The stillness of the morning has always been a special time for me. A time of preparation, reflection, looking forward to the new day. This morning, I had planned to sleep in, but I awoke while the night was still thick and black and there was no sound. Checking the time, 5:22 am, I turned and spoke gently the name of Jesus as I snuggled back into the thick white comforter planning to drift back to sleep. But my thoughts tumbled in my head, and I lay awake for a few minutes pondering what is really important in life.
Just then, I heard the sound of the muezzin, the voice calling the adhan or Muslim call to prayer. The call sounds five times a day here. Each adhan, having seven parts, includes the basic tenets of the Muslim faith and the call to hurry to the prayer. The pre-dawn adhan includes an eighth part which translates to: prayer is better than sleep. The call is of course in Arabic, so I had to look up the translation. And the call is a haunting sound. After it is done, the sound hangs in the air, echoing in my head, and I am not sure whether it is finished or still continuing.
I remain in bed, but I listen, and I watch, and I pray. The sky slowly begins to lighten, and I can now hear the sound of birds chirruping. There are surprisingly few animals here. Since arriving seven days ago, I have seen one giraffe (as we passed a zoo), and a few camels in the distance as we travelled from Dubai to Al Ain. All the other animals I have seen are flying things: gnats, common flies, and yes, birds. I love the birds. This morning there are flocks of birds swooping into the pool in the courtyard, skimming the surface, I suppose to take a drink of water. They will then flit and frolic up into the trees as I look down on the whole dance from my fourth floor window. Occasionally, one will break free from the others and soar toward me, pulling up at the last moment to alight on top of the building above my head. I have only been a bird watcher in the most novice capacity, watching the black capped chickadees and house wrens visit my father’s bird feeder, but I can see why people spend hours watching these lively creatures, and I pull out the camera to attempt to catch their gaiety in flight.
Again the cool breeze of morning flows in the window, and my soul is refreshed as I enjoy the creation that God has placed around us — a picture of his love, care, and creativity. And I also give thanks for the freedom to worship, to pray, to speak about my faith, that I enjoy at home.
Another believer has travelled here recently, and I look up his post, mulling over his thoughts as I turn to prepare for the day:
The buses are beginning to travel their routes between the dormitories and the main campus, the sound of their engines carrying up to my window. The birds begin to quiet and roost. I hear the swish, swish of the outdoor daily cleaning crew sweeping the sand from the many crevices in the stone courtyards, and the chatter in the halls as the indoor crew begins to make their daily rounds. They are diligent, mopping every floor, wiping every surface, sweeping each ceiling and each vent of each hall and every room, every day. (I will have to transition back to the dust in my own home!) The silence of the morning is gone, but I will hope to maintain the presence of the Lord that it brings as the day moves on.
Addendum: About thirty minutes after I published the above post, I was in my room with Drew getting ready for his morning coaching session. I could hear voices in the courtyard below, which is not unusual. Then the most incredible sound, wafting in through the window — the sound of a few saints gathered, singing Amazing Grace. What a sweet, sweet sound it was! I leaned far out the window and joined my voice to theirs. Hark the Herald Angels Sing followed, and we praised the Lord together — them gathered in the courtyard, me four floors above looking into the clear blue sky and breathing in the very breath of God.