We, Like Sheep {Book Club}

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:

  1. What stood out to you?
  2. What passages in scripture do you understand (a bit) differently now?
  3. 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.

Amy

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 

Photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash

22 Comments

  1. Spring March 12, 2018

    I fell in love with this book at the first few sentences! What a down to earth experience of the gospel. Understanding the passages as reflected by a true Shepherd was really helpful. I loved how she talked about the first sheering sacrifice is a once in a lifetime thing. God doesn’t always want our biggest, he wants our best. Sometimes this is a “small” thing but once in a lifetime. I also loved how she talked about what a true shepherd really is.

    I think I understand scripture a little better now where it talks about the sheep knowing his voice. I love the idea of the automatic response they have to Lynn’s voice in the book.

    The passage about Shepherding teaching how to lead from the front rather than the back was profound to me. When I am pushed I refuse to do what is asked of me, even if it’s the “correct” thing to do. When the sheep are called by name, they follow peacefully. I want to have that type of response to my creator.

    1. Hadassah Doss March 13, 2018

      Leading by agitation is my go-to when I feel things are spiraling out of control, and whether in the classroom or at home, it never works very well. Right now, one of my biggest struggles at home is keeping a level-head when it’s time to practice violin with my daughters. I want them to trust me when I tell them something needs to be corrected or play peacefully and without exasperation when they need to repeat a song again. And yet, if I let my frustration level ramp up, it agitates them and we all end up mad/sad/angry, you name it! So, I guess in this case leading from the front would mean keeping my cool, which in turn allows my little lambs to follow in example and keep there’s.

      1. Amy Young March 16, 2018

        Hadassah, I know this wan’t meant to be funny, but “leading by agitation” made me laugh! Oh man, been there, done that. I think you are on to something with “leading from the front” being more peaceful — not that the situation itself is necessarily peaceful, but that I am peaceful in the midst of whatever is thrown at me. (Sigh, more conviction over how I handled a situation yesterday!!)

    2. Amy Young March 16, 2018

      I agree on the “leading from the front” and have noticed the same … if I am pushed from behind, even if it truly IS the best option, I get very resistant :)!

      Wouldn’t it be fun to spend a day with Lynne and her sheep!!

  2. Paola March 13, 2018

    Ah, what a refreshing book to read!

    The chapter that touched me the most was “Fighting for Piaget.” Truly, when my Good Shepherd cares for me during trials and dark valleys, I truly see His character and know His voice. My trust in Him increases. He knows me and cares for me intimately. Psalm 23 speaks with so much more meaning to me now!

  3. Rachel Kahindi March 13, 2018

    Sheep and shepherd metaphors began making more sense to me now that I live somewhere that I see them walking down the road every day. The Good Shepherd is a meaningful term to me after witnessing so many bad ones – or as Lynne would say “non-shepherds.” I had not realized the difference between Jesus’ description of how his sheep know his voice and follow him and the way shepherd here prod/drive their sheep from behind, until Lynne was talking about it.

    Yesterday we were driving down a semi-busy road when we came up behind a shepherd with a rather large flock. They were on the side of the road, just one or two actually in the road, but still we slowed down, and it was a good thing, too! The shepherd stepped off to the left, into the bushes (to pee, I assume), and the sheep suddenly turned right and ran into the road. Then they stopped and wandered around aimlessly for a bit because the shepherd was no longer chasing them.

    My favorite part was when she was describing each sheep and its individual personality. Being known is a wonderful thing, and our Good Shepherd is also our Maker, our Creator, and he knows us!

    1. Hadassah Doss March 13, 2018

      At our school in Egypt, there was always a very small flock of sheep, and each semester a student was assigned to watch over them. More often than not, they were bad shepherds, paying more attention to their phones and taking their job lightly…up until they noticed the sheep munching on a crop of zucchini and realized it was their hide on the line! Hehe! So glad our Good Shepherd is so much more attentive! In John 10:29, He even describes us an His inheritance, given to Him by the Father. That proves our value to Him, for sure!

    2. Amy Young March 16, 2018

      Rachel, I love hearing about those who have sheep in their daily lives! I’m chuckling over the image of the sheep wandering when their shepherd need to step off the road. It will be interesting to see what else you notice with your local sheep and shepherds.

  4. Karen March 13, 2018

    There are so many things that I loved about this section, but one of my favorites is: “He doesn’t want more; He wants the best.” Too often, I hide from God in the thought that if I once go to Him, He will want more of my time than I can figure out how to give (I mean, of course everything is His, but I fear that I won’t be able to figure out how to make my time schedule work). Which is a total lie. But He does want the best, and the firstfruits, which challenges me to think about what it means to give Him that.

    1. Amy Young March 16, 2018

      It challenges me too. I have to admit, that I get the idea of “first fruits” so much more easily when it IS tied to something like growing food. But what does it mean for most of us who aren’t producing tangible items? Still, I know it is not about the letter of first fruits, but the spirit …. and we all have them :).

