Show and Tell

“Train a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not turn away from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

I currently live in a home with 4 children, ages 8 months to 7 years…(and their parents, Thank God!)  LOTS of activity….lots of interactions….lots of activity (did I say that already???)   They’re all at different levels of understanding, temperament, and focus capabilities.   They’re also home-schooled, so there’s a lot of teaching and learning going on.   Hopefully.

My grandchildren are actively learning educationally.  Books, activities, games, and physical experiences.  They are learning things that will benefit them on many levels for the rest of their lives.

But this verse in Proverbs is not so much focused on intellectual learning.  Training is very inter-active in nature . . . not so much in intellectual information, but in life skills that will carry them throughout all that LIFE will bring their way.   No easy answers, no clear equations, not book learning.  Training requires active engagement, where both the trainer and the trainee are working together.  It’s “Do what I do…” stuff that will stick with them throughout their lives.

Years ago, I had an interpreting job that was, thankfully, a one-time-only job.  I had to interpret a welding job training to a deaf young man.  All the pre-training of information had been done in the classroom.  Now it was “hands-on” time.  He, his trainer, and I had our welding equipment on, and it was time to actually weld.   “One…two…three….masks down.” 

Instantly, we were all in the dark. The mask had a blackened shield to block out the searing welding flame.  But without being able to hear and see the trainer, the training quickly turned into laughter as the deaf man and I realized that we could not see each other at all.  No lip-reading possible.  No sign language visible.  We were all in the dark….literally.  The trainer was talking and doing his training, I could hear him, but the deaf young man could neither hear or see the trainer’s words, nor my hands signing to him.  I couldn’t even see him!  Needless to say, no hands-on training took place that day!   But we all had a good laugh.

Essential to training is the full experience of seeing, understanding, gaining the necessary knowledge, and watching it lived-out by the trainer.  It’s not normally a “one time” training. Repetition is essential.  And the success of the training depends on how we have conveyed the message in ways that will be most easily absorbed by those watching and learning from our lives. 

What are we living out to our children . . . grandchildren  . . . as well as the Believers in our lives?   Learning through Book knowledge, or through verbal information is important.   But actively living out the realities of following Christ in our daily lives is how those who are watching will best see, absorb, and learn.  

Anyone who has chosen to follow Christ steps into an instant “trainer” role, whether intentional or not.   We become one of His own.  And as our world watches, we begin to “train” through our very lives, every day, 24/7.  

So . . . what are those close to you learning from your life?

      

Sweet Rest

“You will feel confident because there’s hope, 

and you will look around 

and rest in safety.”

Job 11:18

This morning I had a truly precious experience.  God has been giving me glimpses of what it means to be one of His Own, using children and sheep as His primary “visual aids.”

I had made my daily morning trek out to the sheep pasture.  In the past six months it’s become a very sweet venue for God to speak to my heart.  Experiencing real sheep in a real pasture was never in my plan, but it was apparently in God’s Plan for this chapter of my life.

Maneuvering through the fence of the sheep’s field, I was greeted as usual by the two little orphaned and abandoned lambs for whom I’ve helped care since they were born.  I headed to a rickety old wooden “spool” I use as a table, and set up my weathered old chair.  Taking out my notepad and pen, I was interrupted by Easter and Autumn calling their “Maaaa’s” as they headed to my humble ‘writing table.’  One on each side of me, they nudged my legs, waiting for me to scratch their soft ears and wooly faces.  

Trying to focus on thoughts toward my Good Shepherd, I was being interrupted by the insistent nudges of the two lambs on each side of me.  Finally, I laid down my pen and just focused on scratching the two sweet faces resting their heads on my knees.  As I rubbed their wooly faces, I surveyed the scene that surrounded me: large mama sheep munching grass, and then lying down in a tangled pile of old logs, ewes, branches and lambs. Birds, butterflies, and flowers  

drew my attention as I rubbed the soft heads.

Then, I heard a new, quiet sound beside me.  Easter had fallen asleep with her furry head resting on my knee as I scratched her nubby neck and head.  Standing, she was leaning into me, her dark brown eyes closed. She was asleep.  

That simple, touching moment caught my heart and I sensed a Whisper of my name from my Good Shepherd.  He was near.  He was with me.  No words necessary.  My soul could be at rest with that.

