Baack to the Sheepfold

If you know me at all, you know I have a thing for sheep. What you may not know is that my sheep obsession started almost 30 years ago, in the summer of 1989! My sister, who has a thing for animals of any kind, was fostering endangered desert tortoises in her Arizona backyard at the time. My mom thought it’d be fun to start a turtle figurine collection for her. Not wanting to ignore her favorite (oldest) daughter, she asked me if I’d also like to collect something.

I thought for a moment before answering, “Sheep.” I’d never even been around actual sheep. But I’d rubbed shoulders with them on the pages of the Bible, and read a few books about the spiritual parallels between humans and sheep. (The most notable being “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller. It’s a classic; I highly recommend.) I’d grown rather fond of these wooly wanderers.

And so, I became known as a lover and collector of all things Sheep.

This spring, I revisited Psalm 23 with my Thursday night Bible study group, along with author Jennifer Rothschild as our insightful teacher. (I also highly recommend her study!) In preparation, I dusted off my sheep collection and enjoyed the memories they evoked as they decorated our gracious Bible study host’s home. I was excited to share my passion for sheep with the group.

Turns out I was the one most in need of a reminder that I was still just a humble sheep.

If you know sheep at all, you know that despite their thick wool coats, they are “a few threads short of a sweater,” if you know what I mean. They need a lot of help. They’re extremely high maintenance. (“Bless,” my British BFF Caroline would say about folks like these.)

Here are just a few reasons why sheep are so needy:

  • They are quickly disoriented. Unlike birds, dogs, and many other animals, sheep lack a homing device. No GPS included!
  • They are easily spooked. Once, on a field trip with my “Mums and Tots” group in England, I witnessed a whole group of sheep panic when some harmless preschoolers tossed a few bits of hay their way!
  • They are almost completely defenseless. No claws, no fangs in those jaws. No wonder they run!

That they need a shepherd is no surprise. But not just any shepherd. They need a good shepherd. One who will tirelessly devote himself to their intensive care.

I don’t really like being compared to a sheep. But (sheepishly) I must confess this threadbare sweater fits.

  • I can lose my spiritual bearings and forget my way “home.”
  • I am prone to panic, the smallest worries triggering an emotional stampede.
  • I often feel defenseless and vulnerable when under spiritual attack.

Thankfully, I am not a sheep without a shepherd.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1, NASB)

And my shepherd is a Good One. An expert in His field! (No pun intended.)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11, NIV)

A good shepherd is, well, good at what he does. He genuinely cares for his sheep. He has a vested interest in the well-being of His flock, because his reputation is on the line. A thriving flock testifies to His watchful, faithful care. He’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe and sound.

In a recent blog post I shared that I am in need of some “soul care,” some restoration and repair. The starting point for this journey was admitting who I am: a sheep in need of a shepherd, and acknowledging who He is: the Good Shepherd, who will stop at nothing to provide for His sheep. My job? To not resist, but instead rest in His capable care.

I needed this reminder. Do you? Then repeat after me:

I am a sheep.

I have a Good Shepherd.

He is more than able, and willing, to take care of me.

I will rest in His loving care.

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Out of the Ashes

I really didn’t want to hear it. But she needed to say it. So I pressed the phone to my ear and listened as she shared her difficult story.

She had recently gone through an abortion. There were complications. She was traumatized.

I grieved. This was not the outcome I had been hoping for. One life ended; another life damaged.

The next morning, I opened my Bible app and numbly went through the motions of that day’s devotion. I skimmed the supporting Bible verses. The last two verses broke through my fog.

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
(Psalm 139:16, NLT)

I believe life begins at conception. Psalm 139 is a well-known passage that teaches this truth. I thought of the unborn baby who was gone too soon, and mentally estimated the number of his* days.

49

I calculated the number of days his miniature heart beat.

28

Such a brief existence.

But his life mattered.

God saw him. God created him. God knew the number of his days, the number of his heart beats.

I was comforted.

God sees the baby’s mother too. He created her. He knows the number of her days, the number of her heart beats. He even numbers the hairs on her head.

He also knows she is injured and in need of support.

Her life matters.

I was challenged.

I continued to the second verse:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. (Genesis 50:20, NLT)

I had an overwhelming sense that the baby, now safe in the arms of His Maker, was speaking. It was as if he was explaining the purpose of his short time here on earth, and prophesying over his mother’s future testimony and destiny. It was a merciful message of Hope.

God will redeem this. The story is not over. Someday He will use it to save the lives of many others.

I believe this. I am claiming this for her. And for anyone else reading this who has been impacted by abortion.

Abortion is ugly. It silences one heart and wounds another. I’ve personally witnessed its destructive aftermath in the lives of friends and clients.

But I’ve also seen Jesus mercifully breathe life into its ashes and fashion something amazingly beautiful out of the pain.

He’s the only one who can.

It’s the reason He came.

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. (Romans 8:28, The Voice)

 

*While I don’t know if this baby was a boy or a girl, I decided to refer to him/her as “him.” I feel “it” dehumanizes unborn human life.

An important note: If you have experienced an abortion in your past, please know there is forgiveness and healing in Jesus. He can redeem your story too. I’m here to help, whenever you’re ready.

 

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Blue Light Special

I have fair skin. In my teens and twenties, I tried in vain to tan. As my fair-skinned (and funny) husband is fond of saying, “I have two colors:  White and Red.”

I decided I’d rather be red than white. So I’d foolishly smear baby oil on my translucent skin and proceed to roast like a rotisserie chicken beside our backyard pool. A few times I even held one of those foil reflector shields under my upturned face, as if the almighty Arizona sun needed magnifying. I cringe now at the thought.

Pass the aloe vera.

Fast forward a few decades and there is now a price to be paid for my youthful tanning indiscretions: wrinkles, sun damage, and skin cancer. I’m a frequent flyer at my dermatologist’s office. When I walk through that door it feels more like I’m entering a war zone than a waiting room, with all those aging faces sporting bandages.

We reap what we sow. Even if it takes years to appear.

While we are free to choose, we are not free from the consequences of our choices. This is a time-tested principle, a spiritual “law” if you will, straight out of the Bible:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (Galatians 6:7, ESV) 

Sow sun, reap skin damage.

Today I returned to the dreaded “war zone.” Only this visit was for a treatment called “Photodynamic Therapy,” or PDT. Levulanic acid is carefully applied to the face and allowed to soak into the skin for one hour. It is then activated by a special blue light, which causes the chemicals to attack and kill any pre-cancerous cells.

But wait, it gets even better. This incredible treatment not only prevents skin cancer from developing, it also reverses past sun damage! I find this absolutely amazing.

It’s what I’d call a true “Blue Light Special.”

It’s also an illuminating illustration of our God.

…he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10, NIV)

God is not mocked. But He is also merciful.

He enters those war-torn places in our lives and soothes them with His gentle, but penetrating light. Neutralizing the cancerous spread of sin. Repairing, even reversing the damage inflicted upon us by others and, yes, even ourselves. Restoring us to spiritual health and emotional wholeness.

No, we don’t deserve it.

We can merely receive it, with an upturned face and a heart bowed down.

Come. Shine on me, Lord.

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays… (Micah 4:2a, NIV)

Wonderful, merciful Savior.

Beautiful, healing Light.

blue light 

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