Divorce, Grief, LEARNING JOURNEYS, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

JESUS LISTENED TO WOMEN ABUSED BY THE PATRIARCHIAL SYSTEM

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WOMEN HE REDEEMED

Jesus must have known and understood the abuse, lack of value and respect as well as the generational trauma that women had to endure, that was the result of the old system when he sought out the women whose stories are told in the New Testament. In his book “The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels, “ Frank Viola gives voice to these women’s stories from their perspective of living in the cultural context of that time. Although the stories have been fictionalized the context was thoroughly researched.

THE ADULTRESS

person s shadow so as not to identify the woman
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The woman ‘caught’ in adultery, had a back story too. Abused by her husband she was vulnerable to the plans of others. Nowhere do we hear of the man, because Jesus knew this was a ‘set-up’ job to trip him up. When you read this story, do you take then words at face value and not think about the person behind the words? Everyone has a back story, but women’s voices were silenced in the system they lived in, and they were vulnerable to the abuse of others.

THE SINFUL WOMAN

woman looking at mirror while applying lipstick
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“The ‘sinful woman (prostitute)’ who had entered into Simon the Pharisee’s house uninvited, while he was entertaining Jesus. She stood behind Jesus and broke open her alabaster jar of perfume anointing him, and with her tears and hair washed Jesus’ feet. What was her back story? As a rejected, abused, or single woman she had little choice in earning her living, but Jesus never condemned her he used her as an example of love and compassion to the hard-hearted, legalist Pharisees who had not washed his feet when he entered their house. When do we hold the shield of propriety and the Law as a shield to prevent people from encountering Jesus?

THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

brown and red wooden beads
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The Samaritan woman was yet another example of how a woman who had had unfortunate marital experiences was forced into further difficulties by the patriarchal system, that used women for their own ends. In using her back story Jesus was able to not only redeem her but use her to bring others to Him, a missionary to the Samaritans. Even his disciples were aghast that he should be sitting talking to a Samaritan woman alone. Jesus was willing to risk his reputation in front of his best friends to bring redemption to this woman.

THE WOMAN WITH THE ISSUE OF BLOOD

depressed patient against window in light hospital
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The woman with blood issues fell afoul of the purification laws that kept her isolated from others and in a poor and weak state of health. Her desperation led her to reach out to touch this Jesus she had heard about to help her when she was untouchable by anyone else in her society. I was so touched at the compassion of Jesus for this woman who was desperate. So many women live in desperate situations, which force them to act in ways that they would not need too if the laws and the judgements of others had compassion for their situation and helped them instead of isolating them.

MARY OF BETHANY

photo of woman wearing white dress
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Mary of Bethany’s story opened me to a completely new perspective on her. I had always considered her to be the ‘saint’ in the story as I had been told it. Her backstory was one of poor self-image and comparison to her siblings. Martha, her older sister was blessed with the gift of hospitality, as was her late mother. Lazarus, her brother, was a handsome and gregarious young man, and her father a man full of faith and goodness whom Jesus had healed of leprosy. Mary never felt she was enough, she felt an outsider, a thinker, the different one, only fit to mull over matters of the heart, with no gifts or talents that were useful or apparent. She broke convention sitting at Jesus feet as a woman, yet Jesus commended her as he could read her heart and knew she was near the Kingdom he was teaching the others about. She later generously used up her jar of spikenard perfume to anoint Jesus and was accused of being ‘wasteful’ by one of the disciples. For someone who had found their self-worth restored by Jesus, that was very hurtful.

three women smiling
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The different backstories on each of these women, that have been researched and brought into context of the times they were living in, although fictionalized still point to the very character of God and Jesus as being a supporter of the widows, the orphans, the aliens, oppressed and underprivileged. These women if they lived today would still more than likely be marginalized because of the systems that kept them in their circumstances, often play out into lives of women today. What systems can you think of that would affect these women today? Do you know of any women who have been unjustly treated because of their circumstances or the things that have been done to them? How can we be like Jesus to them?

