Earlier this week, as I was in my office at work, I noticed a bird in the bush that covers my window. Since the Scrub Jays fledged and left the nest, it had been fairly quiet out there. This new bird was yellow, a warbler. After a few moments watching it flit about, I saw it had a small black cap. Some browsing on the internet revealed it to be a Wilson’s Warbler. Since I’ve done the majority of my birding east of the Mississippi, I’ve only seen Wilson’s Warblers before in migration. They summer in Canada, except over here in the Pacific Northwest.
Feeling happy about my feathered visitor, I returned to my task. Then I heard several birds and looked up to see quite a bit of movement in the bush. Now what? Watching for a few seconds, I realized they were chickadees….no, wait, Chestnut-backed Chickadees.
These non-migratory birds occur only on the upper-west coast of North America. I knew they were possible here and had been keeping an eye out for them, but they decided to come to me, it seemed. A lifer at my office window. (If you are not versed in birder language, a lifer is a the first time you see a particular species. We tend to count these birds to construct a life-list. It’s a way of keeping score, of sorts).
I was feeling quite blessed at this point. Blessed because I understand that these fascinating creatures were made on the fifth day by the voice of God. I acknowledge that he is the source of all good things. Because I enjoy birds, I count a flock of them showing up outside my window a blessing.
As I was sitting there staring out my window offering thanks to God, as if to say “You’re welcome,” a Red-breasted Nuthatch joined the chickadees. Not a rare bird, but one I have long enjoyed, and unusual enough to be noted when it shows up.
That evening before dinner, I related my office birding adventure to my family, and in my prayer, I thanked God for sending these birds my way. Later, my insightful wife asked if I thought God sent them to me. She had a valid point and we had a good discussion.
I admitted that no, I did not necessarily think that God had purposefully ordered the lives of a handful of birds that day for my personal enjoyment. My prayer was shorthand thanksgiving for having seen them that day. It is obviously within God’s power to make a bird fly wherever he wants it to, but I don’t think that God is so concerned about my esoteric hobbies that he does, necessarily.
What God is concerned about is my holiness. I try to be thankful for the blessings I receive at his hand. In an instance like that day, when they land right in front of my face, with no effort on my part, it is a vivid reminder that everything is from him. He makes the sun to shine on the wicked and the righteous alike. Those birds may have been in another bush before visiting mine and probably went unnoticed. It is no more remarkable that they chose that bush than mine.
God spoke to Balaam through a donkey. On occasion, he speaks to me through birds. It is not that I am so special that God does this for me. I think it is because I am watching, listening, and receptive that I have such experiences on occasion. God speaks even if we aren’t listening. I wonder how much I miss each day.
We should not expect God to be our personal genie—granting us parking spaces and green lights to make our days easier. Instead, we should receive the blessings of each day with gratitude. Saying thank you is important, a lesson my parents taught me years ago that applies to our interactions with God.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made.