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I have an app on my phone that detects and identifies bird sounds. When I take my daily walks, I love to record the beautiful songs I’ve so often heard but had no idea from which birds they originated. On a recent walk, the app identified 12 different birds - a new record for me.

As I looked over the list and listened to their songs, I realized a mockingbird was identified. I had just read an article on the mockingbird and its amazing ability to mimic so many other birds, even closely matching the sound of house alarms. These songs can be so deceiving that it takes a special electronic device to determine if this is a mockingbird’s imitation or the real thing! I couldn’t help but wonder if my device was adequate for the test or if it was also fooled. It seems the mockingbird does have a beautiful, unique voice of its own, but rarely uses it in mixed company. Bird experts have, however, determined another way to catch this amazing creature in its foolery. They have a habit of repeating things at least three times, whereas most birds only deliver their sound one time and then pause for an answer.

I laughed a little at this because I imagined how excited I would be if I had figured out how to totally match the sound of another bird, to the point where I would even receive a call back! What an accomplishment! I did it again! Maybe the dear bird simply can’t contain its excitement and has to show off and share even more. Or, maybe it feels like practice makes perfect.

Thinking about this made me realize how I just walk along peacefully listening to all of the beautiful songs from God’s creation. And it makes no difference if the song I’m hearing is an imitation of the real thing - it is no less enjoyable. We live in a world where there is so much sound coming from every direction during every minute of our day. All of these vibrations in our ears can become like one blended cacophony, and we start to lose the ability to differentiate what we are hearing. I have at times listened attentively to something that I loved to hear for a time, then something changed and it became a distraction or even annoying. I wonder if God had fun creating this fantastic bird with just a hint to us that we’re being fooled by the multiple songs in succession.

With so many things being said to us in our own language - words that first appear under the guise of messages of love, I realized how important it is for me to listen very carefully - listen or replay it in my head maybe even 3 times to make sure it’s a real and true message. Because it can be easy to misinterpret something or someone we hear. It may be said or passed on in the most beautiful and creative of ways, but it can be very far from what God would be saying to us. It is so hard to not want to “fill in the blanks” when we have things we want to understand and words we want to live by. We just tend to add our own thoughts of what God would probably be leading us to hear because it’s so hard to know if we are really hearing God’s voice through all of the chatter. The times when the real voice I need to hear has come through the strongest are when I allow myself to truly listen and not just do all of the talking and filling in the blanks. Truly listening in silence, in prayer, in reading scripture, has made all of the difference in my receiving a message God wants me to get. God sometimes even delivers this message a third time or more so there’s absolutely no doubt about its origin! What patience! Have you ever noticed how a child will listen more intently when you speak firmly in a soft voice rather than when you’re yelling the same words? This is certainly not the way much of our world delivers its messages.

I love birds and their beautiful songs. God knows that about me. And God also knows I need to hear and distinguish the right call.

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