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  • Writer's pictureBrandi Bourne

Lessons from the birds

A friend and I sat at the park chatting while our kids ran in the cool water of the splashpad on a hot, humid day. We were grateful for the breeze and the shade as we caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives and all that God had been doing. Suddenly a large bird flew overhead directly into our line of sight – then another, and another. At first, we thought perhaps these were hawks because we noticed several small birds in close pursuit. These huge birds landed over a hill that ran alongside a marshy canal, disappearing from sight. Soon, reinforcements came and circled, and we quickly realized that these were buzzards who must have found a dead animal. But each time one of these huge birds attempted to land, a handful of small birds began to attack. One in particular was relentless in its assault. It was a sight to see and took over our conversation for a moment. The whole scenario piqued our curiosity. Like a nosey neighbor witnessing a commotion we wanted to know what exactly was happening over that ledge. Something I’ve learned is that God can and will often speak through His creation. It’s something He does often, something my blog readers can bear witness to. So, I commented on how I believed that perhaps God was showing us something through this, but I hadn’t quite put my finger on the lesson just yet.

More buzzards arrived, but they began to fly higher, and I noticed that there were no small birds around them. But as soon as they approached the ground to land, they would be attacked. These small birds displayed such courage, such tenacity that I was impressed. But I couldn’t help but wonder – why were they attacking, and why only when the buzzards tried to land? My friend and I restarted our conversation until finally curiosity got the better of us. We decided to investigate. Since the kids were still within eyesight and my friend’s older daughter remained, we chose to walk over to see. We went down the trail, over a bridge and stepped onto some tall grass to climb the hedge that ran alongside the canal. We kept our eye out for snakes and any other unsightly critters we didn’t want to run into. As we approached the top, we came upon the grizzly scene of eight or more buzzards surrounding a dead armadillo. The buzzards caught a fright at the unexpected scene of us popping up and took off – the small birds in close pursuit. One of these birds retreated to the top of a light pole and made such a ruckus I thought we would surely be next on the target list. At this point I recognized this was a blackbird with a red wing. At this point we had caused confusion for the buzzards as they hobbled back and forth unsure if they should return to their meal with us nearby.

We trotted back down the steep, grassy incline – with an eye on our friend on the light pole – and talked about what we saw. I still didn’t understand why these blackbirds would attack something so large knowing the buzzard could take one out in one fell swoop. I thought perhaps it was because there were several blackbirds, but even then, they were clearly outnumbered. One buzzard was the size of several of those blackbirds. The blackbirds were clearly out of their league here. I thought the only way a creature could be that brave is if it were protecting something, namely a nest. But there were no trees along that canal, only tall grass down to the water’s edge. Rather than relying on my limited knowledge of blackbirds, I did what every modern-day curious individual does – I Googled it. First, I sought to discover the correct name of the small black bird with a red wing. I thought surely this exquisite creature must have a distinguished name. Its name? The red-winged blackbird. How…original. I never would have guessed that. I started reading about this bird and wanted to know about where it builds a nest. And that is where I found the answer to my question.

“Red-winged Blackbirds build their nests low among vertical shoots of marsh vegetation, shrubs, or trees. Females choose the nest site with some input from the male. Typically, she puts the nest near the ground (or water surface in a marsh), in dense, grass-like vegetation such as cattails, bulrushes, sedges, and Phragmites in wetlands; goldenrod, blackberry, or willow and alder trees in uplands; and wheat, barley, alfalfa, and rice plants.

Females build the nests by winding stringy plant material around several close, upright stems and weaving in a platform of coarse, wet vegetation. Around and over this she adds more wet leaves and decayed wood, plastering the inside with mud to make a cup. Finally, she lines the cup with fine, dry grasses. One nest picked apart by a naturalist in the 1930s had been made by weaving together 34 strips of willow bark and 142 cattail leaves, some 2 feet long. When finished the nest is 4 to 7 inches across and 3 to 7 inches deep.” (

I also learned that both males and females will defend the nest. Males typically perch somewhere up high, while females stay low to the ground and collect nesting material.

At this point in the story, I’m sure some of you are wondering why you are getting a lesson on birds as my friend and I did. You may even think my friend and I wasted our time on something we could have just looked up. But, if we would not have gotten closer, we would have missed some key details. Not to mention how both of us now have a memory and a story to share as the years pass. I’m fairly sure none of us will forget the time we went on an adventure chasing buzzards. Thanks Johnnie for joining me on that adventure. Told you it would turn into a blog post. But I learned some lessons from both the red-winged blackbird and the buzzard that I’d like to share.

