A Suspicious Red-Tailed Hawk

The first golden sunrays had just stretched their fingers over the mountains and begun to play with the leaves of the wild cherry tree above me, when, from the low, delicate branches of that tree, a raucous cry startled me out of my stupor.

It was the aggressive screech of a wild red-tailed hawk, shattering the thoughtfulness of the morning.

I did not look up. I went on weeding the day lilies in Mrs. Henderson’s garden, suddenly very thoughtful.

The screech screamed out again, a powerful blast of sound. Then it melted into a rivulet of chirps and trills. I did not look up.

Continuing to weed the day lilies and looking straight down at the black dirt, I could see in my mind’s eye the cherry tree from which the commanding screeches had cried out. No natural or respectable Pennsylvania red-tailed hawk would choose a fragile weeping cherry frond eight feet of the ground as their vantage point from which to hunt.

Shout as he would, I knew red-tailed hawks for more than their screams. And I knew mockingbirds. 

I was not interested enough in this mockingbird to give him the time of day. So I kept on weeding, and thinking.

0807190930a_HDR

I was thinking that this is just how disinterested true lovers of Jesus are in the screams of their enemy, Satan. As the chief of liars, he is an expert at making sounds he has heard before. He imitates everything he has seen. He has been practicing imitation and deception for thousands of years! But at the end of the day, he is still a songbird, never a bird of prey. He can never do what Jesus does. He cannot correctly imitate Jesus because he does not have enough power. He does not have enough knowledge. He has no access to the Holy Spirit of truth!

He can sound like a red-tailed hawk, but he does not know how to THINK LIKE A RED-TAILED HAWK. He does not have the heart, authority, courage or the power of a red-tailed hawk.

Today, warrior, gather up those billowing skirts of yours, tuck them between your legs and into your belt, and cinch that Belt of Truth just as tight as it will go! This sounds so vigorous, but do you know how it is actually done?

Your belt of truth is put on when you spend time in the Father’s presence! Spend time building relationship with the King of Kings, asking questions, obeying answers. Spend time recieving and then being taught by the Holy Spirit, who was specifically sent to you to teach you and guide you into all truth. Spend time filling your mind with the thousands of words of truth which are already written down and are available to you at any minute of the day!

When your mind is full of truth, you will not even glance up at mockingbirds.

_____________________________

Want more stories? Consider supporting me on Patreon! By joining a team on this goal-achievement platform, you help me prioritize story-telling and you gain access to exclusive content. Members of the Celebrate the Miracles team get access to mini miracle stories posted every Monday, plus sporadically posted wilderness trip footage, gear reviews and peeks into my sketchbook! If you want to check it out, just visit https://www.patreon.com/hypernike.

Safe

From the pebble beach of Blue Marsh Lake that yellow September day, I gazed at the sky above the vicious locust trees and asked Jesus what he had to say to me.

“A storm is coming.”

That’s what I thought he said.

Had I just imagined the words? A wisp of mare’s tail cloud hung low in the sky above me. Had the cloud placed thoughts of a storm into my mind?

0919191629b_HDR

I held still, waiting for more words from Jesus. It was a hot day, with skies as blue as blue could be, so why were the birds all darting for cover in the low forest underbrush? “Prepare for a storm.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but I kept those words in my heart. And I prepared.

Two months later in a riverside campsite under the pines, I tucked the first clean pot into the dish hammock and clearly heard these words in my heart, “Leave here and find your teammates.” I glanced at my watch. My co-guide had asked me to find her if she wasn’t back in an hour, but only half that time had passed. “Don’t overthink,” I told myself, “Just finish the dishes and find the group after the hour has passed.”

I heard pounding steps on the trail just as the final plates were being rinsed. I stood up and jogged out of the campsite before the panting messenger could ask me to. I wished I’d have listened to the Holy Spirit when he told me to find the group. I could have saved this messenger a lot of effort.

We waged war for hours, and by the time the war was in recession, our stuffed-crust campfire pizza was stiff and cold. The sun had set, and the moon had rolled out of bed to take his turn in the sky. One by one, the headlamps blinked out in the campsite. This war was not over, but the soldiers all needed rest.

I sat under the pines facing the tents and watched, and prayed. Many animals roam the woods at night. As snores rose up from the solo tents around me, the noises in the forest rose to rival them.

Owls hooted back and forth across the river in their comically quizzical way, and a grouchy ibis squawked at his unwanted neighbor in terse, short sentences. Rustling leaves told me the toads were a’hopping.

A howl broke out on the riverbank, downstream, and then moved closer. Panthers pass through this area, once in awhile. This noise wasn’t made by a panther, but it made me think about a hiker’s story of meeting one nearby.

Black clouds winged across the sky, sometimes revealing a handful of very bright stars, sometimes dropping bits of rain.

Silent, unseen battles swept through the campsite, passing, then receding.

