REFLECTIONS OF A SHEEP
AUTHOR – BILL TAYLOR
COPYRIGHT 2017 – BILL TAYLOR
PUBLISHED BY BILL TAYLOR AT Shakespir
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Special thanks to Shila and Pragna for their encouragement and inspiration
1 – HE’S BLIND – HE DOESN’T KNOW
2 – VALLEYS – THE BIRTHPLACE OF COMPASSION
3 – AVAILABLE – AT 2:OO A.M.
4 – ONE GOD MULTIPLE JOURNEYS
5 – HE KNOWS – HE SEES – HE HEARS
He’s Blind – He Doesn’t Know
The many sources God uses to teach us are amazingly never-ending and often surprising as we walk out our lives on planet earth.
They are a mid-sixties, brown skinned, moderate Muslim couple. The man is blind and is always accompanied by his wonderfully caring wife who faithfully watches over her husband. I love our lobby encounters, with me never missing the chance for a chat.
They constantly and consistently invest their mutual vocabularies in expressing their heart-felt thankfulness for the blessings of God, always seeming to avoid the complaints from the struggles of blindness which would obviously be inclusionary in their everyday lives. In short: They are impressive!
The husband calls me his friend. He says I have a good heart. There’s always a thank you as we exit our times together. Today as I reflect on these lovely people I’m left wondering: Does he know I’m a white Christian? Does he know what a white Christian looks like? Has he actually ever seen one? Does he care? Has his wife told him that “his friend” isn’t a Muslim and if so, why has there been no alteration to his comfort level with me?
My conclusions: He can’t relate to me from those perspectives. He can only “sense” whether my appreciation for him is sincere.
So, today’s reflection isn’t about Muslim versus Christian but rather the subject of “sight”.
What a magnificent gift of God! But as is the case with all gifts, it can be brutally abused.
My sightless friend doesn’t have to navigate his way around biases based on “what” I am. Therefore he has direct access to “who” I am, which is where my true sacred value resides.
My sight should not impede me from doing the same! Otherwise, my gift becomes my curse.
The lesson I learned through my blind friend? If my eyes aren’t “used to appreciate”, they will be “abused to depreciate”. The most wonderful lessons come from the least likely of places!
Valleys – The Birthplace Of Compassion
First off, I thank God for mountain tops. While not purposed as a place of permanent residence, they do provide those much needed seasons of restoration and spiritual re-energizing.
But as nature teaches us, nothing grows on top of a mountain as is the case with us. All the God imparted valuables of our walk with Jesus are birthed in valleys. Those cherished wonderful treasures that make us more reflective of our Lord’s heart and more effective to our world.
The “good stuff”, often produced from the perceived by us, “bad stuff”. The healed who are now enabled to participate in the healing of others.
Therefore, valleys are not to be avoided but rather embraced as a heavenly designed place. The place God displays His ability to make “all things” work together for good for those who love Him.
Perhaps the most profound of Christ like characteristics incubated in the lushness of a valley is compassion. The bible states and His behavior verifies that Jesus was full of compassion. Often we read: “He was moved with compassion”. It’s obvious throughout scripture that the life of our Shepherd was driven by His compassionate heart for others, all the way from heaven’s glory to a cross.
As we venture out into our daily lives we do so aware of the quality and consistency of the compassion that is perpetually being bestowed upon us. On our worst days we may even wonder why, but not so much that we deny its inclusionary access to our souls. We know that’s the way grace works with it’s unmerited, unearned security and we wear it as such.
The problem arrives when we are asked to reciprocate in kind to the rest of God’s much loved and valued creation.
We see the obvious discrepancies in others and evaluate them based on what we see. The obvious always lacks complete information regarding all the many and complex realities involved in another’s life story. One such reality is the “why”.
So, we find ourselves stuck on the fault while Jesus looks beyond the “faulty obvious” and ministers to the “deeper need”. The why! Our Lord never speaks to a symptom but chooses instead to move past it, into the place of “the cause” of the symptom. He’s a spiritual surgeon of unequaled talent.
We are called to be dispensers and expressers of our Lord’s compassion to our world. No easy task I admit! How do we avoid being spiritually disabled as usable vessels in God’s hands when it comes to imparting this heavenly substance of compassion?
