Tag Archives: help


S2856293801_b4fd8f405chepherds and Sheep

Our texts today refer to the relationship of sheep and their shepherds.  In Psalm 23 we read perhaps the ultimate statement of individual intimacy with God and the comfort and protection offered by the divine shepherd.  While it refers to troubles and the valley of death, it is more about God-centered living than about death. And in Mark, as in Matthew and Luke, we see God the Son as the compassionate shepherd who, even though he had been trying to avoid the crowds, could not turn his back on the people but taught them and healed them.

Let’s look at this image from both sides.  There are sheep…and there are shepherds.

Sheep are simple animals who spend their days grazing on grass and growing long coats of hair which are later sheared off.  Used for their wool, their milk, their hide, and their meat; they are of great value to their owners.  Sheep have a strong flocking instinct finding the greatest safety in the center of the flock.  Having no means of defence other than running away, sheep are easily startled, and when frightened don’t really pay attention to where they are going,  getting easily caught in brambles or finding themselves separated from the group. Lost sheep have a much lower chance of survival and need to be returned to the herd quickly.

Are we like sheep?  In our readings today the sheep in the texts were metaphors for the people of God.  In Psalm 23 we are grateful sheep, given rest and comfort and assured of the continued presence and guidance of the greatest shepherd.  In Mark we are the crowd, or the flock, seeking Jesus and his presence, teaching and healing.

Shepherds make their living by tending to the sheep.  They are responsible for making sure that the sheep are well fed, kept safe from predators, that ewes give birth safely, and making sure that none of the sheep get lost or stolen.  Shepherds live with the stock, they do not just put them in pens and go into nice cozy houses for the nights.  It is lonely work with no vacation days and certainly no storm days.  For these people, the sheep come first, they are their primary concern.  Think about the human shepherds in the Bible.  Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and King David all worked as shepherds of real sheep.  They also all made great contributions to the advancement and well-being of the Israelites.

Why skip over the stories of the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water?  These are both great examples of shepherding. Jesus provided good grazing, if you will, for the people who had gathered around him and he walked out onto the water when he saw that his disciples were straining at the oars on their boat.  These are big front-page stories and risk taking the focus off of Jesus’ compassion.  We are not just an employer’s sheep here; we are his own sheep whom he loves.

Being of the television generation, several mental pictures immediately spring up when discussing sheep and shepherds.  First is the series of cartoons with the wolf and the big sheepdog checking in on their time clocks and heading out to work, the wolf to try to catch and kill the sheep, and the dog to protect them.  The second is of Babe the pig herding the sheep in the sheepdog competition into separate pens by communicating with them in their own terms.  He knew the magic words…”Baa-ram-ewe”

What dangers do we need our shepherd to protect us from?  We could list hundreds of temptations, and dangers such as muggings etc here, but the only real danger is that we become separated from God.  Sin separates us from God and so we need the shepherd to steer us away from sinful things…to keep us on the straight path.

God sent Jesus to live among us as one of us just as the sheepdogs and Babe did.  Jesus knew our own language.  He knew what we were going through because he lived it.  People could feel this, perhaps the reason he drew such large crowds of people wherever he went.  He knew the magic words.  He was one of us, not trying to make himself much more than us.

A shepherd is a guide.  If you have travelled to new places at all you will realize how much easier it is to get around, how much more comfortable you feel, with a guide who knows the area.  Whether this be a jungle safari or a trip to the Montreal Jazz Festival, it is easier to take in the event when someone else is taking charge of keeping you from straying off.  Someone who has been there before.

God knew this and planned to give us just this sort of guide.  Jesus is such a good shepherd because he also has been a sheep.  While Jeremiah foretells the shepherd, John 1:36 refers to Jesus as, “God’s Passover Lamb” and Acts 8:32, “As a sheep led to slaughter, and quiet as a lamb being sheared,”  Lambs are used to symbolize innocence and only perfect lambs were acceptable for sacrifice to God in the Old Testament.  He has been here before and He knows the way.  It is for us to put our faith in Him and follow in his ways.

