Girlfriends in God - Nov. 14, 2007


November 14, 2007

The Shepherd and His Sheep

Mary Southerland


Today’s Truth

Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd.”


Friend to Friend

Shepherding was one of the oldest callings in Israel, even before farming. Shepherds traveled from place to place, living in tents while driving their flocks from one pasture to another. The sheep and their shepherds lived together every minute of every day. In fact, they were so intimately bound together that individual sheep, even when mixed with other flocks, could recognize the voice of their own shepherd and would come immediately when called by name. A shepherd owned and marked his sheep. In some cases, the sheep were even branded, although branding is no longer an accepted method of identification because of the damage it does to the wool. Today, the ears of sheep are pierced with identification tags but for thousands of years, shepherds around the world marked their sheep by notching their ears with a sharp knife. Each shepherd had his own distinctive notch that indicated identity and ownership.


To think that I can know God is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing truths in life, a truth I find humanly impossible to understand or grasp. However, to think that God knows me is a reality that absolutely rocks my world! But He really does! God knows me and is aware of my every thought, hears every word I speak and delights in who I am. In fact, God knows my name!


My husband, Dan, and I lived and ministered in South Florida for over twenty years. Consequently, we rarely went anywhere without running into someone we knew. At times, the fact that we were well-known in the area was irritating, but for the most part, we enjoyed the wide circle of friends God gave us in ministry. Several years ago, we moved to North Carolina to begin living the "next chapter" of life and ministry. Dan started traveling fulltime, training pastors and church leaders across the world. Our son graduated from high school and went away to college - which left me at home - alone with our 16 year-old daughter. It was not a good thing! Looking back, however, it was actually the best thing for both Danna and for me.


Danna had absolutely no desire to leave South Florida and made it very clear that she was not happy with us for forcing her to move from her place of her birth, the land of the free where every friend she would ever have in her entire life lived! Danna has never been short on drama! "Whoever heard of living next to cows and goats? And why would anyone want to live in the mountains when they could live at the beach?" she wailed. I loved the mild winters. Not Danna. "I am going to freeze to death and then you'll be sorry," she promised. I found the friendliness of the people refreshing. "They are just nosy, Mom. You had better hang on to your purse and keep every door locked," Danna warned. The open spaces of North Carolina were a wonderful change from the cramped and crowded South Florida terrain. "It takes forever to get anywhere," Danna would moan as we drove the twenty minutes to the nearest grocery store. Heaven help the country gentleman who dared to open a door for us! Danna would glare at him as if he were a stalker in search of his next victim. The soft, southern accents I enjoyed sent Danna into her best impersonation of "a Carolina redneck", twang dripping from every syllable of every word. "Seriously, mom, who talks like that?" she would ask. In retrospect, it is a wonder that either one of us is still alive!


I thought Danna's greatest struggle in moving to North Carolina was the fact that she did not know anyone in this foreign land to which she had been exiled by her obviously misinformed and misguided parents. But over dinner one night, she corrected my faulty perspective. "Danna, I know it is hard to start over in a place where you do not know anyone," I began. Her instantaneous response caught me off guard. "Mom, it is not that I don't know anyone. The problem is that they do not know me!"


In that moment, I realized that all of us define happiness and contentment on the basis of who cares if we are alive or is even aware that we exist. Stress is often the result of a relentless effort to be known. We garner worth and value by seeing ourselves in the eyes of others instead of seeing ourselves in the eyes of God. Just as the shepherd knows every sheep by name, God knows my name, and He knows yours. So when the stress of the holidays and ordinary life threatens to overwhelm you, return to the truth that the Lord really is your Shepherd!


Let’s Pray

Father, I am such a wounded, rebellious and at times, lost lamb. I need Your love and guidance to get me through each day. I need Your protection from people and circumstances that would harm me. You are my Source and my Deliverer. Help me trust You for every detail of my life, Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Now it’s Your Turn

I encourage you read Psalm 23 once a day for the next month. Let is soak into your heart, mind and soul. When fear comes, turn to God. When you are in need, trust the Shepherd. When confusion surrounds you, trust God to make the crooked paths straight. Rejoice daily in the fact that you are His lamb and He is your Shepherd.


More from the Girls

I am such a sheep! Stubborn, defiant and so often blind to the fact that without the presence and power of God in my life, I would walk off of some cliff, take the wrong path and have no idea how I got there…well, you get the picture. As I wrote the book, Escaping the Stress Trap, I lived in Psalm 23 and found that it changed my perspective, my desire and drew me closer to my precious Savior, God and Shepherd. May it do the same in your life, friend.


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Originally published Wednesday, 14 November 2007.