Lesson from the Flock: Wisdom

Chickens are curious creatures: they want to get into everything, fly over anything their limited flight ability will allow, and go where no chicken has gone before. But while they will run from a person who is trying to catch them, and run from another animal coming at them, their little minds cannot understand the inherent danger involved in leaving the protection established by their keeper.

The birds in our flock cluck their way around the yard as they scratch for bugs, hop onto the trailer, crawl under the BBQ grill, and fly up to look into our windows. But what got my attention was when I found three hens sitting atop the gate of our chain-link fence. Obviously, their wings are getting stronger. (This took place a week before we were given Elona – the fourth pullet.)

“You might need to clip their wings” Carol prophetically intoned. I shouldn’t have been surprised the next day when I went out to feed them, but found only Fred – the rooster.

Oh, I forgot to mention the names of the pullets. The bird with thin white feathers along her neck is Whitey. The one with a dark red neck on top a lighter colored body is Red-Head. The even-colored bird is Goldie. And, as I said, the rooster is Fred. (Don’t ask – I don’t know why.)

As I said, the three girls were gone. Carol reminded me that, when I found them, not to attempt to chase them back into the yard because with their non-rational reactions they will scatter like cockroaches – creating a ruckus in the process.

I found them in the neighbor’s front yard and called them. Getting their attention, I dropped grain – which they dearly love – behind me as I walked toward the gate. Carol was right. When they saw the grain falling from my hand, they ran to me and willingly gobbled the grain as they followed me home. The situation reminded me of the Pied Piper, but my motives were good.

The four birds have a quarter-acre to roam, eat, run, fly, scratch, lay eggs, fuss with each other, eat more, cluck to their heart’s content, and enjoy life. So why do they spend an inordinate amount of time at the gate looking out? Within the yard, they have all they will ever need. They are safe from all kinds of predators … and cars. Yet with their half-inch-long brain, there is no way they can understand the dangers outside the fold. Neither safety nor danger enters their little minds, so they roam wherever they feel like it at the moment.

Surprisingly, I know some people who act in the same irresponsible manner – and they have a three-pound brain. So, the problem doesn’t lie in the size of our brain, or even with the ability to rationalize; but with wisdom and understanding.

Wisdom can be defined in many ways. One definition is: the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience and knowledge. Another definition is: the ability to apply what I have learned to life’s situations. Some folk say wisdom is common sense. Properly understood, I agree.

But wisdom depends on something else. Proverbs 9:10 (KJV) says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” The NCV says, “Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord, and understanding begins with knowing the Holy One.”

As the space shuttle needs a base from which to launch, and as a building needs a solid footing, wisdom needs a firm foundation. So Proverbs 9:10 informs us that knowing, respecting, revering, and obeying God is the foundation upon which wisdom is built. The emphasis is on obedience. Sacrifice was the highest form of worship in the Old Testament, but I Samuel 15:22 tells us that obedience is far better than sacrifice.

God gave humans our three-pound brain to operate our bodies. Within that brain, our mind thinks, analyzes, and ponders; but wisdom goes beyond that.

Wisdom enables us to see through problematic situations; to understand and heal wounded relationships; to formulate a plan of action. Wisdom enables us to avoid hurting others and helps us to understand and love more completely. Wisdom enables us to accomplish our God-given goals. Wisdom helps us to understand Who God, what He desires of us, and to obey Him. As we remain obedient to the Lord, He grants us wisdom to understand and enjoy life.

The chickens finally learned to stay home. In like manner, we need stay close to God.

Lessons from the Flock – Vision

“You’re a bird-brain!”

Did you ever hear that? It’s a derogatory statement and meant to degrade someone. But I identify with it because I am learning a lot from my fowl friends – my five chickens.

I’ve noticed that the birds often gather at the fence and look in the direction of the kitchen window. When I move around in the room, their heads follow my movements and they seem to be waiting for me to come out. But when they are standing in bright daylight, how can they see me through a window in a room with subdued lighting?

It was research time.

Of the many documents on the internet, I found an article by Cynthia Berger published on July 19, 2012 titled “True Colors: How Birds See the World.” That was an eye-opener. Using a device called a spectrophotometer (it measures light that is reflected from a surface), researchers found colors in the UV range that most birds can see.

Quoting from her second paragraph, “…systematic testing of bird vision revealed something unexpected: many bird species can see UV light. Scientists also have learned that many birds have plumage that reflects UV light.”

I had never thought about chickens being able to see differently from humans. Oh, I know chickens have enhanced hearing and smelling, but enhanced sight? Amazing.

I’ve always wondered how a bird can distinguish a male from a female, but now I know. Both males and females of barn swallows, mockingbirds, western meadowlarks (and many others) look remarkably alike to humans. But viewing them through the spectrophotometer we find they look totally different from each other. They, of course, have the same shape but different coloring. Another example: To humans, the blue tit male looks identical to the female. But looking at the UV reflection, we find a bright spot on the males’ head. The female spots that immediately and says “That’s my man!”

Female birds know which eggs are hers because various eggs reflect UV light differently. Choosing to raise her own offspring, some females either break or eject foreign eggs from her nest.

