Every morning after I feed our 6 cats and scoop out the litter boxes, I go out on the back porch and have coffee with God. It is my time to both talk and listen, pray and praise. Always during the Spring and Summer, I have hummingbirds to share this time with me. They sip their sugar water while I sip my coffee. When the depression is upon me, this sacred time saves me.
If you have spent time in the company of hummingbirds, you’ve probably noticed that certain alpha males are very territorial. They spend a lot of energy running other hummingbirds off the feeders. I enjoy this spectacle day after day, but last week, their antics made me think; we humans are so like this. These tiny little birds will defend a huge container of sugar water as if they could ever drink it all before it spoiled. Sometimes it seems that certain birds spend more time chasing the others off the feeder than they do drinking from it themselves!
Clearly, this is just how Creator made hummingbirds and so for them, it makes perfect sense. In fact, I think I heard one say to me “It’s a Hummingbird thing, you would not understand!”…and rightly so. I get it. But when we 2-leggeds act like that, and we do…well…there is something wrong with this picture. There is something wrong with the picture of how some folks have a couple of houses, one for spring and summer, one for fall and winter, and even fancy tree houses, while so many other folks go without a even one roof over their heads. To me, this makes as much sense as a hummingbird thinking he could (and should) drink all that nectar himself! Of course, he is not really thinking that, he is just being a brave Hummingbird Warrior and doing what alpha birds do. But we humans, when we jealously defend our funds and hoard them up, spoiling ourselves rotten with stuff and more stuff while others go without…well…then we are being decidedly selfish, and in so doing, are depriving ourselves spiritually as we refuse to share with our brothers and sisters.
We deprive ourselves spiritually any time we live from the fear of lack. When I was a kid growing up, I was exposed to what sociologists call “comparative poverty”. My Aunt and Uncle had a whole lot of expensive stuff….their own airplane, a huge cabin cruiser, a big lavish home, and all the accouterments. They say that comparative poverty can seriously damage a child’s self esteem, and I can see why, but thankfully, I escaped any serious consequences from it because my parents were deeply grateful people and taught me, by example, to be the same way. We felt blessed, and so…we were. Thanks to the various crafting skills my parents possessed, Christmas for me was magical. I fondly recall the school-room size chalkboard my dad made for me one year. I went wild with excitement. My mom could always be counted upon to come up with a beautiful doll or stuffed animal she lovingly and surreptitiously sewed for me. When we would go over to my Aunt and Uncles house for Christmas dinner and I would see the mountains of gifts they each got, it bothered me not in the slightest because even then I felt the care and love they put into my gifts and I knew that they sacrificed to give me what for us was a lavish Christmas. I knew how hard they both worked to provide the essentials. The fact that they took the time to create gifts they knew would surprise and delight me made me feel like the most loved little girl in the world. You see, they were, even then, fostering in me an immunity to envy which would overcome any disparity between what we had versus what others had. Of all the things my parents did or didn’t do, gave or didn’t give to me as a child, I see now that this gift of gratitude was priceless. Gratitude and generosity were things they never preached, they simply lived them.
I remember asking my mom what those little envelopes she stuffed every Sunday morning were for. I would see her put them in the collection plate at church. She told me that they were tithe envelopes. Seeing that I had no idea what a tithe was, she explained that 10% of all the money that came into our house went to God, and that she put it in those little envelopes. She told me that every single thing we had, money, house, the farm, our animals, even each other, all belonged to God anyway and so she was happy to give God that 10%. I couldn’t quite understand it, yet I couldn’t help but notice that always, always, every need was met for our little family of 3. Looking back, I recall that even though nearly all my clothes, (even my undies!) were my cousins hand-me-downs, they were, to me, glorious! I felt proud to wear them because they made me feel like a big girl! Sure, when we would go on our big yearly outing to Orlando (the big city to us Florida bumpkins!) for back-to-school shopping I would get one outfit and a yearly pair of shoes, while my cousins would get many outfits and lots of shoes, still I felt abundant and blessed…I even felt fortunate to have rich relatives because I would mentally pick out which of their new clothes I wanted when they had outgrown them. I knew it was just a matter of time. I guess you could say I was blissfully ignorant that we were poor. Comparison never crossed my mind. I was that way because my parents refused to feel poor; they were too grateful for what we did have. That sort of thing is highly contagious in a family.
