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When Birds Laugh

By March 13, 2015 No Comments


“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

This week is spring break out here in Northwest Iowa. It’s been beautiful with temps in the high 60’s and low 70’s. I’d say spring is in the air but then it would start snowing so I’ll keep my mouth shut. This past year my Father in law bought a cabin—a simple place tucked away in a river valley. When you sit on the back deck and look out over the trees you wouldn’t think you were still in Iowa. Don’t listen to all the haters… Iowa is beautiful, especially in the fall and spring seasons. But looking out from the back deck you could just as well be in the Black Hills or Northern Minnesota. Because its spring break, and because I needed a quiet place to get some writing done, I spent a few days at the cabin this week.

I did look at the birds of the air—there was a lonely eagle circling above the cabin early one morning hunting for breakfast. The loudest part of my stay was the flock of geese flying back up north, their instincts tricked by spring’s false start. Each morning I could hear the birds talking to each other—probably making fun of the lumberjack looking dude limping around the woods. I tried to look at the deer but they wouldn’t come out. I could see their tracks each morning in the muddy road, along with the tiny prints of raccoons and opossums, but they stayed out of sight, silently mocking me.

Or maybe not… maybe they really didn’t care or even notice I was there. That’s the thing about spending time out in the woods—you realize just how unimportant you are. All the work I thought I needed to get done (which I did get quite a bit done) was insignificant to them. They just went along gathering food, caring for their young, trying not to die. Which got me wondering—what makes us think that our work, our stuff, our way of life, is so important? What causes us to worry about things that, if we’re honest, really won’t matter much sooner than we would like to admit? It may sound morbid, but I regularly appeal to the death-bed test—what will I wish I could do more of when I’m on my way out of this world? Honestly?—I’m horrible at it. I say I should spend more time with my kids, more time on the things that really matter, and then get caught right back up in my worry. This is why I need a good dose of lent. To be reminded that I am dust and that most of the things I do in this life are also dust. Not that we shouldn’t do them… not that we shouldn’t work, play, or try to write books…but maybe we need to take the time to feel how dusty these things really are. We need lent to remind us of our finitude and our arrogance. One is an important part of what it means to be human—creatures made in the image of God. The other is a big reason why the birds and the deer find us to be utterly ridiculous.

Jason Lief

Jason Lief teaches Practical Theology at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. He served as editor of Reformed Journal for many years and was one of the original bloggers on the RJ blog. You can find more of his writing at

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