Cardinals have always been a symbol of hope for me. During a very dark part of my life, I remember walking our cocker spaniel, Freddie, around our neighborhood in Cincinnati, seeing the red of a cardinal against the winter trees and stopping in my tracks. The bright red bird would surprise me, bringing with him the reminder that God hadn’t forgotten me even on a bleak day. In May of 2014, I found out I had cancer. We ended up here in Nashville for my surgery and recovery. When I walked into the guest house where we were staying, there was a print of a cardinal hanging on the wall of the home. The simple framed picture of a cardinal, let me know that things were going to be ok. Once again, the cardinal gave me hope.
In February of this year, I spent my annual week of silence at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. It was one of the last times I traveled before the lock down of Covid-19. One of the things I love to do at the abbey is watch the birds at the bird feeders in the garden. I take my tea and my journal and sit in the dinning room and watch out the window as the many birds come and go at the various feeders in the courtyard. Usually there are a couple of pairs of cardinals that come and go. But this year, Jesus gave me an ABUNDANCE of CARDINALS. There were at least 8 pairs of cardinals in the garden at a time!
I actually was blown away by this! I have never seen that many cardinal pairs in one place at one time! And never that many at the Abbey! God knew that I needed them! God knew that in 2020, I would need the ABUNDANCE of CARDINALS !
Long before Covid-19 shut down our lives in so many ways, I was shut down and grieving. Grieving the loss of compassion in our world. Grieving the conflict that was growing everyday in our country and around the world…the us vs them, the red verses blue, the racial hatred, and the broken systems in our country that harm the poor and working classes on a daily basis. As an enneagram 7 who hates conflict, I was, and am exhausted by it all. And as one who is good at reframing things and always seeing the bright side, the good in things, this political season in America has been down right depressing and impossible to reframe. So Jesus knew that I needed an ABUNDANCE of CARDINALS! I needed these bright red reminders of the Hope of God! The power of Jesus and the love he has for me! This was a bold love letter in the form of birds. Jesus reminding me that in his world, in his economy, there is always enough! And there is even an abundance!
Since February, during this season of lockdown, in the land of Covid-19, I’ve appreciated God’s timing in sending by a cardinal when I’ve needed him most. While walking the dog, or working on my computer, the bright speck of red has caught my eye and reminded me that I am not alone. The Holy Spirit, in the form of a simple Cardinal, is near, close by, waiting for me to take notice.
Today I am sitting on my porch writing this while watching a pair of cardinals eat birdseed from under my feeder. One of the reasons I bought this house was because there was a pair of cardinals in the neighborhood. Out of the multiples of houses we looked at when we we moved back to Nashville, ONLY two houses had cardinals in the yard. And this was one of them.
Today I sit here in the midst of a week of more sorrow and much darkness, in a week of protest and outrage over more death and violence towards black people by police. In the midst of the sorrow of so many dead, so many suffering due to job loss, the illness itself, and all the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
The pair of birds at my feeder, reminds me of the ABUNDANCE of CARDINALS. The red birds remind me of God’s abundant love and hope. The birds remind me that I am not alone and God really is in control.
Maybe you need this reminder today too. Maybe you, too, need THE ABUNDANCE of CARDINALS!
In this season of Pentecost, maybe you need a bright red bird or a bright red flower to remind you of the power and action of the Holy Spirit to CHANGE THINGS! To TRANSFORM THINGS.
What things are symbols of hope for you? Have you ever thought that a bird or a butterfly or a feather might be a sign for you?
We all know about the symbol of hope in a rainbow, maybe Jesus has something special just for you!
Ask him to show you what that symbol is!
Maybe it’s a song or a beautiful sunset.
May it’s the flame of a fire in fireplace or the wick of a candle.
Maybe it’s the taste of a warm chocolate chip cookie or the smell of a freshly baked loaf of bread,
Or the sound of a child laughing
that is your symbol of HOPE.
Take time to reflect on what things remind you and bring you HOPE.
Receive the gift of Hope that this brings!
In this season of Pentecost, allow the Holy Spirit to surprise you with symbols of hope and love in the days ahead.
Pay attention. Notice. And TRULY Receive the gift! I pray that you will feel and find joy and hope, just like the Abundance of Cardinals.
©lillylewin and freerangeworship.com