The first set of lessons come from the red-winged blackbird. You may have already put some pieces together on this yourself. Now I can relate to the female when it comes to protecting her nest. There is an instinct that is shared between every living creature that God placed in us. That maternal instinct becomes a part of our very identity – paternal too. That instinct says, “I will risk everything and lay my life down for my baby” and “I will take anyone or anything that attempts to hurt my baby out at any cost.” This right here is why you don’t ever mess with a mama. We will hurt you if you come at our child with the intention to do harm and that adrenaline will enable us to do whatever we need to do. Parents, you get it. And this isn’t something we even try to develop in any way, it’s just there. Though the protective instinct does seem to be in most people, becoming a parent gives you a different level of this. It is a gift given to us by God. Unfortunately, some parents seem to be able to “turn off” or “ignore” the instinct and that is why you see the horrible stories of abuse and neglect happen. But as I sat back and watched the great courage of these blackbirds, I was inspired. They had no regard for their own lives at that moment. Granted they were expert fliers and had some agility in their movements. But their entire focus was on protecting their nest/eggs and nothing was going to stop them from doing that.

A few things come to mind. First is the love of our Father and how He protects us. Granted there is nothing “larger” than Him. But there are enemies. God loved us, His children, so much He was willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice of His own son, Jesus. Jesus was willing to sacrifice His life for us. He went to the cross and died because He had his complete focus on the Fathers will and us. He saw you; He saw me, and He said I will pay any cost to save them. And in 3 days He rose again, proving that death had no power over Him. I see Jesus and the character of God in those red-winged blackbirds.

The second lesson from the blackbird is how we should reflect the character of God that I just described, but for others. I already explained the natural paternal instinct, but this goes further than that. In prayer and in spiritual warfare we should recognize the authority that Jesus gave us to defeat our enemies. The fervency in which we pray for ourselves, and our families should also be reflected in our prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be willing to go to war for them in prayer. We should be willing to sacrifice for them as the Lord leads us to. I’ve learned recently that can be done through fasting. Jesus said, though referring to His own coming death, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NKJV) You see the in their attacks, the blackbirds were not alone. Albeit some proved to have more tenacity and determination than others. But those blackbirds fought together. They fought for their home. When is the last time you went to war (in prayer) for your brother and sister in Christ? Your church? Your leaders? We’re quick to fight if someone comes against our nuclear families. But what about our spiritual ones? I can tell you from experience there is a joy that comes from this too, interceding for others. It is an honor to be trusted to help another carry their burden. No one’s prayer is more important than the other – I was reminded of this today. But there is power in a prayer of agreement, and no one should have to pray alone. We all need people sometimes and that's ok. We are not called to walk this life on our own. Don’t just say a quick prayer and stop for the day. Go to war for them. Pray without ceasing. Lift them up throughout the day. Ask the Lord to show you to whom you are assigned. It may be one request, or it may be a handful of people, but you should be praying for others’ needs above your own. I’ve found that any time I put others requests before my own, everything I was concerned about is taken care of. Do not relent until you see victory, or the Lord releases you. I know that not everyone is called to intercession per se, but we are all called to pray for one another in some capacity.

The third lesson from the blackbird is this: Be courageous. Do not fear the size of your enemy – keep your eyes on the size of our God. You might be smaller but there’s an advantage to that. You can move faster, quieter. You can move in ways the enemy never saw coming, especially if you are using the Lord’s strategy. Do not be afraid. The Bible says this SO many times. I am reminded of the story of the Israelites in the wilderness. Moses sent scouts into the land that was promised to them by God. Two scouts came back with a positive report, while the rest gave a message of fear. One of which ended up being the reason the Israelites continued to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.

“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:30-33 NKJV)

Maybe you see yourself like a grasshopper. You are surrounded on all sides; attacks just keep coming and you’re overwhelmed. You are living in fear, in anxiety, constantly worried about what’s coming next. God’s telling you today that you may be small, but you are mighty in the land. You are His warrior. Many years later in the story above, Joshua took over as leader of the Israelites. God promised that they would be the generation to enter the Promised Land, since the generation before did not believe the Lord was with them. They went into Jericho and met a woman named Rahab who kept them safe from the men who came to kill them. As a result, she and her family were saved. But this was the report from the next generation of spies that returned:

"They departed and went to the mountain and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. The pursuers sought them all along the way but did not find them. So the two men returned, descended from the mountain, and crossed over; and they came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all that had befallen them. And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.” (Joshua 2:22-24 NKJV)

How you see yourself matters. And it can affect entire generations. Be bold and courageous in the face of adversity. Do not shrink back. Stay focused on the mission at hand. All reminders from the brave red-winged blackbird.

            The second set of lessons come from the buzzard. Now I’m not a huge fan of these gruesome looking birds. If we’re real, they just look evil and eat dead stuff they are definitely not the most distinguished bird around. And in some cases, they actually can be representative of demonic forces but that’s a conversation for another day. Though I encourage you to do your own research. For this purpose, we are talking about animals here. Buzzards do serve a purpose in the “circle of life.” They clean up dead animals faster than natural processes would, which helps prevent the spread of disease. In fact, they are so important to our ecosystem that some people say we wouldn’t last one hundred years without them. This is why initially I questioned the reaction of the blackbird though. While they are not as cognizant as humans, they must have some awareness that a buzzard is not normally a threat to them and that they serve a purpose.

