Jesus is Like a Chicken

March 3, 2008

“Dad”, Hyrum, my 7 year old said, “Jesus is like a chicken.”

I was a little shocked by the comment.  We’re not in the habit around here of making jokes about the Savior.  Nor do we normally compare Him to things like stinky farm animals. Just something, well, not sacred about it.

My first thought that he was making a joke and a reprimand instantly jumped into my mind. But then I looked closer at his eyes.  He was serious.

Still, I wanted to make sure I had heard him right… “What was that?”

“Dad, Jesus is like a chicken.”

“Oh, really. How’s that?”

“Well, not like a rooster dad, more like a mother chicken.”

Now he really had me. Where was this all going?  What crazy idea was running through this 7-year-old mind?

Putting my arm around him, I said, “Ok, what do you mean, son?”

Without flinching, and looking rather serious and grave, and keeping his eyes locked with mine, he said…

“Well, today I read a story about a mother chicken. When there is danger, she gathers all of her little chickens in under her wings to protect them. I even read about a chicken that was in a forest fire and the mother got burned and died, but the baby chickens were all saved under her wings. A fireman saw that burned mother and thought she was dead, but then he saw something move and realized that those cute little chickens were all still alive so he helped them get out.”

It was said all in one breath, but not rushed, and with total sincerity… just like a 7-year-old would.

I was shocked – stunned really. It was a little boy speaking to me, but the words were deep and profound.

“Ok”, I said slowly, “how is that like Jesus?”

“Dad, when there is sin or danger nearby, Jesus wants to reach out to us and help protect us. He even loved us so much that he protected us by dying, just like that mother chicken. He really loves us, doesn’t He dad?”

Now, I was fighting tears from springing into my eyes. My chest was feeling tight and my stomach was dancing around with emotion.

Reaching out, I took this sweet boy into my arms.  “Yes, son, he really, really does love us.  And I love you.”  “I love you, too.”  And he was off, as if nothing had happened.  And I was left to reflect on the power of the Savior and His example for me as a parent.

Wherever my son picked up that striking analogy, I don’t know. But it left me wondering, “Does Hyrum and the rest of my children know that I love them that much, too?”

As a parent – especially as a dad – do they feel my love? Does it resonate with their soul? Do they wake up in the morning, firm and solid in the undying love I have for them? And when they go to bed, does their head rest softly on their pillows, comforted by the peace of my love surrounding them?

And if they can – or more especially, if they can’t – how can I more strongly transmit my deep love to them?

The answer came to me in the middle of the Arizona high desert while attending the burial services of my wife’s 97-year-old grandmother… a secret I’ll share with you next time…


Parenting In The Trenches

October 29, 2007

Technically, the little farm of our friend is not within Spanish Fork’s city limits. But we weren’t thinking of that on Friday afternoon as we got out of the car and walked down the steep hill to the lower garage.

I was the first one down and warmly greeted Nancy and Gerald who were using the tractor to move a 1 ton bale of grass hay off the massive haystack they had, just to the north of the garage. I chuckled as I thought how that haystack was wider, deeper, and taller than the first 3 houses Margie and I lived it. Well, with 15 horses and 4 cows, I guess she needed all that hay for the winter.

Looking back over my shoulder, I saw a chain of children making their way down the old railroad ties serving as steps down the hill. One had a rake. One had a pick ax. One had a shovel. The others were trailing along and laughing or talking. The image of Snow White’s seven dwarfs popped into my mind and deepened the joy I was feeling in that moment. And of course, the very vision of beauty and rapture herself came at the end of this long line of children.

“So, where do you want it?” I asked.

“Right across the road leading down to the barns… and I need it 18 inches deep. Sorry.” Nancy said.

“No problem! We’ll have it done in a jiffy.”

Well, as a matter of fact, it was a problem and certainly wasn’t done in a jiffy. But all the better for my purposes. Of course, we were not there to have a jolly visit. We were there to work. Both Nancy and Gerald are in their 70’s (maybe 80’s for all I know) and with no farm-hands, they manage all their projects by themselves… and some things they simply cannot do… like digging 18 inch ditches.

At first glance the road seemed to be a dirt road. But, actually, it was 2 inches of dirt covering 10 inches of old asphalt. And that is where the trouble started. As my pick ax slammed into the blacktop, my muscles groaned and my face split into a grin – this was going to be a lot of work for my boys. Over the next 2 hours, I swung the pick ax and they manned the shovels, clearing large chunks of asphalt, rocks, dirt, and gravel.

On their faces I could see the strain of physical labor and in their hearts I could see the transforming power of serving others without compensation or promised rewards.

Stopping for a break and a drink of water I saw Margie, Esther and Hyrum running down the hill. They had been up at the house raking leaves out of the yards. With a burst of excitement, Hyrum announced that they had already raked and scooped up more than 20 large black bags of leaves.

The signs of service were unmistakable on their faces as well.

