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…

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Breakfast at Midnight

February 2, 2008

It wasn’t until we were all seated around the breakfast table that we heard the story.

The truth is, I sleep so soundly, that I never heard what had happened.

But Margie did.

It was just after midnight when she woke up to a rather strange night sound.

At first, she could not be sure, but as the clouds of sleep left her mind and she listened more closely, she could distinctly hear the sound of footsteps in the kitchen.

Of course, Margie’s first inclination was to reach over and rouse me with a warning that someone was in the house. But then, she noticed another noise. Had someone just opened the cupboard and got a mixing bowl out?  Now it sounded like drawers were being opened and spoons, measuring cups, and the Bosch attachments were coming out!

What was going on?

Margie decided to investigate on her own. Sliding out of bed, she went upstairs.

The whole of the dining room and kitchen were ablaze with lights. The ongoing sounds of food preparation could be heard as faithful and diligent hands reached for this spice, that bucket of flour, and another scoop of sugar.

“Esther!  What are you doing up?”

Without even a flinch or a glance in the direction of my astonished wife, our wonderful 10-year-old daughter replied over her shoulder, “Making breakfast Mom. I thought we’d have some lemon poppy seed muffins.”

Silence.  Margie didn’t know what to say.

At last, Esther, sensing that something was amiss, turned around and looked at Margie.

“What’s the matter, Mom?”

“Well, it is 12:18 in the morning. I’m just surprised that you are up already.”

“WHAT?  It can’t be!  I set my alarm for 5:30am and it just went off a little bit ago,” Esther returned in disbelief and shock.

“No, really, look at the microwave clock.”

Sure enough, 12:19 glowed brightly on the face of the clock.  With a somewhat sheepish grin Esther set everything down and walked over to Margie. “Well, Mom, I guess I can finish this in the morning. Let’s go to bed.”

We later discovered that earlier that day, her clock had been unplugged by our rather curious 2 year old. Esther had plugged it back in and reset the clock… but not the alarm, which remained stubbornly at 12:00 a.m.

For the past 3 months before the preparations for the midnight breakfast, Esther had taken  over the responsibility to make breakfast each morning. And true and faithful as ever, she had simply jumped out of bed and got to work when the alarm went off.

Margie and I reflected on that experience over the next few days.  What had caused a 10-year-old girl to jump out of bed at midnight, in the middle of the winter and cheerfully go about doing her chores?

Besides the fact that this precious daughter of ours is an angel, we have come to several conclusions:

1.    High Expectations – Margie and I have always made the assumption that our children are wonderful, responsible, and obedient. And we have never let their temporary shortcomings prove us otherwise. We expect the best out of them and tell them so in plain, unmistakable terms. Not only that, but we send that message to them through our actions and by holding them accountable to high levels.  If a job is not done right – they feel our disappointment, “We expected more than this sloppy job out of you.  Will you please do it right – the way we know you can?”  And when they meet or exceed our expectations (as they usually do) we praise them lavishly, “Great job!  You did awesome!  Really, this is incredible!  But, it is nothing more than we expected… we knew you could do it all along.”

2.    Freedom to Rise… or Fall – With that expectation, we give them the freedom to rise or fall, to win or fail, to succeed or wallow in mediocrity.  But, no matter how they perform, they know it was their baby, their stewardship. The tasks and jobs we give them are not just perfunctory jobs to keep them busy. We make sure that they are essential aspects of running the house and keeping this large family alive. Like making breakfast. If we don’t eat, life is pretty uncomfortable.  And Esther knew that. She knew deep inside that we were all counting on her.  Hyrum knows the same thing about taking the garbage out. Joshua feels that pressure when the dishes need to get washed and put away. They all feel the weight of responsibility. They all have their stewardships. They all are left to do their duties as best they can and as they see fit.  They LOVE the pressures of duty, responsibility, and a family dependence on their actions.

3.    Side-by-Side Training – The freedom and responsibility that is heaped on their shoulders is not without training and love. In fact, in the beginning, when they are first given those assignments, we work very closely and repeatedly by their sides. Esther learned to make muffins by helping Margie do it dozens of times, with more and more of the work slowly being transferred to her.  The knowledge to make a perfect pancake from scratch (a feat she now does effortlessly and with great skill) came from working with me repeatedly over hot skillets. Joshua, Jared, and Hyrum handle every aspect of keeping four goats, 25 chickens, and 2 bulls alive and healthy without even a word of supervision from me because we have worked for hours on end in the barn together.  We have found that working closely with our children and slowly transferring duties to them, works miracles that barking orders at them can never accomplish.

As parents, we sometimes catch glimpses of the growth and learning of our children. We find unusual moments when the lessons we have endeavored to impress on their hearts come shining through with a strength and glory that causes our hearts to burst with pride and joy.

Breakfast at midnight was one of those moments for Margie and I.

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