 

Psalm 23  The Gospel- Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56

To Stay Or To Go/ Serving One Master


Coda and ShaniI am currently living with my sister for a couple of months and I decided to bring my dog along with me. (he is the little one on the left) It has been interesting watching as they learn to interact with each other as well as with my sister and me.

One of the more interesting things is their figuring out to whom they should be listening. When I tell Coda it is ok to go ahead and eat Shani takes it as her permission as well etc.  Today I was listening from upstairs as my sister did a little training session with the two of them together.  At one point she was trying to get Coda to learn to play dead at the same time as having her dog practice.  It was quite entertaining and I could picture in my head as one would be just about to be rewarded and the other (mostly Coda) would pop up.  My sister told me that one time she called for Coda to do position (between her legs) and Coda started towards her and she looked down and discovered Shani there instead.

This all got me thinking about our struggle to remain obedient and faithful to God. ” ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt 6:24) Not to imply that we are dogs, but I believe we are in exactly the same quandary as our two little dogs. Which one are we supposed to listen to when one is saying “stay” and the other is calling “come”?  For the dogs I suspect there is a combination of inclination to follow the one they know the best but often overtaken by the one most likely to give them a treat.

In our society almost everyone in the commercial world is offering treats of one kind or another; fancy car, softer/firmer skin, guaranteed weight loss, popularity etc. Even if falsely advertised, the rewards of our world are right there in front of us. They are visible and we see other people who have them and wish we could as well. Those rewards are lacking though. They do not include a deeper bond with anybody, they don’t involve a greater understanding of self.

God is the one we know the best as well as the one who has given and offers the best reward.  The problem is that the gifts are neither visible nor tangible. While the gift of new life is already given, it is only immediately present if we are choosing to live it.  God’s call is more subtle, quieter, and easily drowned out by the others clamoring for our attention but we need to listen more closely and stay when he says stay, or go when he says to go.

Come to the Water, You Who Thirst and You’ll Thirst No More


What is at the bottom of your well?  When you are at your lowest and need refreshment, into what does that bucket drop?

We go to friends and family for help, but what if they aren’t available?  What if they have left us?  What if they have died?

There are lots of people out there to whom, for a fee, we can go for help. There are social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors etc.  What if that doesn’t help?

If you believe that there is no God that is where you hit the bottom.  If you rely on your own strength for everything what happens when it turns out your strength has limits?  Then not only do you not get help, you actually add self-blame for your failure to recover.

If you believe in God, the Triune God, there is no bottom to your well at all.  No matter how far you may fall God will reach down to pull you out.  No matter how parched you become, there is no end to the availability of water.

Come to the waters, you who thirst and you’ll thirst no more.
Come to the Father, you who work and you’ll work no more.
And all you who labor in vain and to the broken and shamed:Love is here.
Love is now.
Love is pouring from
His hands, from His brows.
Love is near, it satisfies.
Streams of mercy flowing from His side.
Cuz love is here.

Come to the treasure, you who search and you’ll search no more.
Come to the lover you who want and you’ll want no more, no.
And all you who labor in vain to the broken and shamed,

Yeah:

Love is here.
Love is now.
Love is pouring from
His hands, from His brows.
Love is near, it satisfies.
Streams of mercy flowing from His side.

Yeah

And to the bruised and fallen,
Captives, bound, and broken-hearted.

He is the Lord,
He is the Lord,
Yeah

By His stripes He’s paid our ransom
From His wounds we drink salvation

He is the Lord,
He is the Lord.

Love is here.
Love is now.
Love is pouring from
His hands, from His brows.
Love is near, it satisfies.
Streams of mercy flowing from His side.
Streams of mercy flowing from His side.
Cuz love is here.
Love is here.

these lyrics are submitted by OarSmaN
these lyrics are last corrected by threedaysgracefan9431

repost of Mary’s Angels: “I Am Not Alone”


tonight the moon is a mirror-ballA while back I went out for coffee with a good friend.  During the course of the conversation we touched on many subjects.  She was sharing with me that she had been going for Reike treatments (is that the correct term?) for a while and she said she had an amazing experience at her last session.  She shared the following story with me, and asked as well that I share it with you;

My wish is to have peace and taking part in a Reiki experience has given me this sense of peace and serenity.

