Debbie Blue – Consider the Birds [Feature Review]

December 27, 2013

 

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1426749503″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51qFADYDs4L._SL160_.jpg” width=”103″]Page 2: Debbie Blue – Consider the Birds

 
I could linger on this short passage for days and weeks, and still not be done ruminating on what it means for me and for my own journey as both a daughter and a mother. Consider the Birds is full of moments like this, in which you will want to both press forward and keep reading, while also wanting to pause to reflect on a surprising idea that she has just shared (which often has nothing to do with birds, per se).

 

(On a side note: if you are thinking there are no direct references to pelicans in the Bible, you’d be correct—Blue does not merely reference birds whose names appear in Scripture, but those that have been represented in church history as connected to Christian tradition in some way. Prepare to be surprised by some of these images; can you imagine singing, “Worthy is the pelican who has been slain?”)

 

But one of the most fascinating aspects of the book for me was Blue’s multiple references to the topic of power. As I write this, one of the current hot topics in the evangelical world is Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism incident, which has given rise to a number of commenters discussing the prevalence of current-day celebrity culture in Christianity, most notably Christianity Today executive editor Andy Crouch.

 

Coincidentally, Blue’s book was released just a couple of weeks before Crouch’s Playing God, but both authors touch on similar ideas about the nature of power. From Crouch’s book: “Love transfigures power. Absolute love transfigures absolute power. And power transfigured by love is the power that made and saves the world.” (Playing God, 45).

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In her book, Blue illustrates this absolute power of Jesus, the One who could choose to represent himself with any bird in all creation. “But out of all the dazzling colorful possibilities—he compares himself to a hen”: (171).

 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:37 RSV).

 

A hen! As a mother myself, I find myself comforted by this image; Jesus chooses to represent himself by a bird of domesticity and relative anonymity, one who cares less about how he is viewed in the eyes of the world and more about whether each of his chicks is taken care of, sheltered, and loved. What would evangelical Christianity look like if more of today’s “celebrities” aspired to a life of protecting and nurturing others instead of increasing their own popularity and perceived productivity? These are the kinds of cultural questions that Blue weaves throughout Consider the Birds. She writes, “What we need is love. All the posturing, the power-grabbing, the diminishing other people to make ourselves great—maybe it’s because we want to be loved…Jesus reveals God’s essential being: not power—but love.” (187).

 

Debbie Blue knows something about avoiding posturing. If you visit the website of her church, House of Mercy, you’ll see an invitation that shows no posturing or polish: “You should come. It’s not that bad.” Do not be fooled by humble title of Blue’s book. Consider the Birds is far more than a “provocative guide to birds of the Bible.” Yes, it is that, but it is also so much more, offering way more than what is promised. And I like that in a book.
 

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Helen Lee is the author of The Missional Mom. She is the homeschooling mom of three boys and the delighted curator of backyard birds too numerous to count in their Chicagoland home.