Gratitude Day 228
Mon., Mar. 11, 2019
Isaiah 40:11 – Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock; he will gather lambs in his arms and lift them onto his lap. He will gently guide the nursing ewes.
Shepherding is serious business. Or at least my sister, Debbie, and her family think so.
Growing up, my sisters and I raised sheep. While our sheep were our 4-H projects, they also taught us valuable life lessons: being responsible for them, caring for their health and making choices about what ewes to keep as breeding stock.
We also learned a great deal during lambing season. While we wanted the ewes to care for their own lambs, there were times this was impossible, or the ewes needed a little encouragement. Sometimes, a mother ewe died during lambing. Some moms may not want to care for all of her lambs. These were difficult lessons to learn, as we then became the lamb’s surrogate mothers. I remember getting up in the middle of the night and feeding baby lambs bottles when I was barely a teenager.
About a week ago, I spent a couple days at my sister Debbie’s house. They are in the middle of lambing season. While they may not have a huge flock, they are very attentive to their sheep’s needs. We’ve also had a cold and snowy winter. Because of the weather, Debbie has been especially vigilant about caring for the new babies as well as their mothers.
The first night I was staying at Debbie’s, the temperature dipped to -15 degrees; without the windchill. Debbie, her husband and son had been taking turns checking the sheep every couple hours. Debbie had been up since way before dawn the previous morning, as a lamb was born. I offered to take the middle-of-the-night shifts while I stayed two nights so Debbie and my nephew Kevin could get some sleep. We wanted to make sure the new lambs and ewes continued to do well. We also checked to see if there were any new babies.
Is there anything cuter than these baby lambs? They are adorable! When you walk into the barn, the lambs are excited to see you. Some hop right up and come bounding over to see you. Other lambs are content to just be until you encourage them to run around a bit. The ewes love hay anytime of the day.
These sheep are extremely well cared for. They know their names and they know us when we come in by them. They love attention and nuzzling. Generally, all of the lambs have taken very well care of their babies this year and there have been no bottle lambs.
Shepherding takes time, commitment, dedication and knowledge. In these aspects, shepherding hasn’t changed a bit since Jesus lived 2,000 years ago. Yes, we may have a little different equipment and better rations to feed, but the basic concepts for caring for sheep are still there.
Because of my background raising sheep, the metaphor for God and Jesus being a good shepherd is very easy for me to imagine. We pick up the lambs and give them attention, just as God loves to have us in God’s lap and give us attention. We encourage the lambs to nurse from their mom’s if we feel the lambs aren’t getting enough milk. In fact, if the mother ewe feels it’s time for her lambs to nurse, she will blat to the lambs. It is amazing that her particular lambs will come running right over to her. Out of all of the lambs and all of the ewes, how do these particular ewes know it’s their mother that is calling them? If we listen carefully, we too, can hear God’s voice speak to us; if we quiet ourselves long enough to hear God.
Debbie and her family pour hours into caring for their little flock. My nephew Kevin takes great interest in making the most of his 4-H and FFA sheep project today. I’d like to think that the metaphor of God as the good shepherd inspires them as they shepherd their flock.
Whether we have or had sheep, I pray the metaphor of God as the good shepherd inspires us as well. May we see the loving care God provides for all the sheep of God’s flock. May we see how God knows each lamb and their name, just like God is acutely aware of each person as well as our names and special requests. And when the good shepherd speaks to us, I pray that we stop and listen.
For inspiration from sheep and God as the good shepherd, I am grateful.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd – thank you for caring for us in such a special, deep and meaningful way. May your care for your flock inspire and encourage us. Thanks for watching over us every day. Amen.
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