My last two experiences have been quite different from my earlier sessions. During these session I encountered my angel. Initially, I saw two glowing lights moving around each other as if they were playing joyfully with one another. I  felt happiness and an immense sense of joy, an almost childlike sense that only the present moment mattered. From the lights, a presence developed as an outline.  The outline gradually became more visible until I could see a hooded figure there with me.  I could not see his/her face. During this time I could see part of a wing that was a vibrant white in color. The energy that was present was very strong and real.

I can’t remember much else regarding this encounter but the feeling that I wasn’t alone. It was as if I was at another level compared to the earthly one. The message that came from this was to enjoy life, have fun and laugh. And more importantly, that I am not alone because my angel that is a very strong one at that is with me at all times. This in turn gives me strength during my spiritual journey called life. Is it possible that this other level is the spiritual parallel place of holiness?

Angels, are they real?  I’ll look into this in a future post with help/reference to Calvin’s Institutes.

Photo credit to Miemo Penttinenmiemo.net

Angels? Get Real!


A Real Snow Angel

The other day I reposted Mary’s Angels: “I Am Not Alone” with the plan of finally getting around to looking at the question of angels as guided by Institutes of the Christian Religion by  John Calvin.

Calvin makes points on nine issues about Angels in the first volume of The Institutes.  I’ll look at three of these in this post.

  1. God is Lord over all!

  2. We should not indulge in speculations concerning the angels, but search out the witness of Scripture

  3. The designation of the angels in Scripture.

  4. The angels as protectors and helpers of believers

  5. Guardian angels?

  6. The hierarchy, number, and form of the angels

  7. The angels are not mere ideas, but actuality

  8. The divine glory does not belong to the angels

  9. The angels must not divert us from directing our gaze to the Lord alone

 In my friend’s story she said, “I encountered my angel.”  While Calvin talks about the fact that angels have been charged by God to watch over our safety, direct our ways, and take care that some harm may not befall us, there doesn’t seem to be any indication in scripture that we each have our own angel assigned to our cases.  The angels protect the people who fear God, the believers.  They do so in many ways which includes lifting us up when we are falling, but they also fight against the devil and our enemies in groups and Legions.

Are the angels glowing lights, and shining figures with wings?  Are they just a breath of inspiration in our minds?  Angels, according to Calvin, are real separate beings.  If they were just inspiration within us, then they would not rejoice over our salvation (Luke 15:10).  They also appear as men in several instances in which they accept hospitality.

So, what’s with glow, the halos, and the wings?  If the angels can appear as men dressed in white and that sort of thing, where do we get this idea about wings and halos?  In section 10 Calvin makes a clear case that God’s glory does not belong to angels.  If this is the case why would they need wings?  God’s glory makes it so that it is unsafe for us to look on him directly.  When we read the Christmas story we hear about the glory of the Lord shining around them and the shepherds being afraid.  God doesn’t need for the angels to glow or have wings.  There is nothing he couldn’t do without the angels.  We are the ones who need them to glow, we need them have wings…It is because of our weakness, our fear that we assign these characteristics to the angels.

Unrequited Love: When What We Love Isn’t Good For Us


It is August, and in New Brunswick that means it is corn season.  I love corn season!  There is nothing to equal the taste of a freshly boiled corn-on-the-cob rolled liberally in butter and salted to perfection!  Let’s pause and give thanks to God for creating such an amazing food!

OK, so my problem is that some years ago I began to have problems digesting corn.  I love corn, but corn doesn’t love me.  I won’t gross you out with details, suffice to say that I am now at the point where I know for a fact that I will suffer significantly if I even eat a tiny serving of niblet corn and a fresh cob is really out of the question.  But then I start to think or say, “it is sooo good !”…”maybe this time it will be ok”…”what is a little pain anyway?”  The end of this story is probably quite clear to you already.  Of course, I end up eating the corn and I enjoy it so much at the time.

