“They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him.” (Matthew 27:29)
We are told that creation itself moans because of the curse put upon us. Everything bears the mark of humankind’s sin. I don’t know how to understand it—but I believe plants, animals, and all of creation respond in some way to the God who made them.
If a thorn bush could think, I wonder how it might have mourned to know that its branches were used to hurt the very One who had made it. If a bush could have shed tears rather than causing blood to be shed, and a bush could choose, I wonder whether the bush would have chosen tears.
I hear someone saying, “Lambs are cute and woolly, and all that. But aren’t sheep ‘dumb’ and helpless creatures? I’m not sure I want to be like a sheep.”
In answer, I’ll offer a few snippets of Bible verses:
“I am the Good Shepherd.”
“My sheep hear my voice.”
“Like sheep without a shepherd”
“Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
“The Lord is my shepherd.”
“He leads me beside still waters.”
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
“His rod and staff comfort me.”
“We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray.”
“I lay down my life for the sheep.”
“Oh. Well. When He puts it that way … I’ll follow Him like a sheep if that’s what it takes to hear His voice, know His goodness, enjoy those green pastures and still waters, live the life He made possible by laying down His own. … But, what does that mean in real life? for me? How does this sheep thing work?”
I’m glad you asked. God the Father gave us this picture of His sheep in His pastures. He even sent His Son to be the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. But He knew it would be hard for us to fathom such love and all the nuances of such a lamb-like life of trust. So He provided human under-shepherds. And He provided some earthy, mucking-in-the-barn and traipsing-in-the-pastures, shepherds of flocks. These people know sheep. They can tell us a lot about those creatures that God says we are like.
“I’ll bet those shepherds could tell some stories! From what the Bible says, sheep can get into a lot of trouble.”
In fact, I have two friends who are shepherds of sheep. Their names are Marilyn and Millie, two women who have raised thousands of lambs and tended flocks on their farms in Colorado. They have given names to many of their lambs and gotten to know their individual sheep quirks and personalities. They’ve nursed sick sheep, bottle-fed orphan lambs, called flocks in from the pasture, protected them from marauding dogs and hungry coyotes. They’ve laughed at sheep antics and cried over their losses and vulnerabilities.
“I’d like to meet those shepherdesses and visit the sheep farm, but I don’t suppose I ever will.”
But you can! Vicariously. Just read Marilyn and Millie’s book of sheep stories. They’ll even help you better understand how to follow the Good Shepherd “like a sheep of His pasture.”
I hear writers bemoan the demands and distractions in their days (including technology) and how hard it is for them to achieve balance in their lives. Perhaps you’ve felt that, too. You’re working at the computer and think you’ll just check Facebook for a few minutes. An hour later, you wonder where the time went. Or you hear the musical tone that tells you new emails or text messages have arrived on your cell phone. You were just about to focus in on the theme of a blog post you’re preparing to write. You touch your phone screen, read the text and one thing leads to another. Let’s see, where did that inspiration, that thought, that focus go?
I ought to read more, pray more, call so-in-so, go shopping, attend those meetings, deep clean my house/office, sort through papers, watch those recommended movies, re-decorate my house, exercise more … while tweeting, blogging, posting, submitting copy to editors.
So, how do we achieve “balance”?
Or, is that even the right question?
I got help on this issue a few days ago when I attended the “Writers on the Rock” Christian writers conference in Lakewood, Colorado, as a workshop presenter. Happily, I had opportunity to go to a session taught by Allen Arnold of Ransomed Heart Ministries. “Balance isn’t the key,” he told us. “God wants us to write—not for him or about him—but with him. This leads to a wildly unbalanced life. Let other things fall away.”
Demonstrating his teaching, Allen presented a creative, God-breathed message that brought clarity to my mind and both piercing and encouragement to my heart. In fact, the heart was his theme.
“Infuse Your Creativity with Heart” was his topic. “Nothing great was ever achieved without great heart,” stated the workshop blurb in the conference program. “Yet writers often become disheartened, discouraged or overwhelmed” (that’s where I started this post, remember?) “and when they do, their stories slowly begin to die.” Allen’s workshop promised to tell us “how to discover the truer you, consecrate your creativity, and feast on hidden Spiritual Manna.” He delivered on that promise.
A tall man with a joyful smile and eyes that seem ready to laugh with you or cry with you according to your need and the Lord’s leading, he said, “God cares far more about the story you’re living than the story you’re writing. Live well. Then write well.”
Does living well mean keeping up with everything the world, and even the church, often tells us we should keep on top of and keep “in balance?”
“You can’t write a better story than you’re living,” Allen Arnold states. “Nothing is more important than how a story was born—what your heart is like at the time of writing. … Your writing changes when it becomes about presence over productivity.”
If writing and connecting with readers to encourage them, lift their sights to Jesus, come alongside them, instruct them in the living Word, bring them hope through a well-told story, is what gives you life … then this may be what the Lord is calling you to do; and to live out this calling, you will have to let some other things fall away.
Tend to your heart. Then write and connect and live a “wildly unbalanced life” in—and flowing out from—the presence of Jesus.
Update: I recently got Allen Arnold’s book, The Story of WITH : A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create. I recommend it! ~ C.L.