Birds will more readily eat food that reflects greater amounts of UV light. That explains another question I had: why do my chickens go for corn more than wheat? Corn reflects more UV. Also, insects reflect a higher amount of UV than green grass. Watch out, moths and bugs; my chickens are loose in the yard and you are doomed!

Speaking of moths, it’s fun to watch a hen run at full speed then half jump and half fly with neck fully extended to grab a moth or other flying insect out the air.

But all that helps to explain why the birds are at the fence looking in my direction: some of my clothing is reflecting UV light. They see me through the window, and they assume that I’ll bring food out to them. Sorry, chicks. I’ll feed you later.

When I think of birds’ ability to see what humans cannot see, it reminds me of spiritual sight. In Ephesians 1:18, the Apostle Paul said, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope to which God has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

“Eyes of your heart”? Sounds strange because blood-pumping hearts don’t have eyes. What Paul means is we have inner understanding, insight, the discernment or comprehension of spiritual reality as it pertains to Almighty God, and verified in the Holy Bible. I am not referring to Hinduism, Buddhism, spiritism, spiritualism, other religions, or any New Age idea. I am not talking about mindless concepts that exalt man, nature, familiar spirits, or demons.

An example of a mindless statement – proclaimed to be spiritual insight by Matshona Dhliwayo – is: “The Universe is one body; love is its heartbeat.” Not understanding either the universe or love, Dhliwayo is wrong on both counts.

True spiritual insight comes from God, and enables us to understand real life – both temporal and eternal – from God’s perspective. Second Corinthians 2:16 informs us that we can “have the mind of Christ”; that is, receive His thoughts. This requires us to stop being self-centered, and to become God-centered or Christ-centered.

As birds can see some of what humans cannot see, we can ask God to grant us wisdom and insight which would enable us to understand what we normally cannot “see”. That’s not being a bird-brain; it’s being in tune with God.

Lessons from the Flock: Joy

I could hardly believe my eyes!

Normally when I walk out the back door of the house, the four hens come running to me. They think I’ll have a treat for them, and they are usually correct. So, they run to me, stand as tall as they can, and sometimes jump as they try to get goodies out of my hands. One time I put my open hand down to their level. When they saw the wheat kernels in the palm of my hand, they rushed forward. As they began eating it, I found out what it feels like to be hen-pecked. (No, it didn’t hurt at all.) By the way, chickens have a 300-degree field of vision without turning their heads.

But today as I walked out the back door, I was quieter than usual; and the birds, who were out of sight, didn’t hear me. I stood there for a minute with no visible activity in the yard. I then began to hum a song. No words; I just softly hummed.

Pandemonium erupted in the back yard!

I don’t know how to accurately spell what I heard, so I won’t try. But these birds exploded from behind the 10 x 12 barn! They came half-running and half-flying as fast as I have ever seen a chicken move. With wings spread straight out like a hawk on the attack, the little head making more noise than seemingly possible, the four birds came racing to see what their benefactor had for them.

It amazes me to see the joy the birds express when they know I am near. When they either see or hear me, they stop everything they might be doing and come running. If they even see me through the kitchen window they come running. (In addition to seeing all the colors that humans do, chickens also see ultraviolet – but that’s another story.)

Stop and think about it: theses chickens joyfully interact with me, their loving benefactor. How many Christians do you know who joyfully interact with our loving Benefactor – Almighty God?

Okay, you might say that we cannot see God. Well, most the time our chickens cannot see me either because I am out of sight. But they LOOK for me. Are we “looking” for God?

The birds love me because of what I do for them. On a much higher level, do we love God for what He does for us? We don’t have to look far to see His blessings. In fact, if we don’t see them, we are blind because God’s blessings are so abundant and prevalent.

Sadly, some Christians are oblivious to what God has done for them. But on the other hand, many Christians do see the blessings – but still are not joyful. Why not? Let’s look at two definitions.

One definition of Joyfulness is: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. (Actually, that is the definition of happiness which deals with circumstances; but the modern world , including Christians, confuses joy with happiness.)

A definition and application that is more appropriate is: the spontaneous enthusiasm I experience when I am in fellowship with the Lord (Psalm 16:11). If God never did anything else for me, I would be satisfied because 1) my relationship with Him is intact, 2) my eternal future is secure, and 3) I have everything I need to fulfill God’s will for my life.

So, let’s look back at the chickens. Are they joyful or happy? They are a little of both: they get their treats, but they also walk with me as I traipse around the yard. The birds really enjoy being with me.

Dear reader, are you enjoying your relationship with God, your Supreme Benefactor, or are you worried, mired in the “mud” of everyday life? Do you invest time observing and enjoying the blessings God has heaped upon you, or are you immersed in some level of self-pity because things don’t go your way?

If we are purposely doing something – thought, word, or deed – that is contrary to Biblical principles, we will not have the Joy of the Lord. Could that apply to you?

So “Run to the Lord” with your whole heart. Be satisfied with what He gives you. Even while experiencing financial or material loss, God still blesses us. First Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

So, look for God; He is watching you.