These women if they had lived today would still more than likely be marginalized because of the systems that kept them in their circumstances, often play out into the lives of women today”

I have really enjoyed reading these books and listening to the sermons that have highlighted God’s compassionate redeeming love for abused and marginalized women. I have written reviews for both the books I have researched, if you wanted to read them for yourself. “Women of the Bible Speak Out” by Marlo Schalesky and “The Day I Met Jesus” by Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth.  The Sermons can be found on YouTube Christ City Church.

If you have not yet read the first part of this story it can be found here Jesus Listened to Women

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JESUS LISTENED TO THE WOMEN’S VOICES OF THOSE IN HIS GENEALOGY

women sitting on a wooden bench
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The sermon series run in our church during Advent highlighted the women in Jesus’ genealogy.  This is probably the first time I have heard these women being honored as part of Jesus genealogy. As I sat and listened to their stories, I wondered why I had not heard their point of view before. As an explorer of ideas and concepts, it struck me that preachers were generally male, the times the stories were written in were times of the patriarchal order and systems when women were not considered important other than to be breeders of children to carry on the male line. Being barren was the worst fate to befall a woman in those days. Women’s voices in general had been shut down or downplayed. Yet they carried the inner scars in the cells in their bodies and carried their generational trauma forward to the next generation.

a hijab woman leaning on the wall
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I then read a book on five women’s encounters with Jesus where their stories were told. Tears filled my eyes as I read of the compassion, lack of judgement and redemption for each of these women. At the same time, I felt He was redeeming the stories of the women in his genealogy, healing the generational trauma in their bodies, hearts, minds, and spirits. Jesus heard their cries for someone to listen to their story.

I will give a brief outline to the stories of the women in Jesus’ genealogy in this blog post and the stories of the five women that Jesus brought wholeness to in the following blog post as I want you to have time to think about these women and their back stories, how you viewed them in the past and what you may feel about them now you have viewed them from a different perspective.

BEFORE JESUS WAS BORN – HIS GENEALOGY

Tamar

a woman standing beside the coffin
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Tamar was a Canaanite woman that Judah married to first one son then another. When both sons died without progeny, Judah did not do what was demanded of him by the same custom as he married his sons to Tamar, to marry her to another son or find her a husband. She felt rejected and discarded, and her dignity stripped when Judah told her to go to her parents’ house and live as a widow. She used her own initiative with the only possibility open to her, that of a prostitute. Judah went to the prostitute and slept with her. The child born from that encounter was Perez, part of the genealogy of Jesus. I have never heard a sermon explain why Judah went to a prostitute! But he said, “She is more righteous than I,” eventually giving her the recognition that he should have done at first. Read the laws in Deuteronomy 25:5 and 26:12, Judah had broken both those laws as the Tamar was also a ‘stranger’ in the land.

Rahab

sexy ethnic prostitute in bdsm collar lying on bed and biting red strap
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Joshua sent two spies out to,” Go, look out the land,” They ended up in Jericho at a prostitute’s house! Now that part of the story was explained to me in the past: what were they doing there instead of looking out at the land! Yet, Rahab is part of the genealogy of Jesus she was the mother of Boaz. James said, “was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” By preserving the lives of the spies, for whatever reason she was a prostitute or that they were visiting her, she and her families’ lives were saved and she was considered righteous.

Ruth

woman wearing brown headdress
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Ruth was a Moabitess, immigrant foreigner. She was faithful to her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi. As widows they were destitute in the patriarchal system where only men could provide a living for a woman. Through her faithfulness to Naomi, they took the initiative, took an enormous risk to Ruth’s reputation to ask for marriage for Ruth to Boaz, calling on the same Deuteronomic laws of protection for widows. Yet, she found favor in both God and Boaz eyes, who took her as his wife. The women encouraged Naomi, “For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him [Obed] birth.” Obed became the grandfather of Kind David.

