Today we dive into Part One in Scouting the Divine and discuss “The Good Shepherd.” But before we go too far, I feel the need to confess to you my absurd love of sheep.
I love sheep.
I mean, a lot.
I fell in love with sheep my first trip to Scotland. They were so cute. So cute, it inspired me to make up a song on the spot. My Scottish friends make fun of me, but this is what love does: it doesn’t not care if you are mocked.
Last summer I got to visit Scotland and of course had to have my picture taken with a sheep:
Tell me that doesn’t just about undo you.
Here is one more. I promise to spare you all of the pictures I have of sheep. But one more won’t kill you.
Come on?! So cute.
In this section of Scouting the Divine, I loved that Margaret visited a shepherdess, Lynne, who loved her sheep. Her insights to sheep apply to scripture because we know that God loves us. He is, after all, The Good Shepherd.
This line about did me in, thinking of you who are a bit lost in your own life now and long for God to intervene. “When a field becomes barren, sheep are unable to find safe, new ground on their own; they need the careful guidance of their shepherd.” We do not have to find safe ground on our own, in fact, we can’t. God will help us.
This line cracked me up. Lynne said, “There is a lot of flock drama, you know.” Preach girl, we do know!
This line had deep insight when it comes to discipline. “If I don’t discipline him now [in reference to a sheep that clearly disobeyed], he will grow up to be dangerous and of no value to anyone.” Dangerous and of no value. Not that God can’t bring growth and restoration into any setting, but we have all known people who were not disciplined at a young age and there is an element of danger to a group and of not contributing value the way they could have.
When the subject of culling came up, Lynne said, “Culling means getting rid of a sheep because it is too old, imperfectly structured, or its wool isn’t good enough. Many farms cull ewes who don’t have twins. Culling is not something I do.” As messy and hard as ministry can be, I know (and love) that God also doesn’t cull. He might have times when someone needs to leave the field for further training, addressing a physical or emotional situation, or to help family. But he never “gets ride of” us.
I loved the depth of love expressed in this line. Lynne said, “Once they respond to my beckoning I have them forever.” Not to make a theological statement whether or not salvation can be lost, this is a beautiful picture of God and his beloved children.
I learned a lot when Margaret asked Lynne to explain what God requires when he asks for “a sheep without blemish” in a sacrifice. When God lists the standards, He is asking for the best of the flock and that “takes years to produce. . . he was asking the people not just to hand over their best, but also to sacrifice something they had worked years to develop.” Margaret went on to say, “For me, it would be like spending months working on the perfect prose, then lighting a match and burning it. The act places me in a posture of depending on God to create through me again.”
This struck a chord in me. The past year, the leadership team of Velvet Ashes has said, “We do not want to love Velvet Ashes more than God. If the day ever comes that we ‘close the doors’ on Velvet Ashes, we want to be able to do it because VA is not supreme, God is.” We do not see that happening anytime soon! But we all need to keep checking our motives, yes? And checking that we love God more than our ministry.
In that same section Lynne explained to Margaret about the first wool. I had never heard the distinction between first wool and later wool. Summarizing section 1.12, this line jumped out: He doesn’t want more—he wants the best.
Other parts stood out to me as well, but I’d love to hear from you on any of three things:
- What stood out to you?
- What passages in scripture do you understand (a bit) differently now?
- How do you understand yourself or teammates better in light of what you learned about sheep from this section?
See you in the comments and next week we will discuss Humble Roots.
Reading plan for Humble Roots and Scouting the Divine:
March 6—The intros to the two books (Wonderment in SD, Sowing Seeds in HR)
March 13—Part 1 (The Good Shepherd) in SD
March 20— Chapters 1 and 2 in HR
March 27—Chapters 3 and 4 in HR
April 3—Part 3 (Land of Milk and Honey) in SD
April 10—Chapters 5 and 6 in HR
April 17—Part 4 (The Vine) in SD (Retreat this weekend!)
April 24—Last week was retreat so to have time to focus on the retreat, no extra reading his week. We will have a Get to Know and get back to reading this week. Also, I will announce the summer reading!
May 1—Chapter 7 in HR
May 8—Chapters 8 and 9 in HR
May 15—Part 2 (The Harvest) in SD
May 22—Chapters 10 and 11 in HR
May 29—We made it! Two books read in tandem we will review and have a Get to Know