The Spirituality of Bird Feeders

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 12:10
10 The righteous care for the needs of their animals,
     but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

Reflection: The Spirituality of Bird Feeders
By Erin Newton

When I wake up in the morning, I can hear that the world around me has not slept at all. The sun peeks through the curtains as the Earth slowly spins in orbit. The songs of the birds call me to the window. I see the squirrels rushing from tree to tree. The last remaining leaves rustle in the cold winter breeze.

As I bring in my groceries, the sun stands tall above my head. I hear the call of crows scaring away a pair of hawks. Even when it snows outside, the footprints of the wild bunnies show me that they were passing through my yard at night. An owl lands just out the window. We sit frozen, locked eye to eye.

Before humanity was told to fill this world with our own creations, we were asked to take care of that which God had already made. The first command was to take care of the more ancient citizens of this planet—Nature.

The wisdom in this proverb echoes the call from the dawn of those first few days in Genesis. It was through wisdom that God made all things. Wisdom here is this: The righteous, those who seek to uphold the nature and will of God, tend to the needs of animals.

In some ways, we do a very poor job fulfilling the first request God ever gave to us. We take land and clear it out. Even when we plant, we remove biodiversity with monoculture ecosystems. We limit food sources for wild creatures. We pave paradise.

Jesus told his disciples to consider the ravens: “They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them.” And how? By letting the ground produce plants that will give their seeds and house insects. (Ravens even clear out decomposing rodents—a helpful feature for those of us with sensitive noses and a weak stomach!)

If our first call was to cultivate, to bring this Earth to its fullest potential, then our righteousness should be reflected in our care for creation. It is not unspiritual work to fill up a bird feeder, adopt a pet, or plant flowers for the bees.

We cannot survive this world without our cohabiting creatures. This world is far too big for one person alone to care for them all. We can divide the work and cultivate this world together.

Music:Feed the Birds,from Mary Poppins.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Wake up, my spirit; awake lute and harp; I myself will waken the dawn. — Psalm 57.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 12 (Listen 3:07
Mark 2  (Listen 3:55)

Read more about Cultivating Is Supernatural
A stronger faith, and a greater crop yield comes when we invest in cultivation. Cultivation is not natural. It is supernatural.

Read more about The Cultivating Life
“Cultivation is supernatural,” but the actions of cultivating faith are not ethereal or fanciful. They are the practical, steady doings of the farmer.

Curses We Speak Curse Us

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 12.13-20
13 Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, 
and so the innocent escape trouble. 
14 From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, 
and the work of their hands brings them reward. 
15 The way of fools seems right to them, 
but the wise listen to advice. 
16 Fools show their annoyance at once, 
but the prudent overlook an insult. 
17 An honest witness tells the truth, 
but a false witness tells lies. 
18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, 
but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 
19 Truthful lips endure forever, 
but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. 
20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, 
but those who promote peace have joy. 

Reflection: Curses We Speak Curse Us
By John Tillman

Righteous speech matters to God.

Like most people, I was taught that God wanted us to not use “curse words.” “Cussing” was something I commonly confessed or prayed that God would help to eliminate from my life. Avoiding these words was a cultural marker that defined an outward kind of righteousness.

The language of our culture has coarsened over time. Today, “locker room talk” has spilled over into public life. Obscenities are often worn openly on clothing and used in political signs and slogans. Many Christians have abandoned language norms in service of politics. Vulgar attacks of political candidates can be found on bumper stickers in church parking lots on Sunday mornings.

Righteous speech matters more today than it ever has before. It can be an important marker of difference that sets us apart. However, righteous speech, as the Bible describes it, is not so much a change of vocabulary as a change of heart. Scripture condemns words that curse others but nowhere is there a specific list of “curse words.” Even loudly “blessing” someone too early in the morning can be considered a curse. (Proverbs 27.14)

Righteous speech goes beyond avoiding certain words but if eliminating course vocabulary doesn’t make our speech righteous, what does?

The key proverb in this section on speech says that our speech should “fill others with good things.” The connected phrase says that the “work of our hands” will reward us. Words affect work. Speech, whether harsh or helpful, shapes actions.

New revelations this past week about the hate-filled language of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers reveal the regularity of their course language about African Americans. This harshness and cruelty was part of how they thought and felt, and became a part of how they acted. Out of their hearts, these words flowered with poisonous fruit. The “work of their hands” condemned them. 

Jesus taught that what comes out of our mouths defiles us. Words come from the heart and this is why they matter. Because of this we can speak “curses” without ever saying a racial slur or a word that would be bleeped out of a broadcast. When we speak hatefully, it doesn’t matter what vocabulary we use, we are cursing.

Curses we speak curse us. Blessings we speak bless us. Let us honor Christ and others with righteous speech that flowers with blessing and not cursing.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to you and be healed. — Traditional

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 12 (Listen – 3:07)
Psalm 75-76 (Listen – 2:33)

Read more about Praying Priestly Blessings
May we pronounce this priestly blessing not with words alone, but in how we live and walk through our world.

Read more about Becoming a Blessing
Our broken world seeks righteousness.
Bring it through us.
Our lost world seeks truth.
Speak it through us.