How do we get past the frightening and at times frustrating “obvious” of others, to legitimately minister, with sincerity, to their true needs? The ones being hidden by the obvious.
We remember the valleys, when in our brokenness Jesus embraced us. We remember when this same Jesus touched our untouchable state and made us whole. We remember our level of thankfulness when we discovered He cared. We remember how our love for Him blossomed within that amazing revelation.
We realize by choice ( it takes a choice ) that if He cares about us to the extent that He does, He must care about “all” others equally. We ask Him to help us see the “why” and when we can’t, to trust that He does and respond as He would.
I’m thinking of the man with leprosy that Jesus healed. I doubt he ever looked at others with leprosy the same again. I think when he now saw leprosy, he simultaneously saw hope in the unforgettable healing hands of Jesus. His visually “obvious” would never again stop him at the sickness but rather propel him through to see the Healer of the sickness!
His new divinely insightful perspective would come from his personal time spent in his own valley where he “once was” but “wasn’t” anymore!
Heaven says: Everyone qualifies for compassion or no one does. Selectivity plays no role in the equation. I can’t disagree!
I believe gestures of compassion are applauded in heaven like none other because more often than not, they involve being inconvenienced. I also believe that those who are willing to “take the call” may not have to “make the call”. That sounds like something Jesus would say.
The obvious is a symptom. When we choose to look past it, we become trusted to discover the cause. The compassion of Jesus, in and through us, is the dynamic that gets us to that place of privilege.
“But for the grace of God so go I”, becomes our mindset reinforced by our histories that remind us: There was a time, “so I went”. The time compassion was birthed. The place? A valley.
There’s a formula that seems repetitively unavoidable. To minster to pain appropriately, you need to have felt pain. Once God gives the pain purpose, it’s not nearly as painful anymore.
Compassion always blesses both giver and receiver and may I add, Jesus Himself. It’s interesting to me that the substance this world lacks the most, is the very substance it desperately needs the most. Our Lord’s compassion, in and through us!
Available – At 2:00 A.M.
I am learning that God is no respecter of time, places, nor my age. This morning at 2:00 AM I hear a “wakey – wakey” in my spirit.
As to not mislead, my first inclination wasn’t spiritually inclined, in fact the furthest thing from it. No, this was a time to roll over and go back to sleep like any other normal human being would do.
It’s not the most straight forward exercise to interpret God’s leading when you’re semi-comatose, so roll over I did with this persistent “wakey – wakey” becoming more annoying by the minute. So up I got and to be honest, a little frustrated in the process!
The apartment building I live in has 24 – 7 access to the laundry room. Now wide awake with nowhere to go, I thought knocking off my laundry would be an intelligent thing to do with my perceived un-intelligent strange awake-ness.
I sheepishly slipped downstairs with the hope that I wouldn’t be noticed. Being sixty nine, it’s not wise to give folks reasons for concern regarding your emotional stability!
As I entered the laundry room, much to my amazement, I had company. A nineteen year old young man who lives in the same building as I was doing his laundry which I immediately interpreted as much stranger than me being there.
I’ve known John since he was seven. While being soft spoken, shy, and timid, he’s always been cordial, pleasant, and polite in our seldom available chats. I know his parents to be equally friendly people, often giving them credit for their son’s respectful attitude towards me.
Have you ever gotten the feeling when interacting with others that what you are seeing and hearing isn’t indicative of their “behind closed doors” reality. A feeling you can’t substantiate but strong enough to get your attention with its prevailing sense of eerie uneasiness. So it was with John.
So there we were, both looking suspiciously out of sync with the world, considering the time and our location.
“So Bill, now that you’re retired what are you doing to occupy yourself”, John questioned.
That answer led to further questions which led to further answers which led to the revealing of the subject matter God intended for John’s consideration:
“Peer pressure leading to misplaced loyalties” became our point of conversational reference with full discloser on my part as to the accompanying costs.
Yup, John and I at 2:00 o’clock in the morning in a laundry room talked about my time in jail as a young man due to my “misplaced loyalties”. With his undivided attention he listened intently to every word as if they mattered.
Do I know for sure that the shared information was applicable to John’s life? Well, listening to his final words as we parted company would strongly suggest so.
