in Nashville, TN, and I still feel unmoored. What I thought was true and could be trusted in this world went up in smoke. How could I live in a world where nine-year olds go to school and never come home?
Mother Nature is always the first place I come when I feel low on hope. This past week, I found myself jogging my usual route at Radnor Lake in Nashville. I count myself an unofficial member of the Radnor Paparazzi. They are a group of local retirees who most mornings can be found, cameras in hand, searching for a natural wonder. My friends can tell you all about the all-white albino fawn on the wooded trail, the four-story blue heron condominium on the lakes edge, the bald eagle’s loft in the clouds, even the elusive otters.
As I slowly crested the hill, I saw my friend Al, in his old blue baseball cap, sitting on the levy. His ultra-fancy camera was pointed straight up to the top of a thick, old maple tree. “It’s a Pileated Woodpecker’s nest.” Just as he said it, I heard the unmistakable hammering, like the thumping of my heart. A Papa woodpecker was working on the tree nearby. You hear a Pileated woodpecker long before you spy his or her black and white striped plumage and spectacular crown of red feathers. Their expertly-designed beaks can hammer the hardest of woods. They peck and peck tirelessly digging for carpenter ants or chiseling out a nest for their families. The Pileated woodpecker is known for never giving up.
God is regularly sending us messages, often in creative and surprising ways. For weeks after the Covenant tragedy, I saw Pileated woodpeckers everywhere. One of the lady members of the Radnor Paparazzi said her grandfather, an avid birdwatcher, believed they appeared when someone was facing a tough situation. They came with a sacred message to holdfast and persevere. Native Americans believe the Pileated woodpecker is a link between the earthly and spiritual realms.
After the school shooting, I wondered if goodness, beauty, love was enough to face this horrendous evil. Or the One who created this world is truly invested in its redemption?
I prayed that day in the Radnor forest and received the woodpecker’s flare of red as a Divine nudge to remain steadfast. I believe that God is moving between the boundary of earthly humanity and spiritual infinite. At every turn during the tragedy, I have felt God’s hand guiding me and giving me what I needed in the face of the impossible. I have witnessed what could only be described as divine intervention and reinforcement. God is with us as promised.
My mission is to be like the Pileated Woodpecker with her bold red crown. I refuse to give up on God and this sacred world, no matter how hard the situation. The promise is that if I agree to keep pecking, I will come in contact with the sacred, the holy, the very real presence of God. A masterful Plan is in place, worth hammering our hearts for, that will ultimately prove redemptive and love-fulfilling.
In every season, our job is to keep pecking!
AnonymousMay 1, 2023 at 6:45 am
Just what I needed to read this morning. Thank you!!
Susie BrannonMay 1, 2023 at 7:00 am
When we lost our son 4 yrs ago an owl appeared in a tree by our back porch. A friend told me that God sends “messengers” to let us know He is with us . The cardinal is a messenger too. Less than 2 years later I lost my husband. The owl came back and regularly I see 2 cardinals. I didn’t know about the woodpecker. Guess what? He’s been pecking away at my tree and feeding himself at my bird feeder.
Susie BrannonMay 1, 2023 at 7:05 am
I’ve experienced an owl and 2 cardinals in my tree by the back porch. I didn’t know about the woodpecker. He’s been pecking away at my tree and feeding himself at my bird feeder. God is letting me know He is with us!
Natalie JacksonMay 1, 2023 at 8:52 am
Thank you for this beautiful, hopeful word. We are praying for our Nashville friends and family and all who grieve this profound tragedy.
janemccrackenMay 1, 2023 at 10:55 am
Gosh Farrell I don’t think I could read this beautiful experience enough! It is such a poignant reminder of how we are never alone and how God truly shows up in the midst of tragedy and despair. I continue to gaze at the Memorials at the bottom of Covenants Hill and wondering how long the will remain. One of my dear friends at KW daughter was in the 3rd grade class and listening to what they are enduring is just plain awful and painful. I will share this with her and I trust it will bring peace for her and her family. Love you!
Diane TuckerMay 1, 2023 at 11:56 am
Love this post so much! We have a family of red headed woodpeckers in our back yard. They love all our tress. I give them breadcrumbs in the winter. They are so pretty!
Merriet Thomas, jrMay 2, 2023 at 12:45 pm
So very true. God has a way of making things that make no sense, make sense. Things happen in our lives to make us stronger. If you never been through anything, how can you witness to anyone of the power of almighty God.