Three weeks earlier before, we went down to Nancy’s farm to dig the trench and rake up leaves, we had a Family Council. The topic was giving of ourselves in service. The Council had decided that once a week – usually every Thursday – we would find a project to do for someone, and secretly if we could manage it.

Walking back up the hill that afternoon, I saw each of the children helping their buddy into the car. They talked pleasantly with each other, some holding hands, others with their arms around each other. No fighting, no bickering, no contention. There it was again… the home feeling.

The Great Pumpkin Caper

October 18, 2007

Looking in the rear-view mirror, I could see the grin splitting his face underneath eyes that were firm, determined, and dancing with excitement all at the same time.

Our big brown van – a 15 passenger Ford Clubwagon – is hardly what you would call “inconspicuous”, but that only added to the fun challenge that we had given ourselves. My son Joshua had the “package” – a orange, jack-o-lantern shaped goodie bag filled with licorice and bags of popcorn – in his hand and was standing by the double-wide side door, with one hand on the handle, ready to leap out at a moment’s notice.

Driving casually, as if nothing was happening, we passed right by the house. Giggles erupted from the back seats as I said, “We’ll just drive right by, like nothing is happening… they’ll never even notice us!” “Never notice us! Right dad!” I could hear Esther saying. That made everyone laugh all the more.

Once past the house, I stopped and looked back… only to see the lady of the house looking out the big, massive windows on the south side of the house. Hehe.. Sure, they’d never see us or suspect us. After all, we were the only ones in the neighborhood that had a big brown 15 passenger van! Humm, maybe I should have pulled forward out of eye sight of those windows!

And Margie told me as much, “Pull forward, honey – at least TRY to be secretive about this!” More laughter – except from Joshua. He’d been given a mission and was determined to fulfill it.

Of course it would be Joshua – my 9-year-old. Everyone knew it. He is by far the fasted runner of our children. Plus, he is clever about things and would know just how and where to put the secret package so as to get away the fastest.

I pulled forward out of line of sight. Turning around, I gave Joshua the “signal.” In a flash he was out of the car, running low along the fence line, creeping along side our victim’s car, pausing to assess the situation. “Hum – front door or back door? Dog at the front door – he’s sure to bark and blow my cover. Back door is only a few feet from their car – the car will be good cover for me on the get-away.”

With cat-like stealth he was gone, passing like a shadow from the car to the backdoor, always keeping a tight grip on the large treat bag – the “package” – that he held in his hands. Victory was in sight.. .here came the drop… now the doorbell… reaching, reaching… and then… CRISIS! RED ALERT! RETREAT!

Just at that moment, the lady of the house had decided to come to the back hallway to hang up a sweater. With a shock of thrill, Joshua realized that if he rang that bell, she would be sure to look straight at him. The better part of reason took over and his hand withdrew – they’d find it when they came out to the car… no bell needed.

The small shadow crossed down the stairs again and with the speed of lighting he shot across the driveway, back behind the car and then retraced his steps down the fence line where the get-away car waited with door open, ready to flee into the night!

As we sped away and rounded the corner, the entire interior of the car erupted with screams of glee and cries of laughter! The feeling of pure thrill and excitement filled each heart as we thought of the little deed of secret service we had just pulled off. To think of the happiness that goodie bag would bring the children in that home and the fun they would have guessing, “Who dunit??!!” was more than we could bear!

In the 90 seconds it took to get home and out of the car, I realizee something… there it was again – that feeling. The feeling of family. The feeling of unrestrained joy. The feeling of happiness and excitement. The feeling of enthusiasm. The feeling of unity and love with everyone in the family.

It was the “Home Feeling.”

Oh! How I LOVE that feeling. It just sends tingles up and down my spine. It melts away all the stress and struggle and turmoil of life. It brings out the sunshine and dispels clouds of doom. It makes life worth-while. It makes everything OK.

Yep… we had the “Home Feeling” something strong that night… the night of the great pumpkin caper.

“We Could Fill the Whole House With Little Babies!”

October 6, 2007

It wish… with all my heart, I wish I would have been there.

Aren’t there times like that in our life? Magical family moments that you would give anything to go back and be a part of. Times when the flood gates of happiness and joy seem to burst open and run all over your heart.

And you know… usually, those times are just simple things. Not the so-called great and glorious events of life or even the major milestones. Nope. More often than not, they are just the simple quiet moments of life that spark something eternal in your heart and ignite a flame of pure happiness, joy, and peace.

This time, it was the sound of tiny 5 year old feet pitter-pattering softly on the hall carpet. Those little feet made their way across the living room floor and up on to the couch beside my dear and wonderful wife.

It was early – not even 6:00 am yet. The rest of the house was quiet and sleepy. Everyone that is except for Sariah, Margie and me (I was already up in my office reading scriptures). Sariah, being only 3 weeks old, already had Margie out of bed, crying for a morning snack. It was Isaac that came and snuggled on the couch next to these two wonderful girls.

