Recently, as I was recovering from surgery, our bird feeders were moved so that I could see them from the windows of the living room. This was the space where I spent most of my time during that period and I had hoped that the birds would keep me company. However, no birds appeared.
And then two weeks ago, I noticed a tufted titmouse hovering around the clear ball bird feeder where a feast of black oiled sunflower seeds awaited. I almost held my breath hoping that this little tiny creature of God might light on the feeder and, suddenly, with much speed and agility, the little bird snatched a sunflower seed and fluttered back to the upper tree branch to have supper. Again and again the little bird returned to the feeder to snatch another seed.
There must be a social media source just for birds because over the next few days I started seeing all kinds of birds at the little clear ball. They must have been “tweeting” about the free food over on Meade St. (Ha! I know that’s bad!) The feeder needed to be filled, over and over again. It was as if one little bird had told another little bird who shared the news with all his friends and then they all made their way to the feeder.
So, my five o’clock- after- work ritual has become my comfy living room chair, a steaming cup of Earl Grey, and thirty minutes or so of watching the birds at the feeder. I close my eyes and listen to their songs and I am beginning to recognize their calls. There is a pair of tufted titmouse, a pair of house finches, and a pair of cardinals that are the most frequent, but so far I have counted around six different kinds of birds. Until this spring I never realized just how beautiful a female cardinal is with the bright red color under her brown wings and tail and when she is fluttering around the feeder, the color shows brightly. It is pure poetry.
One afternoon this past week I was engaging in my after work ritual and, interestingly enough, reading an article called “Four Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Feed the Birds!” And yes, I caught the irony of reading this article while watching a pair of cardinals dart in and out of the branches of a young oak tree to get to their favorite meal. The article was interesting and had some points to consider such as how feeding the birds can lead to birds having injuries, how feeding alters natural behavior of the birds, how feeding the birds could make them sick, and how feeding the birds can even lead to these creatures being killed. These points were all good and valid, but I didn’t jump up and go take the feeders out of the tree.
I did think about the winter two years ago when it was so cold for so long and the ground was covered in snow. I remember one bright, cold afternoon when the temperature had not gotten out of single digits and I noticed something that I had never seen before. I noticed what seemed like hundreds of birds that had congregated in my yard near our bird feeder where I had not only filled it full but left seed on the ground. I had never seen so many birds in a yard looking for food.
That winter was too much for these little creatures and they were hungry and cold. Finding that birdseed might have been lifesaving for many birds, that day.
Out of thinking about that memory and watching the birds that afternoon I began thinking about the verse found in Matthew 6:26, part of the Sermon on the Mount: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” The birds of the air cannot sow. They cannot reap. They cannot harvest, or gather into barns. God does take care of them, giving them the knowledge to find seeds in nature or pull a worm from the ground. And when life becomes too difficult for them there are people like me who have bird feeders full of black oiled sunflower seeds just waiting for these creatures if they need it. The gifts of nature and others who care are how God takes care of the birds of the air.
This verse has come back to me several times this week, particularly the words: Are you not of more value than they? This question has been resonating in my mind and heart as I have read the proposed budget for 2018, with the proposed cuts to programs that help feed hungry people of all ages. At Crosslines and the Parish House we see so many people who have difficulty providing adequate nutritious food for their families. Sometimes these families do everything right and then something unexpected happens and they need help. Sometimes these families never have enough, no matter how they budget or manage, and they need extra help quite often. It isn’t always a matter of sowing or reaping or gathering into barns and God is very concerned about how these precious, beloved children of God are fed.
All people are more value than the birds of the air, God’s creatures that bring joy and color to life. When it comes to making sure all of God’s children are fed I am reminded of how I feed the birds and I remember that God calls us to take on each other’s burdens and help each other through life. We need to do what we can, always. We are part of the way that God makes certain that people are cared for. And the clincher in all of this is that we really have no say in who can receive what we are called to give.
There is no question in my mind that all people are beloved of God. Jesus said as much in countless ways. It doesn’t matter if people look the same way, think the same way, believe the same way. We are all children of God. We all have challenges and gifts and concerns and abilities. We have got to get over this thinking that God only loves a certain type of people!
May God give to us more and more ways to look at God’s beloved children and see the value that God sees. May God give us more and more ways to help each other through the difficult times in life. May God help us to know how much each of us is loved and cherished.
To God alone be glory!