I AM A TRUE BO PEEP. I GREW UP ON A SUFFOLK SHEEP FARM IN IDAHO. I was a fourth-generation shepherd. If there is something I am familiar with, it is sheep! So, when I wrote on Psalm 23 for my book Discovering Hope in the Psalms, it was a very personal, very encouraging and very comforting review of the first verses I memorized — and lived — as a child.
And for all of us, in today’s world of uncertainties and unfathomable tribulations, our heart longs to be protected and provided for by a Good Shepherd.
Our Shepherd is Near
The phrase, “the Lord is my shepherd” became more precious when I became a shepherdess. It can be a very close, affectionate relationship. My first lamb I named “Bunny” because when she wasn’t in my arms, she would delight herself jumping from rock to rock in our pasture.
We were inseparable, in part because she was a “bummer lamb” which meant she had been rejected by her mother at birth and she had to be held and bottle-fed. I had an “everywhere-Pammywent-her-lamb-was-sure-to-go” kind of relationship.
God nourishes and nurtures us through His Word. If we open the Bible daily, our Good Shepherd will hand feed us verses personalized to our daily circumstances. In times of stress, I create a notebook to record and personalize verses that lift my heart and soul.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8 ESV).
Our Shepherd Defends
I carry a picture in my mind of my grandfather, father and brother and how they demonstrated what a truly valiant shepherd is like. Ravenous coyotes, wolves and wild dogs roamed the vast expanse of high desert in the area our family farm was located. These savage dogs would attack and kill whole flocks of sheep in a single night. To help us keep our sheep safe, we placed collars with bells on them.
If we heard an occasional gentle chime, we knew our sheep were simply grazing calmly but if we heard a cacophony of loud jingling, we knew the wild dogs were nearby threatening an attack. To protect the sheep, the men in my family would post themselves in the pasture with the sheep. They would wrap themselves in a down sleeping bag with their “rod and staff” within arm’s reach.
It was a cold, uncomfortable, thankless job, but it saved the lives of all our sheep and their lambs. To this day, when I picture my God as my Good Shepherd, I see him as my strong, powerful, attentive protector. When worry grows in monstrous size in your mind, picture the God who has ALL power as your vigilant protector and defender. Turn on praise music and sing out the truths of our mighty God.
“The LORD your God is with you, a mighty one who will save” (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV).
Our Shepherd Restores
When I read, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul,” that is exactly the experience of my upbringing (Psalm 23:2-3). I would often walk barefoot through the deep, lush, green grass of the pasture as the sheep serenely grazed.
I would take a blanket and a Bible and lie down and spend quiet hours communing with God. I might walk over to the creek and sit on the simple wooden plank that created a bridge and sit and rest quietly dipping my toes into the cool stream. This was my place of solace and restoration, far away from the chaos my alcoholic, raging, violent earthly father might be creating in our small farmhouse.
To this day, resting in the backyard or the sound of gently tinkling chimes reminds me of the restorative rest the Good Shepherd can create during chaos.
Even now, if I look at a majestic mountain or stand with my feet in ocean waves, I am reminded God is the Sovereign Creator, He is still in control, and great is His faithfulness. Take your Bible — or this magazine— OUTSIDE. Our soul calms in the beauty of creation.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).
Our Shepherd Rewards
As I have followed my Good Shepherd, I have seen how “goodness and mercy” have surely followed me “all the days of my life.” ‘When you dig into the synonyms of the original word meanings, one could phrase this as “certainly what is good, pleasant, agreeable, beneficial, desirable, beautiful and best as well as God’s faithful, loyal, loving-kindness will pursue you Wow!
Our Good Shepherd chases us down to give his faithful love and all things beautiful and beneficial. That is why we can walk THROUGH the darkest valley and not tremble because the Good Shepherd will console and carry us even through nightmarish days.
Which name of the Good Shepherd do you need to hang your heart on to hold on to hope?
Remember, Isaiah 9:6 clearly speaks the character of Christ even BEFORE His birth. He was called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Select a name or character trait of God, look up verses that reflect this and post them on sticky notes around your home, on your desk or on your mirror.
Our Good Shepherd is WITH us, Immanuel.