Raptors captivate me. Growing up, if I did see one, it was cruising what seemed like a mile high, and might as well have been a turkey vulture. I don’t know what started to change in my mid-twenties—that is, whether it was the raptor population which bloomed or my powers of observation—but for some reason I began to see hawks everywhere: on fence posts and electric poles, hovering over a freeway or diving on a field. Few things impress like the dive and subsequently weighted launch of one of these predators.

Predator: Sunday morning, I realized again just what the word means. While getting ready for church, I heard my wife call urgently from the back door to come see something. It was a Cooper’s Hawk on our back patio, wings splayed over the helpless dove in its talons. Before I had time to grab my phone or a camera it had flown away, meal in tow. I was true-to-form mesmerized by the hawk’s prowess, and still am. At the same time (despite my Cartesian view of animals) there was this part of me that hoped the dove wasn’t suffering. Cooper’s Hawks make their daily living on the smaller birds for which we provide feed daily in our patio feeder. They are majestic and beautiful, but they take predation everywhere they go. They are the oxen in Proverbs. “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean; but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” Where there are no predators, there is no prey; but much beauty comes with the strength of the predator.

As we aid, equip, train, mentor, encourage, or serve those who cross our path, occasionally we are bound to notice a stray feather in their beaks. Conversely, where we have paid attention only to the bloody talon of a fellow traveler, we may have overlooked the beautiful opportunities or gifts God has brought into our life through them. We are all people, after all; the mess travels with us—but so does the blessing and purpose of God.

I pray your week is fulfilled serving the dangerous, beautiful creatures He sent into your life.