Friday, January 22, 2016
Yesterday i bought Ernest Hemingway's “The Snows of Kilmanjaro” for our oldest son, this morning i write sitting beside that mountain. It's snowy peak often hides behind the high clouds, hence its name, “the shy mountain”.
In front of me is a sprinkling of much lesser mountains, they lay across the western side of Tsavo. Their peaks are too many to number and they're wrapped in acacia trees. They've been well watered this morning as rains came with the sunrise. But now, rainclouds have given way to blue and the trees sparkle, like cared for children in the cradle of these mountains.
Steve and Peter have gone for an early morning game-drive. Usually i would be beside them, but my safari (journey) this morning will find me sitting still; opting to “be still” to think ---- pray ---- read ----- write ---. Rather than going to look for the animals, i will wait and see what comes to me.
He weighs maybe 3 pounds soaking wet and his “hang” is a watering hole in Africa surrounded by animals that dwarf him in every way --- yet, he moves about as if “all is well”. Last night the zebra, who fear the darkness behind them, inched closer and closer to the watering hole. Mr. Goose glided out of the water, settled his webbed feet on the shoreline, and held his position without ruffling a feather. Did he not realize dozens of sharp hooves surrounded him, and each held the power to end him? But almost as if he had been given the assignment to “be still” --- and “fear not” ---- that little goose silently preached to me, as i sat all comfy in my safari chair drinking tea (on the outside) and yet deep inside i was squirming with discontentment and worry.
I know... i'm not suppose to actually admit that am i?
but sometimes i do wonder --- who among us, wrapped in dust and clay, doesn't have their moments of trembling?? If we did not know what trembling felt like, would we ever really reach for Abba's “be still and know that I AM GOD”?
Egyptian geese mate for life. They are rarely found alone. If you see one alone, then it is likely either eating while its mate roosts on their clutch of eggs or it hasn't found its life-mate yet. But for sure it will not rest until it finds the one it will live with for the rest of its days. A ranger once shared with us his great admiration of the feathery foul. He shared, “They will mate for life and they mean it. They are born with the need to be faithful to one and only one. They will live together for years and travel together always. On the day that one of them dies, the other will soon follow.” We asked how that could be. He explained further, “On the day the male goose dies, the female will simply stop eating. She will slowly kill herself by starvation. But if the female dies first, the male will begin searching for her. Even if he sees her death, in disbelief, he will fly to each of the many places they have nested over their years together. He will search for her. As he visits each place where she has been, and finds she is not there, he will fly on to the next place where he remembers being with her. When he has exhausted all possibilities, he makes one final flight, straight up. He beats wings hard to fly to the highest place he will ever go, then when he can ascend no further, he folds his wings for the last time and plummets to the ground below. It is his way of ending himself. He will not live without his she-goose.” The ranger ended by telling us how much he knew Kenyan men could learn from the little goose. We knew he told us the story because he knew of our call to minister to marriages, but did he know how deeply the story moved us. And don't we all need to know of the faithful little goose? Husbands and wives in every country on every continent. We need to realize there are feather-covered-faithful ones that sparkle with a goodness we skin-covered-souls often struggle to emulate.
Last night as i lay my head down, i pondered on the lone goose by the watering hole.
He was the picture of what i should be ----- he was doing it so well.
I found myself in class again. Time to learn, from a wee feathered creature in a dangerous place.
My heart was engaged because ---- he was ----- alone.
Egyptian geese are not suppose to be alone. It's instinctively placed inside them to have a companion – another goose --- one goose – beside them.
As i closed my eyes i wondered if he would still be by the muddy water in the morning. Imagine my lunacy as i thought to myself how i would like to go out to the waters edge, scoop him up in my arms, shower him off good, and let him be my little buddy for the rest of his days. He should not be alone... i would be his friend. (Surely Abba shakes His great head so often at me.)
This morning as i write ---- i smile --- for it is being proven to me, Mr. Goose is not alone after all. Mrs. Goose is right there beside him...
