Take Shelter

Eggs in an incubator for three weeks. Preschool students making weekly field trips to visit the eggs. And then, on the anticipated day, listen, do you hear it? A chirp! There’s a tapping on that egg! Do you see the crack? Chicks, wet and tiny, start breaking free, triumphing over all the forces against them… being mailed, being jostled by preschool kids, chromosomal mishaps, the threat of unsustainable life, of being incompatible with life. The next round of worries begins for these little lives. The children gathered around, hovering over the incubator, marvel at how that little bird was once scrunched inside the egg. “How did it fit? How did it get there? Can I hold it?” So goes the steady stream of questions surrounding this birth, this new beginning. The marvel of life.

Twice a year, my son’s preschool goes through this ritual. We’re in the farm cycle right now… visiting the pumpkin patch, learning about the things on the farm, and coming to understand that there is a great big God, THE great big God, who loves and protects little old me from the scary things of this world.

Last Wednesday, the first of the eggs hatched… a little black chick lovingly named Blackbird by the Frogs class. Subsequent chicks arrived including a fluffy yellow babe full of promise and dubbed a name of immense proportion… Lightning. My son has been lobbying for weeks that if a fluffy yellow chick should arrive, she should be named after the great symbol of God’s power in the sky. His feelings have been crushed multiple times by his classmates who feel equally strongly about a different name. But in the end, the votes fell Joseph’s way, and Lightning it is… at least for another week before little Lightning heads off to the wide, nameless world of the farm.

On Thursday of last week, eager to see who else had hatched overnight, Joseph and I traipsed up to Ms. Kelly’s office and huddled up to the incubator. One little chick (the aforementioned Lightning) was lively and fluffy and chirping happily. The other, too weak to move, had dried onto the wire mesh of the incubator and was feebly trying to free herself. We worked diligently to loosen her bondage, but even then, her legs were stiff and moving was difficult. That chick’s fate seemed sealed, a fact which thankfully eluded Joseph but which stuck with me all day. On Friday, we brought Blackbird and Lightning home with us for a weekend of babysitting. In texting Ms. Kelly about the dear little chicks, I learned that while another chick made a surprise appearance late Friday, still another had made the effort to emerge and had succumbed to the process. Some live, some die. In solidarity and with a nod to this fact, I sent Ms. Kelly a text from Blackbird and Lightning thanking her for her loving mothering; she was the surrogate mother who cleared away the shells, kept the chicks warm until they were dry, and then carried them safely to their protective plexiglass hutches in the classrooms. Ms. Kelly… a.k.a. Mother Hen.

I saw Ms. Kelly at church on Sunday and shared with her how things were going. I mentioned that I had taken a picture of Winston staring at the chicks, wary and intrigued, eager to sniff, chase, possibly eat whatever they were, those little balls of soft yellow fluff that make that song. Staring them down, barking at them, inviting them to play? That’s my dog. Here’s the picture.

65 lb. beast waiting to snatch up innocent lives.

This morning, Ms. Kelly used the picture in the preschool’s weekly email… “a picture of peace,” she called it. Unbeknownst to the chicks, danger, evil, death lurks beyond the clear, plexiglass walls of their home. Lit by the heat lamp, they are in the light, but out there, who knows what lurks beyond their vision, beyond their sight, beyond their imagination. That plexiglass hutch is like the sheltering arms of the mother hen for these little lives. Impenetrable, strong, an unseen bubble of protection, it is even more than a mother hen. It becomes a metaphor for the way God protects us.

I don’t know where you are in the world right now. Things are seemingly swimming along out here on the west coast, but we are listening with anticipation and dread to the forecasts for the east coast as they prepare for Hurricane Sandy. Friends, family, Compassion Tea members are hunkering down; battening down the hatches; bringing in the toys, garden furniture, and tools; stocking up on water, batteries, food – who knows how long the power will be out. Take shelter, dear ones, take shelter.

It’s not just on the east coast. We hear stories about sex trafficking, about bombings whether they be suicide, drone, or rebel forces, about unrest, high unemployment (think 25% in Spain), about parts of the world where it isn’t safe for children to play, where children can’t play because of ill-health, or because they need to work to support the family, or because they are abused, enslaved, robbed of their independence, safety, and innocence. The world is not safe. Evil lurks just beyond what we can see, danger plays at our shores like the surf before a storm or maybe like the undercurrent we can’t see, the one that wants dearly to pull us under and carry us out to sea.

There’s a verse on my heart today – chick inspired perhaps but nevertheless relevant – a verse I feel compelled to pray over and over today. Matthew 23: 37 “…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings….” God is often portrayed as a mother hen with broad, sheltering wings. The psalmist writes in Psalm 36: 7, “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” In Psalm 63: 7, he writes, “Because you are my help I sing in the shadow of your wings.” And in Psalm 57: 1, the psalmist cries out, “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” My own favorite verse, Isaiah 40: 31 speaks of wings; “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Wherever you are in the world, whether you are peacefully oblivious to the perils surrounding you, unaware of the 65 lb. dog of evil and menace lurking beyond the light or whether you are keenly aware that the world as you know it is about to be rocked in profound ways, may you find shelter in the protection God offers, until the disaster has passed. May God gather you in, shelter you, warm you and provide for your needs. How He longs to. Take shelter, dear friends, take shelter.

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  1. Reblogged this on compassiontea and commented:

    Because I’m here again, mothering chicks… this time the dog is 70 lbs. and these babes aren’t just visiting. They are here to stay. Cheetah, Zebra, and Olaf… lively little balls of fluff with a a door and a screen sheltering them from the jaws of the dog. Truly, I don’t believe Winston would harm them intentionally, but their lives are so fragile right now. Oblivious, they try to fly away, to hop places they shouldn’t, to scamper off somewhere other. Oh, how we are like that too. Independent, we don’t need guidance or protection or advice. Until we do. One of the great lessons of life may just be that it’s okay to run to the shelter, to fall on the knees of dependence, of constant prayer conversation with our father God.

  1. Take Shelter « compassiontea

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