I have heard the story of the guy who prayed to God to teach him patience. In return the individual received into his life situations . . . frustrating situations that tested his patience . . . over and over again. God was teaching the man what he wanted—patience. God seems to have a wicked sense of humor. Ever since I heard that story I have made sure that I never prayed to God for patience.
But God seems to have a unique way in teaching us lessons.
One of the hobbies that the wife and I have engaged in is bird feeding. We have various bird feeders throughout the yard to supply the “least of these” creatures with food throughout the year—especially the winter. And, for our efforts we have been blessed with a huge variety of birds gracing our feeders: Lazuli Buntings, the Gray Catbird, Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, Red Crossbills, Mourning Doves, Cassin’s Finch, Northern Flickers, Goldfinch, Common Gackles, Evening Grosbeaks, a Loggerhead Shrike, Dark-eyed Junco, Magpies, Clark’s Nutcracker, Red and White-breasted Nuthatches, Bullock’s Orioles, Robins, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Chipping Sparrows, House Sparrows, European Starlings, Western Tangers, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, and the Pinyon Jay. I must admit that I enjoy our hobby, and I especially enjoy the way that it feeds into my other hobby of photography. Over the years the gathering of the flocks has provided me with a bevy of wonderful pictures of some of the most beautiful creations I have ever seen. For the most part it has been a blessing.
I say, “for the most part”, because of one flock of birds that seems to have created a major frustration in our bird feeding hobby . . . and that bird is the Pinyon Jay (pictured above). The Pinyon Jay is a pretty bird with a blue-gray coloring and it takes wonderful photographs. God did some pretty fine handiwork with the Pinyon Jay, but . . . yeah, I know, God doesn’t like us using the “but” argument . . . BUT, the Pinyon Jay is the most gluttonous bird I have ever encountered . . . they are the bird version of the Hell’s Angels the way that they come flying in and making waste to whatever feeder they are at . . . they have no respect for any other of the winged creatures of God’s hand, often bullying the smaller and more timid birds away from the feeders so that they can bring a feeding frenzy upon the feeders. Pinyon Jays are a “flock” bird. By that I mean that they mate up and run around in flocks of about fifty pairings . . . or a hundred birds. In the winter the flocks come together and create communities of up to 300 birds. There is power in numbers and the Pinyon Jays often have the numbers.
Pinyon Jays also eat anything and everything that is in a bird feeder . . . they have never found a meal that they didn’t like. They can empty out several bird feeders in minutes and have the gall to sit there and demand more. All the while the other birds go hungry. I wish that they could be like the other birds that frequent the feeders by showing a little respect, sharing the feed, and taking turns . . . but, NO! They have embraced the seventh deadly sin—gluttony—and made it their own.
Pinyon Jays make me mad. Pinyon Jays have driven to the edge of hatred . . . hatred of them. In the beginning I took the philosophical route . . . the so-called “Christian” route . . . that believed that God created all these wonderful creatures—these birds—and that they all need to eat . . . so, let them eat. That sucked. Pinyon Jays don’t know when to quit eating . . . so they bully the other birds by sheer numbers and they whip through a fifty-pound bag of sunflower seeds in less than a week. They would make any major league baseball team look like rookies when it comes to sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are like crack to Pinyon Jays. And, sunflower seeds are not cheap. So, their behavior is not the only hurting me, but it is affecting my wallet. I get a little touchy when any of God’s creatures start messing with my wallet. The heck with let the birds eat! Heck with letting all of God’s creatures eat! I say, shoot ‘em!
Despite our frustration with the Pinyon Jays, the wife won’t let me shoot them. I can throw a rock in their direction to scare them . . . or slam the door to scare them . . . or run outside like a screaming lunatic (which has worked at keeping the neighbors away, but has had no effect on the Pinyon Jays) . . . but, not only are the Pinyon Jays gluttonous, they are smart. They have a system. While the mass of the Pinyon Jays descend upon the feeders, they stake out the area with scouts . . . scouts that warn the flock of impending danger . . . and, scouts that let them know that the coast is clear. Unless one has an hour to kill it is almost a worthless endeavor to try and scare the Pinyon Jays away . . . there are too many of them. They out-number you . . . and, they are more patient. As pretty as they are . . . they have brought me close to the edge of hatred.
Hate is a powerful word . . . one that the wife and I taught our children as unacceptable in relationships and in life . . . but, here I am on the brink of hatred . . . and, I am wondering what in the world God is trying to teach me. The Pinyon Jays . . . despite the words of bird experts in the big city promising us that they will go away . . . will not go away. They mock me. I have tried the philosophical route . . . the Christian route . . . the Zen route . . . the bird lover’s route . . . I have tried to ignore them . . . we have removed the feeders and bought feeders that they are not supposed to be able to get into . . . and, they keep coming. Nothing works! What . . . what is God trying to teach me!
This brings me to the second “for the most part” . . . the neighbor’s cat. We never imagined that our “bird feeders” would become “cat feeders” . . . but, since the neighbors move in about half-a-year ago, we have made a regular buffet of select birds for their cat. I imagine that the neighbor’s cat thought it had died and gone to heaven when it moved in next door to us . . . birds for the choosing with little or no effort. At least once a week there is a pile of feathers in our yards marking the demise of another bird thanks to the cat. But, I have to admit; at least the cat is an equal opportunity killer and has no trouble with killing any bird that makes itself available for a snack.
The neighbor’s response? That is what cats do . . . they kill things like birds and mice. It is a part of their DNA. The killing is scaring off the birds . . . and, this is frustrating. It is especially frustrating when the cat comes and lies at the food of the feeders in wait . . . it is amazing how poorly birds see and never see that cat until it is too late. I have gone several routes with the cat . . . I have scared the cat off . . . I have thrown rocks at the cat to scare it off . . . yelled, screamed, and chased it (darn cat is fast) . . . and yet, it continues to kill. Like the Pinyon Jays, I am closing in on hating that cat.
So, what is God trying to teach me? What is the lesson God wants me to learn?
Is God attempting to teach me about the circle of life? Is God attempting to teach me patience? Is God trying to show me that all God’s critters got a place in the world? That maybe the wife and I should give up bird feeding as a hobby and take up something more constructive like planting a rock garden? I don’t know . . .
Or, is God giving me a solution through the two frustrations . . . through the Pinyon Jays and the cat. It has dawned on me that if I could only catch the cat . . . keep the cat for a few days . . . and train it. Train it to kill Pinyon Jays. That way I could kill two birds with one stone. The problem would be solved. All the other birds would have plenty to eat without having to worry about being bullied, and the cat would have its game and food. There are plenty of Pinyon Jays to go around. The wife and I would no longer be on the brink of hatred or frustration . . . and, we could hang onto our good “Christian” values . . . we could save face.
The only problem is . . . I can’t catch the stupid cat. It is scared of me, but not of the birds. Plus, the Pinyon Jays are too smart . . . remember, they have scouts watching out for each other. The cat would never have a chance . . . besides, one cat against hundreds of Pinyon Jays would probably resemble something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.
In the meantime, I guess I will continue to ponder what the lesson is that God is attempting to teach me. I will shoo the Pinyon Jays away only to know that they will return. I will shoo the cat away only to know that the cat will kill again and again. I will continue to watch the dollars fly out of my wallet. And, I will go through my mind and think . . . think really hard . . . did I ask God to help me with my Pinyon Jay problem? If so, will God let me take that prayer back? Darn, maybe I asked God for patience . . . if so, I hope it comes soon!