The Immeasurable Power of a Story

by Patti Richter

The phone rang as I sat proofreading articles in the office of a monthly publication in South Texas. I was alone in the office—in the right seat at the right time.

Martha Fanning, the wife of a locally well-known pastor, was calling to find a writer for an unpublished personal story she had shared at women’s gatherings for years. With the editor’s permission, I began to write about the season Mrs. Fanning endured bedrest due to a back problem.

Martha explained to me that she had felt desperate one day, wishing for a quick recovery in order to resume responsibilities for her children and church. She admitted asking the Lord if he had even heard her prayers. But after making that plea to God, Martha gazed out her bedroom window to the backyard, and she saw what looked like a fallen bird’s nest.  

Martha said she got out of bed that day feeling “unreasonably compelled” to go outside. Finding the empty bird’s nest, she disregarded her weakness and bent to pick it up. Having never held a bird’s nest, she admired the meticulously woven branches. Then, in amazement, she noticed a piece of paper pecked down to line the nest. Feeling again compelled, she gently pulled out the bit of paper, “strangely hoping it might hold meaningful words.” Martha was further amazed that the tiny piece of newsprint with burnt edges—”likely from our own chimney”—contained a prayer published by the Dallas Morning News.

The lines of the poem titled “Air Prayer,” by Julien C. Hyer, remained mostly legible:

Dear Lord, across expanse of sky, as now I set me out to fly,

I pray that Thou will be with me, that I may in Thy keeping be.

And may I feel Thy presence near. And if at anytime I fear,

let me [remember] to trust in Thee to [care] for my dear family…

Martha believed those lines were a clear message from God—”and so fitting for a bird!” The prayer made her recall Jesus saying, “Your Father” knows about every sparrow that falls… “So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to him” (Matthew 10:29, 31 NLT).

The article I wrote for Mrs. Fanning, “Message in a Bird’s Nest,” was published years before Internet and social-media sharing opportunities. Even so, we received feedback from readers who’d needed an assurance of God’s love.

One woman wrote of the anguish she’d faced before her son’s East Coast graduation. She couldn’t drive the distance yet feared flying. Mrs. Fanning’s story encouraged her to pray for heavenly help. Afterward, she decided to fly and take the “Air Prayer” with her. Flying and attending the event “seemed like a miracle,” she wrote.

Another woman, recently widowed, had been unable to erase distressing images of her husband before his death. The bird’s nest story led her to ask God for comfort. Afterward, she felt inspired to clean out a disorganized kitchen drawer, where she unearthed an unmarked and never viewed video. Instead of tossing it into the trash, she popped it into her VCR. Her husband, healthy and smiling in the days before his illness, filled the screen, “like a visitor from beyond the grave.” He appeared exactly the way she wanted to remember him.

The Lord used Mrs. Fanning’s bird’s nest article—the first article I’d ever written—to show me the power of sharing faith stories.  

And I suppose that if all the other things Jesus did were written down, the whole world could not contain the books. John 21:25 NLT


This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: Has someone else’s story positively influenced you?

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