Monday, October 24, 2011

An Unusual Bird and the C Word

I looked up from my computer one day last week and at the feeder just outside my window, a bird I’d never seen before munched on black oiled sunflower seeds. 

“Who are you,” I said aloud, and pulled my well-worn copy of Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies from the bookshelf. 

White bars on black wings and red chest feathers distinguished the bird from any I’d ever seen before. 

After some time of searching for the bird’s identity, I had to leave to make a short trip to a doctor’s office to learn the results of my dad’s recent prostate biopsy. 

When I met with the nurse, she didn’t even have to tell me. I could read it in her face. 

My dad, often the healthiest person in the family, now had cancer. And who would have guessed that both my husband and my father would have cancer in the same year.

I left the doctor’s office so sad, barely holding back the tears, and returned home to my computer. But unable to work, I could only sit staring at the new bird that seemed determined to empty the feeder of its contents. I picked up the bird book again and halfheartedly flipped the pages. Something caught my eye as a possibility, but seeking further confirmation, I did a Google search and yes, I'd found it.

The bird was a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Born just this year, he was shades away from his later brilliant plumage and currently resembled the female of the species, except his red chest was beginning to bloom.

I learned that having probably been born in parts north of here, he was headed to the West Indies, Central, or South America for the winter. 

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5). 

So that’s why he seemed to be gorging at the feeder. He was on a long journey. It amazes me how God equips these small creatures to fly great distances, and sometimes over great spans of water to reach their destination.

I thought of my dad, and the long journey he faced. The next verse in Psalm 84 reads, “As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs…” Baca means weeping. “They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”

 My prayer is that as we travel through this hard place that we could find our sustenance in drinking the living water that only Jesus gives, that we will go from strength to strength.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak stayed with me for three days before he headed south. I believe God sent him to my feeder the day I found out my dad had cancer, so that I’d not just remember the bad news, but I’d also remember this touch of grace from a God who knows what brings joy and comfort to our souls.

To learn more about the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and listen to his call, which Peterson says is like a Robin who's taken voice lessons, click here.

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