Lessons From the Flock – Stay Focused

What are they doing out there?”

I was pouring a cup of coffee – my first one of the day – and had my back to Carol.

“What are who doing out where?”

“You have to look and see.”

It was around 7:15 in the morning and I had already gone out to let the girls (chickens) out of the coop. As I prepared their mix of goodies, they followed me so closely that I nearly stumbled over them. Goldie and Elona pecked my britches as a sign to pick them up and love them a little – which I did. Then, as they began gobbling up the morning meal, I returned to the house where my coffee was waiting.

As I set my cup down, Carol reached for her camera to take a video of what was taking place. I began laughing. I had seen this many times previously but had never seen it from Carol’s viewpoint.

Goldie had entered the coop but left it within a few seconds. Whitey was walking toward the entrance of the coop. When Goldie walked out, Whitey entered, but quickly exited and stood at the entrance. Red Head was pacing a few feet away.

“Elona must be on the nest, Precious, and the other girls are waiting. No one will go in to make their deposit until Elona leaves the nest. And it looks like Whitey will be next.”

“That doesn’t make sense. Even if she’s on the nest, there are four more nests available. “Why don’t they use the other nests?”

I poured milk into my coffee to cool it and to give it a better flavor. I don’t like black coffee. I don’t like it hot, either.

“That’s human logic, Precious, but not necessarily bird logic. Remember when Goldie became a brooder and sat on twenty-three eggs?”

“Yes. All four birds laid the eggs in one nest.”

“They still do that quite often.”

“But Fred has been gone for eleven months now; do they think they can raise another flock?”

(Fred was the rooster.) “Who knows? I can figure out part of their thinking, but not all of it. All I can say is the girls seem to be waiting in line until it’s their turn to pay their dues.”

“You mean, lay their eggs. I didn’t know chickens could be so patient. Look!”

Elona walked out, and Whitey entered. Goldie moved up and stood at the entrance – Red Head continued pacing a few feet away. She would go last.

Putting her camera down, Carol finally said, “When it comes to eating, they will grab worms, cockroaches, moths, and other choice morsels from each other’s beaks; and Elona and Goldie fight each other vying for your attention. But when it comes to taking dust baths or laying eggs, they patiently wait in line? I don’t get it.”

“I don’t know if it is about patience; it might be a matter of being focused.”

The day before, Goldie and Red Head were chasing Elona all over the quarter-acre backyard trying to get the night-crawler away from her. Focused on that worm, they cornered Elona, and all three birds managed to eat a portion of that 7-inch fish-bait.

 The birds know how to be focused. God programmed that into them. As they meander around the yard, they are always on the alert for a bug – either flying or creeping. Sometimes one of them will half-run and half-fly all the way across the yard, leap or fly up several feet and grab a butterfly that is flying low. Now that’s being focused!

Is there something we can learn from our flock? Yes.

Not able to focus on eternal values, chickens are focused on what will keep them alive physically. But it’s supposed to be different with humans. What are you focused on? Fun? Personal gain? Entertainment? Vocational advancement? Vengeance? Disappointments? None of that will help you when you stop breathing. God built within us the ability to focus on eternal values.

Philippians 3:13b-14 says, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (NLT)”

The prize the Apostle Paul was focused on was eternal life with God which he gained by living for and honoring Jesus Christ while here on earth. We must fulfill our responsibilities on earth, but let’s stay focused on honoring our Heavenly Father by obeying our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Lessons From the Flock – Security

Two of my chickens don’t like to be picked up, but something was different today.

I prepared their mix of goodies which consists of whole-grained rolled-oats, dried meal worms, cut-up apples, bread bits, and scratch. Water and the 16% protein meal called Crumbles are available 24/7.

As I tossed the mix out for them, Elona and Baby wanted to be picked up. These two, and Goldie, are the ones who always want to be loved on. I picked up Baby, then Elona. But this time, Whitey and Red Head came up. That’s unusual because they are the more elusive ones.

As I held and talked with Elona – she was explaining life to me – Whitey stood at my feet.

“You want up, Whitey?” She took a step closer.

I put Elona down and scooped up Whitey. She cocked her head, looked at me from both sides of her head, and talked – but not freely as do Baby, Elona, and Goldie. They chatter with me, but Whitey merely said a few syllables. (I’m not joking.)

