Immanuel: God’s Child

Some of you know that I received a subpoena to appear at a court hearing last week. The hearing was the contested termination of parental rights. A client who had previously been on my caseload was now in a position where she might lose rights to her nearly two-year old daughter. I had given a lot of thought to what I would say if called upon. A lot has changed for me in my years of working with children. That was evident in my response to a statement in an interview last week. The statement was: “The worst home is better than the best placement.” Although I have worked in and around a placement setting for much of the past 15 years, my answer is, “Yes, in the heart and mind of a child, it is.” No matter how loved, how safe, how cared for a child is in a placement, they always will see it as temporary. And there will always be a heart cry for mom and dad.
So, with that in mind, I was not ready to see this former client lose her rights to her daughter. But she did. Everything was worked out in the conference room. She and the girl’s father had little room to argue, unfortunately. The mother has just begun a new placement in a treatment facility two hours away. The father of the little girl is in jail – again. And the girl has been in out-of-family placement for over a year. And the family that cares for the little girl is very loving. In many ways it seems like the best thing to do. But some day, that little girl will be old enough to wonder. Old enough to seek. Old enough to hurt. And, as the parents signed the forms, they were already hurting. With tears in their eyes, their attorneys asked everyone but family to leave the courtroom.
I had to find some redemption in that event. So I did what I do – started to write. And as I did, I noticed some rich parallels to what God might have said as He let go of His son. For most of my life I have failed to consider that Jesus coming to our world might be “difficult” for God. It’s easy, right? Just drop Jesus down to save us, pull him back up, and all is well. If I believe that it was easy, then I have trivialized the gift. Minimized the sacrifice. And that is exactly what I have done most of the time. Writing this put some perspective on that for me. I know the sacrifices I make for my children. And I know that I bear God’s imprint. So if I cannot bear to think of “giving up” my child, then how did my Father look at it when He gave His only son? I will never fully know the depth of that on this side of heaven, but it deserves my time and our consideration. The first piece here is written as the young mother signing away her legal rights to her daughter. The second piece is written as a way to consider God sending His only son to our world. Give that some thought today.

I put my name on the paper
To say you’re not mine
I put a smile on my tears
To say that I’m fine
Heartbroken, heart breaking
I don’t want to do this
Heartbreaking, heart broken
Let my tears be my kiss
You were born unto me
But now another will claim
You’re now given away
And I whisper your name
Some say this is better
Some say it’s for you
Some say you’ll soon see me
And I hope that it’s true
Child, oh child
Our world is so broken
Why must I give you away?
If this is how
Our love is spoken
What else is there to say?
Can you hear
The shedding of tears
Or the sound of a breaking heart?
And how will you know
Of the cries you won’t hear
As we stand in our worlds apart?
Child, you’re mine
Always. Forever.
Child, you’re mine
Another’s? Never.
The fabric of you
Is the fabric of me
So when you’re cut and hurting
It’s my blood they’ll see
As a babe you were held
As a babe you were loved
And now you’ll grow fully
From my heart’s empty glove
We were made to fit together
Hand to hand
And cheek to cheek
In your heart you’ll always search
For my love
You’ll always seek
I know this will hurt you
For the moments
We’re apart
But some day you’ll be with me
Until then
Hold my heart
So I will let them have you
Because right now
It’s the best
And some day once again we’ll stand
Heart to heart
And chest to chest.

I made Mary your mother
Even though you are mine
To make you fully human
And yet you’re fully divine
Heartbroken, the world
Stands in need of your kiss
Heart broken and breaking
I will give them this:
Born to another
You will bear my name
Though I give you away
Very soon I’ll reclaim
I know this is better
For the children like you
I know you’ll soon see me
And you know this is true
Child, oh child
The world is so broken
That I must give you away
For they must see
How true love is spoken
And child that starts today
As you shed your own tears
And you break your own heart
The world will know that you love
And though for now
We stand worlds apart
I will always be pleased up above
Child, you’re mine
Always. Forever.
Child you’re mine
That bond cannot be severed.
The fabric of you
Is the fabric of me
And when you’re the one broken
It’s my heart they will see
As a babe you’ll be held
As a babe you’ll be loved
But what happens next
Will break my heart up above
On a cross you will hang
With pierced hands
And pierced feet
And you’ll want to fight back
But for love
Take defeat
I know this will hurt
For a moment
Apart
But soon you’ll be with me
And never again
Will we part
So that is why they must have you
Only then
Can we rest
So we bring them all home
Your life
Conquers death.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son..”

