Consider the Birds

For my Lenten Discipline this year, I’ve decided I’ll be reading (and blogging) about Debbie Blue’s book, Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible. 

If you know me in real life, you know that many/most of my sweatshirts are adorned with pictures of birds.

From my earliest memory, my grandmother never said, “See the pretty birdie!”

No, she always said things like “I heard the white-throat sparrows this morning. It must be almost spring.” or “The mockingbird must have a nest right outside the back door because they dive-bomb the dog when she goes outside to do her business.”

By the time I was nine or ten, I could tell the difference between a white-throat sparrow and a house sparrow. I knew the papa cardinal was the bright red one while his mate and babies were drab brown with a little shade of red underlying the crest on their heads. I knew that robins like to play in the spray of the sprinkler because it softened up the ground to allow them to more easily find their breakfast of a nice fat worm. I knew the right kind of bird feeder to get to keep the squirrels out of the birdseed and to make it more difficult for the big birds to hog all the goodies.

Now that we live in a different part of the country, I’m having to learn new birds. The white-crowned sparrow and its distinctive call is new to me. While I grew up with red-headed woodpeckers, I never saw a flicker before we moved to the Pacific Northwest. The bright blue of the blue jay outside my window in the south has been replaced by the inky blue-black of the Steller’s Jay (although they still make the same raucous sound).

So this Lent, I’m embarking on a different kind of bird search. I’ll be reading Consider the Birds to find out what I can learn from birds about the Bible. From the introduction:

“Birds are everywhere in the Bible, from start to finish. God hovers over the face of the water in Genesis – the ancient rabbis suggest – like a bird. Birds gorge on the flesh of the defeated “beast” in Revelation. They are the currency of mercy – the birds of sacrifice. They bring bread to the prophets. They are food for the wanderers. Abraham has to shoo them away from his offering, and a pigeon goes with Jesus on his first visit to the temple. God is a bird who carries the Israelites on her wings – a bird under who feathers we will find refuge. Jesus compares himself to a he. He tells us to ‘consider the birds.’ I love a guy who says that.”

Lent is an old Anglo-Saxon word for Spring. Here in Washington State, the days are beginning to get longer. There are rustlings in the bushes. It’s time for me to fill my bird feeder, again. It’s also about time to drag out the hose and fill the bird bath. The rains haven’t completely finished, and there’s still the possibility of a freeze, but I’m looking every day in anticipation of the robins returning to peck around on my lawn and listening for the “see, see, pretty, pretty me” of the white-crowned sparrow.


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