Thursday, June 30, 2016

Feeding Sheep (Part 2)


Today I learned something new. 
Sheep are picky eaters.
But before you jump to conclusions, they are not picky in the sense that they gravitate toward what is generally less good for them.
As a mater of fact it's the opposite-In general sheep tend to be picky eaters - preferring leafy plants to plants which have fibrous stalks - but  sheep adapt to their environment well and will eat nearly anything with nutritional value. Compared to cattle, sheep are more picky grazers and you can count on them to select the most nutritious pasture growth first." from http://www.raisingsheep.net/what-do-sheep-eat.html
It says it right there- "...you can count on them to select the most nutritious pasture growth."

There seems to be something inside the instinctual make-up of a sheep that propels them to seek out the more- nutritious eats.  However, the catch is, they can adapt to their environment and will settle for less nutrition if they can get at least some amount of nutrition at all. 

It's not a coincidence that Jesus referred to himself as the good shepherd and believers as sheep. 
"I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own."- John 10:14 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."- John 10:27

As believers we too should be picky eaters- in the sense that we will gravitate to what is more spiritually nutritious for our souls and choose God over merely good. Sheep should be able to pick out the voice of God, and desire it.

So when it comes to feeding the flock of Jesus out of our love for him, ministers should be careful to gravitate to what is most needful for the soul, over the temporary appeasement of the flesh. As sheep, believers truly desire the more "leafy, fibrous stalks" of the word, versus the generalized sweet "grass" of mere inspiration into which the world tries to dilute it.

Catering to soul-nourishment versus flesh-appeasement is the way to grow lambs into sheep. Of course there is more grass around than leafy stalk, but as a lamb matures to a sheep, the sheep will instinctively feed itself on the most nutritious parts of the pasture in the Word. 

In meal preparation , presentation and flavor are carefully addressed by the preparer. However, the most important factor is this- Can this meal sustain or advance my health?
The same evaluation should be used for the feeding of souls. Will this sermon, song, play, etc. sustain or advance the health of the sheep or simply make their belly full.
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4:2-4

Be encouraged believers, ministers of the gospel, as you serve the flock. 
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.- Galatians 6:9
 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.- 2 Thessalonians 3:13

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Feeding sheep- part 1

The main meal of the day?
The evening meal.
I mean, they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day right? Yet they don't write ( as many) books or dedicate (as many) blogs or run (as many) case studies about DINNER.
Dinner is the giant question mark that thwarts the successful ending of any day. 
The question that throws the bona fide meal-preparer in the house into vertigo?!
 "What's for dinner?" 
Ah yes, my day was going splendidly and then you have to pop the question- I mean ,[loosens collar] What's with the third degree? Man, is it hot in here to you? Orrrr is it just me? [looks around at the puzzled faces] Oh- OK, never mind- it's just me....

No doubt about it, there are fortunes being built off of the intimidation of feeding the same group of people night after night with something they will want to eat and (here's the kicker) that will nourish their bodies. One-liners and in-the-bag statements have been born from this gauntlet of a task:
"Eat what I put in front of you"
"Be thankful for your (insert offensive food item of the evening here), some people would (insert extreme action of choice for emphasis) to have that."
" Oh but they're so good for you!"
" Yes we just had this 3 days ago- you're welcome to eat , hmm lets's see- nothing, if you'd like."
 and so on and so forth,and what have you.

Of course there are strategies of attack on this feat. Hat's off to the dedicated meal planner. I envy you.

But imagine, the task of feeding a group of people week after week who can opt to leave if they don't like what you feed them. Imagine preparing a meal for a crowd with mixed tastes and mixed backgrounds, and various tolerances. Imagine the pressure of trying to feed everyone what they need and what they'll enjoy with [GASP!] the same meal. 
I mean your family is one thing, but a group of unrelated people trying to become a family...?
I think you can get the picture.

And from the perspective of a mother who feeds her tribe daily with the grace of God, and Worship Leader who God entrusts to do the same with my church family, or the Pastor seeking the Lord daily for a weekly word- talk about the weight. 

