Sparrows look alike. I can distinguish male from female due to distinctive markings, but not individuals amongst dozens lining the rafters of a milking parlor.
There are two exceptions. Sparrows are creatures of habit. In this case, the habit is the location where they roost inside the parlor structure. Stretching across the milking parlor pit, about six inches below the ceiling, is a small cable along which slides a tarp used to keep warmth from escaping between twice-daily milking shifts. Slide the tarp open. Wait patiently with occasional glances over the next 20 minutes. There he is. Asaph.
I don’t know where he’s been, but he always shows up, day or night.
If there’s milking going on, Asaph shows. Doesn’t matter who’s milking that shift, he shows. Asaph’s got rhythm.
I call him Asaph because, during a six-hour milking shift, he chirps out birdsong praise that pierces heaven. Yes, I know. Sparrows are worthless (except in the eyes of God). But to me, sparrows are sacred precisely because, to most, they go unnoticed. Yet they splendidly declare the glory of God as individual’s part of something grander like a choir or a symphony. I could think of no one besides David, a name too common for this occasion, more skilled in uttering praise than David’s co-psalter, Asaph.
I started my own little rhythm, a little liturgy. I catch a shadowy movement out of the corner of my eye. Asaph silently glides past to ascend to his roosting/praising perch. I grab the tattered, iodine-stained church bulletin from Sunday’s service out of my back pocket, greet Asaph a good and fine morning, and ask him to join me in reading the Psalm printed in the God Calls Us section. Asaph always nods approvingly, rearranges a few feathers on the black napkin which garbs his upper chest, and interprets my English phrases into bird-praise.
I mentioned there were two exceptions to my sparrow ID limits. After a month of noticing Asaph’s methodical visits to the cable perch, I spotted a female companion joining him. Sparks sizzled between them. I feared this new acquaintance might whisk Asaph away to her perch in another part of the barn, but Asaph remained resolute. His little rhythm of “showing up” was undeterred.
Joining him, with grace and devotion, was this new little tweeter I call Miriam.
Moses’s sister Miriam, you recall, led the women in song and praise with tambourines as the sea closed over Pharaoh’s chariots. Now Miriam, arrayed in a traditional feathered gown, sings forth praises in the same tradition.
Beneath the cable perch is a silver-dollar-sized hole in a rusted tin structure enclosing pipes near the ceiling. Voilà, the perfect entrance for a nest. For over 2 years, during “special sparrow seasons” in both Spring and Fall, I’ve watched Miriam and Asaph’s relationship blossom. Asaph and Miriam got rhythm.
Their procreation instincts make this cowboy blush.
Next, their duel-effort nest construction begins. They masterfully weave wheat straw, abundant in a barn, tiny twigs, and curiously, shreds of royal blue baling-twine strands into a shell. Finally comes the lining of soft, fluffy down plucked from deep places hidden beneath shielding feathers.
Miriam disappears for 12 days to incubate the 4 eggs stashed in the hidden refuge. Sometimes, I see her quickly pop out of the nesting hole and wing-bump Asaph, her tag-team partner. Asaph wriggles his way into the hole to warm the eggs while Miriam quenches her thirst. Once the small, dull-white and brown, mottled eggs hatch, the two of them begin a steady convoy of worm delivery to the triangular beaks eagerly protruding from the hole in the tin.
Let the flourishing begin!
Take a Deep Breath of Remember: We need a rhythm inventory. What rhythms, what habits of remembering can we weave into our schedule to enable us to glorify God and enjoy Him forever? Our rhythms reveal our loves. They shape us. Sometimes unknowingly. Are there rival habits or rhythms competing for our supreme love?
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17, NIV)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I feel the strong pull toward loves that promise fulfillment but leave me empty. Forgive my wayward heart. Turn me toward You, my supreme love. By your grace, become so beautiful to me that my highest desires burn for You. Amen.
5 thoughts on “Asaph and Miriam Got Rhythm”
Loved this one…. “wing bump”!
