I Just Wanna Be a Sheep

One of the perks of being a youth leader is having permission to act immaturely relive one’s younger years. (Right, Morgan?) The following kids’ song was repeatedly requested in our fifteen passenger van as we drove to and from the “Desperation” conference last month. I found myself happily singing along, belting it out with the rest of them.

(Go ahead. Push play. You know you want to.)

(Now you too can have that song stuck in your head! You’re welcome. Baa Baa Baa.)

Let’s get baaack to the purpose of this blog post.

If you know me, you know I have a thing for sheep.

Apparently Jesus did too.

In John 10 He uses the imagery of a shepherd and his sheep to illustrate the special kind of relationship He has with His flock. Lately John 10:27 has also been on auto replay in my mind:

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me… (John 10:27, NAS)

It’s as if the Lord has been saying to me, “Just be a sheep. It’s that simple.”

If that’s the case, then what does it mean to be a sheep in the Shepherd’s care?

It means that…

1) I belong.

“My sheep…”

I can almost hear the pride in His voice as He refers to “My” sheep. He is fiercely possessive of us. Because we belong to Him. We are His.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! (Isaiah 43:1b, NAS)

2) I am known.

“I know them…”

It’s easy to focus on knowing GOD and overlook the wonderful truth that WE are known by HIM. Don’t we all long to be known, understood, and loved? The fact is, we ARE! The shepherd David penned a beautiful description of sheep living under the knowing gaze of God:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
 You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
 Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all. (Psalm 139:1-4, NAS)

3) I can hear His voice.

“My sheep hear My voice…”

Sheep who spend time in the fields with their shepherd come to recognize His voice. It’s the same with our Shepherd. He desires to communicate with us and to teach us to respond to His voice.

Here are a few ways He speaks to us:

Through His Word. Have you ever had a Bible verse just jump out at you? My heart beats a little faster when this happens. Because I know it’s His Spirit, highlighting a particular passage just for me.

Through fellow sheep. He did this last week while I was chatting on the phone with my mom. She just “happened” to say just the right thing at just the right time. God was reaching out to encourage me through her words.

Through prayer. A few days ago, the Lord answered a specific prayer, mid-prayer, by inspiring a new thought in my mind. I knew it was a word from Him, because it was almost startling in its wisdom and clarity.

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21, NLT)

4) I get to follow Him.

“…they follow Me.”

Sheep have only one job, and that is to stay near the shepherd. He is the source of their protection and provision. It only makes sense to follow Him.

My little dog Beau (who actually reminds me of a lamb when his coat is cut short!), is a great example of this. When I leave the room, he leaves the room. When I go out, he waits at the door anticipating my return. He only has eyes for me.

I want to be more like that. Eyes on the Lord, sensitive to His movement, staying close.

He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9, NAS)

I think it really IS that simple.

I just wanna be a sheep.

Secure, known, and loved.

Listening, watching, and following.

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Family Reunions

“What is the purpose of your visit?”

The U.S. customs official questioned each passenger upon their return to Port Angeles, WA. Eight family members had spent the day in Victoria, British Columbia, where we had shopped, eaten, and enjoyed the beauty of this Canadian seaport. After an hour-and-a-half ferry ride back across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we queued up to be cleared to reenter the U.S.

When it was her turn, my sister-in-law, in an unspoken plea for a hassle-free border crossing, made direct eye contact with the official. In answer to his question and as explanation for her “Do-not-mess-with-me” attitude, she offered just two words:

“Family. Reunion.”

Enough. Said.

‘Tis the season for family reunions. Thirty-five or so of us had gathered that week on the coast of Washington for a reunion with my mother’s side of the family. Time with family can be sweet. And it can also be, shall we say…stretching?

I savored the “sweet” moments…introductions (meeting our newest and cutest four-month-old family member, as well as my uncle’s wife for the first time) and reunions (reconnecting with cousins I haven’t seen in years…or decades!).

I encountered those “stretching” moments…traveling in a herd is never easy. Deciding where to eat? Next to impossible. I think most families can relate!

One evening during the reunion, however, I looked around the circle of lawn chairs as we ate dinner outside. I took in the lines of familiar faces, heard the pleasant hum of conversation, and was struck by this thought:

For better or for worse, this is my family. I belong here.

Whether by blood or by marriage, everyone partaking in that meal was related. Our stories intersect. We share common ancestors. I could see my beloved late cousin Laura in the faces of her two beautiful daughters. I could hear my grandfather’s low, baritone voice as I chatted with my uncle, his eldest son. How proud he would be to see the family which carries his name coming together.

A couple of days later, my daughter Laurel and I headed to Colorado Springs for the “Desperation” youth conference, an annual gathering of over 5,000 teens from all over the country. This was my third time attending; Laurel’s second. So it felt like a reunion of sorts.

As if to validate that feeling, one of the speakers greeted us like this:

“What’s up Desperation family? This is our yearly get-together!”

Yes, there were some “sweet” moments…soaking in the sight of my daughters (and my new son-in-law!) worshiping God together…catching up over meals with some of my favorite friends…witnessing the next generation rising up to take their place in God’s grand plan of redemption.

And there were also some “stretching” moments…bickering among the students…differences in doctrine and practice…tension from past unresolved hurts.

Just like a family.

We don’t always get along. We may not see eye to eye on every issue. Sometimes we don’t even like each other.

But we’re related, descendants of a common Ancestor.

We bear His name.

His blood flows through our veins.

If we look past our differences, we can see the family resemblance.

If we listen carefully, we can hear the familiar inflection of His voice.

We will be stretched.

It comes with the family territory.

But oh, the sweetness when we put our differences aside and come together to worship and fellowship in Him!

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)

It’s a taste of that ultimate Family Reunion to come.

But until then, Church, a reminder…

For better or for worse, we are a family. We each belong here.

Let’s make our Father proud by the way we love and accept each other.

Fam Reunion

A few of the family members from our 2015 reunion.

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