Words, that while having an illuminating content for me in regards to my awake-ness, were most certainly orchestrated by God for John’s hearing!
“Bill, you know what is really cool about your time in jail? God is using it to prevent others from landing in the same predicament”. Rather “strangely” insightful for a young nineteen year old teenager who is simply doing his laundry at 2:00 A.M. without a worry in the world, don’t you think.
John is the “reason” I was awoken this morning. Folks we serve a God who cares and invites us into the privilege of participating in His care for others based solely on our availability.
And yes, that availability may be called on at 2:00 A.M. when we’re begrudgingly co-operating through the haze of half awake-ness. You see it’s not really us answering the call but rather God answering the call through us. I’m reminded of a quote recently shared with me from my dear friend and sister Ina:
“The quality of your love can be measured by your willingness to be inconvenienced’’.
One God – Multiple Journeys
Have you ever had the experience of being in the middle of a room listening to many and varied conversations all surrounding the same subject matter from multiple perspectives and God gives you a “holy nudge” prompting you to pay attention to what you are seeing and hearing as if He wants to make a later point of importance?
This past weekend I had the privilege of spending Sunday with my sister Cathy, brother-in-law Paul, and some friends in New Market. At days end my friend Sheryl drove me home.
Upon arriving and in the solitude of my living room, I felt encouraged by God to re-live my day slowly and carefully, paying special attention to each specific life story represented by each person present.
They were all uniquely different. Some similar but none identical. Some further along in the process than others, but all magnificent in their own right!
As I sat on my couch I was overwhelmed with this one singular truth that connected us all. God’s loving hand of grace and faithfulness in each life!
None of us could claim “behavioral perfection” nor “spiritual giant” status. None had avoided falls along the way. We all had been broken at one time or another in varying degrees for different reasons.
But there we were, still standing and sharing! Still voicing the amazing virtues of our amazing God! Still proclaiming our faith in Him! In short; Still loving Him!
Lesson learned; We had all spent time visiting the deep valleys of life. Those scary dark places where light strains to be acknowledged. But thankfully on Sunday, we all through our storied journeys were reminded of this inspiring truth. A truth that speaks peace to our storms.
God’s grace and faithfulness has and always will be, more than sufficient for life’s trials!
Therefore on Sunday, we by “reciprocal” grace were free to applaud rather than critique each other’s journeys! Net result? We loved each other as we are loved by Jesus! Wonderful!
He Knows - He Sees - He Hears
“He knows my name – He knows my every thought – He sees each tear that falls – And He hears me when I call”
Those are four thoughts from a beautiful Israel Houghton song. As a sheep I need to know the truth interwoven in those lyrics. Not in my head but rather in the very depth of my being. You see, I’m a sheep, not only with a Shepherd but more importantly, in need of a Shepherd.
We all know that the least qualified creation on earth that should act independently is a sheep. They will walk right off the edge of a mountain if left unattended. But that’s not our lot in life.
Our Shepherd calls us the object of His affection. He has imparted to us His undivided attention. We are graciously exposed to His comforting and assuring voice of direction. We depend on His love, compassion and grace that He always and faithfully provides.
He encourages us not to worry, not to fear, and not to be anxious because He knows how deeply He loves and cares for us and how emphatically capable He is to watch over us.
We think we know the extent of His loving care but if the measurement is unfathomable, then it would be reasonable to assume our conclusions are dreadfully inaccurate and inadequate.
He knows how completely able He is to meet our every need and asks us, for our own peace of mind, to trust Him and to rest in his promised provision. He is not a man who can lie. He is the ‘‘perfect’‘ Son of God, without spot or blemish who considers us His prize possession.
He paid a tremendous price for us. It would seem He thought we were worth it. That is not explainable but I know it’s true. Based on His cross, He opened the door of relationship so that we could enjoy a mutually loving, intimate, perpetual, closeness with Him.
He holds us in the palm of His hand and won’t let go. We are safe and secure from all alarm! I never get tired of being told that. You see I’m a sheep! That’s all I truly “need” to know!
John 10 – 11: “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep”.
John 10 – 14: “I am the Good Shepherd. I know My sheep and My sheep know me”.