Laboring With The Lord

A wise mother stated, “Once labor begins, it never ends.” Labor for me began 27 years ago, eighteen hours before our firstborn entered this world. She was a beautiful baby, perfectly knit together in my womb, crafted by her Creator. And with her first cry, everything I thought I knew about being a mom unraveled, and I never felt more inadequate for anything in my entire life.

That feeling hasn’t gone away. Maybe there are some moms who feel like they are knocking it out of the park and that their kids are the luckiest offspring on earth, but that’s not the case for me. I have messed up in more ways than I care to mention, and remember many days when I would lay my head on the pillow and ask God to erase my children’s memory of that day. I realize that I’m my biggest critic, but maybe there are other moms that can relate.

There are so many stories about mothers in the Bible, some I can relate to and others I can’t even imagine. A mother who birthed mankind, a mother who hid her baby in a basket by the river, mothers who buried children, played favorites, raised prophets and priests, and a young mother who birthed the Savior of the world. But the story that touches my mothering heart isn’t about a mother at all. It’s found in Mark 9:12-17. The Message Bible tells it like this:

As the day declined, the Twelve said to Jesus, “Dismiss the crowd so they can go to the farms or villages around here and get a room for the night and a bite to eat. We’re out in the middle of nowhere.”

“You feed them,” Jesus said.

They said, “We couldn’t scrape up more than five loaves of bread and a couple of fish—unless, of course, you want us to go to town ourselves and buy food for everybody.” (There were more than five thousand people in the crowd.)

But he went ahead and directed his disciples, “Sit them down in groups of about fifty.” They did what he said, and soon had everyone seated. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd. After the people had all eaten their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up.

As I read these words, I hear Jesus say to me, “You feed them.” I have made thousands of bottles and thousands of meals for my children over the years, but that’s been the easy part. Feeding mouths is one thing, feeding souls is another. Most days I feel like one of the disciples scraping together a few morsels, and offering it to the Messiah saying “This is all I have and I know it’s not enough.” But Jesus takes our insufficient and turns it into abundance with leftovers to boot! Thank you, Jesus!

I don’t know who penned the following words, but they were taped to my refrigerator for many years and I have prayed them often. If you are a mom, I would encourage you to pray them as well.

“Lord, you know my inadequacies. You know my weaknesses, not only in parenting, but in every area of my life. I am doing the best I can to raise my kids properly, but it may not be good enough. As you broke the fish and the loaves to feed 5,000 hungry people, now take my meager effort and use it to bless my family. Multiply it as only you can. Make up for the things I do wrong. Satisfy the needs I have not met. Compensate for my blunders and mistakes. Wrap your great arms around my children and draw them close to you. And be there when they stand at the great crossroads between right and wrong. All I can give them is my best and I will continue to do that. I submit them to you now, and rededicate myself to the task You have placed before me. The outcome rests securely in your hands, Lord.”

Laboring with the Lord, Erin Jacobsma


While It Was Still Dark

John 20:1 “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”

This verse was part of my scripture reading for today and I was caught off guard by five little words sandwiched between two commas: while it was still dark. While it was still dark? Why did my mind fixate on that phrase? Maybe it had to do with the early hour at which I was reading, maybe the words dredged up nocturnal fears from my childhood, maybe it’s indicative of the darkness that hangs over our world, or maybe the Holy Spirit just needed me to do some reflecting.

So I have been pondering.

Scripture tells us a few things about this woman. Mary is her name. Not to be mistaken with Mary the mother of Jesus, or Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, or any of the “other” Marys, this Mary is known to those around her as Magdalene. Her identity was tied to the town where she was from—Magdala. We know little of her past, her family, or her age, but we do know that she had a transforming encounter with the Messiah. Luke 8:2 informs us that Magdalene had been delivered from evil spirits, seven to be exact. The details of that event are not revealed to us, but the effects are crystal clear. Jesus had set her free and she committed her life – time, resources, energy – into following Him.

According to other Gospel accounts, we read that Magdalene, along with some other women, accompanied Jesus as he went through the cities and villages, not as a crazy fan club, but they provided for the Rabbi out of their own pockets. They traveled together, ate meals together, listened to Jesus’ teachings, and grew closer every day. And when it came to the unfolding events at the cross, we see Magdalene present from beginning to end. She stood helplessly by, watched as her Savior was nailed to a cross, listened to his anguished cries, observed his final breath, and didn’t leave until she saw where his body was laid.

