Life Matters: My Baptist Bird
By David Whitlock
“How did that bird get in the church?” I asked Austin, the brother to one of our staff members.
I answered the question myself as soon as I asked it: the back door of the church had been left wide-open so volunteers could carry out trash to the dumpster; it had been a church “clean-up day.”
Everyone had left except for Austin and me, and I wasn’t cleaning; I was still preparing my Sunday sermon.
As for the bird, he was calmly perched inside a second-floor window sill, apparently oblivious to our human talk and movements. I say, “he,” because he was unmistakably a Cardinal, and the male Cardinal is the one with the bright red coat and black markings around the beak. He seemed to be deep in thought, staring out the window toward the street. He even let me place my phone within inches of where he was perched and take pictures of him. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought he was casually posing for me.
“We can’t leave him in here,” I told Austin. “There’s no telling where he might fly, and tomorrow is Sunday.”
Austin found a pair of gloves and volunteered to capture the Cardinal, which by now I had dubbed my “Baptist Bird.”
I spoke softly to my Baptist Bird while Austin ever so tenderly placed his gloved hands around him and carried him down the steps towards the door. The bird didn’t like this in the least; his whistle-like chirping sounded like a plea for his safety.
“Bye Baptist Bird,” I said, as Austin carried him down the steps. Trying to soothe my Baptist Bird, I told him it would be okay. But, the more I consoled, the more the bird squawked, as if to say, “I may be leaving, but I don’t like it.”
In a matter of moments, Austin released him. “Now, fly to freedom, Baptist Bird,” I yelled as the Cardinal flapped his wings, soaring over the fence and parking lot.
Soon, I was back at my desk, putting the finishing touches on my work.
God seemed to interrupt my writing by reminding me of my own words to my Baptist Bird: “Fly to freedom.”
“David,” God seemed to say: “You’re kind of like that bird. You weren’t made to stay inside the church building. It may feel cozy and secure, from the inside, looking out upon the passing world. But, it’s okay that you long to fly out there, displaying the beauty of God’s Good News to the world, the wonder of the Gospel, which is more dazzling than the Cardinal’s red and black colors, for the message shouts freedom to all captives. You were made to fly with the Good News.”
I paused and peered out my upstairs window in hopes of catching one more glimpse of my Baptist Bird.
I smiled, lowering my eyes when I couldn’t find him, gratified that he was celebrating his freedom.
Contact David Whitlock, Ph.D., at firstname.lastname@example.org., or visit his website,