Then Goldie walked up and began pecking on my britches. That’s her signal to pick her up. Elona does that, too.

I put Whitey down and scooped up Goldie, and she began telling me what she’s been doing lately. I then felt Red Head bump against me as she was looking for more worms. I put Goldie down and picked up Red Head.

She squirmed a bit but didn’t try to get away. However, she wouldn’t talk at all. Red Head merely looked at me as if to say, “Are you happy now that I let you pick me up?” When she looked at the ground and wiggled her legs, I put her down, and she continued her search for worms. I had an extra worm in my hands, so I said, “Red Head – you want this?”

Without hesitation she jumped up, and with outstretched neck grabbed it with her beak. At that movement, the others came running. They wanted it! Do you know the chicken’s philosophy of life? Here it is: If I have it, it’s mine. If you have it, it’s mine. And if I had it but you took it, it’s still mine!

So, I threw out another handful of dried meal worms; that generated another feeding-frenzy.

I often hold all five of the chickens – no more than three at a time, of course. I watch over my flock because (this may sound strange) I love them. I care for them and feed them very well. After losing the rooster (Fred) because I forgot to lock the coop, I always make sure they are safe and secure at night. They, in turn, come running to me every time I go out the back door. Again, as strange as it sounds, these babies love me – at least, as much as chickens know how to love.

Do you know that God loves us and wants to take care of us? But He does much more than I can do for my birds. I watch over my flock on a limited scale at best, but our Creator-Savior is a good shepherd and watches over His flock 24/7. He knows what’s happening with us every second of the day. He desires to “hold us” and care for us, and He goes out of His way to keep us safe and secure – if we let Him.

Amazingly, God is also limited in what He can do for us. What’s the limitation?

We are the limiting factor.

If my chickens wanted to, they could fly over the fence and escape my protective, nurturing care. They would be independent to roam freely. But they don’t. They stay with me, they trust me, they’re secure with me.

But many humans don’t have the wisdom my chickens have, and they run from God. Desiring independence, they “fly over the fence.” They fly from safety and into danger. They run from plenty, and into poverty. That’s not wise.

John 14:21 tells us that whoever loves the Lord – those who listen to and obey Him – are the ones to whom God the Father will reveal Himself.

If we run to God, and remain in His protective care, we can receive the “mix of goodies” that He wants to give us – in addition to His sustaining care available 24/7.

God loves you and desires to communicate with you. Study the Bible, learn to know Jesus, and find your security in and with Him. You may be surprised at the results.

Reaching for Life

I’ve been looking at my pictures of the redwood forest in Northern California. The trees are big! Our pine tree in back yard that is over two and a half feet in diameter looks big; but it is small compared to a relatively small five-foot diameter redwood tree. Amazingly, redwoods that are 10-18 feet in diameter are common, and it staggers the imagination knowing that the diameter of the General Sherman Redwood is over 32 feet!

A typical farmed redwood tree may weigh 50,000 pounds, but some redwoods weigh over 2,000,000 pounds! Interestingly, about half the weight is in the water. The redwood bark may be 2-feet thick, and a huge redwood tree may provide wood to build 30-35 homes.

Water is necessary for life. The redwoods grow to 250-350 feet tall and require over 100 gallons per tree per day. But it rains a lot in these forests, snows in the winter, and fog is prevalent; therefore, they are seldom thirsty. The root systems of redwoods are shallow, and that would mean a heavy wind or flood could topple them easily. But as they reach for life-giving water, a mature tree spreads its roots over 2 to 4 acres; and with 8 to 20 trees per acre, the root systems overlap and intertwine which results in a strong foundation for these top-heavy giants. They effectively support each other in rough times.

Light is also necessary for life. God engineered plants to reach for or aim toward light. This is called phototropism. The same is true of these giant trees. Programmed to be tall anyway, they continue to reach for life – for sunlight. Lone trees out in the open will not be as tall as those in the forest with a thick canopy of foliage; and they are also open to more danger. There is protection among its neighbors.