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Immanuel: Our Questions Answered

*This morning I heard a powerful message preached on Acts 1:1-11, and how we can get caught looking at what has happened. Just like the disciples who stared at the sky after Jesus left them, we can get caught looking at the events that did not go as we expected, and asking questions of “What if..?” Our questions have already been answered.

What if I stumble? What if I fall? What if you don’t hear me every time that I call? What if it’s dark, and I see no light? What if my wrong somehow always feels right? What if I fail you? What if I can’t? What if fear looks like the shoe to an ant? What if you leave me? What if I’m lost? What if you love me but I can’t pay the cost? What if I have nothing? What if I have all? But what if you ask me to simply answer your call? What if I’m less than? What if I’m least? What if I have nothing I can bring to your feast? What if it’s not true? But then what if it is? God can you help me make sense of this? 

You ask me questions, so I’ll do the same. What if you accepted the power of my name? What if you trusted I’ll pick you back up? What if you knew I will fill your cup? What if you listened and heard your sweet name? What if you lived loved instead of in shame? What if in darkness you searched for the light? What if you trusted I will bless what is right? What if you knew that your failure’s forgiven? What if can and that is why you’re still livin? What if you noticed that I’m always with you? What if I’ve shown you, so the Way’s not an issue? What if the cost of my love is your trust? What if you remembered that I formed you from dust? What if your nothing is all that I ask? And if I want to lead you, is that too much to ask? What if the least was the way my Son came? And then if you noticed I still love him the same? What if the feast is meant for you to receive? What if you stopped asking and simply believed? What if your questions have already been answered? What if truth is your song and Jesus the dancer? The truth of the matter is that the Truth hasn’t changed. The Truth is my Son, and he’s made it quite plain. He came as a means of showing you love. He gave up his seat that he held up above. Dropped down to your questions, he has shown you the Way. Now was there anything else that you cared to say?

*We do have questions. And they all can be answered. Some, like Lee Strobel, pursue the answers and find themselves changed. His book, The Case for Christ, describes the countless pieces of evidence that stacked up to show him – initially a non believer – that Jesus is who he said he was. But you don’t have to be an investigative journalist like Strobel to come to that conclusion. Look at the story of your life and all the times God has shown up for you. Truth does not change because circumstances change. Truth is truth, and Jesus – the way, the truth, and the life – has already made it plain. 

One time I started to notice that certain words in the Bible’s concordance are more heavily weighted toward either the Old or the New Testament. “Truth” is one of those words. “Truth” and its variations appear 41 times in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, it appears 180 times – more than four times as much! A majority of the uses in the New Testament came from Jesus beginning a statement with “I tell you the truth.” Why did he do that? I believe he did that, in part, because he knew just how radical it was for him to live and say what he did. But I think that he also held it up like a mirror for us – to show us what we really need to see. If you find yourself with more questions than normal lately, examine where you are looking. The disciples had to be reminded in Acts 1 that Jesus is coming back. Then they returned to Jerusalem, prayed, and began to tell others about the truth that they knew. Those uses of “truth” in the New Testament that were not said by Jesus were said about Jesus, about the Way. Maybe there’s a particular truth that you need to hear or see again. That answer is ready for you – look at the life and the love of Jesus. Then, armed with truth, go and tell others what you know.

Immanuel: Our Song

Jesus was a singer. I have no documented proof, but you could not convince me otherwise. Think about it. 

1) We are made in God’s image. We sing. You think we got that from monkeys? Nope.

2) Jesus was born into a family of singers. His mother, Mary, has a song recorded in Luke 1. This song came to her after a visit to her relative Elizabeth, whose husband, Zechariah, also has a song recorded in Luke 1.

3) We sing for love. We sing in sorrow. We sing in anger. We sing songs for every emotion that we feel, and Jesus experienced them all.

4) We sing countless songs to God. You think Jesus didn’t?

5) in John’s Revelation, he saw the four living creatures and twenty-four elders singing.

