Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bird Lessons

"Behold the fowls of the air:
for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns;
yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.
Are ye not much better than they?"
Matthew 6:26

"I have personally never seen a bird sitting on a tree branch
having a nervous breakdown from worry."
Author Unknown

I have been finding so much enjoyment in watching 
the many species of birds that have been coming into our yard
eating out of our bird feeders.

Photo by Zachary Smith
They are such remarkable, little creatures.

It is a thrill to Kevin, Zachary, and me 
to be a part of providing sustenance to them.

Today, I sat on our front porch and watched them,
taking pictures now and then, 
observing their behavior,
relishing the fact that they have discovered our feeders.
They must be telling their friends.
We seem to have more of them in our yard each day.

They are such happy little things.
Chirping, singing, flittering around....
hopping here and there.

They have no worries.
No cares.
No problems.
They don't stress...
about anything.

They are so small....
and defenseless.
Their life is so fragile.

Yet, they trust.

It is automatic.
They don't analyze.
They don't line up on the telephone wire discussing all they lack.
They don't try to figure out where their next morsel is coming from.
They just possess an inerrant knowledge that it will be there...
the next time they get hungry.

They don't discriminate.
It matters not to them where their food came from,
whose hand filled the feeders,
or how the food is packaged.
They don't seem to care if the feeder is green,
or brown,
or red,
or some other color.
They just eat...
and enjoy...
and live.

Instead of living to eat,
they eat for the sole purpose of sustaining life.
They stop when they are full...
then they move on.

If there is no open spot for them to land on the feeders
hanging from our cherry tree branches,
they simply fly to the ground below,
and pick up the excess crumbs...
that fell from the feeders above.

They automatically gravitate...
to wherever the food is.
When the source dries up,
they look elsewhere.
It doesn't take them long to figure out
that a feeder is empty.

Are you learning anything here?
From the birds?
I sure have been.

In today's passage,
Jesus tells us that these birds do nothing to provide for their own needs.
They don't sow.
They don't reap.
They don't gather food into barns.
Yet our Father is their Father.
And as such,
the love in His Father-heart
compels Him to care for them in the most tender of ways.
Right down to the most minute detail,
He meets their every need.
He created them.
They are valuable to Him,
even though they have no soul,
and their lifespan is even more fleeting than yours and mine.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:29,
"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?
and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father."

Such little monetary value.
Such a common, little bird...
the sparrow.
How many thousands of sparrows are there in our world?
Seemingly so us.
Not to Him.

Not one of them falls to the ground...
not one of them is injured...
not one of them is abused...
without His knowledge...
without His concern...
without His consent.

God loves sparrows.
He created them.
He cares deeply for and about them....
just like He does all of His creation.

So, if He invests that much of Himself,
if He pours out that much love and concern and tenderness....
into the care of a sparrow...
how do you think He feels about you?
To what extent would He go...
to show you His never-ending love and care?

Do you think He knows when you fall?
Do you think He cares when you are hurt?
Do you believe He knows what you need?

Jesus said you are much more valuable than many sparrows.

"Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."
(Matthew 10:31)

You are invaluable to God.
He will sustain you.
And like the birds,
He wants you to accept...
what He provides...
no matter where it comes from,
whose hand filled the feeder,
or how it is packaged.

Many times, the birds are smarter than we are.
They aren't picky eaters.
We refuse lessons God is trying to teach,
because we don't like the preacher.
We turn up our noses at a well-laden spiritual feast,
because the one serving the food is not our servant of choice.
We pass right over eternal insight,
because it comes to us through an unlikely...
or undesirable source.
We miss out on a golden opportunity to be blessed,
because we can't get past the color of our brother's skin...
or the outside "label" he wears.

Some of us have to have chief seats at the table.
We have to feel superior to everyone else.
We elbow our way in and dig in our heels,
refusing to move over when another comes along
and needs our spot.
Maybe we should be pleased to just hunker down
and eat the crumbs that have fallen from the Master's table...
kind of like the little birds feeding on fallen seeds beneath our cherry tree.

Remember the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus?
Her daughter had a serious problem.
She cried unto Jesus,
"Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou son of David;
my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil."
Jesus' disciples did not want to get involved
in the messiness of the situation.
They wanted no part of it.
Can you blame them?

They came to Jesus and said,
"Send her away; for she crieth after us."

Jesus would have none of their suggestion.
"I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel",
He replied.

This woman had value.
She meant something.
He was interested in her problem....
no matter how distasteful it was.

Seeing He would not refuse her,
ignoring the obvious disdain dripping from the attitude of His disciples,
the woman determinedly approached Him.
As she worshipped,
she said,
"Lord, help me."

She was desperate.
She needed help.
She recognized the gravity of this opportunity.

Jesus answered her,
"It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."

Now, I don't know about you,
but I've always felt a slight bit of pity for this woman...
each time I have read this.

Was Jesus calling her a dog?
Was He insinuating that she was not worthy of His time?
Or of the blessing for which she asked?

I believe He was testing her...
by using the term commonly used by the Jews for the Gentiles...
seeing if she would give up...
in her quest for that which her heart craved.

The woman was not deterred....
in her determination.
She took no offense.

Her answer radiated the humility in her heart.
"Truth, Lord:
yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."

In my words,
"Lord, I know I am not one of the chosen ones.
I am not a Jew.
I am a Gentile.
I don't fit into the originally intended mold....
of the ones You came to deliver.
I do not deserve this...
in any way.
Yet, I am willing to do whatever I have to do to get what I need.
I acknowledge my unworthiness.
I am at Your feet...
in the most humble of all positions....
willing to take the crumbs...
just the excess, Lord....
that my daughter may be healed of her condition.
I am willing to take this...
in whatever form You choose...
just so I get what I came for."

She wore no pretense.
Her heart was His feet....
hoping with all her heart...
for the miracle her daughter so desperately needed.

Her persistence...
her unassuming spirit...
touched the heart of Jesus.

He said,

"O woman, great is thy faith:  be it unto thee even as thou wilt."

She got what she needed...
what she came for...
the miracle for which she hoped....
because she was willing to take it as Jesus gave it.
His answer probably wasn't what she expected that day.
She more than likely didn't anticipate being put in her place....
in such an outspoken way.

She passed the test.
She humbled her heart.
She got what she wanted....
and needed.

Little birds are humble.
More than happy to take the crumbs...
wherever they can find them...
however they are packaged....
no matter how low they have to go to retrieve them....
or how much effort they have to put forth.

They trust fully...
in their Creator...
to supply their needs...
by whatever means He deems best.

Jesus told us to "behold the fowls of the air".
"Behold" here means:
look at,
look into,
stare at with a "locked-in gaze".

As I sat in the rocking chair on our front porch,
eyes wide open,
camera in hand,
beholding the fowls of the air that had landed in our yard,
I thought about Jesus' words that follow in the 6th chapter of Matthew,
"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat?
or, What shall we drink? or,
Wherewithal shall we be clothed?...
for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the Kingdom of God,
and His righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you."

If the little creatures perched on our front lawn
and on the branches of our cherry tree could talk,
they would tell us the same.

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