The mature redwoods are basically fire-resistant. The thick, fibrous bark does not burn easily; and as a protective shell, it insulates the tree which allows it to survive most fires. The thick bark also provides protection of another kind: it has the ability to withstand fungus, disease, and insect attacks. This is why these trees live so long. The oldest known redwoods are about 3,000 years old. Only the bristlecone pines (about 5,000 years old) are known to be older.

Looking at the pictures of these magnificent trees, my mind gravitates toward humanity. I see similarities. No – not about size, but about other features and qualities.

The redwood’s root system covers a wide area which gives it stability in inclement weather. In the same way, our roots in healthy relationships with family, church, and society give us stability during “inclement” situations such as death, job loss, health deterioration, and more. In our many storms of life, we need each other for emotional and physical support. But our strong roots in a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ will help us even more in this life on earth, as well as throughout eternity.

 A straight tree is stronger than a crooked tree, and its wood is useable in more situations. Likewise, a morally and intellectually straight man is stronger, trustworthy, where an immoral or double-minded man is weak, confuses people, and leads people down the path of destruction.

Trees must reach for the light to survive. In the same manner, man must reach for light – truth – to survive. We cannot survive very long, either societally or spiritually, if we live in spiritual and moral darkness. We cannot mature as morally strong individuals if we resist truth.

As the thick bark protects the trees, living in truth will protect us. Knowing the truth about various aspects of life – food, environment, chemicals, health, morals, physiology, and a lot more – can help us live safely. And purposefully living according to the truths found in the Bible will protect us in many ways most people don’t yet understand.

As the trees depend on water from the sky for life, man depends on guidance from the sky – direction from God – for life. Psalm 1:1-2 tell us not to follow the advice of ungodly people, but to meditate on and live according to the words of the Lord. Psalm 33:11 tells us that God’s plans are good, healthy, and beneficial. And Proverbs 14:11-12 warn us that man’s apparently powerful plans will fail in the end, but God’s seemingly weak plans are actually strong and will stand forever. Trust in Jesus: Reach for Life.

Who Are You?

I recently heard a portion of a conversation. A man named John went to a hospital to visit a bed-ridden, dying man. The name of the man in bed was Tom. (The names have been changed.)

In the early portion of the visit, Tom perceived that his visitor was troubled concerning his vocation. Not wanting to be nosey or pushy, the dying man realized, however, that John was the one who needed to be encouraged. Also, Tom noticed that John was an up-front, forthright kind of man, so Tom jumped right in. As close as I can recall, here is what I heard.

“John, who are you?”

That took John off guard. “Uh, I’m a basketball coach. Why do you ask?”

“If basketball went away, who would you be?”

John thought about it, then mentioned his other vocations, adding that he is a father, a lay-leader at church, and ….”

“John, you’re missing the point of my question. All those things are what you do or have done, and every one of those things will someday not be so any longer. I’m asking you one simple question. WHO are you? If you became an invalid, as I am, who would you be?”

John is like most of us – he never thought of that before. But Tom wasn’t through. He had one more question.

“My friend, here’s how you can figure out who you are. When you die, as I will soon, you will be none of those things you mentioned. As you enter heaven, none of those titles, jobs, and positions you filled will be part of you. None of your importance, influence, prestige, reputation, or money will go with you. Who will you be then? Think about it, John. Who are you?”

John left the hospital perplexed, and that question began rolling around the corridors of my mind. Who am I? I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Dear reader, you and I could spend several days or weeks trying to impress each other about our jobs, our accomplishments, how we’ve changed our company, church, or society. We also have a culturally imbedded idea that what we do is who we are. I am the president of this. I’m the CEO of that. I started this company. I am a pastor. I’m the chief mechanic over this operation. On and on we could go because we strongly identify with what we do.

But is any of that who we are? If we sleep in a garage, does that make us a car?

Bed-ridden, dying Tom was pointing to eternal reality. When all the temporary things in life vanish, when we breath our last, the eternal question is: who will we be? If we can answer that question, we’ll know who we are.

So, who am I? I’ve learned not to tell folks about my accomplishments because it could be considered a matter of pride. Even while I was a pastor, I truthfully said that I didn’t have a ministry. Why? The Ministry belongs to God, and He graciously allowed me to be a part of what He was doing.