Imitate Me as I Imitate Christ…

       “Imitate Me as I Imitate Christ…”

                                                  1 Corinthians 11:1

He’s 3 years old, and loves to hang out with his “Omi”  (Gramma….me.)   He wants to do what I do, “help me”, and be close.   He loves to ‘nuggle’ with me and has a funny little compulsion to slip his icy little fingers up into my warm armpit whenever he can.  (It always evokes a spontaneous “AAAHH” of surprise from me!)

This morning, as I was having my quiet time, he slipped into my room to see what I was doing.  I had to leave for a minute, but when I came back, I found his little rocking chair had been carried by him and placed next to mine, and a little footstool beside it with his drawing papers, a crayon pouch, and his little grey, plastic “alien-buddy” waiting for him.   He was ready.  Although uninvited, and without a word, he was ready to join me in my daily routine of “time with Jesus.”

The sweet simplicity of his quiet preparation for our “quiet time” together was so sweet!   I chuckle every time I think about it.   There was no “lesson preparation” on my part for having a

Devotional time with him.  There hadn’t even been a thought on my part to include him.  Yet, here he was….ready to join me in my time with God.   

May my eagerness to “do what Jesus does” be as pure . . . with the childlike simplicity He taught us:   “Follow Me . . . Come near to Me . . . Do what I do . . . Love like I have loved you.” 

At His Feet

“…When he saw Jesus, he fell at His feet.”

Mark 5:22

This morning, I made my daily visit to the lambs in their pasture.   The two lambs that have  become very dear to me made their usual little trots over to where I sit to watch them.  Baa-ing their sweet welcome, they were soon checking out if I had any treats for them.  I settled into a shady place in the old, weathered chair we leave in their pasture for such visits.  And it almost never fails that, as I sit quietly watching them, and listening for my Good Shepherd’s quiet words to come to my heart, I will have a very clear thought that I can begin “chewing on” as I spend some quiet time with those sweet, funny lambs.

Watching the usual sheep activity – mostly chewing grass (them – not I!) – I realized that one of the orphans (Autumn) had settled on the ground touching my feet.   She just laid there chewing on the grass that she had eaten.  The other lamb (Easter) came to my side, making it clear that she just wanted to be scratched around her ears and on her head.  Both lambs simply stayed right there, peacefully looking around and soaking up the time together.  

I couldn’t help but think about several times the Bible mentions someone “sitting at the feet of Jesus”, and the encouragement for us to do that.  What was happening at my own feet was the sweetest, dearest little taste of what that experience is like.  The two lambs were not looking for any food or treats from me. . . they were simply, contentedly at my feet, enjoying the  touch and presence of being there with each other.

Is that how Jesus wants it to be between Him and me?  Between Him and You?  Just  being quiet and near.  No words were necessary.  There was peace.  There was a sweetness in that simple space.  The lambs were no different than any other day . . . no adjusting of themselves, or requirements in the shared Moment.  The same was true of me . . . it was just one of those special, unplanned moments, when I sensed that God was giving me a taste of the sweetness of simply being together with Him.  The world did not stop turning . . . the annoying little gnats did not stop bugging us . . . but that all faded as that unplanned Moment  surrounded us.  

May we learn to simply be content resting at His Feet, sensing His Presence, His Care,  His Touch. 

What Are You Worried About?

“Let go of your concerns! 

Then you will know that I am God. 

I rule the nations.

 I rule the earth.”  

I am a worrier.  But I used to be worse.

I remember watching a kid who was so worried that he might have to share one of his toys with another child.  Each time his little visiting  friend reached for one of the toys, the boy would grab and hold onto it.  Soon, his arms were so full of his toys that he couldn’t play with any of them.  On top of that, he had gotten onto his tricycle as he struggled to keep holding onto his toys, lest his little friend take one to play.  Thus, he couldn’t really ride his tricycle because of all the toys he was trying to hang onto.  And he couldn’t enjoy the toys, either.. 

The boy definitely needed an attitude adjustment.  

Most likely, so do we.

I am in the midst of moving from a 2000 sq.ft. house to a 500 sq.ft. house.  The whole experience has been one of peeling my fingers off of my stuff and letting it go.  And guess what… I hardly miss any of it.  (Well…a few things, but I’m still breathing.)  

