Enjoy this thought provoking article by my good friend Laurie Hilgers. This article is also appearing on her blog, With Love From Portland. Be sure to check it out and leave her some encouragement.
Hogs, Horses, Blue Jays & a Coyote
I was raised on a farm in the Midwest. Until I began high school, we milked cows, raised pigs and grew a variety of grains to sell. My dad’s knees began to bother him from all of the bending, so we stopped milking cows and raised beef cattle instead along with chickens and ducks. Like many young girls, I also wanted a horse. My parents acquiesced, and over time, we had 2 different animals. They were a source of great frustration for me most of the time, a battle of wills I seldom won. One component was missing in our human-to-animal relationships, and it was love.
The Shetland pony ran away from home 2-3 times per week because he could, and likely because he was not loved. He'd been shuffled around quite a lot in his life. It was not uncommon for the neighbors to see us driving down the road very slowly leading him back home.
Our next horse was a larger animal. He and I didn’t get along well, either. I was a tempestuous 16-year-old as wild as the horse, and he didn’t like being ridden. Our time together consisted of him trying to squash me against a building or a fence while I attempted to avoid injury while riding him. When this horse left our home, I was sad. Why wasn't this working? I didn't know.
Raising pigs was another farm adventure. My mom fondly recalls one morning when we were sorting hogs to go to market. I was standing behind a gate so as to cause them to go onto the ramp up into the truck box; they weren’t going to have it. Several of them pushed on the bottom of the gate until they actually got underneath it, with the gate on top of them and me on top of the gate, eyes wide and no time to scream. My mom had her hands over her mouth in disbelief. Somehow, to our relief, those animals got themselves out from under the gate and I ended up on the ground in pig manure, but perfectly fine.
My mom's expression shifted from disbelief and shock to hysterical laughter. Not wishing to hurt my feelings, she kept her hand over her mouth to keep me from seeing her laughing. It wasn’t very effective because her whole body was shaking. I guess it was a sight! To my chagrin, she often enjoyed sharing this story with my dates.
Moving right along, and sorry for the rabbit trail, but there is something to glean here. I’ve wondered how our farm might have thrived had we known how to really love and care for all of our animals and the land. I've wondered how my own experiences would have been different if I knew then what I know now.
Fast-forward to my 30-somethings, to my introduction to C.S. Lewis, his writings and the movies produced from them. At the outset, I became fascinated with “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” Each time I watched this movie, Holy Spirit revealed more details of how Creation looked before the fall, and the decay and despair that came upon it afterward. He showed me how Adam and Eve were in complete harmony with Creation, how they communicated with the animals, the trees, everything.
In my secret place times with God, He began to speak to me about Acts 3:21. He had me begin to declare to the atmosphere that this was the time for the 'restoration of all things.' He took me to Romans 8:19 and showed me how all of Creation was waiting for the manifestation of the Sons of God, that this is that time. I was captivated, curious and wanted to know more.
He began to show me how to speak to Creation, to my pets, to plants, to trees, to anything He had made. In the meantime, the next movie in the series “The Chronicles of Narnia,” was released. “Prince Caspian” gave me even more to think about and see at a deeper level. While many of the animals in the movie spoke and interacted with humans, some did not, and were hostile to them. In a scene where a wild bear had to be put down, Trumpkin made this sobering remark: “If you get treated like a dumb animal long enough, that’s what you become.”
The care of Creation hasn’t been something we’ve learned or embraced well in the Church. In all that Father has shown me, I’ve felt deep remorse for the ways that I've mistreated and abused it. This matters because it is the time for the restoration of all things; Creation not only wants us to interact with it, it needs us to set it free.
For the past few years, I’ve been speaking to animals, trees, plants, insects, etc. in a different way. I’ve opened my heart to hear what they’re saying to me because I believe in our restored ability to communicate and cooperate with them. I’ve had the opportunity to rescue a dragonfly, moths, flies and other insects trapped indoors. God has been visiting me at my work place with stellar blue jays, crows, and even a coyote. I just love these moments and what I'm learning in them!
Last November, I was talking with one of my favorite sales guys who'd come in for a visit. Out my window, we saw a coyote loping along down the street headed past our building. He looked over our way as if to say, "Help me!" His expression was desperate. He knew he didn't want to be there, but he didn't know how to get back to the hills and the trees.
We went outside to watch him go past us down the street. My heart broke as I thought 'what do I do to help him?' I whispered, "Father, please send angels to help him find his way." Then he was gone. What a beautiful animal he was. I thought I was in Narnia for a moment. Maybe the blue jay that stopped by the day before was telling me to be alert for this event.
Our loving response to the world around us is born of out of Father’s heart, His love and compassion for all He created. He wants us, His kings and queens, to reclaim the honor and privilege of restoration Creation with His love and compassion.
As His Kingdom expands in the Earth, He’s bringing us new revelation, creativity, ideas and innovation that will aid in healing and restoring this place we now call home. I’m pressing in to hear what my part is in this grand adventure. Why? Because He spoke something to me that took my breath away one afternoon when I was at Smyth & Bybee Lakes Nature Preserve. He said, “True prosperity does not come at the expense of Creation or Humanity.” Those words have given me a paradigm shift to let my old lenses fall away to see the new. I pray it challenges you to do the same!
With love from Portland,
Jesse and Kara Birkey