Well, they certainly did not ask my permission. It’s all just as well, because if they had I most certainly would not have given it. But really! It is just barely the middle of August, there is still a lot of Iowa summer left, and those silly birds have already pulled up stakes, loaded their wagons and headed off to that mysterious place where Robins go when they leave my town and my trees.


Not that they usually ask for my permission for anything they do in ‘my town’ and in ‘my trees.’ The males arrive in late winter and set up shop. One of the first things they do is decide who gets the choice tree outside my bedroom window; decide who gets to sing me his morning song; decide who gets to wake me each morning and set up my summer schedule. I mean, pretty presumptive of them!


And so, he sits there and does his chittering song at the first hint of dawn, faithfully, every morning, rain or shine; and totally irrespective of any mood I may be in. I mean; what does he know about my desire to sleep another hour on some given morning. And then, after singing his silly song, (faithfully, every morning, rain or shine,) one morning, in the middle of August, with a lot of summer still left, he just quits, cold turkey, becomes a snow bird, rounds up his family, and is gone. One morning, in the middle of August, the window is open, the fan is off, the birch tree is still there, the sparrows chitter, they chitter all the time, it means nothing; the mourning dove still sits on top of the light pole across the street and coos to his bride, he coos at any hour of the day; but My Robin’s song is gone. I wake up thinking I must have slept through his alarm but after three mornings in a row I know the truth, the voice of my assigned robin is no more.


I keep wondering, is this how life works? We arrive without requesting, or receiving permission either, we set off on the stage of life and say our piece, we play the assigned parts: And then some morning, with us thinking there’s still a lot of summer left, we find the curtain has dropped, our voice has been stilled, and we go off to our “long home, and the mourners go about the streets.”


The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved. Jeremiah 8:20

It’s March the ninth, 2008; it’s East Central Iowa, and lying awake in bed this morning I heard the unmistakable signal of spring.  Never mind that we’ve had a very hard winter with more than five feet of snow. Never mind that the temperature yesterday morning was down close to zero and most of our yard is still covered with eight plus inches of snow/ice. The Robin is back! The Robin’s prophetic voice pierced the darkness this morning and announced the end of doom and gloom: “Joy comes in the morning.”


I wonder every spring what the poor thing will eat; how he will stay warm; how he will survive until the nightcrawlers are washed to the surface by spring rains. It always seems he might have a forty-day fast until it happens. But then, that’s the way it often is for God’s prophets. They always come too early and with (what seems like,) too little provision.


Yesterday morning, Marlene was sharing with me that she had re-discovered the verse about “The joy of the Lord” being “our strength” in, of all places, the book of Nehemiah. The text around that verse puzzled her: The people, exiles who recently returned from Babylon captivity, were standing and hearing the word of God being read for the first time in their lives – and they were crying. Marlene couldn’t understand why Ezra quieted the people’s weeping and told them to rejoice and give presents to each other. “Aren’t tears of repentance in order?”


The people had already previously done their weeping. They had ‘hung up their harps, sat down, and wept by the rivers of Babylon.’ It was ‘weeping for a night,’ and what a night it was: “Joy comes in the morning.”


When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.


Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.


The LORD hath done great things for us; [whereof] we are glad.


            Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south.


They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.


He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves [with him]. Psalms 126 AV


Dear Father: ‘Turn the captivity’ of someone right now. Strengthen the week limbs and heal broken hearts and bones. To our hearts bring back the springtime. Let us hear the Robin’s voice and rejoice in your never failing goodness. Amen.