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His Eye Is On the Sparrow
by Jerry Rasmussen
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Joy to the world the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room
And heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and nature sing
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing

Joy to the World

Nature sings. The whole earth rejoices in the goodness of the Lord. It is no surprise that people play the sounds from nature to calm their hearts and give them rest. Nature has been the inspiration for many great symphonies and works of art. Judy Garland sang longingly out of the desire of her heart to fly over the rainbow and in the process won the hearts of millions of people.

Birds fly over the rainbow, why then oh why can’t I?

Somewhere over the Rainbow – music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg

King David expressed his longing to dwell in the courts of the Lord, envying the lowly sparrows and swallows who made their homes in its altars.

My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out to the living God

Yea, the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars
Psalm 84 2,3 KJV

Like the lilies of the field, birds have always been admired for their beauty and for their freedom, not being tied to the ground like mortal man. They soar to heights not imagined at the time of Christ. Maya Angelou wrote of free birds and why the caged bird sings.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Nature holds a wonder that far surpasses anything that science can teach us. And as often happens, the beauty of God’s creation is best seen through the eyes of a child.

It was a beautiful early summer morning and the kids came tumbling into the room sparking energy like a downed power line. I was teaching a nature class for five year olds at the museum and nature center where I was working and I’d promised the kids that I’d take them on a trip out to the swamp. They’d been looking forward to it and were raring to go.

“Are we going out to the swamp, today, Mister Razznewton?” one of the kids asked.

Some of the kids had trouble wrapping their tongue around my name.

“We sure are!: I answered.

“Before we go out, though, I want everyone to settle down for a minute. You’re not going to see anything if you’re this noisy!”

“Today we’re going to talk about bird songs, and when we get out to the swamp, if you’re completely quiet, and cut out the wiggling, I’ll try to call a bird and get him to come to us.”

Does anyone know why birds sing?

“Because they’re happy?” one of the kids asked hesitantly.

“No,” I answered. Most of the time, they’re saying “This is my place, and if you got any ideas about moving in on my territory, you’re in for a fight!”

When the kids started laughing I asked them, “If some strange kid came into your yard and started messing around with your bike, wouldn’t you start yelling at him to get out of your yard?” they chimed in, “Sure!” Well, that’s what birds do. And when you hear a bird singing, it’s a male. The females are the quiet ones.” The little girls liked that. The other reason why male birds sing is to attract females. They like to sit up on a high branch with the sun shining on their breast and sing at the top of their little bird lungs. They are a lot like rock singers. If they hear another bird singing, they’re going to investigate and if the bird is on their property there’s going to be a fight.” I had gotten the kids attention, and they sat quietly, waiting for the moment when we’d head out to the swamp.

It was a five minute walk through the woods to the swamp and the kids were uncharacteristically quiet. Most people, when they go for a walk in the woods, talk a blue streak and make so much noise that the woods seems dead to them. On this day, we walked in silence and the woods seemed alive with sounds and smells. We were like explorers set out to discover a familiar world.

As we walked along, I quietly rehearsed what we were going to do. We’d sit on a log from a fallen tree that was camouflaged by spice bushes. Sitting there, we’d be hidden but still be able to look out onto the swamp..Once we were settled down and completely quiet, I’d try to call a bird to us. I’d done this many times when I sat on that log eating lunch. I’d been successful in calling a bird over to within a few feet of me, but I didn’t have ten wiggly five year olds sitting next to me on the log.

After we’d settled in, the kids sat quietly as we listened for a bird call. We didn’t have to wait long. A song sparrow called out his chirrupy song from across the small swamp, and he went unchallenged until I answered him with my best song sparrow imitation. We sat there waiting, to see if I’d get a response. Sure enough, after a brief pause, he called again, this time sounding a little closer. Each time he’d call, I’d answer him and every time he’d moved closer until we finally could see him. Somewhere along the line the kids had stopped breathing. Finally, he flew over toward us and sat on a branch no more than six feet away from us, just over our heads. He fluffed his feathers, stuck out his chest and let out his most ferocious call, glaring down at me. I answered him right back. He seemed a little confused by then. He’d never seen a song sparrow like me, and he was not impressed with my singing. He gave one more defiant call, and sat there with a self-satisfied air, as I made a feeble attempt to imitate him. Meanwhile, the kids were about to pass out from holding their breath. When it became obvious to mister song sparrow that I was no threat to him as a singer, or a potential suitor for his mate, he turned around, flipped up his little tail dismissively and flew off. A couple of minutes late he was back at his old post, singing out a warning.

Finally, I told the kids it was alright to breathe. It was time to head back to the nature center, but no one wanted to leave. They were still mesmerized by the experience.

Walking back through the woods, a little girl walked beside me, lost in the moment. Looking up at me she said wistfully, “Mister Rasmussen, I could stay out in the woods with you forever.

Thinking back on all that I had said about why birds sing, I felt that I had missed something. I know that birds sing to protect their territory. All wild animals stake out their turf. Dogs do it by hosing down every tree and fence post in sight. Birds don’t have the bladder for that, so they sing. Many animals besides birds use bright colors to attract a mate. But there’s more than that. Birds sing the sun up every morning. I’ve never heard a valid scientific explanation for that. The little boy who hesitantly answered my first question by saying that birds sing because they are happy may have the best explanation. All heaven and nature sing at the goodness of God.

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me

His eye is on the sparrow words and music by Charles H. Gabriel

I have the feeling that God was sitting on the end of that log, watching us. I bet He had a wonderful time.

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