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The hole in the coop…

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…and what it revealed to me about temptation…

My alarm was set for 6:27am Wednesday morning. Going to sleep the night before, my intent was to wake up exactly at that moment, and not a moment sooner. At what felt like 3:30am (though it was actually 6:24am, the loss of those 3 minutes seemed rather crucial) the beautiful bride woke me up. Her first attempt to get my attention sounded along the lines of “Carl something something something something chicken something out.” Since I was unable to discern what that sentence was actually supposed to mean, and since there was no sound of urgency or crisis in her voice, I deftly ignored it. She, knowing my waking patterns after 11 years of blissful marriage, repeated the sentence a little louder, a little closer, and with a little more emphasis: “Carl, wake up, the chicken is out of the coop.”

For you faithful readers out there, you will notice that many of my posts have something to do with some member of the animal kingdom. It is not by design. There is a quote often attributed to Mark Twain (apparently, there is a bit of an intellectual/historical debate whether he actually said this, which I have no interest in settling this argument, so if you think Twain did not say this, fine, but let me live in ignorance of this one fact) which is “write what you know.” Domestic animals running amok is what I know.

We are the proud owners of 5 chickens. A chicken tractor, or chicken ark, or what we refer to in shorthand as their coop, was crafted for them. I’m not handy enough to figure out a plan of my own, so I swiped this one. They remain within the confines of the coop, but the coop itself is moved all around the yard. They get fresh grass and vegetation to gnaw on. We get reduced feed costs and the benefits of their digestion concluding (manure, if you didn’t catch the attempt at subtlety). One of the things we have learned about chickens is that they have a varied palate – that is, they are wonderful garbage disposals. Hang on to that thought.

Style, security (sometimes), and mobility - everything chickens could ask for.

The 8 year old contemplating a new confinement for the active, curious 1 year old.

Nearing full consciousness, I heard what she was talking about. Knocking the crust from my eyes, I saw what she was talking about. The rooster, his mate, and one of our other hens were gleefully flittering about the back yard. “They really ought not be doing that” I murmured to myself, and walked outside to see why they were out, and if I could get them back in. The beautiful bride did two things when I walked outside: she woke the nimble sons to enlist their efforts, and she then proceeded to film the event. If you are eager to see a pathetic looking me making a pathetic effort to catch the rooster, slide over to her Facebook page.

Approaching the coop, I saw what the problem was. A hole in the chicken wire had been created, big enough for these 3 brave, brazen beasts to easily saunter out. Chickens are not prone to chomping their way out, so some unwelcome member of the animal kingdom created the exit. The wire is too hefty for a mouse to get through, the hole too big for a rat to have expended energy on, leaving me to conclude that a raccoon had been at work. But why?

(In case you are wondering, the 3 escapees were all captured and placed back inside before I embarked on this evaluation)

Remember what I said about chickens being great garbage disposals? Late the night before after the kitchen was cleaned up, I took some scrap food out to the coop. What did not register was that the chickens had already called it a night, and would not be leaving the nest to eat anything. So, the scrap food (some veggie peels, squished blackberries, and chili remains) sat on the ground, inside their coop, the smell of it surely tempting other critters to come and feast.

While repairing the chicken wire, the motif of temptation and my heart developed. What caused the breach? A violent intruder. Why drew the violent intruder’s attention? The scent of tastiness, of having a satisfied belly. Why was the violent intruder successful? The means of keeping it out was not strong enough. How was this accomplished with no notice? The watchdogs (ha!) were resting inside.

Do you see where this is going? I’m hoping it is not too vague, or too tenuous a conclusion. Temptation is the violent intruder, and it is attracted to intrude when bait (intentional or not) is left out. It is successful when the fence around my heart is flimsy – easily pierced or broken through, and when there is no one checking up on me. That of course led to some evaluative questions for me, and I hope you find useful as well.

  • What weaknesses am I leaving available that would make temptation blossom into sin?
  • How are the walls around my heart? Are they made of man made willpower, or are they made from both the commands AND promises of God’s Word?
  • Who do I have checking up on me, helping me to see my weaknesses and blind spots? Who are the earthly guardians I can call on to help me protect my mind and heart?
  • What is my response to temptation? How do I/should I resist?
  • If and when temptation leads to sin, how do I respond to that? Is there an effort made to quickly repair things, or do I leave a gaping hole?

Those should be enough to get you started. We’re urged in 1 Peter 5:8 to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” But we’re also encouraged in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that though we battle with temptation daily, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

May God grant you and me the grace and strength available in Christ to fight temptation and flee from it.

And may my chickens remain safely secure tonight.

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