The Redwing and The Robin

I’m certainly not a twitcher – someone who obsesses about searching out rare birds and travels far and wide to tick one off their list. Nor am I a birder. They are more passive, willing to just enjoy any bird they see, but for them it’s still a hobby and for that you need to love the outdoors, long walks, and be happy to wait patiently in bird hides and, of course, use binoculars – a skill that I’ve never managed to master.

No! I’m not a birdwatcher at all, but I am a ‘bird noticer’! I don’t go looking for them, and yet it’s as if God brings them my way as a gift of encouragement, especially when I’m troubled or anxious.

Spring may bring vaccines and a lessening of restrictions, but until then…….it’s going to be a tough winter. I was thinking about the hardness of this season, the gloomy dark late afternoons and the bare trees, the deadness all around; then I looked up and there it was – a redwing eating rowan berries.

Yes, the redwings and fieldfares have returned. When the weather gets too harsh in Scandinavia and food becomes scarce, they flock to the UK and winter with us. We see the barrenness of winter here in Scotland, but they see fruitfulness! Like these hardy birds who know instinctively how to survive when the going gets tough, we too are more resilient than we think, and have resources we draw on too rarely. This is our chance.

The robin is another companion who’ll be toughing it out with us this winter. I love to hear him singing. He’s first to start the dawn chorus and last to stop long after dusk – often continuing to sing through the night. But that song of his is actually a roar! His melodious tones are his aggressive, defiant defence of his territory. The female roars likewise. Each has their own space. They are always on guard. Is there a lesson here for us?

Praise is a resource to strengthen our faith. Let’s begin each day with a roar of thankfulness that will keep us true and guard our space – the spacious place of freedom in our hearts.

It was midnight when Paul and Silas were singing their hymns to God, chained in a prison cell. When we feel trapped in our circumstances, the walls closing in on us, let’s keep praising – and others will maybe join in (Acts 16:25). When my husband Julyan was arrested in Turkey, I was amazed to find myself singing in the night. (My book, ‘You will see Hoopoes’, now available on Amazon Kindle)

Today is Thanksgiving in America. It’s a day traditionally for feasting with gratitude for the Lord’s provision – hard to celebrate as usual in the grips of pandemic. Yet, as we draw on the Lord’s love, when we sing praise in times of trouble, we find he has prepared a table for us, in the midst of our enemy – the bondage to fear and discouragement. Like the redwing who finds berries in winter, we’ll feast in the presence of the One who delights in us. That’s the spacious place promised to us in Psalm 18:19.

Spring is coming; life may look different then, but let’s not miss what God is saying to us now. In the words of C.S. Lewis, ‘Pain is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’ The prophet Job suffered in the extreme – dreadful isolation, desolation and grief. He was being called to a deeper understanding of God and his ways. It’s going to be a tough winter,

‘But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place, free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food (Job 36:15-16).’

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