Chickens at the Post Office!

Lenten Devotion

Pastor Karen Crawford

First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, NY

March 2023

Audio of Pastor sharing this devotion:

“See! the chickens round the gate
For their morning portion wait;
Fill the basket from the store,
Let us open wide the door;
Throw out crumbs and scatter seed,
Let the hungry chickens feed.” [1] 

                                                                                                       —The Chickens by D.A.T.

I arrived early for my 11 a.m. appointment at the post office. I waited and fretted in a black chair next to a locked door labeled, “Passport Office.” Did I have the right paperwork? Would I be, for some reason, denied? Would my passport arrive in time for a summer vacation?

Something catches my attention and I look up as a young woman enters, carrying a little boy on her hip. She notices a woman walking quickly behind her and invites her to go in front of her. Now she holds my attention—a woman who is kind and patient in a place not exactly known for kindness and patience. I watch as she is called to the glass window and asks for her package. In a moment, the room is filled with the sounds of PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP. The little boy on his mother’s hip breathes a happy sigh. “Awwwww!” he says, bringing his ear closer to the box on the counter.

After a brief time, the woman carrying the box of PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEPing chickens and the boy still attached to her hip approach me on their way to the door. I can hardly contain myself.

“Do you have chickens?” I ask, excitedly. “Have you raised chickens before? Do they need an incubator? What kind of chickens are they?” The questions keep coming, before the woman can answer.

The woman smiles and is pleasant. Yes, she has raised chickens. No, you don’t need an incubator after the eggs hatch. No, they won’t go outside, just yet. These chickens will lay eggs that are a dark chocolate brown, she explains, pressing thumbs and fingertips together to show me the size of the large eggs. They are called “marans,” she says.

Cuckoo Marans from Cackle Hatchery at

Call them; now how fast they run,
Gladly, quickly, every one!
Eager, busy hen and chick,
Every little morsel pick;
See the hen, with callow brood,
To her young how kind and good!

With what care their steps she leads!
Them, and not herself, she feeds,
Picking here and picking there,
Where the morsels nicest are. [3] 

                                                                                                         — The Chickens by D.A.T.

One more question before the woman and little boy leave the post office. This one is addressed to the little boy. “Are you going to name them?” I ask. He nods shyly.

I want to ask more questions, but I realize that I am a stranger and here on Long Island, maybe you aren’t supposed to engage in long conversations with strangers in a post office. I want to ask, “Can I come home with you and see your chickens?”

I have this powerful desire to write a story about her chickens. Instead, I decide to write a Lenten devotion, even though these are not technically “wildlife” and they have not been encountered in my backyard.

But they are still in God’s Creation—and is it just a coincidence that the woman and her boy would pick up their carton of chickens at just the moment that I was also here, waiting for the passport office to open? I don’t believe in coincidences. I know this was one of those joyous moments that the Lord has planned for each of us—if only we are open to the Spirit and able to recognize what is meant to be a blessing, something to strengthen and encourage us in our walk of faith.

By now, I have practically forgotten my passport appointment and the summer vacation. I am happily present and not worrying for the future, which isn’t easy for me. A grey-haired gentleman with tattoos on both arms holds open the door to the Passport Office. His smile welcomes me.

I am answering questions and following directions, while I am thinking about—yes, chickens! What would it be like to care for pet chickens that lay dark chocolate brown eggs? Where would we keep them? What would we feed them? What would we do when they grow big? Would the neighbors complain if they turned out to be roosters, rather than hens?

As she calls they flock around,
Bustling all along the ground;
When their daily labors cease,
And at night they rest in peace,
All the little things
Nestle close beneath her wings;
There she keeps them safe and warm,
Free from fear and free from harm. [4]

                                                                                                     —The Chickens by D.A.T.

As I leave the post office, I think about how Jesus loves chickens. In Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34, passages that we sometimes read on Palm Sunday, he likens himself to a hen with his chicks when he looks upon the Holy City of Jerusalem with sorrow. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing!”

The chicks remind me of a God who is always searching for us, seeking us out, caring for us especially in times of anxiety or fear, wanting to embrace and feed us with God’s love—wanting to gather us with all God’s people, safe and secure beneath God’s wings.

