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…


Good Parenting With 20 Metal Brackets and 2 Wires

September 21, 2007

This morning, his comments were echoing through my ears… “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Sitting on the operatory chair in my brother-in-laws dental office, I did have to wonder what in the world I was doing there.

Sure, a couple of my teeth were not perfectly straight, but it had never really bothered me before – at least not to the point that I had been willing to spend any money to get them fixed. And, hey, my beautiful, amazing wife had married me crooked teeth and all, so it was not like I needed them straight to impress the ladies or increase my chances of a hot date… I had one of those every day, all day. To top all that off, my children all loved me, no matter what my teeth looked like.

So, why was I sitting on the side of the chair staring at the 20 metal brackets and 2 orthodontic wires sitting on the tray next to me? This was going to cost me time, money, and pain – and for what?

“You know what Joe, let’s do it,” I said, “Joshua is getting braces on and Esther has had them on for 3 months already. I want to be an example to them of trying new things.”

He shrugged his shoulders, gave me that coy grin of his, chuckled with a mirthful laugh that said, “Ok… but you have no idea what you’re getting into!” and had me lay down in the chair.

2 hours later I felt like someone had snapped a pair of vice grip pliers on my teeth and was mercilessly yanking on them. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was this wire digging in here and a bracket grinding on my lips there. But, truthfully, all-in-all, as I walked out of the office, it wasn’t too bad.

This morning, almost 48 hours later, my whole face feels loose and sore, especially the two teeth that are most out of line. The raw lip syndrome has set in with a fury and sleeping has been a bit troublesome because every time I roll over my face presses against the pillow and reminds me that the vice grips are still there yanking on my teeth.

It is a constant reminder of the last thing Dr. Joe told me as I sat up from the procedure, “Well, you’re a great dad, Joshua. You know you’re going to have about 5 times the discomfort and pain that your children will have – right?” Now he tells me… thanks a lot!

In truth, I would have done it anyway.

I was there for that exact reason – to be a good dad. I have heard so often that example is the only teacher and the more I strive to raise my children to greatness, the more I realize the profound truth of that statement.

Example says, “If I can do it, so can you!” It urges on, calls to rise up and join those that are going before. It removes excuses and levels the playing field. It drives teachings, lessons, ideas, principles, deep into the realm of reality and extracts them from the vague, superficial and obscure. Example makes it all real.

But there is something more that it does – something that is even more powerful that all of that.

This morning, during my personal scripture study, I discovered what that “more” is. Paul, talking to the Hebrews, stated this about our Savior:

“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.”

And another ancient prophet has said:

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

Setting the example does not just allow me to lead out, forge the way, and level the playing field for my children, it gives me the same experiences that they are having – or will have.

This gives me, as a parent, enormous power to guide, influence, comfort, care for, understand, love, respect, appreciate, and nurture my children in a way that would not be possible if I had not actually experienced the thing for myself.

With that insight in mind, is it any wonder that Christ came to earth and took up flesh? Is it any wonder that God, that created heaven and earth and had all power, still needed to actually, physically experience this life like we would?

He did it because He loves us. He not only wanted to set the example, but He wanted to know and understand, so that He could comfort and guide us in all of our trials, afflictions, griefs, joys, and success. We can never say to the Savior, “Well, you just don’t understand what I am going through.” But we can turn to Him in all aspects of our life and in all circumstances, with the confidence that He has been there, He knows and He can help.

Peter stated this:

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps”

From the Savior Himself, we hear:

“Follow me, and do the things which you have seen me do.”

As a parent, this is my new creed: To follow the example of the Savior by setting the example for my children in every way possible. Even if it means being strapped with 20 brackets and 2 wires.


A Peaceful Farewell Born of Confidence

July 19, 2007

The red rock and sands of the Kanab, UT valley crunched under the van tires as I gave three short honks of the horn.Margie’s window was rolled down so that she could both extend her arm out toward our daughter Esther and be heard as she called out a final farewell.

It would be almost a full week before we could hold, interact, and enjoy our oldest child. For some, 6 days does not seem that long, but for us, it felt like we were losing a part of us as we drove away leaving her standing in our sister’s driveway. At just 10 years old, this would be the first time she spent more than a day or two away from home.

The three honks have become a tradition for us whenever Margie or I go anywhere. It represents the kind phrase, “I love you” and leaves a lasting impression in our minds of the love we have for each other.

As we drove away, I did a quick self-check of my emotions. “What am I feeling right now?” I wondered to myself. Anxiety, fear, relief, sorrow, happiness? What?

Peace. That’s the first thing that hit me. “I’m feeling peaceful.”

I lingered on that thought. Why was I feeling peaceful at letting my 10 year old daughter go down to Mesa, AZ for 6 days for a summer camp where she would be exploring remote caves in the Red Mountains02, learning to water ski on large reservoirs, hiking rattlesnake infested desert trails, and doing service projects outside in the blistering 104 degree summer heat?

On the surface, it did not make sense… but a quick look at my dear Margie told me she was feeling the same thing.

Why?

I thought about that during the 4.3 hour drive home and discussed it with Margie.

