God talks to me through the birds. I know that sounds crazy. Only a loony man like Francis of Assisi could ever believe such a foolish thing, right? But is is true. I am aware of the birds around me at all times because birds have meaning, and when I need to see certain signs from God to center and redirect my life and spiritual awareness, God puts certain birds in my way, hoping that I will see them and interpret their meaning correctly.
This morning at QT I saw three different kinds of bird. First I saw a robin while eating my QT pumpkin spice doughnut. Then a blue jay on the ground hopped out from behind the corner of the building. Then a pair of blackbirds flew down to watch the jay hunting through the grass.
Robins are traditionally the bird of spring-time, the harbinger of the end of winter. As a boy in Iowa, it was always a relief after the long cold winter to see the first robin of spring. But it means more than that. Robins are reliable. They leave for the winter to parts south and always return to bring hope for relief from our troubles. You can depend on robins to provide that service. The robin I saw this morning, I saw in early December. Winter is just beginning. But Texas is a place where robins spend the winter. God is telling me through the robin that my troubles are ending, easing into a metaphorical Spring and Summer. And like the robin, God is asking me to continue being reliable for my family and everyone else who looks to me for signs of hope, candle flames in the darkness, and a return to spring. How’s that for bird-brained thinking?
Blue Jays are bullies and thieves. If you have ever watched birds go about bird-business, and ever specifically watched blue jays do their jobs, then you already know they are bully birds. A blue jay will arrive at the bird feeder and drive off the sparrows, finches, and chickadees. They use their superior size to dominate the other birds, eating their fill before allowing the smaller birds their chance. They are aggressive enough to land on your picnic table and snatch a McDonald’s French fry or six if you are not close enough to swat them. And it was a blue jay that got me three times on the top of my head with her claws, diving at me like a dive bomber, when I was ten and didn’t realize that her chick had fallen out of her nest and sat shivering next to the sidewalk where I was walking.
Seeing the bird this morning was a reminder that there will be more aggressive folks on the sidewalk of life ahead of me that I will have to avoid. But this blue jay did nothing but hunt the grass for himself. He did not bother any other bird. So relief from the aggression of others is at least possible.
And black birds are the most common sorts of birds to see. But when you say, “black birds” what do you really mean? Grackles, creeks, common grackles, starlings, magpies, and redwing blackbirds are all black birds, even though they couldn’t be more varied and different from each other. The black birds I saw this morning were common grackles, which, of course, aren’t even truly black. They have iridescent blue-green feathers on their heads that can reflect sunlight with neon blazes of color. Black birds tend to be scavengers, trash-snatchers of the highest order that live on whatever they find. So they really feel that all business is their business. No trash bin left unattended, or bug that a blue jay scared up and then ignored, is beneath their notice.
So God is telling me to appreciate all those around me. I should notice and record their many unique beauties and skills and useful utilities.
There was good reason that Francis of Assisi preached to the birds. They are always watching, always listening, and, if studied carefully, always telling us about God’s will.