Shepherds False and True

A shepherd tended a flock of sheep on the hills  At night, they were herded into a sturdy sheep pen made of field stone. The pen was solid and protected them all from predators. The shepherd made perfunctory checks on the sheep each night and went through the motions of his job each day. No one could fault him  for not carrying out the basic tasks that he went through like clockwork. Every day, the same routines without fail. That was the job he got paid for.

At dawn one morning, an injured sheep showed up at the door of the pen, waking him with pitiful bleating. It was not his. He had no way to know where the sheep had come from. It was limping and blood was coming out of a wound.

The shepherd was annoyed.  He didn’t have time to deal with it. The animal looked like it was dying anyway and probably would wander off shortly into the trees. What was the point? The shepherd left the sheep lying against the stone wall and herded the rest of the flock briskly out of the pen to the water and grass on the hillsides. He realized he was already behind schedule.

Hours later when he got back to the pen with the sheep for the night, the injured sheep was still there, barely. The animal weakly lifted its head.  Its eyes implored the shepherd to help.

In disgust, the shepherd turned away.  He’d have to get rid of that mess soon or the carcass would draw wolves and vultures, not to mention flies.

Some of the other sheep looked curiously at the sick one as they filed into their safe, clean pen for the night. A couple stopped with sheeply concern, but the shepherd impatiently flicked them with his rod to get moving.

The shepherd was tired and decided to leave the bloody sheep to die outside the wall of the pen. He would deal with it in the morning. He completely forgot about the animal and dozed off immediately.

In the morning, the injured sheep was gone. Surprised, the shepherd looked around. He hadn’t thought the sheep could move enough to get away.  There was a trail of blood behind that led to a grove of trees down the road. What relief. He hadn’t had to deal with the mess. The sun was rising in the eastern sky. It looked like a beautiful day ahead.

He was leaning against a leafy tree while his flock was grazing later that day when he spotted a dark cloud in the sky some distance away. It moved a bit closer, and he could see they were vultures. One by one they dropped down into a grove of trees. Probably the dead sheep, he thought. Good riddance. He looked with complacent eyes on the sheep from his fold, grazing on the hills. Time for a little nap, he thought, as the gentle breeze caressed his face.


Over the years of working in Christian radio, the various types of churches in America became evident. For many years, the seeker, church-growth, Peter Drucker-influenced model changed the landscape. Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, years ago, developed associations that smaller churches could join to help them imitate the supposedly successful Willow Creek and Saddleback models. Seminars by satellite are still beamed all over the country, as bright-eyed young pastors dream about church greatness and big crowds. That’s one type of American church.

I also addressed the dying mainline churches, churches that long ago abandoned the faith once delivered to the saints and replaced it with a form of baptized anthropology. They exchanged the truth for a lie. The stench of embalming fluid fills these places.  That’s another kind of church.

But there is yet another type of church that I didn’t address much on the program. I should have. These churches have highly biblical doctrinal statements, maintain their commitment to orthodoxy and root out even the slightest growth of false teaching. They are known for not compromising. They outwardly have  a look of health. Their parking lots are full on Sunday with committed parishioners. But there is a problem, and that problem flows from shepherds on down.

If I had to characterize the issue with this kind of problem church, I could do so easily.  No love. The shepherds of these churches can be seen above in the small illustration. They are utterly committed to their churches in the sense that no church service, program, no church sponsored event will be neglected or done in a half-baked fashion. The sheep are herded in, and herded out, like clockwork. The floors are polished. These pastors and churches are not given to change, ridiculous fads or innovation. They are always on time.

But there is a problem. Shepherds in these churches can be so committed to the sustaining of a schedule, to programs, to upcoming this and upcoming that, they can miss the trail of blood in their foyers where “sheep”, deeply wounded and desperately asking for help, have come in and gone out, without it.

Complacent eyes take on a type of blindness. It’s not that they can’t see anything. It’s that they cannot see those who matter most.  These “shepherds” cannot see the hemorrhaging sheep in front of them, asking for help, as their responsibility before God who is the owner of the flock.

They see programs, conferences, schedules, administrative things, opportunities, but the desperation in the face of a hurting person who does not fit the plan? No. That disrupts order. That requires something beyond what they are willing to give.  They have places to go and things to do.

Contrast this with the picture of the caring shepherd that our LORD gives in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15.

