Thursday, December 13, 2018
We don’t know when the original Christmas Day was. Scholars have worked hard to determine Christ’s real birthday, but there is no general agreement. Most scholars come no closer than an estimate of the year: 6-4 BC. We don’t know the day of the week or time of year. Given the weather in Israel, it is highly unlikely that snow lay on the ground.
It is widely believed that Christians have appropriated a pagan holiday that celebrated the winter solstice and designated it as the time to celebrate Jesus’s incarnation. Even though this might not represent actual history, it works very well as a metaphor. Celebrating Christmas in winter is not merely a strategy to break up the dreary winter months. It provides an excellent illustration of the need for a Messiah. Just as the winter is associated with cold and darkness, so this world is cold and dark in sin. We don’t merely need a break from the dreary weather; we need hope and redemption from sin. C.S. Lewis describes our current world as “enemy-occupied territory,” a world under the influence of Satan and enslaved to sin. Christ’s coming is an invasion to reclaim His creation and His creatures, not unlike the Allies’ invasion of France that began the defeat of Germany in World War II. Celebrating Christmas in the winter is an excellent reminder that as Christmas comes in the dark and cold winter, Jesus has come to our dark and cold sin-sick world, and to us. And although the Christmas season is full of twinkling lights, Christmas carols, and decking our halls, the darkness and emptiness that sometimes threaten our hearts and souls need not be ignored. In fact, it makes Jesus’s invasion, as our rescue, all the sweeter and makes our Christmas celebration all the richer. Celebrating Christmas even in the midst of pain and struggle is truly the most genuine way to celebrate Christmas. It is a recognition that we need Christ, and He has come!
Celebrating Christmas at the winter solstice also provides a helpful illustration of the work of Christ. John proclaims Jesus as the Light of the world. And just as daylight begins to increase after the winter solstice, Jesus, once arrived, brings more and more light to the world and to our lives. This brings with it a challenge. As the light of Christ becomes brighter in our lives, more of our sin is exposed, and we encounter more opportunities to confess and repent. This may seem contrary to the spirit of the holiday, but in fact it is at its core: we celebrate because Jesus came to save us from our sin. If we had no sin, we would have no reason to celebrate. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” As we submit to Christ’s Lordship, He becomes our ever-brightening light. And in this way, we can pledge with Ebenezer Scrooge “to honor Christmas in our hearts, and try to keep it all the year.”
Christians are often reminded to “keep Christ in Christmas.” I do not believe that this means, as some would have it, that we need to be more solemn about this holiday. In fact, the more we understand the significance of Christ coming to overcome the darkness and cold in our souls and in our world, the more we have to celebrate. Come, Lord Jesus!
Saturday, November 3, 2018
November. Giving Thanks. November seems to require a focus on thankfulness, on gratitude. We celebrate Thanksgiving soon, which gives us an excellent opportunity to gratefully count our blessings before we head into the Christmas rush.
There is a lot to be said in favor of giving thanks. Many of the Psalms reveal that King David, the man after God’s own heart, was a man of praise. In I Chronicles 15 and 16, we read about David bringing the ark of the covenant of the LORD into Jerusalem amid great celebration: David leapt as the ark was brought into the city, and he appointed some of the Levites to specifically thank and praise the LORD God of Israel as the ark was established in its new location. A few chapters later, in I Chronicles 23, we read that of the 38,000 male Levites, David appointed 4,000 to praise the LORD with instruments that David had made specifically for giving praise.
The giving of thanks and praise continues in the New Testament. The Gospels record Jesus giving thanks to the Father as a matter of practice. Those who are touched by Jesus in some way almost always respond with thanks and praise. The Apostle Paul exhorts the believers in Philippi to dwell on those things worthy of praise, and he encourages those in Thessalonica to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks. Thanksgiving is more than a holiday for God’s people. It is a way of life.
In the 1940 Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church, a responsive acknowledgement of thanks is part of the weekly communion service. The priest says: “Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.” The congregants respond: “It is meet and right so to do.” The priest continues: “It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.” These words ring as true today as when they were written generations ago. But it seems to me that it would be very dangerous to our spiritual health if we stop there. If giving thanks was nothing more than duty, a fulfillment of an obligation, a practice of a tradition, we miss the point, badly.
