Monday, November 28, 2016

It's That Looney Cardinal Again

My son and family live in Austin on a large acreage which includes a lovely guest house that they offer to visiting missionaries, ministers and other visitors. I'm always at the main house when I'm there visiting, but I wanted a day of solitude a couple of weeks ago to meditate and finalize my thoughts for the upcoming Advent event I would be speaking at today here in Tulsa.

The house is tucked in heavy trees, off the beaten path, so it’s a perfect place to be still and hear from God. And that I did. As I settled down at the dining room table with my Bible, computer, notes, and cup of coffee, soon my envisioned “quiet and secret” place was interrupted by the constant beating on the windows of a hard-headed red cardinal. Poor bird -- I was concerned he was about to break his neck. It was annoying to say the least, until I thought “If I’m truly trusting God with all my heart and leaning not to my own understanding, and in all my ways acknowledging Him and trusting that He is directing my paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6), He must be using that cardinal to speak to me.

I remembered two winters ago that a cardinal family made their home in a crepe myrtle just outside my bedroom window. I began to cherish the cardinal because I came to understand that the cardinal is said to symbolize hope, joy, health, rejuvenation and celebration, the blood of Jesus that was shed for us, as well as to remind us of a dear loved one that may have passed from this earth.

A friend of mine, on the anniversary of her Dad's passing, was at her Mom and Dad's home, organizing family photos into envelopes for each of her eight siblings. When she put the last photo in the envelope, she looked out the window and saw a red cardinal in their backyard. Her dad loved cardinals. It was a sweet memory, and she knew that cardinal was heaven sent as she heard the words in her heart "Well done, good and faithful servant."

And, on this day in Austin, what seemed earlier like a looney cardinal, I knew now was a kiss from heaven to me. I like to think that my daddy, mama, grandparents AND, most of all, my sweetheart were sending me kisses from heaven to speak about the signs of Advent -- and talk about the many other "heaven sent" signs and messages from God that occur on a daily basis. Jesus used objects and "signs" to convey messages all the time. All those analogies that He used were probably from actual situations where He'd be by a well, and He'd talk about "living water" where we'd never thirst again; or the lilies of the field how they never toil -- He was probably by a field of lilies at the time; or when He said, "Consider the sparrows -- there were probably sparrows flying over head.. When He taught the parable of the sower, it's by no means a major stretch of our imagination to think that there was a sower in the next field where Jesus was.

So WHY wouldn't we see a cardinal and think of hope, joy, celebration AND sweet loved ones that could just be sending their love to us in the most beautiful way?

I knew my message tonight would include reference to the cardinal as a "sign" of hope and peace. And, all of that was confirmed when I arrived at Mom's house on Saturday.. When I walked in and saw her Christmas decorations with obvious "signs" of the cardinal -- the placemat, the pillow, the ceramic house and the sign. I knew I was on track.

It's about being a "Noticer" -- noticing those objects, signs, things, scriptures, nudges and hugs, where God reminds us of His love, His presence, His peace and hope. I'm just trusting Him so much that I'm willing to keep "noticing" how vast, how wide and deep is His love for me AND you.