News and Tribune


July 3, 2014

MAY: Plucking goatfeathers from your vision

— We have spent the last ten days along the coastal road 30-A in Florida’s panhandle. One of the things we enjoy doing on vacation is sampling some of the cuisine from local restaurants. Less than a mile up the road from where we stay is a shack of a place called “Goatfeathers.” The menu for the restaurant was very typical for a Gulf seafood eatery. The food was reasonably priced with enough of a local flair to beckon a return visit.

Honestly, though, it was the restaurant’s name rather than the food that caught my attention. Pat and Eleanor Miller purchased the café and market in 1988. New owners and a fresh start demanded a new name. The Millers had recently returned from a trip to Austria where a quote on the wall of a local pub caught their eye.

The walls were covered with famous sayings from around the world. Above their table was etched words from the pen of Ellis Parker Butler, an early 1900s American satirist. His words seemed to caption their lives and thus the mantle of their new restaurant. “Goatfeathers are the distractions, sidelines and deflections that take a man’s attentions from his own business and keep him from getting ahead.”

Goatfeathers can be a good thing. The lines at the bottom of the restaurant’s menu hopes that “the visit today will distract you with our delicious food, friendly staff, and comfortable family atmosphere.”  A week’s vacation at the ocean provides the perfect goatfeather for me — a chance to set aside responsibilities and problems and reconnect with my vision and purpose.

What about you? Do you have a vision for where you are going, for who you want to be? Is it clouded by the goatfeathers of uncertainty or indecision? Lily Tomlin, actress and comedienne, said, “When I was growing up I always wanted to be someone. Now I realize that I should have been more specific.” Former New York Yankee catcher and philosopher Yogi Berra quipped, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else.”

What causes the goatfeathers in our life? Sometimes goatfeathers come from necessity. We have our goals and plans set in place and suddenly life happens. The changes could be positive: a marriage, the birth of a child, or a sudden job promotion. The changes could be devastating: an unexpected job loss, a spouse leaves, or cancer strikes. The things that are important to us don’t really change, but they are often set aside because circumstances change.

Sometimes goatfeathers come from good things. We run at a break-neck pace in order to accomplish all of the things that it seems we want. The job is requiring extra hours right now because of a new project. More effort may well lead to a promotion. The family will understand that the time away will actually be for their benefit. But it is here where the things that are important to us actually begin to alter, as a shift occurs in our priorities.

Charles Hummel, in his small book “The Tyranny of the Urgent,” says, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent crowd out the important.” What an incredibly hard-hitting maxim. Let it haunt us by raising the critical question of priorities. If we snuck into your calendar, what would your schedule tell us about the important things in your life?

Sometimes goatfeathers come from temptations. The grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. My spouse doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to my needs. The fun seems to be gone from our marriage; when we have time to talk, it seems we always end up fighting about something. The co-worker always speaks kindly and we seem to agree on everything. A drink together on the way home from work really wouldn’t be a big deal.

Suddenly my vision of faithfulness and commitment to a spouse and my family is impaired by the feathery clouds that have covered my eyes. Instead of seeing the important things — the things that were to be a priority — the only thing that can be seen is what is right in front of the nose. And when we embrace the goatfeather, we sacrifice the horizon.

Here’s to plucking goatfeathers from my vision ... and yours.

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast. Reach him at


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