Slowly slowly the hen drinks water

Slowly, slowly the hen drinks water

One of the most precious tasks I have at Mill House is looking after the chickens and collecting the eggs. And whilst they might not come out wrapped in chocolate like the ones I was given for Easter. It is a wonderful moment when I hold a freshly laid, still warm egg in my hand. A nun from Ghana once shared a proverb with me

Kakra kakra akoko benum nsno - Slowly, slowly, the hen drinks water

And that has stayed in my mind and my heart especially when I watch our hens drink. It seems to be saying something very profound and offers an opportunity to look at our lives which are so much about rush and busyness and to think about stillness and space and peace. Our world seems to be the complete opposite, full of rush and anxiety and noise. Some days even when you first get up there’s an overwhelming sense that there is just too much to do and you are tired and defeated before you even start. And a retreat house is no different, we are blessed with a wonderful setting, and opportunities to find space and silence but there are still a million and one practical things to do which can eat away at any peace of mind and threaten the sense of God’s presence that we try to rest in and enjoy.

Stilling the space within ourselves, drinking slowly, doesn't just happen, it comes from deep longing, deep thirst, even sometimes deep pain. So how can we nurture, protect and rejoice in a sense of stillness within? What does it mean to be still? It isn’t about sitting idly doing nothing. It's savouring the moment. It's being blessed with a sense of our place in the world, of being safe in the hands of the Creator God who made us. Of being connected with the mystery of life.

So if you get an opportunity to collect eggs this month or to watch a bird in the garden drink or even when you drink a glass of water yourself. Think about the mystery of life, the joy of life. Not cheap joy. But the joy that had to first endure the cross. The joy of risen life, the joy of hope.  

Little Pearl

Little Pearl is the smallest and by far the scruffiest chicken on the block. In her four years with me, she has laid exactly 7 eggs, none of them bigger than a table tennis ball and most nearer the size of a marble. But undaunted, every day off she goes in search of a good spot, wriggles herself about before getting up and coming back terribly proud of herself. But no egg is forthcoming!

Each day she goes through the motions – goes off – comes back, not the slightest bit bothered that she is in fact unproductive and in other circumstances may well have ended up as a burger or Macnugget by now. She's happy, i'm happy, we're all happy. Well all except the cook who on occasions is a couple of eggs short of an omelette. But then aren't we all sometimes!!

Sitting watching her yesterday I found myself asking a few questions. Are some of us all show and no end product? What things are we just going through the motions of in our lives? What things on the outside look good but actually have no life in them.? How quickly do we judge ourselves and one another only by our productivity?

 

Reuben - Show me the Way

 

At the beginning of July, I took in a Broiler Chicken who had been due to be slaughtered age 42 days. He (I was told it was a hen but never mind!!) came to me age 34 days. He was so heavy where he had been constantly fed that he could barely stand – his feet were deformed with several broken 'toes' and he had feathers missing everywhere. He sat in the corner of his new house and just whimpered.

Gradually he managed a few steps and then was able to stand long enough to eat but had no idea how to drink or how to be a chicken. He put his beak in the water closed and nothing happened, then open and he choked he really was very puzzled about the whole business of living.

One of other hens took to lying in front of the gate where he was, so I let her in- Pickle made a beeline for his food and water ( and I thought she felt sorry for him and wanted to give him some companionship!!) and he just sat and watched her. After a while he went over to the water and drank as she had. Then he started to try and scratch the earth like she was-poor chap fell over several times in the process! She rather flattered by the attention showed off a bit and he was wonderfully impressed and at last began to take an interest in his surroundings and day by day became more and more like a cockerel until eventually Pickle stopped visiting as Reuben had far more on his mind than food, had begun to crow rather loudly and really Pickle just wanted an easy life and extra food so she said her goodbyes and went back to her sisters.

Reuben didn't seem to mind too much, was happy in his new found pattern of life and it was a joy for me to see him behaving like a cockerel and enjoying the sun on his back.

It made me thank God for all those people in my life who have shown me how to live, who have encouraged me to be truly myself and assured me that it was ok to be a bit slow on the uptake and to not always get things right or to be lacking in confidence sometimes.

And especially those who have shown me the Way of the Cross, those who have by their example have drawn me deeper into the Christian faith and made it real.

Role models are so important and so precious as are those who quietly day by day show us the joy of a life fully lived.

We are all called to be Pickles to Reubens we meet along the way. Hopefully too we will have the humility to let others be Pickles to us!

 

Freebies

I tend to think that if something is free, then there is either a catch or the item isn't up to much. So when I was at the Honiton show last week in the poultry tent at the end of the day and I saw 2 Serama cockerels were free to a good home I immediately wondered what was wrong with them!

Four days on I can celebrate that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them and they are a complete joy, bringing me endless pleasure with their tweeting and twitting and I am waiting to hear what their crow will be like! Their only defect that I can see is that they don't lay eggs and that is what most folks wanted so they ended up surplus to requirements. So free can be good and Coffee and Walnut as I have named them are a constant reminder to me that actually some of the most precious things in life are free- or at least they can't be bought, they can only be received and made room for.