But when I grew up and moved out on my own, I soon learned what hard times were, and my growing fear of lack made tithing seem ludicrous. Why in the world would you give God (Who already has everything anyway) 10% of all the money which, by the sweat of your brow, you labored long to drag into your checking account only to see your bills eat it right up? To say I resisted tithing is an understatement. Yet seeing how my parents’ income rose steadily and peaked (ironically) just as I was leaving home, intrigued me. I couldn’t help but think that maybe Mom had something there. After all, I had a front row seat to something pretty astounding; watching my Father’s earning capacity steadily rise and rise until they were quite well off was tantalizing. So I began trying to tithe and things would go pretty well until an unexpected expense would come up, then I would say to myself “Well, what the heck…God doesn’t want me to lose my truck, or have my electricity cut off…does He? Of course not!” This went on for years, back and forth. I would tithe and see how supernaturally my needs were being covered. I would be one happy little trusting, tithing hummingbird and watch wide-eyed as just the amount of nectar I needed and more would fill up my feeder…but I would always quit, allowing that fear of lack to take over when faced with a financial crunch. Then, I would start to see a feeder half empty… One day I decided that since it seemed to work for my parents, it certainly ought to work for me as well. I made a sacred decision, drew a line on the floor and stepped over it, solemnly declaring to Creator that even if I lost my truck, my home and the whole 9 yards, I would still give that 10% back to He Who Owns It All Anyway. That was in 2003. No more holding back. So what happened?
Well, at first, it was what did not happen. I did not lose my truck or my home. I began to earnestly feel “Hmmm….maybe this works”. I became very enthusiastic about tithing, even eventually becoming known as “The Prosperity Lady” at the church I was going to because I began teaching the “Prosperity Classes” (tithing) the church offered. I saw my students prosper in many ways, not just financial. I, myself, kept on tithing and never looked back. Now, after working hard all my life, I am able to joyously spend my days as a full-time Chaplain at an Assisted Living facility and be the pastor of The Christ Spirit Church because I no longer must work a regular job. I am still not “rich” by the world’s definition, but by my own! This richness is counted in many different ways, such as all the love flowing through my life from Creator’s Heart to mine; friends, family, animals, my ministry, and even a modest old country house made beautiful by hummingbirds on the back porch. I must admit, I passed through several years as I first buckled down to committed tithing when I was kinda doing it in a spirit of giving to get...yep, trying to sort of hustle God. Didn’t matter. As I continued to truthfully tithe, that attitude went away automatically and gave way to completely unattached giving as first, my fear, then my need, went away. You see, God gets it. Our Great Divine Source, Our Mother-Father God, knows how it is down here on Earth and understands how us 2-legged hummingbirds get scared of not having enough and act like our real hummingbird brothers, feeling as if we had better chase others off the feeder, guarding our precious stash. But that doesn’t stop God from honoring our best efforts to stand up to that fear.
In some of the world’s Traditions, the Hummingbird represents Spiritual Beauty, magic, purity and delight in living, sipping only the sweetness of life as it cavorts in it’s jeweled regalia, able to fly forwards, backwards and hover, a feat that other birds simply cannot do. Hummingbirds embody the greatest of courage and trust, migrating more than 500 miles each year over broad expanses of open ocean, watching as the little wings of some of it’s friends and family inevitably grow weary. The hummingbird witnesses these loved ones drop into the sea to drown, and yet…it keeps going. We can too. We can trust our Source, and when we do, we will share. And when we share, we shall prosper.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38