Giving thanks is not about meeting an expectation or fulfilling a duty. It is the fruit of a genuine relationship with our Lord and our Redeemer. It isn’t something we haveto do. It is something we get to do. Giving thanks is not just about what we do, but about who we are, and who we are becoming. To be sure, it isn’t always easy. We are fallen people in a fallen world. Jesus said that we would have tribulation in the world. The writers of the New Testament did not shy away from the reality of suffering. But we can give thanks that Christ has overcome the world and that He will redeem our suffering and transform it into glory.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and enter the holiday season, may we, like King David and the Apostle Paul, give thanks as thankful people.
Sunday, October 28, 2018
Once upon a time there lived a hamster. Harriet Hamster was a petite, cheerful rodent with shiny, white whiskers, soft, brown fur, and a cute pink knob of a tail. She was well known in Hamstown for her dedication to her wheel.
Each morning, Harriet would jump out of her cozy nest, wash her face, pop a nut in her mouth, and jump on her wheel. The first rungs on her wheel carried family labels: she would feed her family and see them out the door of their tree root hole. She would grasp the next series of rungs and change the straw in the nests and sweep out her home. The next set of rungs included laundry and gathering nuts and berries. As Harriet trotted along her wheel, she took root soup to her sick mother-in-law, placed a fresh flower arrangement in the neighborhood chapel, read stories to orphaned hamsters, helped a younger hamster line her nests with duck down gathered from around the local pond, and delivered a dandelion salad to a shelter for handicapped hamsters. As her wheel continued to spin under her power, Harriet helped her children with their homework, fed her family dinner, tidied their home, bathed her children, read them a story, and then tucked them into bed. Hours later, she was still turning the wheel, sending a note of encouragement to a cousin who had broken her leg and knitting a sweater for a new nephew. Eventually she would collapse into her nest before it was time to jump back on the wheel.
Harriet was so busy running on her wheel that she hardly noticed that it was expanding as more and more rungs slipped in. She loved how fast she could make her wheel spin, and she loved the admiration and appreciation of those in her hamster family and community. But eventually, her left front foot became sore, and her right back knee began to ache. Harriet persevered like a good little hamster until one afternoon her foot slipped and her knee buckled. Suddenly, she slipped off her wheel and started to fall….
Just as Harriet was thinking that she would never stop falling, she landed with a soft thump on what appeared to be a spinning plate. And then the next thing she knew, she was scooped up into large, brown hands. “Harriet!” said the old man looking down at her. “I am so glad that you have finally come to see me! I have been waiting for you.” The old Potter bandaged her foot and put a brace on her knee. Then He put Harriet gently down on His wheel and started to turn it slowly. The first thing Harriet learned within the Potter’s grasp was to sing the songs she learned as a young hamster in chapel school as she folded her laundry. And when it was time to prepare dinner, she gathered her family to work together. They complained at first, but they ended up laughing like they never had before. The next day, the Potter continued to turn Harriet’s wheel slowly and surely. She signed up for a language class that she had always wanted to take after the Potter assured her that He would find a way for her to use her new skill. And to make time for this new endeavor, Harriet withdrew from a few of her volunteer positions. She then reworked homework time with her children so that the older ones helped the younger. Instead of endless rungs of wheel tasks to perform, there was a continual, slow flow of opportunities for Harriet. She loved it.
As her days on the Potter’s wheel continued, Harriet noticed that she had more energy without even needing those coffee beans. Her fur was thicker and softer, and her eyes were brighter. But still, there were days when she missed the powerful way she felt about herself as she ran on her own wheel from task to task. She missed the admiration from the citizens of Hamstown, and she cringed when she disappointed someone. Occasionally, she would look up from the Potter’s wheel and catch glimpses of her old wheel, motionless. She wondered what it would be like to return to it.
The next few days made Harriet wonder even more about returning to her life on her own wheel. The Potter seemed to be quite sleepy and unengaged, and Harriet was restless. No one paid her any attention as she went about the Potter’s tasks for her, and she felt less and less powerful, and less and less important.
One night, Harriet had the most terrifying nightmare. Her old wheel came to life and hovered over her. Flames sprang from its rungs, and its expression was angry as it shouted at her. She tried to obey its commands, but it was never satisfied, never happy. Harriet tried harder and harder and trotted faster and faster to please the wheel. But the harder she tried and the faster she went, the more the wheel glared and screamed.
