Article By: Norma W. Beaird
Photography By: Curtis and Norma Beaird
And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
For years, when I heard about bird watchers, I always envisioned a professor wearing a khaki photographer's vest with a matching safari hat. He would be holding a pair of expensive binoculars while standing in the middle of a wildlife preserve. In my mind, I would picture him on an exotic safari, gazing at the many colorful bird species or lobbying for the protection of a rare bird through environmental causes. Consequently, we have learned that bird watching is an intensely exciting adventure for people from all backgrounds and all walks of life, something enjoyed by college students, professors, environmentalists, photographers, housewives and grandmothers!
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the leading authority on the study of birds in the United States. On Facebook, they announced a fun event called The Great Backyard Bird Count. This event got us started and off to Lowe's we went for a bird feeder! One Backyard Bird Count and we were hooked. My only regret? I wish I would have started watching birds years ago. This has brought a sense of peace, joy and excitement that has fired me up spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I have been utterly fascinated by the many different species that I never realized existed.....until now. God has truly created a beautiful, colorful and fascinating world!
I have always admired the beautiful exotic birds, such as Parrots, Parakeets, Cockatoos and Scarlet Macaws, but for years, I didn’t give much thought to the many species of birds that surround us every single day. Like most folks, I was busy with college, work or various family responsibilities. One fond memory that I always had as a child was sitting on the front porch with my grandmother and listening as ‘Ole Bob White whistled his loud and cheerful bird song in the woods across the street. This sweet memory leads me into a heart-warming story about my grandmother.
Before I was born, my grandmother had a parakeet that she dearly loved named Billy. He would sit in his cage while she was cooking dinner or supper (in the South, lunch is dinner and dinner is supper), and she would teach him to talk. “Billy is a pretty boy!” “I love you!” or “Give me some sugar, darling!” My grandmother became attached to Billy as he became a very entertaining member of the household.
On one particular occasion, my grandmother went into the hospital for surgery and was hospitalized for a week. During her hospitalization, my mother said that Billy completely stopped talking. It was as though he went into a depression because my grandmother wasn’t there. The day that she came home from the hospital, my mother said that Billy looked at her and checked her out from top to bottom, and the next day at breakfast, he would not hush. Talk, talk, and then talk some more. He was so happy to see my grandmother. It was so special that a precious little parakeet had such an affection for my grandmother. After Billy died, my grandmother didn’t seek to have another bird because she became so attached to him, and it is so sad when the beautiful creatures you adore pass on to bird heaven.
So, now that there is a bit of history, why do Curtis and I have a fascination with birds? Well, it’s actually a long story, but then again, we can sum it up in several paragraphs, to include the life lessons that are learned through years of experience, decision-making, introspection and observation. Hopefully, as time moves on, we gain a little wisdom and clarity, realizing the spiritual need for peace and contentment in our fast-paced modern culture.
When we are all younger, we think that the only way to “make it” or “succeed” is to go ninety-to-nothing, blowing and going, meeting and greeting, shaping up or shipping out. We have to network and nitpick, upsize and modernize, friend and trend, look the part, act the part and keep up with the Joneses. It’s never enough to be ourselves; we must be what the culture demands we should be.
We work and work and spend and spend, saving nothing emotionally or spiritually for the future. We store and hoard, pay room and board, stipulate and congregate, prioritize and monetize; and finally, when it’s all said and done, we burn out the candle on both ends.
We become tired, empty, discouraged, and a shell of what God created us to be.
We may have the distinguished career, the office with a view, the perks of upper management or the nicely-manicured home; however, if we have high blood pressure and plaque in the arteries, was it really worth it? Emotionally and financially, our culture is stressed to the max and the ever-busy worker bees come home every evening to eat, sleep, shower and start the tiresome process all over again. Rest has become a four-lettered word. In our restless, non-stop, activity-laden culture, there is little time left to enjoy the awe-inspiring gift of God's creation.
People rarely take time to smell the roses, watch a sunset, or......feed the birds.