God is well-aware of all the concerns we carry in our hands.  We worry about what will happen if we peel our fingers off and let go.  But as long as we keep holding on, keep juggling all of it as we try to peddle our little trike-lives, the more we miss out on even enjoying what really does matter.   Whatever we hold onto in our worries and fears can never come close to what God has for us.  His reminders, “I rule the nations.  I rule the earth”  bring us a fresh reminder…true perspective…..of this earthly life we hold onto so tightly.  It’s like holding onto all our toys while perching on our cool tricycles.  No wonder we aren’t really getting anywhere!

The One Who rules the nations . . . Who rules the earth awaits, Hands open.  Able to handle all our earthly concerns, He waits for us to put all our things into His Hands, and to trust Him with it.  

Sitting at His Feet

“They came to Jesus and found the man the demons had departed from, 

sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind.”  

Luke 8:35

Have you ever sat quietly at someone’s feet?  It’s been a very rare occurrence for me. 

But recently, I was out with our lambs, sitting on the weathered old chair we leave out there. Simply listening to the quiet. . . feeling the warmth of the sunshine…and soaking in the stillness.  The lambs were quietly grazing and munching the grass, and I was enjoying the scene, thinking my own thoughts.

Then, I realized that “my” little Easter lamb had quietly made her way to where I was sitting, finding grass to munch around my feet.  As she quietly bit off each bit of grass, she chewed for a few moments and then took the next bite. All the while, she was staying within arm’s reach, and I would rub her soft ears and the tightly matted black fur of her head.  At times our eyes would meet.  In those quiet moments, I was softly touched by her choice to graze so near to me.  

And I wondered . . . is this how my Good Shepherd feels when I simply come near, right up to His Feet, and choose to stay awhile?  No words necessary.  Just to be near.  . . within arms’ reach . . . for a while.  

Little Black Lamb – IX

“Certainly goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life, 

And I will remain in the Lord’s house for days without end.”

This “little lamb” has seen and done a lot in my lifetime.  More than I would have ever imagined.  At the age of 3, I had known that Jesus was the only way to have my heart made clean.  And I really wanted to have a clean heart.  I wanted to see Jesus someday in Heaven, and live there with Him forever.  I stepped into “the Lord’s house” where I have remained throughout my life.

Looking back at over 6 decades on this earth, this “little lamb” has experienced a lot:

  • A lot of love
  • A lot of sadness
  • Being a “preacher’s kid” from 3 years old on
  • Mother of 3 sons, grandmother of 12 “lambs”
  • Being a pastor’s wife throughout adulthood
  • Death of my husband
  • Loss of the work we’d pioneered and led for 36 years together
  • Interpreter for the Deaf career
  • Musician
  • Outreach work in North Africa spanning 20+ years
  • World traveler
  • Writer

Through all of it, the good, the bad, the joys and tragedies, I can truly say that “Goodness and mercy has stayed close to me all the days of my life.”

And when my days on this earth end, this lamb will fully step into and remain in the House of the Lord, forever!

Little Black Lamb – VIII

“My cup overflows.”

How do I view my life?   Is the “cup” of my life half full or half empty?  Is it broken?  Chipped?  In need of a good washing?  

Looking back at my life, it’s been a very unique one, with a wide array of experiences I would have never imagined.  Most of it I would have never believed would be part of my story.  But when I see the Path my Good Shepherd has led me along, His Hand holding mine, I am grateful . . . most of all that His Hand has been holding mine.  My cup has held many experiences, from incredible times of blessing to devastating times of loss.  But it’s been a life that has been very full.  Over-full.  Overflowing.  And it’s not over yet.

The one Constant in my life has been God’s Presence through all of it.  And the single most significant passage from Scripture, woven in and out of the years of my life, has been Psalm 23.  I’ve studied it, taught about it, memorized it as a child, and returned to it often.  

But I never imagined that I would be able to literally step into this life-long favorite passage in a real-life sort of way.  And yet I find that I am experiencing the real-life day-to-day of the stars of Psalm 23 . . . Sheep, lambs, and the Shepherd.

Frosting on the cake!

Little Black Lamb – VII

“You anoint my head with oil.”

Sheep can do very little in caring for themselves.  And they’re not the smartest animals on the block.  Our ewes came to us at the end of winter.  Their thick wool coats were good insulation for them, but were filthy from a winter of muddy ground, and no way to clean themselves.  As Springtime arrived, the warming days seemed to highlight the thickness of their wool, and the dirt that clung to it.   Their wool was matted, and held the sand and dirt of last summer deep in their matted coats.  Sheerers were in high demand in the Spring, and we finally decided to try sheering the poor ladies  ourselves,  even though it was not anything any of us had ever done before.  You-Tube videos of sheering and an Amazon sheep-sheering tool in hand, we headed out to the field,  hopeful but very hesitant.  As well we should have been.