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ ”

I have heard from so many through the years whose experiences are not primarily in circus churches with three rings and a trapeze in their ceilings, or mainline spiritual mortuaries. They are limping away, terribly wounded, from the third type of church—the ones that value doctrinal correctness and will not tolerate compromise, but they lack the one needful thing – the thing that is supposed to set them apart in the eyes of the world, the thing that heals and gives life to those who need extra care, because they have suffered terrible injuries. What’s missing is real love.

Shepherds in these places not only won’t leave the fold and  to locate a wandering “sheep”, they can’t be bothered with the bleeding “sheep”  right in front of them. The bleeding and wounded bring nothing but work. Their care is tedious. These sheep don’t nicely fit into a program, an activity, an orderly slot. So the shepherd looks away, progressively blind and deaf to the terrible need in front of him. Not only does he not care for them, he will not so much as call on an assistant to do so.

These shepherds may not even notice the dark cloud of vultures off in the distance, descending on the spiritual carcasses of  the sheep that slowly walked away.  They are busy with an itinerary their secretaries just ran off on the printer. Another opportunity awaits. There is no time for the wounded. No time.

My heart goes out to every single one who has come to what they thought was help, only to be ignored, neglected and passed by. Even a cursory reading of the Scriptures show that this model of “shepherd” is false in every respect.

Jesus Christ is the GOOD Shepherd. Again and again, we see the compassion and care of our Savior who heard the call of the blind, the beggar, the oppressed, the sick and the cripple. He touched the “untouchables” and healed them. The touch of love.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” cried the man by the side of the road. Unwashed, alone and in darkness, Jesus was his only hope. People told him to shut up, but he only cried louder, hoping against all hope that Jesus would hear.

What did the Good Shepherd do when he heard this man? Listen to the urging of his handlers to move on, as he had a scheduled appointment for teaching in Galilee? Did He head to an august council of great theologians and scholars to discuss fine points of the Law?

Here is what happened.

“When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.” (Gospel of Luke, chapter 18)

The Lord heard the cry first, and then he responded. That cry was heard and acted upon. This is the example of a true shepherd.

I am sorry if any reading this have been injured by false shepherds. False shepherds are far more than those teaching erroneous doctrine or self-help, feel good messages. Any shepherd who does not have compassion that acts in the face of pain and injury is false.

All we can do, and we all need reminding of this in these brutal times of coldness and callous disregard in churches, is look to the Good Shepherd above by faith—the One who never fails, who hears our cries in mercy, and who tends to our wounds in love.

The Good Shepherd shows his love to us by sending other concerned “sheep” in our direction, people, those who encourage and who walk with us on the rough terrain on the winding path to the Celestial City.  We can urge each other on and help untangle things when some get caught in the brambles and minister to those who are sick.

May the Good Shepherd tend to your heart today if you are hurting. The LORD Jesus Christ is His name. Call on Him, the One who always hears.


The Light that Was Dark – A Prayer Request

My old friend and colleague, Warren Smith, had a heart attack yesterday. I’ve known him for over 25 years. I came across his first book, The Light that Was Dark (first printing in the early1990’s) where he described his coming out of the Rajneesh cult and heavy duty occult/New Age teachings into the light of Jesus Christ. His books went from there. Every so many months, I would hear his articulate voice on the phone. “Ingrid, I’ve been writing this new book…”, and we would strategize for the next radio interview.

Warren’s eloquent first hand description of the “light” he encountered in the New Age movement and his discovery that it was a counterfeit light sums up spiritual deception better than any I have heard. He hasn’t wavered in his message of warning. There are counterfeits, because the real thing exists spiritually. Please remember Warren in prayer.

For those interested in his books, here is Lighthouse Trails’ page. for more information. (The books are available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and other outlets.)  I wish I could share the many interviews we did on Crosstalk Radio through the years. So many times, I felt the Lord’s direction and help in those programs which were a wake-up call to many. If you would like to send well wishes to Warren Smith, here is the contact information.

Early Mother’s Day Joy

Son Will (20) gave me an early Mother’s Day gift and invited me  along with him to Gesu Church downtown where he had a practice scheduled. Knowing my love of the old hymns and gospel songs, he played several for me. I can’t add much, because these old hymn tunes say it all to those who love them. One of my all time favorites is, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” which he played for me. I hope is blesses you, and if you know it, sing along.  Here are the words.

(Note: Another couple of hymns I will post in the comment section.)

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

We Are Their World

I was very young when I first became a mother. Little Charlie in all his vulnerability wrapped his little fingers around my heart, and I have never looked back to what life would have been without him or any of my six children.

