A Rooster Tale

RoosterWhen I was a kid, we lived in a trailer house on my grandparents’ place. They had a farm with requisite chicken coop, cows, and garden. It was also the residence of the meanest rooster God ever created. It had wild red eyes that glowed in the dark, sleek reddish-brown and dark green feathers, oily with evil.

I hated that bird and was thoroughly terrified of him.

I was about five when the rooster from hell crossed my path for the first time. My brother was six. To this day I believe that rooster lurked in the yard, waiting for my brother or me to come outside. He was a sneaky creature, full of cunning.

Seventy-plus years have not dimmed my memory of the terror I felt the first time that cannonball of pure wickedness homed in on me. All I could do was stand there and scream my head off. Fortunately someone, probably my grandmother, came into the yard and scooped him up before he could fly into my face and peck my eyes out! Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I swear I can still smell that bird’s chicken yard breath!

For days afterward I wouldn’t leave the safe haven of our house. My parents had little patience with slackers, and threatened me with dire consequences if I didn’t do my chores, which meant at some point, going outside.

With quivering, wet-noodle legs barely holding me up and a belly watery with anxiety, I opened the door carefully, scanned the yard to see if the evil one was anywhere around, then stepped outside, watchful and alert. About the time I started feeling easy in my mind, that foul fowl came cartwheeling right at me, a flurry of feathers churning up dust. An awful squawk raised the hair on my arms and neck. After one breathless second of terror I was off like a shot heading up the steps to the house screaming, “ Mama, Mama, Mama!”

My mother hated that bird almost as much as I did, but she wasn’t afraid of him. She hauled out the broom and went after him with a vengeance. “Shoo, shoo! Out of here or it’s into the pot for you!”

My father didn’t hate the rooster, but he didn’t like the fact that my brother and I were terrorized by something with feathers. Dad told us to yell or throw rocks at the rooster to scare it off. “You’re bigger than that bird, don’t let him scare you.”

As I recall, I wasn’t bigger. In my mind I was about the same size and I didn’t have spurs.

Nevertheless, with my father’s words as a motivator I made up my mind, no crummy chicken-legged piece of poultry was going to keep me prisoner in my own house. My brother and I started carrying a stick or a broom with us when we were outside. The yard became a battlefield, one we defended resolutely, usually with me standing behind my brother as he did battle for both of us, until one night something got into the hen house and the rooster met its end. I’ve always suspected my dad had a hand in that, but maybe not. Dad insisted it was a fox.

That rooster, as much as I despised him, and my father’s insistence that we couldn’t let a silly bird whup us, taught me a lot about not allowing fear to rule my life.

In 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in a speech to Congress:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings, which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear – which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.”

There are a lot of roosters in the world, stirring up hatred and violence in every barnyard around the globe. Freedom from fear is something we lack in this anxiety-filled world. We’re afraid to speak out; we’re afraid not to speak out. We’re afraid we won’t have enough money to live. We’re afraid of terrorism – domestic and global. We’re afraid of illness. We’re afraid of death. We’re afraid nobody will like us. We’re afraid we won’t or can’t live up to the expectations of others. We’re afraid to marry. We’re afraid not to marry. We’re afraid our leaders are dolts. We’re afraid our homes are vulnerable to thieves. We’re afraid we are vulnerable to violence. We’re afraid of millions of problems that can arise in an instant over which we have absolutely no control.

The good news is that we have at our disposal two weapons to overcome that fear, much like the stick and the broom we used to defend ourselves against that wild-eyed rooster. We have courage and vision. It begins with courage based on wisdom and discernment, and is under-girded by a vision of ourselves as winners, not victims. Courage gives us confidence, vision gives us possibilities.

Be courageous and visionary. Don’t let the roosters win.

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 Updated and reprinted from an opinion piece written by me in the Hermit’s Peak Gazette in January 1999. Given the state of the world, this seems as relevant today as the day I wrote it 20 years ago. Interestingly the words of President Roosevelt from 1941 resonate as well.


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Dear Mom

Mona Peralta Conkle

Dear Mom:

Mona Peralta ConkleWhen you died in 1986 at the age of 62, it was a blow to all of us. Despite a diagnosis of cancer, we all kept hoping against hope you would pull through and get back to normal, to being Mom, the woman who had an answer for everything.

