30 September 2014

Why "walK with THE Wise?"

Last Spring, at my elementary kids' Spring Concert, one of the classes - and actually not a class containing one of my crew - sang a song... an old Patch the Pirate song I remember from many moons ago. Called "Walk with the Wise," I can still hear those second graders emphatically emphasizing the final "k" sound every time they sang the word walK... all throughout the song.  

The words go something like this:

You'd better
Walk with the wise
You'd better flee from the fool
Find a friend who walks with God
To walk along with you
Choose your friends carefully
Be what you ought to be
Walk with the wise

The point of the song is to be wise when you pick with whom you are hang out. As long as it doesn't encourage Christians (or give them excuse) to retreat into Christian compounds where they never rub shoulders with the rest of the world, it is excellent advice.

I started thinking about the song because just last week I read the Bible verse - for a totally different reason - on which the song is based: He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. (Proverbs 13.20) I had already decided I was going to do 31 days of Proverbs as a blogging project, so I'm reading through the book of Proverbs as a part of my devotional time this October. Then, I thought it would be fun to try and join in with the Five Minute Friday writers, who are spending only 5 minutes writing each of their 31 days posts.

Yeah - it is getting complicated.

But I think it will be fun.

What was the reason I turned to Proverbs 13.20? Because if I want to "walK with THE Wise," my very best choice is to make sure I walk humbly each day with my Jesus, doing justly, loving mercy and agreeing with Him as He teaches me and shows me what it is to walk with Him in a world that, for the most part, could care less about Him.

The one caveat I'm allowing myself - I will have my quiet/devo time and study each Proverb - for as long as the Lord leads and life allows, figure out how I'm going to relate it to the prompt (hoping I can), and then set the five minute timer.

Hope you'll tag along with me - be sure and comment if you do! 

29 September 2014

Encountering Jesus ~ Two really important "I ams!"

(This beautiful photo was taken by my friend, Jenny Hall.)
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10.7-19)
The first verses in this chapter discuss how Jesus is the only One with the right to enter by way of the door and that anyone who enters by any other way is a sheep and a robber.  It follows on the tail of Jesus' indictment of the Pharisees, proudly choosing blindness while pretending to see and leading others astray - after Jesus healed the man born blind.

Jesus appears to continue speaking to this group of Pharisees... but there is a drastic subject change. All of a sudden, He stops talking about light and begins talking about sheep... and gates... and shepherds. What doesn't change is the continued rebuke and refutation of the Pharisees' arrogant claims to be the rightful religious leaders of God's chosen people. 

In the first 6 verses, the Pharisees are compared to thieves and robbers because they do not enter in an authorized fashion; rather, they climb in subversively rather than walking openly through the gate. Jesus is the only one with the both the authorization and authority to enter by the gate - and I looked at that last week.

Now, Jesus compares Himself to the actual gate. This is not so much an explanation of His previous words... rather, it appears to broaden His original statement. Jesus is the gate : the way through which His sheep must pass when leaving the protection of the paddock to find provision and pasture, but also the only way back from the abundance of the field to shelter in the rest and security of the fold.

I appreciate what W. Hall Harris III says as he considers the transition from chapter 9 to chapter 10: "...chapter 9 [provides] a perfect illustration of these very actions: instead of properly caring for the man born blind, the Pharisees [threw] him out (9:34). Jesus, in contrast, as the good Shepherd, found him (9:35) and led him to safe pasture. Just like the sheep in 10:4-5 will not follow a stranger because they do not know his voice, so the man born blind refused to listen to the Pharisees, but turned to Jesus, an illustration of the sheep who recognize the voice of their true master."

If the Pharisees did not recognize what Jesus was talking about at this point, Jesus' next statements are unmistakably clear. Look at these words, from Ezekiel: 
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.'"
The priests, scribes and Pharisees had had literally hundreds of years to shepherd God's people - to care for them, strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, return the strays, search for the lost - and they hadn't. Instead they saw them only as a resource, an acceptable sacrifice all the while burdening them with impossible additions to the law that they themselves were not always necessarily subject to. As a result, God's people scattered, became victims, wandered lost, felt helpless. Rather than acting as a shepherd should, they acted as a hired hands would.

