I grew up on a small mid-western farm. Along with a variety of animals—beautiful Guernsey milk-cows, a mischievous goat (not a long-term resident), fat, black pigs, and for awhile, a few sheep, we raised chickens. My father took good care of all of his animals and birds, providing them with clean living quarters, under-the-blue-sky-and-sunshine spaces to move, clean water, and nutritious food. The chickens were a primary source of our food; we never lacked for fresh eggs, and Sunday dinner was usually roast chicken.
My mother knew how to wield an ax and butcher a chicken. She did it—in what I assume was the most merciful way that she knew how to—by quickly chopping off its head. Occasionally, for a very brief time, a headless chicken would stagger around in unfocused directions. Seeing this, was perhaps the origin of one of my father’s common expressions—she (or he) is running around like a chicken with its head cut off!
He used it to describe anxious people who looked confused and seemingly lacked direction, yet frantically kept on working. Finally, after exhausting themselves, they stopped their fruitless activity. There are days when my behavior matches my father’s expression. I behave like a crazy, headless chicken and fall into bed feeling frustrated and exhausted.
Jesus used another illustration to describe this kind of fruitless activity—one that’s probably less offensive to those of you who are chicken lovers. (I’m sorry, if I’ve offended you.) He called himself the vine and he referred to us, his followers, as branches. I like the following paraphrase of his words: “When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing” (John 15:5 MSG).
What do headless chickens and being separated from an intimate relational connection with Jesus have in common? This: Headless chickens cannot think straight and neither can we, when we separate our thinking from God. Our activities result in what Jesus calls “nothing” (John 15:4 NKJV).
One dictionary definition of the word nothing is nonexistent. When we, who call ourselves Christians, separate our thinking from God, our activities result in nothing. They will cease to exist. But this is not what God desires for us. His promise, when we embrace his thinking and design our plans around his purposes, is an abundant harvest of fruit—good-tasting fruit that will last.
Unfortunately, I run around can a lot longer—disconnected from Jesus, than a chicken can—disconnected from its head. I can sit a long time at my computer typing out words and coming up with very few productive sentences before I realize that I’m disconnected. I’ve disconnected from Jesus and I’m empty-headed.
How can all of us stop running around like headless chickens, stay connected with Jesus’ thinking, and therefore, be confident that our activity and hard work will produce meaningful and lasting results? Here are five practical suggestions, with illustrations from my life:
- Connect your mind with God’s thoughts. Every day, make time to read Scripture; pray for understanding, meditate on it, and write out whatever words stand out to you. (This is my verse for today: “Send out your bread upon the waters,for after many days you will get it back “(Ec. 11:1 NRSV).
- Write down the application for your life: (For me, the application of the above verse is this: When I’m doing the activities God has given me, yet not seeing much fruit, I must not get discouraged and quit. Eventually, I will reap a harvest.)
- Copy that verse and keep it in a place where you will see it so that you can refer to it throughout the day. (I find my verse on Bible Gateway and copy it into a Word doc. I keep it open on my computer for the day. Sometimes, I also copy it on an index card and post it on my refrigerator.)
- Schedule “Time-out with Jesus” breaks throughout your day. (For breaks in my writing this week, I scheduled times to move and sing or listen to songs of praise.)
- Pay attention to the messages from your mind, body, and soul, because disconnection from Jesus affects every part of you. Notice how well your mind is functioning, what your emotions are, and what your body feels like. (When my muscles ache, my thinking has slowed down, and I feel irritated, I know I’ve been sitting too long at my computer and need to take a break.)
I hope these suggestions and illustrations are helpful to you. Please comment and, if you want to, share things that you do to keep your thinking connected with Jesus—so that you don’t wander off into crazy, headless chicken behavior.