They're walking about stirring up seeds and bugs, having their morning feast together. And even as i ponder over where she was last night, i watch as he waddles over to a hidden nest in a grassy mound tucked carefully out of the way. It's nestled at the high edge of another watering hole, where few animals would consider going. Smoother slopes are plentiful, that's where thirsty animals would more likely drink from. The short escarpment edge is the perfect spot to grow their littles. Mr. Goose now sits, hidden, on the nest. Mrs. Goose is foraging about, appearing to be the lone goose now ---- but how thankful my heart is, to know she is not alone. They are together. They are working together. It's just her turn to walk about and eat, while he tends their treasured eggs. And i'm reminded --- he moved about during the more dangerous hours, when prey huddles near the watering hole and predators stretch muscles for a late night hunt.
He was not alone
She is not alone.
They know who they are and who they belong to and what they are doing.
And they do it.
The lilac-breasted roller glides into the acacia near by, with all its brilliant colors of blue and lavender, it moves about so freely and captures the attention of all who see its flight. What a beautiful bird.
Mrs. Goose neither notices its glamorous arrival nor cares when it flies on. She doesn't ponder after its colorful flight, lamenting over her drab brown and grey plumage. She does not let her focus or her peace be intimidated by the flair of the other foul. She walks and eats, and holds faithful to the course before her.
Just now she has paused to look up and to the right. She stares, something is in the bush and she watches. She eats nothing in these moments. She focuses closely. She's the very picture of confidence.
A goose can teach.
The movement in the bush ends (likely a mouse or lizard), she turns back to the ground. She doesn't fluster or fume --- she's neither fearful nor irritated. She attends to her “calling”. Graze and keep watch, then sit on the eggs and keep watch... graze and keep watch...sit on the eggs and keep watch.
A goose can teach.
Guinea fowl now approach her. She cares not. She doesn't run them off, selfishly gorging herself on the few seeds around her. She just peacefully continues eating. Guinea's are adorable birds who look like little helmets running about in the open field. Hence their name, the helmeted guinea. With blue heads and a rounded body covered with white-polka-dotted black feathers, they run about comically. They are surely the most ADHD bird in Africa. They travel in flocks, many of them in a grouping.
Does Mrs. Goose look at them and wonder, “why can't i have more of my kind around me?”
i watch her and i know the answer ----- she does not.
She is not a guinea fowl. She is a goose. She has an assignment in life, and if she ponders the guinea or the roller, it will only distract her from the faithful attention that is needed to be who she is and do what she is suppose to do.
A goose beside a muddy water hole in a dangerous place ---- can teach.
... do others think on the same sort of things?
... or am i perhaps “alone” in my learning.
There are those among us who are intensely l-o-n-e-l-y. Even surrounded by people, aloneness can still come.
Some will distract themselves from the sense of aloneness by
a hobby --- something to do ---
or work --- something to accomplish ---
or buying ----- something to have ----
or going --- somewhere to be ---
or watching ---- something to entertain ----
or medicating --- someway not to feel ----
or drinking ---- someway to numb ----
or retreating --- someway to hide ---
or succeeding --- someway to feel significant ---
or dominating --- someway to feel powerful ---
or denying --- someway to feel innocent ---
or defending --- someway to feel right ---
it goes on and on.
Mr. and Mrs. Goose ---- they need none of this. They have a purpose, and they are sticking to it. No distractions are allowed, they know the frailty of life and the need for careful attention to the work they are called to. It's simple. It's sure. They won't change the world; they won't take from it. They will do their small part in it.
Brennan Manning seemed to be sitting at my table this morning, speaking ever so clearly with his writings in “Abba's Child”. He begins chapter eight with a powerfully blunt excerpt from Anthony DeMello's book “The Way to Love”.
