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Pastor's column: Birds, squirrels and other neighbors

Rev. Dr. Dawn Jeffers Ramstad

By Rev. Dr. Dawn Jeffers Ramstad 

In our backyard, we have a small garden specifically geared for bird watching. The last owners of our house had planted berry-bearing bushes that are good for birds but not for people along the foundation. As the people and cats inside enjoyed watching the birds in the bushes outside our picture window, we added two squirrel proof poles for hanging various feeders and a bird bath. Our plan for next spring is to clear the grass way below those poles and put in a flower bed specifically planted for our feathered neighbors to enjoy.

One noon last week I had more finches, wrens and chickadees than I could count. It was so much fun to watch them feast. What wonderful lunch companions! I could not keep my mind on the newspaper spread on the table in front of me for working on my shopping list.

What came to my mind as I shared my lunch time with my birds was a very famous Jesus' quote, "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them." (Matthew 6:26) It seems to me one of the reasons my birds don't need a barn to store their lunch is because I take care of that work for them. We store their seed. We pay attention to their eating habits and meet their needs. While hummingbirds don't come for seed at lunch, they do come for nectar before sunset. All these birds depend on us to meet their food needs. We are their convenience food on a beautiful August day, a habit we encourage for our amusement. Our same feeders will be the source where they can rely on finding food not buried by the next snowstorm. They know this because we always have food out for them.

Looking down at my newspaper, I saw store fliers all telling me that if I was lacking anything from back to school supplies to bird feeding supplies, the merchants of Hudson were storing these goods for me. Just like I assist God in feeding finches, wrens and chickadees, God has others who assist me in caring for my family's and animals' needs.

Sweet. And yet do we trust the idea that God has provided us with both abundance and each other in a cycle of care? While only God cares for all, we all can care for one of God's other creatures, both human and animal.

As birders, we make choices about who eats at our bird feeders and who does not. Our poles have squirrel barriers to protect the bird seed and the hummingbird feeder hangs below an ant barrier. Just because we don't make it easy for squirrels and ants to eat our birds' food, doesn't mean I don't consider them in our backyard. While ants will never be my favorite insect, the various black, white and gray squirrels who use our powerlines as their highway are just as much fun to watch from our window as the varieties of finches. Those squirrel neighbors are always welcome to glean with the ground feeding doves below our feeder poles. If the storm is very, very bad, I will get them corn and peanuts to see them through.

How amazing is it in this world God created to be our home that we all are provided with the air, water, and food we need? When reading through the back to school supplies, how blessed am I as an empty-nested person to be able to buy supplies for a child in need? Granted it may not be exactly what the child wants, but I can share from my abundance to meet his or her need. None of us ever gets everything we want, and we may need a neighbor to purchase our needs to share their abundance with us, but no matter how it happens God will always supply everything we need.

The season of gifting is soon upon us. The back to school sales will shift to be "gift ideas." As you plan you sit and plan your shopping list in your season of abundance remember to plan for your place in God's care for all creation. There are families in need for whom your abundance can be the way God cares for them.