Q&A with Debbie Blue, author of Consider the Birds

August 13th, 2013

Debbie Blue is one of the founding pastors of House of Mercy, her new book Consider the Birds is available now.

Why do you think it’s important for us to reflect on our feathered friends?

Birds have a prominent place in the Judeo Christian founding narratives, as well as the founding narratives of almost every culture and religion. As long as humans have been breathing they’ve been investing birds with meaning. They are not just bones and feathers—they are strength or hope, omen or oracle—the spirit has wings. Birds in our lives, in symbolism and mythology across time and cultures, fascinate. They are everywhere in the legends of gods, the iconography of the church, and the lexicon of tattoo artists. People identify with birds. We watch them, research them, tell stories about them, and in the process we explore our humanity and inhumanity—mystery and manners. They’re funny and dirty, noble and shifty—much like us.

Many people may not have paid much attention to the birds present in the Scripture. Can you give us a brief sampling of some of the bird references that you encounter in the text?

Birds are everywhere in the Bible, from start to finish. God hovers over the face of the water in Genesis, the ancient rabbis suggest—like a bird. Birds gorge on the flesh of the defeated “beast” in Revelation. They are the currency of mercy—the birds of sacrifice. They bring bread to the prophets. They are food for the wanderers. Abraham has to shoo them away from his offering, and a pigeon goes with Jesus on his first visit to the temple. God is a bird who carries the Israelites on her wings—a bird under whose feathers we will find refuge. Jesus compares himself to a hen. He even tells us to “consider the birds.”

What are a few surprising things that you discovered about birds?

I discovered that the dove and the pigeon, are more or less the same bird—though people think of them quite differently. The dove stands for purity and peace, the pigeon is called a rat with wings—people consider it a pest that infests our cities, whereas the dove is the symbol for the Holy Spirit. I discovered that vultures can be beautiful. The Hebrew word “nesher’ is often translated in our English versions of the Bible as eagle, but most scholars agree that “griffon vulture” is at least an alternative, if not a more fitting translation. This makes for some interesting revisions.

You enjoyed exploring the subject of birds so much that you’re working on a CD too, is that right?

Yes. The cd will come out at the same time the book does. When you start looking for birds you find them everywhere—in literature, in poetry, in visual art, in music. My husband, a visual artist, did the beautiful prints of the birds for the book. I started thinking it would be cool to collect some songs about birds, too. House of Mercy, the church where I am a minister, has a record label. We asked some of our favorite local artists if they’d be interested in contributing a song to the collaboration and they were. Bird book, bird art, bird songs—I liked the combination. Kate Campbell contributed, as well as Charlie Parr (a local legend) the up and coming Cactus Blossums, and my neighbor (the best songwriter I know) Brett Larson.

Read an excerpt from Consider the Birds on the pdf below!


free excerpt
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