DeMello writes, “ Look at your life and see how you have filled its emptiness with people. As a result they have a stranglehold on you. See how they control your behavior by their approval and disapproval. They hold the power to ease your loneliness with their company, to send your spirits soaring with their praise, to bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection. Take a look at yourself spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or dead. You live by their norms, conform to their standards, seek their company, desire their love, dread their ridicule, long for their applause, meekly submit to the guilt they lay upon you; you are terrified to go against the fashion in the way you dress or speak or act or even think. And observe how even when you control them you depend on them and are enslaved by them. People have become so much a part of your being that you cannot even imagine living a life that is unaffected or uncontrolled by them.”
I've read it over and over again.
And... i think of Jesus, and how He does not fit inside the lines of that paragraph. He neither tried to control others nor did He allow others to have control over him. Instead, He was mastered only by His Father and because of that, He loved ------ perfectly.
Ghandi's words echo again --- “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Did Ghandi perhaps feel this way in part because we Christians so often look like DeMello's paragraph and our Christ looked/looks nothing like it.
Mrs. Goose was teaching this very lesson, better put, she was living this very way.
Even as i write, i laugh at myself.
Is it ludicrous to watch a couple of geese, consider how they live, and see something worth learning?
We might say --- they are only geese, they do not have the pressures of human life imposed on them --- they are born, they procreate, they survive until they die, and that is all there is for a goose. Human beings have so many more demands placed upon us.
But do we really? Or do we impose so much more on ourselves?
Is it possible that the simple, focused, living of the geese by the watering hole holds golden lessons we are too busy to notice.
There are many differences for sure, but if we are wise, we will allow ourselves to learn from their silent sharing.
And for today --- as i seek to learn --- i see this clearly.
The mother and father geese are peaceful and gentle. If husbands and wives could interact as these geese do ----- there would be no broken homes with wounded children limping for years after the cave-in.
They are focused on exactly what is their part ---
------ they graze and eat
------ they stay near enough to help each other
-------they are always watchful against those who would cause harm
------ they are not concerned over what other birds think of them
------ they don't criticize or judge other birds either
------ they share what is around them and never complain
------ they are thankful for another day of living, they know how close death is
------ they never sleep too deeply nor celebrate to loudly (for they know there is always something lurking near willing to end them)
------ they don't compare themselves to others, and they don't tell other birds how they should behave.
They are focused ---- content ----- peaceful ---- persevering ---- dedicated.
In their solidarity and autonomy, they do not view their simple life as empty or lonely.
But they do not.
As i watch the pair of simple geese, i rethink DeMello's words, and see that not one line applies to their life.
Just as not one line of it applied to Jesus' life.
When we think of Jesus's life, some might say, “well of course Jesus could live that way, after all, He is God in the form of man...”. So does that mean we don't press ourselves (as we should), to try and live like Him. But what can we say in defense of ourselves when we see two little geese living it well beside a watering hole in Africa. They are not controlled by the need to please or placate others – they do not crave the approval of others – they do not cringe over rejection of other feathery companions. They simply live well --- according to the assignment they have been given in their lives.
Perhaps we might say, “well, their assignment is simple...”
And to this my heart hears this truth ----- our assignment is simple as well ----- in whatever we do, wherever we are found, in every moment we breathe another breath --- we are called to one sure thing ---- we are to love others.
There is a way to live focused --- peaceful --- content --- and faithful.
Sharp hooves might surround us (unkind people saying unkind things, threatening to do even worse if they can).
Hyenas might approach (those who look for death and then will devour us with bone crushing jaws that make us tremble).
Feathered beauties might fly near (those who look, act, and sound perfect and who work to feel better about themselves as they compare their opulence to our simple walk).
Or crowds of activity might swirl 'round us (when the life of others seems to be filled with “more” and we sit in our simplicity of “less”).
But if we can keep our focus on “why” we are alive --- then we too can make it through the dark nights by the watering holes.
And the morning light will find us ----------
doing what we were created to do ------------
loving God and loving others.
Simple living that honors the One who made us, blesses those around us, and allows the one beside us to never feel alone (no matter how dark the night).