Sunday, November 17, 2013

Know the nearest tree

Out in the empty field next door, something moved.  On such a dismal grey morning, it was almost imperceptible.  At first, it appeared to be only tall grasses blowing in the wind or leaves chasing each other like eight year old boys when school is out.  Silence and stillness followed, and then seconds later, another movement.  What was that?  I watched from the window on our landing, trying to discern what I saw over by the tree line.

And then, it moved again.  A large coyote, conveniently camouflaged the same color as the field, carried his latest trophy in his mouth, a limp squirrel.  I followed his trek to the back of the vacant lot where, under the almost bare osage orange tree, the coyote buried his prey, saving it for a snack later on.

He snuck stealthily along the back of the lots toward our house.  As he entered our small backyard, he crouched down low and crawled like a commando, barely moving, his eyes locked on a squirrel playing under our bird feeder.  Earlier in the morning, a party of birds had converged, spreading a mess of seeds under the feeder which the squirrel was now feasting on.

The coyote lunged forward, almost snatching the surprised squirrel whose life hung in the milliseconds of his response.  The squirrel had appeared totally oblivious to any kind of danger, but he was aware enough to leap to the large silver maple tree just a few feet away and scurry out of reach of those jaws.

The squirrel was doing nothing wrong, just going about his business of gathering for winter.  And that is usually when adversaries attack, when we are nice and cozy and feeling, perhaps, a bit invincible.

But the squirrel already knew where to leap.

Airline attendants instruct before every flight, "know your nearest exit." You may never need it, but in a crisis, you do not have time to casually browse the safety card in the seat pocket in front of you.  You need to move NOW.  When moments make the critical difference, know exactly what to do.

God's Word acts the same.  Through it, God makes us aware of what can bring us down.  He sharpens our vision.  He engraves His truth in our hearts that we might not sin against Him.  (Psalm 119. 11) God shields us from fiery darts even in the most impossible places and on the most ordinary of days.   And He surrounds us as we move naively among the wild beasts of this world.  Temptations and assaults come in not so obvious times or places, sometimes in ways we may not even know to fear.

Be ready with God's Word laid up in your heart -- read daily, absorbed, studied, and memorized.  His Word abides in us.  And when --not if-- the crisis hits, Scripture passages literally rise up like an army on a rescue mission.

Live freely and graciously in the midst of your world, prepared, equipped, and aware.

And know your nearest tree.

He is a shield
             for all those
   who take refuge in Him.

                       Psalm 18.30

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