My favorite family traditions are the ones that spring up spontaneously – moments so perfect that they must be relived, remembered, revisited each year. We have a few such traditions unique to the Cogdell family. One of my favorites is associated with Advent evening prayer. It is better experienced than described. You are all invited to join us for prayer to see for yourselves. Here I will simply say there is some howling involved.
A couple of months ago I received this wonderful short story from my Austrian friend Maria Lang who spent a month in Israel this summer praying. Now every evening during prayer, I find myself recalling this story and joining in the howl.
A very funny detail about my trips to Israel is that each time I live close to animals usually associated with Africa. On the first trip, I lived close to a zoo and could even hear the lions roar nearby. Now on the second trip, I live on top of Mount Carmel, surrounded by forests and bushland. There I experience a very strange ritual every evening.
In the beginning I did not quite know what it was.
When the sun is down, all of a sudden strange cries can be heard. They sound like cheering voices that become gradually louder, until they turn into a howling sound. It sends shivers down my spine. First I thought: “Is there a celebration going on?” When the same thing happened on the second and third night, I thought: “Well, they can’t celebrate like this every night.” So I asked somebody what it was all about. “Oh, these are not people! These are the koyotes – and maybe some hyena!”, they explained and laughed.
How strange! I have never heard a sound like that! During the first week it made me feel kind of uneasy to be surrounded by so many of these strange wild creatures. I did not want to go out of the house when it got dark. But I got used to it and people assured me that the koyotes were not dangerous. From time to time I even spotted one during the day. They looked like small, fox-like dogs and seemed to be very shy.
On one of my walks I found a really nice path which I decided to use for jogging. It was so good to get away from people sometimes and be out in nature. One evening, I went jogging, being aware that the sun was about to go down. But I longed to get some exercise. I had taken my torch with me, just in case it got really dark. The full moon shone its pale light down. It was kind of spooky and I thought: “The only thing that is missing now would be the koyote’s howling…” Thought it, and there it was. All around me the koyotes started to lift their voices. Although I could not see them, I knew that they were quite near. But I also knew that God was with me. This gave me the courage I needed.
One moment I thought of running back as fast as I could. But then I decided to stop for a minute and join the chorus. I howled as loud as I could, receiving answers from all around me. The thought crossed my mind that it was like a worship song of some sort…May all creatures praise their maker! Then I lit my torch and marched back to my house.
In my bible I even found a passage saying: "The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,..." (Isiah 43:20)
When I hear it now every evening again, I love the idea that the koyotes are having their worship time… I am grateful that God has taken away my fear and given me a totally new perspective.