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Posts Tagged ‘#thegoodshepherd’

Hubby and I got to enjoy a meal, in a restaurant recently. What a joy it was to be seated at a table (indoors) and to have our meal served to us. We were also particularly impressed with how the restaurant had pivoted when indoor dining had been banned. They utilized one of their parking areas for covered seating which looked fantastic. In speaking with the owner, we learned that this outdoor seating was not going away, but has helped them to birth the idea of how to make this extra outdoor seating permanent and incorporated into their indoor seating. The owner said, “we had a choice, to curl up in a ball and cry or to think creatively. We chose to think creatively.”

It makes one think of the proverb, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

This pandemic year plus has been one of lemons … cases of lemons.

There is much that has been lost, missed. There have been sorrows, injustices and forced alterations to our lives.

There have also been discoveries, innovations and creativity that have been stirred into the mix.

Poet Mary Oliver said, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Wild, indicating the the unpredictability of our days. Precious, reminding us of the value of our life, our days.

John 10:10 tells us :

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”

That is a verse about lemons. It is a verse that reminds us of how loved we mere mortals are, by the one who gives us breath.

Because sin (lemons) entered into our human DNA in the Garden, through the disobedience of man, we needed saving. Through the very son of God, whose willing death paid the price of that sin, we have been redeemed, made new. God could have left us as we were, but his love for us was too great for that.

Life delivers lemons … right to our doors. But we have been given the example of making something good, better out of what we are handed. What will we do with this pandemic (and the struggles and losses that have accompanied it)? What will we do with the other tough stuff, the sour stuff that enters into our days? Will we curl up in a ball and cry, or will we get creative, adding to the sour to create something sweet?

What will we do with this wild and precious life?

“I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

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Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 6.50.51 AMI grew up on the east coast of Canada, with rolling hills, spectacularly colourful autumn foliage and green, lush valleys.

It is my understanding of the east coast valley that has created for me the imagery of a valley in Psalm 23.

lush.

soft shadows.

cool.

life-giving.

Recently I came across an article about a valley between Jerusalem and Jericho. There are parts of this valley where the cliffs on either side are so high that the sun only reaches the bottom when it is at it’s noontime high. Most of the day it is

dark,

cold,

and every sound reverberates eerily throughout the valley.

This valley sounds more like the Valley of dry bones that Ezekiel wrote about after having a hum dinger of a dream.

I wonder which valley David was thinking of, when he penned the twenty-third Psalm?

Recently I realized that I am like a lifeguard. When a crises or emergency occurs, I become a person of calm, of peace. I think clearly, I speak wisely (ok, that might be a stretch), I care for those who are hurting, I do what needs to be done. Basically, I walk through the Valley of the shadow of death with ease and peace … as though I am being guided, confidently, through this death valley by the Shepherd himself.

Then, days, weeks or months after the crises or emergency I go from strolling through the lush valley with my Shepherd, to fearfully stumbling in the shadows, feeling lifeless, scared and so very alone.

I think that, like myself (like you?) David experienced both types of valleys. He experienced the shadows, and the presence of the sun. He walked through lush green growth, and the dry rocky paths. He heard nothing but the echoes of his own fear-filled heartbeat, and the comforting whispers of the Shepherd.

The thing is, the Shepherd (God) was and is present in both the valley of Ezekiel and the gentle ones I knew growing up.

In the one, Ezekiel is given a vision, by God, of dry bones in the desert. God told Ezekiel that these bones are his people, who say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely” (37:11). That’s a dark valley! A dark, shadowy, fear-filled valley. We have all walked through that valley! Then God instructs Ezekiel, to tell them to live. He told him to say, “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live” (37:5).

Those dry bones might be quite representative of me when I am stumbling through the dark, shadowy valleys, feeling scared and so very alone. The thing is, though, that shadows are not really something to be fearful of, for a shadow cannot cause us harm, and a shadow is evidence that light is present, for shadows do not exist where there is no light.

In David’s valley there is not just an awareness of the presence of God, but of him leading  the way through the valley. For some that very direct leading can happen right in the midst of walking through the shadow of death. For others it is in retrospect, looking back on that time living under the shadow, that one sees that they were never alone, that they too, were being led by God himself.

The shepherd is there with us, deep in the valley of the shadow of death. He is gently guiding, whispering to us to inhale the breath that makes dry bones come alive. He never leaves us alone, whether we see the fertile lushness of our valley, or it is a mirage that leaves us confused. He is healing our souls … our broken, dusty souls, with his healing presence. He nourishes us, right in sight of our enemies, showing evil that good is being restored.

I wonder …

could it be that when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

that our Shepherd whispers sleep into our minds,

and while we are sleeping

our souls receive his refreshment from him?

Maybe, while our reality is the dark and deep crevasse, his presence transforms our souls to a restful, peaceful valley, where we can be restored.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
  He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

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Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 7.45.01 AM

As I looked across the table, last Friday, at the birthday boy, I realized that this was a different Christmas indeed.

With hubby on a medical leave, there was a palatable absence of something …

busyness.

Though hubby is tired (so tired), he is not pre-occupied. The ring of his phone, the ding of a text or email is silent, peaceful. He is not rushing off to … anything.

Our most difficult decision on Christmas Eve was, where to attend church. For hubby, being with groups of people are fatiguing, so I chose a small Anglican church, offering a “Holy Eucharist with Candlelight”. It was to be a first time experience.

As we entered the small sanctuary, we sat in two of the last available seats, one in front of the other, and the service began. It was traditional, liturgical … probably the same as it had been done there for much of it’s over one hundred years.

And there was comfort in it’s traditions, that have stood the test of time.

Looking toward the front, my eyes and mind were captivated by the large stained glass window at the back. The focal image was that of Jesus, holding a lamb … the Good Shepherd. It reminded me of a similar stained glass window in the church my grandmother had attended, and I remember, so fondly, from my childhood.

I am not sure if the one speaking recognized the significance of her homily, when she began by describing the shepherds … in the Christmas pageant held earlier.

According to Wonderololis the profession of shepherd is probably one of the oldest professions, and practiced all over our world. They work long hours,  roaming deserted countrysides, enduring all forms of weather, and always needing to be on the alert for predators, who seek to destroy the sheep in their care. Plus, by all accounts, sheep are … not very intuitive (aka, they are thick as a brick).

The work of the shepherd can be long, tiring, lonely.

The term shepherd can also be attributed to those in the role of pastor, priest, minister. They too can experience their task to be long, tiring and lonely … especially at this high expectation and busy season of Christmas.

When Jesus is described as the Good Shepherd, the Greek word, kalos, is used, and it means noble, wholesome. It is a goodness that comes from the inside out, not a behaviour but character. In a sense Jesus is a shepherd unlike any other, real or metaphorically. For he was not just born for this role, but conceived for it.

The Good Shepherd,

  • who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11)
  • tends His flock … gathers the lambs and carries them in His bosom (Isaiah 40:11)
  • he calls his own sheep by name … and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice (John 10:3-4)

He is the true Good Shepherd, who leads his flock in the power and grace specifically given to him.

All others (even priests, pastors and the like) are followers … sheep in need of the shepherd … and he carries us close, knows our names and gave his life for us.

 

 

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Karla Sullivan

Progressive old soul wordsmith

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