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Grandma Leadership 2.0-A Chicken with it's head cut off


Once I dropped the phrase "he was running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" into a sermon. The folks in the traditional service, mostly over 50 years of age, smiled and nodded their approval and recognition. They knew what I was talking about. It was a disconnect in the contemporary service. The mostly younger group responded with that blank queston mark look that told me they didn't get it. Later, one of the younger ones said he thought chicken meat was produced in a factory, shrink wrapped in plastic, and sold in the poultry section of the grocery store.

My grandmother, Vera W. Holmes, entrepreneur and small grocery store operator, had a chicken coop in the back yard. Most Sundays after church she would either ring the necks of our Sunday meal or chop their heads off with an ax. It was a vivid, frightful thing to watch that hen running around the yard with no head. All of our cousins ran for the hills. We thought that headless chicken was chasing us.

So, when Mama Holmes told us we were running around like a chicken with it's head cut off, it scared the daylights out of us. Today that almost sounds barbaric. But, those of old enough to have that snapshot etched in our memory know it was everyday life in rural or small town America. I mean, refergeration and transportatkon and storage capabilities are a relatively recent element of modern life. So, much of what we ate was planted and harvest, killed fresh, or bought fresh at the butcher shop or market. So, we didn't think it was all that grusome. We just didn't want that headless animal to to run us down and do something bad to us.

It's a very accurate picture of life in full panic mode. Our grandmother didn't want us to live on that edge and wanted to show us as true a comparision as possible of how wild, irrational or hysterical behavior affects a group. It may be similar to the emotions that I referenced in the Grandma Leadership 2.0 lesson yesterday, "Your face is going to freeze". But, alarm at that level involves emotions ratcheted up a notch, emotions on steriods. There are fears and therefore reactions that are uncontrolled, erratic, and frightening, like a chicken with it's head cut off. Mama Holmes didn't want us to live there, this place of unfettered, unlesashed panic. She knew leaders and the organizations they led could not function effectively that way.

Control is an issue these days. There are control freaks and people whose lives are out of control. Either can negatively affect a group and it's mission. In a touchy-feely world the control issue may be the guts of many struggling organizations, one under the thumb of a leader who crushes everything, the other an organization in panic mode, no rules, direction, or corporate ideals. What ever the case, panic doesn't engender trust, confidence, certainlty, or the compelling sense of purpose that over-rides all of our human differences. If we're running around like a chicken with it's head cut off, we're frightening everyone around us. Escape, survival, and a get-out-of-my-way mentality become the mission. Panic is not good.

It happens at church too, people in panic mode. In this environment, it's a signal of deep spiritual dysfunction, something much greater than a disconnect in the human system. Here is a loss of trust and confidence at the deepest level, failure to trust God. And, the Bible records instance after instance of people moving toward panic mode and then being calmed and comforted by the God of promises. Someone counted and wrote that there are 366 occasions of God inter- vening in near panic situations with the words, "Fear not, I am with you". Interesting. One for every day of the year plus one for leap year. When church people panic it tends to spread like widlfire, to use another old adage, and lead the congregation to make rash decisions and snap judgements. In that kind of world, we might as well carry a sign that says we've over-looked the "self-control" virture listed among the fruits of the Spirit, and sent the basics on faith on sick leave. That's not the life God intended. Or, Mama Holmes.

I don't want to act that way, and neither do you. The joy and peace that are ours in Christ should never be overwhelmed by circumstances to the point that we live reckless, careless lives. Solomon wrote about that life, and gave us the absolute preventative of panicked living. He wrote, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he wil make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

You see, a chicken with it's head cut off doesn't move in a straight path. it has no head or vision. But, when Jesus is our head, he gives us vision to move straight and live victoriouly. You see, faith is the victory that overcomes the world...and panicked living.


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