The Good Shepherd

15 Comments

I love owls. All kinds from feathered to figurines. My house is a veritable parliament of owls, of the Harry Potter owlery variety (minus the owl droppings, of course). My hubby has placed a strict owl ban on our home. In his best Severus Snape voice, he announced, boldly, I might add, “No owl of any kind shall enter this domicile by order of the Husbands Against Owl Decor. If a new owl breaks through the restricted barrier then it shall suffer my wrath.” He crossed his arms, threw back his head and exhaled his hearty, “Mwahahahaha.”

I’ve been good about honoring the ban. Sort of. My office at work has, cough cough, a few owl things. But, shhhh, don’t tell my hubby.

I blame my love for owls on my mom. She, too, had an affection for the wide-eyed creatures. Her owls, though, screeched 1970s Home Interiors. Think macrame and metal in the not-so-lovely shades of burnt orange and split-pea-soup green.

I blame another owl addiction on my mom. We are both night owls. We love the night life. Not so much to boogie. But to read and think. My mind is most alive when the rest of the world slumbers peacefully. Lately, however, I’ve lost my ability to stay up late. I’ve been utterly exhausted. I don’t know if it has to do with the sickness I’ve been battling for two months, the weather, stress, or a host of other things. But last night, Lady Di and I discussed the importance of rest and what it can do for our health—physical, mental, and spiritual. We talked about how Jesus is our Shepherd and how He is corralling us into His pen early every night so He can watch over us and take care of us.

As I crawled into bed at 8:00 last night (yes, 8:00…don’t judge!), God planted the word “shepherd” deep inside my heart. Like a metronome, it penetrated the depths of my sleep, ticking off God’s perfect beat to His most perfect Word. My dreams carried me over fields and into flocks and promised me rest. Sweet, God-given, much-needed rest.

Until, of course, my cat with excruciatingly painful halitosis chose to lick my nose. The bad breath is her thorn. She would be too perfect otherwise.

As I crawled out of bed, God spoke Psalm 23 to me. One verse at a time. He paused after each thought and waited. He waited for me to respond. So I did. We conversed Psalm 23. And it was precious and eye-opening and beautiful.

I’d like to share with you a portion of our conversation.

Psalm 23 (NIV)

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd

You are my Shepherd, Lord. That means I am part of Your flock, not the world’s flock. Oh how easy it is to see the other flock and yearn for its seeming “betterness”. But the world doesn’t care about me. Not like You do. You take care of me and watch over me.  I know You are my Shepherd, because I hear Your voice because I know Your voice because I know You. Thank You, Father, for choosing me to be Your sheep.

I lack nothing.

That’s a sobering thought, Lord. Especially in light of these past couple of months. They have been brutal. The waiting, specifically. But see, I’ve been waiting for answers from doctors and not from You. When I look back on all the pain and sleepless nights, You were there, pulling me through, guiding me to trust You, showing me that I truly lack nothing. You provide for ALL my needs. Needs that are as small as a smile from a stranger on a tough day to a big one like the doctor saying, “It’s not cancer.”I have a home, a loving husband (even if he is anti-owl), a generous family, a good job, food in my belly, clothes on my back, and medicine that is slowly healing my physical pain. And of course Jesus. I have Jesus. Jesus is all I need.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures,

Father, that’s what you’ve been doing these past few nights, huh? You’ve been forcing me to rest in the green, comforting pastures of my home. Because you know my mind never quits and that I try to fix who and what can’t be fixed. You know I am always thinking of what I should have done, should have said, what needs to be done, what I can’t do or don’t want to do. Or won’t do. You know the innermost workings of my heart and mind and that I ache to spend time in Your Word even though sometimes the most I can do is change into my pajamas and sit in my chair. You know the source of my pain even though the doctors don’t. Because You knit me together. You want me to rest so You can be You and I can be me.

he leads me beside quiet waters,

You lead, Lord. I follow. It really is that simple. Yet, I find it so difficult sometimes. When You called Your apostles, You gave them three words: “Come. Follow me.” And they did. They dropped everything and trusted You to lead them. And they encountered so many storms. Some literal, some metaphorical. But when they kept their eyes on You and trusted You, You quieted the storm and made the the waters quiet. You’ve been leading me through a storm lately, Lord. And when I stopped clinging to the boat and focused on You, you quieted the waters. And You know how I love the quiet.

    he refreshes my soul.

Oh Father, how you have refreshed my soul! I was feeling world-weary, weak-willed, and Word-wanting. You held Your staff, called my name, and drew me back into Your shelter. You cared for my wounds, healed me with Your Word, and lulled me to into heavy sleep with the warmth of Your embrace.

