I heard a story that I just couldn’t help but share. Today is the day after the 2008 Presidential Election and I didn’t sleep well last night because I can’t say I’m happy about the results. I’ve been fretting over this for several months but two weeks ago at the Sunday morning service at my church (Lauderdale United Methodist) my pastor, Rev. Davey Wilkinson used the following verse for his sermon:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
My pastor summarized the verse this way: “Be anxious for nothing, pray for everything and be thankful for all things.” A pretty good philosophy to live by to my way of thinking.
While listening to the sermon, the anxiety I had been feeling about the coming elections began to melt away as I realized that I should concern myself with the things I could control and let go of the things I could not control. Since that time, I’ve reminded myself daily of this verse and I believe it has helped me worry less. However, after the election, I couldn’t help but feel anxious as I pondered the new direction our country is headed toward, I wondered whether all of the changes would be good and how they would affect my life, my family and my business.
At my Wednesday morning breakfast meeting for Tipmasters, I found myself among my friends and fellow business owners and learned that they were feeling much the same way. The speaker for the day was Dennis Harper who owns Harper’s Hospice Care here in Meridian, Mississippi. Whenever it is Dennis’ turn to speak, he usually brings along his social worker, Renée Jones, who is a great speaker and can easily bring a crowd to tears with her stories of patients’ strength and courage in the face of death. But today, when Renée rose to speak, she promised not to tell any of the stories that make us cry, but rather she wanted to share something that happened to her that had a very positive effect in her life. It is a powerful story and I asked her permission to publish it here. I will probably get a few things wrong, but I will try to quote her story here as exactly as I can.
“My name is Renée Jones and I’d like to share with you something that happened to me. Three years ago, I was outside with my son, Houston, when we saw a cardinal. It was a beautiful bird and my son was captivated. I remembered that once upon a time I had heard that when you see a redbird, you’re supposed to say “Thank you, God. I love you too!” However, I didn’t see redbirds very often so I changed it a little bit and told my son that when you see a bird, any bird, you should say “Thank you, God. I love you too!” for His Grace and all the blessings given you.
“It became sort of a game between my son and I and we had lots of fun pointing out birds and saying, “Thank you, God. I love you too!” over the next several months. Little did I know how important this little game had become to me, until my father passed away. As the youngest child and the only girl, the loss of my dad hit me right in the stomach. Hard. I was not dealing with the loss very well even though I help families deal with the loss of loved ones every day.
“While working outside one day, I was feeling particularly down and I realized that it had been a long time since I had seen a bird. I looked around and tried to find a bird, but there were none around. At that moment, I realized how quiet it was. No birds, no rustling of the wind, no crickets, just the quiet and I felt very alone. I closed my eyes and prayed, “God, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen a bird, and I really need to see one now. I need to know You are here with me at this very difficult time in my life. Amen.” I opened my eyes and nothing had changed. Still no birds and it just as quiet and I was just as alone. I prayed again, “Lord, I really need to feel You with me, I really need to see a bird to know you are there. Please God, I need a bird.”
“As I opened my eyes, I heard the familiar chirping of a bird and began to be excited. But the main rule of the game I played with my son was that you had to see the bird first, but I couldn’t see the bird anywhere. I searched the closest trees and I looked out over the lawn, but no bird. “Chirp, chirp, chirp,” called the bird, but no matter where I looked, I could not find the bird. My excitement turned to dismay because I really needed to see a bird right then. A small request I thought, but God had not responded exactly as I wanted.
“Then suddenly, a thought flashed into my mind and big smile came to my lips and I closed my eyes to pray once again, “Thank you, God. I love you too! Thank You for all the blessings You’ve given me and Your Grace IS sufficient! Thank You for reminding me that even though I cannot see You, You are with me all the same. Thank You for my bird, where ever my bird is, for in the quiet I heard my bird and I know that You are with me.” I opened my eyes and quickly found my bird in the tree where I had looked before and within a few minutes other birds had joined their friend in my yard and all of them sang to me.”
Renée promised not to make us cry this morning, but I have to admit that I almost did. For in the past two weeks, I’ve heard two messages that spoke to my heart and both were exactly what I needed to hear at the time I needed to hear it. So from this point forward, when I see a bird, I will remind myself to be anxious for nothing, pray for everything, and be thankful for all things.
Right about now, I need a bird. Don’t you?