And then I remembered my grandma.
As a child from Colorado (in the US), when we visited my grandparents in Michigan (two days drive away) it was exciting to see cardinals and blue jays—about the only two birds I can actually identify because one is red and the other blue. My grandparents loved birds and even counted birds one year for the Audubon society. They had bird feeders outside of most of the windows and conversations were often sprinkled with commentary of what was happening outside.
It was at the kitchen table I learned, “Bluejays are hogs! HOGS!”—pounding on the window—”I did not put that food out there for you, you HOG, go away!” More pounding. Since I didn’t have a bird in the fight, so to speak, it was mildly funny watching someone get so riled up about a bird.
Fast forward to this past summer. Oh, God has a sense of humor (hat tip to the ostrich). Humming birds built a nest in a tree near my sister’s house. Humming birds are cute! Their babies are tiny and adorable. My nieces would call with updates and hummingbird sightings and facts. So fun. So exciting. So small. So cute!
Crows built a nest in the tall tree across the street from me. After the babies hatched they seemed to be instantly the size of their parents. Maybe not, but that’s how it seemed to me from the ground. Their nest was in a perfectly fine tree surrounded by perfectly fine trees; but the parents decided the perfect place to train the adolescent crows on how to be crows was in our backyard. Every morning and afternoon the entire awful crow family would fly over to our trees and spend time in “Crow School.”
Turns out crow school involves a lot of sitting around (why?! Why?! You are birds. Fly.) and squawking incessantly and defecating. On more than one occasion I actually went outside and screamed at them to be quiet and to take their training lessons elsewhere. Um, so maybe I can picture getting riled up over a bird.
My sister Laura has a large tattoo of a crow on the majority of her forearm. Before she visited this summer, I warned her to be prepared to regret that decision after she saw upfront how AWFUL crows are (incessant squawking makes me cranky). Guess what those cheeky crows did?! They hung out at the end of street during her entire visit. What?! She would laugh at me when we would drive past them and I’d yell at them to never visit again. So, her love of crows (or me) wasn’t dented.
The day after she left—the very next day—two of the crows came over in the morning. Seriously? Are birds that smart?! I admit to checking if this book had a chapter on crows, because I didn’t think I had it in me. Smile. As I read about the crazed HOSP folks, I thought about the crazed person in my mirror. And how God uses birds, and books, and you in my life.
Several quotes stood out to me from this chapter:
In reference to countries where sparrows are now in decline. “It seems beautiful to me—but what irony. We dispose what is common and love what is rare. Is this inevitable? Is this just the way it goes—hate, hate, hate, love, hate, love, hate, hate, love? Is it just true that love comes in fits and starts and almost always erratically?”
“God cares for what the world considers insignificant. This is all over the text . . . We desperately don’t want to be common . . . we are so much more attracted to what is shiny and rare. We are hardly able to convince ourselves that God is unlike us in this.”
“Twenty years ago I thought my husband was singularly blessed, like my friends, all golden and shimmery; and we were poised to create the most beautiful community together. I don’t think any of us feel quite like we did when we began. But I do think there is something about what we have done together that allows us to sustain one another, as well as our children and the land we’ve settled on.”
This final quote reminded me of us. Of people who may have entered this life of overseas living with shiny and slightly (or massively) unrealistic expectations as to how the Kingdom of God was going to come here to earth. But there is still something about what we have done together that allows us to sustain one another, as well as our children and the land we’ve settled on.
Amen and amen. Emily’s bible study on the sparrow (found here), touches on this beautifully.
Briefly before closing, I found a short video from Mao’s “Four Pest” campaign. The video is called a “documentary”—it is only nine minutes, so not really what I think of when it comes to documentaries. Don’t be scared by the word. If you want to watch just the sparrow part, it start about 2:45 and runs for about a minute. Fascinating and a bit disturbing. If you don’t see the video, you can watch it here.
As always, I look forward to our chats in the comments.
P.S. Next bird? The rooster.