My village has an annual corn boil at the community hall around the corner from our home.  What I should do is not even drive by the hall on corn boil night.  Most of the year I don’t have any real problem avoiding eating corn.  The only other challenge is the corn chowder at the fall bazaar.

We all have our issues like this.  Things that we enjoy so much even though they’re not good for us.  Of course many of those issues are a fair bit more important, dangerous, unethical or even illegal.  That is why in the Lord’s prayer it is so important that we have the line, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” 

Too many cooks in the kitchen or many hands make light work?


Yesterday morning dawned bright and early in more than one way.  It was a nice sunny day,  I woke early, and, most importantly, it was the day we were bringing my mother home from the hospital.  I am visiting at my sister’s place to help out with making Mum’s recovery period more safe and pleasant.  This morning was similar in most ways except that now she is housed in a lovely little alcove of the kitchen which is all set up for her needs.  Mum, Dad, my two sisters, and I sat down for breakfast this morning, which hasn’t happened in years!

The first one up yesterday, I started the coffee to brew and then started moving some of the things out of the kitchen alcove and taking up rugs off the floor.  Soon we were in full gear and with the four of us we got all the excess stuff moved, brought a bed downstairs and set up, vacuumed the floor, tidied, sorted etc.  It had none of the air of the panic clean-up really, which I believe can be attributed to the fact that all four of us worked away, planning and consulting and joking as we went.  One sister commented that we should make this a tradition.  Because it was so easy and pleasant she suggested that we all visit one another each summer, and work together to clean and organize our houses.  She was joking of course, but was speaking to the idea of many hands making light work.

The flip side of that can be that things get confused and unnecessarily complicated when you have, “too many cooks in the kitchen.”  This expression is in reference to the disastrous results possible if everyone puts salt in the soup because they don’t know it was already done.  I’m sure there were times yesterday when Mum would have liked us to shoo and stop asking how she was feeling and if she needed anything.  Being asked the first time is fine, but having four people ask every time they come into the room would get most tiresome!  There can even be safety issues such as more than one person coaching with technique of walking with the walker and another asking an unrelated question.  Overload is something with which most of us are all too familiar.

The work of the Kingdom is a massive and daunting task.  The good news is that we have many hands to do this work and most importantly the presence and presence of the Holy Spirit and example of Jesus to mitigate the possible too many cooks scenario.  Our churches are at their weakest not as much when we lack volunteers, though that is a big issue, but when opinion divides and people butt heads over procedural or organizational decisions to the extent that they become stuck.  In its largest form this has already happened with the division into denominations.  If you look at the doctrines of the different denominations of the Christian church you will see differences in many areas, but in the real core issues of faith, they are more alike than different.

There is little that we are going to do, as individuals and individual churches, to take all these denominations and blend them back into one.  We can, however, keep our congregational and individual focus on the many hands doing the work and remember that God is the only cook who is really needed.

Out of the Loop


I have discovered something about myself in the past two days, well I actually knew before but it was reinforced.  I do not function well when I don’t know what is going on.  This has, over the years, been a cause of stress when organizations or activities are first getting started, during that bedlam period before people settle into their roles.  It is even more of an issue when, as in the current situation, there is a health issue with family members who are a long way away and I am not there with them.  It isn’t as if my presence on the scene would be of any help to anyone else other than moral support, but I would still rather be there.  I know that things are being well looked after, and if there is anything important happening the news will get to me quickly.

 

From this remote location (remote from the situation, not from civilization) all I can really do is pray that God will be there for all of my family members, for the health care workers, etc.  Why is it, that when God is such a great power and comfort, that it feels like nothing to pray?  I wrote it at the beginning of this paragraph, and you hear people say it all the time, “Well, all we can do is pray!”  It is almost as if we are saying that all the actually useful things have been done already and as some kind of futile last resort we might try prayer.

 

Social media has been much maligned for taking people away from real contact with people.  I would like to add another perspective.  Prayer is far more powerful than most of us, even those who pray regularly, realize.  For years my grandmother used to have a prayer list delivered to her by her church, long after she was able to get out to services.  Every day she would sit down and purposefully spend some time in prayer for the people on the list, whether she knew them or not.  Face Book has in some ways become a global prayer list.  Depending on one’s privacy settings, if you post that a loved one is ill all of your friends will know about it, many of them will add your relative to their prayer lists, and their friends may do so as well.