Bathsheba

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An innocent woman, taking her purification bath in her courtyard where she thought she had some privacy, was unaware of the lustful stare of King David whose palace overlooked her rooftop. She had no say in refusing the King when he sent for her. She was taken to his palace where he used her as he would. To hide his sin King David had her husband Uriah killed. Not only was Bathsheba raped, but her husband was also killed, and now she was a pregnant widow, probably the worst position a women could be in.

When Bathsheba heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. Once the time of mourning was over, David tried to rectify his sin and brough her to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son.”

When Bathsheba heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. Once the time of mourning was over, David tried to rectify his sin and brought her to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord, and although he repented, his family life was dysfunctional as a consequence. When David was dying his son Adonijah placed himself on the throne. Bathsheba went into King David to remind him he had sworn to her that Solomon his son will be king after him. She reminded him that she and Solomon would be treated as criminals once David died. David rectified the matter and placed Solomon on the throne. When Solomon acceded to the throne, he had a throne brought for his mother and Bathsheba sat as his right hand, in a position of power. God upheld her dignity in the terrible circumstances she was forced into.

women working together
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When you look at these women’s stories from a completely different perspective, you hear their cries for justice in a patriarchal system that marginalized them as human beings made in the image of God. You see the hand of God moving to vindicate them and bring them into a place where they are given justice and the honor of being part of the genealogy of Jesus.

Jesus must have known and understood this when he sought out the women whose stories I will share in my next blog. [ to be continued…..] 

I would love to have your comments on this perspective. You can respond in the What are Your Thought box.

If you are interested to hear the sermon series, it can be found on You Tube Christ City Church. The two books I have read and used as reference as well are “The Day I met Jesus” by Frank Viola and “Women of the Bible Speak out” by Marlo Schalesky

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10 THINGS LOCKDOWNS HAVE TAUGHT ME

I doubt that 2021 will go down in history as the best year ever for many people. It has been a long grinding year of wondering when this pandemic will be over and we can get back to normal again. Normal may have already happened for some of you, but for us living here in Washington DC, we have spent the last 18 months basically in isolation with few external trips for pleasure or necessity. I have lived and worked most of this time in an 8’x10′ space that serves as a bedroom, office, and studio. What lessons did I learn from this confinement?

1. Acceptance

Sometimes, there is nothing to be done to change your circumstances, so you must accept what is and then decide how best you can function and use the limited parameters within which you must work.

2. Fear vs. Safety

Do I need to know everything going on around me? We decided not to listen to the news anymore as the bad news got us down and was not good for our mental health. So many stories the media put out were fear-mongering. We could not change anything for anyone, so it was best to switch off from this constant stream of negativity.

3. Benefits of Online Shopping

A positive came in online shopping, a more organized approach to shopping. Making a list in the store app of things we were running low on or ran out of made shopping a breeze. We could either do a pick-up or home delivery once the no delivery charge threshold is met. There was no more being tempted by items put in the way of shoppers waiting at the till.

4. Healthy Eating

We soon learned to make our own delicious healthy meals and only had a take-out delivered when running low on time or ring the changes on a Friday night. We made our own bread and consequently ingested far fewer preservatives or additives.

5. Less Commute time.

Time and money spent on commuting were saved by working from home. Although this also required some adjustments to our routines, especially working across time zones, we had to make sure we got sufficient breaks. So, although working from home was positive, it also became necessary to manage the time spent working a bit better.

6. Need for Exercise

This really became apparent after sitting at a desk and not getting up to walk to the commute or shops etc. We made a concerted effort to take a walk around the block or several blocks most days, regular home yoga practice, and outdoor strength training with an instructor. To keep our motivation up (which was necessary at times), we participated in a few Online Sport challenges. I surprised myself by getting a medal for my age group to complete the course!

7. Need for Community

This is probably the biggest challenge of the pandemic, not being able to interact with your community, clubs, friends, church meetings, etc. Zoom meetings kept us going, but they indeed were a poor substitute for being able to see a person’s body language. Participation in group discussions was much more difficult. Yet, at the same time, it enabled us to embrace technology as a tool and adapt.