I do believe that there is a good reason that the songs of Jesus are not recorded: we would think that those are the only songs we should sing. 

About a month ago I found myself singing my own song. That’s normally not me. I grew up singing hymns and songs like “Father Abraham” (which Jonathan got stuck in my head today). I would sing the songs others put in front of me. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I imagine that Jesus would sing songs of his brothers and sisters as well. But there is no template for how you sing to the Lord. It comes from the heart.

Have you found your song? One idea that I had a few years ago was that everyone should have a life song. I can’t write music, but I can write. And your story, your life’s story, is a song to God. And our stories, together, are a grand chorus that floats over the backdrop of a phenomenal symphony, led by the Master Conductor. The notes that you contribute are essential.

Sing your song, through your life and with your mouth. Maybe you whistle like my father. Maybe you hum. Maybe you play an instrument. Whatever it is, do it! And try putting together your own lyrics; there is no need to complicate it. Here’s mine (and as He always does when I need confirmation, God just allowed me to hear a PSA by Faith Hill. It promotes the value of music and reminds parents that children all have a free instrument – their voices. Thank you, Lord.):

Have your way, Lord (2x)

Come enter in our lives and have your way

Holy Spirit, 

Loving Father,

Jesus our King,

Come enter in our lives and have your way!

Your turn..

Immanuel: Our Light, Part 2

I have a hunch that most of you are ready for a little more sun in your life. It’s coming. I hope that all of you are ready for more Son in your life. He’s coming.

If you are a fan of the tv show Seinfeld, you remember how Jerry used to greet Newman. So I would like you to take a look at the howling mass of air that just pounded on your door and say, “Hello, Winter.” Even though I have lived in Michigan all of my life, I have not always enjoyed winter. When I was younger, I loved to play in the snow. Snowmen, snowballs, sledding, I was ready. In high school it simply meant that it would always be dark after basketball practice. In college it was fun all over again because there was a brand-new set of friends to help you build snowmen and throw snowballs. After college, winter was much less enjoyable. It meant shovels, delayed driving, cold, inconvenient, and the bundling and unbundling of children. And dark. My mother has told me that, if I am grumpy, I am either tired or hungry. Well, I tried, but there was no amount of eating or sleeping that made me enjoy winter.

Then I remembered something. A promise. A truth. If our day today, with only nine hours between sunrise and sunset (and fifteen hours of darkness for you mathematically challenged readers) contains our least amount of sunlight, what will come tomorrow? A little more light. And the next day? A little more. In fact, every day for the next six months will bring us a little more sunlight. God is so good. You see, He is signaling the start of a season. A season that contains a promise – light and new life are coming. And what is true of our outside is true of our inside also – if we follow our design.

Earth is a body that is dependent on a larger body’s power, that of the Sun. You are a body that is dependent on a larger body’s power, that of the Son. If it were not for the strong arm of the Sun’s gravity, Earth would veer off into darkness. If it were not for the strong arm of the Son’s love, you would veer off into darkness. The Earth is unbalanced. You are unbalanced. Points of Earth experience different amounts of light and darkness, creating seasons. You experience different amounts of light and darkness, creating seasons of life. The Earth, though unbalanced, is designed to point at the same collection of stars at all times. You, though unbalanced, are designed to point toward the same infinite source of Light at all times. The Earth’s stability has a helper – the moon. Your stability, as you follow the Son, has a helper – the Holy Spirit. When Earth has reached its darkest day, the Sun always shows up more and more. You, when you reach your darkest day, will see the Son show up more and more if you allow Him to turn you. The more that the Sun falls on the Earth, the more life and growth will occur. The more that the Son falls on you, the more life and growth will occur.

Fascinating how God places these parallels in our lives. Given all these laws of design, we should be all set, right? Right….? Well there is another powerful parallel in the design of the universe, and it relates to darkness. There is a force that could pull the Earth from its orbit. That force, of course, would be a black hole – the power of darkness generated when a star, or mass of stars, collapses upon itself. Sounds a bit like a fallen angel, don’t you think? The collapsed star then grows in size and power by absorbing other bodies. An intact star, by contrast, holds everything in place.

