Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In the Field There Were Donkeys Guarding Their Sheep by Sight

Every time we go to the Biltmore I always learn something new or maybe I don't retain previous knowledge like I do water.  Anyway, one of the most interesting facts I learned last week was about using donkeys as guard animals for sheep.  Biltmore even used a donkey as protection for chickens.  Talking about the guard donkeys once we hit Antler Hill Village on the shuttles was the main topic of conversation.  On each shuttle ride I learned so much about donkeys and sheep.  Yesterday I wrote about Biltmore's springtime theme, discover the moment you've been waiting for. I don't know if learning about donkeys was the moment I had waited for but guard donkeys gave me lots to think about. Guard donkeys can be referred to as, 'predator control animals or mobile flock protectors.'  A few years ago I read Marilyn Feinberg's book Scouting the Divine and I love the chapters on the sheep.  Well, truth be told I loved the whole book.  Of course I looked for this book when I got home and I have no clue what bookcase it is in.  So I will buy an e-book of it in order to find it instantly instead of doing the time consuming book search.  Now I want to re-read the shepherd and sheep chapters in light of this new revelation of donkey patrol. 

When one thinks about donkeys and don't we all do that, stubborn usually tops the list, then Donkey Kong, all the years of Christmas pageants with uncooperative donkeys for Mary on the way to Bethlehem and Jesus in the triumphal entry come to mind, loud braying, and maybe a tad unfriendly.  Hmmm....even now several people are coming to mind.  No, no, this is about donkeys, not people who act like asses.  I can write ass, it's in the Bible.  :)  Balaam's donkey in the Bible came to mind and the afore mentioned Mary and Jesus rides.  Liz Curtis Higgs says that in the Bible when people rode donkeys it was for a short journey and when we read of people using camels for transportation, it usually means a longer ride and journey.  Isn't that an interesting biblical fact?  Depending on what version of the Bible you read, donkeys are mentioned 140-155 times in the Bible.  In the KJV asses are mentioned 436 times.  Donkeys in biblical times were ridden by kings, a valuable transportation means, and carried the groceries home.  I love this little tidbit I read this morning, donkeys were the choice of ride when people didn't want to bring attention to themselves. 

What an unlikely pairing, donkeys and sheep.  Several of the shuttle drivers and the tour guide for the Friends and Family tour, all the 1895 into the 1900's gossip you would ever want to know, told stories of their own guard donkeys that watched over their sheep and goats.  Of course I went to Google to do some research this week and it is very interesting how one trains a donkey to be the protector and alarm.  For time sake and since probably many of you are now totally bored with my new found fascination of sheep and donkeys, I will finally get to the main thought of this blog post.  Every time I heard the stories of the donkey and sheep, my mind and heart were searching because I knew there was a spiritual application to be found and to apply.  Many of you long time readers of Monablog and those who have known me for a really long time know this about me; in the Luke 15 story of the prodigal son, when asked what character of the story do you identify with I have always said the fatted calf.  Fatted calf, out in the field, minding its own business and out of the blue slaughtered for someone else's happiness.  Then there is the obvious I feel like a fatted calf because it's that time of the month.  Thankfully, the later no longer applies!   TMI I know, but it is a part of my story.  So naturally since I seem to identify with animals in the Bible,  I begin thinking how can I be more like a guard donkey...spiritually and not in the KV vernacular for donkey. 

  •  For the donkeys to protect they must be at the right place and the right time.
  • The more time the guard donkey spends time with the sheep the more likely it will be present when needed. 
  • The donkey's herding instinct combined with its inherent dislike and aggressiveness toward dogs and coyotes makes it effective in doing the job.
  • Donkeys rely on sight and sound to detect intruders.  When an intruder approaches the sheep move behind the donkey and the donkey's loud brays and quick pursuit may scare away the predators but most importantly alerts the shepherd.  In most instances the donkey confronts the predator and chases it out of the pasture but they have been known to use their lethal kicks to injure or even kill dogs and coyotes. 
It is so obvious that this is what we need to do in prayer, you know be a mobile flock protector.  Right place at right time, be present in the moment, those who you regularly pray for, spend time with your sheep.  Skype, email, text, FB or here's a unique idea, have actual face time with your flock.  Be assertive in prayer, surround them, ask for God's presence to be known by them.  And when as a mobile flock protector you  detect those things that intrude and come to kill, steal and destroy, call out loudly to the Shepherd.  With the strength of the Shepherd chase those dogs and coyotes as CeCe Winnans puts it in her song, out my house!

Yep, being a guard donkey is not an especially 'upfront and be noticed ministry.'  It may only involve family and friends.  That's good.  Too often our mindset of ministry is to have a named ministry where we are the founder, teacher, speaker and directer of it, complete with a web site, Twitter, blog and Facebook presence.  We overload social media with our profound thoughts, direct quotes and hope against hope, we will be 'discovered' like the many 2 or 3 that have been before us.  Probably all this donkey and sheep thing doesn't make sense to y'all and with my mind being especially ADD today, I know this is all over the place. I am only writing this today to have it in some uniform thought where I can find it, like books on my Nook.  If it is helpful or just entertaining for you today, happy am I for that fringe benefit.   I do know my little flock that I pray for diligently, regularly and passionately will benefit. 

Here is the Biltmore sheep and guard donkey.

This donkey is in the farm section at Antler Hill.  He was near death but has made a great recovery.  In his area there are a few chickens, I guess to help him practice his herding and bonding instincts.

Donkeys also guard goats and although this picture of baby goats has nothing to do with this blog post, they are just so dang cute, I had to included them.

The afore-mention recovering donkey in the foreground while in the background a mobile flock protector is watching over, kind of, the free range chickens.

Another picture of the flock grazing with its friend and protector Lollipop.  Gee, these donkeys need better guard names like, Terminator or Robo Donkey.  

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