So when I reflect on “while it was still dark”, I see a woman overcome with grief, tossing and turning through the night, waiting for daybreak so she could go and honor her Savior. But she just couldn’t take it anymore. Her heart yearned for her Lord and not even the darkness could hold her back.

And maybe she was accustomed to the dark. In her days of being held hostage by evil spirits, maybe the dark of night was her safe place that shielded the stares and remarks of others. She had experienced such darkness in her past, and then this strange darkness for three hours in the middle of the day while Jesus hung on the cross, and now the darkness had no hold on her.

And she was confident that daylight was coming.

Magdalene is rewarded for her faithfulness. In the midst of the trauma of seeing the stone rolled away and the body of her Beloved missing, she turns around to see Jesus standing behind her. Her eyes are blurred with tears and she doesn’t even recognize him until he says, “Mary”. Maybe Jesus was one of the few people who called her by her first name while they walked from town to town, or maybe there was such a familiar tenderness in his voice, that even in disbelief, she knew her Savior stood before her. The darkness around her disappeared, her grief was erased, her tears wiped away, and she ran to the disciples with the exclamation, “I have seen the Lord!”

Are you grieving? Are you weeping? Are you experiencing a dark night of the soul? Does there seem to be no light at the end of the tunnel? Turn around. Do you hear Jesus calling out your name? Do you know his voice? I pray that even in the midst of this dark hour we can proclaim, “I have seen the Lord!”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Sit and Soak

There was a time in my life when the bathtub was my evening friend. I would turn on the hot water, pour in the liquid bubbles, and fill the tub until it was almost overflowing. Then I would climb in and soak until my fingers resembled white raisins and I was shivering from the decrease in water temperature.

As I got older, the bathtub was replaced with the much-quicker shower, since I had places to go and things to do and no longer had the time to sit and soak. It was possible to get through the shower, washed and dried, in less time than it would take me to run my bath water, and time was of the essence when chores needed to be completed before evening activities began, and a good cleansing was needed in between. Now as an adult, I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I sat in a tub.

My wash habits could be compared to the time I spend in God’s Word. In 2019, I was committed to reading through the Bible in a year and I followed a reading plan that showered me in large chunks of scripture. It was refreshing in many ways, but there was little time to sit and soak in a particular passage.

But this year I’m sitting in the tub, so to speak, with just a few verses each day and soaking it in. During Lent I have been using the book “40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Cole as my guide. In the first day’s reading she petitions her readers to “consider Lent as less of a project and more of a sojourn. A sojourn is a “temporary place to stay.” And a “stay” is about presence not productivity.” The author also suggests “invest your energy in seeking to remain present to the sacred history of Jesus’ walk to the cross. With each reading [of scripture], dust off your childhood imagination and “stay” in each story. Observe Jesus… Imagine yourself… and fast from Lent as a project and enter Lent as an experience, as a sojourn with your Savior.”

So each day I’ve been doing a little soaking in the book of John. The first day felt awkward, sitting in the home with Martha and Lazarus after he had recently been raised from the dead. It was captivating to visualize the bond of love between them and Jesus. Of course, Martha used her gifts of service and hospitality. And then Mary entered the scene, washing Jesus’ feet with an intoxicating perfume and drying his feet with her hair. I felt like I should avert my eyes, look away, but I couldn’t keep myself from staring at the beauty of it all, until Judas’ cold remarks cut through the aroma in the room like a knife.

Another day I mingled with the disciples while getting ready for the evening meal, when Jesus, our Master, prepared the bath water and began washing OUR feet and becoming as a servant to us. Peter threw a fit, but spoke aloud what all of us were thinking. Jesus continued with the task at hand, washing all of our feet… Peter, James, John, Judas, and the rest. And oh, to imagine Jesus holding the feet of Judas in his hands, knowing what was to come, burdened, sad, but still tenderly and lovingly washing his feet. My mind         jerked ahead to the death of Judas, his betrayer, and I wondered if Jesus mourned the death of Judas as his companion.

