Never say never. Three little words spoken often by my mother during my childhood still ring in my ears to this day. My “never” would usually come in a statement like, “I’d never be able to do that.” Mom was always quick to respond with those three words. I learned pretty quickly, her words often proved true. Wise woman, my mother. Last January, I shared here about themes I felt a connection to, as I stepped into 2011. All three themes have woven their way through my year, but one keeps resurfacing, bobbing up and down like a buoy thrown about in rough waters. Courage. A reminder to persevere when those gale force winds blow my way.
Posts from the ‘Courage’ Category
Why did the chicken cross the road? This morning I was given an answer to this question: To get away from the crazy lady trying to snap a picture with her iPhone.
If you’ve visited Bella Verita before, you might be aware I live in what I affectionately call “the woods.” I’ve named my driveway (an understandably odd thing to do) “The Road Less Travelled,” which isn’t entirely accurate. Anytime we leave our house or come home, we travel the well-worn gravel driveway. Yet something about the name conjures up images of a far away, distant place and given the length of our driveway, it seems fitting.
Living in the woods, we’ve realized over the years we’re not alone. We’re surrounded by wildlife – deer, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, possums, woodchucks, field mice, frogs, turtles, the occasional (thankfully) coyote, hawks and all kinds of birds, even wild turkeys. I’m no stranger to opening my back door only to find some animal peering back at me. I’m not usually taken by surprise, until this morning.
Driving down our long gravel road, something was bobbing around, a bit flustered in the brush on the side of the road. I slowed down, in an effort to respect the wildlife. At first glance, I thought it was a wild turkey. Then I got a closer look and heard the faint sound of clucking. This was no turkey. It was a bona fide chicken.
Never in the nine years we’ve lived in “the woods” have I come across a wandering chicken. I’d recently read in a Country Living article that chickens are somewhat friendly creatures. Armed with this knowledge, I parked my car and walked in the direction of my feathery friend to get a closer look.
At the realization I was approaching, the poor bird immediately became panic-stricken and began clucking loudly. She darted furiously, bobbing side to side down the road, before crossing the street, to get as far away from me and my pint-sized camera as possible. Back to the car I went, somewhat sad to have frightened the hen. I drove a few feet down the road and parked again, hoping to catch another glimpse unnoticed and maybe even a picture.
The chicken had sought refuge under a grove of pines and I could hear her nervous clucking. As the clucking subsided, she peeked out and seeing me, once again, headed in the opposite direction, as fast as her spiny legs could carry her. With no hope of catching her on film, I gave up, picture-less and retreated to my car. I drove away leaving the terrified bird seeking solace in the shade of the pines, hoping I’d not driven her into a molting frenzy.
Jonathan & His Armor Bearer
Later in the day, I was reading 1 Samuel 14. King Saul and six hundred Israelite soldiers were encamped on the outskirts of Gibeah, at war with the Philistine army. While Saul was apparently staying “under a pomegranate tree,” his son, Jonathan, decided to get a closer look at the enemy encamped nearby. To do so, he needed to climb up to their outpost, which was perched up on cliffs above the Israelite camp. Jonathan is accompanied only by his young armor bearer, to whom he says, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or few.” His armor bearer responds without hesitation, “Do all that you have in mind. Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”
Jonathan climbs up to the camp, with his armor bearer right behind him. Spotting them, “the Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him.” In this one attack, the two men overcame twenty. Then a panic sent by God struck the whole Philistine camp, so fierce that the ground shook. Realizing something was up, Saul roused his men to battle. “They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords.” Many of them ran away with the Israelites in hot pursuit. 1 Samuel 14:23 says, “The Lord rescued Israel that day, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.”
Insights from a Chicken Encounter
I’m moved by the bravery and courage of both Jonathan and his young armor bearer. Jonathan’s actions were based on the solid faith he had in his God. He knew if the Lord was for them, no one could act against them, regardless of the odds. The Philistine soldiers he surprised “fell” before him. Not because of who Jonathan was, but because God was with him. God already had a plan in this battle on a cliff. He gave Jonathan the victory.
In discussing how the armor bearer was committed to Jonathan’s authority, Beth Moore in her study, David: Seeking a Heart Like His, makes the point that the armor bearer did not get to choose the battle. His master did. The young man trusted him and followed closely behind. Jonathan went before him to take the blows of the enemy. Moore states, as followers of Christ, we don’t get to choose our battles. But we can be confident that if God calls us into a personal battle, He is leading the way and the enemy is powerless before Him. In Him, we can have victory.
Like my friend, the rusty hen, I sometimes find myself fighting the urge to run the other way when faced with the looming giants in my life. Battles not of our own choosing can send us running haywire down the road like scared chickens. Jonathan and his faithful armor bearer inspire us to stand strong in the faith, in the midst of our trials. After all, if the Lord is for us who can be against us.
Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress
As the New Year gets underway, there are a few things that have been on my heart. Three of them, in fact, keep coming back to me. The first is the need, the real need to simplify. To simplify things in my life, in my house, and in my heart. Just to simplify. In my home, that translates to more and continued organization. In my heart, it means to consistently get at the kernel of what is most important in my hours, my days, my weeks; all of which flow into a natural simplicity in life.
The second thing on my heart is to live this year with courage. Courage to look beyond, to see the good in the midst of the rubble; not giving way to fear or letting fear steal my joy. No one knows what tomorrow holds, but there is abundant joy today and there is joy for tomorrow, as well. Live courageously. Writing this feels a bit like playing Russian Roulette, like throwing down the gauntlet. I know there are and will undoubtedly be challenges ahead. It’s all part of the natural ebb and flow of life. But the reality is that if I’m trusting fully in the God, who is all I know Him to be and so much more, my courage comes from knowing Him and the knowledge that He is always faithful. I’ll never leave you or forsake you, He says over and over again. Need to keep stepping out in courage.
The third thing on my mind is to live compassionately. To look for ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to try to bring joy to other people’s lives. Sometimes I feel like I have my hands tied, like I’m hindered because of the many needs in our family, which I know is absurd. There is so much joy in my calling. And I’m grateful for the life with which God has blessed me. Listening to friends who have very clear calls from God, I can hear their excitement. It’s all very adventurous. In those moments, it’s easy to feel like I’m spinning my wheels, doing a lot of tending. But the reality is that God has called me to tend – compassionately. And to be compassionate towards people He brings in my path – and I can do that, through Him. I can be compassionate. I can also be more compassionate towards myself. Sometimes, I think it’s easy to be the hardest on yourself. I don’t want to do that. I want to be kinder and gentler to myself, more accepting of who I am. If God loves me and accepts me, than I surely can show myself the same grace.
All three of these hinge on keeping God centered in my heart and my life. Keeping everything centered on Him is essential. Out of that will flow the necessary vision to recognize what’s most important. Out of that will come the ability to be courageous, despite what’s going on around me. Out of that will come the ability to be compassionate, to have my eyes opened to those around me, and also give me the words to say to bless them in some way, to show His grace.
Just some thoughts for my New Year. What thoughts are you bringing into yours?
May you celebrate the new beginning each day brings in 2011.
“The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”
. Lamentations 3:22-23 (NASB)
Happy New Year!
Photos courtesy of Photoxpress