Monday, 22 October 2012

Keeping my eyes on you

'Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.'
1 Peter 5:8 (NIV 1984)
Lord, there was a bird in the garden.

A blackbird. And you know how much I like blackbirds. He was on the bird table, pecking at crumbs from the stale ginger cake that I put out earlier that the jackdaws had in minutes. He bimbled around for a little bit and then started examining the floor around the base of the tree. I thought he was after more crumbs but it turned out he was fancying a bit of protein. He was peckish. Ha ha. 

It's a dank, damp sort of day today and the ground is wet. Particularly down there at the bottom of the garden where it tends to be sort of boggy. The turf must be soft and Blackbird must have had an inkling.

He stood very still with his head on one side. Then he started pecking the ground with his little orange beak. He got one. It wasn't about to give up easily - if worms have claws (which I know they don't) then it had dug them in properly. The worm had other plans from those of Blackbird; he didn't want to be someone's lunch. He was holding on with his bottom half. He stretched and he stretched but he wasn't coming out of the floor without a fight. 

Meanwhile, behind the lilac sat one of the neighbour's cats. A beautiful pale grey tabby with a white front; a feminine little feline, but lethal nonetheless. She sat with her chin low to the ground as Blackbird struggled with his reluctant snack. Tabby watched, and shifted position slightly. Never took her eyes from Blackbird. 

Also featuring in this debacle was Stumpy. Stumpy is also one of the neighbour's cats, so called because he has only half a tail. He's a big, muscular dark grey cat who lumbers around the place where the other cats stalk, or tiptoe or dart. Don't get me wrong, Stumpy can move quickly when he wants to, but he seems to think that as the Alpha Male he is more entitled to strut nonchalantly. He has battle scars; a damaged ear as well as the amputated tail - he is not to be messed with. Today Stumpy was behind the lavender, also with a beady eye on hungry Blackbird.

Still struggling with his worm, Blackbird was oblivious to the onlookers. He pulled and he twisted and he stopped for a better grip on his squirming prey. He was concentrating hard. This meal was not going to get away. Tabby shifted again and the lowest leaves on the lilac shook a little. Blackbird carried on hauling at his worm. All the other birds in the garden had fled, and indeed someone else was squawking that repeated, insistent bird-squawk to try to warn everyone away. There are cats. Watch out, there are cats.

Blackbird took no notice. I approached the kitchen window to look. Tabby seemed to be limbering up for a sprint/pounce/capture sequence but Stumpy was closer. Closer and heavier and, to my mind, more sinister. He was biding his time. My hand was on the door knob. I like blackbirds.

Blackbird: tug, tug.
Tabby: back end wiggling from side to side, preparing to strike.
Stumpy: unblinking stare.

Double jeopardy. The tension...

Out of the blue it happened. So quickly that I nearly missed it. GT came from nowhere. An orange streak.

GT (Ginger Tom) shot onto the scene from the side of the house where he must have been lurking near the forsythia. Whoosh. With the lithe athleticism of a young cat he covered the distance between the flowerbed and the bottom of the apple tree in a nanosecond.

Blackbird fluttered upwards in a flurry of panicked feathers, clipping branches as he ascended to relative safety. GT pretended he hadn't been aiming for Blackbird at all and darted off in a straight line under the conifers. Tabby turned tail and fled backwards through the lilac under the fence. Stumpy just rolled his eyes.

And here's what I thought: Blackbird nearly died. Well, I don't know if he nearly died or not, but it seemed a close thing to me. He took a big risk. He was so intent on what he was doing, what he wanted, that he overlooked lurking danger. I assume he didn't see the three cats, or if he did he is either braver or more stupid than I gave him credit for, so I conclude that he was concentrating so hard on his stomach that he didn't notice Death crouching in the undergrowth in three different directions.

I am often so absorbed with what I want - what I'm doing - what I'm set on achieving - that I miss so much that's around me. Good things and bad things. I am often so intent on My Thing that my hands are full and occupied when you are trying to give me good things. That's one way to look at it. The other thing that occurred to me is that it's the times when I am concentrating so completely on the wrong thing that I get blindsided by life. I want my worm so badly that I don't notice the predators. And if they get me, not only will I lose my worm, but quite possibly everything that matters.
'Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like the neighbour's cat looking for someone to devour.'1 Peter 5:8 (slightly adapted by me)
I thought the main dangers to Blackbird were Tabby and Stumpy, but it was GT, completely invisible to me that posed the biggest threat. I didn't even know he was there. He was the youngest, fastest and boldest of the trio. And, to the others' annoyance, the first to make his move. Quite often danger lurks where I don't expect it. It might pounce, it might stealthily creep up on me,  or it might career across the lawn like a ginger torpedo, but it's there and it's waiting for me to make a mistake. Waiting for me to be focused on the wrong thing. Waiting for me to take my eye off the ball. And then, like a cat with it's prey, it'll toy with me mercilessly for a while and then eat me.

Lord God, help me focus on you and not get bogged down with distractions. Help me to stay constant and not allow myself to get engrossed the irrelevant or indulgent when I need to keep my eyes on you.
'...and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.'
Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT
It seems to me that it's all about being faithful. Keeping my eyes fixed on you so that those same eyes don't go roaming all over the place looking for something better, easier, quicker, less effort, painless. Once my gaze rests on one of those things then I tend to wander away from the safety that is where you are and enter into the dangerous territory of the neighbourhood cats, or the roaring lions, or the other guy. You know, him. The Enemy. He would have me far away from you. He would quite like it if I was so intent on one thing that I didn't see the trouble I was in. I don't think he even minds what it is, because such is the breadth of your generosity, if I focus exclusively on one thing in my life I would certainly be missing out on more of your blessings. He'd be delighted if I held still, determined to prevail with my own idea that I fail to look around me.

Blackbird was just doing what birds do. They catch worms and they sometimes fall prey to neighbourhood cats. It's not his fault, more his misfortune. Perhaps I've stretched this analogy further than it could be stretched (like the worm, hey?), but as I watched the scene unfold from my kitchen my head went on a little trip. I sympathised with Blackbird (all he wanted was a spot of lunch) but he should have kept his wits about him; been more alert. Then he could have avoided that monumental adrenalin rush to avoid being a meal himself.

(Do birds get adrenalin rushes? I must google it). *


Lord, help me keep my eyes on you. I don't want to be someone else's meal. I don't want to wander away from you and find myself struggling. I want to run with endurance the race that you have for me, not one of my own invention. Give me wisdom to know your mind. Give me discernment so that I can learn to tell the difference between your voice and that of my own ego. Give me patience to wait on your perfect timing instead of taking matters into my own hands and putting on the blinkers.

Thankyou for birds and cats and worms. Be close to Blackbird tonight, Lord. He'll be feeling a bit jittery.

*Yes, apparently they do. Their nervous system is built in a similar way to that of other vertebrates. Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs.

1 comment:

  1. High drama in the back yard. Powerful illustration and a warning I sorely need today.


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