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Tender Visitation

by and Les Cantrell on July 7, 2006 in Articles

My grandfather died recently. Because I grew up in a single-parent home, Gramps was like my father. He loved animals and especially birds, but his most
treasured guests were finches. His backyard was a menagerie of birdhouses, bird feeders, and birdbaths. Sometimes squirrels climbed down on those feeders, so he built a few separate feeders to keep the squirrels happy too.
Gramps never recovered from knee surgery. After the operation he kept saying he could see “high mountains.” His eyes were ablaze with delight. One of his favorite verses about the Creator was Psalm 50:11, which says, “I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.” Twenty-four hours after surgery he slipped into eternity.
Grandpa was a pastor for more than sixty years. Because I had embraced the same vocation, he had commissioned me to conduct his funeral. While friends and family mourned, I pointed them to our hope of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Yet I found no space where I could grieve my own loss. So I carried my pain back home.
As I sat in my office the next morning, the Holy Spirit brought to mind Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Yet I longed to
experience God’s intimacy and comfort in some tangible way. I hoped He would choose some additional means to buoy my spirit and emotions. Broken, I closed the door, lay my head on the desk, and wept.
A gentle tapping interrupted my brief season of release. What should I see pecking on my office window but a little gray finch? To my knowledge no bird had been at that window in six years. It was clearly a divine moment, an awesome mystery. This tender visitation quickly ended as the bird flitted away. But something else remained: peace.
By faith in God’s Word we know the Lord loves His children. The psalmist wrote, “Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Ps. 36:5–7). Birds will not peck on every window, nor should biblical faith require or demand a sign (Matt. 12:38–39). But we can rejoice in the truth that Francis Schaeffer aptly communicated, “He is there and He is not silent,” nor is He a
far-off God.

Les Cantrell (MA[BS], MA/CE, 1987) is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in McPherson, Kansas. Birds, a beagle, and a rabbit live in his backyard.

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