Confidence – that was the source of our peaceful feelings.

It was a confidence born of daily routines in our life that have instilled in our daughter a solid knowledge of right and wrong. More than that, this young girl was proven in converting information into wisdom and keeping her head about her in difficult situations. And while she is pure in heart and mind, she is by no means naive. She knows that evil and dangers are lurking out there in the big, wide world, but her faith in an all-powerful God allows her to face it with unwavering courage.

In our journey toward the “Land of Family Greatness”, we have discovered that a simple daily routine filled with some essentials – not just good things – is making all the difference in how our children face the world.

Here is what our morning looks like each day. I’ll give it to you with very little commentary and leave it to you to see if there is value in this:

  • 6:00 am – wake up, get morning outdoor chores done (around here this includes milking the goats and getting feed for the goats, chickens, and horses.)
  • 6:30 am – breakfast
  • 7:00 am – Family scripture and prayer time. This is not just reading a few verses and call it good… this is typically a pretty in-depth discussion (sometimes we get hung up on half a verse, spending 30 or 40 minutes applying it to our lives… VERY rewarding)
  • 7:45 am – morning indoor chores (this is basically cleaning the kitchen and house – they’ve each got their areas of stewardship and it goes pretty smooth)

In the summer, the rest of the day includes a wide range of activities and during the school year they are off to school.

Now, here is what happens every night…

  • 7:30 pm – get the PJ’s on and head down to bed.
  • 8:00 pm – tuck everyone in and spend a few minutes with each child. “What was the best part of your day? What did you learn? How did (fill in the blank) go for you today?” etc… If I’m not too tired, I let them pick a song and I sing them each something – usually a hymn, but sometimes a funny song that gets everyone laughing…
  • 8:30 pm – “Zip the lip” time – everyone is quiet now, but me. I lay down in the hallway and read to them. First, I take 10-15 minutes and read a scripture story or something else morally and spiritually meaningful to them. Often, I’ll ask questions and we briefly discuss it. Then, it is time for a novel. Over the years, during those evening reading sessions, we have enjoyed books like, “Swiss Family Robinson”, “The Secret Garden”, all 12 of the Elsie Dinsmore books, “Five Little Peppers”, all 7 Chronicles of Narnia, “Robin Hood”, and many others. What a joy this has been… and what a treasure of wealth we have acquired from these classics!
  • 9:30 pm – One final drink of water, a good night kiss, and lights out.

Peace – that is what we felt in sending our 10 year old off into the big, wide world for the first time.


They’re Raising Greatness In Me

July 18, 2007

I only remotely heard my youngest son (that’s Brigham, he’s 3yrs) come in the first time.

Faintly, through a fog of deep and very heavy sleep, I heard a little voice saying, “Mommy, I had a bad dream.” Actually, he doesn’t know what that means, but it is just as good of an excuse as any to come into our room at 2:03 am in the morning.

“Did you say a prayer?”, I heard Margie mumble.

“No”

“Ok, let’s say a prayer. Heavenly Father will help you sleep good.”

Then in quiet, sweet tones a simple prayer was offered and then little feet pitter-paddering out of our room and back down the hall.

I knew what was coming next, but hoped against hope that it wasn’t going to happen.

But, it was no use. Just as I was dipping back into my deep slumber, I heard those tiny feet sliding across soft carpet down the dark hallway.

You see, of all the lovely things we have taught our 3 year old, tucking himself in bed in the middle of the night is not one of them.

“Daddy, my bed is messed up. Will you help me?”

Knowing there was no use in fighting it, I rolled out of bed, making a mental note to myself to have that lesson on “tucking yourself in bed” first thing tomorrow morning.

As I reached out into the darkness for my son, I felt a precious, trusting hand already stretched out waiting… expecting… me to reach out to him. There was something in his simple and unwavering confidence in that act of reaching out to me that sent a thrill of excitement and pleasure through my whole frame.

“He believes in me! My boy, believes in me”, was the thought that flashed through my mind.

In a minute, I had him snugly tucked back in bed and before I got to the bedroom door he was sound asleep.

“I love you, Brigham”, I whispered softly into the night.

I couldn’t help but linger in the doorway a little longer. There was something magical about the glow of the soft night light as it gently illuminated his cubby cheeks and pure features. Enormous swells of love, and compassion, and care swept over me as I looked on.

I thought to myself, “I bet, in a way, this is how Heavenly Father must feel about us. He must thrill when we approach him. He must rejoice when we plead for help. He surely is elated when He can serve, bless and comfort us.”

And then another thought came to me. I realized that in raising this boy to the great man that he would someday become, he and God were working on raising me to greatness as well.

In that brief encounter with my son at 2:03 am, I had overcome impatience, my selfish desire for sleep, my frustrations at his inabilities, and petty thoughts of “why doesn’t Margie get up with him.”

Simultaneously, my patience, compassion, care, and love had deepened. In short, I had become a better man, father, and husband because my 3 year old son had a “bad dream” and reached out to his daddy for comfort.

As parents, while we raise these children to become great future men and women, we should never forget that they are in cohorts with God to raise greatness in us.

Is this family thing an amazing plan, or what?