Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1 NASB)
“I’ve got a question for you,” my brother said. We were standing behind his house in California, beneath the beautiful oak trees, looking into the valley below. We hadn’t seen each other in two years. Knowing my brother, this could be a loaded question.
“OK,” I said, “shoot.”
“Can turkeys fly?” he asked as he gazed at the gnarly branches of the trees.
It wasn’t the type of question I was expecting. No questions about the family, our children, or living overseas. Just a question about turkeys. Definitely different.
I thought back to my classes in ornithology and replied with confidence, “For short distances. They can’t sustain a long flight.”
“Wow, most people don’t even know that,” he said, duly impressed. Maybe not quite as impressed as I would hope but surprised I knew that small fact. Sometimes those odd courses I took come in handy.
That was about all I knew about turkeys. I remembered Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey for our national bird. I’d never seen a wild turkey but remembered chasing turkeys in my uncle’s yard many eons ago.
Steve explained an interesting habit about turkeys. About dusk turkeys wander into the oak tress behind the house. Because they are virtually defenseless they need a safe place to spend the night. So, they fly up to a low branch on a tree then work their way upwards to a spot safe from predators. Did you know this? I didn’t.
Later we were on the deck of the house as the sun began to dip below the mountains. Sure enough, up the little trail came a flock of four turkeys. They wandered along, picking nuts and other goodies from the grass as they made their way to the oak trees.
Mama was the first to jog a couple steps, flap her large wings and flutter up to the bottom branch. After she established balanced footing she worked her way up the branch away from the earth below. The rest of the turkeys poked around, tilted their heads this way and that, and considered where they would roost for the evening.
Finally the next turkey walked up the hill a bit, turned, and calculated the distance with a discerning eye. Jogging downhill to gain speed the wings flared out, flapped and carried the poult to another branch in the tree. This brilliant turkey figured a little elevation would reduce the distance to the branch. Soon, the remaining turkeys would wing their way to a safe sleeping perch.
Beth and I were fascinated. On what we might consider a precarious perch, these bulbous birds were planning a night in snug safety. They knew what they needed and were putting it into effect at the right time and the right place. There wasn’t a turkey summit to discuss the ramifications of branch safety over ground assault.
Unfortunately I must admit I’m not always as smart as a turkey. I’ve been called a turkey for sure. There are things I know I should do and things I know I shouldn’t do. At times I get these two backwards. Like Paul I sometimes find myself doing what I shouldn’t and not doing what I should.
There are times I’m sitting on the ground, late into the night, looking up at the safe perch on the branch. I know I should follow the Lord’s guidance, obey His commands, seek His kingdom with all my heart. Jesus told me God cares even for the sparrows and the few remaining hairs on my head. He will take care of my needs when I fly up into the safety of His arms. But, there I sit on the ground.
When a turkey acts independent of his teaching and training he makes a good target. Staying rooted on the ground, when the safety of the tree beckons, the turkey makes himself a midnight snack for some scavenger. The same thing happens to me, as a Christian. When I stay rooted in the earthy part of myself I am open to attack from the passing scavengers of Satan’s hordes. If I rest in the safety of God’s Word, and what He teaches me, I am safe.
Where will I spend my time? On the ground, or in the air? I have this urge to spread my wings, take a few steps for momentum, and fly to the safety of my Father’s arms. What about you?