Monday, January 30, 2006

A House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus) in our garden

I love birds and watching them, but sadly we have probably the worst garden in Britain for birds. It is small and backs onto a small industrial estate in which there is often an ice cream warehouse and, sometimes, invisibly, a Ferrari. A reasonable species total for a typical suburban garden may range, I would say, between 20 and 30, but in 2.5 years, I have seen a mere 6 kinds of birds in our garden: a few house sparrows, a robin (maybe a couple of times), a wren (once), a pair of great tits (once), some long-tailed tits (once) and (very incredibly) a grey wagtail!!! - the latter when we had no grass on our lawn. We could have joined in the RSPB's Garden Birdwatch but I haven't seen a single bird in the back garden for months (since October 28th to be precise!)

The front garden is even smaller, and has only recently had a few birds when we have put some seed balls out. The photo shows a brave house sparrow in our bush (the house that is visible is a neighbour's) . And to our great joy, two blue tits joined in for a few minutes about a week ago!!

"Birds in our street" would probably be up around the 25-30 mark. There have been mistle thrushes occasionally, and even a linnet and a willow tit have made appearances! Slightly further afield, sparrowhawks can be seen every now and then zooming across the estate and, most special of all, I found a solitary waxwing last winter in a small tree within shouting distance of our house. Only the fourth time I've ever seen a waxwing.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I haven't died yet.

I am discovering that having a full-time job which involves staring at a computer screen all day, plus a baby and plenty of other responsibilities is not conducive to keeping a regular blog. If I knew that no-one read my blog then I wouldn't feel so bad, but now that my friends Mark and Dan have publicised its existence to the world, I suddenly feel a huge sense of responsibility!

Anyway, warm greetings to the both of you. And thanks for your comments! I have seriously loved reading both your blogs and I may post some comments about them on another occasion...

For now, my not-too-serious post title (intended to convey the continuing survival of this blog) reminds me that death is, in fact, an extremely serious matter. Let me briefly quote from John Piper some words that first impacted me deeply about 4 years ago:

Urging that preaching should be characterised by great seriousness and great joy, he writes,

"Direct your mind often to the contemplation of death. It is absolutely inevitable if the Lord tarries, and it is utterly momentous. Not to think on its implications for life and preaching is incredibly naive. [Jonathan] Edwards was the man he was - with depth and power (and eleven believing children!) - because of resolutions like these that he made as a young man:

"9. Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

"55. Resolved, To endeavor to my utmost, so to act, as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven and torments of hell.

"Every funeral I preach is a deeply sobering experience for me because I sit there before my message and imagine myself or my wife or sons or daughters in that coffin. Death and sickness have an amazing way of blowing the haze of triviality out of life and replacing it with the wisdom of gravity and gladness in the hope of resurrection joy."

[Piper, J. (2004, rev. ed.) The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books) pp.64-65

Or compare these words of Matthew Henry (in his Commentary), on Zechariah 1:5

"Ministers are dying men, and live not for ever in this world. They are to look upon themselves as such, and to preach accordingly, as those that must be silenced shortly, and know not which sermon may be the last... Oh that this weighty consideration had its due weight given it, that we are dying ministers dealing with dying people about the concerns of immortal souls and an awful eternity, which both they and we are standing upon the brink of!"

And these words are not just for preachers. If the trivialities of life have dulled your mind and blinded your eyes, wake up and remember that one day you will die and stand before God. If Christ does not return first "at an hour when you do not expect him." "Therefore keep watch" (Mat 24:44, 42)