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Day 16 of Lent – Chicken house therapy

February 28, 2013

Verse for reflection: Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Psalm 119:97

Growing up, I always did my best thinking in the chicken coop (not to mention my worst sibling fight there).

It was a mighty fancy chicken coop in those days (before the trend to lucky free range chickens), and it was pretty mindless work to push your cart down a cement row between cages and gather up the eggs and place them in cardboard egg flats.

The chickens functioned as my therapists: cocking their heads this way and that as I talked earnestly to them about my problems. They looked like they were truly listening. I sometimes ranted, sometimes cried in frustration or joy, and sometimes warbled a song at the top of my lungs. It was a great place to unload.


But it is only in retrospect that I can talk so lovingly about my chicken house therapy. How we hated to gather eggs back then. How Mother must have dreaded the hour to shoo us out to the chicken house twice a day. We were paid a small amount which helped motivate us.

But besides teaching us the value of work and a dollar earned, I now realize how manual, repetitive work contributed to my having time and space to think things out. It was after one of  these chicken house “therapy” sessions that I went in our house and found an index card and jotted down what I thought I wanted to be in life—truly not knowing or even imagining how this would ever be possible for me: to be a Christian writer. I was 15.


This is the real card I inscribed that day, saved in a top secret file I call “Weird to keep but interesting.”

Jesus was a carpenter by occupation and I’m thinking that Jesus must have ruminated on his calling and his life as he sanded wood or sawed in his carpenter shop. Did he know what lay ahead for him?  I wonder if he ever sneaked back to the shop once he began teaching and preaching, in order to have contemplative time to himself.

Most of us can’t meditate on God’s word all day long as the Psalmist did, but if you do manual work, that can be an advantage. Many of us like working in the garden for that reason—or freezing or canning its produce. Shelling peas or snapping beans is some of the best “mindless” work there is—if you are so fortunate!


Action: Where do you do your best thinking? If you don’t do manual kind of work, take whatever opportunities you have in the day—commuting, walking, running, washing dishes, showering—to focus on a verse of scripture or big questions: your life and where it is headed; your relationships; on God’s provisions for you and how you can respond more faithfully to God’s call; on Jesus’ example and extreme sacrifice as we go through this season of Lent. May we seek clarity, cleansing, self-understanding, and joy.

Chicken photo from


From → Faith, Writing Life

  1. Pert Shetler permalink

    How well I can relate. I had no idea you had a index card with your life goal on it!! How cool was that! Enjoying your lent readings. Sister, Pert

    • Yeah, that sounds like something YOU would do! I think I had published my first poem by that time and the writing bug had struck. Hope your week is going well.

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