  5. Michele March 14, 2018

    There were so many good things in this section! I was struck by many of the same things already mentioned. A couple of things I picked up on in the role of a human ‘shepherd’, in addition to leading from the front were: “I’m constantly scanning when I’m with the sheep, looking for weakness, sickness, and changes in behavior,” and “I find a great respect for life These creatures have life, and I have the privilege of sustaining and nurturing it. That makes compassion come alive inside of me.” Both of these made me think of my role for many years as a teacher, and even now as a discipler.
    I also loved Lynne’s response to “And your favorite qualities of your favorite sheep?”
    “They come when I call their names. They love me. They paw me and want my attention. They are responsive to me. They are not too afraid or flighty.” That line caused me to stop and reflect and pray… I think our Shepherd loves when we exhibit the same qualities. Am I responsive, trusting and loving toward Him?
    The last sentence I highlighted speaks to me both of Jesus as Shepherd and myself as a shepherd of those He puts in my care: “Love alone is what makes a shepherd good.”

    1. Amy Young March 16, 2018

      Oh the constant scanning … thanks for teasing that out. Like you, as a teacher I get the constant scanning. But I can see that I do that in ministry too. Just this week I have been monitoring a discussion in a ministry FB group in a way that you help me see is being a good shepherd — and the way my Good Shepherd tends to me/us!

  6. Michelle March 14, 2018

    After living with sheep in my village I’m afraid that I have been convinced that they are one of the dumbest animals on the planet. I’m not entirely certain that I’m buying the concept “helpless, not dumb”. =) But that’s me! Maybe I’m just a lousy shepherd without enough love for the sheep. For me it’s a pretty humbling thing to think of the Lord calling us his sheep.
    The thing that actually stood out to me the most was the idea of sacrificing the best. That which took the longest and the most effort. Much like the comment Amy made about Velvet Ashes, it made me think about how much I invest in ministry. We are getting ready to start construction on a hospital. So much has already gone into this and we haven’t even dug the foundation yet. I had to stop for a moment and think about setting that final hospital building on fire. Something to think about. How am I bringing my best to the Lord?
    I also had to pause and think a bit about how I lead and shepherd. Do I do so in love? With tenderness? When discipline is needed is it done out of anger and frustration, or with the bigger picture and everyone’s best, in mind? Even though I profess that I am not really a lover of sheep, it was a good, and insightful read.

    1. Amy Young March 16, 2018

      Michelle, I’ll admit it is easy to romanticize an animal I don’t know that much about :)! Now, if God said he was like the “Good Squirrel Keeper” I might scream and run the other way. I like squirrels at a distance, but not when they will not leave the bird feeders alone. Okay, I have to stop talking about squirrels or I will work myself up :).

      I appreciate how you cut to the core question of this chapter: the role of love in ministry. Not love in theory (I think we all have that), but love in actuality (do I truly love)? These are good to ponder on and ask God to help grow in me.

  7. Patty March 14, 2018

    I read this book many years ago. It really gives a great perspective on the Shepherd and the sheep. I remember a section on how the Shepherd carried the sheep on her shoulders. It was during this time I needed a Good Shepherd so much. Life was falling apart but it was really falling in place. The shepherd was carrying me because I really didn’t know which direction to go. This book was in of my favorite reads.

    1. Amy Young March 16, 2018

      Patty thanks for your comment :)! I’m glad you shared your experience and endorsement 🙂

  8. Suzanne March 16, 2018

    Two things particularly stood out to me, only one of which is probably what I’m meant to be focused on.
    (1) What an interesting way to meet a shepherdess – through a random contact with a guest in a far-flung corner of the country when helping out a relative. And how neat that one thing led to another and the author got to go and spend a couple of days with her (and their husbands) to research for her book. That speaks volumes to me about the benefit of stepping outside of your comfort zone and being bold. Who knows where it might lead.
    (2) I was also struck by how very special the first shearing wool is, and how God wants our best – not our biggest, but our best.

    1. Amy Young March 16, 2018

      🙂 …. I think both points are worth focusing on :)!

  9. Anna March 16, 2018

    I was struck by the dependence of the sheep. Of course, I have heard that before, but her description brought that to life for me. I’m in a place where I realize my complete dependence on God, and my totally inability to “take care of things” myself. What a comfort to know we have our good Shepherd!

  10. Cassidy March 22, 2018

    I found a lot of peace in this chapter. I have been going through a time of anxiety and feeling disconnected. I think that the idea that Lynn talked about in the chapter of the sheep being helpless without her resonated with me. The idea that the sheep could potentially walk right off a cliff without her stuck with me. The sheep need their Shepard. Without the Shepard they are very much lost, and more than that unsure of what is best. I think that is one of the most comforting things that I have read. God wants to lead us, we are so very helpless without Him. In this time of anxiety about the current world, I am feeling comforted by the idea that the only thing I can do for my own security is to follow God. I think that is such a powerful and life changing idea, following God is the best way to stay safe and protected. Such a beautiful concept, it is not in our hands. Our only task is to follow.

  11. Laura May 1, 2018

    I was really blessed by both the content and the writing. I’d tried to read a similar book about sheep and the Bible years ago and had stopped partway through, very frustrated. Why? Because I live in an area with lots of sheep that is NOT full of green grass and where the sheep have so little wool they almost look like goats! That book had left no room for that kind of possibility. This author did a great job acknowledging the difference between Lynn’s context and the context often experienced in the Bible. There is a wonderful time and place for extensive theological study of wool in the Bible and what it means; this blessed me by keeping it simple, flexible, and easily relatable. I was intrigued by the idea of women shepherds; in my area I’ve only seen men or boys.

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