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Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Echoes Blog

How Does the Mockingbird Know What to Sing?

When I entered the ministry I did so because I wanted most of all to be a pastor. Ultimately I became pastor of a mega church in Charlotte, NC. My days and nights were spent in planning, budgeting, and evaluating. The pastoral side of ministry became secondary to my responsibility of keeping the relentless machine running. Let me just say that it was not a lot of fun. 

In my ministry now at PPC I have in some ways circled back to where I began. I spend a lot of time in pastoral work–hospital visits, counseling, and home communions. It is deeply satisfying to me to connect to people at a time of need. 

Let me tell you a story. Some time ago I visited a young man in my congregation. He was permanently confined to a wheel chair because of a wasting disease. He spent much of his day at the window of his home, looking out into his back yard at the six bird feeders there. He watched all the birds as they came and went. Bird watching was one of the deeply meaningful things to him as his life became diminished.

I, too, had bird feeders in my back yard, and over time had learned to identify the various species--their migratory and breeding habits. I have always been particularly fascinated by the mockingbirds, and all the sounds they make.

I found an article on mockingbirds, and was so impressed by it I took it by my friend’s house and read it to him. It was titled, “How Does the Mockingbird Know What to Sing Next?” The author said that the mockingbird has over 180 different songs, that the mockingbird can mimics bells, whistles, and even alarm clocks. With all those different tunes in its bird brain, the author asked, how does the mockingbird know what to sing next?

One of those unanswerable mysteries, just like the question, “Why was this young man stricken with this awful disease?”

I can’t answer that question in any way that makes sense to me. All I can say is this. I was glad, on that particular day, to be able to go and sit with my friend, and talk about the birds which flutter back and forth to his feeder. I was glad I had the time that day to be with him, to administer communion to him and his wife. I was glad to be a pastor.