How do you prepare a meal for such a diverse group without offending someone? I mean do I give them the tried and true one-liners? [Reference above]

As I was pondering this the Spirit spoke to me
"If you love me, feed my sheep"  I paused. Again the whisper in my heart pressed beneath my chest.
"Feed my sheep"

My response? "Yes , Father. Now, how?"


to be continued...











Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Blessing in Imperfection

image from clayinthehands.blogspot.com
OK I'll be the first to admit.

 I used to be the one who would cringe at the thought of offending anyone. The mere inkling that something I might do would cause someone disappointment kept me in a jumping rope mode. I was always "double-dutching" with my life. Juggling became the norm, and "yes"was my positive-life mantra.

I figured, it was easy. All I have to do is smile,  stay cheerful, have good manners, and stay dependable. I could never offend anyone.

But then, in planning an event, I unintentionally overlooked a church sister's name who paid to participate. When I arrived at the event I did not have enough of the materials (wooden letters we were decorating) for her to participate. I mistakenly counted her as a sister with the same first name.  Over a week later I just happened to be talking with her on the phone, with my usual cheerful demeanor, and abruptly she asked if she would get a refund for the event. I was puzzled. Then she had to remind me that she was the first one who actually signed up and paid (ouch!) Suddenly it all came back to me- the clip board, the money, the envelope. oh no! She proceeded to share that she was very upset that she had t o sit there among the ladies awkwardly twiddling her thumbs as every one else excitedly engaged in the craft we were making. Meanwhile, the entire time I wrongly assumed she'd forgotten to sign up. Feeling sympathetically awkward for her, I spent that evening trying to invent ways to include her in the project.  I had no idea, It was my fault! I was the one who dropped the ball.  I began fervently apologizing, highly embarrassed. Because I was not made aware of the mistake until more than a week later, damage had been done to this sister emotionally, as she was just beginning to engage more with the ladies in our local church group. Talk about a big whoops!

 While I have obviously committed offenses before, this one really did a number to me.  It didn't matter how nice I am to people.  It can not erase my humanity.Yep, I am not above mistakes, and this one put me in a mental whirlwind. I was torn and guilt ridden that I hurt the heart of someone. What was worse is that I was completely unaware, and was attempting to interact with them normally as if nothing happened.

It took something like this, to remind me of my humanity.
Even now I am learning each day to embrace the frailty of my human state and recognize the blessing in being imperfect.
Coming to grips on this has helped me to detect and cast off a little more pride and put on more meekness. Being able to embrace my mistake-prone self has caused me to marvel more than superficially at the Love of the Lord and his amazing grace.

This grace has filled my heart with a deeper compassion and patience with others than ever before. 

Like this situation for example: A friend on Good Friday, mentioned she was hosting an egg hunt  that Sunday and we were welcome to bring the children. I told her it sounds like fun and I'll let her know (or so I thought.) On the day of the party I contacted her  two hours before start time, with an apology explaining that something unexpectedly came up and I'd be unable to attend. Lo and behold this friend was pretty upset because she was prepared for us to come. Apparently her children were now expecting mine and when I canceled on her she was upset for them. She was offended, that I did not call the day before to cancel. Here I was, thinking I was doing the right thing by calling to let her know of our intentions. Yet, in her opinion, it was too late. I was saddened to hurt a friend, but I also did not feel the guilt or condemnation I'd normally feel.

You see, even if I dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's, someone would still be offended. That's why Paul asked, Am I a servant of men or of God? If I choose to please men, then I am not a servant of God. Double ouch. I mean, hey, maybe my smile night rub someone the wrong way. I realize that I can not control the actions or perceptions of others. Obvious, I know. Yet it was a lesson I was slow in learning.

Now,  when I would  normally cringe at letting others down, I am humbled. I am humbled knowing these things happen and God's Grace is enough. I experience a swelling of thankfulness in my heart towards the Lord that He would still choose to invest his Love in imperfect me. I am filled with joy, knowing that God is perfect and consistent and dependable. If I obey Him, allowing him to live in me, then all my mistakes will become part of the story working together for good. His Grace is enough for you. His grace is enough for me. Our imperfect is a blessing, causing us to fall into the arms of HE who alone is. We are complete in Him.