Tanya Green, from Swaffham in Norfolk, is having to hitchhike to work because a wren has made its nest in the wheel arch of her car. The birds took advantage of the family’s absence for a weekend to take possession of the Ford Escort’s rear driver’s side wheel arch. “It has been a bit of a pain having them there” said Tanya, “I've managed to arrange lifts to and from work so far this week, but apparently it'll be another 15 to 20 days before the fledglings leave the nest."
RSPB wildlife advisor Ian Peters said the wrens were lucky to have found hosts who weren't going to move them on. He said: "Wrens can nest in some unusual places; unfortunately people's first question is usually how to move them." Tanya’s patience and willingness to experience inconvenience has given them the security they sought as they sheltered under the protective wing of the wheel arch.
A familiar biblical picture of how God protects us reverses the image. In one of the psalms, the poet seeks shelter in the shadow of God’s wing. In a life surrounded by people and situations which feel threatening, the psalmist finds comfort nestling in his imagination under God’s protective care.
Let’s today be grateful that, like Tanya, God does not move us on when we seek his comfort because our presence was uninvited or inconvenient. God has time and patience for us all.
The return of Big Brother to Channel 4 tomorrow is not for most people the “sign that summer is here” which some of its publicity alleges. But many enjoy it and its producers are attempting to engender publicity with rumours about how this series will be different. Will there be two households instead of one to start with? Will there be whole scale evictions in the first week? Will two of the contestants be brother and sister but not let on to the others? What effect will the even smaller living space have on the behaviour of the inmates?
In real life, there’s no need to create such insecurity. Making the Big Brother contestants unsure what'll happen next is supposed to create the behaviour which grabs viewers’ attention. But there’s no need for artificially-created anxiety in ordinary life - many of us struggle daily with disturbing financial situations or health worries or family problems. We try to take them in our stride so that our behaviour doesn’t give away our private fears and concerns but when we’re not relaxed, we do act differently.
Shows like Big Brother also drive a wedge between the participants by making them competitors. In real life, it’s when we are feeling most insecure that we most need our friends. The solidarity that comes from sharing in each others’ struggles can be a great support. We are often so grateful for ‘big brothers’ of both sexes who are not deliberately winding us up but stand with us in our troubles.
It’s in those situations also that we are especially relieved that the biggest Brother of all is not trying to make life difficult for us but is on our side. Even for most of those who find traditional belief in God difficult, there’s a feeling that any spiritual power there is in the universe is basically beneficent. Let’s today delight in the knowledge that, while insecurity will always be part of life, drawing on the support of friends and trusting in a power beyond our own, will see us through.
Scientists in Cambridge put sheep alone in a dark barn and measured their bleating. They found, as they checked their heart rate and blood pressure as well as their anxious baaing, that they became calmer when shown a photograph of another sheep. Pictures of goats or any other animal had nothing like the same effect. Being shown the face of one of the fifty sheep a sheep can recognise worked best.
Human beings too tend to feel more secure when there are people around them who are like themselves. Most of us mix most easily with people who are from the same sort of background and have the same sort of interests as ourselves. But we are not sheep and, unlike them, have the capacity to find strength also from people who are different from us.
The early Christian communities contained people who were otherwise very different from each other (Galatians 3.28). They found security and trust in a very diverse community. Many people today, Christians and others, testify to the value of having a wide range of people to whom to look for support. Though perhaps friendships with people who have similar experience of life are likely to predominate, it’s worth exploring ways of deepening relationships with others with whom we might not immediately find much in common.
Let’s try today to develop a breadth to the community of those we feel close to. Like sheep, we may feel most comfortable with the familiar. As human beings, more challenging and possibly more enriching possibilities are available.
Big Ben sits firm and magnificent in his 300 foot high tower but that unassailable appearance is deceptive. A terrorist attack is possible but more gradual slippage is a dead cert. The tower balances on a 15m square lump of concrete 3m thick. The underground car park for Members of Parliament and the nearby Jubilee Underground line have caused it to tilt slightly towards the north-west: experts put the inclination at one in 250. If such disturbance continues, the tower could be in danger.
Some strong people are not as secure as they look. Not many of us are. Things go on beneath the surface which undermine our self-assurance. We deal with our vulnerability in different ways, sometimes by exaggerated displays of confidence. When we or others appear to be like those whose houses are built on rock , the truth may be that the foundations are very sandy.
Scientists are dealing with Big Ben by "compensation grouting". This technique involves creating a 2D or 3D model of the site to predict soil movements and then grouting into the soil a self hardening slurry. Perhaps we could all benefit from developing an understanding of what our deeper lives look like so that we can work out ways of making our foundations feel stronger. Jesus
said the most secure basis for life is to take his advice about how to live. Some will look elsewhere for effective underpinning. Either way, its worth asking ourselves today how firm are the foundations on which we’re building our lives and to do what needs to be done to prevent slippage.