The Sparrow Keeper

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I am a birdwatcher. I peek out the windows to check on the happenings in my yard. Certain birdcalls send me running outdoors to catch the action. At times, you will find me with my mouth agape as I observe the spectacular scenes unfolding before me.

Several of my hobbies revolve around wild birds. Some days, I get a finger cramp pressing the shutter button on my camera. I use my photographs in a multitude of ways. I have a feather collection. Bird figurines adorn my tabletops, shelves, fireplace mantel, and piano. There are framed bird prints hanging in various rooms of the house. I have bird identification books and recently had a magazine subscription where I could gaze at other people’s bird photographs and further my bird education. I am not sure where my fascination came from. I remember checking out bird guide books from the elementary school library and sitting at my bedroom desk tracing over the photos. Birds of paradise were my favorites. But after that, I do not remember too much of anything else related to birds—until five years ago, when I acquired a birdbath. At that point, I moved beyond being a bird watcher—I became a bird keeper.

A keeper is one who has the job not only to watch but also to protect and maintain what or whom is being cared for. Daily, I have taken to caring for the birds. I water them, fill up feeders with birdseed, and cook up batches of hummingbird nectar. I chase away cats looking for a feathery meal and shoo away deer who believe the bird feeders exist for their benefit. Thus, I have become a sparrow keeper, along with being a keeper to more than thirty-five other types. It brings great joy to my heart to be able to share in the lives of these beautiful creatures.

When we look at sparrows, beautiful may not be the first word that comes to mind.  We probably are not impressed by their appearance or wowed by their size. We might think they are a dime a dozen and are nothing in comparison to the showy peacocks or powerful birds of prey. But the Bible says not one sparrow is forgotten by God or falls to the ground without His knowledge. And we humans are told not to fear because we are of more value than many sparrows.* Think of it!  If God cares for each one of these little creatures, how much more must He care for us?

But, how do we understand this when life seems to be flying out of control in many directions at once, like a flock of birds flushing out of the field? Right now, there is noise, confusion, scrambling, blurring, fleeing, crying out, and fear. Things are startling us out of our peace and rest, interrupting us as we try to go about our normal lives, causing us to question what is happening and what to do next. We don’t understand the outside forces that are bearing down on us and making our anxious hearts pound. But I want to encourage us not to fear. God’s eyes are on the sparrows, and He is watching over us, too.

Recently, I was thinking of two songs which talk about God being a sparrow watcher. But the more I thought about this concept, I realized He is not just a sparrow watcher, He is a sparrow keeper. He is not simply an observer of what’s taking place in our lives, He is involved in our care. He fulfills the definition of a keeper as He guards and cares for, protects and maintains. As we live our lives in the midst of a difficult and fallen world, He abides, faithful.

Indeed, we are told the very hairs of our heads are numbered.** God is aware of each of us and is paying attention to the details. From our safe little perches and our huge falls to the ground in this big overwhelming world fraught with danger, He remains vigilant. When gale force winds, seasons of drought, firestorms, and famine come, He speaks peace. When we are separated from the flock, lost, or abandoned, He is omnipresent. When our feathers get ruffled, when we smack into the window while looking at the reflection of something we think we want, or when we get blown off course in the high winds, He sees. He knows. He remains steadfast. And He is available to help us recover. No one else can meet each need or save our very souls except Him. He has provided Himself, the living water and the bread of life. He guards souls from eternal death and is capable of keeping them in life. He is omnipotent and everlasting.

Yes, God is the world maker, star namer, and soul saver. He is the sparrow watcher and the sparrow keeper. From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.

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Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by.

I will cry out to God Most High,
To God who performs all things for me.

He shall send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.
(Psalm 57:1-3 NKJV)

*See Luke 12:6
**See Luke 12:7

©Text and photos Francee Strain, August 16, 2020

Reset

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(Repost)

It seems we do two major resets per year: January 1st and the week after Labor Day. But let’s be real here. We need to reset more than twice per year. It is so easy to get off-track and off-kilter in life. When the power goes out, and the clocks are blinking, we need a reset.

Things can kick our feet out from under us. We can get sucked in, pulled this way, shoved that way. At times we get dragged in, kicking and screaming. Sometimes we dive in headlong, willingly. We miscalculate. We set it and forget it. But, regardless of how we get here, we can hit burnout; we can hit depression; we can hit a season of prodigal living; and we can be laying in a rut deeper than we can dig ourselves out of.

I have just passed the nineteenth anniversary of the beginning of my chronic illnesses, as year after year, more chronic illnesses have been added to the initial one. There are days when I can barely get out of bed, much less leave the house. Travel is not in my vocabulary. Common tasks like moving, thinking, eating, and communicating all become difficult or impossible. For a moment, I celebrated this nineteenth anniversary. I was excited to think how far God had brought me, because when things first began, I honestly thought I was going to die. But then my mind shifted—my focus shifted—and I watched what everyone else around me was doing: gearing up for vacations, packing up picnic baskets, dusting off suitcases, and stocking up on suntan lotion. And my heart hurt. The celebration came to a halt as reality crowded its way into my mind.

If I go out in public, people think I must be better. They have no idea of the battle that ensued to put me in their presence. And unless there is divine intervention, I will never be better; I will actually grow worse. My mind slips into thinking how unfair this is. Another anniversary of my high school and college graduations has come and gone, and I am not where I imagined I would be at this point in life. Life rolls on without me. The party continues without me. The friends go on their shopping and luncheon dates without me. The family reunions happen without me. The weddings, baby showers, and even funerals don’t require a seat for me. In my humanness, it is quite discouraging. My heart breaks. My heart cries out—not questioning God, but in frustration. “God, if I was just healthy, I could do a, b, and c. I could do this for You. I could go there for You. I could reach them, touch them, help them in Your name. I could do that God. I could.”

But I can’t. Not in that way. Not yet. There has to be another way.

There has to be something else for me right now. What is it? What is it, God? As my heart breaks, so do the sobs. But then I think about the words “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2 NKJV). There is an eternal purpose. There is an eternal plan unfolding in my life right now. Everything is filtered through His hand. Everything can be viewed as a good and perfect gift. Everything is a good and perfect gift. I just need a reset: To reset my mind on things above. To reset my heart in the direction from whence comes my help. A reset in my focus—to still serve God no matter what I can or cannot do. A reset of my course—serving God in this current state. I will do things in a new and different way, or I will do something new and different altogether. I will reset my purpose from temporal to eternal. I will reset my goal—not to be chasing after the things other people are chasing after, nor even chasing after the things I want to or think I should be chasing after, but to instead be chasing after the things God wants for me. This is my goal. This is my purpose. Your will be done, not mine.

I will reset my gaze from what I see now to what is beyond the now. He is good, and He does what is good. I will reset my heart to bow to His will. And I will reset the words running around in my mind and spilling off my tongue to be words of gratitude, praise, and worship. Yes, I am going to reset my mind on things above and not on things of this earth. And in another nineteen years, I am going to be celebrating again. But I am also going to be doing it all along the way until I arrive there.

Resets can be difficult, but the payoff is worth it. Refreshment will come. Peace will come. Joy, hope, and a powerful witness will come. The new day will bring new mercies. The new eyes will bring new hope. The new direction will leave a new legacy.

The new year, the new season, can start on any day of the calendar year. Reset your mind on Christ.

©Francee Strain, June 14, 2019