Friday, February 29, 2008

The Donkey and The Birds

Most every morning I take Marshall (my beloved dog) for an early morning walk. We are up and out the door before most everyone is awake, and we head for the neighborhood walking trail. It is usually quiet, and it gives me a chance to just "be" before I have to "be mom" and get the boys out the door to school. I like to take that time to pray and be still in my mind, which doesn't always come easy for me. These early morning walks have helped with that. It has become one of my favorite times of the day.

One of the things I like most about living in the south is that we have birds here year round. I have always thought there is something extraordinary about birds singing. The Bible tells us that creation proclaims the greatness of God, and when I hear the birds singing each morning I am certain the Bible is right. All along the walking trail there are trees and old fences with birds pirched, singing their songs. It is beautiful, and it always encourages me to praise God along with them.

The walking trail also winds past an old horse farm. It is a beautiful piece of land, and most every afternoon you can watch children taking riding lessons or see the horses grazing in the pasture. The horse farm also has an old donkey. He is often out in the pasture grazing with the horses, and if you're lucky he will come close to the fence and stare you down. He looks a little rough around the edges, but seems harmless enough.

The last few mornings I have been out walking Marshall, praying about my day and enjoying the birds singing, when all the sudden - "EEEEEEE-AWWWWWW!" That donkey starts braying, and it is so loud it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. He brays and brays, and no matter how far along I get on the trail, I can still hear him bellering back at the horse farm. I find myself so focused on the "EEEE-AWWW" that I forget to listen to the singing of the birds.

This morning I had to laugh. Isn't that so much like life? God really does speak softly to us - we just have to be still enough to hear Him. God is generally not a yell-er. I look back on my life and I can't think of one time when God "yelled" to get my attention, although I can think of several times He had every right to. I do know that He has kept up a constant, whispered conversation with me. The problem is I only hear it when I am still enough and quiet enough to listen.

But even when we are truly listening to God, life always throws us a braying donkey, doesn't it? And the funny thing is, usually the distraction is about as harmless as the old donkey by the walking trail. For me it can be as simple as a good TV show or as consuming as a misunderstanding with a friend. It doesn't take much. But often, once I hear that braying I can't (or won't) refocus on the gentle whispers of God.

So this morning I decided I am going to try and keep quiet enough to hear God's sweet words and not focus on all the world's braying. I had to laugh as I walked home past that old donkey this morning. I always felt like God spoke through the sweet song of the birds, but I think this morning He decided to use the braying of a donkey to teach me a lesson in listening.

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