So what is it then, that could threaten our course – our purpose – with Jesus? Love. Misdirected love. The Earth, a smaller dependent body, aided by its moon, receives and reflects the light of the Sun while remaining constantly pointed toward an infinite source of light. Receive and reflect, always pointed in the same direction. You and I, by design, aided by the Holy Spirit, receive and reflect the love of the Son while constantly pointed toward an infinite source of light and life. Receive and reflect, always pointed in the same direction. If the power of light that is meant to go outward, is instead directed inward, that body will collapse.

That is what happened to Satan. His love was for self, and he collapsed inward, which means that his only source of power is to consume other bodies and cause them to do the same. Even though we know this, he still pulls hard at us. Just as his lie is always a variation of “Did God really say?” so our leaning is always a variation of “I think my plans are better than what God has for me.” And suddenly we are turned inward. I scrolled through some pictures of my facebook friends and found one thing in common for all – every one wants to be loved. That’s great. We are made that way – to receive love. But how often do we think that our plans are better than God’s plans? It seems to be taking too long, so we go out to get love. Fornication. Manipulation. Affirmation. Abuse. Achievement. We want to feel love so we try to grab it all by ourselves. That, my friends, is a force far too powerful for you or me to tame. That is a black hole.

Allow me to briefly share how quickly darkness can pull. In the past week, we experienced the wound of the Sandy Hook murders. I walked away from a full-time position working with kids that I loved. There was a double-murder suicide outside an agency where two dear friends work. One of the victims was a family member of an old friend. There have been two other separate murders less than a mile away from my house (no need to tell my parents that, seriously). One of those was a family member of a family I used to work with at camp. A murder from last weekend impacted a family known well by my pastor and his wife. My car blew a head gasket. The promise of hearing about my interview by today has not happened. I am asked questions like, “How are you managing?” I attended a court hearing where a former client, at 17 years of age, gave up rights to her daughter (whose birthday is the same as mine, making her awesome.) The cousin of a former client, who is very dear to my heart, called to say the young lady might be placed in Detroit and farther away from us – again. And, oh yeah, Christmas is coming.

So today I played music and sang anyway. I had moments of internal grumbling. And God said to me, “If you think that your way is better than what I have..go ahead.” Kinda makes you stop, doesn’t it? Today I am grateful that the Holy Spirit kept me on course and that the strong arm of Jesus holds me in place. I am grateful for today, and hopeful for tomorrow. Why? Because tomorrow there will be a little more Son. 

If you are at a point in life where you don’t see how the Son is like the Sun, turn around. Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light.” Why? “So that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 And what does he call us? “You are the light of the world.” Why? “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14a,16

Sounds to me like the Son is present to give light, and the dependent bodies should receive the light, reflect the light, and point toward an infinite source of light. Works for me. I’m excited, because I know that tomorrow I will see even more Son than today. You will too.

Immanuel: Our Light, Part 1

On the eve of the shortest day of the year (only 9 hours between sunrise and sunset tomorrow), I have been giving much thought to Jesus as our light. The poem that I am sharing today goes back several years. It was one of the first pieces I wrote when I picked up writing again. I picked it up to connect with a talented young man, and we began sharing works back and forth.

Then Jesus cried out, ‘When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.'” John 12:44-46 

I have experienced darkness. I have experienced light. No matter how dark your darkness may seem, everything changes when light enters into it.

 HERE IN THE DARKNESS

Here in the darkness where I sleep

There are these thoughts that I must keep

Fears and failures, hopes and dreams

Nothing here is what it seems.

I’ve tried to love and felt so lost

No one told me of love’s cost.

To love again? I dare not try

Love is the thing that makes me cry.

My broken heart has had its share

Of tears, of sorrow, and despair.

The cost of love can seem so steep

Here in the darkness where I sleep.

I hear of love and sounds of joy

The sweet romance of girl meets boy.

It seems so distant – strange to me

They say “Just try it and you’ll see.”

Easy to say, much harder to do

To find that love that is so true.

To court this crazy thing called love

I need more than push and more than shove.

Something strange will have to happen 

My own love boat needs a new cap’n.

You see this pain I feel is deep

Here in the darkness where I sleep.

So come and love me if you dare

To love you first? Too much to bear.

That would mean I’d have to risk

To lean in first for that sweet kiss.

I think I like it better this way-

Where you and I can stand at bay.

It feels safer, somehow, in here

To have you distant – not too near.

