Ellen Shuck 9/14

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Do you have a bird feeder outside your window and enjoy watching birds as they drop by for a meal? I recently developed an incurable addiction to observing those fascinating feathered creatures as they expected to be welcomed as guests at my table.

After watching them dine, I became interested in their origins, and found through reading Scripture that birds served in various prominent positions -- as messengers, symbols and examples of faith in God's provision for our needs. God must have held them in high esteem and have been a bird-watcher too!

Recently, while convalescing from an accident, I experienced the luxury of having too much time on my hands. I wanted to feel my recovery time was profitable, so I attempted to find enjoyable and inspirational pursuits. Consequently, I remembered the fascination and pleasure I once received from feeding birds. I felt I could provide nourishment and become familiar with those friendly, yet evasive, creatures. I recalled my anticipation at greeting those airborne citizens dressed in finest attire. They eloquently dined, perching on brown feeders outside my kitchen window.

Although I resumed the hobby of bird-watching and feeding to fill extra hours and add pleasure to life when I could do little else, I found myself receiving new and valuable spiritual insights. Each day as I positioned myself in my recliner and excitedly greeted the birds from my family-room window, I became increasingly attached to their beauty and confidence. I marveled at God's artistry in creating their elegant dress. Blue jays, heads adorned with spiked hats of striking blue; small delicate finches exhibiting coats of yellow and red; doves and red costumed cardinals --all added to the liveliness of my front yard. What a kaleidoscope of fashion they exhibited while dining to the classical music of my mockingbird.

As birds continued indulging at dinner I felt obligated to insure the feeders overflowed with gourmet food of black oil sunflower seeds. Gradually, as the population multiplied, I pondered what they were thinking. How did different airborne friends learn about my palace of culinary treats, because new and different faces attended my banquet?

As I continued watching my guests feast, I found their daily appearance drastically lifted my spirits as I meditated on God's reasons for creating them. I remembered God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were all involved in Scripture where birds were used as teaching tools, for symbols and as messengers.

I first recalled Scriptural mention of birds when Noah sent a dove to check waters during the flood.

"And the dove came back to him in the evening and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leave; so Noah knew the waters had subsided from the earth."-- Genesis 8. God also chose a bird as the first symbol for the Holy Spirit.

"And when Jesus was baptized just as he came up from the water suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove." -- Matthew 3.

As I continued to contemplate the expectant manner my unique guests approached their feast, I noticed they definitely exemplified Jesus' lesson concerning the uselessness of worry: "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your Father feeds them." -- Matthew 6.

We could all benefit from that lesson if it were recalled as we watched birds indulge in their served meals.

What began as a hobby turned into appreciation of God's use of my winged visitors to accomplish the ordinary and extraordinary. As I watch birds gracefully perch on my now-green feeders I notice their rich array of colors and feeding patterns, but especially see the father, son and Holy Spirit. For I regard bird-watching as a spiritual pursuit rather than merely a hobby -- and continue to anticipate my spirits being lifted and new hope bestowed upon me by God's birds dining outside my window. Could you benefit, too, from becoming a bird-watcher?

Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral parish in Cape Girardeau.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: