Words from my heart
Ruth is one of my Oregonian cousins. We rarely see each other, but stay connected through brief Comments or Likes on Facebook. Last week, she posted a picture of a puffy bright-blue bird and asked if anyone knew what kind it was. Being the research lover that I am, I immediately googled “bluebirds.” I found that it was a Mountain Bluebird, and that wildlife photographer Bruce Benson had taken the photo. I had fun notifying Ruth of my discovery. Bird watching would be a fascinating hobby. With almost 10,000 species in the world, birding could provide infinite hours of amazement.
But I’m not a bird watcher. Instead, I’m a bird listener. And here’s why . . .
A few years ago, my longing for simplicity led me to read The Lessons of St. Francis of Assisi: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life. I learned that St. Francis had a “profound enchantment with all of God’s creation.” His most famous sermon was given to a flock of birds. He “humbly begged them to listen to the word of God,” and to praise and love their Creator always. Of all the lessons offered by St. Francis, this is the one that nested within me. My ears became more attentive to the sound of birds—a welcome reminder to praise and love my Creator.
And then, while watching the movie Sister Act 2, I heard Lauren Hill and Tanya Blount sing His Eye is on the Sparrow. Oh, the beauty of their voices! The words sent my heart soaring.
Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
As I listened, I yearned for Jesus. And when I read the verses in Matthew that inspired the song, I felt a deep connection with the sparrow: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV).
Sparrows are common, ordinary birds. They are so numerous that they’ll never become extinct, and that means they have little value. In fact, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN, the world’s main conservation authority), sparrows are on the “Least Concern” list.
There are days when I feel I’m on that list with the sparrows, and a “Least Concern” sign hangs heavy around my neck. I feel common, ordinary . . . worthless. In those moments, I’m most desperate to hear birds. Yet, how can their song break through when my heart, mind, and ears have been plugged by a blaring world?
In the mornings, when I get ready for the day, I often open the bathroom window so shower steam can escape and fresh air can whisk in. In the far distance, I’ll hear a faint chirp. Then another. And another.
By God’s grace, I hear the chorus again—birds singing, praising, reassuring . . .
“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Photo used with kind permission from Bruce Benson, © 2011. Taken in Umtanum Ridge near Ellensburg, WA.
Sparrow By Jeff Ratcliff, published on 09 March 2010, Stock Photo – image ID: 10013559