Hearing the Shepherd’s Voice…

I recently had the joyful privilege of traveling with my wonderful husband on two business trips back to back…first stop, Singapore!  Then on to Snells Beach, New Zealand (about 90 minutes north of Auckland).  It was absolutely amazing to be able to travel to these two locations.  And they couldn’t have been more different!  We actually took advantage of being able to check two bags for free ~ one was packed for the 90 degree humid weather of Singapore and the other for the 60 degree rainy weather of NZ!  I was so grateful for the two companies that made the allowance for me to attend these trips with my man!

What I want to focus on in today’s blog is the lesson the Lord taught me in New Zealand.

I don’t know about you, but honestly, the first thing I think about when I envision the land of NZ is…wait for it…The Lord of the Rings & Hobbit movies!  Yes!  I admit that I love these movies!  And Air New Zealand loves these movies too ~ they have a channel within their onboard “movie channel” dedicated to just those six movies ~ awesome!  Of course, the other thing I think of is sheep….lots and lots of sheep!

Staying in Snells Beach was a blessed retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  And honestly…away from the hustle of “regular life.” Rolling green hills, the bay on either side of the little town.  To one side you could see the Mahurangi Harbour and on the other, Kawau Bay.  I felt a little bad that Tony was working more on this part of the trip, but I was delighted with the gift of some time alone to see what the Lord has for me next.

We arrived quite late in the evening, so it was very dark upon our arrival to our little apartment on the campus where the animation studio is where Tony would be working for the next few days.  The next morning, he was off to work after breakfast in our room and I joined him a few hours later for lunch at the studio.  He happened to be walking over to the apartment when I was on my way over to meet him, and I couldn’t help but grin and say, “I’m walking around in New Zealand today!  How cool is that!!”

But soon, I would be driving around the area ~ and on the “wrong side” of the road and the car!  If I may brag…I did quite well!  And it was so much fun!  But I digress to my point….

The sheep!  Seriously ~ they were everywhere!  And I loved it!  So many different breeds and color combinations, but still the same.  Either lounging in the sunny spots in the pasture, or head down munching on the luscious green grass of the farms where they lived.  And I desperately wanted to cuddle one of those little lambs ~ you see it’s Spring time over in NZ (September) so there were little lambs prancing around all over the place!

One of the men that Tony is working with on this project, also runs a small farm filled with cows, a bull, pigs, piglets, and SHEEP!  He indulged my wish and ran after a little lamb so I could hold him.  Oh.My.Word!  The cutest thing ever!  And he was only about 10 days old.  The eyes of his sheep-mama and the eyes of the ram were on me constantly…what was I going to do with their little lamb?  Oh man…I wanted to take that cute black and white lamb home with me!  I know…I know…not practical!  And they grow up!  HA!

The next day, a new friend there, took me to a magical place…Sheep World!  Yes…this is a real place!  I was able to help sheer a sheep and feed a milk bottle to a one month old fluffy whjohn-10-verse-4ite lamb.  This was seriousness cuteness folks!

But the whole time, I could not get out of my mind the fact that Jesus is referred to so many times as the Lamb of God.  And we, as His followers, are often called His sheep. (yes…I took this pic…there’s more!)

In this passage, we read that sheep follow their shepherd because they recognize his voice.  But how do they know which voice to follow?  They are trained and they learn what to listen for.  A tone of voice…a familiar call or command…a unique whistle ~ they know their shepherd’s voice!

We are called to do the same with our relationship with Jesus!psalm-95-verse-7

But we have to spend time with the Lord in order to KNOW His voice and to discern His commands and callings.

Do you see what it says here in the last part of Psalms 95 verse 7?  “If only you would listen…”

If only we would take the time to listen to the voice of our Savior.  To spend time deep in His Word so that we recognize His voice.

 We spend so much time on so many other things that we think we fill us up.  Yet, I know that when my focus is on expecting outward things to complete me, I end up feeling totally empty.  Christ is the only One who is able to fill up all the empty spaces and seal up all the cracks in my heart.

There were a few other key moments of those two “sheep days,” that God revealed to me.

As I was holding the little lamb that was almost 2 weeks old, was noticing how the huge horned ram was standing at attention in the field.  He did not allow his gaze to be interrupted.  I felt in that moment that this is how God the Father intently looked upon Jesus the Son, as He entered the world as a defenseless baby ~ as the Lamb of God.  The Father’s eyes are never off His children.

When we let the little lamb go and put him down onto the grass, he bleated his little heart out!  All the other mama sheep out there started bleating back…with the exception of his actual mama.  That was confounding to me!  What was happening here.  Then I looked back at the lamb and he was pacing back and forth, unwilling to step further.  He just stood there and bleated like crazy.  In that moment, I felt God showing me that when I stand in one place and act like a crazy person yelling out to God, without actually focusing on Him peacefully, even if He was calling out to me I wouldn’t be able to truly hear Him.  Once the lamb stopped calling out for his mama, started scampering toward the herd, all the other sheep began to quiet down.  His mama never took her eyes off her baby, and she began to baa for her little lamb. He immediately heard her voice ~ and ran straight to her.

That little lamb took the time to HEAR the voice of his mother so he could easily identify where to run!

The last moment to share was how the sheerer/shepherd (at Sheep World) was telling us how the sheep get from the hidden tops of the hills down to the corral.  With just a few verbal commands, he sends one of his trusty sheep dogs out to round them up.  That dog took off, jumped the corral fence, tore up the hill and began bringing those sheep down the hill in about 2 minutes.  This dog never barked…he only LOOKED at the sheep to get them where he wanted them to go.  And his goal was to bring the sheep as close to the shepherd as possible.

Now, this may be a stretch, but hang in there with me for a minute.

