Sunday, November 6, 2016

He Makes Me Rest

Inside the white tent, our group crowded close to the dog sled and it's owner, Jason.  Rain pelted the canvas outside.  Glad to be sheltered, we listened intently to Jason describe the exhilaration and dangers of the Iditarod races he had completed. We peppered him with questions about endurance, supplies, and the dog booties strung along a line tied to one side of the tent. A shiver crossed my shoulders as I imagined the bitter winds and sub-zero temperatures.

Halfway through the fascinating lesson on Alaskan dog sledding, we became aware of a cacophony of barking outside. We had seen the field of hundreds of Huskies tethered to their individual dog houses when we arrived at the camp.  They had been quiet then, so what had set off the dog raucous now? Someone asked Jason. Part of our group excursion that day was to take a cart ride with a team of dogs pulling us. Jason said another group must have just boarded a cart and were pulling out, which caused all the hundreds of dogs left behind to express unrestrained eagerness to be in the action. These athletes were trained and ardently jealous to use their prowess.  He further explained that sometimes on the trail, during the race, a dog may find it difficult to take necessary rests and time out from the action. The musher may have to headlock the fidgety one in a tight squeeze until his body succumbs to rest.

"He makes me lie down in green pastures" slipped into my thoughts. I wonder why sheep need to be made to lie down.  Are there any similarities to this and the sled dogs' need for intervention? I went to my bookshelf in the bedroom.  There among my best loved books, books that I keep because I want to read them again, only a limited number make it to this shelf, I pulled out, A Shepherd Looks at Psalms 23, by Phillip Keller. This author grew up surrounded by native sheep herders in East Africa and actually made a living for eight years as a sheep owner and rancher.  I treasure the insights I've gleaned from this book about how a shepherd tends his sheep and how we like sheep are cared for by the Good Shepherd.

Sheep require four necessities to be taken care of before they can be made to lie down:
-freedom from all fear
-no friction with others in the flock
-freedom from pests such as flies or parasites
-free of hunger

Only the presence of the shepherd will alleviate these anxieties.  He makes it possible for them to lie down. His closeness brings security and takes away the fear.

When there is rivalry and competition in the herd, they cannot rest; they must stand up and defend their rights against the challenger.  The shepherd defends the weak and brings a peacefulness that ends tensions. 

Sheep tormented by insects find it impossible to lie down.  They are up stamping legs, shaking heads and ready to rush to some place to find relief. The shepherd applies a repelling ointment to their heads; they relax, eat and lie down contentedly.

Sheep want to eat and fill up quickly so they can lie down quietly and ruminate. If food is scarce, the creature is ever on the move trying to fine the next mouthful.  The good shepherd works hard to clear  rough land so good crops can grow, crops that sheep thrive on.  Many countries where sheep are tended are dry climates, which aid sheep health but require much labor to make green pastures.

He makes me lie down in green pastures because he has provided for all my needs. 
-His presence takes away my fears; he has made me feel safe to lie down.
-When He is near I can trust him to protect me so I don't have to be on edge that someone may take advantage of me or that I have to defend myself when others are mean. He makes me lie down peacefully, because my enemies are his concern and he will always have my back.
-When I feel 'bugged' I can go to him and get the soothing oil of the Holy Spirit to keep the pests away that want to make me frustrated and too distracted to take in the right nourishment. He makes me lie down because I've been able to eat without interruption and my belly is full.
-I don't have to work hard at finding my provision; he has made it possible to trust that there will be enough to satisfy my hunger.  He makes me lie down because I've stopped trying to find my own way of provision in skimpy pastures and believe that his provision is just what I need to take in what is necessary for my growth and health.

He's a good, good Shepherd,
That's who he is
And I'm loved by him,
That's who I am.

Whether like the sled dog, I need to be held tight to be brought to rest, or like a sheep that needs the shepherd's presence to stop fretting, fighting, swatting and sweating for staples, I am thankful that I can lie down in green pastures no matter where he leads me.   

I yield to your discipline and care, Great Shepherd, Jesus.  You make me to lie down where abundance is promised. Forgive me for the times I think I know better how to meet my needs, for the times I substitute empty calories for good organic, free range, non GMO, hormone free food that you generously provide. May I increase in goodness and love as I feed in your pastures. 

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