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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)

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

From the Top Down

I have recently been in various conversations with people about leadership.  What does that mean?  Who is in charge?  How is that decided?  These aspects of leadership are present in all areas of our life ~ family, personally, in business, in school, in church….it’s everywhere!  And it’s necessary!

I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase, “Well, you know, it all comes from the top down.”  Or how about, “One bad apple spoils the bunch.”  We saw what happened during the housing crash of the early 2000’s ~ the bank presidents were held responsible for the corruption and deceit and paid for it….oh wait, no they weren’t.  How is that possible?

Usually these phrases are overheard in conversation when there have been negative situations occurring.  In most scenarios, no matter if the “guy in charge” has anything or much to do with someone’s negative behavior, they are still held responsible.  When you are the “guy in charge”, you have a lot of responsibility to know each of the people who serve/work underneath you.

As I think of this “from the top down” idea, there are so many platforms that I’m regularly a part of and can see the effects of negative leadership as well as the benefits of positive guidance.

I’m actually sitting here with a huge smile on my face thinking of how honored and blessed I am to serve with four different groups of women: at church on our Women’s Council, at the high school on the Parent Association Board, with the women who are my accountability partners with my ministry, and in my life with my three daughters.  All of these women are very important to me; all of them speak truth in love to my heart; all of them help to hold me accountable; and all of them want to see me fulfill the potential of the call that God has placed on my life.  Serving in each of these venues (yes, today, I’m calling motherhood a ‘venue’) has been a delightfully joyful challenge of a lifetime!

There will always be someone in your life that you have to answer to.  Someone who is tasked with knowing all about you and guiding you in the direction that will lead to positive growth.  Even if you are reading this and you are the CEO of your own company, there is still someone you have to answer to: investors, constituents, or employees.  This can be invigorating and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

So how do we make sure that in whatever circles of influence we have, that we are being a responsible part of process?  I am grateful that we have God’s Word to turn to for any and every situation we face.

Being the one in charge of an event, of a company, of a school community, or of a family, requires dedication to operating in a mode of truth, kindness, firmness, and instruction.  And all of those attributes require communication between you (as the “boss”) and the people you serve.  Yep, I said ‘serve’ ~ and all that entails: to lead, to guide, to render assistance, to be of help to, to perform specific duties.  The best way to have your people organize a coup is to be an unrelenting boss with unrealistic expectations.  This may look like an all out overthrow and you lose your job, or it may look like a 2 year old throwing an entire snack cup of cheerios all over the floor in a high end department store.  Oh yes….that happened!

By God’s design, we are created in His image…so…we have the tools in our brain to be a great boss!  When sin entered the world, those tools have been misplaced and sometimes just flat out lost.  God is the ultimate example of “from the top down” business/family model.  His greatest service to us was to send His own Son to die on the cross in order to bring restoration and reconciliation to our relationship with Him.  What incredible sacrifice that was endured by God the Father and God the Son, and what great joy for the Holy Spirit to come and dwell in us and among us because of that sacrifice.

There are countless verses in the Bible regarding how a master and servant should treat each other; how a business owner and employee should treat each other; how a husband and wife should treat each other; and how parents and children should treat each other.  Although there are definitive roles that each of these people carry, some with more authority that others, they are all called to treat each other with respect, with wise consul, with clear communication, and with kindness.

No matter what the locale of a situation is that is seemingly swirling out of control, you can usually look to the top of the chain of command to see why things are out of control.  Whether in business or with your family.

Or just within your own self.

What’s at the top of our body?  Our head…our brain…the CEO of our attitudes.  Without answering to the Lord through worship and spending time in His word and in prayer, then our heart and mind will not be able to function as it is intended.  When we have the ability to see our life how God has planned, we can live in the gifts and talents that God has given us!

Remember that cheerios bit I told you about a few paragraphs above…I do believe that they actions of my 2 year old that day (and many many many days after that) were a physical manifestation of bad management…ie: the momma melt down!  I was in a season of life where we moved to another state for my husband’s job.  I was all in favor of supporting him, his career, and yes, the increase of pay!  I wasn’t all in for the isolation part.  Two little kids, no family in the neighborhood, no church family…just hot, humid, sticky, red-ant filled life.  I was not allowing God to be in charge of my heart and mind.  Thus, my job as a mom was severely faltering. And people…my toddler…were revolting against me at every turn!  I’m thankful that the Lord (and my family!) were patient with me, helping me gain back sanity and the ability to allow the Lord to be in control of my life again.  And those 2 year old temper tantrums stopped too!

Let me encourage you today to take a look at all the areas in your life where you serve. Ask the Lord to help you see where you can improve and what things you are doing that are great!  It’s okay to ask the Lord to show you the positives too!  He wants to celebrate you as much as He will correct your path!

John 15:14-16 is a beautiful declaration of God’s heart toward us, You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

We don’t just have a relationship with the Lord, we have a friendship with the God of the Universe!  He does not see us as servants, but as friends.  And through that friendship, we can have all other relationships flow through the truths we know are secure in the Lord.

John 15 verse 15

Blessings,

René