Personal Notes from Mike
  • A little grouchy this morning about losing that hour of sleep last night to Daylight Savings Time.  But I'll be over it in a few days.  
  • Mindy's play is at the end of this week. WCIA TV in Champaign featured a preview of a scene she is in.  You can watch it if you CLICK HERE.
  • Reading Fredrik Backman's novel, A Man Called Ove.  Enjoying it.  (It is my second Sweedish novel this year.)  I agree with one reviewer who called the main character a cross between Ron from "Parks and Recreation" and the old man in the animated movie "Up."
  • Jie and I will head north to visit daughters' families on Wednesday, then back Saturday for Mindy's play.
  • My parents arrive home tonight from several weeks in Texas, their winter get-away.
  • Getting more materials added to my website each week:  sermons, old Sunday Letters, papers, etc.  You can check it out HERE

March 12, 2017
Two Birds in the Bush are Better Than One in My Hand
No one saw the blackbird fly in the church.  But after a couple days of dive-bombing our members, it was a time to show some decisive leadership.  So I called Jim, our building manager, whose job description (item 28) reads, " and whatever else needs done." Then, based on the authority conferred on me in my ordination, I solemnly commissioned him to get the bird out of the building.  

He made some progress at first, managing to corral the critter in my study and open a window for escape.  But instead of the trouble-maker flying out, another bird flew in.  By the time Jim arranged to shoo the second bird back out the window, he was out of time to work on the first bird:  another pressing job needed done.  So he called me to report that if I wanted the first bird gone, it was going to take a while.  There was an edge in his voice.  Didn't hurt the bird's feelings, but I got the message:  The bird was in my office, not his.  And since  my job description also includes the line,  "and whatever else needs done," it appeared as though it was my turn. Jim did put a sign on my door that read, "Loose bird inside: do not enter."
I wasn't too worried though.  Dora (my administrative assistant) and Jordan (my assistant pastor) were due in the next morning. And if I got to them first thing...before anyone else gave them something to do...  It surely wouldn't hurt the bird to stay in the church another night until the two of them could arrive to catch it.  Plus, their job descriptions also include "and whatever else needs done."  

But it turns out that Jordan and Dora both called in with the stomach flu the next morning.  (I suspect it was some form of the bird I have never before had two staff members out on the same day with the same disease.)  

So, I had to haul myself down to the church early that day and get rid of the pest on my own.  And I had to be quick:  the Tuesday prayer meeting was due to gather in my study within the hour, and I knew that this particular bird would not be conducive to proper piety.
By the time my prayer group got there, I had worked up a sweat, but still not caught the bird.  He had gotten stuck in the cold air return vent.  So, with my earnest prayer warriors standing by with brooms, I unscrewed the grill of the vent and slapped a box down on him when he fluttered out.  Success!  

But it was a box for files, the kind with hand-holes cut in the side so you can pick it up.  The bird, of course, flew out a hand-hole and then crawled behind the file cabinet.  So, I pushed the file cabinet out of the way and the bird flew toward the window that wouldn't open.  It had opened a crack after I had nearly given myself a hernia trying to jostle it.  And it was into this crack that the bird stuck its beak, praying to escape.  

Meanwhile, my prayer partners, still armed with brooms, were fervently praying it would not fly at them.  And thus the bird reposed, exhausted.  Quickly I commandeered a kitchen towel, wrapped the bird in swaddling cloth, and released him out the open window.  He flew away.  

The prayer group spontaneously broke out in a rendition of "I'll Fly Away."  And then we prayed for those who had the flu.  I'll confess:  my prayers for Jordan and Dora might have been a bit half-hearted at that point.  But they both I feel no guilt.
Afterward, when there was time to reflect on it all, I thought of that melodic hymn, Morning Has Broken, with its first stanza, "Morning has broken, like the first morning, blackbird has spoken, like the first bird."  

The lyrist, Eleanor Farjeon, was clearly not referring to a wild bird gotten loose in her house.  Otherwise Hymn #145 might have been "Sing a Song of Sixpence," with its second couplet, "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie."  

Being a preacher, I am always wondering whether God is trying to tell me something.  Searching the Bible for blackbirds...I came across doves, ravens, sparrows, eagles, storks, partridges, turtledoves, owls, quail, ostriches, pigeons, and chickens.  But no blackbirds. 

Perhaps the divine message is tucked away in Proverbs: "Like a bird who strays from its nest is a man who strays from home."  Or maybe I should meditate on that comment of Jesus made when he noted that the provisions God grants the birds are miniscule compared to what God conjures for humans. Those are worthy reminders.  Lucky as birds seem to be, God has blessed us humans even more.  

But I think I'll go for another Proverb: "In vain a net is spread in the sight of any bird."  This bird's brain is the size of a jellybean, yet he still managed to elude my Tuesday Prayer Warriors and half my staff.  

Frustrated as I was, I didn't want to hurt the bird, only help him escape.  But I was only able to do some good after he was worn out from a two-day tizzy, flapping about the church.  

So maybe the moral of the story is this:  the next time you see anyone working up a lather (over politics, religion...anything) just let them buzz and flap about till they wear out.  Only then will you be able to set them straight, or free, or whatever you want to do.  Lord have mercy.  --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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