9th August 2011

On A Wing And A Prayer

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10:29-31 (KJV)

My family and I live in a rural area, and we are quite used to wildlife. We have a wood burner in our lounge.  One day a long scratching slithering sound, from up the chimney startled me.  I discovered a bird had slipped on the chimney pot and dropped in for an uninvited, and certainly unintended, visit. 

So what to do?  Let me invert the saying ‘What goes up has to come down’!  There seemed no possibility at all of extracting the feathered friend any further downwards, because a circular metal flap that regulates the draw of the burner was firmly blocking any further drop even when rotated to its vertical position. Apparently back up was the only option. 

The RSPCA (yes we did ring them) suggested a brush on a pole might encourage a vertical exit, but chimney sweeps use vacuum cleaners these days.  I carefully manoeuvred my head inside the burner and shone the torch up. A plump Magpie looked down, obviously agitated (your imagination will tell you how I knew). The family and I all felt that every option had been considered and even closed off before we even thought of them, so Magpie would have to perch on the flap and decline and die in sooty darkness  🙁 

“OK, when all else fails, try prayer…” Should it not have been my first response? Yes. “It won’t work,” I said to myself, “we’ve tried everything. Bird can’t go up and bird can’t come down. It’s too fat and it’s also too scared to grab. We’ve thought of all the options.” Except prayer of course. So I knelt down and asked for help: “Compassion must lead to action” I thought. 

Scriptures started to come to mind as they do when we fix our attention on the Bible, which says God sees sparrows fall. None fall to the ground (or down a chimney) without God knowing.  OK – Magpies are a little larger than sparrows, but God takes care of all His Creation. 

I picked up a flexible metal stick with a small grab and upended myself once more with my head wedged inside the wood burner, carefully looking up. Magpie looked at me. I looked at Magpie. Nope, quite impossible. But hadn’t I just prayed? Bird had retreated further up the flue and further out of my reach. “Sorry Lord” I said to myself, not wishing to either be disappointed or doubt the impossible. 

(Now, I appreciate you’re ahead of me, as you well know what is going to happen, but please be patient and let me tell it in my own breathless way.) “OK” I said to myself, “Stretch up as far as you can, and poke.”.  So I poked. Magpie slithered down about a foot. I quickly opened the prong grab and caught the right leg. The end clip held, Magpie struggled and was in a flap, but before I knew it bird was out, slipping down one side of the now vertical metal flap. Although birds look quite plump it’s only the feathers that give them that bigger appearance. I held my feathered friend and we eyed each other. Wow, now I really did feel guilty about doubting what prayer can do. 

I confess I had some tears. I’m not quite sure why but probably from a combination of events:
*The suddenness of a result (less that a minute) from what I had considered the impossible.
*The saving of a little life.
*The witness to my family whom I had informed of the prayer (‘last resort’: and I’m not proud of that.)
*The feeling of God’s closeness and my certainty He was involved. Hadn’t the Bible told me of his concern for little birds as well as the galaxies?
*The opportunity to share this little story with you for your encouragement. 

We opened the window and released Magpie, the white bib dulled with soot. It fled the scene without so much as looking over its wing. So what are some of the lessons have I learned?
*Put God first.
*Have compassion for suffering.
*Have the awareness that much as God loves birds; we are of more value than a squadron of Magpies. 

Thank you, God, that you care for all of your creation, even the smallest bird.  Help us to be like you and exercise compassion, never doubting your love.

Study by Tony Goudie

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