More Valuable Than Birds

While working in Africa, I received a care package from my sister-in-law Lorene. I opened it to find a white ceramic goose sporting a peach bow and flower around its neck. How exquisite, I thought. With few beautiful things to adorn my home, I was pleased with the gift.

A couple years later, we returned to the U.S. with the goose in tow. After settling in and shopping at garage sales, I looked around my living room one day and realized I had bought several other bird figurines to keep the goose company. It was then I decided to collect birds.

Now ten years later, I admit my family wonders if we live in an aviary. Birds of every description perch in my curio cabinets, nest on bookshelves or pose on the floor next to plants. Thankfully, most visitors are not agape at their presence and hardly notice them until I point them out.

Finding a bird cheap in a garage sale or buying one as a souvenir on a trip has become a small, fun-filled part of my life. A white dove made of alabaster, a duck of silvery metal, a tiny glass bluebird and an owl of basketry were early finds. Other delightful pieces crafted of wood, brass, marble, shell, resin, or soapstone exist peacefully together on the same shelf.

Friends living in foreign countries caught my excitement and sent avians made of indigenous materials such as vegetable ivory from Brazil, stones and seeds from Zambia, and feathers from Jamaica. I now have birds from more than twenty different countries.

What makes many of these works of art a joy is the story behind them. One friend in Pennsylvania lived in the mountains and loved “critters.” But a stroke forced him and his wife to move into town where he was confined to a bedroom. His friends brought him figurines of the animals he loved. After he died, his widow sent me three of his beloved birds.

Former French students of mine brought me a dainty, glass stork from Alsace. My husband discovered two tiny metal roadrunners when he taught a course in Arizona. I bought a chunky, but delicately carved, wooden partridge made in Thailand in celebration of my friend Jean’s return from that country.

Often, I give “tours” of my collection to visitors. One day, I invited my British friend Katy over for a cup of tea. Katy has spent years as a consultant to Bible translators. A tall, soft-spoken woman, she has served in significant roles in the mission we are members of. I admit, I have always been a bit in awe of her, a woman whose demeanor and appearance beautifully reflect her dedication to God and His Word.

After we enjoyed our talk over tea, I asked if she would like to hear about some of my birds. She agreed, and we spent a few minutes looking at them. She needed to get to her next appointment so I was happy to drive her to a nearby home. On the way, I suddenly felt apologetic about my silly and decidedly worldly interest in collecting birds. A few lame excuses escaped my lips. Then Katy turned and looked at me. “Oh,” she said smiling, “I think the Lord would be pleased with your fine collection.”

I stifled a sob, hearing words that I knew were straight from the God I love. Stunned with His approval, I realized how much God is for me. He delights in me and also in small things that make me happy. He is not a mean Father, judging and pointing a finger when I am not spiritual enough to suit Him.

He himself created the birds and knows them intimately. Psalm 50:11 says, “I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.” He provides lovingly for them. “The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches” Psalm 104:12. He tells me to look to them and see how much He cares for me. In Luke 12:24, Jesus says, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”

God created me, He cares for me and, yes, I am much more valuable to Him than many birds.