The shepherd referred to in this Psalm would pour oil over the head of a sheep to keep the nose flies (lovely thought) from crawling into the sheep’s brain (very painful!)  We needed the oil for something else….

As my son, Nate, zeroed-in on the target for our first victim, I (being the nice mother that I am) agreed to help him hold the sheep while he used his new super-sized electric sheering razor.  I was well aware of how terrible the woolen coats of these sheep looked, but had never gotten a very up-close-and-personal view.  That ended abruptly.  As Nate struggled with his first victim, getting her down on her side, I immediately realized that I was going to have to lay on top of the freaking out ewe while he ran the clippers holding her down as much as he could while trying to find his way through the thick, filthy wool to her skin.  I knew that once sheep are down and on their sides/back, they’re somewhat immobilized.  (“Why are you cast down, Oh my Soul?”….’cast down’ is an immobilizing situation for a sheep.)  Well….our sheep hadn’t read that verse, apparently.

While I laid most of my body on the Ewe, pulling one of her front legs up so she couldn’t flail it at us, I became intimately aware of how much dirt, sand, and old pooh was embedded into all that wool.  About 6 inches from my face.  Not to mention the question of what kinds of ticks or other crawly things had taken up residence in there.  I tried to cover her eyes, thinking that it might help her not be so freaked out.  It didn’t help that her two lambs were there waiting for their lunch.  As Nate tried to cut away the gross wool, I talked to her as one mother to another.  All the while, pulling off the filthy wool being cut away from her white skin.  Most of the orphan lambs were gathered around to see what we were doing, baa-ing at the whole crazy scene.  The ewe put up an incredible struggle.  But in the end, she walked…then ran away…. Looking like an entirely different creature.  Her skin and fur were white.  She was unrecognizable!  As she walked away, we realized that there was one clump of white fur We’d missed, sticking up right in the middle of her back.  She looked like a very short, stout camel with a tiny hump.  Comical.  I secretly thought that she deserved that for all her fighting of the good thing we were doing for her.

But then, a wonderful looooong shower and clean clothes later, I kept contemplating the desperate fight she put up against having her gross, filthy coat of wool removed from her skin.  Her skin could finally breathe again.  Cool air could touch her again.  The layers of past life could truly become part of the past, with a fresh, new future ahead.

How do I do that in my own life?  Wny do I do that?  When my Good Shepherd pulls me aside, takes out His Sheers, and begins removing the cruddy, matted old stuff from my life,  I fight every minute of it.  Why do we humans freak out when the build-up of years of dirt, old wool, bugs, and crap come into our Good Shepherd’s hands to remove it for us.  The ewe could not remove it for herself.  It required the strong Hands of her Shepherd to cut it away and pull it off.  Yet she was desperate to keep it around her, though it had only bad effects on her daily life.

Little Black Lamb – VI

“You prepare a banquet for me while my enemies watch.”

The first night of the initial flock’s presence in our field, the ewes were being settled into their simple shelter.  Suddenly, from the edges of the field, the howling of a dozen coyotes began.  Out of the darkness the spine-chilling sound came.  They had detected the sheep, and were watching for their opportunity for a banquet.  We had never seen any coyotes, but their chilling howls were clear.  And near. My son, Nate, could see the eyes that were beginning to line the perimeter of the field.  

Thankfully, the preparations of a good fence and a solid shelter were effective in keeping those watching enemies at bay.  The ewes were able to settle into the clean hay, where clean water had been prepared for them.  They were safe.  They could rest.

All those who follow The Good Shepherd can be confident that His Care will be safe and sure.  The Bible says that He never sleeps . . . not even for a minute.  Though the Enemy of our Souls is always on the prowl with his eye on us, we can be sure that our Shepherd hasn’t missed a thing in the preparations for our care, protection, and all that helps us thrive in our world.

He doesn’t just throw us the scraps.  He goes above and beyond the basic survival mode when we belong to Him.  Without the Shepherd, the sheep are a hopeless lot.  His care extends far beyond mere survival.  He brings us to a banquet . . . celebrating each one who comes into His flock . . . His forever family.