The Shepherd and I

The LORD is my shepherd. – Psalm 23 NIV 

When my youngest son first got his Australian Shepherd puppy, I had to chuckle. Did David have any clue how much time and effort it would take to train him?

The things this bundle of unbridled energy chewed up when I doggie-sat him! I seriously considered sending David an itemized bill for what I had to replace. Like my bird book. Like the spout from my stainless steel water bottle. Like a throw rug. Like the charging cord for my cell phone.

We’d call, “Tucker! Come!” But he ran the other way.

That was then.

Now Tucker is nearly two, and the time David has put into training him is obvious. While Tucker is still a bundle of energy, he’s obedient and tries hard to please. And he comes when he is called.

Just as it was important for Tucker to learn to submit to his master’s commands, it was also imperative for David to know Tucker, his Australian Shepherd traits and his unique personality.

When I think of Tucker, I think of Psalm 23.

Over the centuries, this beloved psalm has brought comfort, peace, and contentment in times of grief, sadness, and doubt. As we read the words the psalmist David penned – probably while he was on a hillside tending his father’s sheep – they resonate deep within our hearts and souls, and we sense an unnamed longing within filled.

We imagine ourselves relaxing in a verdant meadow, beside a lazy brook whose waters gurgle placidly downstream. Our souls are refreshed and restored.

But our relationship with this Shepherd who leads us to this quiet place, who makes us lie down (when we’d rather be hurtling full steam ahead), who leads us, not away from, but through the deep, dark valleys in our lives, is one of trust.

We must trust the Shepherd.

This, then, is a psalm of trust – something that seems to be in short supply these days. We seem to want to trust only ourselves to provide for our needs. We think we know what we want, what we need. And so, we, like sheep, run away from our Shepherd (Isaiah 53:6), each our own way.

But our Shepherd knows us better than we know ourselves. You see, He is more than our Shepherd. He is our Creator, the One who formed each one of us when we were still in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139)

As our Creator-Master-Shepherd trains us, we learn He wants only what He knows is best for each of us. We learn He acts out of love. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:11 NLT)

When He formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed the breath of life in him, did God have any clue how much time and effort it would take to train this species? Yes. But He did it anyway because in His eyes we are worth it.

You see, we are more than sheep in His pasture (Psalm 100:3). We are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), His crowning glory (Psalm 8:5).

Don’t you think it’s time we acted like it?

Thank you, Lord, for being my Shepherd. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 23.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Character and Choices

 

(c) 2015 Mark Warner from flickr.com

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. –Proverbs 22:1 NIV

“Identity theft sucks,” I read on the Facebook post. The writer had received a notice from the IRS that apparently someone had used her Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax return and, as a result, possibly claimed any refund she may have gotten from the state. Which she’d planned to use to pay the federal taxes.

Unfortunately, it was just one more thing in a string of unfortunate incidents that brought her to the brink of questioning her principles. After sending a check to the IRS for what she and her husband owed, she commented: “We will just continue to work our butts off to continue to pay my mountain of student loans, debt, and other bills. Who said hard work and honesty will get you somewhere?”

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We’re slammed with one thing after another, even though we strive to do what’s right. And then we question whether doing the right thing even matters, when others make a living cheating and stealing – and getting away with it.

Back in college, I took a three-hour-a-day summer literature class. During the break the day before the weekly essay test, several students stole the test questions while the professor was out of the room. Of course, those students would receive the highest grades because the prof graded on a curve.

That day I called home, crying. “Why bother?” I lamented to my father. “I won’t get a good grade no matter how much I study.”

I studied anyway. But it was without heart.

After we got our tests back, I approached the professor and told him I didn’t think the grade was fair.

He peered at me over his bifocals. “Well, other students in the class . . .”

“Of course they did, you stupid jerk,” I thought. “You left the test in your briefcase, easily accessible to anyone, and left the classroom.”

I’m not a confrontational person, so I shut up and put up. If I’d told the prof the truth, I would have made him look like a fool and would have had to endure the wrath of the wrongdoers. Like my Facebook friend, I questioned whether doing the right thing was worth it.

But, like any other character trait, honesty is a choice. That’s truly what forms our character – the choices we make.

It’s not that I have a temper and “I couldn’t help myself.” It’s that I chose to vent my anger.

We choose to tell the truth, report all income on our tax return, not fudge expenses, return incorrect change to the store. We choose to honor our wedding vows, keep a promise, say no to an addiction. We choose to use the turn signal at an intersection even when there’s no other traffic around.

“Character is what you are in the dark,” said D. L. Moody.

John Wooden said something similar: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Jesus blasted hypocrites because they only did the right thing when there was someone around to see (Matthew 6:1–6). They chose to do right for the wrong reason.

What is the right reason?

Because it’s what God wants us to do.

“Tell me,” the prophet Samuel said to the disobedient King Saul. “Does the LORD really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him.” (See 1 Samuel 15:1–23)

I responded to my Facebook friend’s lament.

“Keep doing the right thing,” I wrote. “Integrity, respect, character, and a good reputation can never be stolen from you, and they are worth far more than anything the world calls ‘treasure’.”

What choices are you facing today?

Help me, O Lord, to know the right thing to do and give me the courage and strength to do it. Amen.

The Bible has a lot to say about character. Here are some verses to read and meditate on:

Habakkuk 3:17–19, Matthew 6:19–34, Proverbs 11:5–11, Proverbs 31, 2 Peter 1:5–7, John 13:17

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.