It is March and that means Chicken Madness. I know, you thought that I was going to talk about Basketball and the South Carolina Gamecocks. That is not quite true. You see, right now I am spending my time taking care of my chickens, watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament and grading papers. One of these is exciting, one of these is predictable and one of these is frustrating. I will let you pick which one of these goes with which activity. It is actually my work with chickens that has taken up most of my time lately. Like anything that we care about, raising chickens takes intentional actions, great patience and a willingness to learn.
Rick Pitino, the Basketball Coach for the Louisville Cardinals, recently made some comments concerning one of his players who was thrown off of his team. Paraphrasing Patino, he said that there are some things you can teach someone by having them run laps, and there are other things that a person just has to accept the consequences of their actions and move on. Learning life lessons is never easy.
I picked up some Road Island Red pullets (baby chickens) a few weeks back with the goal of having fresh eggs sometime in late Spring/early Summer. I had read books and studied material on raising chickens. I had even gone to a lecture given by the Agriculture Department of the University of Kentucky. These were all well and good, but they simply did not prepare me for the reality of raising chickens. Now I am old enough to know that no matter how much one studies it cannot prepare you for the real thing. Learning life lessons is hard, but because of intentional actions I had prepared the groundwork for success. I had the Chicken Coop, the food and water containers, and had plans for keeping the chickens entertained. What I did not know that I would have to do is spend most of my day keeping my cat away from the chickens. Yet, because I was intentional about trying to raise chickens I was able to deal with this unexpected problem without too much difficulty. I haven’t lost a chicken yet, but it is still early in the game.
You know the Christian life is a lot like raising chickens. You must be intentional about growing closer to God, but no matter how much you plan there are going to be things that come into your life that are unexpected. It is much easier to deal with unexpected events when most other things are organized and planned out. God planned our salvation before the creation of the universe. It is good to follow His example and at least plan ahead the life that He has given to us.
Chickens are not nice animals. As I have been caring for them I have noticed that they are selfish, greedy, filthy and pushy! I really don’t mind the constant cackling sound that they make, but there are times when they pick on each other to the point that I have to intervene, for their own safety. I have had to work on patience over the years, and I have grown a lot since my younger years. These chickens have challenged my serenity. It is not that I did not expect this type of animal behavior, but when I am chasing a couple of chickens who have escaped their coop and are picking at each other I find that I can get almost as upset as they are.
Great patience is needed to care for animals. Since I have set out a goal of enjoying eggs from my own chickens I find that I cannot yell, stomp or growl at my chickens. My attitude directly effects the production of my small flock. It does not matter that they act like animals. I do not have that luxury. If I am to enjoy the benefits of my labors then I have to exhibit great care and patience as I lead my flock. If not they will get stressed out, will not produce eggs and will develop attitudes that will be counterproductive to their growth.
In the list of the Fruit of the Spirit we find patience. (Galatians 5:22) We know what it is like to not walk in godliness when we rage, scream, throw fits and act like selfish children rather than as mature adults. Knowing the right thing to do is important. It is almost as important as doing what you know is the right thing to do. Intentionality and great patience fit together like hands in gloves. I cannot be intentional if I am losing my tempter, acting out, demanding that my way is followed or yelling. These actions will derail my intentional plans and cause a loss of productivity. These actions also will dishonor God and will force us to learn tough lessons. You know, like the lessons that cannot be learned by just running laps.
As I sit watching my chickens do their chicken things I have because a student. Yes, I have become a student of my chickens. I have come to know their individual attitudes. I know that there are some that like to roam, there are some that like to fight, there are some that try to fly and there are some that like to be left alone. This process of being a student of my flock has taken me back to the classroom, so to speak. I have had to take many of the concepts that I learned about from reading and lectures and modify them to work for my flock of Road Island Reds. The process of learning has allowed me to understand their growth pattern, and not to expect from them things that they cannot do because of a lack of development. I know that they have certain abilities, but I also realize that those abilities need to be controlled. Modifying the behavior of my chickens is for their safety. Since I have goals for these gals I want to protect them, their chicken coop and their surroundings so they can act naturally without being a danger to themselves.
I cannot be a student without a willingness to learn. It is easy to have unrealistic expectations when I am not flexible. I might make demands that cannot possibly be met, but that happens when I forget that a good student also needs great patience. The type of patience that God has with us. Salvation may be a one-time event, but the Christian life is a complex commitment to be a lifelong student. As we follow the patterns of development that God has set out for us we too become the type of students that honor God. And that is what life is about. It is to honor God above all, and to accomplish everything that He has planned for us to do.
As I sit around grading papers and waiting for Kentucky to play I am reminded by the noise of my chickens in the backyard that life can be exciting, as well as predictable and occasionally a little frustrating. Yet, by choosing to be intentional in actions by setting specific and measurable goals I can deal with those times of frustration. I also realize that boring times found in daily tasks need to be enjoyed, because there are times of unexpected excitement that are just around the corner. Finally, as a child of God I can never stop learning. To be a lifelong student means that I will be able to care for everything that God has given me, and that I will chose to honor Christ in all that I do. Even when I watch Basketball.