So here I lie and sorrow keep

Here in the darkness where I sleep.

So should you dare to love me first

Expect the best, prepare for worst.

This is not an easy task

To have my heart you’ll have to ask.

But first I think I need repair

For tears, for sorrow, and despair.

I’ll turn my heart in and say “Enough!”

To stay like this is much too rough.

I’ve spent too long feeling so broken 

Holding not love but just a token.

It’s time I felt what love can hold

Give Him my heart so He can mold.

He’ll take all these shards of me

Form them into what I should be.

In each night there’s always hope

There is a lifeline, there is a rope.

But to crawl out you first must reach

No more waiting, it’s time to seek.

You’ve seen the light now grab on to it

It is God’s love that takes you through it.

Maybe now you dare to dream

Maybe now hope can be seen.

So wake up! Get up and sleep no more.

Get out of bed! Feet hit the floor.

Your heart is mended, your darkness done

No longer weep, God’s love has won.

He took away your tears and sorrow

He gave new life, hope for tomorrow.

So let them go, those hurts, those pains, 

Let God turn losses into gains.

Find joy and peace, find sweet relief

And let God’s love consume your grief.

He is our Master, our Healer too

When we feel His love so true.

So find new life, new love so deep 

There in the darkness where you sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Immanuel: Our Heartbreak Revealed

Because of this I will weep and wail, I will go about barefoot and naked. I will howl like a jackal and moan like an owl.” Micah 1:8

I would guess that you were never asked to memorize that verse in school or Sunday school. I know I wasn’t. But it fits for what has been on my mind lately.

What breaks your heart?

I would suggest that most of us don’t know. I would also suggest that for those of you who do know what breaks your heart, you have not shared that with anyone. Because true heartbreak is personal, it’s intimate, it’s yours. Some of you may have said something like this in the past few days: “What happened in that school breaks my heart.” Allow me to very gently say to you, “No, it makes you sad.” True heartbreak, when married with the love of Jesus, creates true change. Because Jesus, when he gets into your heartbreak, makes you want to do whatever you can to keep others from experiencing that. And it is deeply personal.

Last Friday, how many children died from abortion? 

Last Friday, how many children died of starvation?

Last Friday, how many children experienced abuse?

Last Friday, how many children became homeless?

Last Friday, how many children were trafficked?

Last Friday, how many children were beaten into a gang?

Last Friday, how many children were forced to watch pornography?

Last Friday, how many children were overlooked for mental health services?

Last Thursday, how many of you knew there was a Sandy Hook Elementary?

Here’s what I am getting at: we have to stop letting other people dictate what we should be upset about. Yes, what happened at that elementary school was a horrific event that left a big, gaping wound on our world. I pray we never have to witness such an awful event again. But if we think that our sadness is our heartbreak, we are wrong.

If God was merely “sad” over our condition, He never would have sent His son. If Jesus was merely “sad” about what he saw, he would have dried our tears and lived a long life of helping. But God did not want anyone to ever experience the heartbreak of separation from love, so He acted. Jesus did not want anyone to ever experience the pain of death that he KNEW he would, so he acted. And you, sisters and brothers, have that within you as well.

I want to try to capture in words what just happened for me. The catalyst for this topic is a court hearing I must attend tomorrow. I have a subpoena to testify in a contested termination hearing; a hearing to determine if a former client will still have her parental rights to her daughter. I do not look forward to that hearing. I want to say that it breaks my heart, but does it? Does it make me howl like a jackal? Does it make me moan like an owl? Or will I just be sad? Now, take that and add in the iPad’s annoying feature of suggesting word replacements, especially when I make corrections. It bothers me greatly, which is why I have often typed my writings in Word and pasted them in. As I was making a correction here in my writing, the suggestion that popped up was her name. Capitalized and everything. I have never typed her name in this blog, and she is the only person that I have ever met with that name. And the paper for her hearing is eight inches away.

God, you have my attention. But our attention is only the beginning.

Many of you have had an experience where God has used a hammer on the wound of your heart – and it got your attention. It startled you. You didn’t even know you felt that deeply about it. And then you quickly dismissed it, thinking, “God wouldn’t use me there.” Oh, really? Are you usually right that God is wrong?