God was not pleased.

And just as He had always planned, He sent the Good Shepherd. He sent His Son... Jesus. He sent "I am."

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 4852 - 4880)

a fun picnic (even though it was cool and rainy) and "new volunteer family of the year" award!

French programs and Chromebooks finally agreeing to talk to each other

a week of safe, independent driving

some laughs about getting lost while driving independently

fried fish

birthday cards and birthday wishes

little girl birthday party and clothespin dolls

a new friend over to spend the night

this song that the choir sang in church on Sunday - and how it has ministered to my heart all week long

a new bike

looking forward to a vacation

a starter in the volleyball game

a birthday greeting from Venice

listening to Pam Tebow speak

laughing about "user error" - user error is something I do well

finally stretching out a muscle that has been hurting for a looooong time - and a few hours of no pain

a letter from a sweet friend I'd not heard from for awhile

great online conversations after a few recent blog posts

amazing beauty of fall

blue skies, neon red, orange and yellow leaves, crisp cool air - I just can't get enough of it

encouragement and a plan for some dear friends facing hard physical challenges right now

humongous pumpkins dropped inside my door

Elsie Mae reading "Boxcar Kids" to M&M

listening to M&M tell all about her field trip to the apple orchard... and the "maze" was her favorite part, after eating donuts

going out to dinner with part of the fam on a Friday night... just because

that important interview finally scheduled

catching strep throat right at the beginning

seeing ESL students making progress

excited girlies finding Geometry so much easier than Algebra

Ten most recent posts in this series: 
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

28 September 2014

Taking a trip... It's called a blog tour...

How is it that I'm participating in a blog tour, yet I've never published a book and am not sure that I ever will? I've never even officially written a book, unless you count the Sheep Tales scripts, written in French as a collaborative project, but that still have never been recorded... at least not as far as we know?

Well, I guess I'd have to say I decided to be a part of this one because of who invited me... I want y'all to be aware of and consider working through her recently published Bible study on the book of Hebrews. But, I'm also joining in because there are a few blogs out there that I've found encouraging... written by some neat gals who often see things differently than I and who are consistently challenging me with their thoughts... They've also either given me opportunity to write or have encouraged me along the way in my own writing journey.

My dear friend who's been like a big sister to me since our college days at Penn State is the one who invited me along for this ride. Nivine Richie is one of my most favorite people in this world and I wish we didn't live so far away. I can't think of her and her family without thanking God that our life paths crossed for a season many years ago. Even way back in those college days, it was clear that God gifted her in communicating truths from the Bible. She was always provoking me to ponder and process God's Word! She still challenges me, today, almost every time we correspond.

Wife, mother, and university professor, she has had the privilege of leading many ladies’ Bible studies or co-leading small groups with her husband, Pat, over the years. She is involved in women’s ministry in her local church and in the Christian faculty organization on campus. Her first book, Enduring Faith: An 8-week Devotional Study of the Book of Hebrews is published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and is available on Amazon.

Thanks so much, Nivine, most importantly for inviting me to be your friend so many years ago, but also for this opportunity by including me in a blog tour.

Now, to answer a few questions:

1. What I am working on now?
I'm not writing a book or anything. I tend to stick with essays that I publish on three different blogs: Our Wright-ing Pad - more family, personal and ministry related topics. I also continue to write for two collective blogs - a life overseas: the missions conversation and Missionary Moms Companion. On our personal blog, I'm participating in a blog writing challenge - writing for 31 days in the month of October on the same topic. My topic is the Book of Proverbs - a proverb a day. However, I'm tacking on another facet to the challenge. I'm only writing for five minutes (that doesn't include study/prep time). I'm continuing to write a series on Encountering Jesus, working my way through the book of John. I've got about seven posts left on a series dealing with longevity in ministry (inspired by a sermon my home pastor preached this summer). And last, but not least, there's always the aspiring-to-be-monthly-but-still-failing prayer letter that is a part of our missions ministry!

