This 5 month old, little black Icelandic lamb is named “Lavender”. She joined on flock on Restoration Farm, Wyoming just this summer (2017). I love hearing Lavender’s loud, persistent greeting every time I go outside!
For the time being, our flock is being dry lotted in our back yard. This is to protect them from poisonous, Russian Knapweed, considered a noxious weed by WY, while it dies off (we had it sprayed 3 times!), in anticipation of being able to plant healthy grass in the spring. The sheep much prefer to graze, but as is the norm for keeping livestock in our new WY community, we have invested in several tons of hay to hold the flock over until the next hating season in early summer, 2018.
To help keep hay from going to waste when I feed the sheep, we bought a nice feed trough, so the hay won’t be trampled on the ground when they are fed, and more edible hay will be preserved. This is NOT my preferred method of shepherding, but Wyoming is a very different climate that dictates different things to contend with as a shepherd than what I am accustomed to in Louisiana. One is not “better” than the other, only “different”, and new for me learn about and to adjust to as a shepherd.
The sheep, especially Lavendar, have taught me one new thing in particular recently that puts me in mind of teaching people of any age. If I don’t put out enough hay to keep them happily grazing all day, the sheep seem to look discouraged and a little frustrated with nothing to do, even when I know they have had “enough” (according to the text books) to eat. But if I give them an abundance to be sure they have enough to carry them over even until the next day, they eat until they are full and satisfied, and leave the rest in the trough. Do they go back to the trough the next day when they are hungry again?? Not really! Only reluctantly to nose through the perfectly hay, hoping to find something that smells exciting. It seems when the “newness” wears off, their interest wanes. They will not eat the hay left in the trough, even if there is plenty of it, it is not wet or spoiled, and it is the same as it was the day before. But if I pull just the “right amount” from the very same hay stack, they all come running again with excitement, as if they don’t already have a pile to eat!
Lavendar is the funniest. She is the First to hop up in the trough, to get there before the rest of the flock, and position her body so she gets first pick of all the best hay! She is so cute! Her enthusiasm for “new” never stops. Everytime she sees me, she hollers a LOUD, excited greeting, hoping the sight of me heralds some “new”, fresh dining experience for her. I swear, if she had a baby bib, she would tie it on herself and grab a knife and fork to greet that new hay! She dominates the trough which is as tall as her head, even though I always put down a special serving just at the level of the lambs, so they have plenty she can reach. But that is not enough for Lavendar! She wants to eat with the grown ups!
When reaching out to teach children about Jesus, there are always special challenges, to:
It has been several months now since my first children’s book, Pasto Verde, Aguas de Reposo was published, and the English edition, Green Grass Still Waters: Lana Luis Cordero Explica Salmo 23. It is has been picked up for sale in at least 13 different countries that I am aware of: India, Mexico, the UK, Australia, Canada, Spain, Brazil, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the United States. It is a beginning.
I am still writing on A Sheep-Like Faith: What My Sheep Taught Me about Following Jesus, for adults, and am looking toward a 2018 publication date. In getting the first children’s books published, I am now faced with the reality that writing and publishing, as much work and time as it takes, is the “easy” part of spreading a new message! The real battle comes in making others aware it is out there, and that it is something that may fit their needs and interests, otherwise known as “marketing”, “advertising”, and “creating contacts”.
I have a mission I believe in. I want to preserve meaning of the sheep & shepherd analogies in scripture, to make God’s word more relatable to those not now living in agrarian society; to educate people what understanding “I am the Good Shepherd” tells us about Jesus’ heart, character and personality. But being only one person, if this message is truly to spread, it will depend upon teaching as many others as will listen, so they may in turn, teach the people in their own groups. Essentially, I need to educate “shepherds”, that they may be empowered to teach their own “flocks”.
Toward that end, I will focus future posts toward those who minister to children and families, to equip them with insights, looking at scripture through a shepherd’s lens.
If you know anyone who may be interested, please share the link to the blog.
Like sheep’s wool, our lives (habits, personalities, choices) reflect where we have been. When I sheared Gracie for the first time, (and many more since) I found “souvenirs” in hung in her wool that gave evidence of how she had been living her life, where she had been, and something about her troubles and circumstances.
The whole corn kernels buried in her wool told be what she had been eating. The seeds and flowers told me something about where she had been, as did the color of the dirt in her wool (red, like in the parishes north of where I live). The overgrown, matted nature of her wool, the extra amount of poop in it, and her weak, emaciated body under it spoke to me of the neglect of care she had suffered.
I saw myself in Gracie because I knew that like her wool, my own life (words, actions, attitudes, choices) was reflecting the circumstances of where I had been, and testified to the un-met personal needs in my life. Yes, in many ways I did enjoy good circumstances at the time; but in a large number of very painful ways, there were nonetheless deep needs that no amount of prayer, nor patient waiting, nor anger, nor attempt on my part to reconcile or heal, had been able to resolve. I knew God could, but I had waited so long to see His hand, I had long since become unsure He would. My words, attitudes, actions and prayers (and lack of) reflected the pain of personal circumstances I didn’t have an answer for, and that I couldn’t see God moving in. My fear and anger were like Gracie’s nasty, hot, heavy wool: a result of where I had been, and like her wool, it put me in great need of a Shepherd Who would relieve the burdens weighing me down.
Like Gracie, the “wool” of my life, what people saw on the outside, hid a lot of what was really going on underneath.
