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Home, Sacred, Home

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O God of hosts, my Sovereign and my God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. ~ Psalm 84:3-4

Clearly, Chimney Swifts don’t require chimneys to nest in, just like Barn Swallows don’t require barns. Likewise, House Sparrows and House Finches get their names from their affinity to share our abodes with us. All of these birds can and do nest in natural structures, they just found that adapting to human development worked for them. Individual birds often return to the same area each breeding season, but few choose the same location year after year. Like these species that changed from nest in the wild to nesting among us, most bird pairs not only build a new nest every year, they move it around. Surely this is designed to avoid making life easy for predators, who would be content to visit last year’s site and just wait for the meal to arrive, sort of like delivering take out.

These tiny houses are sometimes sloppy or simply a hollowed out bit of soil, but more often than not they are engineering marvels, and sometimes quite ornate or decorative. Baltimore Orioles weave hanging baskets, Blue Jays are known to add shiny, colorful items to their nests, and White-breasted Nuthatches regularly rub a bit of fir from some unsuspecting mammal around the entrance to their nest cavity. All these practices can be explained by the practical purposes they serve, but we might see them as rituals that add meaning. At least for us humans, they appear to be the equivalent of buying a new broom when moving to a new home, or smudging the space with burning sage. We seek meaning by creating sacred spaces.

Unlike the birds, we tend to pick a particular spot or two to call holy. Then we put a lot of energy into maintaining it. Sometimes those efforts end up limiting the time and resources we might otherwise spend reaping the benefit of being in the sacred space. Maybe the birds can teach us to find the sacred in multiple places, most especially in the spaces where we regularly go. The wisdom of some cultures is to have shrines and altars in the home. This way, you can steal a holy moment when you have a second. It really doesn’t have to take much to create the space, since the beauty is in the meaning. Any simple object that helps to ground you can nurture your spirit. Put a few of them together in a place where they won’t be disturbed, and, voila! You’ve created an altar right where you need it. Or maybe the sparrows and swallows of this Psalm figured out the easy way: just move into the already sacred space.

Prayer: Holy Builder, thank your for inviting us to make a home in your sacred space. Amen.


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