There are so many happy joyful memories of being a mother. So many times of laughter and fun. But the true bonds of mother and child are developed in the difficult times, the worrisome times, when you are awake in the night feeling a feverish little body, and that grip of fear on your heart reminds you of how dear that child is to you.

My second son had severe asthma from six months onward. He was hospitalized over 30 times between six months and age 6, both in ER visits and usually for 2 to 3 day stays. He was allergic to almost everything environmentally, which made it especially difficult to get his wheezing under control. Every cold he had resulted in bronchospasms that would mean him having to be treated with IV steroids and various other drugs that were the latest in treatment to open his airways. He spent days on end on 7 North and 7 South, the asthma wards at that time. We knew all the nurses, and we watched the seasons change there.

There are so many memories of holding him hooked up to the various monitors, worrying and praying for him, trying to keep his time there positive and happy.  He still remembers me bringing the red and white striped bags from the gift shop with a small surprise for him each time. It was a tradition for us. He remembers the bins of toys I’d bring in from the play room and getting to watch children’s TV, something he usually didn’t get to do at home.

Sam is a husband and father of three children himself now. Nearly 30 years old. But he told me that he has no negative memories from those hospitalizations, despite the papoose boards used to restrain him for IV’s, the endless breathing treatments, and horrible tasting medicines and misery. To me, that said so much about children and mothering. He remembers the love and care, and me nearby, always nearby trying to sleep on the small couch, because I couldn’t leave him alone at night in case he felt scared and needed me.

I had to leave the hospital once for several hours to go home and take care of some things. I was gone longer than intended, and getting off the elevator that evening, I saw a nurse pulling Sammy in a small wagon down the hall. His look was one of utter dejection. He was slumped in the wagon, looking sad. As the wagon approached the nurses station, he looked up to see me. I’ll never forget the look of sheer joy in his eyes. His arms flew up for me to hug him. Mom was back. His world was OK again.

I remember that all these years later, because it showed me how important moms are to their children. We are their world. Our choices and decisions have a direct impact on their well-being and happiness. It’s a sobering thing.

So many mothers struggle, and I understand that with all my heart. I was a single parent at the time with a world of burdens on my shoulders.  Those mothers who have no support and help or who are dealing with counter-parents rather than co-parents carry unbelievable loads.  Those who continue to love their children, day in and day out, and who try to give their children the best they can in spite of circumstances are true heroes. I think of these moms on Mother’s Day.

My adult son told me something recently that I’ll always carry with me. He said, “I always remember the feeling of being safe with you, Mom.” Isn’t that what we strive for? That , come what may, in this broken and often bleak world, our children have a safe refuge with us. No matter the housing, the financial situation, or any other negative in their lives, they are safe with Mom–a mother who believes them, protects them, cherishes them to the best of her ability.  Creating that safe zone is the work of all mothers. If our children remember that, we have done our jobs well.

Clarification for Subscribers

Today I was back in the old posts for 2007 when the blog started, as in July it will be the Hope Blog’s tenth anniversary. I noticed a typo and hit edit on a couple of the posts I had forgotten about, and apparently the old posts were sent out via email as new ones! WordPress has some bugs like this that need to be fixed. The posts were old today, but I had to smile, as the themes are still the same, one of them being about old hymns and spiritual songs from ten years ago. Still the same me, a decade later.

Thanks for subscribing, despite the mistakes.

Ingrid

Evening Bells

Years ago, I was changing the beds in my little boys’ room. I was alone in the house that summer evening. The windows at the duplex where I lived were open and the sun was setting. My mind was occupied with the task at hand and many other things that weighed me down.

Suddenly through the air came the most beautiful sound. The carillon bells from Mount Olive Lutheran church two blocks away were ringing out a melody. I knew the hymn immediately and stood still to listen.

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

I went to the window as the bells continued, the sounds carrying over the houses on the soft night air. For those moments, the cares and concerns of life dropped away, and peace descended.

All these years later, I was with our adult daughter Mary today, and she said, “There’s a church near us. The bells were playing a hymn the other night, and I knew all the words, Mom. I recognized it. It was very peaceful.”

I smiled as she said that. I knew just what she meant.  But I thought of something else. Knowledge of these hymns is a precious thing. Knowing an entire stanza is great, and knowing the whole thing is gold.

I remember making dinner one night when Will was in first grade. He was building something with his Legos around the corner. His clear voice sang out suddenly  and startled me. This is what he was singing.

Glory be to God the Father,
Glory be to God the Son,
Glory be to God the Spirit:
Great Jehovah, Three in One!
Glory, glory
While eternal ages run!

