Art: “Songbirds in Apple Blossoms” by James Hautman.
As I sit on my porch this morning in a light, refreshing rain, the most prominent sound I hear is joyous birdsong, different strains of music from a variety of birds that co-habit in our tiny bird sanctuary. A statue of St. Francis appropriately stands among the feeders and the suet. The hummingbird feeders are in a separate spot, providing a banquet of sweet nectar to these delightful birds, whose fast moving wings create their most unique song.
I love to listen to the songbirds, and we are graciously blessed to live in a neighborhood with very few sounds — no traffic, no motorcycles, no speeding cars, usually not even people voices. Just the birdsong, with an occasional tree frog and the wonderful southern gift of cicadas.
In my opinion, every bird is a songbird. According to scientists at The Nature Conservancy, the term “songbirds” refers to a wide range of bird species. Songbirds typically include finches, sparrows and warblers, but most often when someone is defining “songbird” they refer to beautifully colored birds that we’ve never heard of. The Nature Conservancy website features three: the Dickcissel, the Blackburnian Warbler, and the Kirtland’s Warbler.
I have never seen any of those birds, but I have heard lots of glorious birdsong. So I stand by my opinion that every bird’s a songbird. And in my better moments, I hear their songs as an offering to God, their songs of praise to God who gave them voice. During those times, I am drawn to the many beautiful and lyrical Psalms. This is one that is particularly moving to me
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
You wrap yourself in light as with a garment;
You stretch out the heavens like a tent and lay the beams of your upper chambers on their waters.
You make the clouds your chariot and you ride on the wings of the wind.
You make the winds your messengers . . .
How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number — living things both large and small.
When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills,
You give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.
— Psalm 104: 1-3;10-12; 24-25, 30 (paraphrased)
Many of the Psalms urge us to sing, to praise God with our voices.
Sing to the Lord a new song . . .
I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
As far as singing, well sometimes we are reluctant, holding back an imperfect voice that does not always make pleasant songs. Sometimes we are convinced that our singing would not be such a worthy offering of praise. So we should probably remember that every bird’s a songbird. And as for us humans, it might help to remember that every person has a voice, every heart has a song, every soul has a melody.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee. How great thou art! How great thou art!*
* From the hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” a Swedish traditional melody and a poem written by Carl Boberg (1859–1940) in Mönsterås, Sweden in 1885. It was translated into German and then into Russian and became a hymn. It was translated into English from the Russian by English missionary Stuart K. Hine, who also added two original verses of his own.