Winter Pounces

Advent is perfectly placed in the liturgical and meteorological calendar. It provides a natural faith lesson. Jesus says, “Stay awake! Be ready!”

This was a winter arrival to test readiness. The sheep were grazing on lush grass right up to December 3. Then winter pounced like a deep darkness burglar on December 4. The weatherman predicted a few inches, and nine fell. With the fat flakes falling I was hoping our friend would retrieve his bunch that were grazing with mine, and he finally arrived pulling a huge trailer. The friend and Connie and I worked as briskly as we could to do the last minute tweaking to the feeders, spread the straw, fill the water trough, sort off his sheep, load them and send them off. Then good old, dependable Nell helped me get the ram and wether to their places and our ewes into theirs, with their feed and fresh water.

None too soon. Dark and more snow were closing in. And one more black mark against me in the readiness department, I realized I had not cleared two medium sized trees I had cut from near the porch on the barn, and one of them was well covering my blade that I put on the rear of the tractor to plow. So we had to hire someone to do our plowing for the first big (surprise) snowfall.

Since those nine inches we have had about eight more the last couple of days, and plummeting temperatures. There had only been hints of frost right up to December 3, but I don’t think it has been above freezing in the nine days since. And temperatures will be well below zero much of the time this coming week.

One more thing to note about winter. We feed the birds. We have a biggish feeder we fill with a wild bird mix, another with sunflower seeds, and a suet holder. But through the years our colony of house sparrows that live in the barn, and more and more in our garage, has grown and grown through the years. Every time I look out at the feeders there is a crowd of at least 100 of these sparrows–these mice with wings.

It is getting very hard to sing, “All things bright and beautiful…the Lord God made them all…” as we watch the sparrow hoards devour the wild bird feed. We have already gone through an entire 50 pound bag of the stuff in less than a week, and I don’t think we can keep up with the expense, especially when the birds muck up all the horizontal surfaces of the barn, and have taken a liking to a huge nest they have built right over our car in the garage.

And we are feeding them at quite an expense.

Yes, the Lord God made them all. Yes a sparrow cannot fall to the ground that the Lord doesn’t accompany it. But we do have to find some balance here. I have hoped for a nice, voracious owl–one that the Lord God made as well, to set up shop in one of our lovely trees.

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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