All alone in this black campsite, palmettos poking my neck and mosquitoes nibbling my ankles, I wrapped a tarp around my shoulders and stared up at the sky. I asked Jesus for things, and gave him other things, and thought about the unusual fact that I wasn’t  scared.

I felt so cozy, all alone there under the pines, in the middle of that active battleground.

Relieved, and comfortable, like showing up at a spring when your body has just traveled 25 miles under a hot sun.

The girl who could never sleep without her head being buried under a pillow– who could not walk outside at night without both a light and a big dog, was sitting cross-legged in a campsite at 2 a.m. with more peace than most people feel at church on a Sunday morning.

It was Jesus, obviously.

I’m not always so good at receiving love from Jesus, or from anyone else, but under those pines, in the short recess of that war he’d told me to prepare for two whole months in advance, I was recieving love from him like there was no tomorrow. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to spend a night sitting cross-legged in the woods with Jesus. But it fills you up inside.

When my watch beeped for the 5:30 making of coffee, I felt alive.

We human beans are pretty good at finding earth-things that make us feel safe. But a gun, or a dog, or a flashlight, or a man, or a can of pepper spray—these can’t know two months in advance that you’d need to prepare for war, and teach you how to prepare in exactly the right way.

A gun can’t answer the questions on your heart. A dog can’t tell you to drop what lies you are believing and what truth will set you free. A flashlight can’t fight the battles going on in unseen places. A man can’t protect the minds of the kiddos from bad dreams while they sleep. A can of pepper spray can’t make you feel so joyful in the middle of a battlefield–so secure that you could fall asleep.

It is a good place to live, with your spirit seated in the presence of Jesus and your body joining the armies of heaven in their battles on earth. I have much to learn about it.

But I’ve learned this so far: When you live in Jesus, life is 100% unpredictable. But it is 100% empowered. And 100% safe.

They Killed the Biggest Bear

I pointed Harley’s face towards the creek at the edge of the woods, speaking into her ear with quiet intensity. She lowered her head, wriggling away from my grasp. Then the lights came on. Her ears shot forward. Her eyes froze. Her hackles stood up. Growling,  she strained against me, but I did not let her chase what she saw. “Good dog,” I said, “Stay here.”

Below the cabin we were renting, down by the creek, sprawled a lumpy black bear, fat and fluffy enough to have come straight out of the Samsung washing machine commercial. He was gathering mouthfuls of corn out of the plastic dispenser and chewing them with rhythmic chomps. He didn’t look around.

When we spoke to him, he simply took up another mouthful of corn as if to say, “Hello human, your presence is annoying, but it will not distract me from getting what I want.”

He was there to feast, and feast he would.

100% unconcerned.

It wasn’t until the next day that I noticed a change above the cabin fireplace.

Blonde-haired Jed, 5 years old and full of wisdom, was glad to explain the changes to me. “That one was ‘tacking,” he announced, poking his small finger towards a wide new bear skin on the cabin wall. Pointing at the other bear skins, he continued, “That one was not ‘tacking, and that one was not, and that biggest bear was ‘tacking and they SHOT IT.”

I remembered meeting this huge bear last summer. He’d arrive each night to feast at the corn dispenser, sprawling on the ground and licking up the kernels with cartoonish apathy. Then he’d waddle away at daybreak, down the drive and up the mountain road. I’d watched him waddle by me at very close proximity–the fattest, fluffiest, tallest black bear I have ever seen.

Now the legend was dead, shot in his tracks even though he’d tried to put up a fight. 

I remembered another black bear I’d met on a grassy mountaintop nearby.

IMG_20160805_194330_380

Baby Mountain Bear, I’d called that one. Small, quick and fluffy. I had only noticed Baby Mountain Bear because of the dew drops raining from the tree he’d been hiding in. That little bear had scurried to safety the moment he heard a human coming. When I looked back after hiking past him, he had clambered down from the tree and disappeared.

Cabin Bear, fat, lazy and unnaturally bold. Willing to let his enemies watch him sprawl in the dirt as he feasted.

Baby Mountain Bear, small, quick and scared. Not willing to let his enemies catch a peek at him.

There is a corn dispenser at the fringe of my forest, too, but it takes the shape of a cartoon tee shirt I used to imagine myself wearing that says, ‘Cactus Recovery Program’. It’s the way I used to explain my cold responses towards people who triggered my fears. I can go back to this tee shirt any time and put it back on. It fits me well, and is comfortable. I can be a cactus any time I want to.

But I’ve learned that as a cactus, you actually grow spikes on the inside, too. While your exterior spikes prick people and keep them at bay, your interior spikes cut down your destiny every time it tries to rise. You’re not living where you’re meant to live. You grow more and more confused.

Abnormal habits feel normal so very soon. Remember that.

Figure out how you were created to live and live that way, no matter what! No matter what appealing gifts your surroundings offer you. No matter what feels good. No matter what feels easier.

You were created to rule the wild mountaintops, not for a placid partnership with your enemies in the valley. Know who you are, and live that way!

Don’t let your enemies feed you.

Don’t let your enemies make you tame.