House of Hope

“I know the plans I have for you," 
declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you,  plans to give you hope and a future.”   
Jeremiah 29:11 Difficult and many the obstacles be,
For one whom can’t nest on mere limb of a tree,  But faith born of instinct the bluebird must follow, To locate a fence post or dead tree hollow,
To find a house of hope. From housetop protected from reptile and foe,
The male bird starts singing, a compass to show, The way for his sweetheart, a life mate be,
His passionate love song allures her to he,
To build a house of hope. So like the bluebird is Bridegroom Christ Jesus, Gone to prepare a place quite prestigious,
Please hearken His own love to His song compelling, Calling us to Himself, our eternal dwelling,
A House of Hope.

––– Ken Helser

Few of God's creatures evoke as much emotion in poem or song as the little bluebird.  And yet, the saga of the bluebird is a dramatic story of its struggle for survival.   Why did the one who carries the sky on its wing nearly become extinct?  Because of its many enemies.  First, it was the environment.  Super highways, malls and housing projects rapidly eroded the wild berry trees that once sustained the bird in the winter.  Gone were the hollows in trees and fence posts which it once made its home.  Then came the raccoons and black snakes that invade the home of the bluebird for an easy meal; the starlings, robbing its food supply; and the English sparrow, that savagely kills the mother and robs the nest.  Some wondered if the bluebird could possibly survive?  And some decided to give God’s little creature a hand.  

It has, thanks to Jack Finch, a Carolinian who has built more than 50,000 bluebird boxes, and plants the berry producing dogwoods for winter provisions for bluebirds with more vigor than Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees.  Mr. Finch first caught my attention when he was featured on an “Earth Day” special on CBS news.  I was instantly captivated by the Jesus look in his eye when asked why he would spend much of his life building homes for bluebirds, he remarked, “Well, one day this old body will be laid to rest, and I’d like to think a bluebird or two might take notice of my love for them and sing a song or two over my grave.”  I was so intrigued by the nurseryman from Bailey, North Carolina, that Linda and I sought him out in hopes of taking some photos of the beautiful birds–– which I might make a painting of.  But we got much more.  We got a life-changing message.  

“Did you know that bluebirds are very romantic?” Mr. Finch said, tilting his ear to catch the warble of a songbird in the distance.  “Yep.  The male bird falls in love and courts his sweetheart by first finding a suitable home for them to nest.  From there he sings his love song.  That’s what attracts her.  If she says ‘I do’ to his proposal by entering the future homesite, he flutters wildly and sings his he'd off with joy! It’s a site to behold.”  

“Why, that’s just like Jesus!” I exclaimed, reveling in the correlation between the bird and the Gospel.  “Christ has gone to prepare a place for us, and from there he attracts us, his bride-to-be, to His house with His own love song!”

I was plumb giddy from the revelation, when the kind man continued, “And bluebirds are not only romantic, they are faithful to each other.  They mate for life.  They make such great parents that they are one of the few birds in existence that continue to feed their young after they leave the nest.  Why, they even take  a family vacation,” he laughed.  “They migrate south as a family.”

I could see that Jack was choking with emotion.  Not for the birds, but for mankind.  Turning away to hide the tear in his eye, he spoke solemnly, “There is so much we could learn from Go’s little creatures if we would only pay attention.  The bluebird is such an overcomer.  They have so many enemies.  So many obstacles to overcome.  But they never seem to waste their lives by complaining.  They just energetically go on building their homes, their families, with hope.  A great big hope that it’s all going to work out fine…”

After visiting many bluebird houses around Jack’s farm, and taking hundreds of pictures, the kind man loaded five bird boxes into our van and gave us a hug that implied that we had become friends for life.

As we drove out on the long dirt road from Jack’s place, we passed one bluebird box after another.  I found myself saluting every homesite.  I think I was subconsciously saying thank you to God’s little creatures who taught me about overcoming.  Conquering fear.  Romance and faithfulness.  And victory.  I too wanted to go home and build my own “House of Hope.”

“‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).