Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Whether or not there are literally angels flying around, I do believe that the Divine Presence companions us in ways we can’t see. Angels of some kind accompany us, though we do not usually have ways of noticing them. They shelter us under their wings; they go with us in our hardest times. Even in death we are borne in their feathered care.

In 1973 my family crossed the Atlantic on a freighter carrying wheat to England. Birds descended on the ship as it was being loaded, feasting on spilled grain. We left in the middle of the night. At sea, we discovered a sparrow on board. We figured it had perched on the ship overnight and not realized it was a mobile vessel, until it was too late. The German crew and our small handful of passengers—half of us American, half German— adopted her as our pet.

On our journey we skirted Hurricane Elsie. Huge waves broke over the ship; harsh winds blasted us. As large as the ship was, the waves tossed it around like a stick. We knew how tiny we were in such a vast ocean, how vulnerable we were in such a powerful storm. All of us in our own ways hoped for safety, prayed for protection. The captain prohibited anyone from going out on deck. Of course we all worried about the sparrow. No one saw any sign of her anywhere.

After the storm, we felt a deep sense of relief and renewal as we emerged and could walk about the deck safely again. That first morning everyone searched for the sparrow, but no one saw her. An odd quiet settled over us at lunch, as if we had lost a friend. But after lunch news quickly spread around the ship, in English and German: She was alive! She had been spotted by a crewmember. By that afternoon, several of us had seen her.

That she had somehow been spared—angels must have protected her—gave us a gift of hope and courage and gratitude. Knowing that every grain of wheat had been blown off the ship in the storm, we put out bread and water for her in little dishes for the rest of the trip, marveling that she had survived such a deathly storm.

When we came in sight of land, we knew we’d lose her. Sure enough, she circled up high above the ship. Knowing that we no longer needed her, our little guardian ascended into the heavens above us and headed off toward the white cliffs of Dover that shone in the morning sun. We, who had been so bravely accompanied, stood there, looking up into the air under the light, feathery clouds.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve


Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes

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