8. Need for friendships and connection.

I joined writing and artist groups and met some beautiful people I would not have done had I not been confined. You can choose your interest groups, and I have learned some fascinating things by joining Map, Art, and Culture Societies. I have tried to be more diligent in connecting with family and friends, some responded, and some didn’t.

9. Activities in confined spaces

Books I published over the year
Books

I had to look at the practical ways I could utilize my time and space to survive these past months. I could write and paint if the paintings or drawings were small enough to fit on my desk and choose mediums that were easy to manage in confined spaces. I also had time to meditate, read and learn. This allowed me to help other writers by reviewing their work or doing beta reading for them. I was able to expand my creativity and get to a deeper level of understanding of art and writing processes. I could also deconstruct past learning and beliefs and replace them with new enlightened thoughts and beliefs.

10. I can survive

When we are not challenged to draw on our inner resources, we become dependent on external things to make us happy. We have not built sufficient resilience to do what it takes to keep ourselves Safe, Happy, and Fit, mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Paintings I did over the year
Paintings

Surviving eighteen months of isolation and minimal contact with the outside world has been a time for inner reflection, drawing on the wells of inspiration and experience. I know that I have been able to survive and create despite everything that would have put me down in the past. Modern technology has been a blessing and, at the same time, a curse. I chose to hold onto the blessings which rewarded me with increased skills and connections with new friends. I had to let go of the expectations that I needed to be physically present to function in the world and do everything I would have done before.

When we emerge from this winter of isolation, may our roots have grown deeper to draw from that inner well, the knowledge, wisdom, and power inspired by the Holy Spirit to change our world. We will have built resilience to handle any further disruptions in our lives that we may yet encounter.

Deryn van der Tang

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CAN TECHNOLOGY PROVIDE THE REAL NEEDS OF OLDER PEOPLE?

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INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR OLDER PEOPLE

Elderly person using and iPad
to illustrate his capacity
Elderly man with iPad photo DvdTang

It is International Older People’s Day, and I wanted to highlight a few of the difficulties that older people and their families must contend with. This past year has seen the death of several older members of my family. This has been especially hard for our far-flung family, who have been scattered over the face of the globe. I know we are not the only family who has had to deal with this, as thousands of other immigrants will testify.

BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY

Elderly man with cup of tea with his community
Elderly man with cup of tea in his community. Photo dvdTang

Modern technology has been excellent in enabling families to remain connected, especially in times of trial. I have attended funeral services in South Africa, United Kingdom, and New Zealand while still here in the USA. Although this was such a boon, I still could not visit, hug, touch or say my own farewells. Distance, time, cost, and COVID protocols prevented that.

ELDER INCAPACITY DISADVANTAGES

Elderly woman reading her Bible, Can technology give spiritual direction?
Elderly woman reading her Bible. photo DvdTang

Yet there was also something else, my family member’s lack of capacity through dementia to engage with technology or even know who I was. Many older persons are frail and incapacitated in different ways. I was not able to attend my own mother’s funeral a few years back.  I had not been able to have a meaningful conversation with her for several years due to her lack of capacity to see, hear, or engage with even a phone call. When I said goodbye as I left the country, I knew it would be the last time I saw her and made my farewell as meaningful as possible.

INHUMANE IMMIGRATION POLICIES

Elderly lady enjoying an afternoon of arts and crafts
Arts and Crafts afternoon in Community. Photo DvdTang

This is the price our African Diaspora generation had had to pay when we were scattered after politics destroyed our home country and we no longer felt safe or could survive there. It is also the story I have heard from many other immigrants from other countries who have had to flee. They have had to leave the elderly behind, as their new countries make it nigh on impossible to bring an older person with them. They then have to survive in their new country and send funds back home to care for their elderly. Good care that can be bought to provide for our elderly cannot replace the loving family that left them behind.  These are some of the tough choices that must be made for survival in a disrupted world.

