Monday, December 15, 2014


He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

Isaiah 40:11

As a child, the shepherds with their sheep were my favorite figures in the nativity set. I was drawn to them like a magnet. Perhaps this could be explained by the fact that my grandparents raised sheep and I spent a great deal of time on their farm. But I don’t think I had any understanding of the real meaning of “shepherd” until an event in my life at the age of ten. It was spring lambing time, a magical and miraculous time that still amazes me. For the farmers who raise sheep in Central Michigan it is a time of long nights, hard work, and little sleep. I was out of school on break, spending a few days my grandparents’ farm, and taking delight in the arrival of new lambs.

One cold night my grandfather announced that several sheep had gotten through a hole in the fencing. He had been able to get them back inside and repair the fence but now he realized one of the pregnant ewes was missing. He would have to go hunt for her. I insisted on coming along and we grabbed coats, hats, gloves and flashlights as a drizzly snow was falling. It was not nearly the fun I had imagined it to be and I couldn’t help but think the mother sheep had caused a lot of problems! When we found the sheep, the lamb had already been born but was not moving. My grandfather handed me the lamb and told me to keep it warm inside my shirt against my skin and to take it to my grandmother while he cared for the mother. Off I went with a rather heavy wet lamb against my chest. It was a long way back to the house in deep darkness with wet snow soaking me. Upon arrival my grandmother quickly placed the lamb near the stove and got some milk down it and soon all was well.

I’ve come to realize that I am like that mother sheep; I, too, have caused a lot of problems in my life. Once I thought God must be tired of me and my problems, that he had reached his limit and had given up on me. Then I began to learn about Jesus the perfect shepherd. Jesus has compassion for those of us who struggle and stray. Far from giving up on us he cares for us with a shepherd’s heart. He pursues us, gently leads us, and carries us through our problems, because he loves us. The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need. Psalm 23:1

Anita Ratliff

Prayer: Thank you, Shepherd God, for your steadfast loving care. Plant within my heart your love that I may care for all your sheep in the way you have shown me. Amen.