Thursday, September 17, 2009


Yesterday was our anniversary. Thirty-two years.

We had a beautiful wedding. Flowers, ferns and candles filled the altar. It could have been a wedding for a princess. And what was so funny about it, although I appreciated everything my mom did to make it special, was that I didn't really care. I just wanted to marry Jim. I wanted to start our life together. My poor mom had to force me to make every decision a bride has to make, except saying I do.

I loved the church where we were married. It was a huge church with beautiful stained glass windows. It was an old downtown church that had been in Mobile forever. A balcony and huge, glowing chandeliers filled the ceiling. Across the top of the altar were the words written in gold paint, "THE LORD IS IN HIS HOLY TEMPLE. LET ALL THE EARTH KEEP SILENT BEFORE HIM."

But as beautiful and majestic as the church was, that's not the reason I loved it. I loved it because I always felt God was there. I know we are His holy temple, that He lives in us. I know that all believers are His true church, but there was just a sense that He was there. That it was a special place. I use to think about all the prayers that had been prayed there. All the lives that had been changed. I know God used the time I went there in my life. I know He would have used it more, if I would have let Him.

One of my favorite things about our wedding was the song the pianist played when the wedding was over and we walked out of the church. As we were lighting the unity candle at the end of the service, I remember hearing the song. I thought, what a neat selection. I would never have thought to choose it. I remember singing the words as we walked up the long aisle past our family and friends as husband and wife, beginning our new life together.

The song was a jazzed up version of the hymn "Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us."

It's on the CD, WOW HYMNS sung by Todd Agnew.

I listen to it sometimes while I'm walking, or working out on the elliptical machine, or driving in the car.

It has become a prayer of mine.

Savior like a shepherd lead us.
Much we need your tender care.
In your pleasant pastures feed us
For our use your folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus

You have bought us, Yours we are.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,

You have bought us, Yours we are.

Jim and I were talking last night about how only God could have brought two sheep like us together. We also decided that if the Shepherd was going to tell the parable of the lost sheep and had us in mind, He would probably change it to the two lost sheep and the other ninety-eight.

The Shepherd could tell some interesting stories about us... two sheep. Many times our Shepherd would be trying to lead us down His perfect path, when I would take off running to the right while Jim took off running to the left. Then I would run to the left while Jim would run to the right.

We have been wandering sheep. Sheep that wandered off the path, never intending to go far enough to get hurt. Our intentions were to stay away from the thorns and thickets. But what we learned, is that you don't have to wander very far before you find yourself trapped. Caught. We've found ourselves many times crying out for our shepherd to free us. To rescue us.

I've been a shepherd before. I know what it's like. When I was teaching four year olds, we would often go on field trips. I would assign a couple of children to a parent who would be going with us. They were responsible for those children. But, there were always a couple of four-year olds that I would not assign to anyone but me. Because, I knew them. They weren't bad. They just had a tendency to wander, to touch things that didn't need to be touched and to cross a line or two just to see what would happen. Their parents were trusting me to keep those little wanderers safe. If I couldn't keep my hand on them, I surely had my eye on them at all times.

Wandering, touching things, crossing lines. Hmm. Sounds a lot like us.

We've been rebellious sheep, too. So many times when we could see the green pastures ahead and our Shepherd ask us to follow Him there, we stopped. We said "no." We chose to stay where it was rocky and dry. We chose to stay empty and hungry. When He invited us to come and drink from His waters, we said "no." We were willing to stay thirsty to be able to do it our way.

It's hard to know why, except to remember that sheep are not very smart. Actually they are considered stupid because they keep doing the same dumb things over and over again. Maybe Jesus used the example of the shepherd and the sheep because He knew, as much as He loves us, that we aren't always real bright.

Only Jesus, the Good Shepherd, could love such sheep.

Max Lucado in the book, Traveling Light, asks why do the sheep who most need the shepherd resist him so?

Our answer to Max is, "We don't know why."

I remember the picture of the shepherd with the lamb draped around his shoulders. That picture was hung on the walls of some of my Sunday School classes. I always knew the shepherd in the picture represented Jesus, but I didn't know why the lamb was on his shoulders.

Did you know that it wasn't uncommon for shepherds to break the legs of a wandering, rebellious lamb? It sounds cruel, but not as cruel as letting the little lamb be eaten alive by its natural enemies. The shepherd would carry the crippled lamb on his shoulders until it's legs were healed. During that time the lamb came to know the shepherd and his goodness. He learned to trust him. To stay close. The lamb learned that there wasn't anything off the path that could compare to the joy of walking close to his shepherd.

Our legs have been broken. Not by our Shepherd. But by choosing to go our own way, making our own mistakes, becoming too broken to walk.

Over and over again Jesus has carried us. He carried us so we would know Him. To know how much He loves us. He carried us so we would know His voice. So we would know that the mean, critical, condemning voices we heard in the world weren't coming from Him. He carried us so we would know His strength, His compassion, His love.

Yes. He carried us until we could walk. And then He put us down to walk. To walk by Him and for Him. And maybe sometimes to help carry a few people to Him whose legs have also been broken.

We've wobbled as we've walked. We have tripped and fallen so many times we've lost count. We've looked silly and have wanted to give up.

We've even wandered away from Him again. We've been rebellious again. We've reverted back to our stupid sheep ways. Again.

But, you know what? Once you've been carried by The Shepherd when you were broken, you can't stay away very long. You long to be back by His side. Regardless of what you see glittering in the distance as you walk down your path, you know there isn't any where you would rather be than with Him.

We know His voice now. We hear Him when He calls us back to Him. We aren't afraid any more. We have no reason to run away. And every reason to run to Him.

He has shown Himself to be the Good Shepherd. He has washed us, His dirty sheep. He has washed away the stains and made us as white as snow. He has anointed our wounds, and fought our enemies when we were too tired and weak to hold up our heads.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd.

"For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand..." (Psalm 95:7)

Thirty-two years ago. Today. He is still our God, and we are the people of His pasture. And the sheep of His hand.

"Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us" ends with a phrase that spans the last thirty-two years, and will span eternity.

Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
Thou hast loved us, love us still."

Love you all,
Cheri and Jim

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