I wrote “How a Wounded Bird Flies” as my wife and I sought a seaside excursion for recovery from my debilitating illness, an illness that subsequently redefined the contours of my service as a Gospel minister. We were at a borrowed home near Mystic, Connecticut; in the fishing village of Stonington. I composed this particular song by watching a wounded seabird. She tried to fly from one pier to another. In doing so I saw that she decided to fly a little higher, quite a feat, I thought, with her wounded wing. Suddenly, a burst of chilling wind assaulted her in mid-flight. I leaned in, captivated by the sight, for a while forgetting about myself. Suspended in mid-air, just a few feet above the rolling, misty-morning high-tide, the delicate alabaster-colored creature struggled for her life, subject to the certain pain of her wounded wing and the unrelenting and unpredictable winds of the chilling Atlantic ocean. Forthwith, the fragile gull aborted her frantic flight against the wind. “No!” I uttered to myself in disbelief, now thoroughly mesmerized by the unfolding drama in Stonington bay. I stood. I leaned on a black, plastic drugstore walking cane and squinted to focus. The wounded bird began to be pulled by the winds that aimed to destroyed her. Yet, without the slightest manipulation on her part, the same severe winds began to sustain her. The thrashing winds lifted her up and over the threat of danger. She flew, awkward and clipped-winged, to her distant destination, aided by the elements that had been her enemy just seconds prior.
I began to write. And I inscribed the the words and music to “How a Wounded Bird Flies” all at once, scribbling frantically on a used napkin I had stuffed in my pocket from an early-morning pastry. I walked away from Stonington with a folded napkin and a new vision.
My wife and I returned home to North Carolina. I went into a studio in Charlotte and recorded the guitar and voice parts—my voice was very weak and I can hear it as such when I listen today. Yet, it served its purpose of recording what became a metaphor for my time of great suffering. I contacted my producer and my frequent vocal accompanist, Cindy Gibbs, for their help, describing the parts and the feel of the song. Within only a few days the song was recorded. It subsequently was released on the album, “Wind and Waves” (2015).
I would say that I wrote the song in the spirit of the woman described by St. Matthew,”For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole” (Matthew 9:21). Perhaps, you can identify with her pain and with her faithful longing for the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. Perhaps, you have come to see that there is meaning, healing, redemption, and new life that is embedded in your broken story and that the only way to extract the meaning is to reach out in faith to Jesus our Lord. I hope it gives Gospel hope to those of you facing the crisis of change that illness and pain brings. May you know the life-transforming answer of heaven to every desperate plea, “How can I go forward with this great wound now limiting me?” The answer is the answer of the Cross: the very thing that seeks to destroy you becomes in the hands of a loving God the thing that saves you. That is how a wounded bird flies.
I trust you enjoy the music.