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At the top of his windsurfing career, Dave Osborn decided he needed to take a break and hike the Appalachian Trail. During his hike, he had an encounter with a bird that changed his life and made him commit to being more selfless. Here’s his story.
Dave’s Burning Bush
In 1996, I “thru” hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. One day while I was walking, I had an extraordinary experience. I generally hike by myself, and on this particular mid-summer morning near Kent, Connecticut, I had been studying the story in the Bible of Moses on Mt. Horeb when he sees the burning bush, but “the bush was not consumed” by the fire (Ex 3:2). Clearly, this obvious sign from God was a turning point for Moses: he was inspired to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt to freedom. I was thinking about the burning bush and thinking about different healings I had experienced and seen. My arm had been burned up and healed by God; my mom’s back was broken in three places, and she was completely healed through prayer to God; and I had seen proof of healings and God’s work in my life. My yearning that morning was for everyone, each individual on Earth, to have his or her own burning bush experience – to have something that was a sign from God that would be absolute proof that God existed, as there are so many agnostics and atheists. Even people who profess to be faithful still have great doubts.
As I was walking, I heard the song of a veery – a type of thrush that has a downward spiraling song that sounds like it’s in an echo chamber. I had heard these birds in Maine as a camp counselor, and hearing the song brought back images and memories of camp. I heard two veeries, one on each side of the trail. Along the trail are marks painted on the trees, and when the trail changes, there are often two blazes painted to tell hikers to “pay attention, don’t get lost.” Probably 150 feet in a direct line in front of me was this large oak with a double blaze – a pay attention sign. As I was walking, listening to these birds, the thought occurred to me in these exact words: “A veery will present itself to thee.” And I laughed. Birdwatchers had told me that these small brown birds are very elusive. “Oh, no,” I thought, “I’ll never see a veery.” I figured that this thought was my own thought. But I don’t use such antiquated language. I would never say “present itself to thee” to anyone. So I thought it must be a thought from God, believe it or not. And even though I’ve had remarkable healings and provisions from God, I still doubted that I would see a veery.
When I was about fifteen feet from the tree, one of the two veeries swooped down and landed right between the blazes at eye level and continued to sing. I walked right up to it. I was in tears. I was grateful, but I didn’t feel that I was worthy of this experience. As I stood there, I lost track of time. I have no idea how long I stood in front of that beautiful brown bird, looking it in the eye. I decided to start walking down the trail, and the bird followed me for about five minutes, flying from branch to branch and continuing to sing about an arm’s-length away.
In hindsight, I realized I needed that bird to follow me for five minutes because otherwise it could’ve been just human coincidence. After five minutes, there couldn’t be any doubt whatsoever that God was involved. Here I was, hoping that everyone would have a sign from God, and I ended up with a sign from God. I had a pure desire, which is prayer, and that experience marked the turning point for me.
That’s when I realized I could no longer live a life dedicated to myself. It doesn’t mean that I became selfless instantly, but I couldn’t live a typical, worldly life based on worldly success, applause, fame, recognition – all the things that the world considers great. To this day – eleven years after my “burning bush” experience – I continue to strive to express more of God’s Light in everyday life.