Who am I? I am a King’s Kid. I am an adopted son of the Living, Loving, Eternal, Creative, Almighty God. That’s who I am. And I’ll be that forever.

I remember a 1796 song written by Charlotte Elliott. The first verse is: “Just as I am without one plea, But that thy blood was shed for me, And that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

I asked the Lord to accept me into His family when I was five years old, and I’ve never turned my back on Jesus. Do I sin? Yes, but when I realize it, I ask the Lord to forgive me. And He does. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Today, I listened to a 1992 song written by Mosie Lister. In addition to being a song-writer, he was a great pianist. The words to the chorus are, “Beyond the Cross is a tomb that is empty, you won’t find Me there anymore. And beyond the tomb is life ever-lasting, and hope forever more.”

Jesus died for us, but He raised back to life three days later. He is alive, and I’ll be alive with Him forever. Who am I? I am an adopted son of God!

Friend, who are you?

What Did God Say?

God said, “Let us make man in our image.” And when I say “God,” I mean Jehovah, YHWH, the Creator, the Supreme God in the Bible. So, if we’re made in His image, what does God look like? Has anyone seen Him?

Not lately, but Abraham might have, Moses saw God’s afterglow, and Adam conversed with God daily – for a while.

Scripture tells us: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God is a spiritual being, and we are spiritual beings who live inside human bodies. Mankind was the high point of God’s creative work here on earth. God created us as an entirely new species, quite different from animals. And to emphasize this distinction, God placed man over the animals. In Genesis 1:28 God told Adam, “Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Animals can’t do that.

How else are we different from critters? Evolutionist Julian Huxley noted that “only humans possess true language, conceptual thought, art, humor, science and religion.” And I add, only humans can record and direct the course of history. Humans can express themselves analytically and it is obvious that only humans have the ability to communicate through complex, multi-lingual skills. All this sets mankind apart from the animal kingdom.

And, quite interestingly, only humans have the ability to deny the existence of God.

Marriage is another example of how we’re made in the image of God. Adam and Eve’s union was much more significant than two beings openly mating in the jungle. Marriage was specifically one man with one woman. Marriage is a compassionate, loving, fruitful, social, and spiritual union.

As humans who are made in the image of God, we reflect many attributes of our heavenly Father. These spiritual and moral attributes allow us to commune and fellowship with people as well as with God. Attributes like love, mercy, and justice are only three examples of Godly qualities available to mankind. God created us to enjoy relationship with each other, but specifically, He made us to enjoy relationship with Him. God wants us to interact with Him and to be in fellowship with Him. This is not the nature of animals.

Some people say mankind is no greater than the animal kingdom and is why man should limit his population growth while protecting the animal species. I suppose they haven’t noticed several animal traits that civilized humanity does not endorse.

Such as: Some animals eat their own kind, but we do not condone cannibalism. Some animals kill and eat their offspring, but we don’t condone infanticide or eating our babies. (Correction: misguided and disobedient humans do commit infanticide in the form of abortion.) Animals don’t care for the elderly, but because of Godly compassion, humans do care for the elderly. Animals do not have the skills and ability to change their society, but man has created great civilizations and been to the moon and back. Animals have continued their lives without change for the past recorded 6,000 years. Chickens live as they have throughout history. Their change in living quarters is because of man.

When you hear or read some scientists say that 98% of our genes are shared with some animals, don’t get excited about it. They also say we share about 50% of our genes with bananas, so what might that mean? I think those statistics are meaningless.

Only humans can experience faith in God. However, it appears that some people were not happy with that arrangement and have created their own imaginary deities. Humans have the ability to choose to worship God or themselves; to acknowledge Almighty God as sovereign or claim another personage (human, spirit, tree, rock) as either a sovereign or co-existent deity. Humans gather for the purpose of worshiping a deity corporately. Animals cannot do any of this.

But of all earthly creations, only man can worship and trust our Creator and enter into a relationship with Him.  

God is a communicator Who cares for us and guides those who listen to Him. He made us to help others. He defeated sin and death through the death and resurrection of Jesus so that we can be with Him and enjoy our relationship with Him forever.

What did God say? Let us make man in our image.” And He did. But God gave us the authority to decide how we will use the attributes He gave us. How are you using them?

%d bloggers like this: