Wild Kingdom

Sad news from Upton Abbey

close up of hawk head
Darth Hawk

I mentioned Humphrey leading a jailbreak with some of his girlfriends. Because of his reckless behavior, I made an attempt to curtail his ambitions to become a free range chicken, but before I got the netting strung over the entire chicken yard, he and one of the Spice Girls — I think it was Nutmeg — flew the coop. Sadly, before I could get them both back into an escape-proof enclosure, Nutmeg disappeared. I think she flew the unfriendly skies with a hawk we’ve seen hanging around. Oh, the brutality of nature!

May we observe a moment of silence for our lost chicken. Even though it was her own darn fault.


I look out my office window. Humphrey and two of the spice girls have, as it were, flown the coop. They’re prancing around under the bird feeder with flagrant disregard for the grave reality that they are AWOL.

Five of the hens in our flock I have named “the spice girls.” They are Pepper, Clove, Cinnamon, Ginger and All, named for their place on the color palette. Two of the five are inclined to make an occasional jailbreak, usually incited by Earhart, the aviatrix of the flock.

Today, I blame Humphrey for leading the insurrection. He is a stately, handsome, belligerent fellow, with a determined look, evidence of the deadly sin of pride. With regard to pride, a peacock has nothing on him. The other morning he sounded off at 3:15AM. I don’t know what came over him. When, in passing conversation, we mentioned it to our son-in-law (the “landlord” 😉) about it, he offered to slaughter the miscreant to preserve our rest. As bothersome as a 3:15AM alarm is, I don’t think I want to dispatch Humphrey to the great crock-pot in the sky just yet. He is, after all, a chicken, complete with limited intellectual capacity. I trust that his early morning reveille will not be a regular thing. For the most part he respects certain boundaries relative to the time of day. He’s only done the very early announcement once. The rest of the time he usually waits until after 5:00 which is our usual time to rise anyway.

I know if I go out there to try to bring them all to confinement again they will flap around, running for their lives. And I will weary myself trying to coax them back into line. I’ve done this numerous times and it occurs to me that stumbling about waving my arms probably puts me on the same level as they– leaping and lunging, flapping and stumbling– as I try to curtail their freedom, which they are inclined to guard jealously.

To complicate matters this morning, Mr. and Mrs. Puddles, our resident ducks, are also out for their morning walk.

I believe I will attempt to ignore the poultry and return to my morning prayer time. I am far too easily distracted…

A Letter from Abba

Sometimes when I read the Bible, the words seem personal, meant specifically for me. I imagine I have received a letter. Here is one such letter I received some time ago from my Father in heaven:

Dear Dan,

I remember you with joy. And I know this for sure: I have begun a good work in you and will perfect it until the day of the coming Messiah. It is natural for me to feel this way about you because I have you in my heart … You are a partaker of grace with me. I long for you with affection, and this I desire: that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Messiah having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through him to the glory and praise of Me.

Love, Abba

Philippians 1:3-10

Like a Miracle

I saw, this morning, something like a miracle.

I sat on the couch in front of our east-facing window. The Sun was shining in its morning warmth. I noticed, floating in the sunlit air in front of me, a single strand of a web. It was only visible when it turned and caught the sunlight in just the right way. It glistened … a thread glowing with the light of the sun. There were moments when it hung motionless, other moments it lifted and swayed. Eventually no part of the strand caught the sun, but only a single point like a star, a single point of light suspended. As I considered it, I realized that it was still part of the longer, magnificent strand, which only moments ago the sun had illuminated like a fiery thread. Moments later, even the spark vanished. But I knew the thread was still there, suspended in the invisible. Waiting to be ignited by the sun.

It seems to me that the Spirit of God is like that. How many invisible strands float in the air around us? Do I assume that because I do not see them in the brilliance of the sunlight, they are not there? I fear that I do. But then, as I go about my business, I am reminded . I feel the touch of the invisible like walking through the strand of a web that I did not know was there until it touched me.

Life at Upton Abbey*

“Breaking” news…

This just in from Upton Abbey: We have a baby chick! I feel like a father!

We knew something was likely to happen eventually when we discovered that one of the peeps we got several months ago turned out to be a rooster. Total accident. At first, we thought we just had a hen with identity issues when we heard some pretty pathetic crowing out in the chicken yard. Alas, it was a real rooster, and a handsome one at that. He is tall, good looking, with a wonderful red crest, and black and dark rust-red feathers. I realized instantly that he was leading-man material and so I named him Humphrey Bogart (I call him Humphrey even though it seems there could be an unintended double entendre involved). Nevertheless, as we predicted, his hormonal proclivities appear to have changed the dynamic of the hen house.

We noticed one of the hens, Golda by name, started hanging out in the coop a lot. We were suspicious that she and Humphrey had a relationship.

Indeed they did. Today, to our surprise and delight, Golda emerged with one tiny chick. We here at Upton Abbey are thrilled. But we are concerned, because we don’t know the first thing about caring for a single peep and its pretty protective mama. At this point we are trusting that Golda will do what chicken mamas have been doing for millennia. Otherwise, her progeny is doomed.

I’ll keep you posted, but I should say that the survival of our first home-grown chicken is not guaranteed. After all, there were other nest-mates who didn’t make it because we neglected to gather eggs for a day or two, which apparently confused Golda into sitting on the wrong eggs with the result that some of the nestlings wound up in a bowl in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Humphrey has been crowing more often and loudly lately. Way to go, Humphrey!

* Upton Abbey is what I call our country dwelling unit built over my daughter and son-in-law’s garage. Our nearest neighbors are a flock of chickens and two ducks, Helga and Percival Puddles. Percy has been having an affair with LaVern, one of the chickens who … uh, let’s not talk about it.

New Recruits and Combat Veterans

Revival and generational partnership

A few days ago, a missionary friend sent me a link to the Kansas City 24/7 House of Prayer stream. He had stopped over in KC on his way home to the East Coast and thought I might enjoy seeing what he was seeing.

I have been watching it off and on ever since. Something about the continual and uninterrupted stream of worship and prayer has captivated my heart. Perhaps it was my recent viewing of the Jesus Revolution movie that stirred something in me. The memory of being part of that youthful movement of the early ’70s combined with this new generation of young people driving the engine of prayer 24 hours a day 7 days a week made me realize how deeply my heart yearns for a spiritual awakening–reawakening.

And I think it is coming. Moreover, I expect it to come, as it often has in the past, through the young. It seems, however, that many of the young are discouraged. They don’t see a future and a hope, even though God’s intention is for them is to have both. Occasionally, they see a glimpse of it, or what they think is a future, but lose the hope necessary to step into it. They are like a bird who thinks it sees a place to fly only to find that what it sees is only a reflection in a pane of glass. There is a window but it is not a way forward but a barrier.

How can this generation see a future beyond the mediocrity that this world offers? Y’shua said that he has gone to prepare a place for us–for them–and that he would return and receive us all so that we could be with him in the Kingdom. This message seems to be lost in the hopelessness of the world. How can we show them the future and hope that Y’shua holds out to them?

As I consider these things, it seems to be that we older ones need to encourage the younger to adopt the ways of the Kingdom right now as we anticipate the fullness of it then. To do so, is the only hope of finding joy and fulfillment in this world. I am reminded J.B. Phillips’ translation from the letter to the Hebrews 6:18-20.

We who are refugees from this dying world… have a source of strength, that we might grasp the hope that he holds out to us. This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the very shrine of Heaven, where Jesus has already entered on our behalf…

As a follower of Y’shua, I need to be part of a community of hope; and to be that, I need to model with others how to reject the things of this world and the solutions that it offers. That means I need to find a community that has learned from the passing of the years.

Mending My Ways

I can’t help but feel that we, the generation of young believers that emerged out of the renewal of the seventies,  squandered our inheritance. We sold our birthright for a bowl of soup by becoming distracted from the simplicity of the cross–Jesus the Messiah and him crucified. We began to succumb to pride. We had our own music, which mutated from its original call to love and worship. Eventually, it became a product to be sold. Soon it began to imitate the world. It never occurred to us that imitation was evidence that the world was creeping back into our hearts.

Furthermore, we became a market share. We believed that God’s blessing came in the form of material abundance, so we bought and sold and accumulated. We built worship centers and flocked to celebrity preachers.

We became proud of our numbers and felt the validation that comes from being part of a crowd. Moreover, some of the loudest voices among the elders began to invite us to join forces and change society. We became a voting block. We believed God had positioned us to become the moral majority who would confront the Goliath of social decay. We put on Saul’s armor believing we could slay the giant with the weapons of the world, media, influence and the ballot box. We ignored the five smooth stones, unity, empathy, brotherly love, kindness and humility.

This was my generation, born of that revival of 1970.

A number of years ago, I attended a reunion of my peers who were part of that early movement. As we sat around a campfire and shared our meals together, I was aware of a sense of discouragement- -disappointment. The kingdom promises, it seemed, had not materialized as many had thought.

photo of us navy soldier carrying a holy bible

Marriages had crumbled; children had strayed; faith had become dry and habitual. There were moments that I felt I was among a bunch of old soldiers who were casualties of war. They were chafed and bruised by Saul’s armor and now faced the end of their service.

Later, as I reflected on that time, I saw something like hope. The hope came from the realization that by looking back we have learned what we were up against. We are not casualties of war. To think of ourselves as such is to waste something essential for the next generation. Not casualties of war, combat veterans.

My son, as I often say, spent “100 years” in Iraq in 2004. In the years following – – years of recovery – – he explained to me on more than one occasion the value of a combat veteran amidst a unit of new recruits. New recruits were inclined to be cavalier in their attitude towards deployment and warfare; overconfident in the nobility of their mission and the superiority of their weaponry. A combat veteran was a source of balance and sobriety. The wisdom of a veteran was vital training for young, inexperienced, and vulnerable recruits.

Some of us old Christ followers, with decades of combat experience behind us, are going to be vital in the training of a younger generation which is about to be swept up in the next renewal. That thing that happened back in the seventies was not about us – – the 20-year-olds of that season. It was about the 20-year-olds of this season; of this renewal.

But if we are to be of any help to this new generation, we have to repent. We have to take off Saul’s armor and pick up five smooth stones. We need to teach the young the simplicity of following Jesus; teach them how to keep their eyes focused on the things above where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne. We have to repent of our confidence in the things that we can buy and own and elect.

We need to reject the notion that we can elect someone who will save the society. When the votes are counted it isn’t God who has spoken, it is the people… and the people are often wrong.

It was not the people of Israel that voted King Cyrus into office so they could be liberated and go back to their homeland, it was God. He established him for that purpose. Cyrus was useful in God’s hands and it was God who removed him once Cyrus had served his purpose.  The King that the people chose was Saul–appealing, head and shoulders above everyone. Give us a king like the other nations, they cried – – fierce and forceful.

It’s a fearful thing when God gives us something against his better judgment.

Now, a new generation is stirring. Fear and hopelessness is nudging them to restlessness, faith and courage. I have a feeling that there is a generation awakening to the hope of Messiah. They will need combat veterans to instruct them not to lose focus, but to be like their King.

Chainsaw Rhapsody

In the distance, I hear the wine of chainsaws. Trees are being cut down–felled–land cleared. I sit among the tall Douglas firs that are part of our little forest. They stand, reaching for the clouds while others of their kind fall to Earth.

clearing desolation destruction fallen tree

I grieve, the relentless stripping of the land–the whine of the saws. They work, tearing into bark and hardwood until the grain snaps and the majestic weight draws the tree to earth. I hear the rhythmic blaring of the truck backing into position preparing to haul away the corpse of decades, perhaps centuries.

My heart hurts. The sound is relentless. It  feels as though it draws nearer to me and the forest in which I pray. I wish the trees that have been lost in the few minutes I have been sitting here could somehow be restored, to be stood up again reaching to the sky. But I know they lie amid shattered branches.

I think of the novel by Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow. In the final chapter Jayber and Maddie grieve over the loss of a grove of old trees. That final chapter takes on deeper meaning today.

The air grows silent. The fierce roaring of the saws cease. Perhaps only two, perhaps three trees needed to come down. Maybe they were diseased and dangerous. Perhaps these were sacrificed so that the younger trees could grow and flourish, so that other trees could drink the Sun and dig deep into the Earth. But then the saws start again. They whine and growl. And I know they will not stop until the ground lies strewn with wreckage to be hauled away, and then the equipment will come and tear the stumps from the ground, the last evidence of a community of living trees torn from the Earth. And when it last a plot of land lies empty it will be ready to receive whatever it comes next.

Red World

During my prayer time this morning, while I was reflecting on the portion of the examen that is called “petition,” I moved to the couch and sat for a few moments looking out the front window at the trees and the sky. The Sun came out from behind the clouds and, uncharacteristically, I decided to lay down on the couch in the sunshine.

I closed my eyes and entered into the warm red-world that happens. I was not hot, which was the blessing. It was warm. And I thought of the Sun 93 million miles away, seething and roiling, sending heat across the expanse until it reaches our small globe. I think of the invisible magnetism that deflects the dangers of our constantly exploding star keeping us safe from its lethal presence. Perhaps I lay there for 5 minutes. During that time I also thought of similar moments when I was a much younger person. Funny how certain feelings and thoughts seem to have their roots in other times and spaces. Life becomes a whole then, not defined by beginnings and ends.

Steps Toward Joy

I spent my morning devotional time in Matthew’s gospel. Chapters 8 and 9. I ponder the work of the master as he gives movement to a paralytic, sight to the blind, speech to someone who could not speak and even life to one who had died. Also, in that list of miracles is a woman whose life was poured out– the life is in the blood– for 12 years.

I realize how easy it is to regard these stories as little more than that, perhaps even legend. Yet, as a follower of Jesus, these are more than stories. They are not fiction, but recollections of observers. Moreover, they represent events that, because they are true, shed light on the nature of our world.

It is at this point that I remember Wendell Berry’s words in Jayber Crow. I stopped, just now, and reviewed that section – – I have it stored among my quotations. I wanted to revisit the imagery that came in the writing. He spoke of the roof being blown off the house so you could see the night sky. He also spoke of being like a bird trapped in a house trying to get out through a window pane and then later, actually finding an opening. Perhaps, that is what it’s like when we finally make peace with the idea that healings and resurrections are part of the world and not just myths and legends. If such things happen, then the world is not an enclosure without an opening; not a box with the lid tightly shut, but a place of waiting; a place of promise and hope. To see the world in that way ought to make us optimists, patient and purposeful. Perhaps, having the roof blown off is the key to Joy.

Spirit Breezes

Along the lines of being thankful, I just received a private message from a friend in Dallas (Oregon). He said that his daughter, Alice, is excited about vacation bible school today. Something blessed my heart as I thought about that little girl being excited. It brought tears to my eyes!

You know, it’s strange how sometimes things touch my emotions. I’ve come to wonder if, when that happens, it is a sign that the holy Spirit is moving in me. These spontaneous moments that manifest by a sudden feeling of tearfulness, have come to mean to me that the Spirit is near and at work in my heart. Today was such a day. But it happens at other times as well. Sometimes I feel it during a song; in a gathering of friends; from a thought or memory. In whatever time or place, when I feel a touch of emotion — like a breeze on my cheek – – my heart says that His Spirit is near.