Glory be to him who loved us,
Washed us from each spot and stain;
Glory be to him who bought us,
Made us kings with him to reign!
Glory, glory
To the Lamb that once was slain!

He had learned that hymn at his school. As the child played with his Legos, a bit of eternity broke into sound with those sacred words in praise of the Lord.

Emily began our day today by asking to sing to me, something she often does. She learns songs in choir and in chapel, and wants to sing them. She started to sing.

The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

She doesn’t know it now, but she will someday be so glad that treasure is in her memory bank. These words put to melody are a great comfort no matter what life brings.  They give you songs in the night.

I heard the bells at twilight all those years ago, and I recognized the hymn.  These grand old tunes and words lift our hearts and heads, unite us with those who have gone on before us and point us to our faithful Lord.  This is true treasure we can pass on to our children.

My Newest Love

Tom and I have six children. The youngest is seven, but the next youngest is 20. Next oldest is 21! The oldest turns 31 in August, one just turned 30 and another will turn 29 in May.  We currently have four grandchildren. Three live in Oklahoma and one lives not far from us. This is our newest grandson, Michael Ryan. He is just two weeks old. We just learned a fifth grandchild is on the way. Babies are beautiful, and grandbabies are extra beautiful!

 

 

What Haters Lose

I’ve been targeted  by a man for 31 years in May. He’s a relative with too much time on his hands and very little to do but follow my life, read this blog and send attack emails in hopes of causing injury and angry reaction. It used to be hurtful and confusing. It is now a source of humor and pity, simultaneously.

When we have real love, we have no need to hurt other people for sport. The sight of blood in the injury of someone else causes horror and concern, not pleasure, if you are a loving and normal person. That is one big “if.”

The goal of this kind of sad person is always pain. But they won’t say so. They will wrap their true goal in regal robes of religious pomposity or faux concern. These people have a barge full of personal garbage in their own lives, and worst of all, they think nobody knows it. But that doesn’t stop them from going full on pharisee about the lives of others. It’s chuckle worthy if you can see the humor in it. If not, shed a tear for them.

The beauty of the passage of time, lots of it, is that it brings things into focus in a way that makes you wonder why you didn’t see things as they were years before. Pathological antagonists are sad people. They are worthy of pity and prayer.

I think how different lives like this would be if they had lived in love. The very thing hate-filled people supposedly crave could be theirs–a lifetime of it. Because respect sown into the lives of others grows respect. Love and understanding grow love and understanding. You give and find out that what little you gave comes back to you in far greater amounts. It’s how God designed it.

Belittling someone’s pain, adding to it, mocking, judging, attacking, piling on in someone’s life at difficult moments, dear stalker, if you only saw yourself as God and others see you. If you only knew what you have thrown away on the altar of pride and malice. You could have had it all, untold riches of generational love and respect. True wealth.

When you are dead. When your lifeless form lies silent and cold at the funeral home awaiting burial or cremation, what do you want people to say about you? That you were one kick-rear business person? That you had a great house and pool or the best vacations money could buy? That you were a great communicator or blogger or athlete or leader who fought moral evil or (fill in the blank)?

This is what I want others to think about me when I’m gone. I want them to know that I loved people. That I grieved when things weren’t right with them. Maybe too much so. That people were important to me, even if I was not important to them. That I have a heart that was easily pricked and convicted. That I shut nobody out permanently. That I was always open to sincere reconciliation, even if nobody was interested in sincerely reconciling.  That I may have had differences, but that I didn’t hate anybody.

I have been married to a man for 22 years in June. His hallmark is humility and kindness. He has never deliberately and maliciously hurt anyone. He is moved with compassion so easily, it amazes me. He once got up in the wee hours to bring a bag of food to a former colleague who had fallen on hard times–someone who had called, because he was literally without food. The man passed away shortly after that. He KNEW who would care, because Tom never turns anyone away with real need. He doesn’t judge people. I’ve seen this times without number.

I am blessed beyond measure to not only witness Tom’s love, but that of his beautiful family. They are role models for love in action, decades of it. I owe these people my life in many ways. Love like this restores your hope and counteracts the poison of lies from those who live in hate. It contradicts the haters who tell you, you are hopelessly flawed. You are the problem. You are wrong. You are defective. You are not worthy of my love.

Love says, I’ll take you, flaws and all. I will bind up the hurt places. I will cover you with my kindness. I will keep you warm when you are cold. I will listen when you open your heart and I won’t dismiss or laugh at you, I will believe you. You are worthy of love.  I love you.

