The Pecking Chicken

I have been laughing all week every time I think of something a friend sent to me.  Some of you will have seen it on Facebook.  It’s a cartoon picture of a hen. The caption reads, “I may look calm, but in my head I’ve already pecked you three times.”  I can so identify with this chicken!  Probably, we have all had our moments of putting on what I call, the plastic smile.  This particular frozen face fixture shows itself as a cover for what one is really feeling; something like, an arched eyebrow with lips parted which would properly communicate, “were you born a moron or did you acquire this trait at a later time in life?”  To actually say this would not be nice; hence, the calm hen look.

We have all learned how to be socially acceptable, to be polite, to be nice, to certainly not reveal, at times, the thoughts that are really going through our minds.  In most instances, we can acknowledge a simple clash of personality and just move on, but at other times, the desire to actually peck the irritating someone becomes overwhelming.  Sometimes, the irritation can grow into a bitterness that zaps away our inner peace and our ability to function as we should in other areas of our lives because our minds are too busy pecking!  What to do?!?!?

I’ll share something that I have watched my mother do my entire life.  She, like all of us, has had her share of dealing with irritating people.  Many times these people have been unkind to her.  When her own desires to go pecking would turn into an uncharitable yearning, she would say, “time to heap some coals.”  As a child I didn’t quite know what that meant.  As I grew older I understood.  She was quoting from Romans 12:17-21: “Repay no one evil for evil.  Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give righteous place to wrath, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine.  I will repay,’ says the Lord.  Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him.  If he is thirsty, give him a drink.  For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  

As the years passed by I gained a deeper understanding.  This “heaping coals” through showing kindness, wasn’t just something good for the offending person, but it was wonderful for anyone exercising this attitude.  I discovered myself, that instead of deliciously picturing a pecking episode in my mind, if I alternatively pictured some kind word or action, the irritation that had taken hold of me would ease away.  

Being overcome with thoughts of pecking never turns into anything wonderful.  Being overcome with determination to show simple kindness, amazingly, does a world of goodness to both sides.  As the above instruction tells us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Blackie And The ‘Possum

I have observed the cutest thing lately; the friendship between a cat and a opossum (in the southern US it’s pronounced ‘possum).  Our cat, Blackie, has a house outside with three levels.  On top of this structure are his food and water bowls.  Several times over the past two weeks, around 8:00pm, a ‘possum comes on the scene.

I remember the first time I stepped outside and saw this visitor.  There was the ‘possum eating from Blackie’s food bowl and there was Blackie calmly observing, sitting right next to him.  It was like Blackie had invited the ‘possum over for dinner.  Since that time I have taken to putting extra food in Blackie’s bowl in the evening.  “Here’s some extra for your ‘possum friend,” I explain to Blackie, knowing of course, that he understands everything I say to him.

Contrary to this friendly ‘possum visitor, there is an orange cat that lives across the road who is not known for displaying a gentle nature.  Every now and again, he too, comes for a visit, but not a friendly one.  He hisses and snarls at Blackie, at times even jumping on him with claws extended.  I’ve noticed that, now when Blackie sees the orange cat coming, he simply gets out of the way.

I find there is so much wisdom in God’s nature. Christians are instructed to love everyone.  When someone abuses us, we are told to “turn the other cheek.”  Sadly, that has been misunderstood to mean, be anyone’s doormat.  It does not mean that at all.  My father used to say, “be kind to everyone; if they are not kind, but cruel, then turn the other cheek; but remember, you only have one cheek to turn.  Jesus was nobody’s doormat and we are not to be either.”  My father was a kind, humble, and wise man. He showed kindness to all but, like Blackie the cat, if someone arrived to do nothing but offer abuse, he just got out of the way.

We are to seek opportunities to show love and kindness to others, even strangers. However, if another continually, like a toxin, brings poison into our peace; thereby shattering our joy, just keep out of the way.  We are instructed to be vessels of love, bringing peace and kindness into our worlds.  We are not to take revenge.  We are to be kind to the unkind but we don’t have to stand there and let someone habitually wipe their feet on us.

May this new year bring you wisdom in all your relationships.  May you be a person filled with God’s love, being His hands of help, and His words of encouragement, but may you remember, no one has to habitually entertain toxic people.  My father also used to say, “no one has the right to take your joy, unless you let them.” May we all have the heart of Blackie to lovingly share our food bowls with the ‘possums that suddenly enter our world, while having the wisdom to simply get out of the way when hissing cats will continually leap into our paths.

“Bless those who persecute you.  Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them….Never pay back evil with evil.  Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.  Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.  Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God…..Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”      Romans 12:14,17-18, 19, 21

Happy New Year everyone!  May all your relationships be blessed with the love of God and with His wisdom.

Knowing God’s Will

Contemplating God’s will, and trying to determine what that will is for our individual lives, is a question that comes to every Christian.  We ask things like: What job or career does God want me to pursue?  What church should I attend?  Who should I marry?  Where should I live?  Should I go to college?  Should I teach a  Sunday School class?   What does God want me to do?  How does He want me to pray?  What should I pray for concerning myself and the people I care about?  The questions continue for the whole of our lives.  We so want to get it right; stress levels can rise with worry.   We put ourselves under great pressure with thoughts that we may miss the boat of God’s choice, and land in a sea of chaos, because of our own bad decisions.  Therefore, we ask, is it really possible to know God’s will?  Does it have to be so hard?

There is good news — but not easy news,  in answer to the question of knowing God’s will.  God’s Word gives us the answer in Romans 12:2: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  There we have the answer to knowing God’s will; we must let Him change the way we think which will transform us into a new person.  What kind of a person?  A person who resembles Jesus Himself by the way he or she talks, behaves, responds to people when they are kind or unkind, and by the attitudes they maintain when trouble strikes.  When we let God transform us to be like His Son, then we begin to have the mind of Christ.  Is that even possible?  Yes.  Philippians 2:5 tells us, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ.”  Will we ever be perfect?  No, not until we get to heaven, but on earth we can certainly get better.  Like an athlete in training, the more we practice, the closer we get to our goal.  No training — no goal reached.

When we make the choice to obey God’s instruction in Romans 12:2, and ask Him to transform us in behavior and attitude, then the way we think becomes more and more like Jesus.  When our mind becomes more like Jesus, we can better determine what God’s will is for our lives.

Too many Christians, sadly, don’t want to work at living according to God’s instructions.  Too many  Christians don’t even know what God’s instructions are because they don’t want to take the time to read and study His wonderful, holy words to us.  These same Christians will be the ones to complain that God isn’t answering their prayers, or showing them what to do in various situations.

One thing for certain:  we cannot ignore God, refuse to learn about Him, and then expect to know His will for our lives.

Another thing for certain:  we can talk to Him, read about Him, meditate on His instructions, and fully expect to know His will for our lives.

It’s not easy, but it’s wonderful and exciting.  It’s a lifelong adventure.  There’s no joy to compare.  I encourage each of us: determine to pursue God; then His will for your life will unfold as you go along the way.