As I sat waiting for the service to begin, something stirred my memory of my grandmother’s love for her backyard birds.
Grandma always had a multitude of bird feeders in her back yard. She loved cardinals, chickadees and little finches. As we’d sit on her covered porch we watched the beautiful variety of birds flit around the lovely feeders she’d carefully collected throughout the years. Her backyard was often full of colorful, singing birds happily visiting special feeders or splashing in a birdbath. She provided watchful care over her beloved birds, finding special ways to meet their needs. She would describe what attributes of the feeder attracted different types of birds. She carefully considered each species and the seed they preferred and she wasn’t afraid to invest in what best suited these feathered friends. “The most important element in attracting any bird is to supply them with the food they enjoy.” Each season required particular needs and she invested the time to make sure the birds were cared for well. Cardinals needed to feel secure with sturdy perches and they loved the black oil sunflower seed and corn. Chickadees were energetic and could feed without a perch on lightweight cylinders; they loved peanuts and peanut butter. Grandma would describe the reasons for the domes over suet feeders and the size of the holes in others to protect them from bullies. The first time I was delighted to spot a flashy brilliant blue, blue jay she explained her complete annoyance at this nuisance. They may look beautiful, but these “bully birds” ate all the food in one sitting “like glutens” and selfishly frightened away other birds. My grandmother couldn’t guarantee which birds would visit each day, but she did everything she could to attract each winged beauty. Her yard was a place they wanted to come back to again and again. Grandma always found a way to preach a gentle reminder, “if God cares for the birds how much more He cares for me”.
Sitting here in the celebration of life ceremony for another great woman of faith, I couldn’t help but reflect on how her life, like my grandmother’s care for the birds, was so similar. I glanced around the room and saw many other key players from my past, also saying goodbye to one of the great spiritual moms.
When I showed up at Red Bridge Baptist church, hurting and searching for a genuine, Christ-following community; I found it here. Many of the folks gathered here today were instrumental to my faith during my last few years of high school. The Favazza family was one of the first I met and they embraced me immediately. I felt included from the start; there was no girl drama or taking time to get to know me before I’d be welcomed. Everything they did was to attract others to gospel, especially the youth. It didn’t matter if we were just hanging out after school or having a planned get together, Mrs. Favazza prepared amazing food and it was always served in style. She was the first Martha Stewart before we heard of Martha; a hostess with the mostess! There was never a “throw it on a paper plate, they’re just teens attitude”. Her table or peninsula was always welcoming and hospitable, but mostly it was beautiful! Shirley carefully considered the needs of those she was serving and then she did it in a way we wanted to come back again and again.
We weren’t just fed with physical food either, God’s Word dripped from the mouths of the leaders at Red Bridge. Frank could dissect a passage with such intensity you couldn’t wait for more. Roger could take biblical truth and apply it to our daily activities in such a way that we learned deep principles of the faith. Anita taught “old fashioned” Sunday school stories with a devotion to Jesus that these stories seemed brand new. Max preached with evangelical urgency that compelled us to want others to hear the gospel. Nadine modeled a ceaseless praying life that provoked me to desire prayerfulness in my own life. These people fed with seeds that produced a deep devotion to Jesus in my heart (and of the Godly man I’d one day marry.)
As I reflected on the men and woman sitting here and how each of them considered the “seeds” they served to the people they ministered to over the years, I was stricken with gratefulness. None of them were guaranteed that we would hear and follow Christ forever, (I’m sure they had worries about me) but they continued to invest in us with a quality gospel that wasn’t filled with frills or afraid to be honest. These folks took the time and energy to get to know each of our needs, invest in us because they deeply cared for Jesus. They were not afraid to speak out against the harms of those ‘attractive nuisances’ the world wanted to use to entice away from Jesus, and they did everything to teach us to put up barriers against these bullies.
I think of the teens who were under their watchful care, many have walked through deep valleys, made choices that cost dearly, some have suffered great pain and some have even left the faith, never to return. The gospel they presented was the only sustainable hope they offered, and they offered it freely with no expectations of the outcome.
I would love to have the opportunity to thank some of families from the Red Bridge community who consistently and carefully provided good seed used to draw me to Him. We can never know which lives we will make a difference in. We are not guaranteed all the people we invest in will come to Christ, but we are entreated to live a life in such a way “they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
I could have become very sad in this memorial service with the flood of emotions and memories, but instead I have a sweet sense of joy. I have lived a sin-filled, flawed life, but I am forever humbled by God’s hand in directing me to a place, full of flawed faith-filled Christians. I am thankful for times I sat by my grandmother in the simple pleasure of bird watching. These faithful servants loved Jesus and modeled a true understanding of my value in Christ from Matthew 6 and most importantly how to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. I hope to leave a similar legacy at the end of my days. I pray I am carefully considering the seeds I am offering to the people God has directed into the path I am journeying down.
“We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.”~Psalm 78:4