Now, my little child, attend:
Your almighty Father, Friend,
Though unseen by mortal eye,
Watches o’er you from on high;
As the hen her chickens leads,
Shelters, cherishes, and feeds,

So by Him your feet are led,
Over you His wings are spread. [5]

                                                                                                   —The Chickens by D.A.T.

Throughout Lent, I have been trying to pay attention, PAY ATTENTION, to the beauty of God’s Creation and the Presence of God’s Spirit, wherever I am. I have looked at Creation with a new understanding of my connection to it and through it to God. My understanding has been shaped by the words of Scripture, theologians, writers, and poets.

Gerard Manley Hopkins famously writes in “God’s Grandeur” how

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.[6]

John Calvin writes in his commentary on Psalm 104, verse 1, “In comparing the light with which he represents God as arrayed to a garment, he intimates, that although God is invisible, yet his glory is conspicuous enough. In respect of his essence, God undoubtedly dwells in light that is inaccessible; but as he irradiates the whole world by his splendor, this is the garment in which He, who is hidden in himself, appears in a manner visible to us.” [7]

 I have taken seriously Sally McFague’s urging to pay attention to the natural world with a loving eye and not an arrogant eye, [8] which objectifies and seeks to use, dominate, or discard, rather than seek a relationship of mutual respect, kinship, and care. I have asked God to reveal where my heart needs changing—and I have seen God working in me, beginning with my frustration with squirrels, as I shared in my Ash Wednesday message.

The other day, Jim and I were watching squirrels wrestle over sunflower seeds in my feeders. The tiff led to a fight, which led to a chase and one squirrel free falling from the top of a tall tree. The squirrel landed on the hard ground—and lay there, a long moment, unmoving.

Shaking, I pull on my shoes and jacket and step outside. I don’t know what I can do to help him or her, but I have to see if the squirrel is all right. As I draw closer, whispering comforting words, the other squirrel runs away— uninjured—but the squirrel that had fallen took another moment, before it hobbles off in another direction, dragging its back left foot. I struggle to hold back tears at the thought of the pain he might be suffering from his injury—and the possibility that he was just made vulnerable to the cruel side of Nature—when animals eat and fight other animals, particularly weaker ones, to survive in the wild.

With my heart seized by Agape for the injured squirrel, I pray for healing. I ask the Lord to forgive my arrogance and open my heart to love all creatures, once again, a prayer lifted up many times, and yet, I still need more help.

The next morning, I watched three squirrels eating from the bottom of the feeders, alongside a variety of birds, with absolutely no animosity between them. I thought about the vision of the Peaceable Kingdom in Isaiah 11 that we often read in Advent. I prayed for peace—peace with God, peace with one another, peace within ourselves, just as we are. For how can we love as God loves, if we don’t begin with ourselves? This is my favorite part of that passage:

The wolf shall live with the lamb;
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the lion will feed together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

Let us pray….

Holy God of Creation, Father and Mother to us all, thank you for Jesus and his love for all creatures, especially human beings, though he was scorned and rejected. Thank you for helping us to recognize your loving provision for us and your presence in Nature, which forever sings your praises. Thank you for these sparkling Holy Spirit moments, when we know you are whispering to us and seeking to bless us with something as small as the PEEP PEEP PEEPing of chicks in a post office and a little boy’s “Awwwwww.” In Christ we pray. Amen.

        [1] Poetry, Pick Me Up, “The Chickens By D. A. T,” November 4, 2022.







    [8] Sallie McFague, Super, Natural Christians: How We Should Love Nature (MN: Fortress Press) 33.

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, New York on Long Island. Come and visit! We want to share God’s love and grace with you and encourage you on your journey of faith. I have served Presbyterian congregations in Minnesota, Florida and Ohio since my ordination in 2011. I am a 2010 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and am working on a doctor of ministry degree with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I am married to Jim and we have 5 grown children and two grandchildren in our blended family. We are parents to fur babies, Liam, an orange tabby cat, and Minnie, a toy poodle.

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