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Chapter 13: Flying Lessons 1

One thing I enjoy about life here are the birds--unique shapes and sizes, unique colours and songs. One of my favourites is the red-whiskered bulbul.

Photo by Suman

Every morning I hear their pretty song as they chirp away in the nearby trees. And unlike many of the birds, they're not afraid to sit atop the branches or wires, showing off their bright colours and quirky crests atop their heads. I've noticed two in particular that are always hanging around, so I've given them names. As they sing, I'll say, "Hello Barney" or "Good morning Betty." They are a God-given gift and bring me joy.

Last week, we had a major windstorm. The next day I found a nest at the bottom of one of the small trees in our front yard--a tree that grows close to the front porch where Doug and I sometimes sit to drink our morning coffee. I felt bad for the birds that lost their nest but didn't think much more about it. But a few days ago, I saw a new nest forming in that same tree.

As we sat out there yesterday morning, I saw my favourite bird couple sitting on electrical wires nearby--Betty with a long strand of dried grass in her beak, and Barney chirping away.

It was then that I realized this nest belonged to them and that the pretty song we were hearing was Barney telling Betty to "Be careful. Humans!" or maybe telling us to "Get lost" so that they could continue rebuilding their nest.

This morning, after chirping at us for a while, Betty slipped in, disposed of her grass, and flew off again. At the same time, Barney shifted down to a lower wire and stood watch like a faithful soldier, ready to sound a warning call if necessary. We went inside and left them to work. But I kept pondering, considering lessons what I--what all of us--can learn from these little birds:

  1. Tenacity. They built a nest. Then a bad thing happened--they lost their nest. But that didn't stop them from starting again. They went right back to it, not questioning the path before them. It reminded me that even when we know we're on the right path--when we know we're following God's calling--even then, bad stuff happens. Jesus said it best in John 16:33 (NIV): "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus knows because He experienced the worst kind of trouble at the cross. And yet that did not deter Him. His example proclaims to us, "BE TENACIOUS!"

  2. Companionship. I see these two birds together often. Just a little reminder that we can't go life alone because we were made for relationship by a relational God. I am especially mindful of that in March because it's my hubby's birthday month and it's our wedding anniversary month. I am thankful for him. For the past 35+ years, through troubles and joys, highs and lows, he's been my companion, my friend and my love. We all need that whether it's found in a spouse or a best friend or a community of good friends. We aren't islands; we're oceans. Bodies of water that are all joined together.

  3. Camaraderie. This is companionship+. It's what we need as we work. When we set our minds and hearts, souls and bodies, to a task, we need the help of others. These two birds needed each other in order to rebuild their nest. One to do the frontline work, and the other to encourage and do the soldiering work by standing guard. As I consider our work as faith missionaries, I am aware of the need for camaraderie. We are here, on "the front lines" as it were, but not without the help of hundreds of people standing guard in prayer and singing songs of hope and encouragement over us with their words, love and finances--faithful to the end. They are a gift.

  4. Courage. Despite the fact that I was sitting only four feet from their tree, Betty took a risk and darted into it with her strand of grass. Her eyes, her mind, were focused on the goal. With that kind of courage, their nest will soon be finished. Her actions reminded me of Heb. 12:2 (NIV): "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Jesus set His eyes NOT on the cross but past it at His place beside the throne of God. He was aware of the present danger and trials, but He pressed on courageously, knowing there was joy waiting for Him at the end. Our true example.

  5. The Safety of Vulnerability. Even though this lesson is similar to ones already made, I include it because it's one we don't often talk about i.e. being vulnerable. Betty definitely put herself in a vulnerable position, knowing the "enemy" was close at hand. BUT, she also knew that there was safety in Barney's presence. She had to trust her partner instead of herself. Does that kind of vulnerability scare you? To be at the mercy of someone else? This means dropping pride and, in humility, letting others in to see us as we truly are--broken and in need of redemption. Not an easy lesson to learn but one we need to learn first at God's throne of grace. God desires us to be vulnerable with Him, like this little bird--to trust Him completely, letting Him be our strong tower as it says in Prov. 18:10 (NIV): "The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe."

  6. Joy. The last flying lesson but definitely not the least. More like, it's the lesson that should cover all the others. Barney and Betty sing joyfully each morning, every morning, nest or no nest. It's so ingrained in them they can't help it! And every day their song, their joy, brings me joy. Joy is contagious! Joy also strengthens us, as Neh. 8:10 (NIV) says, "...the joy of the Lord is your strength." This kind of joy is also found in the verse in Hebrews that I mentioned earlier. Jesus let the "joy set before Him" give Him strength and courage, help and hope.

Six lessons learned from two little birds. Beautiful how creation has so much to teach us if we just pause from our frantic activity.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll stop looking down at the rocky path we're on, lift up our eyes, and learn how to fly!


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