The Shepherd and the Sheep: Restore My Soul

Wild Garlic in Bloom

My family and I will be at Family Camp this weekend, so I am reposting for this week.  Next week, I will be posting  something I wrote for 9/11 last year.  Please have a safe and sober Labor Day weekend.

Oh Lord you call my name

Like a shepherd in a field.

You use your rod and staff

When my spirit needs to yield

But my ears are deaf with busy noise

And your prodding is ignored

So I wander far from your sweet voice

And my soul is not restored.

Give me ears to hear

Give me eyes to see

I want to be obedient

But I am struck with fear.

I need courage to walk,

I need patience to stay

Restore my soul with living streams

Oh God please draw me near.

Restore my soul,

Restore my soul,

Good shepherd come and lead me home

Restore my soul

The Good Shepherd: Tending a Blemished Flock

I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. – Ezekiel 34:15-16 (NIV)

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV)

Not too long ago, I came home from work to an unhappy wife and a very quiet older daughter.  Missing was the younger daughter, who had locked herself in the bathroom.  I was asked to step in and see if I could extricate the youngling and began working on the lock, little whimpers punctuating my fiddling and tinkering.  The extrication became a little more involved once the door was open.

Big trouble for a little girl.

It was evident that my beautiful little girl had ventured into the world of cosmetology and home décor.  Unfortunately she had done both with the same medium – my wife’s lipstick.  While I could appreciate the artistic flair evident in the strokes of red on the wall, door and daughter, I was pretty sure my wife would not be a fan of the arts that day.  The room and child needed to come out of this experience unblemished.

My little girl didn’t need to be told that what she had done was wrong.  Her tearful demeanor and cowering in the corner were clear indicators that she was afraid of punishment.  We will never know if she was not able to unlock the door, or was too afraid to face mommy and daddy and so refused to unlock the door.  She needed to know that we still loved her, that we were okay.

It is very easy for us to lock ourselves away from God and fear what He will think of us if we open up the door.  Our sin or disobedience can seem so great that we would rather try to hide it away and hope that He will ignore us.  But God is a seeker…He is a good shepherd who finds His sheep wherever they may try to lose themselves.  He is the healer and redeemer, cleansing us of our blemishes so we can stand before Him unashamed.  All it took to clean up that lipstick was soap, time and effort.  For our sin it took the perfect Son of God, coming in the fullness of time and taking our place on the cross of shame and punishment.

I cannot think of anything my daughter could do that would cause me to stop loving her or trying to provide all she needs for this life and the life to come.  In a far better way, God loves us and will not relent in calling us to safe pastures.  He will call us out from behind our locked doors.  He binds up our injuries, self-inflicted or otherwise, and He watches over us with compassion and grace.

The evidence of the lipstick incident is gone.  There are no red stains left behind on door, wall or daughter.  They are unblemished in that regard, but sadly my daughter can still get herself into trouble.  She stops listening to those who would guide her in good directions, and finds herself in trouble again.  It is a beautiful thing to see a lost lamb returned to safe pastures; it is tragic to see that lamb lose her way again and head into harm’s way, but that is the life of parenthood.

Our heavenly Father is no less longsuffering than the best of us.  He watches us as we wander our own way, putting our souls in harm’s way.  Patiently He waits for us to unlock our doors that we try to hide behind.  Gently His voice keeps calling to me with the promise of forgiveness and restoration.  With strength beyond anything we can imagine or understand, He carries us from the “the valley of the shadow of death” to lush pastures and quiet waters.

Do you have any locked doors?  Are there any blemishes on your soul that no one else knows about?  Do you worry about the stains of your past being too deep for the Shepherd to cleanse?  I pray that the love of God, the Good Shepherd, would overcome our fears; that we would heed his voice and enter His rest. I pray that we would learn the beauty and power of being His sheep.

Green (Skipping Rocks #5)

           Green is my favorite color.  When my daughter and I take our walks around the property, especially around the stream and pond, we love the green.  Green grass, green trees, green shrubs and even some green bugs.  I even like it as a sentiment when sung by Kermit the Frog, but I don’t want it as a defining label.  You may think this is because we don’t love the environment or don’t want to be thought of as tree huggers. Not so. 

          For me, it is not that being green is too much, instead it is too little.  Over the years the labels have changed – eco-friendly, environmentally responsible, tree hugger, green – and they have fallen short in their understanding of our relationship to the physical world.  They have placed the care and condition of the natural world on par, or even above, humanity.  When my daughter and I are on our adventures, my goal is to teach her an attitude of worship toward the creator rather than the creation. 

          So we are all for recycling, renewable energy and taking care of the environment, but not as an end in themselves.  It isn’t about money, power or politics.  We just want to show our love, respect and gratitude while we walk in someone else’s yard.  He has given us such an amazing and beautiful world and it is ours to watch over.  Sadly, when the topic of the environment comes up, our anger and sadness is focused on a forest or the species of the day rather than the one who gave them life and being. 

          Let’s imagine an artist putting together a painting unlike any other he has created.  Instead of hanging this painting in a museum where admission is limited, he displays it to everyone with the understanding that they must take care of it and that he will leave it with them as long as they live.  If people then mistreat the painting, who has been wronged; the painting, the population or the artist?  The various movements that have taken place over the years would have you believe that the painting should win that argument, or at least the population, and don’t even think the artist exists.  I believe it is the artist who deserves our sympathies. 

          I want a world with clean water, clear skies and teaming with life.  I want my daughter to be responsible and thoughtful about the world around her.  I want her to live a life marked by gratefulness toward God and consideration toward others.  I want her to be moved by the beauty of what has been made, and understand that she has been beautifully made.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to see the kind of world it could be if everyone did the same?