Slow reading: Consider the birds

A few weeks ago, after a hot afternoon gardening, I turned on the sprinkler then collapsed in the shade. Within minutes six New Holland honeyeaters came to drink and bathe. They flitted in and out between the sprinkler spray and the Tree everlasting we planted just over a year ago, and which is now thriving. I considered that these birds neither strive nor toil, yet all their needs are being met, right down to the punk feather haircut which always makes me grin.

As the year draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect. What sort of year did you have? Was lockdown all bad, or did you discover some new and fruitful rhythms? What sort of year do you want in 2022? How will you allocate your time, and in what will you place your trust? What will you pick up, and what will you put down? As you reflect, I invite you to consider birds and wildflowers, held up for our consideration by Jesus. Perhaps there’s more to life than frenetic striving and acquisition; perhaps we don’t need to worry; perhaps, when we put God’s kingdom-culture first, all our needs will indeed be met.

1. PREPARE: Go outside. Find a wildflower or a bird to consider. Make yourself comfortable. Uncross your legs; relax your body; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to you today. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.

2. READ: Read the following passage aloud at least three times through, slowly. Listen carefully. Notice anything which captures your attention.

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep seeking after what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that seek after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (Luke 12:22-31, NRSV).

3. REFLECT: Now turn your attention to the flower or bird before you. What do you notice? Is the object of your attention solitary or does it exist only in a group? What does it feed on? What drew it to the place where you found it? What surprises or intrigues you about it? What emotions do you feel? What questions are bubbling up? What are you reminded of?

4. RELATE: Now let creation and the Scripture dialogue with one another. How does Scripture illuminate or change how you understand what you see before you? How does what you see illuminate or change how you understand Scripture? How do your observations illuminate or change how you understand yourself, or God? How or where do you seek God’s kingdom?

5. RESPOND: Has any other passage, story, phrase or image from Scripture bubbled up in you? Do you have any sense of an invitation, comfort or challenge? Pray about this, and tell God about anything which is emerging. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you the next step.

6. REST: When you feel ‘done’, rest awhile. Savour the world, the Word and God’s loving presence. Close with a gesture of thanks to God: perhaps a simple bow. As you prepare to leave this space, if any word, phrase or image persists, let it guide you through the day. Or if nothing in particular arises, remember this:

  • Don’t keep seeking after what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and don’t keep worrying … Your Father knows that you need them.

Reflecting on the scripture and the honeyeaters, I realised that their needs are being met in part because of the way we garden. Since moving in, we have removed many of the worst weed plants and replaced them with local shrubs and grasses, including the Tree everlasting from a batch of seedlings we handed out at church one Sunday (here). We have planted and encouraged nectar plants, and we have kept the cat inside. I saw that even these little changes have helped create more of a home for God’s creatures: and then, I realised, God did much the same for us: pruning and weeding and preparing the way to Warrnambool, where a people and a house had been made ready to receive, shelter, and support us.

Seek ye first God’s kingdom, and what you need will be given to you: indeed, this has been my experience. How about you?


Emailed to Sanctuary 29 December 2021 © Sanctuary, 2021. Photo found at

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