Bickering

img_2702I love to feed the birds. I consider my feathered friends to be outdoor pets of sorts. Now that the weather has turned colder and there are fewer natural food sources, the activity around the feeders has escalated. In fact, I added a second feeder to accommodate the increased traffic. Tufted titmice and cardinals, chickadees and nuthatches, wrens and woodpeckers are regular visitors, eagerly partaking of the sunflower seeds and suet. The feeding generally proceeds in a harmonious manner, with birds flitting from feeder to tree branch to deck railing, taking turns as it were. But occasionally one of the diners becomes impatient. A ruckus ensues as the bird brusquely flaps his way to the feeder, scattering his equally-hungry companions. Nonetheless,whether patient or pushy, the birds have done nothing to earn the savory seeds. They are a gift, freely given.

Having just celebrated Christmas and a December birthday for 3-year old granddaughter Lyla, I’ve witnessed an influx of presents at my daughter’s house. Thoughtfully chosen by the givers, there are plenty of toys to fill hours with imaginative play and help hone new skills, as well as clothes to fit growing bodies. It’s been satisfying to watch as Lyla and 5-year old Joshua have expressed their gratitude for the gifts they received. Lyla will often recount who gave her a particular item and say how much she “lubs”[1] it. Yet, just like the birds, there are instances when playtime fun is disrupted by a struggle over a particular toy. The fought-over item usually becomes the most desirable at that moment simply because someone else was intently playing with it. Even 10-month old Emma isn’t immune as she frequently finds her older siblings’ things much more interesting than her own and protests loudly if such a treasure is removed from her vise-like grip.

Observing the antics of the birds as well as the behavior of my beloved grandchildren reminded me of the sentiments expressed on Christmas cards I sent out years ago. Sigrid Undset’s[2] quote on the front resonated so deeply with me I made sure to keep a card for myself:

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in his name, let us remember that he has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans and all that lives and moves upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused. And to save us from our own foolishness, from all our sins, he came down to earth and gave us himself.”

Indeed everything we have, all temporal and eternal blessings, are gifts, graciously given by our loving Father. [3] No room for boasting or bickering or grasping. Instead, may we say with the psalmist, “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.”[4]

[1] Lyla’s endearing pronunciation of “loves”.

[2] Sigrid Undset was a Norwegian novelist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928.

[3] James 1:17

[4] Psalm 9:1-2

Putting on a show

Last year I decided to get a bird feeder after many years of not having one. I hung it and the suet basket that followed some months later on shepherd’s hooks attached to my deck. I placed them strategically so I can watch for birds when I’m seated at the kitchen table as well as when I gaze out the window over my sink. Many times I’ve been entertained by the antics of my feathered friends. This morning was one such time. As I washed dishes, approximately two dozen birds, including a cardinal, numerous sparrows and goldfinches, a woodpecker and several bluebirds, descended on my deck. I delighted in watching them as they flitted from tree branches to feeder to deck railing to suet, back and forth, taking turns – sometimes patiently, sometimes insistently. I smiled, realizing the Lord was treating me to a show while I worked.

After lunch, I took a break from inside chores and went for a walk through my neighborhood. To some a stroll on an overcast, chilly afternoon might seem unappealing, yet once again I felt God’s goodness surrounding me. The breeze tousled my hair and caused last year’s fallen leaves to scamper across yards. Shafts of sunlight broke through the leaden clouds as patches of brilliant blue dotted the otherwise gray canopy.

Even though the mid-winter landscape may appear barren and lifeless, it’s anything but. I ambled around my property when I got home, expecting to find promising signs of things to come. I wasn’t disappointed.  My witch hazel is covered with dozens of burnt-orange, strap-like flowers; buds and blossoms abound on my Lenten roses Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose)which have joyfully spilled out of their beds and into the woods; crocuses are up and blooming, having faithfully reappeared every winter since I planted them over 15 years ago; foliage of species tulips, scilla and camassia, is poking up through leaves and mulch, assuring me the squirrels and chipmunks left at least some of the bulbs I tucked into the soil last November.

Before we know it, the splendor of springtime will be upon us. As creation boisterously sings hallelujahs to the King through a profusion of flowers and new life it will become virtually impossible to miss his glorious gifts. But whether his “I love you” is whispered or shouted, it’s always evident.

For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, the One who came that we might have life and have it abundantly is constantly putting on a show, wooing us to Himself.