Monday, 23 November 2015

Keeping my eyes on Jesus

'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)
There was a bird in the garden.

A blackbird. 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 jumped down and 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. 

It was a dank, damp sort of day today and the ground was wet. Blackbird stood very still with his head on one side. Then he started pecking the ground with his little orange beak. Success! It wasn't about to give up easily - even from my vantage point in the house I could see how stretchy this worm was. The worm didn't want to be someone's lunch. He was holding on with his bottom half; he wasn't coming out of the floor without a fight. 

Meanwhile, behind the twiggy 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, smiled, 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 shuffle 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.

The neighbour's cat.
Still struggling with his worm, Blackbird was oblivious to his audience. 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 fallen leaves below the lilac trembled a little. Blackbird carried on hauling at his worm. All the other birds in the garden had fled, and indeed someone else up high in the silver birch 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. 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 (tummy rumbling, missed out on the ginger cake): tug, tug.
Tabby: back end wiggling from side to side, preparing to strike.
Stumpy: unblinking stare.

Double jeopardy.

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

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 cat not long out of kittenhood he covered the distance between the flowerbed and the bottom of the apple tree in a nanosecond.

Blackbird fluttered vertically in a frantic 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 and under the fence. Stumpy just rolled his eyes.

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 right now 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 God is trying to give me gifts. I have noticed that sometimes 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.
'Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like the neighbour's cats 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. Quite often danger lurks where I don't expect it. It might pounce, it might stealthily creep up on me,  or it might dart 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, to wander into the wrong territory.

I need to makes sure that I am focused on God and not getting bogged down with distractions. I have a tendency to get engrossed the irrelevant or indulgent when I need to keep my eyes on the only One who matters.
'...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 keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus 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 He is and enter into the dangerous territory of the neighbourhood cats, or the roaring lions, or the other guy. You know, himThe Enemy. He would have me far away from God, pursuing the easy life, or the selfish goal. The thing that I am so sure will make me happy, right now, and to hell with the long game.

He would quite like it if I was so intent on something that I didn't see the trouble I was in. 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. Perhaps I've stretched this analogy a little too far (like the worm?), but as I watched the scene unfold 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 and the things they can teach us.

Be close to Blackbird right now, Lord. He'll be feeling a bit jittery.

*Re: adrenalin. 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.

Image credit: IMG_7713.JPG by alice10, courtesy of 
Used with permission

Helen Murray lives in Derbyshire with her husband, two daughters and her mum.

Having spent time as a Researcher, Pastoral Worker and Hand Therapist, Helen is now a full time mum and writer, currently working on her first novel. 

As well as writing and reading, she drinks coffee, takes photographs, swims and has more Aloe Vera plants than you can shake a stick at. 

Helen has two blogs: Are We Nearly There Yet? where she writes about life and faith, and Badger on the Roof where readers are treated to a blow by blow account of her novel-writing progress, or lack thereof. 

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray

Twitter: @helenmurray01


  1. I enjoyed the story and the prayer, Helen The dialect at the end is interesting. I have heard, "Well, I'll go to our 'ouse". Sue

    1. Thanks Sue! Must be a Derbyshire thing.

    2. Maybe Midlands? My husband grew up in Stoke, and he says it the same as you.

    3. Could well be. We have so many such sayings in our family that it must sound like code at times. Still, takes all sorts to make a world, hey?

  2. Written like a true writer, Helen! I was rooting for foolish blackbird too. Brilliant post.

    1. Thanks so much; that's high praise indeed. :-)

  3. A very powerful analogy Helen. You had my hear beating fast by the end of it! Thanks for these words of wisdom.

    1. Thanks, Deborah. You are lovely.

  4. Anything with cats is good, but this was just great!

    1. Thank you! We have a neighbour who has 16 cats (she fosters for the Cats Protection League) so we have no shortage of feline activity round here. The birds are usually very wary.

  5. If you like watching blackbirds and making up stories/allegories about them, you would enjoy my novella 'The Honeysuckle Bird Cafe'. You'll find details about it on my website There's a 'creeping, tail-swishing' cat in there too!

    1. Thanks Fran. I must check it out. :-)

  6. So glad blackbird got away! That was a suspense-filled post - with a great message. So true!

    1. Thank you, Dorothy. I'm glad too; all too often there's evidence on the lawn of occasions when the score was 1:0 to the cats....