Ode to a Cardinal


Sometimes when life feels like too much, and when the expectations of others are pressing too heavily on me, I just sit at the window, or step outside, inhale the fresh air and watch the birds.

The forest is one of the few good things about the house we currently live in. Most of the time, I don’t enjoy living here, so I look for little gems to help keep my sanity. All throughout spring, summer, and into the fall, birds abound. I have seen wild turkeys and eagles casting huge shadows as they fly overhead. There are tons of robins, and blue jays and chickadees, and brightly colored birds that I’ve never seen before. Owls can be heard hooting softly at night. But my favorite bird, by far, is the cardinal. And this is the first place we’ve lived where I see them daily.

If you’ve read my writing for any length of time, you’ve probably already heard this story. Years ago, I read a passage about a man who found himself feeling discouraged and distant from God during a long, cold winter. He stood at his window, praying, unsure whether God even heard him anymore. He said, “God, if you’re there, and you care about me, let me see a cardinal today.” Within moments, a bright red cardinal landed on a snow-covered branch outside his window.

He was encouraged, and I was, too, when I read that. I suppose it could’ve been a coincidence…but I don’t think so.  I may be going through a spiritually dry season in my life, but I know that God cares enough to send us tangible proof of His love when we really need to see it. All we have to do is ask. And ever since I read that story, when I see a bright red male cardinal, or a lovely, orange-beaked brown female, I’m reminded of God’s love.

This afternoon, to put it bluntly, I had another load of dysfunctional crap dumped into my lap from narcissistic people. You’d think I’d expect it by now, and not always feel disappointed when it comes my way. I just always want to believe the best about folks, to believe that they’re capable of change, that if all else fails, God can change them. Of course, they have to want to change. And with these people, I never see any evidence of that. It’s almost as if they enjoy being manipulative and setting guilt traps for others to stumble upon.

So today, I sat at the window and quietly observed the birds flitting around the trees.  A brilliant flash of red caught my eye up high in the dark green pines, then another in the shrubs below. The first one chased behind a female, then another female zoomed into the scene. Four cardinals, all at once, were dancing across the yard, and they looked so happy and carefree. Seeing them, for just that moment, made me smile.

Sometimes I don’t know why God led us down the current path we’re on. I guess it’s one of those character-building sessions He signs us up for at times, and I just hope that soon, we can learn what we’re supposed to learn so we can move on. Daily, my eyes seek the hills from which my salvation comes. I look for that pillar of fire by night, and that cloud of smoke by day to show me where to go next. And for now, as much as I dislike it, He just says “stay”.

But I know He loves me, still, because every day, He sends the cardinals to dance and fly and remind me that one day, I too, will be as free as they. His cardinals are our private, silent conversation of love.

One reply on “Ode to a Cardinal”

  1. That was beautiful my friend! And the second post I have read today where God is saying stay. He is so good to us even when we don’t see it. I pray He blesses you in the midst of the fire!

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