Feeling Sheepish?

“We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;” Isaiah54:6

Last summer my family and I visited a Celtic Festival. It was an afternoon filled with great bagpipe music, River-dances, cooking lessons (haggis!), jousting, games, and sheep-herding.
Of all the events, the sheep-herding demo was the most impressive. One shepherd and one border collie v.s. a flock of ornery, strong-willed, cantankerous sheep. As the shepherd signaled the dog with whistles, hand motions and calls, the little collie rounded up the band of sheep and deposited them safely in their pen. The sheep tried everything they could to outwit the dog, breaking formation and running in the opposite direction of where they were intended to go, but eventually were secured within their safety zone.

Sheep are obstinate, stubborn animals and are determined to do what they want to do. They lack discernment and will happily eat poisonous plants, and will nibble the grass down to the root if the shepherd does not move the herd to prevent over-grazing. When one sheep decides to run off a cliff, the rest of the herd will devotedly follow the leader. The shepherd and his dog must be on constant guard for danger and take immediate action to protect the herd.

Interestingly, the Bible often calls US sheep, and there are definitely similarities that we share with these creatures.

For example, we know that some things are just not good for us, but we insist on trying them anyway. We reason, “I won’t EAT it, I just want a LICK! One little lick won’t hurt.” And before we know it, the carton of ice cream is empty!

We are obstinate and strong-willed. These can become the great traits of determination and single-focused mindset if they are used to accomplish great things for God’s Kingdom, but too often they are used to satisfy our own fleshly desires and prevent us from achieving God’s best.

Despite God’s great love and plans for our life, we rarely cooperate on our own own, forcing Him to “herd” us by means of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever been “herded” by God?

I used to attend a little country church in Pennsylvania. The small congregation felt like a family, with everyone concerned about one another and involved in each other’s lives. When one person stubbed their toe, the rest of the congregation said, “Ouch!” I loved that little church family and was deeply grieved when my husband’s job relocated our family to the metropolis of Hampton Roads, VA.

We found a much larger church (4,400 members) and fled after a few weeks in desperate search of discovering a little country church in the big city. Although we visited many smaller churches, we always felt a strong “NO” in our spirits until we surrendered and returned to the larger church we had originally found. Transitioning from the little country church to that big city church was a culture shock. It was much like moving from a one-room schoolhouse to a university. But it was there that the Lord moved us into ministry and taught me how to lead small groups and teach. He had good things in store for me, but I had to be “herded” there to find them.

One would think that a sheep would reason, “Every where that dog herds me, I find a soft bed, good drinking water, great food and safety. I think I’ll just cooperate with him.” But, the sheep is always looking over its shoulder, wondering what it is missing. Every time God “herds” us, He has good things in store for us, too. But how often do we surrender and cooperate with the Holy Spirit? Whether out of a lack of trust, or out of our own self-centered desires, we often act like those Celtic Festival sheep. We race around, expending unnecessary energy, trying to avoid the very things that our shepherd has designed for our good.

Our God gives good things to His children. He has a wonderful plan and future for us if we will only cooperate with Him. Remember that God always has your best interest at heart and is completely trustworthy. Cooperate with the leading of the Holy Spirit and don’t act like an ornery, cantankerous sheep.

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Shhh…..

One of the “hats” I have worn in my life was working at a flower shop as a florist. It was a small shop and I performed a multitude of duties, ranging from processing and cleaning the flowers, creating and selling floral arrangements, and delivering the finished product. I was surrounded by flowers, all day and every day.

At first, I was overwhelmed by the mix of floral fragrance. Every inhalation brought a dizzying mix of roses, daisies, and lilies. but, after I had been on staff for about six months, I noticed that the flowers had lost their scent; the only flowers I could still smell were the especially strong ones, like stargazer lilies and gardenias.

My co-workers explained it was one of the hazards of the job. Gradually, we lose our ability to recognize the scents we smell on a daily basis, much as a smoker can’t detect the odor of cigarette smoke on their clothing. I had lost my ability to smell flowers.

Just as my job in the flower shop dulled my sense of smell, without my even noticing it was leaving, there are things in our daily life that can dull our senses to God. It doesn’t even have to be a “bad” thing to dull our senses. Life’s busyness, electronic media, demands of a job and family, interpersonal struggles, and life in general can slowly erode our connectivity with our Creator. Life becomes a tiring race to the grave, instead of the exciting journey that He wants for us.

Prayer, that constant connection to our life-force, is critical for our spiritual health. REAL prayer, not a chanted rote-memory verse from childhood, rattled off out of guilt or a feeling of obligation, is the key to revitalizing our God-sense.

We need to be intentional about connecting with God in prayer and make it a priority in our life. We need to create a period of silence in our life to accomplish that. Silence is an avenue to being with God.

Unplug from your electronic devices! Turn off the pager, cell phone, iPod, computer, television, and radio. Create a “digital-free zone.” Let the answering machine take a message! Cultivate a quiet place to help you focus on God. A pastor I know has his quiet time while sitting in his parked truck in his garage. Another friend does her quiet time in her bedroom closet. And, Susanna Wesley is said to have carved out her personal quiet time with God by sitting with her long apron flipped up over her head amidst her ten children.

Keep a journal or a notepad handy. As you embrace the silence, your brain will start remembering things you need to act on, distracting your concentration. You will suddenly remember that you need to phone the appliance repairman, schedule the babysitter, or pick up the dry cleaning! Jot these down on your notepad and let them go until after your time with God.

You may also find yourself beginning to mentally stew about an emotional issue, such as a fight you had with your mother, a disagreement with your spouse or co-worker, or your frustration over hurt feelings from slight by a friend. Share these with God. Pour your heart out to Him. I keep a journal where God and I work through these kinds of struggles. He is faithful! As I write out my hurts and frustrations, He brings encouragement, answers, and direction.

There is no “formula” for connecting with the Almighty. As a new believer, I was told that I needed to keep a prayer list and had to pray through it every day for at least thirty minutes a day. Because of my lack of experience, it beams a duty of list recitation instead of a time of bringing my heart-felt requests to Heaven’s throne room. I couldn’t wait for the timer to buzz, releasing me from my obligation for another day.

That is NOT the relationship that God wants from us. Our prayers are more than recited grocery lists of wants; he desires fellowship with us. It is a privilege to voice our concerns, our praises, our thanksgiving, and sit in His presence in spiritual communion with Him.

Talk to Him about what is really on your heart! Don’t turn this time into an exercise of fancy-sounding religiosity, but use it for what it truly is: a time of connecting with your Father. Unplug from the noise around you, re-tune your senses, and drink in the aroma of God’s presence.

“Be still and know that I am God;” Psalm 46:10

About

Teacher, preacher, public speaker, workshop leader, home schooling mom, small group leader, writer, editor, wife, and pastor are just some of the hats that I wear.    For many years I owned and operated an award-winning photography studio; my favorite subjects are expecting mothers and moms with newborn babies. My interests and hobbies include home arts, gardening, food preservation, whole-foods cooking, animal husbandry, frugal living skills and health and wellness and I love to share information with others to inspire and enrich their lives. I am a corporate wife who loves country living, and an Associate Pastor who loves ministering to people.  I am passionate about helping people connect with God,  connect with each other, and grow in the Lord. My life verse is Proverbs 21:21  ”He who pursues Righteousness and love finds life, prosperity, and honor.”

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