Harriet awoke in a cold sweat, quivering in her nest. Although it was still very dark, she could just make out the outline of the Potter’s quiet wheel in the middle of the room. Her old hamster wheel was nowhere within sight or sound. Harriet lay awake for a while, contemplating her dream and her life. As she fell back asleep, she was very, very grateful that she had fallen from her hamster wheel onto the Potter’s wheel.
And she lived happily ever after.
Thursday, October 25, 2018
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
My husband and I were recently blessed with our fourth grandchild. It was a dramatic event: by the grace of God, a Caesarean section was conducted just in time to avoid a situation that would have threatened the lives of both mother and baby. We are beyond grateful for the Lord’s sovereign mercy and grace that were so evident on the evening of July 12.
The stress regarding this grandchild, though, started a few weeks before her birth. The baby’s parents had decided to try a home birth with a midwife, and they had asked us to take child care responsibilities for their 18-monthy-old son as well as cover any support duty needed. We were thrilled at the prospect of participating in such a special event even though it meant running to Massachusetts at a moment’s notice.
The original due date was June 22, and so by early June I was as packed and ready as I could be: clothes for us, food for the new parents, new toys for the big brother. I had my cell phone with me and on at all times, and the stop, drop, and roll drill (stop what we’re doing; drop everything, roll up to Massachusetts!) was never far from my mind. June 22 came and went. Our other son and his family came to visit, expecting to meet the latest addition to the family; they left a week later—on July 11—disappointed. As the days and weeks passed, the pressure became increasingly intense, and I could not help but compare waiting for the coming of this baby to the coming of Christ.
The Bible is quite clear: Christ will return. Matthew records Christ’s admonition in Chapter 25: we are the bride waiting for the groom: we are to be ready and waiting, with lamps lit at all times, even if the bridegroom delays. It is essential to remain alert and prepared to avoid missing the Event.
And I now understand better than before that it is hard to wait and remain prepared. Waiting and watching take focus and energy, and it is easy to become distracted or grow weary. But I also understand better than before that the waiting and watching comprise a small price to pay in order to be able to attend the party. In our busy lives—even lives filled with prayer and God-focus—it is easy to lose sight of the Bridegroom and the initiation of His kingdom.
The truth is that maintaining a fixed gaze on the horizon of the Lord’s coming is essential not only so that we can join the party in heaven but also to inform our day-to-days lives of faith. Maternal care during pregnancy and preparations for birth are conducted to achieve the end goal of a safe delivery of a healthy baby. I packed for Massachusetts and listened for my cell phone because I knew the end was in sight. And even though we do not know when our Lord will return, our efforts to serve the Lord must look toward the end goal: the culmination of the new covenant initiated by Christ and the establishment of His eternal kingdom.
To be sure, our waiting for The Call was different from waiting for Christ’s return. My Massachusetts preparations had to take into account my responsibilities at home and a return to “normal” life. When Christ comes, our earthly responsibilities and what we see as normal life will be irrelevant. Still, I cannot ignore this lesson: our lives on this side of the kingdom must include prayerful, watchful waiting. Come, Lord Jesus!
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Friday, July 13, 2018
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Although it is wonderful when churches in the United States embrace a diverse population, most of those who attend churches in the United States are American. And for the most part, Americans exhibit a political DNA that is characterized by a disregard of and even a disdain for monarchies. The concept of royalty offends our sense of democracy. And yet as demonstrated by the U.S. news coverage of the marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, we remain fascinated by royalty in general and by the doings of royals in particular. The most recent royal wedding generated a re-publication of a piece about royal rules. Did you know that Royals are not allowed to vote or speak publicly about matter of policy? Royals are not allowed to eat shellfish. Neither may they take selfies or use social media. Public dress is always formal and modest, and they are expected to behave with the utmost decorum at all times.
What Christians in the United States often fail to remember is that we cannot avoid the royalty thing. We are sons and daughter of God Almighty, brothers and sisters of His Son, Jesus Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. Unlike Great Britain’s monarchy, we will enjoy are regal position for all eternity.