God will absolutely use your heartbreak! That is where He is best! When Jesus healed someone, it was their healing that was designed to directly speak into the lives of others. Look at what happened! It can happen for you too! That is why God uses our heartbreak and not our sadness. Sadness turns us inward or back to Him. Heartbreak, when healed by God, sends us shooting out like a rocket to tell everyone, “He did it for me! He’ll do it for you!”

There is no wound so deep that Jesus cannot heal. But there is no wound that can be healed that isn’t first revealed.

It doesn’t always mean that you will be asked to lead thousands, or hundreds. It might mean that you pour your energy into one, or five, or thirteen. Pat Kelsey, a basketball coach at Winthrop, used a press conference to call for change. He doesn’t know what the change should be, but he used a game against a top-five team to speak up. Why? Because he knew he would be heard. We might not ever hear his name again, but that’s okay. His heartbreak was revealed in the rest of his talk. He mentioned his two daughters and the thirteen young men on his team. And that is where he will pour his energy. So, yes, you can and should speak up about something that upsets you. But do not mistake your sadness for your heartbreak. Sadness is always temporary. Heartbreak, in the hands of Jesus, fuels your passion. It becomes your story, and we all have one.

Some of you know yours. Uncover it.

Some of you haven’t noticed yet. Feel it.

If heartbreak didn’t result in action, God would not have sent Jesus. If heartbreak didn’t result in action, Jesus would not have died. If your heartbreak had no purpose, Jesus would not have been raised from the dead to walk with us. He will show you what to do. Your heartbreak is his heartbreak too.

“One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out. Their king will pass before them, The Lord at their head.” Micah 2:13

 

Immanuel: The Good Shepherd, Part 2

*The following is an account that I share after visiting with a flock of sheep. Some of you may not believe in my communication abilities with sheep, so ask my children – we are the Dolittles.

I came upon a flock of sheep who seemed rather distressed, and rightfully so. They had all just finished reading the headline of The Morning Ewes, which declared “Twenty-Eight Sheep Senselessly Destroyed.” The sheep were understandably distraught. From what they had heard, there had been a wolf in sheep’s clothing that had infiltrated the flock. The way in which the 28 sheep were slain had all the indications of a wolf, but no one knew for sure. 

There was a Shepherd amongst the sheep, and he called to them to guide them, “Follow me.” However, many of the sheep were now distrustful. “Where was the Shepherd when the 28 died?” they asked each other. “If we had teeth like the wolf,” they said, “this would never happen.” Others suggested, “It’s probably because they didn’t call the Shepherd loudly enough.” They suggested, “If we all call the Shepherd all the time, then we’ll be safe.” I noticed how the Shepherd continued to call each one by name, saying, “Follow me.”

Meanwhile, there was one sheep that seemed to have unusually pointed ears. When he spoke, I saw sharp, pointed teeth. Strange. He spoke softly, secretly, to avoid being heard by the Shepherd. “Did the Shepherd really say we have to follow him every day?” As the sheep chewed on the question, they started to think that they had never heard the Shepherd say that. “He did say, ‘Follow me,’ but I’m not so sure we should today. We can go find safety ourselves and just call really loudly if we get too far.”

Very soon one sheep, named Adam, declared, “I am my shepherd. shall not be in want. will find green pastures and lie down beside quiet waters, restoring my soul. will find righteousness for my sake.” The other sheep admired Adam’s bravery and independence and, not wanting to be labelled a “dumb” sheep, they quickly followed. They raced off in many directions, each claiming small green pastures. However, rather than grazing peacefully as they usually did, they ate rapidly so that they could find more before another sheep did. 

As they went along throughout the day, the pace became frantic. Sheep knocked other sheep over. Some borrowed wolf teeth from a pointy-eared sheep and used that to their advantage. They intimidated other sheep, and slashed others. After all, it was their green pasture. Some sheep were quickly becoming bloated and slow. Others were growing hungrier by the minute, unable to find any green pasture. Others seemed to simply be missing, and the pointy-eared sheep ran quickly throughout the scattered flock and yelled boldly, “Get more!” Without the Shepherd around, this pointy-eared sheep seemed to be establishing himself as a leader. He ran and prodded sheep to the point of exhaustion.