It has been good to soak in the stories of Jesus during this first week of Lent. I would encourage you to do the same. As we approach Resurrection Sunday, knowing how the events unfold, try pretending that you don’t. Sit with Jesus for awhile and let him speak to you and experience the events leading up to Easter as if you were there. Be still. (Psalm 46:10)

Erin Jacobsma

 


Change the Channel

Last week Sunday, I was among the 99.9 million people who tuned in to watch Super Bowl LIV (54). To be honest, it was the first NFL football game that I had watched all season. I’m not what you would call a die-hard football fan. Super Bowl Sunday at our house is really just a reason to have some friends over, enjoy a smorgasbord of delicious food, and partake in a tradition of watching the big game. As far as I could tell, with my limited knowledge and feeble opinion, it was a good game. The Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers and I enjoyed our evening of festivities. We had lots of laughs, some lively discussions, and full bellies. But as our guests headed for home and I cleaned up around the house, I had one regret. (Well, two, if you count the number of cheeseballs I ate!) In years past, we have enjoyed watching the eccentrics of the halftime shows; the smoke, the lights, the glitz and glamour, and marveled at the time and energy it takes to produce such a display. But this year, I wished we had changed the channel.

Change the channel. This is a phrase that has been looping through my mind like an instant replay. When I was a youngster, we had the pleasure of watching television on a large wooden console with alien-like antenna poking out the top, and a variety of channels to choose from; two, to be exact. Our family would gather around the television to watch shows like the Dukes of Hazard or Full House or Lawrence Welk, and we actually watched the advertisements during the commercial breaks or used that time to run to the bathroom or get a snack. But at the conclusion of a show, if Mom or Dad didn’t care for the program that was airing next, they would say, “Change the channel.” We didn’t have a remote control that could change the broadcast at the push of a button, it took effort to get up off the couch, walk across the room, and turn the knob. We often joked that the only reason parents had children was so they would have someone to change the channel on the TV.

In the world we live in, we are flooded with channel choices. Currently, my cable tv package includes over 95 channels and more than a dozen stations are programmed on my car radio. Choosing what channel we play on the radio or watch on television is an important decision. But choosing what channel we play in our mind is of even greater importance.

Like the two-option television of my childhood, there are two basic channels that broadcast in our minds. Not Channel “11” or “13”, but the channels known as “Positive” and “Negative”. Moses presented the channel choice to the Israelites this way: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)  Paul presents a different view of the same choice: “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)  And Jesus’ entire ministry was about changing the channel: love your enemies, instead of hating them; don’t count offenses, but forgive those who hurt you; serve other people instead of worrying about who is serving you; don’t get revenge, turn the other cheek; consider yourself blessed when people insult you… All of these and more, require a change in our thinking and changing our thinking requires effort.

So what channel is your mind playing? Is it a channel of negativity, self-hatred, destruction, and death? Or is it a channel filled with things that are positive, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy? The choice is yours. Change the channel.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Fully Dressed

I have never been much of a fashionista. Rarely will I swap comfort for style. Labels and name brands mean little to me unless my experience has confirmed that a particular brand is superior in fit and quality. I grew up on hand-me-downs, clearance aisles, rummage sales, Goodwill bargains, and made-by-mom originals. I was clothed, but not in designer threads or the latest and greatest.

When I was about 10 years old, my brother and I were invited to a movie on the big screen for the first time. It was a film about Annie, a spirited, ragamuffin orphan from New York City who was invited to live for a week with America’s richest billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Annie travels to Warbucks mansion and his staff lavishes her with love and adoration and a wardrobe full of new clothes. But while Annie is basking in the delight of a new way of life, the film cuts to a scene of her friends back at the orphanage, dressed in their drab duds, joyfully singing, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”

I liked the sounds of that. The perfect accessory to any outfit. No matter what style or brand of clothing I was wearing, whether I was dressed like the rich kid or the pauper, I could always add a smile!

But the Bible tells us about another go-with-everything garment. In Colossians 3, Paul compares our new life in Christ to a new wardrobe. The Message paraphrase reads like this: 9-11 “Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it!”

LOVE! It’s your perfect all-purpose garment. It goes with everything! And no person, especially no follower of Christ, is every fully clothed without it.

Paul also tells us about some things that we need to get rid of. We don’t have room for a new wardrobe if the closet and dressers are still filled with the old.  1-2 “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.  3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.  5-9 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk. Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.”