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Frankly, I'm not sure. I write for a specific audience in each place that I write. My goal is to communicate in a clear and informative way what's going on in our lives (as a family), things God is teaching me, and to encourage all who read - but often focusing on the expat/missions community around the world.

3. Why do I write what I write?
I write for three reasons. Quite simply, I process life by writing. I learn, I test new-to-me ideas, I come to conclusions, I study, I remember... I really am one of those persons who has to write a grocery list but when I forget my list at home, I can still remember almost everything I need from the store simply because that action of writing helps me process and store information. I write because I am compelled to share what God is teaching and those words spill out more intelligibly in written than in oral from. I am a teacher, through and through. I also write so that our friends and family will know our children. Having spent most of the past 15 years overseas, I wanted a way to allow others to be a part of our children's lives, even when they couldn't be physically present.

4. How does my writing process work?
Usually late at night or early in the morning, when everyone else is asleep... if it works! I tend to plan out posts in advance, sketch out an outline, pray about the material (unless it is just silliness with the kids or fun stuff around our home and in our family life) - sometimes it takes a couple of weeks or more to actually write a post. Writing helps me to process the world around me, delve deep into God's Word, and keep accountable as far as Bible study and communicating with those who partner with us in ministry... so that's why I do it.

Finally, the really cool bit of this post and any blog tour. I get to introduce to you to lovely women I've been getting to know via blogging. Be sure and pop by their sites - they've got some really neat stuff to share! Maybe someday, I'll get to meet these wonderful women in real life!

Colleen Mitchell, at least as I've gotten to know her online, is an encourager. She is wife to Greg of 17 years and mother to five precious sons here on earth. She also has five precious children awaiting her in heaven.

In 2011, she and her husband formed a non-profit, St. Bryce Missions, and they currently work in Costa Rica among the Cabecar indigenous peoples. They run the St. Francis Emmaus Center out of their mission home to provide access to medical care, support and health education to indigenous mothers.

As a woman, wife, homeschooling mom, missionary and writer, Colleen wear a lot of hats in her daily life, but the most important thing to is to live the love of Jesus with all her heart.


Liz Kamper almost always makes me smile - her facebook comments, lines in her blog posts, her comments on my blog posts! She lives in Costa Rica (I just realized that both of these ladies live in Costa Rica!) along with her husband and three boys. They serve alongside the great people at Iglesía Uníon. Her days are filled with wrangling boys and an occasional animal or two, and well as spending time over a cup of coffee with the other women God has brought across her path. She writes at A Part of the Whole.

27 September 2014

Longevity in Ministry ~ "Habituate yourself" ~

Thomas Jefferson once said: 
"Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself..."

Several weeks ago, I started a series that I'm hoping will be both a challenge and encouragement to you, based off of a sermon by the senior pastor at my sending church
    In my last post, I identified seven priorities that are absolutely essential for me- ones that protect me from burnout and the temptation of sin, ones that give me direction and hope for the future, ones that remind me from whence comes any measure of progress and success. Those priorities are:
    1. Growing an increasingly intimate relationship with the Lord by consistently, daily and throughout the day, seeking Him; 
    2. Praying without ceasing (steadfastly, continuously, patiently, powerfully); 
    3. Striving to maintain a good balance between personal growth and service or ministry; 
    4. Welcoming accountability; 
    5. Committing to marriage and family; 
    6. Choosing to be teachable even in difficult circumstances; and 
    7. Determining to be a genuine team player.
    Today, I want to consider what may seem obvious...

    ...but it is so critical that its importance cannot be overstated. 

    Absolutely key to a longevity on the mission field (or in ministry... or in life) that pleases the Lord is a continual seeking after and dependence upon Jesus - a persistent devotional life characterized and a consistent, continual seeking of His wisdom as the guide for not only our big decisions, but our day to day actions... even our very thoughts and mental meanderings.  We've got to walk with Him daily -  all day, every day, every moment of every day. "The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm..."

    To read the rest, please head on over to Missionary Moms Companion... 
    And this isn't just a post for missionaries, but for anyone seeking to minister well over the long-term.