Two things I noticed about the buzzard. First was an observation I made because of my knowledge about eagles. Many of us have heard the allegorical story of the eagle and the crow. Now not all of it is factual, but it is true that the eagle flies higher to shake off the smaller birds that attack it. This is not to deprive the smaller bird of oxygen – but because it can fly faster than the smaller bird at greater heights. I watched those buzzards flying high over us in circles and never saw one of the smaller birds even attempt to approach that height. Even the buzzards that came off the ground eventually lost the smaller birds as they elevated. Of course, some of this was due to the buzzard leaving the territory of the blackbird – some of you will catch that – but the buzzard could easily outrun the blackbird at a higher elevation. While I am inclined to defend the courageous blackbird in this story, I can’t deny the cleverness of the buzzard in its realization that it can simply go higher. You see there are times in which God wants to elevate us because He knows at that level our enemies can’t keep up. It’s easier to outmaneuver an enemy from a higher perspective. If you want to hear an incredible sermon on this that just came to mind, one I’ve mentioned before actually – “Eagle in the Storm” by Pastor Grant Hoyle at Faith Family Church. He has the same concept here and did his research as well. A Scripture that comes to mind as well, one of my personal favorites:

“But those who wait on the Lord

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

The whole idea here though is that God can and will elevate you above the noise, above the chatter, above the attacks. That doesn’t mean you are now immune to attacks though. There are still people on the ground that need to be reached. You won’t be up there forever. But you can carry the elevated mindset wherever you go.

The second thing I noticed about the buzzard was despite this ability to go higher to escape, it always came back down to “fulfill its purpose” which in this case is really just the grossest dinner of all time. But not one buzzard ever attacked a blackbird despite relentless assault. Some we noticed as we drew closer were flapping their wings in a way that I could see them saying “shoo!” But they never retaliated. I can’t help but wonder why a creature nearly ten times the size of the blackbird wouldn’t just turn around and decide to grab an extra snack and eliminate the pest. Apparently, the practice of these smaller birds attacking larger birds of prey is called “mobbing” and it’s common, particularly in the spring nesting/breeding seasons. I couldn’t find a solid answer as to why buzzards, or other large birds of prey that experience this, do not retaliate. The only thing I could find is that basically it would be a waste of their time because they can easily outmaneuver these birds as they go higher. So, the buzzards continued enjoying their dinner, serving their purpose, completely unbothered by the attacks. They were only focused on one thing – food. Now that speaks to me. No, not because we’re talking about food, though I am a lover of delicious meals let’s be honest. I mean as a person who still struggles with anxiety. You see those little birds can’t do much for the large birds. I still admire their courage. But I also admire the patience of the buzzard and the peace and focus it has.

God can give us this patience. He gives us peace that surpasses all understanding. He may allow attacks so our character may grow, but He will not allow something to take us out. See Job for that story. I am reminded that all the little hinderances in my life – the car acting funny, mental attacks/warfare/lies, the friendship that isn’t working out, the person who keeps talking poorly about me and doesn’t realize I know, the location we are struggling to find for our even right now, the lack of sleep, tooth pain, what people think about me, fear of judgement – not one thing on that list matters in the grand scheme of things. What are the little hinderances in your life that you are focusing on or worried about? You know not one of those things on my list, and probably not on your list, are going to make or break your future with God. Not one of those things is going to make God say, “well you know I had a plan and purpose for them but never mind this problem is too big.” They are all minor attacks or inconveniences that are not even worth my time. Because if it all gets to be too much all I have to do is just get to the feet of Jesus. If I am stressed out it means I left that place to being with. If I am worried, then I am rejecting His peace. If I’m freaking out, which at times I do, then it means I’m not trusting God and I’ve taken my eyes off Him. It reminds me of Paul in Philippians 3:13-24 NLT:

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

What are you focusing on? Are you like the buzzard, eyes on the “prize” not worried about the little birds that are mere pests? Or are you concerned so much about those little birds that you can’t even see anything else, and you have so much fear you can’t even move towards the prize right now? Put your eyes back on Jesus. Learn from the patience and the focus of the buzzard like I have. Carry the peace of God with you and don’t let anything or anyone steal that or your joy.

One of these two I bet you can relate to – the red-winged blackbird or the buzzard. I pray this story speaks to you as it did me and gives you revelations I didn’t even see. God can and will use anything to speak to us if we’re open to that. The evidence of God is everywhere. Romans 1:20 talks about this: For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse. (CSB) May God reveal to you all that you are intended to learn in this season of your life, and may you be open to hear His voice in whatever way He chooses to speak!

And as always, if you do not know Jesus, let’s talk. I would love to introduce you to my Protector.

Also, to my faithful readers for whom I am so grateful! If you haven't already, will you please subscribe to the page? I am having some trouble figuring out how to make this a pop up, but the form is at the bottom of all of the pages and should also be towards the top of the home page and on the "blog" tab page. Subscribing is free and it means that you will get an email each time one of these posts goes out!

Can I also ask you to please share these? My hope is to reach as many people as possible with these stories. I pray that God shows the right people the right things at the right time and that He uses me to do this. You may have a friend who is struggling in an area, like singleness, who maybe needs to know they are not alone. I'm here to help. This blog is currently a free resource. At this time there are no ads, but due to paying a monthly cost on Wix to maintain this page, I may need to add a few to offset that. But traffic on the page is helpful.

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