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Martha Fanning, the wife of a locally well-known pastor, was calling to find a writer for an unpublished personal story she had shared at women’s gatherings for years.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?

I Read Someone Else’s Mail

by Nan Corbitt Allen

When I was in grade school, I learned how to write a letter. I remember practicing different kinds of letters, formal and informal, and noting where the heading, the date, the address, and the signature went on the page. Unfortunately, the use of written letters, stamped and sent by USPS, is becoming rather obsolete as a way of communication – replaced by texting, email, and blogs. That’s unfortunate, because so much recorded history would have been lost if not for the handwritten letters sent by those who have gone before us.

For instance, one of my favorite books is John Adams written by David McCullough. (This book was turned into a wonderful HBO series.) So much of the content of this book (and so much of what we know of colonial America and our fight for independence) was gleaned from the letters that our second president wrote to his wife, Abigail. Of course, these letters weren’t necessarily meant to be read by anyone other than Abigail, but they are of great benefit to us today. They not only provide facts but perspective as well.

Every time I read the letters recorded in the Holy Bible (like the epistles of Paul), I try to remember that the Apostle had no idea that some 2,000 years later, we would not only be reading them, but embracing their theology and directions for godly living.

In the chapter 6 of Paul’s first letter to his good friend, Timothy, I was inspired and intrigued by what I found:

There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 ESV

Those of us who make a living in ministry need to hear this. I know I did. Paul writes on…

But you, man of God, flee from all this [love of money], and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 1 Tim. 6:11 NIV

Remember, this was a private letter meant for Timothy’s eyes only. And yet this now encourages, teaches, and convicts us today!

Even though letter writing on paper may be going by the wayside, we are still leaving archives of words, deeds, and attitudes behind. I sometimes fail to remember that I am building a base upon which others will stand one day. As Paul put it: laying up “a firm foundation for the coming age” (1 Tim. 6:19 NIV).

The end of Paul’s first letter to Timothy spoke clearly to me this morning:

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. 1 Tim. 6:20 NIV

These last words inspire me to take care of the people, the tasks, and the calling that God has given me.

First Timothy. A personal letter from one man to another? Yes, but I don’t think that they would mind if I open and read their mail sometimes. In fact, I think they’d be delighted.

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Nan Corbitt AllenAbout the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the seemingly insignificant routine experiences can have great impact on a life. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: What Scripture has inspired you lately?