By Danny Barnhill
Like so many Saturday mornings before, Lexi and I stumbled into the kitchen searching for our cereal bowls. My 4-year-old grandniece—whom I affectionately call Sugarbear—knew early spring days bring a special treat.
After gobbling up our cereal, we heard the call of barn swallows.
“Uncle Danny, can we watch the birds put on a show again?” Sugarbear asked. My heart melted, and my co-birdwatcher and I headed outdoors.
We sat on the front steps; she in her pajamas and I in my loungewear. A cool breeze nipped our cheeks. A thin blanket wrapped around our shoulders kept us warm.
We gazed toward the sky, waiting for the aerobatic performance to begin.
The wait was worth it. The swallows never disappoint.
Showing Up and Showing Off
Many swallows exist around the world, but barn swallows are plentiful in coastal South Carolina. Throughout the centuries, these creatures built their nests in cliffs, caves, stalls, or barns—hence their name.
Today, their nests are commonly found on bridges, carports, or front porches. Once they find a spot and hatch their young, they return year after year.
These feathered friends prepare their homes by scooping tiny pellets of mud or clay, mixing it with saliva, and attaching it to a wall—in my case, the brick wall at the end of the front porch.
Diligently making over 1,300 trips back and forth, they form a small, cup-shaped enclave. They use pieces of cotton, paper, hair, and bird feathers to line the interior to make a comfy nest.
Eggs are laid and soon become hungry mouths.
Lexi and I watched as the mom and dad swallow brought a nutritious breakfast to the open, eager beaks.
As the pair flew and cheerfully chirped, more swallows appeared. Together, they created a feeding party, or as Lexi said, “They’re puttin’ on a show.”
Even though this flock built their home near us, they didn’t like Lexi and me close to their quarters.
Their six-inch bodies soared frightfully close to us—like dive bombers, veering off at the last second to avoid a crash.
What began with two birds quickly became a group of 15 in air raid formation.
After admiring their maneuvers, we slipped back inside, warmed up with a coup of cocoa, and gazed through the window. Tiny, fuzzy heads popped up from the nest to welcome their morning meal.
“Uncle Danny, these birds sure like to show up and show off, don’t they?” Sugarbear asked.
The swallows show up—year after year, week after week, day after day—without fail. And the birds show off—circling, screeching, and soaring without fear to provide and protect their young.
This reminds me of our God.
God’s Greatness on Display
God is the Creator of Heaven and Earth. His words roll out galaxies.
His eyes see the beginning and end—all in one view. His hands hold both the universe and our broken hearts.
The Lord is ancient. His strength remains from everlasting to everlasting.
His power can control the minds of kings and change our circumstances in the blink of an eye. Yet, He often doesn’t. Instead, God waits.
He chooses our fellowship over our comfort.
He gently and persistently draws us to Himself.
He calls in the early morning hours. His cry grows louder in our hearts and minds until we’re drawn to His call.
Our hearts connect with the movement of His Spirit until we’re in His presence. And God never disappoints.
How God Shows Off
Once God has our undivided attention, He shows off. And when He shows off, we see God’s greatness on display.
You don’t think God ever shows off?
Pharaoh challenged God to a duel on the Nile River. Ten strikes from our Father brought Egypt to its knees, Israel to freedom, and glory to God (Ex 7–10).
Job and his friends thought they knew how God should manage creation.
God showed up in a whirlwind and said, “I’ll ask the questions. Where were you when I hung the moon and named the stars? Where were you when I drew the boundary for the ocean?”
When God finished speaking, Job knew he’d overstepped his boundaries (Jb 38–39).
How God Shows Up
God also shows up when the odds are stacked against His children. And when He shows up, we see God’s greatness on display.
Consider Moses trapped at the Red Sea, Joshua walking in circles around Jericho, or David slinging rocks at a nine-foot-tall giant.
Think about the woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years. Consider the lame man who lay by the pool for 38 years, or Lazarus, who spent four days wrapped in the darkness of death.
Ask any person bound by sin and buried in shame. One whose life felt hopeless and helpless until the moment God showed up—and changed everything.
God’s Grace on Display
God’s greatness on display is a demonstration of His grace.
God is more than enough in any situation. The measure of His grace is more than the greatest mathematician could count.
The greater the need, the greater our Father’s grace.
All we can do is stand in awe and grapple for words to express our gratitude.
Lexi and I look forward to springtime, cool mornings, and the return of the barn swallows. It is their nature to come back each year—and more acrobatic air shows are in our future.
In Isaiah 40:31 HCSB, God promises that “those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”
While you and I don’t desire the challenges life brings, we know they will come. But, along with our trials, we can expect God will amaze us when He shows up.
Danny makes his home in coastal South Carolina. After over 40 years of teaching and singing, he answered the call to share God’s love in written stories and Bible studies.