Jesus is referred to as our Shepherd* mulitple times in the Bible. The Holy Spirit is referred to as our Helper**/Comforter*** in God’s Word.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t bark at us ~ He uses the truths of who our Shepherd, Jesus, is and whispers those truths to our hearts.  His goal is to bring us back around as close to Jesus as possible.  Once we are close to our Shepherd, we can be cared for as needed.  We may need to be sheered ~ ridding our self of the excess in our life.  We may need to be fed ~ filling up our soul with the Bread of Life.  We may need to be washed ~ being cleansed from the filth of sin that creeps in.

Take the time my friend to get to know His voice.

Listen and run to Him.

Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you back to Jesus.

Blessings,

René

p.s. ~ Just because I love the joyful freedom of the picture…here’s one more from the trip!

rene-holding-a-little-lamb

* mentioned 34 times in the ESV: https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=shepherd+Lord&qs_version=ESV

** John 14:26 (ESV)

*** John 14:26 (ASV)

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Sewing and Stitching…

Last week, I was working on finishing a quilt for my oldest daughters’ 21st birthday. She wanted me to make her a special T-shirt quilt using her favorite tees from high school ~ and there were A LOT!  So this past week, she turned 23! Yeah…its been that kind of project!

I found a quiet place to work on this lap quilt {which actually turned into a QUEEN SIZE quilt} and a location where I could spread out. I went to church! I unloaded everything from my car, set up three 8ft banquet tables, plugged in my sewing machine and went to work.

About two hours in, something went very wrong. Suddenly, the machine wasn’t working. If you’ve ever worked with a sewing machine, you know how crippling it can feel when “for no reason” things stop working.  And when you are in a time crunch, that is a sickening feeling.

My. Heart. Sank.

The machine got stuck…SIX TIMES!  Needle stuck in the fabric, fabric jammed in the lower mechanism ~ nothing was moving.  Like, not one thing!  Very, very carefully I had to lift the fabric up enough to cut away the thread. I could be frustrated AFTER the fabric was free…I didn’t want to cut the wrong part.  I was on the brink of packing it all up and quitting. But I didn’t. I prayed so I wouldn’t  cry & then…then I called my mom! She’s an amazing seamstress & I knew she could help me. I told her what the displayed “code” on the machine said every time it jammed…she looked it up online since I didn’t have wifi, and she started laughing. I did NOT see the humor. She said, “Well, it says that E6 means that the machine is jammed.”

No duh!!!

[Insert scream here!]

She encouraged me to take a deep breath & keep looking for the problem. I got some scrap fabric & that machine jammed about FIVE MORE TIMES!!! Then on the sixth attempt, the machine didn’t jam but the thread coming from the bobbin was a complete mess on the underside of the fabric.

That’s when I saw the problem.

The bobbin was the wrong size and was bouncing around inside. Oh, and I had set the stitch size improperly.  It was at this point the Lord began to reveal to me the similarity between a jammed sewing machine and a jammed life.

I realized how sometimes, on the outside of my life “the pretty side,” everything looks great but underneath the surface my life is stuck, out of control, and operating with improper settings ~ I’m stuck.

So how do we get “unstuck?” We have to allow the Lord to gently lift our tired souls away from the problem and cut away all that is wrong.

If I had yanked the fabric instead of being gentle with it, I would have ruined the top part of the quilt that I had spent countless days and hours stitching together.  Had I hastily cut away the bad thread, I would have cut a hole or two in that same fabric.

When we are “jammed,” the Lord does not toss us about to and fro, yanking or tearing.  We may feel that way, but let’s be honest…aren’t we the ones causing us to be tossed about underneath the careful hands of our Maker?  When we feel cut to the core or ripped apart, could it be that sometimes we are not willing to be held gently and allow the Lord to take His time to remove those parts of our life that are causing us harm?

While we’re still here in this land of symbolism, let’s think about what parts of our own life are not in sync with each other?  Do we have parts that we have borrowed from other people?  Are we trying to be a different “model” than who God created us to be?

When you put the wrong size bobbin in a machine and try to sew, it just won’t work.  Well, it may work for a while when the bobbin is full-up with thread, but as time goes on, that thing is just gonna spin in circles, and not the good kind.  It’ll get to spinning so fast that it will come unraveled.  So many times I have been ‘unraveling’ and didn’t realize it until it was too late and life got majorly jammed!

Just because another friend, a fellow church member, your ‘mom friends’ at your kids’ school, or a an office mate can function at a particular “life speed” ~ it doesn’t mean that you can too!  And you know what…that’s okay!  God has calibrated your life to run at a certain speed ~ the only fuel you need to run at top speed is what you get from spending time in His Word and time in prayer with Him.

You have been created for the purpose that God has FOR YOU!

Just like a quilt, each square is painstakingly measured and planned out.  The fabric pieces that are chosen are done so ON PURPOSE in order to enhance the quilt as a whole.  Each fabric square that is created for a quilt is done so ONE at a time.  It is truly a fascinating experience to put one together, and as each row comes together, the beauty of each separate square becomes more intense as the pieces are sewn together.  For as much time the front side of the quilt takes to put together visually, I actually think more time is spent looking at it from the back side; the side with all the cut edges, the ends of threads, the reverse side of the fabric looking faded.  If all I focused on in sewing that quilt was the back side, I think I would have become dismayed at the true beauty it beheld.

My friend, God spends a lot of time on the underneath side of our life.  The side we don’t want anyone to see.  The side we feel is unkempt and faded.  HOWEVER….if we allow Him to show us His purposes for how everything is ironed out and stitched together, we are given the spectacular privilege to have a front row seat when God turns our life right-side out, and we see the beauty of our own “life quilt” ~ the beauty He already knew was there.

Blessings,

René
{My daughter Caitlin & I with her quilt💗}