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They next traveled through Phrygia and Galatian territory, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia, they thought to cross through it into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to cross, so they went through Mysia and came down to Troas. ~ Acts 16:6-8

Determining whether an animal is predator or prey is often a matter of looking at the eyes and the ears. Predators tend to have eyes that are placed close together in order to provide depth perception. This is important when choosing where to strike at the prey. On the other end of that attack, prey species tend to have their eyes set in a way that gives the widest field of vision, so they can see the attack coming. They also are likely to have ears that can move around to listen for sounds of a nearby predator and locate the threat. Predators tend to have fixed ears that serve as a defensive tool. Consider the fact that alarm clocks exist. They wouldn’t work if you could turn off your hearing. Our predator ears serve more as a defense, at best giving us a general direction that a sound is coming from. Typically, when we hear an alarming sound, we look in that general direction, counting on sight to pinpoint the source. Owls are different.

Since most owls are nocturnal hunters, even with adaptations to their eyes for enhanced low-light vision, they can’t be efficient hunters relying only on that sense. That is why in many owl species, their ears are not placed at the same level on either side of their heads. No, those feathers that we call ear tufts are not near their ears! Their ears are simply openings in their skulls under the feathers on the side of their heads. Our minds can process the tiny difference in the time that a sound reaches one ear before the other to determine where the sound originated to our left or right, but not so much up or down. With their offset ears, owls have the advantage of determining the height of a sound more precisely than we can. You can imagine how helpful this is when swooping down on moving prey in the dark. Their ability to hear is far better than ours as well. Some northern species are able to snatch tiny rodents right through the snow, their hearing is that good.

Just because our sense of hearing is always working doesn’t mean that we are always listening. Loud, obvious sounds will get our attention, but quiet, subtle ones often go unnoticed. Too often when we are looking for direction, we ask for a sign from God. While we are looking for something big and bright, the Spirit is often whispering. Sometimes we are kvetching so loudly that we fail to hear the still small voice saying, “over here.” This passage doesn’t tell us how the Spirit prevented the missionaries from continuing the path they had chosen. But one thing we can safely assume is that they were paying attention to the holy GPS.

Prayer: Divine guidance system, thank you for all the times you got our attention by gently saying “redirecting.” Amen.

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