More Important than the Sparrow {Book Club}

Not only am I learning about birds in Consider the Birds by Debbie Blue, I’m learning a bit about the bird world. I laughed when Debbie ran into her friend and neighbor Diane in the driveway. “‘I need to talk to you about sparrows.” She may not have exactly narrowed her eyes, but that’s how I remember it.’  And later at the birthday party when Debbie couldn’t help bringing up the subject of sparrows again. We’ve all been there, haven’t we, when we can’t help but talk about a subject even though we know others don’t want to talk about it.

I had no idea the sweet sparrow was known “out there” as HOSP and produced such passionate responses from people. As I read this chapter, I couldn’t imagine getting so worked up over a bird.

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.


  1. Jenilee November 1, 2016

    I was also a bit amazed at the anger towards these little birds. Who would have known! lol But I did grab a few quotes… “God cares for what the world sees as insignificant…” and a few lines later she added, “There is no way God reserves His love for what the world finds beautiful or important.” and then a few pages later, “When you live right up next to something day after day for a very long time, it looks different than the first time you saw it. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself – this is a whole different prospect than loving what is rare.” I love the few nuggets from this chapter. Remembering how much God loves the common things and how much we can learn from that.

    1. Jenilee November 1, 2016

      oh and Psalm 84… a sanctuary for the sparrow… what other God could find a place for us? loved that!

      1. M'Lynn November 3, 2016

        I was so happy to finally see a Psalm 84 mention in there. It’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the “Sparrow” chapter!

  2. M'Lynn November 3, 2016

    This chapter wasn’t what I thought (no surprise…feel like I say that about every chapter so why do I keep on being surprised?) I don’t think I would’ve ever gotten to “familiarity breeds contempt” if I approached the subject of sparrows on my own. “The idea that familiarity breeds contempt isn’t lost on me; I just think it might be nice to learn a different way of being. It isn’t difficult to find hateable qualities in the creatures that surround us. And I don’t think it’s just egregious misbehaviors that rankle us. It is not only that the house sparrow is aggressive, or that its chirps are objectively horrible; it’s more that they are just so ever present.” This took me straight to motherhood. To be explicitly honest, my toddler is just so ever present and can just plain get on my nerves. A friend recently commented that my daughter’s sweet voice reminds her of cute little Boo on Monster’s Inc. That same week I had asked my friends to lift me up because the toddler’s voice sounds like whining to me whether she’s whining or not and it’s driving me crazy. So…enter “familiarity breeds contempt.” What about the boys? They’re really not bad kids, but they sure can drive me crazy with their smacking at dinner and ever-present-ness especially in this dark, cold season when they’re always indoors. Then I’m reminded that the people who were rid of the sparrow actually missed it’s chirping. So…once again we arrive at the lesson that I’m gonna miss my kids when they’re grown and gone, so I’d better start appreciating them while they’re underfoot. This little look into “familiarity breeds contempt” helped me see that I’m not a horrible mom for being annoyed by my own children. Ha! But also, that I need to zoom out and see the bigger picture and appreciate the ever-present in this season of my life.

  3. Elizabeth November 17, 2016

    This chapter (I finally read it!) wasn’t what I expected either. I was expecting to enjoy it more as I love Matthew 6 so much, but I was just not that into this chapter. The rooster chapter is another story though! Loved it and will comment there soon 🙂

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