In other words…

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A loud and cheerful greeting early in the morning will be taken as a curse!

Proverbs 27:13  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Bring on the birds!

I tend to frequent my garden patio in the early morning, as will become repetitively apparent in subsequent entries.  I appreciate the quiet of my rural, small town setting. I love to hear the birds wake up and start singing.  I also enjoy actually seeing the birds I am hearing.  I’m learning them little by little, with my color picture book close by, to recognize a few species, including by the music they make.  My husband and I are true bird-admirers.  Not real bird-watchers, mind you; the true Audubons are the ones that can confidently identify, say, a loggerhead shrike from a Northern shrike…and enjoy it.   But I do, at least, like to be able to see those who are gracing my morning with their songs.  I have learned that, generally, to attract birds, you must have a bird-attracting environment.  They are all around me, because I can hear them, even if I can’t immediately see them.  But to seriously bring them into view I must entice them with something they want.

Many of my patio variety songsters are not particularly picky eaters, thankfully.  A fifty-pound bag from the local feed store does nicely, especially for sparrows and junkos and an occasional cowbird or catbird.  However, I have learned that certain species are encouraged to frequent my garden depending on what I choose to put out.  Cardinals like their black-oil sunflower seeds.  Finches love the seeds on my dry coneflowers.  Hummingbirds go for red. Downey woodpeckers prefer the suet in the hanging cage.   And grackles, well, I guess they eat anything, and a whole lot of it!

What I also find noteworthy is how these fabulous creatures find their way to the food.  It is such a natural, unfeigned, unpretentious process.  The more I set out, the more they come around.  And even if I don’t get around to filling the feeders, and maybe there are only a few kernels just left lying around a pile of empty hulls, they still seem attracted to it, pushing through the junk to find the valuable seeds.  But the converse is also true.  No food, few birds.  For them to stay around in abundance, and close enough for thorough enjoyment and study, they must be welcomed and wanted, and they must be drawn.

With all respect, the Holy Spirit is a bit, just a bit mind you, the same way.  As we provide the proper enticements (like faith), and make Him feel welcome (like humility), He comes more into view, becomes easier to see, and His ways are easier to identify.  And why?  Because what God is interested in most is the environment of my heart:

  • He looks deep within my human soul, the real me, the sometimes (oft times) hidden me, and invites me to come and take a good look with Him, since most of us are not even fully aware of what’s really going on in there anyway. And though He sees the “me” in my entire self, and though He recognizes so much beauty that could be, yet He patiently waits and constrains Himself, for even God must be invited, welcomed and wanted. One of the Old Testament songwriters put it this way, “I sought Your favor with all my heart;
    Be gracious to me according to Your word…” (1)
  • Although God is everywhere at once, yet He makes it clear that we get His attention by a humble heart, and a prayer of faith, even if it’s just a little faith mixed with a whole bunch of questions. It’s an easy and common deception to think that we are too far gone, too messed up, or have too little faith for God work His wonderful restorative power in our lives. A little faith is still faith, a powerful entity in God’s kingdom, even if it’s mixed with a bunch of empty husks known as doubt and the used up hulls we call fear.  God is just powerful enough to dig through our questions and circumstances to find the little seeds of faith in our prayers and our lives, even when we ourselves aren’t aware of their existence. (2)
  • The proud heart, on the other hand, the one that says it does not need God, that refuses to agree with God’s assessment of the situation and His answer to the problem, (possibly because it refuses to acknowledge that there IS a problem), this heart the Holy Spirit grieves over, since there is nothing to bid Him welcome, nothing to make Him feel wanted. (3)

My early morning “patio compadres” make my garden more than just a quiet place to sip my tea while the rest of the town wakes up.  Not only do I love having them around for their beauty and song, but they are part of the very livelihood of my garden!  So does God’s Holy Spirit infuse His life into the garden of my life.  Every day is another opportunity to invite Him into my world, my mind, and circumstances, and my heart.

Then I can sit back, and listen for His song.

  • Psalm 119:58
  • See Mark 9:24
  • See Psalm 51:17, James 4:6

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Shouldn’t I still be in bed?

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If my body had its way, I would still be in bed right now.  The alarm, however, announced my previous decision, which was to get up at 4:45AM.  Regardless of how much I wanted to stay under the flannel sheets next to my warm husband, embraced by quiet and darkness, and regardless of the fact that I didn’t need to be at work until 7:30AM, (which means leaving my home at 7:25AM—gotta love small towns…), yes, regardless of what most of my fellow humans would consider common sense, I am up at 4:45 in the morning and sitting on my patio in 40 degree weather.  And, oh!  It is so beautiful!

My old wool sweater and my brother-in-law’s army jacket keep me toasty warm.  The heated “corn pad” sits in my lap, and my steaming hot tea sits in my belly.  The Mighty Wonder Buck, our recently rescued 100% mutt, is happily content out here; with his thick black coat, this is his kind of weather.  Of course, the birds are singing, and somewhere off in the distance I hear the truckers moving their wares down the highway.

It’s a free country, as they say, and I could have changed my mind even after the alarm went off.  There are plenty of good reasons to stay in bed, even beyond the ones mentioned earlier.  Some of them are even arguably valid ones!  I need my sleep, especially at my age.  (That phrase, “at my age”, is becoming a great rationalization, by the way.)  It’s only Tuesday, and a long way until the weekend.  The Buck needs me to be more energetic when I get home from work.  Blah, blah, blah.

My brain wins the battle over my body as I stick to my original plan, pulling myself out of bed, rousing the dog, but usually not my husband, in the process.  I fire up the teapot and nuke the corn pad.  Within a few minutes, I’m wrapped up snugly in my patio chair.

There’s definitely something to be said for making a plan prior to the obstacles showing themselves.  It can be more than a little difficult to make qualitative decisions (especially moral ones) in the face of tempting circumstances, even when some of those circumstances are accurately anticipated.  The word is “commitment”, and it seems to have fallen out of favor these past several decades.

That’s just another reason why I love a good, old-fashioned church wedding ceremony.  I don’t just come for the cake with butter cream frosting, Aunt Sally’s butchering rendition of Paul Stookey’s Wedding Song (again), and the little ring bearer announcing loudly to his mom’s chagrin that he has to “go pee” just as the bride is ready to march down the aisle.  No, amid all the tumult and relative comedy that takes place in even the most formal nuptials, there are transactions far deeper, far more mystical, that take place.  One of those is commitment.  That is, prior commitment: making the decision to love and nurture prior to the financial fiascos, prior to the devastating accident or illness, prior to the disagreements over where to spend holidays.  Granted, some relationships are dangerous, and therefore not workable–most of us get that.  But in general, if commitment is just so dang hard, why even bother?

I suppose that’s one of the reasons why God chose weddings, and marriage, and family to represent so much of what He wants with us.  He tells us that, before God even created us, He knew that His Son, Jesus, would have to come and rescue us out of this messy, sinful separation from Him.  He knew we were going to tank the whole project even before the second generation came on the scene, and they didn’t exactly hit it off too well themselves either.  But, regardless of all that—all of that destruction, all of that disappointment, all of that pain—God stuck to His original plan.  He went ahead and made man in His own image, “in the image of God, He made him.”  The rest that followed is, well, history.

Right now, the owl is crooning, there is a faint lingering fragrance of someone’s wood smoke, and I can hear Buckley chewing on his bone—at least I think that’s what he’s chewing on… All things considered, I guess it’s okay, at least sometimes, to be counted with those whom others would question their common sense by sticking to a crazy plan.  I’m sure glad God stuck with His.