Thank You, my Father, for being my Shepherd. My Good Shepherd. Thank You for knowing me better than I know myself. For knowing when I need rest and then loving me enough to give it to me.

Advertisements

The Knowing

12 Comments

Relationships are funny things. They run the gamut from friendly banter exchanged between barista and coffee aficionado to intimate secrets shared between friends to understanding (and loving) your spouse’s sighs, head tilts, and vocal inflections. On a daily basis we engage in a number of relationships. Some require nothing more than a smile and a “Have a nice day”. Others are open arms at the end of long, trying day. Arms that hold on while you sob quietly into them. Arms that don’t care that dinner is burning in the oven or on the stove because the embrace is more than dinner.

And then there’s our relationship with God.

If you’d like to read a deeply powerful and piercing foray into a person’s relationship with God, I HIGHLY recommend you read Paul’s series “To see GSHJ less darkly” over at just me being curious. His words gave me so much to ponder.  If you are a shallow swimmer, you might want to grab your scuba gear because his posts burrow into the deep end of the ocean. Just a forewarning: pack extra tanks, because you won’t want to come up for air for awhile.

My relationship with God is very different than Paul’s. As I’m sure yours is as well. That’s what is so beautiful about it. God meets each of us where we are and He works from there.

Relationships are a process. They take time to develop.

Just because I read all of CS Lewis’ books or sing along to every Mercy Me song does not mean I am in a relationship with them. Just because I research someone on Wikipedia or read every biography on Napoleon does not mean I know everything about them. Just because I sit in a pew on Sunday and listen to a sermon about Moses or David or Paul or Jesus, does not mean I know them. Because what I’ve come to realize is that knowing about is not the same as knowing. And relationship, REAL relationship, is in the knowing. Not the knowing about.

My relationship with God began when I accepted Christ as my Savior.

I walked into the room, a single chair in the center with a spotlight illuminating it from above. I hesitantly crawled to the chair, feet leaden, legs wobbly, heart crescendoing into a fortissimo. “Hello?” I called. “Anyone here?” No answer. “Am I too late? The notice said the meeting starts at 7:00 and my watch shows it’s ten till.” I wondered where they had the table of cookies and punch, because I eat when I’m nervous.

“Sit down, please,” a voice called out.

Normally, I would have jumped, but there was something comforting about the voice, something familiar.

“Hello? Do I know you?”

“Not yet. But you will.”

I sat in the chair and looked around the room, hoping to see at least one other person. “I’m not sure this is the right place. I’m looking for the S.A. meeting?”

The voice laughed, a pleasant laugh, like warm apple cider on a wintry day. “Yes, yes indeed. You are in the right place. This is Sinners Anonymous. And we are glad you are here.”

“I expected more people,” I said, tears welling in my eyes. Could I really be the only one who needed this?

“Don’t be afraid. Be strong and courageous, my child. You are making the best decision of your life.”

Just as quickly as the tears started, they stopped. I sat straighter in the chair, courage replacing the feelings of hesitation and awkwardness.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes,” I said. And I was. Instinctively, I said the following words, “My name is Heather, and I am a sinner.”

God bellowed from above, “Hi, Heather!”

“Hi,” I said. “Nice to meet you.”

“I’ve been waiting since the beginning of time for you to come, Heather. And I’m so glad you did,” He said.

I didn’t grab my purse, get up from my chair, flip my hair, and walk away from the room suddenly cured of my desire to sin. I wasn’t spontaneously armed with the necessary tools to be strong and never waver in a world saturated in sin. I didn’t automatically put God first, put His will ahead of mine, crave Him with every ounce of my being. Actually, I felt a little queasy because I understood that my life would forever be changed. I would no longer be the Heather of yesterday, keeping God “out there” somewhere at a seemingly safe distance. I didn’t want God out there anymore. I wanted Him in here, in me, alive and active and working in me and through me.

As with any addiction, I knew my first step was admitting I needed Him. I had no idea what plans God had in store for me, but I knew that the path would not always be easy.

Staying in my chair and facing God was difficult, but I knew that in order to understand myself and my sin and learn how to walk with God, I had to stay. I had to remain in Him. Because God had the answers then and He still has the answers today.

My journey with God began several years ago and every day is a beautiful, scary challenge. Perhaps I will share more with you about my journey from knowing about to knowing. But first, there’s something I need you to know. My name is Heather and I’ve been a sinner all my life.

There. I said it. Now that that’s out of the way, nothing I say should shock you. Well, it might. If so, then I hear there’s a meeting down the hall for righteous naysayers called “Pharisees Anonymous”.