Eternity is a long time; our time on this earth is not. But while our time on earth is limited, it is extremely significant. We are being sanctified, being made fit and ready for heaven. And as children of the King, we are called to make disciples of all men, to practice the kingdom of God as we live among non-believers. It is not a duty; it is a privilege to share our life-giving and life-defining faith.
So, this is where we intersect with the British royals. It matters what we do: how we behave, the choices we make, the way we interact with others. People are watching. We are ambassadors for Christ in a way that is not so unlike the way British royals are ambassadors for Great Britain. The rules imposed on the royals are important, not as an end in themselves, but in order to equip them to do their work well. If being a royal was merely a matter of diet, social norms, and polite conversation, members of the royal family would become stick figures with no ability to impact others and the world. Likewise, our Lord has issued commandments, not so that we would earn our salvation and not to define our faith, but in order to teach us and help us to share His nature, to equip us to proclaim Christ in the way we live our lives and love others. If we were to make our Christian faith about rules, we, too, would become two-dimensional and unable to live out our faith in love. Rules alone will not do it. But if we try another popular tactic and merely try to avoid offending others, the salt of the Gospel would become diluted and ineffective. Nice will not do it, either. We are called to be salt and light to a very fallen world by proclaiming the grace and truth of Christ and touching others with a living, loving faith.
Where does this leave us? As children of the Almighty and Everlasting King, we are royalty. Like our earthly cousins the British royals, we are always on display. It matters what we do and what we say. Our King has commanded us to proclaim His kingdom: His truth and grace, by and with the power of His love. He has given us His Word and His Holy Spirit to equip, enable, and empower us to do just that. But we not bound to the rigid existence of our world’s kings and queens, princes and princesses. This is not a matter of license or of carelessness. It is about looking behind and beyond the rules to become men and women after God’s own heart so that we may go about the business of proclaiming Christ in freedom and great joy.
Monday, July 2, 2018
Monday, June 25, 2018
Saturday, June 9, 2018
As I write this, I am waiting at Newark Airport to board a flight to Minneapolis, en route to a small town in Iowa, where two of our grandchildren live. Our grandson is four and a half years old; he knows us well, and he is eagerly awaiting our arrival. His little sister is a year and a half; she doesn’t know us as well as her big brother, and it is unlikely that she understands that we are coming to see her. More to the point in my mind is whether she will recognize me and be ready for the hug I am longing to offer.
Our grandchildren’s parents are generous in sharing their children with us via FaceTime. We eat dinner with them once or twice a week, and I have a stack of books in our kitchen, ready to read with our grandson. And while our granddaughter is always glad to see me, the question remains whether she will be able to translate the two-dimensional figure on the screen to the real-life “Grammy” who walks through the door.
As Christians, we have a similar challenge: we must translate what we learn about our Lord from His Word and His creation. And while He has given us His Holy Spirit to work His redemptive will in us, it nonetheless remains difficult to accurately conceptualize God Almighty in all of His dimensions when we are finite human beings.
C.S. Lewis helps us to catch a glimpse of this dilemma in his Narnia book, Prince Caspian. In it, Aslan, the Christ figure, appears to the Pevensie children as they hike through a much-changed Narnian landscape. But only Lucy sees Him. Later when Lucy’s brother asks her why he couldn’t see Aslan, she replies that maybe he—Peter—wasn’t looking for Him—Aslan. At the end of the book Aslan explains to the two older Pevensie children that they will not be able to return to the magical Narnia; it is time for them to know him in their own world. In other words, they need to learn to recognize Christ as they live their lives in post-World War II Britain. And in his essay “Transposition,” Lewis compares the use of pencil drawings to represent the real world to our conceptualizations of heaven:
Our natural experiences (sensory, emotional, imaginative) are only like the drawing, like
pencilled lines on flat paper. If they disappear in the risen life, they will vanish only as
pencilled lines vanish from the real landscape, not as a candle flame that is put out but
as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled up the blinds,
thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun.
In our world, it is not always easy to see our Lord at work in our lives. We know him in a two-dimensional way through His Word, and we can catch glimpses of Him in our brothers and sisters as we worship and serve together. Even Christ’s disciples and followers, when confronted with the resurrected Christ in the flesh, did not always recognize Him. Mary Magdalene figured it out by His voice; John figured it out when Jesus asked him and his companions about their catch of fish after spending the night fishing on the Sea of Galilee.