Are you ready to make some changes to your wardrobe? Don’t delay. Christ’s designer attire is the perfect fit for you.

Erin Jacobsma

 


Train the Younger Women

Last week marked the end of an era. What began November 7, 1955 came to a close December 2, 2019. For 64 years, the Esther Circle has been part of the Women’s Ministry at ARC. According to church records, the Esther Circle began with almost 100% participation from the women of the church. That number has dwindled to less than 4% in recent years and now stands at zero. For a variety of reasons, the current members are unable to continue.

I became a part of the Esther Circle 23 years ago. I was not contemplating joining a Circle. I certainly wasn’t looking to connect with a group of ladies who were all old enough to be my mother or grandmother. I definitely didn’t have extra time on my hands. I was a busy young mother with a one year old, a four year old, and a half dozen other children running around my ankles at my in-home daycare. Maybe I was just desperate for adult conversation, but one of the women in the group stopped me on a Sunday morning and extended an invitation. As we talked, it turned out to be a mistaken invitation. She thought I was someone that I was not, but continued her invitation regardless. I accepted.

The following night, I received a warm welcome as I gathered around the table with the Esther Circle. I don’t remember what portion of the Bible we studied that first night. I don’t even remember who was all present. But I remember thinking to myself that these women were survivors. They had made it; made it through mountains of diapers (that weren’t even of the disposable variety), made it through years of cooking in quantities that I can’t even imagine, made it through laundry that was done without modern conveniences, made it through struggles and heartaches and woes that my generation has only read about. They had experienced a multitude of battles and stood firm. And maybe, just maybe, if I stuck close to them and paid attention, I could glean from their wisdom and I might be able to stand firm and survive as well.

The meeting was filled with conversation, reading scripture, discussion questions, sharing of celebrations and concerns, and I could sense a genuine love around the table. At the close of the evening, the ladies bowed their heads in a circle of prayer, calling out to God for the needs of one another and their church family. And I knew that it wasn’t the elderly lady who had invited me, it was my Father in heaven who knew exactly where I needed to be at that time in my life.

During the Esther Circle’s final gathering, we enjoyed a delicious meal at the Bluestem, shared Christmas cards with our prayer partners, reminisced on years gone by, and again closed the evening with a circle of prayer. As each woman took a turn to lift her voice to heaven, I recalled moments from the past when we interceded on her behalf… prayers for surgeries, heart problems, cancer, new babies, broken hearts, grief, divorce, deployments, floods, fires, fractured relationships, illness, and disasters. And through it all, God has been faithful and we survived and learned to enjoy the abundant life in the midst of our struggles.

The apostle Paul must have known something about having godly role models, passing on the faith and helping one another withstand the pressures of this life. He writes to his friend: “Teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5)

I have learned much from the older women in my life and I appreciate their friendship greatly. May each of us take seriously what we are passing on to the next generation and do so for the glory of God.

Erin Jacobsma

 


His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

Repetition. The process of repeating something over and over. There is great value in repetition. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that children learn to master a skill through repetition. It’s why they have homework sheets, quizzes, and practice tests before the real test is given. Repetition increases confidence and strengthens connections in the brain. It helps transition a skill or knowledge from the conscious to the subconscious. This is why we ask the children in Pioneer Club to write down their memory verses five times. This is why school teachers used to implement disciplinary tactics of having students write out 50 times, “I will not talk during class”. I believe this is also the reason behind the writing of Psalm 136. Repetition helps us remember.

We do not know the author of this psalm, but twenty-six times they repeat the words “his steadfast love endures forever.” It seems to me that maybe they needed to give themselves a reminder. Maybe the author was a young mom, bogged down by the continual pile of soiled diapers and dirty laundry. Perhaps these words were penned by a middle aged man, feeling the heaviness of life, tired of the rat race, and questioning the goodness of anything. Or could the psalmist have been a stressed out teenager, a depressed addict, a grieving widow, or a dying saint. I’m guessing whoever they were, they might have been in a bit of a funk, a pit of despair, or just down in the dumps. Yet they recognized their need to remember; to repeat what they already knew.

I need to remember. I grab a notebook and begin writing out the ancient words. Timeless words.