He began quietly caressing Sariah’s head and playing with her miniature feet and hands. “Mom, look at these feet. They’re so cute! And Mom, I’m going to tell you this… look at her pretty little fingers. Aren’t they soooo cute Mom? And mom, I’m going to tell you this… I think we should have more babies. Yeah, lots more because they are so sweet and cute. Mom, you know what? We could fill this whole house with more and more babies! And you know what Mom? I love little Sariah… she is soooo cute.”

Margie later told me that he was definitely in earnest as he spoke. His face was serious, sincere and full of infinite love for his little sister.

Oh! How I wish I would have been there to see those shining eyes and to hear his happy voice, expressing a deep longing in his heart.

In a way, his 5-year-old logic was true to the mark. You see, he figured that if this one darling little girl brought so much joy and happiness into our home, then surely, a whole home full of the little angels would bring exponentially more happiness and joy. Of course, his timing is off, but his idea is right.

One day, though it may be long, long into the future, every parent will likely have a whole house full of little babies – at least of their children.

It made me think of my wife’s grandmother. She is now almost 97 years old. In her younger days, she gave birth to 12 children. In turn, through time, those children have multiplied, bringing grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren. In all her posterity is well over 500 today, and more than that if you count in-law spouses.

And it just keeps growing. Imagine, in less than 100 years she has over 500 children filling her house and bringing her joy.

I have often though, “How much good has that woman brought into the world?” She established traditions and attitudes and perspectives that have immediately influenced hundreds of people and touched the lives of thousands and thousands. And, given another 100 years, how much more power and influence will this one woman have had? It is almost incomprehensible to consider.

Now, regardless if you are a mother of 12 or of 1, your power for good is the same. Over time, your family will grow and multiply, expanding over time.

The traditions, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and perspectives that you hold today will multiply right along with your family. It will grow and spread and expand and touch thousands and thousands of lives – for good or bad.

So, what are you doing today with your life? With your parenting?

One thing is sure and certain… one day, you will have a house full of children – thousands of them. What kind of future are you giving them by how you are living today?

Good Night Home…

September 22, 2007

The small cuckoo clock in the front living room rings every hour and half hour.

Actually, its not a cuckoo clock at all – it is an old Dutch sanse clock that I got from a flea market just outside of Nijmegen, Netherlands. It has the mystical god Atlas mounted atop a chime – and of course, Atlas is holding up the world.

The chime is small, but clear and beautiful. The truth is we have gotten so used to it, that I’m not sure anyone in the house really notices it anymore. But, I do… at least I try to around 7pm.

Seven chimes are important around our house. They tell us that the afternoon is spent, the working hours are past and it is time to “put the house to bed.”

The chimes are almost always heard while we are sitting at the dinner table, finishing up our evening meal together. “Hurry guys! We’ve got to get this house put to bed!” Everyone knows that is the call to arms.

Esther snaps to attention and grabs the broom and begins sweeping the floor.

Joshua slowly but surely takes command of the sink and dishwasher.

Jared – when he finally stops playing around and making everyone laugh – starts heading out to do the evening chores with Hyrum.

Hyrum grabs a half gallon pitcher and goes with Jared to do chores… that would be milking the goat for Hyrum and feeding the animals for Jared.

Isaac and Brigham pick up the floor and clear the table.

Mary gets a bottle and heads down to bed.

Sariah and Margie quietly sit in the rocking chair singing lullabies and nursing.

When it is all said and done, the hustle, bustle and clutter of the day are swept aside. The dishes are done, the floor clean, and the table cleared. The cushions on the couches (always in a state of disarray from pillow fights, tickle time, naps, and fort making) are fluffed and put back in their proper place. The bathroom is straightened up and the library floor is cleared of the countless books that have been pulled off shelves by little hands and eager minds.

In short, our little home is ready for another day of chaos, fun, learning, eating, playing, and resting.

Pajamas are on and everyone goes down the staisr to start the bedtime ritual. With the upstairs empty, I make the rounds, turning out lights and inspecting the night’s work. More often than not, I find myself pausing at the light switch between the dining room and hallway. From there I can see into the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, down to the bathroom and a small glimpse of my office. Call me a romantic, nostalgic fool, but in my mind I can see the little feet pattering over the tile floor… I see the older children learning, reading, writing, and learning at the table… I hear the voices of laughter, and yes, sometimes frustration and anger, as my children learn to get along together… I see the bright eyes of home and the mess of living with 8 children.

A sense of awe and wonder always fills me in those reflective moments. “How can life be so rich, so full, so exciting, so wonderful?” I wonder. It’s times like this when the goodness and greatness of God simply overwhelm me.

With that, I sigh, reach out and turn out the last light. In the darkness, peals of laughter and the sounds of bedtime come drifting up the stairs, beckoning to me like an irresistible siren’s song.

As I reach the stairs, that old Dutch clock in the living room peals its own quiet note of laughter – 7:30pm and all is well. As the sweet sound reaches my ears I whisper, “Good night home,” and I eagerly head down to join the fun.