The Good Shepherd

278378820688389275_vVX4nOkq_b I have been looking for this picture for a very long time and finally stumbled across it on a friend’s blog, after many years of searching.  It is a painting by the German artist, Bernhard Plockhorst, called The Good Shepherd. It is an image that I have carried in my mind’s eye since I was a little girl.  When I was very young I wanted my own room desperately.  I was so envious of my only-child friend who had a room of her own with a full-size canopy bed AND another room for all her many toys and dolls.  I loved playing at her house because we hardly ever fought over her dolls, there were so many to choose from.  Even my best friend in the neighborhood had her own room.  With just one brother it was no problem at their house for each of them to have their own room.  At my house, with six children and a live-in grandma, having my own room was never going to be an option.  My sister and I shared a room for all of our childhood, sometimes happily, but more often than not we had to draw the battle lines with masking tape and divide the room in half just to keep the peace.

At some point, in my futile quest for my own space, I got the BEST idea ever to turn my half of the closet into my very own room!  I didn’t know then that I was making a prayer closet, I just wanted peace and quiet!  So I cleared out the shoes and junk and made a place for me to sit on a blanket- covered box, put in a tiny table with my bedside lamp and hung this favorite picture I cut out of an old Sunday school book on the wall, just above the light.  The only other being allowed in my room was my very best friend, my dog.  I made Shana a place at my feet on a comfy throw rug.  We cuddled up in there together and I would shut the sliding door so NOBODY could bother us and I’d spend hours reading, drawing, or just sitting.  I know, it sounds a little weird but not for an introverted artist trying to find her way.  In those many moments I stared at this beautiful picture of Jesus holding the little lamb, loving and protecting the vulnerable creature with all He is, and I felt held and loved too.  I knew the story about the one lost little lamb out of the ninety-nine that Jesus would search for no matter what and I knew that if I were lost that He would come find me and save me.  This is my faith in a nutshell, it really is quite simple: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

While all the world around me bickers over countless issues, my church is in a schism, and the intellectual brains spew their theological, political, philosophical, pyschological theories, I am going where I know there is peace and love, in the prayer closet of my heart, where this picture of Jesus holding this little lamb is all I need to know.  He isn’t deciding which lamb is worthy or better, which lamb is the right color, gender, race, better looking, more educated, following the right political party or going to the right church.  He loves each one, not one more than another.  And guess what?  He loves the ones I disagree with too!  When you’ve been the lost little lamb in the wilderness and Jesus comes to find you, then there is no need to search any further.  You know your Good Shepherd and you love Him and you are grateful every second that He saved you.  And even if you get lost again and again, He will come find you and set you aright on the path to follow Him.  When you believe and cry out “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!  Please, save me!”…He will be there in the midst of any and every earthly battle.  Your eyes will look to Him and follow Him and you can’t help but to adore and love Him, as He has adored and loved you, even when you have gone astray.  To know His forgiveness and feel His merciful and unconditional love brings such joy and peace that there is nothing on earth to compare it to.   All else is futile striving and chasing after the wind.  This gift of grace, undeserved and unfathomable, is for everyone who asks Him to live in their heart.

So, let the talking heads bobble and babble on, I am resting in this green pasture and praying Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul.  He leads me in right paths for His name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff– they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.” NRSV

My Christmas wish, prayer, and song is this: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” written in 1955 by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson Miller.

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