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;

The psalm moves from declaring God’s love throughout creation, to recounting God’s salvation and preservation of his people. As I duplicate the biblical text in my notebook, I am convicted to remember my own story.

Here are a few of my own stanzas of gratitude: Give thanks…

To him who formed me in my mother’s womb, black hair and double chin; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who picked up the pieces of sticks and stones and words that hurt; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who accompanied me through the minefield of school hallways; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who sat at meetings with police officers and principals; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who picked me up from pride’s fall; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who helps abstract my foot from my mouth; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who breaks the chains of fear and anxiety and sets me free; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who bottles my tears and holds me tight; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who gives and takes away; his steadfast love endures forever

To him who saves me from myself; his steadfast love endures forever.

To him who loves me too much to leave me as I am; his steadfast love endures forever

I challenge you to repeat your own story and remember and give thanks. 26“Give thanks to the God of heaven, FOR HIS STEADFAST LOVE ENDURES FOREVER.”

Erin Jacobsma

 


Everything Beautiful In Its Time

Daylight Savings Time has recently come to pass, and I think my body is finally reset to the time change. However, I still find myself thinking, “It can’t be that time already.” Who would guess that adjusting a clock by 60 minutes would make such a difference.

Time has been a recurring theme in my conversations. That usually means God is standing at the great chalkboard of life, ready to teach me a lesson, and I should sit up and pay attention. During Wednesday’s Pioneer Club, my 5th and 6th grade girls interviewed an older couple and asked them about their life. Repeatedly, they mentioned that they were grateful for the extra time they have in retirement to spend with their grandkids, but wished they had spent more time with their kids. They also acknowledged their time on earth is probably short compared to the students in the room, although none of us knows how much time we really have left. They also shared how it takes more time to do certain chores or activities at their age than it did when they were younger.

Other timely conversations this week have regarded the need for better time management, how to cut back on time wasters, and making time for the things that matter. And time clichés have been resounding like a grandfather clock in a silent room… time flies, time is money, only time will tell, it’s just a matter of time, once upon a time, all the time in the world, it’s about time, time is of the essence, time out…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a well-known scripture passage regarding time. The writer declares: “1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

But my favorite declaration of time comes in verse eleven. “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Someone confessed to me this week that they hate this time of year. The crops are mostly out, the trees have dropped the majority of their leaves, the flowers no longer bloom, and everything just looks   dead and dreary and lifeless. Yet I have seen the beauty of a full moon in the early morning hours, and exquisite sunsets at days end. There have been stunning canvases of frost on the windows and intricately designed flakes of snow. No, there isn’t the rainbow of spring colors, or an abundance of green foliage, and this time of year presents its own set of challenges, but if we are willing to pay attention, there is still beauty. He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time. Just like there is beauty in the gross reality of a newborn baby, there is also beauty in a final breath. Belly laughs are just as beautiful as sobbing cries. There is a time for everything.

Each day is a gift of time, 86400 seconds to be exact, and God has made each one beautiful in its own way. May each of us declare with the psalmist, “My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) And may each of us celebrate the beauty of whatever times we are in.

Erin Jacobsma

 


The Sound of the Shepherd

We are surrounded by sounds. Take a moment and listen. What do you hear? As I type this article, I hear the buzz of my computer, the clicking of the keys on my keyboard, the hum of traffic outside my window, wind blowing through the trees, and muffled voices in the next office.

Some sounds are strange and puzzling and we don’t know where they are coming from. We strain our ears to see if we can figure out the source of the noise, or we go to investigate and determine if what we hear is cause for alarm or no big deal. Other sounds are very familiar. We know exactly who is talking in the adjacent room, we recognize the creak of the floor or the squeak of the door, we know the ringtone of our cell phone, and the way our car sounds as we drive down the road.

Some new sounds have been heard at our farm over the past several weeks. A ewe, affectionately known as Big Mama, and her triplets – Fluffy, Petunia, and Tiny – have taken up residence at our humble homestead. Their presence has been accompanied by a chorus of bleating sounds. Hearing Big Mama’s deep “BAA” as she calls to her babies and the babies responding with their soft soprano “baa” is just precious. I love listening to them.

I have grown familiar with their cries. I can tell when they are relaxed and having a friendly conversation, and also when Big Mama senses danger and is shouting a warning to her babes. I am tuned to the baas of the babies telling me that they are hungry and happy to see a bottle in my hand, and also when they are freaking out because they can’t get to their mama.

