The story of Coo-acknowledging the gift


by Linda Manhardt, Major –

I once had a bird. Her name was “Coo,” because of the soothing, pleasant sounds that she made.

In Kenya, and other African countries, when you visit a corps, you are often sent home with some type of gift. Africans are very gracious people. Though, they have very little, they share what they’ve got. I often came home from a corps visit with such things as eggs, fruit and vegetables. Very often, a chicken is the gift and, in rare cases, something even more exotic—like a dove.

While serving on the staff of the Training College in Kenya, my neighbor received this lovely gift of a dove. She brought the bird back from Mombassa in a shoebox. The little creature braved the train journey and the bumpy car ride down dirt roads, and arrived on the compound alive and cooing.

My friend shared her gift with me. I think it was meant to be eaten, but this was out of the question! Neither of us had any idea how to care for a dove, so we asked the local people, and they gave us instructions on what to feed it, and where to find the food.

Coo thrived!

She perched on an extended curtain rod during the night. Concrete floors and newspapers underneath made sanitation easy! But each morning, the “sitting room” door was opened, and out she flew!

Coo spent her days wild and free. Then each night, the door to the quarters would be opened, and she flew into the house, making her soft bird sounds and landing on her perch! It was amazing to me that she would choose to favor us with her presence, and I was almost surprised every evening when she came home to roost.

I loved that bird, and I love her now, because for me, she is an example of God’s gentleness and graciousness. She blessed me with her presence, and I accepted it as a gift.

Call me crazy, but I see things such as the gift of this sweet dove, as a “smile from God.” He surrounds us with reminders of his gentleness, grace and beauty, but we need to have eyes to see them. Our lives are filled with subtle gifts from God. I believe it brings him joy when we recognize his gifts and thank him.

Think of a Christmas morning, when someone you love opens a gift and really, really loves it. It fills you with joy as well—the joy of giving. This is how God must feel when we acknowledge his wonderful gifts to us!

After many months, Coo decided one evening, not to come home. For some time afterwards, I could see her in the sky above the compound, and I smiled. I smile now at the memory. I didn’t mourn the loss of Coo. Instead, I thank God for the gift of her presence and the memory of his illustration of gentleness and graciousness in my life.

I encourage you right now, to take time to think of the many gifts that God has placed in your life. Don’t focus on loss or wants or even unmet needs, but on the gifts—large and small that come to mind. Acknowledge and thank him for his gifts, and glorify him so that he can too, can experience the joy of giving.

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