    26 September 2014

    Five Minute Friday ~ Because ~

     Because ~
    • It has been two such crazy, busy weeks...
    • I'm working on taking care of some physical things that have been put off for such a long time...
    • I've got four girls in high school and high school schedules are insanely crazy and...
    • We, as a family let it get that way (the insanely crazy bit)...
    • I'm teaching something I've never taught this way before in a new school and the learning curve is more like a vertical straight up...
    • Friends need me to prioritize praying for their very real and very big needs...
    • Temperamental internet frustrates, even in America...
    • I like to snuggle my littles who still like to be snuggled...
    • There's a bug collection due in just a week or so...
    • Fall's happening right now, I love this time of year, I've missed so many Falls while overseas, and it has been gorgeous outside on so many recent days so I'm soaking in God's marvelous creation in this season...
    • Of what's happening right in front of me as these kiddos play, need help with homework, learn responsibility around the house, have birthday parties, forget their instruments or their lunch, need my computer to do their French...
    • The food doesn't cook itself, neither have I yet trained the dishes to take care of the kitchen...
    • I don't get paid to do this...

    It's been a week since I last looked at this blog.

    I've missed it, because writing is a big part of how I process life. 
    But sometimes? 

    Life just gets in the way and that's okay

    ...just because.

    And now, a post script in which I take off on a total rabbit trail...

    Anyone else remember when parents said "...just because," being completely frustrated, and then swearing you'd never do the same to your kids?

    How many understand better now the beauty of 
    ...just because?

    Linking up with Kate for Five Minute Friday.

    18 September 2014

    Five Minute Friday ~ Hold

    "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."
    “Now that you are eighty, you must know the secret of life. What is it?” literary critic Donald Hall demanded of the well known English sculptor, Henry Moore.

    The question was not an unusual one. I find Mr. Moore's answer, however, beyond intriguing: “The secret of life is to have a task, something you do your entire life, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is: It must be something you cannot possibly do.”

    Most of my mundane aspirations couldn't begin to meet that requirement. A task that takes all of me all of my time all of my life to do - all the while knowing that I'll never actually be able to do it because it is far beyond what I can do. Or as the Paul writes, striving to take hold of... to apprehend... those very things for which Christ had to come, suffer on a cross, die, be buried and raised, for which He grabbed hold of me.

    The Greek word translated hold - katalambánō - is a compound word: katá, meaning down, according to, and which intensifies the second part, lambánō. Lambánō, defined, means to aggressively take, to take hold of exactly and with decisive initiative or eager self-interest, to grasp something in a forceful manner, (figuratively) to apprehend or comprehend therefore making it one's own.

    He's taken hold of me and made me His own so that I can grab hold of Him, make Him my own and lay claim to His good promises.

    That's a thought too big for my heart and mind to truly hold.

    Linking up with Kate for another 5MF!

    17 September 2014

    When a colleague fails ~

    How are we supposed to act when a colleague sins?
    It happens, and I’m not talking about the respectable sins with which we all struggle. I’m talking about the big ones – the ones that result in missionaries sent home from the field or pastors asked to leave their churches…

    What are we to do? How are we supposed to act?
    I know what sorts of behaviors and attitudes surface most naturally in me.
    I criticize. Blame. Ostracize. Shame.
    I want to gossip – even though I usually manage to restrain myself. I convince myself I could NEVER sin that sin – at least not the same way nor as sordidly as my colleague did… I sigh as I wonder how the ministry will ever weather the repercussions.
    I want to disqualify that person from ever being part of “my team,” again. I might thank God for protecting me from such a wretched mistake, possibly praying, “Thank You, God, that I am not like those those who are unrighteous, who steal, those who commit <that really bad sin>… and Lord, especially that I’m not like____________” filling in the blank with the name of my “fallen” colleague.
    Jesus had some pretty strong words for such an attitude...
    Please jump on in to the discussion of this topic @
    where I'm posting today!