Mary Ann, Funny! Thanks for noticing that one. Makes me think my title should have been “Sparrow Wing-Bump.” Ron
On Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 10:29 AM, Barnyard of Heaven wrote:
This is beautiful, RonI Wonderfully written… humor, nature lesson, wisdom, and a little Holy Spirit conviction all baked into a delightful bit of manna that I’ve been meditating on since you first posted it.
I love these scenes you paint from your everyday life, Ron!
I picture you in a milk barn standing up to take a break in the middle of the morning milking and ceremoniously straightening your overalls. Then, pulling out last weeks Sunday Bulletin, now worn and stained, you carefully smooth it flat and raise it in front of you and take your pose as a distinguished conductor. Meanwhile, across the parlor, the sparrows have gathered. One sparrow in particular, Asaph, a veteran stage-ham, strides forward as an eccentric Italian tenor, straightens his black tie, and squares his wings. You raise your arm for dramatic effect and for a moment there is silence… then in some telepathic signal between you and Asaph, you open your oratory with a Biblical Psalm and Asaph belts out pure crystal notes from the rafters that ring through the whole barn.
Norman Rockwell himself could not have made a more home-spun and hilarious picture!
You also jogged loose a few bits of memories… A line from a hymn first learned in my childhood:
“…This is my Father’s world, The birds their carols raise, The morning light, the lily white, Declare their Maker’s praise!”
Many years ago I saw a Christian video series about Creation Science. In one section they spoke about experiments that showed corn grew taller when there were bird songs around them. Further research continued as I found in OriginalSonicBloom.org. They showed that when bird-song frequencies are played, the plants open their “mouths” (stoma) and grow faster. Perhaps plants are opening their mouths and answering back with plant-song but in a way or tempo that our senses do not detect.
Fast-forward to my wondering conclusion… The wonderful morning song of birds – in the last minutes of darkness when the shadows of the night flee from the dawn it seems ALL the birds ALL at once start singing. Before the birds leave their nest and start their day and begin the labors of gathering food, they first sing praise to their Creator. And perhaps that morning song of bird-praise is a ministry to all of God’s creation around them. If morning bird-praise makes plants grow faster and more healthy, perhaps bird-praise makes cows, people, and everything else grow and be more healthy.
The wisdom of the sparrow that I found in your story, Ron… Before the birds begin their daily labors, they first give praise and thanksgiving to their Maker. Their praise not only blesses God and themselves, but is also a ministry of blessing and healing to everyone around them. If we just had the wisdom of a sparrow and realized the power that our mouths in speaking God’s Word and singing His praise had on the creation around us that Adam was given authority over.
The “Barnyard of Heaven” seems to be a bit of heaven on earth for all the creatures that dwell there. The morning is begun with praise and thanksgiving to the Creator. The Word of God declared out loud by a child of God. A godly man walks the length and width of the portion of royal lands he is steward over in constant prayer and communion with his Holy Father. The land is blessed.
In learning from your message, Ron. I stopped listening to the news from the radio while driving to work and put in a praise CD instead – to start my day with song and thanksgiving. And to walk the length and width of where I work with a song of praise in my heart and the meditation of His Word on my lips so that the land I trod will be blessed.
This Is My Father’s World
This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
The wisdom of a sparrow!
Robert, thanks for your kind feedback and for sharing about connections you are making to memories and natural beauty.
Thanks for helping me see the relationship between birdsong and plant growth. It’s so rich with metaphor and puts me in awe of “My Father;s World.”
What a hymn! What a Father! Earth’s crammed with heaven. I’m glad to share a kindred spirit with Robert Jolly and Maltbie Davenport Babcock (author of hymn). I’ll be using the line “In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass” in a new post soon.
I appreciate your observation that all birds seem to usher in the dawn with birdsong praise. Because I am working often during those hours I get to see it over and over. I’m convinced they know it’s their job to praise the sun up over the horizon each morning.
I have ID’d a new sparrow couple based on their roosting patterns. I’ve dubbed the male “Heman the Ezrahite” after a praise expert Psalmist. Any suggestions for a name for the female? Perhaps a biblical female praise expert?
Most exciting to me was your sharing about switching from the rhythm of news to praise. I want my readers to hear my barnyard stories and try to find ways to make shifts like that in their environment toward noticing God’s Presence.
That’s why I write. I value your encouragement.