That kind of real love makes another human being come to life again. It does something else.  It causes a person  to want to  return that love with everything they have. The haters will never know love–love that gives life and laughter and joy. The haters spend their years wanting blood and pain from a victim, hacking away with all their might, only to find out in old age that the only one they were really  injuring was themselves.  It could have been so different and so beautiful if only they would have loved and without conditions.  Could have been.  The saddest words in the English language.

Yesterday, I caught the blue of the sky as background for our magnolia tree in full bloom. God’s glory shining through his creation.

Oh, the Books!

I still remember the scent when I opened the door to the children’s section at the library as a child. I say scent, because the collective smell of the books was beautiful to me. It evoked a sense of excitement—far off places, beloved characters in stories, biographies of interesting people, and so much more. I  remember the color of the green tile floors at old Finney, and to this day, if it were still there, I could tell you where my favorite authors were. That was my first library, and it has pride of place in my memory.

In fifth grade, I developed an obsession with the Presidency of John F. Kennedy. I think I read every book on the subject at Finney, even making my way to the adult section when the limited number ran out in the children’s. I could have told you a great deal about the man, the President and his assassination, in detail, at the time.  (My mother’s copy of, Death of a President is what got me started!)

My second library was the Wauwatosa Public Library, a beautiful place long before the redesign and building project in the late 1980’s. The children’s section was (and the new one still is) huge compared to Finney. When I first saw it, I felt like I had entered a book lover’s paradise. I carried home stacks of books every week. It was a  world of enchantment and fascination in my arms.  I learned so much about the world from books.  Much more than just sitting in classrooms.

It has been a joy to watch the love affair with the library continue in some of my own children. Some, not all. But our youngest, Emily, loves to read, and already has her favorite authors at the library. I offer up suggestions as we walk through. Some she likes, some she does not. I think some of the books haven’t caught her imagination yet, because she isn’t old enough for some of them. Some books, I don’t recommend to her. There is a great deal of paranormal, bizarre and unacceptable material in the library, especially now. Parents have to be the filter for children. Just as we guard our children from toxins of various kinds physically, we guard our kids from toxic materials for their minds and souls. If it isn’t honest, if it isn’t true and tells lies about the world and parents, etc., if it doesn’t celebrate the good, than it isn’t welcome.

A lot of the children’s authors I loved are no longer found, sadly. New authors come up and the old classics we knew and loved disappear. I looked in vain today for a couple of authors I remembered, but they were not there. I bought up an entire series online of used girls’ books, the Beanie Malone series, that I loved so much. They were written in the 50’s, but I enjoyed them in the 70’s and 80’s. Girls today would not find them interesting at all maybe, but I loved the whole Malone family as the stories followed the motherless family through adulthood. There were a lot of fantastic values conveyed with the hard-working Malones. The author had a real gift for conveying common moral dilemmas and misadventures of American kids in a family. Great lessons were learned by reading the books.

Today, I snapped a photo of Emily who was waiting for me to find my own books. I ended up with a few Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries and a 2016 release called, The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s a memoir by John Simpson, and if you think that’s boring, you’re very wrong. I’m already sucked into it.

The digital age has much to recommend it as far as communication and knowledge. But the thought of books, the kind you can hold in your hands and put on shelves, disappearing is a terrible thing. Emily has not yet been allowed into the digital world yet. She’s busy getting an appreciation for words on the page without digital distraction. It’s my strong view that children need to achieve an attention span and not have their brains rewired before they’ve even fully developed.

Emily and I have a  read aloud time. She sits in her smaller rocker next to mine and we read a chapter from our current book. It’s a special time for us, beyond just the reading of a story. She also has learned to love audio books on CD for when I can’t read to her. When summer days get long, those give her something fun to do to keep her mind and imagination busy.

There are no guarantees your children will love what you love. But as a parent, you can just set the table, so to speak, and let them sample good things that you lay out. Hopefully, the taste for good books will catch on! It looks like Emily is on her way.

He’s Alive!

Mighty Victim from the sky,
Hell’s fierce powers beneath Thee lie;
Thou hast conquered in the fight,
Thou hast brought us life and light;
Now no more can death appall,
Now no more the grave enthrall;
Thou hast opened Paradise,
And in Thee Thy saints shall rise.

Paschal triumph, Easter joy,
Only sin can this destroy;
From sin’s death do Thou set free
Souls reborn, O Lord, in Thee.
Hymns of glory and of praise,
Father, to Thee we raise;
Risen Lord, all praise to Thee,
Ever with the Spirit be.