My first encounter with our granddaughter was wonderful but not entirely satisfying. Her face lit up when she saw me, and she came running toward me with a grin. And then…she stopped. Her expression changed from delight to uncertainty. She recognized me but was nevertheless cautious when she couldn’t quite translate her experience with the screen Grammy to the flesh and blood Grammy. It did not take long, though, for her to merge the two images, and we had a grand weekend together.
The fact is that it is sometimes harder than we would like to recognize Christ as His resident Holy Spirit guides and directs us, as He remains very much engaged in His glorious but fallen world, and as He manifests His glory in others. As the Apostle Paul observed in his letters to the Corinthians, we see in a mirror dimly. We are busy, and distracted. We impose our preconceived notions on the Lord and often miss Him. But there is nothing more important than training our eyes, ears, and hearts to be tuned to the frequency of our Lord. In John 10, the Apostle records Jesus’s observation that His sheep hear His voice, and follow Him. The more we consciously abide under the care of the Great Shepherd, the more we direct our eyes and ears toward our Master, the better able we will be to see Him as He is and live in His joy, both now and for eternity.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Like many of my counseling clients, I struggle to overcome the negative influences of my family of origin. My history of shame and invalidation often manifests itself in anxiety. And like many of my clients, I am quite familiar with Matthew 6:25-33, Christ’s antidote for anxiety:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you,even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
And so I’ve done what I can to build my faith— worship, Bible study, prayer, and moving beyond my comfort zone when He leads me to do so. And of course, I consciously and conscientiously seek the Lord’s kingdom as a matter of priority.
And I worry.
I do the best I can, the best I know to do, and it is never good enough. And therein lies the problem. It is very easy for me to make my faith an issue of spiritual performance: to do, do, do in order to please a Father, who, if He is like my earthly father, can never be pleased. In the counseling world, it is called transference: I transfer my experience with my earthly father to my heavenly Father. And while recognition of this issue is an important step toward denying the lie and embracing truth and moving toward healing, and growth, it is an obstacle that is difficult to overcome. It takes time.
But I have also missed something critically important. Jesus asks me to look at the birds of the air and to think about the Father caring for them even though they are of less value to Him than I am. Central to Jesus’s message is the Father’s care of me and for me, because I have great value to Him. While it is easy for me to believe that my value to God is based on how well I obey Him, how well I serve Him, that is not what Scripture teaches. God knit me together in my mother’s womb; He created me in His image to partake in His nature and participate in His glorious, eternal purposes. He takes delight in me. And so I need to take another look at this passage, to see not performance but relationship. God values me! And from that platform I can depend on His care and provision, and then obey Him and serve Him out of joy in our relationship.
In William P. Young’s The Shack, God admonishes Mackenzie to learn to “live loved.” While Mackenzie is concerned about meeting (and not meeting) God’s expectations, God wants Mackenzie to feel His love. In a similar manner, I believe that Jesus’s words recorded in Matthew teach us that the Lord wants us to learn to live valued.
For people like me with a history of needing to “earn my keep,” this is difficult. And we all have inherited Adam and Eve’s spiritual DNA which encourages us to want to be like God, to do life ourselves. Our pride is fed by our culture which values performance and success above all else. We can help one another by cultivating a body attitude of genuine love and respect, for everyone. We may prefer to work with some rather than others; we may find some easier to love and respect than others; without doubt we will be more comfortable with some than others. But the degree to which we can offer love and acceptance to each individual member of the body of Christ and treat everyone as having the highest value is the degree to which we will experience and manifest the love of Christ. This is a high calling, indeed.
Friday, April 27, 2018
Thursday, April 19, 2018
"Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I've found. I've found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, simple acts of kindness and love."
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
J. R. R. Tolkien
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
J. R. R. Tolkien
Sunday, April 1, 2018
I maintain a commitment to regular exercise: six days a week, every week. This commitment started over 30 years ago when I wanted to reclaim my body after our second son was born; it grew stronger as I began to appreciate the broader benefits of exercise—increased energy, positive mood, deeper and more efficient sleep, and a boosted immune system. But even with this history, it is more common than not that when I get up in the morning, I don’t feel like exercising. I am tired, and I would prefer to sit at my computer with a cat in my lap and check the morning news. And, sometimes I do. But then, invariably, I put my running shoes on and get the dog ready for a jog, or I get the kettle bells out of the closet. I still don’t feel like exercising. My choice to do it anyway doesn’t deny my feelings; rather, it represents my understanding that exercise is the most effective way to resolve my feelings of fatigue and lethargy.
