Morning Zephyrs! Julie here.
A little ornithological quiz for you this morning! Name the bird species spotted in my garden in the photos below…
Top left is, of course, that festive favourite, the robin.
The little fluffball, top right, is a baby Coal Tit – we’ve watched them fledge from their nest in a hollow in a tree in our neighbour’s garden.
Bottom left is the very beautiful Goldfinch – this one appears to be collecting cobwebs from the gutter, but we also regularly see a pair of them on our bird feeder.
And bottom right is a young female blackbird – if you follow my Storyteller page, you may be interested to know that this is the offspring of Patch and Mrs Patch, who was nearly frightened away by my cat earlier in lockdown! We’ve enjoyed watched their little family fledge and grow over the last few months.
One of my favourite things from lockdown has been watching the bird feeder in the garden. Sitting at the dining room table in the same spot, day after day, for months over the Spring, has given us a chance to watch closely as nature takes its course around us and notice things we wouldn’t normally see.
I’m also rather fond of the less feathered visitors to our bird feeders – the squirrels! Anyone who displays this much dedication to getting their hands on their food deserves nothing but admiration and respect…
Over the past few months, I’ve watched squirrels come and go from our garden as I’ve sat at my laptop; running along the fences, acrobatically pilfering the bird feeders, and digging up the spoils they had stashed in my lawn. The other day, I was in my kitchen when a familiar flash of grey fur caught the corner of my eye…
That flash of fur was a squirrel running down the bird feeder – and by the time I looked up, it was settled at the bottom, right next to the cage feeder half-full of peanuts. It had obviously just succeeded in knocking it off the hook, onto the floor, and it looked mightily pleased with itself!
Dislodging the feeder in order to eat from it in a more comfortable fashion was not, however, enough for this intrepid visitor. As I watched, like something from a cartoon, the squirrel proceeded to try everything it could to lift the entire feeder up off the ground, small furry arms stretched comedically wide, as it attempted to stagger off with a hoard of peanuts far too big for it to carry.
The squirrel was unbelievably determined. It tried everything – lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling. At one point, it ran up the nearby post and sat atop the fence, surveying the situation from a height to see if it could come up with a better plan. After several dogged minutes, circumstances forced it to change tack. Its efforts to steal the entire feeder and its contents resulted in the lid being dislodged and the peanuts spilling out everywhere. By the time my daughter went out later to refill and rehang it, there were no peanuts left – some gobbled up, no doubt, by the opportunistic pigeons, but most, I suspect, taken and stashed for a later date by that stubborn little squirrel. And bravo to him, I say!
In Genesis 32, there’s a story about Jacob wrestling with God. Faced with reunion the next day, reunion with the brother he had cheated out of his heritage, Jacob places his wives, children and slaves in safety across the river, then returns to spend the night alone. He spends the dark hours wrestling with a man until the sun comes up. The man, seeing he can’t defeat Jacob, strikes Jacob’s hip, putting it out of joint, then asks Jacob to let him go.
“I will let go of you,” Jacob replies, “If you bless me.”
And so the man blesses him saying, “You will no longer be called Jacob; now your name will be Israel, because you have wrestled with God and with people, and you have won.”
Jacob asks the man his name, but he refuses to tell it. So Jacob named that place Peniel, saying, “I have seen God face to face, but my life was saved.”
Sometimes, when we’re faced with a problem that refuses to be solved, when things become intractable, when we can’t see how God will lead us through, or we’re trying to ignore his prodding to do something difficult to solve it, we can feel like Jacob. Like him, we feel we’re hanging on for dear life with no end in sight, clinging with faith to a God who has become both our assailant and lifebelt, all rolled into one.
When that happens, we need to cling onto God with all the stubborn determination of a squirrel who refuses to give up on wrestling a stash of peanuts he can’t carry; we need to cling onto God with all the audacity of a man who, faced with God himself, cries out, “I won’t let go until you bless me!”
Spend a few minutes with God and any current struggles you may be facing, relying on his love for you and on his abundant grace and generosity of blessing…
When God left Jacob, he left him changed; the strike on his hip caused him to limp away from their encounter. Wrestling with God, holding on for his blessing, cannot leave us unchanged; there is a price to be paid, seeking God’s heart makes its mark, such an encounter will leave us challenged – and that can be uncomfortable. But it is a price worth paying…
May your days be blessed, Zephyrs – and if it’s not, hang on – the blessing is coming!