By Brenda Black
It's odd what I've gotten used to and take for granted. Say, the song of a familiar bird outside my window. At home it's the loud call of the Cardinal in a string of clear “purdy, purdy, purdy,” often speeding up and ending in a slow trill. The cattle low and the horse nickers when I step out the door, alerting me to morning chores. When I'm walking my Missouri gravel, the Western Meadowlark gurgles out flute-like notes to help quicken my steps. What's more odd is the absence of those familiar sights and sounds or the substitution with strange new ones in foreign surroundings.
I was distracted by the call of a bird I had never heard while standing near an open window in Wisconsin. Instead of singing a pretty tune, it sounded more like a squeaky porch swing whose chain was in need of a greasing. "Kar-r-r-r-o-o-o" "Kar-r-r-r-o-o-o" "Kar-r-r-r-o-o-o". So loud was the call, I was certain this curious avian was on the porch, in that swing! But like the coyotes deceptive cry at home, the Sandhill Crane was only as near as binoculars could ascertain. What struck me most was my immediate awareness of this new and strange noise.
New surroundings tend to sharpen alertness. New sounds prick curiosity. New subjects demand our focus. And I am no longer talking about birds. Just how cognizant are we of the world around us? How thankful and curious are we; how purposeful in discovering the source behind something new we've heard?
This world is changing, and not necessarily for the good. A glance through the headlines on any given day this past week made me think I was waking up in a strange America – a foreign and frightening new world. Because the stories told harrowing tales of government overreach and the ill-gotten power grab of elected officials, my senses were heightened, my curiosity maximized, my focus targeted. How can people be so blind and deaf? Are we not a searching people any longer, demanding truth, justice and God's holy way? Like the song of a familiar bird, the luxuries of beloved familiarity like prayer and God's Word may one day be plucked away if we don't take a long, hard look at what's lurking in the near distance.
The first step is to know the Truth. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) You won't recognize the deceitful tactics of the enemy if you aren't certain of the promises from the Heavenly Father. You can't hone in on danger or discern need for caution if you have no standard.
Next, cling to the cross. This is the true redemptive act of Christ because we all need the Savior and there is no other way. Don't listen to the lie that there are many ways to righteousness. The Gospel does not change. “Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6) “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:9) A Christian song once played frequently says it this way: “Keep me near the cross, Near the cross, May I never stray so far, That I cannot see, What flowed down for me, At the foot of the cross.”
Be steadfast and devoted no matter the call outside your window. “So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Deuteronomy 5:32) “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10) “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)
Sometimes we need a wake up call, the song of a different bird that heightens our awareness and causes us to stop and listen intently to what's truly being said. Don't take the familiar for granted or one day you may wake up without its pleasure and instead be listening to the screeching sounds of freedom silenced in a foreign land. That's an odd place in which I'd rather not find myself.