Saturday, March 11, Lent Calendar* Invite: Go outside and notice the birds. Remember Jesus saying “look at the birds… do not worry.”
Today's post is written by my dear friend and gifted author Dianne Beck. Check out her books.
“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27 (NLT)
I love the views from my windows. They may not seem like much in comparison to some settings. They don’t look out over a sandy beach or a tree-filled forest. They don’t look down onto a cityscape filled with lights. But, they bring me a lot of joy. As I write, I have fresh coffee near and a warm fire behind me, and I look out at one of my favorite sights. It’s of the mimosa tree outside my front window. The tree stands tall, its branches bare in this winter season, but still filled with life. Whether bare or covered in leaves, it’s a year round playground for many a bird: finches, sparrows, hummingbirds, and even red-headed woodpeckers, of which I saw three at once the other day. Sometimes their noise and activity is very distracting, but I don’t complain about the interruption. These birds have never once brought me any feeling but joy. Though they can’t smile with their beaks or burst into one of those contagious laughs some people have, they seem so happy all the time. They flit about, chirp, hop from branch to branch, sing beautiful melodies. They are a vision of contentment.
A vision of contentment – isn’t that what I want to be?
When I was a child, I always thought it would be cool to be a bird so I could fly. I still think it would be incredible, to have that free feeling of soaring in the sky, looking down at everything below, going wherever I want. But as I watch birds a lot now, I see that their flying ability may not be the thing I admire most about them. It might just be the way they simply go about their days, carefree.
When Jesus spoke about the birds as something to look to, he gave us a vision of a worry-free existence, of the way we are to trust that we are taken care of, that we have a God who knows exactly what we need at every moment. The other day I wrote this prayer in my journal:
I don’t know why I ever seek comfort or answers in anything but you. Why do I ever have doubts? You are the ultimate one in charge of all things. Why do I forget that you will always work everything out for good – YOUR good, YOUR purpose, and in YOUR will? Please help me remember this in all the many situations and details I’m stressing about. Help me to see your will and have your discernment in everything. Help me to see and hear you above all else, Lord. Amen.
You see, I’m writing this post at a time when I’ve noticed myself forgetting Jesus’s words to not worry. It’s at a time when I have a lot on my plate, as surely many do who are reading this. So, as my plate fills, I worry I won’t be able to get it all done, or that I’ll get it done, but not well because there are simply too many things to hold in place. That’s when I need to look at who is in control all the time, whether I know it or not.
I recently heard a statistic that we have only 15% of the control over things in life that we think we have. Fifteen! That’s not much control. While this statistic could make some people attempt to reign in the chaos more, that’s not what God would tell us to do. He would tell us to surrender, to give the control over to him, because he promises he’s watching over us and will put the pieces together for us even if we have no clue how or when.
The words of 2 Chronicles 16:9 say, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
Then one of my favorite verses, Joshua 1:9 says, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Notice it doesn’t say to not be afraid because there aren’t fearful things. It says to not be afraid because he is with us. In the fear, he travels beside us. So what matters is who we’re looking to in those times of fear, worry, or dread. If we focus more on the problems than the one who can actually solve the problems, we will live in a constant state of anxiousness.
One of the words that keeps catching my attention lately is the word LOOK. For at least a month now, I’ve been noticing the beautiful mountains, which in southern California have been unusually green lately or topped with snow.
Snow-capped or green mountains aren’t everyday sights in this drought ridden state, and each time I look at them, I am reminded of this drought quenching verse in Psalm 121:
“I look up to the mountains –
Does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT)
The reminder in this verse to look UP keeps me from looking down and inward, or in other words, at myself for the solution. It reminds me that God is much bigger than me and my worries. He will help me. Similarly, the verse in Matthew to “Look at the birds” causes me to look upward, where birds often are, in trees, in the sky, flying and soaring free of problems, like I can be if I take the focus off myself. So I’ve spent many a moment this past week saying, “Look at the birds, Look at the birds,” over and over, as I remember he’s got whatever worry crosses my mind.
In my recent novel, Finding True North, secondary character, Aria, who is the sister of the main character, is very obsessed with birds. She spends any free moment she can learning about them and observing them, and birds are actually one of the main things that calms her when she is anxious. In chapter 14, she says, “This doesn’t make much sense, but sometimes I think the birds might be talking to God. They can’t have much to say to each other.”
When North (her sister and main character) asks her what she thinks the birds are saying to God, Aria says, “I’m not sure. Maybe they’re asking for food and stuff to make their nests? Maybe protection? Whatever they say, it seems to work. They’re never worried.” Then she reads the Bible verse from Matthew 6 aloud as her proof.
At the very beginning of the book, North says, “I thought how much happier people would be with an Aria in their lives.” Aria may be a fictional character who I created, but she points the characters and the readers of this story to a real Jesus. Like real people, she is by no means always free of anxiety, but when she looks at the birds, she is.
So today, as we look at the Lent calendar and are given the suggestion to go outside and notice the birds, I hope we receive the same blessing – the blessing of peace that passes all understanding, peace that only God can give. That’s my prayer for everyone today and each time we look up, at birds, at mountains, at the beautiful blue sky, or at anything that reminds us of the creator who created such beauty in our world. I pray we all see his hand, his help, his face more than any other, and therefore, find the freedom and strength for each day.
SOME TIPS TO HELP YOU WHEN WORRIED OR STRESSED
Even though I felt I had little time this past week to write much, writing and focusing on this passage has brought me peace because it reminded me to refocus my thoughts on God. I still need to keep repeating “Look at the birds, Look at the birds,” but that’s better than saying, “Look at my problem, look at what I can’t do.” So, for those who like to journal (or even if you think you don’t) maybe try this:
Copy Matthew 6:26-27 and then write down all the things weighing you down. Write a prayer thanking God for his control over all these things and his power to handle them in the right way. Ask him for help in letting these worries, doubts, or fears go.
Notice the beauty in God’s creation and let it be a reminder of his presence and help wherever you are.
Listen to a song that reminds you to look to God for peace. Two suggestions for you: “Look Up” by Lauren Daigle, and then a new favorite of mine suggested by my amazing friend, Gail: “You Can Rest” by Hillary Scott.