ACCESSIBILITY AND SAFETY IN THE DIGITIZED WORLD

Elderly lady taking a biscuit break in community
Enjoying a tea break during the Craft afternoon. photo DvdTang

How great if technology was affordable and easy to use and sufficient safety measures put in place to help the elderly remain connected to their families, even if they are elsewhere, but this just does not help at all when a person’s capacity has diminished. Families have to work so hard and such long hours to take care of themselves, there is often little time or energy left over to contact and chat with their elderly, leaving the void that scammers are aware of. Older people are also targets of scammers, knowing their vulnerability and loneliness. Older people can still contribute to the economy if they can continue working at a pace more suited to their capacity. Here is where the digital world can make a positive difference if older people can learn to thrive with their digital skills, communicate, and access help when required.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND IMMIGRATION POLICIES

happy elderly women sitting at table with coffee in a retirement home
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

What is the solution? Not more technology, but better immigration policies that allow families to stay together. Affordable housing with sufficient space for three generations to live together. Housing for life, built with adaptions that can assist in keeping both the elderly and the children safe during the parents’ workday. The cost of housing is so high that both people must work, even second jobs, leaving very little time for taking care of their elderly, which should have been a priority. Policies that are detrimental to family life, insufficient vacation time off, low wages. Lack of recognition for educational and professional status received in another country, expensive healthcare, just to name a few.

CAN TECHNOLOGY PROVIDE THE BASIC HUMAN NEEDS?

people in airport, families can travel and immigrate togethertogether
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Can technology provide the basic needs of all people? Will society thrive, and the elderly have their needs met by technology? Their primary need for care, safety, and security will be met by belonging to their families and neighborhoods. Technology can assist in that but not replace the personal touch and care that is needed to thrive. Technology does not have a value system; it is merely a tool. Until we value people, provide the care, they require and keep family units together by allowing the elderly to emigrate with their children. No technology will replace the family and neighborhood system of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself.’ For society and families to thrive, adequate and affordable housing with a balanced work/lifestyle and connected community is required.

SPIRITUAL LAWS

Old lady praying, technology cannot provide the spiritual connection people need
Old lady praying. Photo DvdTang

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2) To see what real community and specialized care for the elderly can look like visit Pilgrim Friend Society #UNIDOP2021

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Why Inflexible Doctrine Divides, and how Love can Bind

St Paul’s, Bedford

I have long pondered why there is so much division in religion and in Christianity in particular, when everyone reads the same Bible. A lot of it is what doctrines people believe about the Scriptures, whether they are divinely inspired or a set of inerrant laws to be followed. Parables and stories are often used to explain tricky questions, so here is a little story to illustrate what I mean.

THE PARABLE OF THE EAGLE AND THE OAK TREE

COMMUNION OF THE SAINTS

There was an old oak tree that grew on the boundary of the churchyard and a field. The oak tree had been standing for centuries; in fact, it was standing when George Whitefield had preached in this very field on one of his itinerant journeys to preach to groups of working-class people. The oak tree grew strong and tall, its roots deeply embedded in the soil, drawing nutrients up into the branches and grounding it to endure the wind and storms that beat upon it every year.

St Paul’s Square, Bedford

The church building with its weathered stone and square tower had stood from the Norman invasion. The bones of generations of people lay under the tilting gravestones in the churchyard. People who had lived loved and walked in the shade of the oak tree. They had sat in the church pews to learn about God.  Many changes occurred as who had stood in the pulpit, monks, and abbots as they taught their flock about God. Some people listened to John Bunyan, a Puritan and non-Conformist preacher, and others, John and Charles Wesley, who preached from this pulpit.

TRADITION

The sun filtered through the stained-glass windows onto the lectern inside the church.  It was in the form of a golden eagle with its wings outspread. On its wings rested the Word of God, the Bible. This had been updated with the times. It had once held parchment hand-scribed pages, faithfully copied by the monks. In 1611 it was replaced by the King James Bible, and since then, newer translations have been held on the eagle’s outstretched wings.

Brass Eagle Lectern – photo Christies Catalogue

Outside sitting in the branches of the oak tree, were some birds. They chattered and quarreled over which bough to roost on. There were already several nests in the tree.

