I have two bird feeders and one suet feeder set up in my back yard.  I enjoy watching the great variety of birds that come to my feeders all winter long. 

    Tuesday I pulled in the driveway and quickly noticed that there were no birds anywhere to be seen. In fact, the usual collection of squirrels were nowhere to be seen either.  I wondered why. Then I noticed it … a goshawk or cooper’s hawk (I can’t tell the difference) was on the ground pecking at something in its claws.   That hawk had captured and was eating one of the many little birds that visit my feeders.  I felt awful.  Here I was trying to do a good deed by feeding all those little birds, and inadvertently, I had led one of them to its death.

    Yes, I know hawks have to eat, too.  I suspect that by having lots of birds congregate at my feeders, I may have made them easy prey for the hawk.  I’d like to think that’s not true, but I know hawks.  They are fast, agile hunters. 

    I got to thinking about Paul’s dilemma: “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, I do the evil I do not want to do …” (Romans 7:18b-19a). How often we try to do good, but in the process, unleash some unintended consequences that aren’t so good!

    This is Lent, a time of introspection and honesty.  Jesus died for our sins that we no longer live under their power, but instead we live under the power of the grace of God.  We cannot grasp the full wonder and goodness of Jesus’ death and resurrection unless we take seriously our imperfections and sins.  We cannot grow in goodness and love unless are freed from our paralyzing guilt by the grace of God in Jesus and then are able to learn from our sins and mistakes.

    Have you noticed how it is so much easier to see someone else’s sins and mistakes than your own?   Have you noticed how it is easier to complain about other people’s imperfections and shortcomings while ignoring your own? Yet, we don’t have to fear taking a good hard look at ourselves.  Remember, Jesus died only for imperfect people.  He absorbed all the sin and pain of us imperfect people.  Only God can judge; when we play God by judging others, we bring judgment upon ourselves. (see Matthew 7:1-5).

    Richard Rohr made a comment that has stuck with me:  “If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it.”  It is in grasping God’s grace that we find the pain of sin transformed.

    At this point I don’t know what to do about my bird feeders.  I have good intentions!  We all have good intentions!  Good intentions are not enough. We need the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, too.  And once we have received that grace and mercy, we need to pass it on to others.

    P.S. If you want to dig deeper into Paul’s dilemma for yourself, the Adult Sunday School Class will be studying and discussing Romans 7:7-25 on Sunday, February 28, 9:30 a.m. in the Hoffman Great Room.  You are invited!