The Privileged Life: Roses, Canaries, Donkeys…and Other Warnings

    “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand.” (Joel 2:1)

    In some wine-producing regions of Europe, you’ll find a curious sight—colorful, abundant roses growing in the midst of grapevines. 

    Brilliant red, pink, and burgundy blooms randomly erupt out of perfectly lined rows in terraced vineyards alongside serene rivers. These aren’t wild bushes, nor are they planted to be aesthetic breaks from the green monotony of the grape plants. Instead, roses are intentionally included for their usefulness as alarms.

    Grapevines are hardy-looking from the outside, but some diseases creep into them slowly. Farmers can be unaware of problems until too late to save their crops.

    Rose bushes, however, are frailer vessels that more readily exhibit weakness or injury from mildews and other rots. The roses “sound” an alarm signal for damaged areas of vineyard soil that need immediate treatment. 

    The same principle formerly applied to canaries in coal mines. Before modern detection devices, miners had no way to know if deep mountain corridors were laced with toxic, odorless gases. Workers would carry cages of warbling canaries along with them. The delicate, sensitive birds would stop singing (or collapse) well before miners showed symptoms of gas poisoning, allowing men to escape in time to fresh air.

    Nature offers other time-honored ways to send out alarms. Sheep herders still guard their flocks with donkeys that bray loudly in the presence of predators. 

    In today’s electronic world, we humans set up all kinds of household, business, and computer safeguards to alert us about intruders or fire. New technology in our cars keeps drivers within the lanes or from turning into another vehicle nearby.

    But how well do we guard our hearts? When was the last time any warning bells went off for you, sounding the alarm that you were approaching a danger zone?

    More importantly, did you actually heed the alerts?

    One of the problems with alarms is that we build up an immunity to them if they go off too frequently as false alarms. We also carelessly assume we are safe because we’ve put so many firewalls around us in cyberspace.

    Friends, we are never safe outside of the arms of God. We can set up all kinds of safeguards, but without the guardianship and provision of our Heavenly Father, all of our spiritual security systems are useless. 

    In His great love for us, however, God has provided us with warning signs for impending danger. Scriptures are chock full of admonitions for our faith journey—informing us about the dangers at the bottom of the slippery slopes of sin.

    Disease and mildews can hide even in perfectly manicured vineyards–randomly placed roses alert farmers to troublesome conditions.

    Old Testament prophets share lots of God’s thoughts, too, about choosing righteousness over idolatry. God doesn’t mince words when it comes to His desire to have us follow His commandments and have no other gods before Him. 

    While we’re given plenty of fair warning all throughout the Bible, we also receive directions at times straight from the Holy Spirit. I’ve found that He often “pokes” me (if I’m listening close enough) when I’m getting ready to make a bad move or follow a wrongful attitude. The challenge is to be ready not only to hear His voice but willing to heed what He says. 

    Have you found God’s alarms in His word? Do you listen for the whispers from His Holy Spirit? 

    I hope so. And I hope you (and I) hear His still, small voice quite clearly this week…before we step off the edge of a moral cliff or sink into some sort of spiritual quicksand.

    Look this week for God’s alarms—if they’re like the roses, you’ll be rewarded not only with His safekeeping but also the beauty of His love. 

    Holy Spirit, may Your love and beauty capture my mind and heart to follow You. Thank You for holding me safely in Your hands, alerting me to the dangers that lie in ignoring Your voice. Bless me with Your presence this week, and lead me in Your paths of righteousness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

    Nancy C. Williams is a Christian wife/mom with a writing career spanning more than 40 years in business and journalism. Williams is the author of the novel To Love a Falcon and the devotional book A Crocus in the Desert: Devotions, Stories, and Prayers for Women Experiencing Infertility. Her weekly blogs are featured on To follow Nancy’s posts and news, go to her home page at and subscribe at the bottom. 

    © Copyright 2024 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative (text and photography) Unless otherwise noted, Scripture verses are taken from the New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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