The fog was thick and deep as I drove down to Yankton, SD. A pastor friend of mine had said he did his conditioning for backpacking at the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area near Yankton. I had been wanting to go there for some time and now, finally as the weather seemed to have cleared from snow into spring, I was on my way. I dearly desired for the sun to burn off the fog before I arrived. Streaming Air 1 through my phone and into my stereo in my car, I made the trek down to the state park.
The sun had eventually burned off the fog when I arrived. The sight was amazing. The Missouri River, reflecting the sunlight, flowed gently. I took to the trail and began to pray. Each step, I lifted up my anxieties, worries and cares before God. There’s something about walking and praying that I’ve always found helpful. There is a connection. Each step is a step with God, each step is a step with Jesus, each step is a step following the Holy Spirit in prayer.
The trail led me over a wooden bridge, through a meadow and up into the river hills. The trees were all around me shortly, the air smelled of pine. No new leaves were budding, no flowers to be seen. Spring had not yet fully sprung here. But the birds were chirping and singing their songs of spring yet to come.
And then I heard it–the call of the wild turkey. It gobbled in its own delight. I thought of my hunter friend who would have more than happily pulled out his shotgun and hunted down this wild bird. They did taste good. I instead stood still and listened again. In the silence, I heard the gobble again. The call of the wild turkey. Nothing like it. Nothing at all. It sings differently than the rest of the birds in the air. It sings differently than the robins and sparrows.
Now, I’m one who has a habit of going off the trail. I promised people that I wouldn’t go off the trail this time. I wound up going off anyway. Not in search of the wild turkey, but in search of self, in search of the next view, in search of nothing at all. The wild turkey is like that. It’s call is different. It’s call is not the ordinary. It’s call goes off the trail. The wild turkey is not like the other birds that were there in the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area.
That is how I am, like the wild turkey. My call is different. I’m different. I’m not the usual. And that’s okay. And that’s why I go off into the woods to pray. To pray and listen to God. And I heard the call of the wild turkey. I realized that I’m in many ways like that. My song is different.
The wild turkey’s call may not sound pretty to some, but to others, like my hunter friend hearing the call of the wild turkey, it means sport. To others it means lunch. To others it is strange and eerie to hear a turkey in the middle of no where.
My song is different. And I went off the trail, up a hill and took in the view around me. When we pray, we need to go off the trail. We pray too many times by route. We pray too many times how we think we ought to. Jesus gave us the Lord’s prayer as a way to pray not the only way to pray. It is how we are to pray. And we go off the trail in prayer, we find the view to be amazing. We find God to be amazing. We find Jesus to be amazing. We find the Holy Spirit to be amazing. But when we fall into route prayers, we don’t always see the view, just the trail.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the trail is important. It is placed there for a reason. So is the Lord’s Prayer. It is there for a reason. It is a rule of Gratitude, it is a way in which we can show our love and affection to God. In fact, the Heidelberg Catechism (yes, I’m getting all Reformed Theology here now) shows us how to use the Lord’s Prayer to go off the trail and dive deeper into prayer. We’re allowed to go off the trail, but we need to come back to the trail from time to time to get our bearings. The Lord’s Prayer helps us get our bearings in prayer. It helps us follow Christ in prayer.
So listen to the call of the wild turkey. Be willing to go off the trail from time to time, but always come back to the trail to get your bearings and know where God is leading. Be willing to have a different song than the birds of the air sin, be willing to be different in following God. And hear the call of the Wild Turkey.