 

However you come upon the information that someone is in trouble; in person, through word of mouth, or through social media, take a quiet moment and send a prayer or just positive thoughts to God on behalf of that person, it isn’t “just a prayer,” it is powerful because it is love!

Follow the Bubbles: 8 Lessons from the cenotes


My sister and I just got back from a trip to Cancun.  We had been there before and planned to mostly sit in the shade and read books.  We did decide to visit Xcaret (esh-ca-ret) which is one of the biggest parks in the Cancun area.  There is so much to do there that we will need to go back several times to cover everything.  Our biggest adventure was definitely when we decided to go ahead and try snorkeling through the cenotes (underground rivers).We hummed and hawed considerably, but eventually packed our things in a locked waterproof bag to be taken to the outlet area next to the sea.  Next we got in line and picked up flotation vests, goggles, snorkels, and swim fins.  We set off to the entrance spot.

 

Our swim in through a cenote began with gingerly stepping into the cold water in a brightly lit and beautifully clear pool.  Once acclimated to the temperature it is quite beautiful and little effort is required due to your flotation device.  A little practice breathing with the snorkel and we were off…

 

Faces down in the water and breathing through our snorkels we headed off down  the river.  We were a little nervous, but  reassured by the idea that it was a river and would head directly to the sea.  What could go wrong with that?  Well, it sounded good!  We quickly moved from this swim in the sunlight, into…

 

the dark.  While you were able in the darker underground areas to see a glimmer of light up ahead, this was only the case when you had your head above water.  When you swam into these areas with your face down you were frequently unable to see anything.  It is here that the trouble began.

 

There were two main problems; staying together and finding the right path.  With my sister in the lead not lifting her head at any point I was aware when we took our first wrong turn but unable to catch up to grab her swim fins there was no way to get the message to her.  When we came to the next open area, which had no outlet, I explained about our wrong turn and we headed back around.  Eventually we ended up behind the group who had entered after us and came out into another open area where a man who worked for the park wanted us to pose for a picture.  Somewhat dazed, we complied but didn’t strike any happy thumbs up pose at all and in the end we didn’t manage to find and buy the picture which would have been our only proof that we had really gone on this excursion.

 

We left that area, headed downstream.  I led this time and all was going well, I thought.  We came into the light in another spot but it seemed that we shouldn’t have been there.  With a picture of the map of the park in our heads, it seemed that we had somehow gone in the wrong direction again.  We made the decision to go back to the start  and get out.

 

If you have been paying attention, you will know that this decision meant that we would be swimming upstream the whole rest of the time in the cenote.  Did I mention that I am a middle-aged, not terribly fit individual?  We only made one more wrong turn in our adventure but the struggle to keep up and stay in contact was considerable for me.  Very often I felt that as much as I used my feet to propel me, I was going nowhere.  I had to use my arms most of the time just to keep up.

 

How did we end up getting out of the cenote?  My sister, in the lead, stopped frequently to make sure I was still with her and encourage me,  and I followed her bubbles which, under water, is the same as following her breath.  So long as I was near the bubbles, I knew that even if we were lost, we were lost together.

 

The steps, when we found them, were a welcome sight.  We were not just climbing out of the water after a vigorous swim, we were climbing out of the dark and uncertainty, and we were together!

 

What lessons may be taken from the story of our adventure?
1. If you have to go into the dark, take a friend.

2.When you are leading people don’t forget to lift your head up to stay on track.

3. When you are in the lead, stop frequently to be sure those behind you are still there, and encourage them.

4. Stay together in dark as well as in the light.

5. It is harder work getting back on track once you have taken a wrong turn, but do it anyway.

6. Like your life vest, God will keep you afloat come what may.

7. There is no substitute for a good map (Bible) or a guide (Jesus).

 8. No matter what, keep the bubbles (the breath of God or the Spirit) in view at all times.