Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Grace at the Bird Feeder

I am not a doctor in real life, nor do I play one on TV.  That statement will make sense only to people who are older than, say, 40.  My diagnosis is that I've had the flu; a real doctor might say the diagnosis doesn't bear up under testing, but it sure feels like the flu.

Between the snow and being sick, I've mostly stayed in the house, tracking the number of times the blue light special flares up on the thermostat in the sub-zero temperatures.  That would be a sub-zero temperature for the high temperature of the day.  On Sunday we barely made it to 20 degrees.  One of the few things that will make me go outside is to fill the bird feeders, one in the front yard by the family room window and one in the back yard.  Things are so desperate for the birds that I put out old bread and cut-up apples for them to eat.

Keeping those feeders filled gets to be expensive, but we manage to re-stock the supply of seed from the local Wal-Mart.  On Larry's last trip to Wal-Mart a woman complained about the tenacity of the blue jays and how they run off the smaller birds.  Larry replied, "The blue jays are God's creatures, too, and they get just as hungry as the other birds do."  We don't stress because of the diversity at the feeder; there are even some crows who've showed up recently.  They don't stay long, but they do come to check out what's going on.  Our feeders are available to all who are hungry:  cardinals, chickadees, the yellow finches who are mostly brown in the winter, the red-headed finches, sparrows, woodpeckers, blue jays, crows.

The birds come to eat their fill without any thought of how much the food costs or how it got into the feeder.  They see that the food is there; they recognize it; and they come.  The branches are filled with birds, but none of them seem worried.

Neither is there anything that the birds have done that prompted us to start feeding them.  We feel a sense of compassion for them and companionship with them; that's the only motivation for us to drag 40 pound-bags of seed into the garage and empty them cup by cup into the feeders.  We recognize the ones who return day-by-day, and we feel some relationship with them in their struggle to find food in the winter, especially the ones who come to sit on the branches close to the window where they can look in at us.  Over the Christmas season one of the birds stayed each night in the wreath we had hung on the window.  Each evening we saw him fluttering around the wreath.  When we took it down, he looked for that comfy wreath each evening; it broke my heart that he had lost his home.

The feeders are not without risks, though.  They are also a prime feeding point for hawks, who have occasionally taken a smaller bird.  We try to watch for the hawks, and if we see one circling we dash outside and wave our arms to scare them off.  We feel "protective" about our birds.

So much of my time has been spent watching the birds at the feeder, I've come to see how it's modeled after the grace of God, who spends all of his time watching us and developing a relationship with us, if we will come close to him.  His grace is available to any and all who would accept it.  He doesn't favor the small, pretty ones anymore than the noisy, aggressive ones.  He loves all regardless of the markings of their feathers.

There is no cost to us to receive the saving grace of God.  The price is one that we cannot pay; the only one who could pay that price was Jesus, and he paid it with his own life.  Because of that sacrifice, the benevolence of God is free to us.  When we are threatened, God offers protection.  Jesus has already defeated death for us.  For me.  For you.

There isn't anything we've done to prompt the gifts that God provides for us.  He gives them freely and abundantly because He wants a continuing relationship with us;  he provides for us if we will only show up to meet him and receive the gifts he delivers.

So when warm weather returns, and the birds are in the trees outside my window trilling a fetching tune, I'll join in that song.

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