I remember the trip we took to visit your Concho, Ariz., roots in July 1969, which happened to coincide with Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. What I recall most about that trip was going to the adobe house you grew up in, a crumbling ruin that was hardly big enough to accommodate two people, yet you lived there with several siblings and your dad after your mother died. What remained were a few exterior walls with a yellow climbing rose growing up the side. A burbling stream meandered behind what was left of the house and enormous trees shaded the property as though keeping it safe for whoever would someday decide to build a life there. I’m sure that experience was colored by romanticism based on stories you told us about your childhood. I plucked a yellow rose from the vine and pressed it between the pages of my Bible. I kept the rose for many years until life intervened and I lost it somewhere along the way. I still feel the loss of that rose, as I feel the loss of you.

I’m sorry I never knew your mom and dad, Pete and Ruth Nunez Peralta, but as it turns out, you hardly knew them either. Grandmother Ruth died when you were barely four, and Grandpa Pete, nine years later. You were left to be raised by older siblings. Why did I never ask you how that affected you growing up?

Dad loved telling stories about your first year as a (very) young married couple. I especially liked the one about him “accidentally” dropping the casserole dish of macaroni, cheese and hamburger on the floor after having been served the same thing almost every night for the first month of your marriage. Dad never was a subtle kind of guy. You may not have started out as a great cook, but that changed by the time I was born. No one could cook like you.

You did not have it easy. When Dad was in the Navy you were a “Rosie the Riveter” until I was born, and then you moved with my older brother and me to live with Dad’s folks in Arizona until he came home from the service. When we were older, you worked at a number of low-paying jobs while Dad worked in the oilfields. Over the years, three more kiddos came along. I must say I was horribly embarrassed when at thirteen I learned you were PREGNANT! Let it be said that I didn’t exactly know what happened between moms and dads in their bedrooms, but what I did know sounded downright icky and I was sure my mother and father didn’t do those things. Until along came my baby sister.

Your beloved oldest child, my wonderful brother, Don, died of some horrifying version of cancer when he was twenty. It wounded us all to the heart, but especially you. He was so like you, more than the rest of us. He had tea-colored skin like yours, coal black hair like yours, warm chocolate brown eyes like yours, and innate charm, like you. A light went out in all our lives when he was gone.

You had plenty on your plate to keep you going. Your third child, my sweet, sweet sister Patty, was a fragile flower, a child whose mind never quite matured. You and Dad didn’t institutionalize her, as some might do, you kept her at home and loved her as deeply as you did the rest of us. Perhaps that is why you spent most of your professional career working with the mentally ill and others who needed treatment that combined understanding, compassion and firm boundaries. You were honored many times in your career by your peers and your patients. No one honored or held you in as high regard as did Don, Marc, Melissa, Patty who loved you with the brightness of a fallen star, and I. So many in our family are gone now, but I have no doubt they are dancing with you in heaven.

Your deep faith and your limitless love inspired me to be a better person. I confess I have not measured up in many ways, but I try.

I miss you, Mom. You packed a lot of living into your 62 years. You had a big laugh. You had a great capacity for love. Thank you, for the gift of your amazing self you shared with so many.

–Your daughter…

The spirit of wisdom

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him… Ephesians 1:17 KJV

Prayer

 

The spirit of wisdom and revelation,
does not come through judgment.
Listen instead of talk.
Empty your mind of

preconceptions
discontent
disappointment.

Be rid of all that,
see with wisdom.

Be enlightened.
Be encouraged.
Be keenly aware of God.

He is at work in the world
and in the lives of all.

God’s grace comes now,
not in some far off
after-we’re-dead time,

right now.
The power of God
present with us

in the Spirit of wisdom,
and revelation.


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Wisdom

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels… (Proverbs 1:5)

Listen and you will hear...Whether it is the song of a lark or the laughter of a child, the confidence of a friend or the oratory of a gifted speaker, the voice of God in the whisper of the wind or leaves rustling in the trees on a summer morning, we are privy every day to the joy and the heartbreak of listening. We need both. We must be ready for both. In our listening we can be a comforter, a friend, an advocate, the servant doing what the Lord has prepared for us to do. But only if we listen, only if we take time to hear. The world is a cacophony of noise, a discordant symphony made up of messages informed more by our preconceived notions than by truth. Or distractions get in the way of hearing anything but our own opinion. God with us, Jesus our Redeemer, unclogs our ears and opens us to the voice of God, the voice of nature, and the voices of those who so desperately need for us to hear them. Listen and you will hear…

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These short readings will be included in 365 Ways to Make the World a Better Place (working title). I welcome short personal essays about what you believe will make the world a better place. Experiences that have made a difference in your life and the lives of others are welcome. With permission, I will use the item in my book. If you would like to send an item for consideration, e-mail to fsharon@msn.com. In the subject line enter 365 Ways.