Sunday, May 4, 2008


On the day before I underwent the thorough assessment at UVA and discovered the remarkable regression of my cancer, an event took place that I delight to relate to you.

Anticipating the need to be available for the first appointment in Charlottesville at 8:00 on Monday morning (and to save some money from the repeated motel stays), we decided to enjoy the outdoors and camp in the nearby mountains during the prior weekend. (See Linda’s blog entry “Mountain Momma”.)

As we were preparing to break camp at Seneca Rocks, WV, I came across two little furry objects lying in the roadway. I leaned over to investigate and beheld two bright orange and black downy chicks lying on their backs, legs clawing the air wildly. Looking around I saw no nest nor even an overhanging branch from which they may have fallen. A monsoon rain had kept us awake most of the night before and I assumed that somehow they had been transported here in the downpour.

Absent the means to nurse two little birds to independence, I said a little prayer for them and went on to pack up our nearby campsite. When I checked the roadway ten minutes later, the chicks were gone. I hoped that their mother may have found them and ushered them to safety.

Then I heard a beseeching little chirp at my feet. It was one of the chicks who had somehow found his footing and apparently followed me the thirty yards to our campsite. I introduced Linda to the little guy, alerting her to beware of this critter underfoot. But he took no interest in Linda whatsoever. As I went about carting supplies from the camper to the car and scouting the campsite for other items, my new-found friend was at my heels, yipping and yawning its beak as if to receive a tasty morsel from this surrogate mother.

One of my strides easily required a dozen little hops by my fuzzy friend, but every time I turned around he was there. At one point the insistent creature hopped up on my shoe as I was packing the trunk. Amusement turned to irritation and I decided to confine the little guy to a bucket while we completed the task of hitching the camper to the car. Just then the kindly old manager of the campground drove up in his golf cart and we offered him the gift of this little bird who had so quickly and freely adopted me as his sole provider and protector.

The manager laughed as he explained that the chick was a woodcock hatchling, one of what was likely a large brood often found hiding in the grasses (without a real nest). A game bird that spends most of its time in the brush, the chicks are left to fend for themselves at a very early age. Apparently, this particular chick got lost in the crowd and “imprinted” on me as his mother when I eyeballed him on the roadway. He assured us that the bird would be fine as he gently lifted him from the bucket and deposited him in some nearby brush.

As I have thought about that little bird, I now believe ours was no chance encounter. On the eve of learning of the remarkable regression of my cancer, I think he was sent to remind me of some important truths.

Like that little creature, at one point helpless and vulnerable, I am to find my footing and follow my Creator – wherever He goes. Whenever He moves, I am to follow at His heels, acknowledging my utter dependence on Him. The strength of my attraction to Him is to be no less than the powerful instinct that little chick displayed when he imprinted on me. I want never to be far from Him and always “underfoot”.

More than that, I am reminded of God's promise to His people as He instructed them “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81:10) The picture He is portraying is that of a mother hen eager to feed her chicks, whose scrawny necks and gaping beaks are craned upward to receive whatever morsel she may have to offer. Our covenant God is more than willing to fill us with good things. He is not a reticent benefactor or reluctant healer. Rather He takes joy in blessing us. He is, above all else, a giving God. (Psalm 37:23-26, Micah 7:18) I am glad!

My part is to become as humble and helpless as that baby bird.



  1. Dan, so good to hear from you again. as always your sharing is incredible, you are entirely focused on Christ and you demonstrate effectively how everything comes together to make an awe-inspiring message to the heart and mind. That woodcock toddler was yearning for a rescuer. I too am in search of a rescuer and i have found it in Christ and you are the vessel used by Jesus Christ, Lord Almighty, Wonderful Counselor, The Rescuer.

    Please tell Linda hi and that we read her blog and loved the photos..we pray for the both of you daily.

    john quain & family

  2. Dr. C,

    We are overjoyed to hear that your health is improving and you are feeling better. You have such a special bond with our GOD and I am glad you have chosen to share your journey with everyone.

    Your entries are rejuvinating to the soul. They provide a unique insight for the rest of us that our destinies are in the hands of our LORD. He alone chooses our fate and the more willing we are to accept that and give completely to HIS will, the greater the benefits.

    We continue to pray for your 100% recovery.

    Stacy, Joe, Kirsti, Kelsi, Gregory, Kati & Justin

  3. Seeing you assist with communion this morning brought tears of joy to my eyes. Will pray that you sleep better (I noticed the time of the blog).


  4. Dr. Crabtree,

    We've met only once and briefly, but I wanted to let you know what an amazing blessing your journey has been to me.

    You may remember my husband and I will be interns starting in June. I'm pursuing family medicine.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Praying for you always,
    Meryl Snow

  5. I am at the library to see your progress. i hav prayed for you and family & thought of you often, i am well but miss va . so very much,your comments are so very inspiring ,your faith so strong. the world need many people like you, It is beautiful here today, I have planted green beans, okra,& lima beans, some herbs & flowers,I do not have a computer but will. l try to check often as i can,