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  • Under HIs Wings - Gwen Hanna

From the Chicken Coop

Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone

set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive

in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess. Deuteronomy 19:14

While many can grasp what it looks like to be a chaplain at the hospital or in the military, some have a hard time envisioning what chaplaincy looks like at the ranch. Each day is a little different! I know my job is to show up—to be present. Sometimes I have a loose idea of who might be there during the day, but truly each day gives me space and reason to wonder (in the "amazed," "intrigued," "humbled" sort of way) ... people are such a beautiful part of creation! One unique opportunity at the ranch is how the animals show us so much about life. Recently one of our clients finished his lesson on horseback and was eager to see the chickens. I had just spent 30 minutes in conversation with his caregivers and had heard that boundaries and disrespectful behaviors were a pretty big current challenge. While the need for safe behavior around the animals is always our top priority and presents opportunity for good life lessons in

self-awareness, sometimes bigger life applications surface.

My young friend was very excited to go into the chicken coop. With the adult conversation still in mind, I talked with him about our last visit with the chickens and solicited whatever he could remember about the ways we should approach. With some small helps, he recalled the need to be calm, walk slowly instead of chasing, lift them carefully, and return them to the ground gently. I reminded him that if we couldn't show the chickens kindness by respecting that we were in their home—their space—then he would have to step outside the coop, outside the protective boundary that was set for them.

After a few false starts that required reminders, he was able to take hold of the need to remain calm and was able to approach, pick up, pet, and then gently set down a few of the hens. It was a great joy to affirm and enjoy his growing confidence and skill. As we left the chicken coop and headed back through the barn I asked him a few questions about respect and whether there were people in his life that he needed to show respect in the same way. To our amazement, he quickly identified someone close to him and showed me how he had not been showing respect to her. I asked him if he should be allowed in her space, her "chicken coop," if he was not respectful of her and her space. He admitted that it was something he needed to work on. The lesson in the chicken coop gave him a picture of what respect should look like and language for each of them to use to reinforce the respectful behavior they all knew was needed. I walked away from the time spent in wonder at the hope for something new that each of us gained!


In your wisdom and mercy, you have set boundaries in our lives.

These are a gift given to help us thrive!

The boundaries help us focus,

Offer respect,

Protect others and ourselves

From the ways of brokenness that invades our best intentions.

Help me lean into the good inheritance you have promised.

For your praise and glory!

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