The Immeasurable Power of a Story

(ROCKWALL, TX — March 5, 2018) The phone rang as I sat proof-reading articles in the office of a Christian monthly in San Antonio. I only knew the caller, Martha Fanning, as the wife of the locally well-known pastor Buckner Fanning. She wanted to ask about publishing a personal faith story she had shared at women’s gatherings for years. She needed a writer, and I was in the right seat at the right time—working alone that day.

With the editor’s permission, I began to write about the time Mrs. Fanning grew weary of her long bedrest due to a back problem. She’d been desperate that day for a quick recovery in order to resume her responsibilities for her children and church. After asking the Lord if he’d heard her prayers, Martha gazed out the bedroom window to the backyard and noticed what looked like a fallen bird’s nest.

Martha explained she felt unreasonably compelled to check it out. Disregarding her weakness, she walked outside and even picked up the empty nest—something she’d never done before. As she looked at the meticulously woven branches, she noticed a piece of paper had been pecked down to line the nest. Feeling again compelled, she gently pulled it out, strangely hoping it might hold meaningful words. Incredibly, she realized the tiny bit of newsprint with burnt edges—likely from her own chimney—contained a poem from an edition of the Dallas Morning News.

The lines of a 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 viewed those lines as a clear message from God—and so fitting for a bird! The incident made her recall the words of Jesus, who said God knows about every sparrow that falls, “So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to him…” (Matthew 10:29, 31).

Although we published “Message in a Bird’s Nest” 15 years ago, in the days before social-media sharing technology, we received good feedback. Readers who needed assurance of God’s love told how the story inspired them.

One woman wrote that she’d been anguished over wanting to attend her son’s East Coast graduation due to her fear of flying; and she couldn’t drive the distance. Mrs. Fanning’s experience encouraged her to pray for heavenly help. She reported taking the “Air Prayer” along on the flight that seemed to her like a miracle.

Another reader, recently widowed, needed to erase distressing images of her husband’s bad condition before his death. The bird’s nest story led her to ask God to show His personal care. Afterward, she felt inspired to clean out a disorganized kitchen drawer, and she unearthed a video, unmarked and never viewed. Instead of tossing it into the trash, she popped it into her VCR. Soon, her strong and healthy husband—like a visitor from beyond the grave—filled the screen with happy smiles on a day before his illness began. Just exactly how she wanted to remember him.

The Lord used Mrs. Fanning to show me the power of sharing testimonies of faith. Her story was the first one I ever wrote.

“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).

[Scriptures from the New Living Translation]

By Blue Ribbon News faith columnist Patti Richter. Patti lives in Heath with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits Christian faith articles for several publications. Read more of her essays at

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