As we move from the season of Lent through Good Friday, and into Easter, it is a good time to consider Jesus. His prayer to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals that He didn’t feel like going to the cross. Those feelings were far from unreasonable: bearing the sins of the whole world for all time, compounded by the tortured death of crucifixion, was not something anyone would feel like doing. But Jesus went beyond His emotions and made a determined choice to go to the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). He wanted a reconciled and restored relationship with us so truly and so deeply that He accepted the emotional and physical agony necessary to get there.
So what do we do with this? First and foremost, the Easter season is an ideal opportunity to meditate on and praise God for His sacrifice for us. We can thank Jesus for moving beyond His feelings and making the choice to die for us. We can gratefully marvel that God loves and values us so much that He sent His son to die to restore our relationship with Him. As we internalize this glorious truth, we, too, can follow Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and Model. We, too, can choose to accept sacrifice as we are called to participate in God’s work of redemption, of calling people to Himself. Is my daily choice to exercise equivalent to Christ’s emotional agony? Of course not. But it is a most helpful reminder to not take Jesus’s choice for granted, but rather to walk in grateful wonder before Him.
Friday, March 30, 2018
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Monday, March 5, 2018
Sunday, March 4, 2018
My husband and I recently spent a weekend in Adams, Massachusetts, helping our son and his wife move into their newly-purchased home in Adams, Massachusetts. Along with a cozy, multi-story home, the property includes 70 acres of pristine Berkshire wildnerness and… a sheep. Our son had told me about Minnie, and as an animal lover, I was looking forward to meeting her. And though I thought I knew what to expect, I found my weekend with Minnie to contain more lessons than I had anticipated.
We arrived just after dark on Friday evening, and as we were unloading our car, Minnie came out of the shadows to investigate the action. I was excited to make friends, and I happily took one of the “sheep biscuits” (aka peanut-butter flavored dog biscuits) from the tin on the back porch and approached Minnie cautiously and slowly. She was clearly not sure about me, but she most certainly recognized the biscuit in my outstretched hand. She overcame her fear long enough to take the biscuit and then immediately backed away. As I held my ground and talked quietly to her, she proceeded to engage in a dance: a few steps toward me, followed by a few steps back. She repeated this routine several times, friendly, but as our son would say, “sheepish.” Minnie wanted to be friends, too, but she couldn’t quite get herself to come close enough to touch me, and eventually she walked away.
The next morning was much the same: Minnie happily took the biscuit from my hand, proceeded to do her back-and-forth dance, and then walked away, much to my disappointment. It bothered me more than a little that I wanted to be friends more than she did.
Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning were more encouraging. When Minnie saw me coming out of the house and walking toward her area, she came trotting to me and greeted me with a knowing “Baa.” After taking the biscuit she did her dance, but this time, her steps toward me included a soft touch of her muzzle on my hand. She remained wary, though, and those steps were always followed by steps backward. Still, I was thrilled at our progress, and I was sorry to leave before a relationship was firmly in place.
As I’ve pondered my weekend with Minnie, I have come to realize how apt the Biblical comparison of people to sheep under God the Good Shepherd is. The truth of the matter is that Minnie is not particularly attractive: her round wooly body sits atop spindly legs, her eyes are set too far apart to gaze into, and her coat is full of brush, leaves, and dirt. And yet, I was completely captivated by her and wanted nothing more than to get to know her and have her get to know me. Her desire to keep safely to herself was maddening.
And so I have been blessed with a brief glimpse into how God sees me. I am far dirtier with sin than Minnie will ever get living on our son’s property. I like my safe places and am tempted to come to my Shepherd only when I really need or want something. But God delights in my presence and wants to enjoy a growing, deepening, abiding relationship with me. As much as I can’t wait to see Minnie again, I can direct my sheepish thoughts toward my Shepherd and enjoy His company.