I'm greeted by a delightfully cool morning breeze and a chorus of chirps as I slide open the doors to the back porch.
A small grey squirrel munches on feed that's spilled out of the bird feeder and onto the ground, and an adult male cardinal and his brood of fledglings have arrived for breakfast.
As far as I can tell, there are 4 little ones - two on the branches of the scrub oak that shades the dog pen, one on the chain-link fence, and another one in the sweetgum tree over the feeders.
I've always been captivated by the beautiful crimson plumage of the male cardinal and the attention he gives to his mistress - how he tenderly feeds, watches over, chases after, and calls out to his less attractive bride. I've told my grandsons that it's a glimpse of how God expects a man to provide and care for the woman he marries - just like their daddy does for their mommy - and how God wants them to one day love and care for the woman they will one day marry. It's a bit over their little heads, but maybe if I keep telling them, they'll remember when it counts.
This morning, the female cardinal is nowhere to be found and the male gives the fruit of their breeding and nesting his full attention.
Despite their ability to leave the nest, it's obvious the fledglings expect their father to feed them. He calls out to them with sharp, staccato tweets as he carries seed from the feeder to the fence, back to the feeder, to one of the trees, and back to the feeder again and again and again - while the fledglings open their beaks and beg with constant chirps and ruffled feathers until he feeds them.
When Jesus taught His disciples about the Kingdom of God, he often used what they already knew in nature - storms and fig trees, wheat and fish, and sparrows and flowers.
And He teaches me that way, too.
So when I watch the male cardinal's faithful attention to his feathered bride and brood of fledglings, I'm reminded of what I already know - that the LORD loves, feeds, watches, chases after, calls to and cares for me.