Stories like these can go on forever. But, you get the point. We make life more difficult than it needs to be. The Bible says in Philippians 4:19, "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." However, in most cases, our wants overrule our needs and our desires overrule our better judgment. Thus, we end up with a lot of stuff and a nice facade, but little peace or happiness. Why? Because working constantly to attain more stuff leads to utter exhaustion and the need to insure it, store it or repair it. Sometimes we fix it, sell it or trade it, and then start the cycle all over again.
For example, when people acquire the objects of their wildest dreams, they never really learn to appreciate them. The object or thing....... the home, the car, the boat, the jewelry or even the achievement will become another notch on the belt of accomplishments and acquisitions. It seems that nothing can be treasured, cherished or admired. It is calculated, measured and stacked. An oil painting or a unique piece of jewelry is not viewed as a work of art, but rather another material object to be checked off of the list that's entitled, "I Couldn't Live Without It". It's no surprise that this attitude devalues the object's personal meaning. People want it.......but do they really appreciate the creativity, talent, technical expertise or artistic ability that went into the acquisition on their list?
Inevitably, spiritual discontentment brings people to their knees. After folks graduate from the school of hard knocks with a Bachelors Degree in Stress and a Minor in Exhaustion, they step back, re-examine their priorities and start searching for a better life. This is not a life that includes more titles, more money or more stuff, but a life that includes an appreciation for what God set in place for us…… absolutely free of charge. This includes the gift of His salvation, the breath of life, the love of family, the beauty of nature, the joy of contentment, and the birds. Peace....... without a price tag.
Philippians 4: 5 – 8 says it best:
5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
When we read these verses of scripture, it we take heed of verse 8 especially, we will understand that many of the worldly things that we seek do not fall into “whatsoever things are pure, lovely or of good report”.
Because the things that most people seek are temporal, not eternal. Material possessions will rust or fall into disrepair. They will pass away.
The spiritual always supercedes the physical.
Remember these words of Jesus?
Matthew 6: 19 - 21
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
So, even if we lay up vast and immense treasures upon the earth, when it’s all said and done, what have we really accomplished? Have we acquired or have we made a difference? It’s not about the grind of success or the accumulation of material possessions. Real living is about serving the Lord, loving our families, helping our neighbors and taking care of this lovely earth that God has entrusted into our care.
How many times have you heard about a dying man or woman lying on their deathbed and lamenting, “I wish I would have made more money,” or “I wish I could have had a bigger house.” Most people wish they would have spent more time with family and had appreciated the relationships and beauty that God has placed all around us.
Therefore, we have learned to appreciate the excitement and gratitude of a little bird as he lands on our feeder, inspecting every seed to be delivered to the nest. There’s nothing like it. The world may never learn to say “thank you” for your hard work or achievement. Your material possessions may never bring you peace; but, all of this is suddenly forgotten when you see that the little American Goldfinch at your thistle feeder has brought three more to partake of your offering. That may seem miniscule to most, but it means a lot to folks who finally figured it out. Life is best enjoyed through the truth of God’s Word and the beauty of His creation, not through the conventional results of worldly pursuits.
Another positive aspect of bird watching is that it requires the bird watcher to be still and quiet. How many times do people take the time to be still and quiet, to watch and wait? When we photograph an inspiring picture of a Blue Jay in flight with a peanut in his beak, we realize that the time and silence required to capture the moment was absolutely worth it. Sometimes, silence is truly golden!
Sometimes......opportunities in life work and sometimes they don't. My grandmother always said, “Sometimes life’s disappointments are God’s appointments.” I have found out that she was right. Life is full of ups and downs, laughter and tears, celebrations and disappointments. Sometimes, our earthly journey brings us to a place that requires us to look at life through a different set of spiritual glasses. The things that we once thought were so important were mere blips on the radar screen of life, as we were on our way to living a life infused with the fruits of the Spirit.
Galations 5: 22 - 23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Things don't always turn out as planned; sometimes they actually turn out better. Sometimes we learn to be still and pray, meditating upon the goodness of the Lord and knowing that God has it all under control. Sometimes, we learn to rest and be at peace.
Today, we appreciate God's blessings all around us, finding inspiration and contentment in the beauty and wonder of nature. ........and that's why we became bird watchers!
All scripture is King James Version
Copyright 2012, Curtis and Norma Beaird. All rights reserved.