Do You Ever Ask for a Sign?
I know some people who are always asking God (or some saint) for a sign. They ask God to send a bluebird, for example, to show that their deceased loved one is in peace. One woman told me she asked St. Therese of Lisieux (the “Little Flower”) to send a rose as a sign that she was making the right decision about a situation. Sure enough, the very next day she got a thank you note in the mail from a friend. On the front of the card was a beautiful pink rose.
A nun told me this story. I’ll call her Sister Irene. Her best friend, another sister in the community, had just died. A few days after the funeral, Irene was overcome with grief. She drove to a nearby park, sat in her car, opened her car windows, and sobbed. Suddenly a beautiful whitish butterfly fluttered into the car and landed on the steering wheel. Now Irene’s deceased friend was really into butterflies. She had butterfly pictures and images all over her bedroom. She often wrote notes on butterfly stationery and she occasionally wore a butterfly T-shirt or sweatshirt. Irene had not asked for a butterfly that day, but she was convinced her friend had sent the real butterfly into her car to console her in her grief.
I don’t really ask God for signs, but sometimes the signs fall right into my lap. A few weeks after my sister passed away, we members of her family met in her apartment to go through her belongings. My sister had died very suddenly and never had time to go through her things. Everyone knew that my sister’s favorite bird was the cardinal. As we gathered in her living room that morning, someone glanced out the window on her balcony. There perched on the railing was a beautiful bright red cardinal. He didn’t flit away either. He sat there for a good 30 seconds or so—time enough for all of us to see him. I felt that his presence that morning was a sign that my sister was somehow with us that day.
In her book, Gifts from Friends We’ve Yet to Meet, Virginia Herbers, currently living in St. Louis, tells this story about an unusual sign she received from God once. Herbers always asked God to send a cardinal when she was struggling with something—as a sign of God’s presence in her life. One time when she was driving alone in her car, she was overwhelmed by the terrible things that were happening in her life and in the world: her mother had just experienced heart failure, her best friend was struggling with cancer, there had been another school shooting, the clergy sexual abuse crisis was rocking the church, and on and on the bad news went. Herbers writes, “I took advantage of the privacy of the car ride to have another out-loud conversation with God about the current state of affairs.” She ranted and raged at God demanding that he send a cardinal to prove that he was still present and acting in our crazy, mixed up world.
Herbers got so worked up, she had forgotten that she needed to make a left turn at the next light—but now she found herself in the far right lane instead. As she neared the traffic light, it turned red. She huffed in exasperation. Then she describes what happened next: “When the car came to a halt at the intersection, Fredbird (the mascot of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team) jumped into the crosswalk right in front of my car as part of a promotion the team was having at the corner gas station. Fredbird himself proceeded to motion for me to open the window so that he could toss in a Cardinals’ hacky sack.
She concludes with these words of amazement: “Fredbird. The biggest, fattest cardinal a girl could ask for.”
Let me conclude this reflection on signs with the words of Ethel Pochocki, a poet in Maine. One bleak winter, she too asks God for “a sign of approval,” that the step she was taking “was sure.” In the morning, she looks out the kitchen window at the bird feeder “on the railing of the deck” and spots a chicken! In the middle of winter! Now, what is a chicken doing on her bird feeder “amidst the jays and mourning doves squabbling and feasting in the twelve-below freeze”? She stares at the chicken “in disbelief.” Then she thinks: “I know God sends the portents we crave in our neediness.” To some, God sends a “flurry of doves,” an angel, a visit from the Little Flower. But “to me, he sends a chicken.” She ends with these insightful words: “I deduce I am dealing with a prankster.”
Have you ever asked God for a sign? If so, what happened? If you never ask God for a sign, why don’t you?
Are there any “unasked for signs” in your life that offer you the assurance of God’s presence in your life—especially during difficult times?
PS: Thank you for your prayers for my retreat last week. It what a real blessing for me. Next week, I hope to share a few thoughts from my retreat with you.
Our video is a song called “Gifts from God” written by Chris Tomlin and sung here by Chris Lane. It reminds us of the gifts God sends into our life that money can’t buy.
I welcome your responses below. We all love to hear from our readers!
Wonderful post Sister. My Mother-in-law was big on signs and would always remind us to be on the lookout for them. She is gone now and I am older. Now I hear the wisdom in what she used to say to us . I do sometimes ask for a sign but mostly I just try to be quiet and be alert. They are there alright.