And some things that are free to us today have been very costly to others in the past. Our right to vote is free but women especially suffered long and hard to earn that for us. The freedom of racial equality, (still work in progress in many places) has been an incredibly painful journey and many have had to stand up (or sit down in Rosa Parks case) to great persecution for that gift to be free to others. And ultimately love, grace, forgiveness, and all the things that the cross of Christ bring us, are all free but they came at a terrible price, They don't rely on us having earned them or having deserved them and that is why it can seem almost too good to be true like most things that are free- there must be a catch, surely. The catch if there is one is that we have to lay down our pride at wanting to earn, deserve, or merit and just receive. Sometimes cautiously at first, sometimes with an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. Free doesn't have to mean cheap or worthless it can be the very opposite. And free can be shared as I reminded by in the chorus 'Freely, freely, you have received. Freely, freely give. Go in my name and because you believe. others may know that I live.

Here's to Coffee and Walnut and to all the free things in life. Enjoy them, celebrate them and share them!

Gratitude

 

Mingle, aims high and punches well above her weight! Some chickens may aspire to being eagles, she thinks she's more in the Tyrannosaurus Rex category.

She has the speed of Eusene Bolt over 5metres, the swagger of Mohammed Ali and the ruthlessness of the Kray Brothers (I kid you not!!) But she has been a lesson to me in gratitude. Not my own but my expectations of others gratitude towards me. I had thought that as a rescue hen she would be immensely grateful to me for giving her a good home, a warm house, clean bedding and plenty of food but no! She takes everything for granted, terrorises every other creature in the Sanctuary (including my cat Eliza) and generally has a chip on her shoulder the size of a Californian red wood, thinks the world owes her big time and all in all takes everything she can and quickly as she can – Gratitude you're having a laugh!

Gone are my rather pathetic self congratulatory feelings of having taken her in out of the kindness of my heart. Rather like a few years ago in Gloucester. I didn't have much money but saw a chap in a bad way in the doorway of Marks and Spencers so I went in and bought him a sandwich and bag of crisps. When I took them to him he very politely said that he didn't like cheese. I of course had been so concerned with feeling good about my generosity I hadn't thought to ask him what sandwiches he would like. So somewhat sheepishly and very embarrassed I had to go back inside and change them to the variety he did actually like. There is something very unattractive and unappealing about smug self righteousness and I took a good look at myself that day. Before going out I should have read the parable of The Good Samaritan. I'm sure he didn't get on to the first century equivalent of Face book and tell everyone what he'd done. He just quietly got on with meeting the poor travellers needs- he expected no gratitude he just gave because he could and because his heart was moved.

So Mingle you might not be particularly grateful to me, but funnily enough I'm very grateful to you- for your spunkiness, your attitude, your sense that you are worth the best and your helping me to see me as I am.

Still, a thank you now and again would be nice....... !!!!

 

 

 

Fighting a Losing Battle

Losing Battle

Have you ever felt like you were fighting a losing battle? I do every time I try and clean out the chicken house. I bring the wheelbarrow round and pile up all the dirty straw and sawdust and just when I turn round to put some more on top Ninja and the girls gleefully jump up on top of the pile and scatter it everywhere. They scratch about booting it out in every direction. So I start again and again as soon as I turn my back they empty the wheelbarrow and I am left with little piles of dirty sawdust everywhere except where I want it to be. After a while I realise I'm not going to win so I have to distract them with corn and while they are busying tucking I move at the speed of lightning fill my wheelbarrow and wheel it off to the compost pile A job that should take 20 minutes takes an hour it costs me corn, energy and I am again resigned to know my place which is well down at the bottom of the pecking order.

Are there times in your life when you feel you just can't win? Does all your hard work get undone by others deliberately or unintentionally? Do you sometimes spoil another persons work?

There are lots of folks in the Bible who must have felt they were fighting a losing battle. Moses for instance anything he could do Pharaohs magicians could do and just when Moses felt Pharaoh was going to let God's people go- he changed his mind and Moses was back to square one surrounded by smug Egyptians and grumpy Israelites.

Thankfully Moses didn't give up and won that battle in the end. The friends of the paralysed man didn't give up either – they must have felt they were losing the battle to get though the crowds so that their friend could see Jesus. But they didn't give up and let him down though the roof. David didn't give up when he saw the size of Goliath and although everyone else on the battlefield though he was onto a loser- a tiny pebble, faith and trust was all it took to topple a giant.

So whatever battle you are fighting today, however hard it is , and however much it feels like you just can't win. Keep going. You can win your battles and I can win mine. It may take all your strength and patience and you may be pushed to your limits – it may even cost you some corn! But keep going.

There's only one who is truly fighting a losing battle and that is Satan. 

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Angie | Reply 19.08.2013 20.41

I love Little Pearl!

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