    15 September 2014

    Encountering Jesus ~ Authority and Authorization

    “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. (John 10.1-6)
    There is no indication that at the beginning of this chapter, there is either a new audience or a new theme. Rather, it is a continuation of the discussion from the previous chapter, where not only did the Pharisees insist that their spiritual vision was 20/20, they also persisted in encouraging other Jews to follow them, confident that shepherding the people was their responsibility and that they were the infallible guides for an ignorant populace. The very ones who should have been the first to recognize the prophesied Messiah, welcomed Him as the Good Shepherd and then led others to follow Him - always decreasing so that He might increase (as John the Baptist said)??? ...they were the very ones seeking most emphatically to discredit Him and discourage others from seeing Him and seeking after God. Perhaps most serious of all, they presumptuously sought to exert control over the people of Israel.

    In response, Jesus uses a triad of illustrations, ones with which his audience would be very familiar. Several prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah) used similar imagery to describe true and godly leaders verses false teachers, prophets and leaders. The prophets anticipated a future time when a good Shepherd would come, fulfilling all  that God expected and desired. Shepherds were common in the Jewish culture - think of all if the biblical accounts that include shepherds as part of the narrative. Think of all of the well-known shepherds in Israelite history - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons, Moses, David, the shepherds to whom the angels announced Jesus' arrival.

    First, Jesus says the Good Shepherd will be identified by how He arrives. And that is through the gate. A thief or a robber will have to find some unauthorized way to sneak in. The genuine Good Shepherd will come with confidence - authority and authorization - and will seek entrance... or audience with the people... through only legitimate and straightforward, upfront means. 

    I wonder if perhaps John the Baptist was an example of a gatekeeper?

    The sheep hear and respond to the voice of their Good Shepherd because of trust, faith and a history of past experience where the One associated with that voice has cared for, provided for, led, protected... in other words, shepherded. I've heard it said that sheep need a leader, not because they are dumb - but rather because they understand that alone, they are weak. Their Shepherd is their benefactor. He also knows each one by name. Each member of the flock is unique and an individual to the Good Shepherd. That speaks to the intimacy with which the Good Shepherd knows each member of His flock.

    Perhaps the most striking-for-me words in this particular passage are the words "he goes on ahead of them." While living in Niger, we saw flocks of sheep - every day. As my husband likes to point out, there were typically two kinds of shepherds: those who walked on ahead and the sheep followed willingly... or those who drove their sheep forward in front of them, often beating them with their staff to keep them moving. 

    Jesus is a Shepherd to be followed. He goes before us - leading, providing, protecting. He is also our example. We who follow Him should tread in his steps: graciously, humbly, lovingly, patiently, teachably, sacrificially... yet confidently because when we hear His voice, we know it. We recognize Him, His majesty, His authority and His unchangingness.

    He is the Good Shepherd. 

    If only the Pharisees had understood. 

    this week's gratitude list

    (#'s 4820 - 4851)
    Elsie Mae's is 8

    and she's out of her booster seat

    which makes her very, very happy

    planning a birthday party

    praying for a successful driving test for a driver in training this week

    hearing about (and celebrating) the engagement of a very special young guy

    youth group kick off

    an early fall cold snap

    goldenrod blooming gold along the side of the road, making me smile. I LOVE wildflowers!

    family over for Sunday afternoon dinner

    Anna and Elsa dolls

    hearing my boy play his flute again, with the orchestra at church



    being asked what "born again" means by some guys who really seemed to listen to the answer

    challenging, provoking fb conversations

    internet that is at least sort of working... even amid the frustrations of the ways it isn't working

    a rootbeer float... because I haven't had one in such a long, long time

    the end of a long week

    meeting friends we've not seen in over 5 years last Monday night

    watching my big girlies (the ones that remembered) hug that missionary aunt and uncle

    finally figuring out where Elsie Mae's original Nigerien birth certificate is

    renewed passports

    homemade ice/gel packs (super easy and convenient, by the way!)

    great initial meeting with a physical therapists - hopeful that there will soon be a full return to strength and movement without pain

    friends who bring us dinner for no reason other than they want to love on us

    great carnival weekend at our church

    hot air balloons floating over our house

    big girls going out with friends

    watching others who are willing to learn and change as they invest in the lives of the international students attending Calvary

    so many adults who've invested in and impacted my children... and hearing my biggers talk about what that means to them

    realizing anew how overwhelming God's simple goodness to us can be

    Ten most recent posts in this series: 
    Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