I believe Jesus compared us to sheep partly because:
Like sheep, people hide their real problems. You may can tell from looking at their lives they need help when they are really hurting, but even then, the whole truth of what they have really lived thru is never obvious until the wool comes off, no longer hiding the true depth of their need.
Like sheep, we need the continual renewal of our Shepherd.
My admittedly limited understanding, is that in the Biblical setting, they practiced “open grazing”, which is best for small livestock, because instead of fencing them in and working to try to keep the ground continually producing what they need, you move them around to where what they need is growing, leaving the grazed ground to recover naturally. From what I can see of land in the Middle East, you don’t have lots of wide open meadows, full of all kinds of rich forage and grasses. It looks like a lot of barren land, with clumps of green growing here and there. Sheep that don’t follow the shepherd would be impossible to shepherd! They have to trust and follow. It is a great symbiotic relationship because the human helps the sheep find where to find good food, and the sheep supply materials for the shepherd.
1 Samuel 7:9 “Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord.”
Have you ever been in such deep need, so overflowing with heartache, that you literally cried out to God with the full strength of your being?
I came across this verse the other day while I was in the middle of looking for something else. It grabbed my attention forcefully since I have six nursing lambs in the yard with their mothers at the time of this writing. The detail of the “suckling lamb” was a shock to me. A “suckling lamb” is a lamb that is young enough to still be nursing, most likely any age between birth and four months old. It was the first time I had ever noticed the word “suckling” in reference to a sacrificial lamb. Since most other Biblical references to sacrificial lambs do not include this detailed word, I had assumed sacrificial lambs were normally not necessarily young enough to still be nursing, since a weaned lamb may still be classified as “lamb” for up to eight months after weaning, (depending upon weaning age, and age of maturity). I need to look into this topic further, but this phrase, “suckling lamb,” made me take a second look at this verse and its context.
When a baby, nursing lamb is taken away from his mother, the lamb is afraid. Once caught and held, even cuddled and held gently, it will start to struggle with all its might. Even lambs who belong to mothers who have very trusting relationships with their shepherds, are afraid of people, even familiar ones! So the first thing a suckling lamb who (unknown to him) is about to be sacrificed is it would struggle wildly.
The other thing a nursing lamb does is cry out for sheep-mom in a panic! Sheep-mom is his source of protection, belonging, security, and provision. Being separated from the flock, but mostly from her, is the worst thing that can happen in his little lamb mind! When I read this verse, I instantly thought of the struggling and little panicked bleats of a new lamb separated from his sheep-mom.
But because this lamb is a part of a nursing pair, there are really two creatures featured in this scene of the sacrifice of the suckling lamb: the lamb, and his mother. I have seen many mother sheep respond to separation from their lambs. The younger her lamb the higher the level of the ewe’s concern. I once witnessed a sheep-mom whose lamb was stolen by an eagle (out of sheep-mom’s vertical range of vision) spend half a day looking around the pasture for her missing lamb. I’ve seen sheep quietly grieve dead lambs. I’ve seen sheep pacing back and forth until their lambs are returned to them. I’ve heard ewes calling for their lost babies, stopping to listen in between “baaas” for the higher pitched lamb-cry they hope to hear in return. Consider this statement of a British shepherd regarding the reaction of his ewes after some of his lambs were killed by theives:
“‘My reaction was one of total disbelief,’ says Mr Phipps, 53. ‘It looked like a dog attack, but I quickly realized they were bullet wounds. It was terrible to hear the mothers calling for their lambs that were no longer there.’”
Rory Knight Bruce, “Return of the Rustlers”,
The Daily Mail.com, August 29, 2011.
“The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all. Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord.
3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths [female gods] and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only….
7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them.
When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines.
8 They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.”
I noticed something today watching the dog
herd the sheep. When the pressure (dog) is on the sheep, they tend to line up parallel to each other, and move in the same direction, together. Without they pressure, they kinda do their own thing. Pressure steps up both the focus & the unity of the flock.
At long last, our hot, wet Louisiana summer is ending. Our next door neighbors have made hay, which has been our sure signal Fall is on the way for that past 10 years we have lived here. But this Fall 2016 is bringing some big changes with it for Restoration Farm!
We have accepted a position in Cody, WY. As soon as our house sells in Louisiana, we will be loading up the livestock and our family, and moving to the great North West, right by Yellowstone National Park. Sheep country. The heart of the remnant of the sheep industry that still exists commercially in the United States.
I am still working on the books. Green Grass has been submitted for line editing, and I am nearly half was through the rough draft for the A Sheep-Like Faith manuscript. Moving is a motivation for wrapping up the content for A Sheep-Like Faith as a book project, since all of the content in it is based on events that have occurred here, in Louisiana, and we are now about to embark on the next phase of our adventure…..in Wyoming of all places!!!
I will continue to sell Wool of Louisiana until I run out. The next production run I make, however, will be under a new label I will create, putting the wool products under the same umbrella title as A Sheep-Like Faith! Those changes will come slowly. I will keep you apprised of our adventure of moving and learning to shepherd in Wyoming, as it unfolds.
Remember, God did not use the sheep/shepherd analogy in scripture so often, just to tell you “how stupid” you are! This analogy is far richer. People who think sheep are only “stupid”, including others who work with them, do not have the patience or insight to see the world from a sheep’s point of view, to understand their behavior, and what motivated their choices. Sheep are worth getting to know, and there is so much richness to learn about the sheep/shepherd analogy, why and how it illustrates the Christian’s relationship to Jesus as Shepherd, so well!