The golden eagle flew overhead. “This is my tree,” he said to the birds, looking down,” Any birds that hear me crying out and listen to the words I say are welcome to roost here. There are only two rules. One is to love me and the other is to love each other. My tree provides you with safety, and gives you the opportunites to look after each other. All you have to do is follow the instructions written in my book.”

THE WORD

Each flock of birds had its own copy of the book. Foreign birds had flown in from abroad, so their book was written in a different language, but the instructions meant the same. Other birds had different editions of the book – the words were not the same, but the directions of the golden eagle to love him and each other were the same. So whichever version of his book you read, the eagle had made sure that his message that he loved all birds was the same.

King James Bible 1629 – photo digital commons- Cedar University

The birds often met together to read the book and discuss what the words meant. They also loved to sing with the voices they had been given. Some sang with a lovely trill, others cawed or had a soft chirp, but the sound they made together was an excellent dawn chorus in praise of the golden eagle. They loved to do this, as this was one reason they decided to build their nests in the eagle’s tree.

DISPUTES OVER DOCTINE

Over time, some birds started picking the words in the book to pieces; they would sit on a branch and argue over what a particular word meant.

“Our book is the original and best book,” said the warblers. If someone did not agree with them, they pecked them and told them to go and sit on another branch.

man raising his right arm
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

The oak tree listened to the birds as they hopped from branch to branch, arguing over the meanings of the instructions. Those that sat on lower limbs would discuss what they understood about particular instructions. Each group started to chase away the birds that disagreed with their interpretation until there were different groups of birds on just about every branch of the tree, all with different opinions. While the birds argued over the exact details of what the eagle meant, they forgot about the two rules, loving the eagle, and loving each other.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Luke 10:27

The eagle was most dismayed when he saw what was going on in the nests and branches. “They just don’t get it,” he said to himself, “my instructions are not about the words and what they mean, they are about the actions, and how the birds must live.”

tilt shift photo of two white bird eggs on a nest
Photo by Mauriciooliveira109 on Pexels.com

CRISIS PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE FAITH

The following spring was cold and bleak: weeks of rain making life miserable for the birds. The north winds blew in a severe storm. One dark night, lightning struck one of the ancient limbs of the oak tree; it was gnarled and weakened from the winter storms. The branch broke off with a thud knocking the birds’ nests onto the ground, smashing eggs, and leaving the birds squawking in dismay.

Some birds on the unaffected side of the tree snuggled closer into their warm nests, ignoring the cries of dismay below them. “Silly birds, they should not have moved to that branch,” they muttered to themselves as they kept their eggs warm and snuggled even deeper into their nest.”

black leafless tree
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Other of the birds whose nests were safe shuffled around in their nests feeling a bit discomforted, but fluffed their wings and settled down again, “that’s life, I guess you were just unlucky, not one of the elect.” They blocked their ears to the cries of their brother birds.

The eagle flew past again, checking to see what would happen. Had the birds really taken to heart the instructions in his book?  “Yes, there was some movement down there.”

LOVE IS AN ACTION

The swallow seeing so much mud around, said, “I can make a few houses in the eaves of the church building, just hold on a bit, while I get the mud and pack it,” so off he went busying himself making as many nests as he could, inviting the other swallows to help him.  Soon there was a small colony of nests built under the eaves of the entrance porch of the church. The birds whose nests had been broken went searching for soft sheep’s wool and plants to line their new mud homes so they could move in. As they thanked the swallows, the golden eagle alit on the oak tree and smiled. Some of the birds had understood his instructions. He then flew into the building and settled down again with his wings open, holding up the Word of God.

Swallows Nests
Swallows nests – photo Bird-B-gone , no copyright infringement intended

The oak tree continued to watch over new generations of birds, making their nests and people resting in its shade. The scar of where the branch broke off could still be seen as a big weal on its trunk, healed but making it vulnerable to rot. The golden eagle still sits with its outspread wings inviting people to read the instructions to love God and love their neighbor.

Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young— Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God.” Psalm 84:3