    14 September 2014

    Longevity in Ministry ~ The essentials? Or merely superfluous? ~

    Several weeks ago, I started a series that I'm hoping will be both a challenge and encouragement to you, based off of a sermon by the senior pastor at my sending churchThe first post focused on that oxymoron that the God is sovereign, but that men are also responsible. Imagining those two truths as a horseshoe where, as mere humans, we only see and comprehend the ends. God, on the other hand, looks at the whole and thus can see how two things that appear contradictory do actually work together. The second post considered one of the ends of that horseshoe: trusting God, not only because He is sovereign - but because He is sufficient in that sovereignty. The third post explored the other end of that horseshoe and specifically what God's Word says about obedience and abiding in Christ.

    2003 study on missionary retention/attrition observed that the number of missionaries leaving missions for preventable reasons is increasing. One of the interesting details...

    To read the rest, please join me over at Missionary Mom's Companion, where yesterday, I continued a series on this topic of longevity in ministry.

    12 September 2014

    Five Minute Friday ~ Ready ~

    "On your mark... 

         Get set... 


    Sometimes, some days, (okay - if I'm honest, most days) parenting feels like a race... and I'm always a few steps behind!

    Chasing them out of bed in the morning... chasing them to the breakfast table... chasing them out of the little parent bathroom upstairs to the nice, big kid bathroom downstairs... chasing them out of my bedroom so I can use the mirror to fix my hair... chasing them out the door to school and then later out the door to home... chasing them back up the stairs to pick up their backpacks and school paraphernalia...

    Always racing, always chasing...

    Today, I want to stop, though... freeze this moment in time... for just a moments... 

    to soak it in deep before time continues racing along and they all continue growing up. Not that I want them to stop growing up... I really wouldn't want it any other way, actually. Does that make me a strange mama? I love watching them living life, partnering with their daddy as we disciple this gang just thrills and delights - at least most days. Seeing Jesus grow them in grace and in the knowledge of Him? That just bowls my heart right over.

    She's eight.


    And boy, oh boy! Is she ever ready to...


     Yes, for my Elsie Mae, this eighth birthday is a momentous one.

    Just because of that!


    She's ready, alright.

    I really did allow her to go traipsing around Niagra Falls dressed in a sundress and snowboots.

    Happy birthday, sweetest birthday girl!

    08 September 2014

    Encountering Jesus ~ "I just don't get it? Why didn't they understand?" ~

    “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. (John 10.1-6)
    John 10 appears to continue directly from where John 9 ended. Jesus is still addressing the Pharisees. At the end of chapter 9, He had informed them that they were blind, spiritually. Jesus wanted them to understand that because of their refusal to let Him help them see, their sin remained. As such, they stood guilty before a God they knew beyond any shadow of doubt to be immeasurably holy.

    In chapter 10 Jesus continues trying to teach those stubborn Pharisees using one of my favorite images and ways to think of Jesus... as the Good Shepherd. There are so many passages that speak of the Savior as a shepherd. Many are found in the Old Testament:
    • Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. (Eze 34.23)
    • For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2.25)
    • When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. (Mark 6.34)
    • The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. (Eccl 12.11)
    • The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want... (Psalm 23.1)
    • But He led forth His own people like sheep And guided them in the wilderness like a flock. (Psalm 78.52)
    • Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth! (Psalm 80.1)
    • Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (Is 40.11)
    • "I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest," declares the Lord GOD. (Eze 34.15)
    • Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, And declare in the coastlands afar off, And say, "He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock." (Jer 31.10)
    • "Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding. (Jer 3.15)
    • "I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the LORD. (Jer 23.4)
    • And I will bring Israel back to his pasture and he will graze on Carmel and Bashan, and his desire will be satisfied in the hill country of Ephraim and Gilead. (Jer 50.19)
    • And the LORD their God will save them in that day As the flock of His people; For they are as the stones of a crown, Sparkling in His land. (Zech 9.16)
    When I read those verses in John 10, Jesus refers to an example that the prophets, the psalmists, had used before: that of God providing a Good Shepherd to care for the flock of Israel. Does anyone else wonder at that? The list of verses above is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a comprehensive list of all the Old Testament verses that talk about a The Shepherd that God would one day send to His people.

