Monday, March 10, 2014

Worship the Lord with Gladys

A few months ago, my daughter and I were riding in the car, listening to a Praise and Worship CD she received from our church.  One of the lines in the song was "Worship the Lord with gladness", but apparently my daughter heard it differently, because suddenly she blurted out, "Mom, they're saying 'Worship the Lord with Gladys!!!'".  Gladys was one of our chickens, a lovely Buff Orpington.  Of course, I burst out in laughter and started to correct her, but stopped myself and told her, "Yes, Ellie.  You're right.  We CAN worship the Lord with Gladys."

Ellie with our flock.  Gladys is the light (buff) colored chicken standing in front of her.

I've been dwelling on these words from the mouth of babes for months.  Besides the obvious (it's funny), why do I keep thinking about these words?  Perhaps it's because my 4 year old daughter managed to clearly state something I have been struggling to articulate in the past few years.

Lately, we have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to our son.  In each book, one can't help but notice the great respect and honor C.S. Lewis gives to each one of his animal characters, even the ones that don't speak.  Did Lewis know something we don't?  Does God care just as much about animals as He does humans?  True, animals are not created in His image like man, but did He not create these creatures for His own pleasure and delight?

Which then brings me to my next thought.... can animals worship God? In my opinion, yes.  When animals engage in the specific activities that God intentionally created for them to do, that is worship.  When cows graze, they bring glory to God.  When hogs root in the earth, they bring pleasure to God.  When hens peck and scratch, they delight God.  And isn't the same with us?  When we DO what God created us to DO, it brings glory, pleasure and delight to our father. As it says in Romans 12:1 (The Message):

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you:  Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him."

What a concept - our daily living, the ordinary things we do each day can be a form a worship! Each creature that God put on this earth has a role and a purpose, as it was designed purely for God's pleasure.

I suppose this explains why I'm so deeply disturbed on a very spiritual level by the growing trend towards farm animals being enclosed in confinement operations.  On many of these farms (but certainly not all), the animals are being prevented from engaging in the activities for which God created them. Instead of being outdoors grazing, root, pecking or scratching, these activities are forbidden.  Cows live on concrete slabs.  Hogs are housed in barns with slats that allow their droppings to fall through, but they are not given any opportunity to root, which is what they were designed to do.  In their frustration, they often turn on each other.  Their tails are routinely cut off to prevent other hogs from chewing their tails off.  Chickens live in tiny crates, so small they can hardly turn around, and never see the light of day until they are carted off to the slaughterhouse.  If they happen to be lucky enough to be in a "cage-free" barn, their beaks are cut off shortly after birth to prevent them from pecking each other to death.

Peggy, digging in the dirt.  A dirt covered snout is the sign of a happy hog.

 Are the farmers to blame?  No, absolutely not.  I don't know a single farmer out there that would delight in torturing animals.  Every farmer I know goes out of his/her way to make sure their animals are comfortable and well cared for.  They run "state-of-the-art" operations, that use the latest and greatest technology to raise animals in the most efficient manner.  Technology is a GOOD thing.  Efficiency is good.  I just wish we could find a way to use this latest and greatest technology to raise animals in ways that are more respectful of their God given nature.  We are creative beings - we can make it happen.

 Think about this - if dogs are confined to small crates for extended periods of time, it's called a puppy mill.  And what do we do to puppy mills?  We cry foul.  We call them animal torturers.  We shut them down because it's cruel to confine any animal in that manner (and by the way, pigs actually have a higher intelligence level than dogs, so don't tell me that farm animals are stupid and don't understand what is going on).  So why aren't we up in arms about chickens living their whole lives in crates smaller than 1 square foot?  Why aren't we upset about sows that are confined to farrowing (birthing) crates that are so small they can't even turn around or stand up?  Why aren't we angry about dairy cows that spend almost their entire adult lifetime standing on concrete?

Again, don't get mad at the farmers.  It's not their fault - they are simply giving the public what they want - the cheapest food possible, raised as quickly as possible. It's OUR fault. We should be angry and upset with ourselves.  Every time you buy milk, dairy products, eggs and meat from the grocery store, you are enabling this system.  So before you go off spouting about how terrible conventional animals farms are, take a long hard look at your own buying habits.  I'm not trying to make you feel guilty about your choices, I just want to raise awareness (and I will readily admit that I still do buy some of these products from the grocery store - I, too, am contributing to this problem.  However, we are doing the best we can with the resources we have at this time, and I have to be ok with that. I can't change everything at once.).  If we want to see changes in this world, then change MUST start at home.  Is buying pastured chicken from a local farm going to save the world? No.  But you're helping to change the life of a farmer who is trying to swim against the current, and that does make a difference.

Gladys, our chicken, is no longer with us.  We sold her a few months ago to a family who was thrilled to have fresh meat for their table.  She was no longer laying eggs, so she was not earning her keep on the farm.  I was sad to see her go as she was lovely, friendly bird, but felt no remorse because I know that Gladys lived a good life, roaming around our farm, rolling in the dirt, scratching and pecking... and worshiping the Lord in her own way.