My family is a bit nutty… which might explain our long-standing obsession with squirrels.
When I was growing up, we lived in a veritable squirrel sanctuary. Our yard had sizable trees, lots of acorns, and plenty of space for squirrels, or “eichs” (short for the German word “Eichhörnchen”) as we call them, to frolic and play. In the space outside our kitchen window, we set up a bird feeder, but we could honestly care less about the birds. Our main goal was to attract as many “eichs” as possible. Like hungry college students, if you feed squirrels, they will come.
But in 2003, my family moved. Our new location was better in all kinds of ways: it was bigger, I had my own bathroom (Yay! No more sharing with the twins!), my dad could work from home, and it was less than a mile from my high school. Our new place was perfect in almost every way. The main problem: it didn’t have squirrels.
You see, squirrels like trees. Big ones. And brand new subdivisions almost never have big trees. Our neighborhood was no exception. Before becoming home to dozens of middle-class houses, it had been a cow pasture, just like most of Kansas. And in case you’ve never been to Kansas, let me point out that cow pastures almost never have trees. Like good citizens and landscapers, my family planted several trees in our yard. But they were just saplings; it would be a long time before they grew into squirrel havens.
Needing to fill our “small-animal void,” my family did the next best thing: we became obsessed with birds too. The vanguard of our original squirrel fetish, my dad has also taken the lead in our bird craze. His office window overlooks a landscaped patch in our front yard (see above photo). This squirrel-less space has become home to not one, not two, but three bird feeders and a bird bath. Whenever my dad has a break between clients or needs a moment to get away, he can be found perched at the window (pardon the pun) watching his birds.
This pastime was enjoyable, especially in the spring, summer, and fall when hungry birds would flock (pun again, sorry) to the little patch in our front yard. But in the winter, the numbers would taper off a bit. We would still get a few sparrows, mourning doves, and the occasional cardinal, but the overall population would dwindle significantly. Until last winter, that is.
With the help of a fellow bird-loving friend, my dad discovered the reason for our lack of fine feathered friends: our birdbath was frozen solid. You see, not only does Kansas have a natural squirrel-tree deficiency, but it also gets very, very cold in the winter. Because birdbaths are outside (with the birds, of course), they are exposed to this cold and, due to the properties of water, they freeze. But all is not lost! Thanks to modern technology and the advice of his bird-loving friend, my dad found the perfect solution: a birdbath heater. As his friend explained, birds get really thirsty in the winter, and they fly all over looking for water. But if you water them, they will come. Now our birdbath never freezes over, and our yard is frequented by some of the most spoiled and hydrated birds in the state of Kansas.
So why am I telling you this story? The answer is simple: I think God calls us to be birdbaths.
Yes, I realize that sounds kind of crazy (I do come from a squirrel-obsessed family, after all), but please hear me out.
I’ve been a Christian for a very long time, and as a result, I’ve heard a lot of sermons about evangelism and witnessing and sharing my faith. Most of the time, these messages make me feel guilty and depressed. I’m not a missionary, and God hasn’t called me to far-off places like Africa. How can He possibly use me for His Kingdom? If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, then chances are good that you’ve experienced the discouragement I’m talking about. You’ve heard Jesus’ last instruction to “go and make disciples of all nations,” and you can’t help but wondering how you’re supposed to “go” when you feel stuck in one place. Kind of like a concrete birdbath.
Some scholars translate the words of “Great Commission” not just as “go and make disciples” but instead “as you go, make disciples.” In essence, as you go to church, to work, to school, to the grocery store–as you go about your everyday, ordinary life, make disciples. But what does this look like? Let’s return briefly to the birdbath.
What made my dad’s birdbath successful? I see three key reasons:
-Its design: As a birdbath, it was built to hold water so birds could come drink. In the same way, each of us has been uniquely gifted with talents, skills, and traits to be a blessing to others.
-Its location: My dad placed the birdbath next to three bird feeders and, consequently, a lot of birds. Similarly, God has planted each of us in specific situations at home, at work, on the bus, or wherever we happen to be on a daily basis to reach others with His love.
-Its connection to a heat source. This is extremely important especially during a freezing Kansas winter when water is scarce. Likewise, we need to stay connected constantly with Jesus. He is our Source of life, joy, and strength. If we faithfully maintain this relationship, He will bless others through us.
Because the birdbath met all of these qualifications, birds came from everywhere to be near it. Even when other birdbaths were frozen over and out of commission, my dad’s birdbath was up and running.
The same goes for us. If we embrace the way God has made us, if we are faithful and available where He has planted us, and if we remain closely connected to Christ, our Source of life, we will be effective for His Kingdom. So whatever you do– as a butcher, a baker, or a candle-stick-making birdwatcher–be about His business. People will notice, word will get out, and the seeking and thirsty “birds” of the world will come. It may take awhile, and you might have to wait for winter, but I promise they will. And when they do, they’ll “see your good deeds and praise your Father who is in heaven.” So in the meantime, be the best “birdbath” you can be, in whichever “yard” God has placed you. He will use you.
Who knows? You might even meet a few squirrels too. 😉