    Why didn't they get it? How could they not see it? With all their "book" knowledge, how could they miss this clear reference... this clear picture... that can be found throughout the Law and the Prophets?

    Jesus spoke using a figure of speech, a parable, a simile, an imaginative comparison... a saying intending to teach. Matthew Henry says of this fact: 
    ...the Pharisees, who were confident of their own position, and gloried in their influence over men, and whose moral nature was steeled and armed to resist even a possible reference to themselves as "thieves," or "robbers," or "aliens," and who would not admit any of Christ's claims to their own disparagement, understood not what things they were which he was saying to them. The blind man had heard [the Messiah's] voice, obeyed, found healing, advanced step by step from a bare knowledge of "a man Jesus" to a confession of him as one empowered by God; to a belief that he was a "Prophet," able to relax Mosaic Law; and finally to a ready acknowledgment that he was the Son of God. The Pharisees were conscious of neither need, nor blindness, nor desire of salvation, nor of the Shepherd's care or grace. They will not go to him for life. They can make nothing of his enigmatic words. They take counsel against him. Their misconception contrasts strongly with the susceptibility of the broken-hearted penitents."
    This reality sobers me.

    Just like with the man born blind's Jesus encounter and the Pharisees' response - it has me asking where I'm blind and my own arrogance and pride prevents me from even recognizing that blindness, where I'm missing out on what God has already clearly explained in His Word.

    Maybe the best words with which to close today~

    Open my eyes that I may see
    Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
    Place in my hands the wonderful key
    That shall unclasp and set me free.

      Silently now I wait for Thee,
    Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
    Open my eyes, illumine me,
        Spirit Divine!

    Open my ears that I may hear
    Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
    And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
    Everything false will disappear.

    Open my mouth and let me bear
    Tidings of mercy everywhere;
    Open my heart and let me prepare
    Love with Thy children thus to share.

    Open my mind that I may read
    More of Thy love in word and deed;
    What shall I fear while yet Thou dost lead?
    Only for light from Thee I plead.

    photo credit: karah24 via photopin cc

    this week's gratitude list

    (#'s 4791 - 4819)

    meeting the cutest little porcupine pup (?) ever

    a great group of international students and I'm privileged to be their ESL teacher this year

    getting nipped by a red-tailed hawk -- means I was close enough to actually see such a magnificent animal up close and personal

    memories of watching shepherds in Niger

    a new hymn album

    being reminded of a song (Open My Eyes) of which I'd not thought for a long time

    really special Saturday with my Tori-girl - she got to go on an animal rescue and be present for the release of a merlin

    picnic with the youth group staff

    finding some great online tools to use for ESL

    listening to my high schoolers chatter about their new Chromebooks and etextbooks... and help each other when they get stuck

    the humor in the fact that my 4th and 2nd grader LOVE homework... while my kindergartner says "Stink it!" every single time

    growing bobcat kitty

    Saturday night sleepover with a friend who has the best belly laugh EVER!

    watching my kiddos grow up and slowly become more responsible

    Rebekah's started her new job

    everyone is enjoying volleyball

    hoping that the crawdad that went missing from a tub in our house doesn't start to stink

    a few text conversations with friends that just made me smile

    one week of school under the belt

    reading a couple of really great books and then being able to share them with a really great friend

    our support level slowly keeps creeping upwards

    a friend and a loved one who've been in the hospital is finally home... the privilege of praying for those we know and love

    a pile of books I'm trying to work my way through

    listening to Elsie Mae read to Mary Michelle

    planning a birthday party

    anticipating a graduation from a booster seat to a regular seatbelt....

    ...and the resulting promotion from car seat to booster! They are growing up!

    hoping our internet start being more cooperative... soon!

    Ten most recent posts in this series:
    Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.


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