Shepherd of my heart....

Freedom....joy...peace....abundant peace.....

How long has it been since you fully experienced any one of the things I just mentioned? I dare say many of you either can't or simply won't answer that. Reality is likely not often or you simply can't think of the last time you experienced any of them.

As a Christ follower, I can tell you my journey thus far these 43 years has had its share of ups and downs. I am truly thankful, blessed and amazed by the constant flow of hope, encouragement and love that I have experienced in my life simply because I chose not to give in to fear and doubt after a whole lot of time listening to my Father God, leaning into Him, and then relying on the wisdom and advice, counsel and leadership in my life by family, friends, colleagues and ministry partners throughout my life. Let's face it, life is never going to be easy and will promise us a neverending flow of stress. We can count on it. But because of the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, we have hope to overcome it all! When is the last time you tapped into that? When is the last time you spent a measurable amount of time simply sitting in the quiet, asking the Father to envelop you, and enjoy listening to Him? That doesn't mean you go into it with any expectation for a quick answer or rescue. We have to remember that God gave us free will, we are not puppets in his hands. Bad things are going to happen, so how are we going to choose to deal with it? Are we going to immediately go into a tantrum, wallow in our pity party, decide it can't possibly get any better and give up? Or, are we going to see it for what it is, work through the pain and struggle of it, shake it off, step out of it and move forward in spite of it with hope? What are you going to do about it? It is not human nature to take bad news happily. It is not human nature to respond to tragic circumstances with a smile on our faces. It is not human nature to respond well to something surprising and painful. It is in fact completely normal to respond with upset, rage, disappointment, frustration, fear. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in to help us.

The Holy Spirit infuses us with life abundant, and not life as we know it on this earth, but life on an spiritual level that we will not fully experience until we are with Him in heaven one day. Not long ago, I shared on facebook a wonderful lesson I read by Joyce Meyer about the Shepherd, our Father God, and what we can learn from the shepherds on this earth as it parallels to our heavenly Shepherd. We often expect him to hook us, rescue us from the edge of a cliff that we may approach at any given time in our lives. But how often does He allow us to linger there? Do you ever wonder, question, agonize in those cliff moments, those frustrating and terrifying moments of life when there seems to be no way out and no good ending to what has occurred? These are the moments He is truly ready to rescue us if we will simply stop struggling, stand on the edge of that cliff not with terror, but with heightened expectation of what He is about to do! The shepherd's role is to guard, watch after, protect and care for his flock. All too often one strays away from the flock, and needs some form of intervention to guide them back to the fold. Those of us who are extremely strong willed and level headed, so certain that we know what is best, without realizing it may find ourselves going about things in life based more strongly upon this plan we've got all worked out because it makes sense to us, it is a sound plan, sure to succeed. At what point in our planning did we stop to ask the Father's will be done and shape what is best? Or did we do that but only for a split second in the midst of it after we had already begun mapping out this great plan on our own? Living a life abundantly free requires we start with our Source, our good and loving Father God. There are a great many things in this life that bring me a mountain of uncertainty, fear, doubt, anxiety and downright depression. But all that is not mine to experience when I choose to begin by focusing first on my Father God and His good and perfect will for my life. Another aspect of that sheep teetering on the edge of the cliff, waiting for rescue is this....nobody forced that sheep to wander to the edge. Free will. We are responsible for our wandering. We are responsible to make things right for what is wrong in our lives. Stop playing the blame game and settling into the victim game. Get over this thing that has you on the edge, stuck in a rut, laying motionless in that pit, because you have the strength and the power to get out of it! It won't be easy, but it will be better when you choose to do it. I have watched as some very dear people in my life have teetered on that edge and gone over. I don't have an explanation for it except that even when help was offered, prayers were poured out, tears were spilled over and we agonized over how to help, even then, for some reason it wasn't the ending we'd hoped for. But I have watched as God provided out of it. Testimony after testimony of how God used the worst of circumstances to make something better, something truly remarkable.

Your story is still being written. I am not your shepherd, nobody on this earth is equipped or fully qualified to be your shepherd, but I know Who is. He is always near, He is your rescue, your strength, your peace, your connection to freedom you have yet to experience. Don't give up, don't give in. What you are seeing with your eyes, hearing with your ears, sensing with every bit of your physical being, it is not the end. It is the beginning of something new if you choose to see it that way. I am praying for you as you teeter on the edge of that cliff. The Shepherd is ready to pull you into His arms and guide you into something better. Prepare yourself for His love, expect it will not come with answers you think are best, but simply for the sake of the moment to rest and listen to Him. He will speak, He will guide you, when the time is right. Learn to lean into Him in those moments and He'll reveal His will for you. I trust Him, and I am believing you will come to this knowledge as well.

You make my footsteps and my path secure
So walking on water is just the beginning
Cause my faith to arise, stand at attention
For You are calling me to greater things
(Shepherd, Amanda Cook and Bethel Music)

Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
near with Your protection and guidance,
I am comforted.
(Psalm 23:4)
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