Thank you for writing, Maureen. Your mother-in-law sounds like a faith-filled woman… and being “alert and quiet” at times is a good habit to cultivate! Sr. Melannie
Loved this mdssage, I’m staying with my sister in hospice care this week and needed a sign. This was it
Carol, Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your sister during this time… Sr. Melannie
One time while hiking in the woods, hubby announced that he’d really like to see a cedar wax wing (bird). Lo and behold, one appeared right on our path and he got close enough to touch it but didn’t. It wobbled along – later we found out that it was drunk from consuming fermented fruit from rotting berries! Certainly made our day – hubby couldn6stop talking about it.
Dodie, I loved your story about your hubby and the tipsy cedar wax wing! I hope you both went home and had a glass of wine! Sr. Melannie
Thank you! Cardinals have alway been my families sign of my Mom.
Linda, Cardinals seem to be a popular choice for a sign. Maybe that’s because the stick it out during cold, dark winters! Thanks for writing! Sr. Melannie
Really liked your message on Dec. 4. God does work in strange ways for my sister friend who went home to God on Sat. Came to visit us in school with a crackling of a candle wick that was burning. She always wanted to come to school and spend the day with us. I know she was here for last week when the candle was lit there was no sound what so ever. God does work in very strange ways.
Sr. Lydia, Thanks for sharing your story of the “crackling candle.” Yes, God does work in mysterious ways! Sr. Melannie
I loved your message about signs of God.
My daughter believes that every time she sees a cardinal that my late husband is with her. He especially loved sitting on the back patio to watched the birds (especially cardinals).
I read your messages in “Living Faith” devotional. I always know it’s yours, because it is always the best. Thank you so much
Dear Mary Anne, Thank you for your story of another cardinal… and thank you for your encouragement for my writing. Sr. Melannie
I love your posts, Sister Melanie. I don’t ask God for signs, but He speaks to me with rainbows and butterflies. At trying times in my life when I’m praying really hard, and I come back to an awareness of my surroundings I have seen either a rainbow or butterfly. I am always comforted by the fact that God “speaks” to me visually with these. Thank you for your posts. I look forward to them each week (even though I have to look them up-it’s worth the effort!).
Dear Celeste, May God continue to send you rainbows and butterflies to give you comfort in trying times… Sr. Melannie
For some reason i am not receiving the Sunflower Seeds. My email is registered, but I am not receiving them and I miss them. Thanks for any help you can provide for me.
Peace, Sr. Marty Dermody
Dear Sr. Marty, Something is wrong with my blog, and many readers are no longer receiving it–even though they are signed up. Just goggle my blog and then bookmark it for yourself. That’s what many readers are doing. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. Sr. Melannie
Your commentary has not been delivered to me for several weeks. Tried to unsubscribe and then re subscribe but was unsuccessful. Really want your weekly commentary. Any suggestions on what to do?
Dear Sylvia, Read my response to Sr. Marty right above your comment. If you locate my blog with your search engine, you can bookmark it and have it conveniently every Monday. I know it’s inconvenient at first, but then it’s easy to access it any time during the week. I don’t want to lose you as a reader!… Thank you. Melannie
Good morning, Melannie! Those stories are so amazing! Faith affirming! Yes, there is a God type of stories! I loved them, especially that one about the Cardinal mascot. My sister Zita died on Dec. 6th, 2016. Two days ago, of course, was the 6th anniversary of her death. She too was a bird lover. She also worked part time for my wife, who is a textile weaver. Shortly after Zita died, Kerry (my wife) says that for the first time ever a bird had somehow made its way inside the shop. According to my wife, that bird was Zita! Merry Christmas!
Dear John, I loved your story about the bird in your wife’s shop. It reinforces our Christian belief that our deceased loved ones are very near to us… P.S. I lost my sister, Mary Ann, 3 days before you lost your sister in 2016… Thanks for your comment! Melannie
Requested sign – One afternoon when I was 10 years old, I was laying in the back of the family station wagon listening to the rain hit the car roof and asked for a hard rain as a sign of His presence. It nearly instantly rained hard for for a minute then went back to its normal lighter rainfall.
Unrequested signs –
At church during a mass, a shadow of Christ reaching out via a burned out light.
Again at church, a lower light illuminating Mary and a flower arrangement cast a shadow of a dove near the ceiling.
On several occasions while walking during my lunch break a contemporary christian song will pop into my head, creating what I can only describe as a profound spiritual moment where God speaks to my heart – the warmest of hugs. It brings a tear to my eye. It reminds me how much we are all so deeply and personally loved.