Soon, the sheep realized that their path had come to an end. The stream had led them up to a waterfall at a point called Fiscal Cliff. “What now?” they asked. Suddenly the pointy-eared sheep stood up on its hind legs and boldly declared, “will walk through the valley of the shadow of death. will fear no evil, for am with me, my rod and my staff comfort me.” Then the pointy-eared sheep picked up a rod and staff and began walking down into the valley. The sheep were amazed, and wanted to try it as well even though they had never done such a thing. The sheep, one after another, tried standing up on two legs, and all began to fall down into the valley. Even though they saw all the other sheep falling, one after another tried, declaring, “Surely will be able to do it.” One after another, they fell. Badly bruised, some bleeding, the sheep began to cry out. “Why did we ever leave?” With darkness settling in, the sheep began to cry.

There was a sudden howl, and the sheep turned to see the pointy-eared sheep, and that he was not a sheep at all. His wool removed, they saw him for what he was – a wolf. “slaughtered the 28, and now will do the same to you. have prepared a table for me, in the presence of you – my enemies. will cover you in blood until my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy have not followed you, and you will dwell in my house forever.”

All did seem lost for the sheep. They clearly could not climb back up. They were either too bloated, too gaunt, or too broken to get back up. Those who had borrowed wolf’s teeth began using them against themselves, thinking it better than facing the wolf. All seemed lost until we all heard a roar. A roar that shook us and the earth. It sounded like the Lion of Judah. It sounded like the Shepherd. But when we looked up, all we could see against the blinding sunset was the silhouette of a lamb, standing on two feet. One sheep declared, “Look, the Lamb of God.” Everyone looked, and everyone heard the lamb say, “I am.” 

This Lamb walked right down into the Valley of the Shadow of Death and stood face-to-face with the wolf. “Take me.” The wolf snarled, and pointed to the darkest point of the valley. The sheep had heard about this place, a chasm in the valley. They had been warned about it by the Shepherd often. What it was, it seemed, was a six-foot gap in the valley. The Shepherd had told the sheep that it was a bottomless pit, and it was where the wolf lived. The sheep watched in horror, “What was the Shepherd doing?” If he goes into the pit, they were all doomed. 

The Lamb, which we all knew to be the Shepherd, stood there, at the edge of the pit, and allowed the wolf to slash him again and again. The sheep cried even louder now. Many looked away. The Lamb was torn and bleeding, and the wolf snarled. Then the wolf shoved the Lamb. As he did, the Lamb turned, grabbed the wolf, and pulled him toward the pit as well. The wolf howled and clutched at the Lamb’s waist as they fell. The Lamb reached out his hands, stretched to the fullest, and grabbed the other side of the gap. Suspended across the pit, a howling wolf below him, the Lamb called out, “Quickly, lambs, run across! You will be safe on the other side!” One by one, with newfound strength, the sheep listened to the Shepherd, each one crossing to safety. They whispered, “Thank you,” as they crossed over the pit, and away from the wolf.

Amazing, right? I know. I couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. It’s amazing how much can change in one day. Take me for example. Yesterday I boldly spoke the truth of God’s love to a classroom of students. I encouraged a dear friend to walk in daily obedience. And then, as He always does, God holds the fire below my feet, asking, “Do you really believe what you just said?” And today I found myself lamenting. The state of my house. The state of my energy. The state of my children’s schoolwork. The state of my car. The state of my employment. The state of my finances. And then I sensed my Shepherd hold up his hand to silence me, and ask one simple question,

“YOURS?”

How quickly we forget. I am very much like the sheep in the story, and I would guess that you are also. I do not want to be labelled “dumb,” but I do want to find myself as sheep also are – dependent. I sometimes struggle with how to view Jesus as both the Lamb and the Shepherd. Now I see that Jesus is Lamb and Shepherd as I am a son and a father. And I must do as my Good Shepherd does, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:17,18

The notes I wrote next to that passage in my Bible are, “This is power” and “learn to lay down control.” Yesterday my dear friend told me about her trip to Israel. She shared that the green pastures are actually only patches – just enough for the flock. So, in this way, the sheep must follow the shepherd daily in order to be sustained. If that was the same course Jesus took as a lamb, why should we try anything else?

Read Psalm 23 today and evaluate which version, the real one or the one in the story, is a more accurate version for you.