Take Care of Your Sheepdogs

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My dog has an obsession with our kitten.  He just wants to play and he wants the kitten to play too.  Sully, my Bernese Mountain Dog mix, was very interested in Jack, the orphan kitten, when he came to live at our house.  You see, Jack’s mother had been killed in the road and Jack was still sitting right by her side when my daughter stopped and picked him up.  Jack came home as a 5 week old baby who needed special help.  Sully, who is usually a rambunctious, ball of energy, laid right down and calmly licked Jack from head to toe and then wouldn’t let Jack out of his sight.  For weeks, Sully didn’t want to play, he just wanted to make sure Jack was safe from the perils of under-the-couch or too-near-the-stairs.  Sully alerted us to Jack’s whereabouts repeatedly.  When Jack would be put in the bathroom for eating or sleeping, you could almost see Sully breathe a sigh of relief as he laid down and his shift was over for a spell.  As Jack has grown, Sully has gotten more comfortable with Jack scampering through the room or sliding across the kitchen floor.  Sully will even chase him now and plant a large paw on 6-month-old Jack to get him to stay still for brief period of time.  Sully takes his job as the kitten-herder very seriously.

A traveling pastor came to our church years ago and his sermon was about his role as a sheepdog.  He explained that it was his job to keep the flocks together and headed in the right direction and that the Shepherd counted on him to take his job very seriously.  It was this sermon that came to mind as I watched Jack and Sully in their growing relationship.  Sully certainly wasn’t counted on to keep Jack safe, but he took his self-imposed role to heart and worked at keeping his little tiny flock, (Can 1 animal be considered a flock?) headed in the right direction.  Just as Jack came into Sully’s care from heartache and loss, we are in our Shepherd’s care with heartache, loss, worry, fear, frustration, and longing.  He cares so much for us in our needs that He sends sheepdogs to chase after each and every one of us.  Matthew 18:12 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do?  Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?” 

I am so grateful for all of the sheepdogs that have played a part in my life.  There have been pastors and aunts and parents and friends as well as grandparents and cousins who herded me back to God’s path when I had strayed away.  We need to heed our sheepdogs in whatever form they take and know that our Shepherd is looking for us and loving us.

Paul felt this duty too as we read in 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”

Take care of your sheepdogs.  Pray that they are fed and watered with spiritual food and drink that they may lead us to the path that Jesus has set for us.

Lessons Learned at the Water Park…Trust

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I got to spend this day at the indoor water park with my three daughters, my son-in-law, my two grandchildren, and my friend/ex-husband.   What an exhausting yet exhilarating day.  Much of my time was spent hanging out at the baby pool area so that everybody else could go on the water slides.  I got to watch my granddaughter and grandson splash themselves silly and wear out a path up to the froggy slide.  Up and down, up and down.  Over and over and over.  While I was watching this endless procession of slide merriment, I got to have some unintended people-watching time as well.

This really got me thinking about trust; trusting what we cannot see but also trusting what’s right in front of our faces.  Some of these smaller children were asked to trust their parents to be at the bottom of the slide to catch them before they hit the water.  Parents promised.  They smiled.  They reassured.  They clapped.  They gave the thumbs-up.  The children immediately smiled as well and were all for it.  Most of the sliding happened uneventfully and inspired squeals and screams as the kids felt encouraged to do it again and again and again.  With each successful slide and catch, the child’s trust in their grown-up grew.   My own grandson was excited to have his turn and once at the top of the froggy slide, he whooshed right down and spilled out into my arms.  I caught him and he jumped right out of them and was back up the steps for another go.  This went on for a good ten minutes and finally he said, “I do it myself.”  I stayed close, proud of him for feeling like he could do this on his own, but ready to help.  He shot down the slide and landed with a splash.  He stood up quickly, spit out some water, and came right to me for a hug.  After the hug and my reassurance that he was okay, he got right back to it.  He was a man on a mission now!

Then there came the cute little girl in the Shopkins, one-piece, bathing suit.  She eagerly got to the top of the slide and her mother knelt in the one foot of water at the bottom.  “Come on baby, I’m right here.  I promise I’ll catch you,” her mother said.  Baby pushed off and came sliding down.  Mom put out one arm and caught part of a shoulder as Baby’s head went under.  Mom pulled her out almost instantaneously but the look on Baby’s face said, “WTH!  How did you let the water get up my nose?”  Mom loved on Baby and helped her cough and sputter the last of the water out.  Then Mom put Baby back on the top of the slide and said, “Come on, I promise, I’m right here.  No more water in your face.”  Baby did not look happy or trusting this time.  Baby looked a little nervous.  She’d already been let down.  Literally.  But, being a kid, she tried again.  Sliding down with the gushing water, Baby landed across her mother’s arm, face first, in the water.  More coughing, more sputtering.  More apologies.  This happened one last time and Baby, through her tears, said, “All done.”

Where should we place our trust?  These precious children placed their trust in their grown-up family members.  When that trust was validated, it grew and spread and gave the kids the feeling that they could keep going.  When that trust was disproved, the child gave up.  Isn’t this so true of our grown-up relationships?  We put our trust in so many people.  Our parents, our spouses, our friends, our children.  They all have our trust initially, but when time and again, our trust is broken, we tend to want to be like Baby and say, “All done.”  When we put our trust in God, it is nurtured and rewarded over and over again so that we are emboldened to realize that we can stand, we can breathe, we can walk, and we can even love again.  While our earthly trust can let us down at times, our heavenly trust is infallible.  Give it a try.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways, submit to him and he will make your paths straight.