The sheep have also become accustomed with sounds in their new environment. They tolerate the whimpering and barking sounds of the dog (as long as he doesn’t come too close), they mostly ignore the traffic sounds on the highway, and they barely lift their heads from munching the lush grass when an airplane takes off from the nearby runway.

And they know my voice. I talk to them when I’m opening the barn door so as not to startle them, and speak softly to the lambs as they suck down their bottles. I reassure Big Mama when entering her pen and she has come to realize that I am not a threat to her or her babies. She has even gotten comfortable enough to eat grain from my hand.

There are many passages in the Bible that talk about sheep. In some ways, I’m not excited about being compared to an animal, but John chapter 10 has taken on new meaning since I started caring for these little critters. Multiple times, Jesus talks about being the good shepherd and that he knows his sheep and his sheep know him. But this doesn’t happen overnight. Knowing someone comes from spending time with them. Trust is built and intimacy is developed. When the sheep came to our farm, they didn’t want anything to do with me. Big Mamma would stomp her feet at me and snort, and the babies would run in every direction. But after time and proving myself to them, they have come to trust me and follow me.

Likewise with Jesus. I am comforted by the fact that he knows me, and I have spent enough time with him to be at ease in his presence and know I can trust him. I know his voice and follow him. Not perfectly, but in an ever growing intimacy. He has proven himself faithful and good all my life and I can’t imagine navigating this world without him. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1

Erin Jacobsma

 


Taking A Walk

I am no dog trainer. I’m not sure I’m even a dog lover. Actually, I’m more of a cat person. But for the past month, I have been caring for my furry grand-dog while my son was out of town. We have worked on his manners and not jumping on people when they come to visit, we have played numerous games of catch, we have developed some patience and restraint at feeding time, we have practiced “sit” and “shake” and “down” on many occasions, and we have enjoyed long walks together in the beautiful countryside.

Well, not exactly. We have done all of those things, but the long walks are not always the most enjoyable. I like the idea of starting my day with a brisk morning walk with the pooch by my side, or to savor the cool evening air together with a stroll down the gravel road, but in reality, the dog is the one going for a walk and I’m getting pulled along behind.

I have tried to be patient and consistent with my commands and expectations. I have combed through Pinterest for tips and tricks. I have employed the assistance of a choke chain, a pronged collar, and a shock collar; all with minimal success. The shock collar actually glitched on our walk last week which resulted in a yelping and very submissive dog… for about ten seconds. Then, the pulling resumed.

Our walks are a continuous cycle of me saying “walk”, giving a jerk on the leash, and tapping the button on the shock collar. The dog slows his pace for a few yards until he’s at the end of his leash and pulling me down the road again and the cycle repeats. At least the longer we walk the more compliant the hound becomes and by the time we turn around and head for home he is maintaining a mostly steady pace, but each walk begins with the same struggle.

“I would think by now that you would have figured this out.” Those are the words I spoke to the dog this morning, and the exact same words that the Holy Spirit echoed in my mind. Immediately, it felt like a choke chain around my neck and I wanted to yelp my protest. But in all honesty, I’m a lot like this dog.

I get excited about walking with the Lord and being with my Master, but I’m often not satisfied with his pace. I am sometimes oblivious to everything that God has planned for our walk together. Like the canine in my care, I want to put my nose to the ground and take off running. I want to be productive and get things done. I want to pull away and do things my way. But God says “walk”.

It’s a recurring theme in the Bible. Walking with the Lord seems to coincide with a close relationship with him. We are given examples like Enoch and Noah who “walked faithfully with God” and David who was said to have walked before God in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart. The Bible doesn’t tell us to run around in circles, to strive, or hustle, or pull. God uses words like come… follow… rest… sit… stay… walk. Some of us are slower learners than others. The Israelites wandered in circles in the wilderness for 40 years before God considered them ready to walk in a different direction. I can relate. Sometimes I need to get worn down before I start paying attention. Sometimes I need a spiritual shock collar.

The cool thing is, that God promises to walk with us. The Master of the Universe walking with a rebellious walking partner like me. Wow. May we heed the words of Joshua, “Be very careful to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)

Who wants to go for a walk?

Erin Jacobsma