BLOG: (August 8-14) Psalms 1–2; 8; 19–33; 40; 46, "The Lord is my Shepherd"
We are sheep and the Lord is our shepherd. The difference between a shepherd and a sheep herder is that a shepherd has an established relationship with their sheep and he leads the way out front and the sheep follow him. A sheep herder follows from behind, prodding and pushing, and corralling the sheep. The difference is telling. One uses force to get what he wants, the other has spent time with them and proven that he is deserving of their trust. They follow him because they know and love him. That’s why we call this project the To Know Him project. We want to know Him so that we’ll come to trust in Him more and when we do that, we follow Him willingly and with all our hearts.
The shepherd’s sheep know him because they know his voice and he feeds them. If someone mimics the shepherd’s call that the shepherd uses to get their attention to follow him, the sheep don’t recognize it because the imposter didn’t feed them and gather them first. This is a human trait as well. We all have an instinct to attach ourselves to someone else. This is readily and more easily seen in children. Ideally, small children will attach themselves to their parents. This is the circle of life and there are a myriad of benefits that set the child up for success and stability when this attachment happens. In the book Rest, Play, Grow by child psychologist Deborah MacNamara, she describes the process of collecting your children. Simply put, it’s engaging that attachment instinct by getting down on their level and interacting with them and what they’re doing in order to give them instructions for another task or activity. For example, I could collect my child when she is playing with LEGOs by kneeling down next to her, putting a hand on her shoulder, noticing out loud what she’s doing, asking her about what she’s building and what’s the next step in her building process. Doing so, I’m collecting, or gathering, her attention and once I’ve done that, maybe I spend 60 seconds (if I have the time) helping her with the next step, then I’m more likely to meet with success when I ask her to go brush her teeth or put her shoes away. I reinforced her attachment to me, and I collected her attention and eye contact. Maybe I collected a smile or two while I was at it.
Sheep know and trust their shepherd because he feeds and gathers/collects them. We gather/collect our children similarly; we feed their body with the food we give them and their spirit through our interactions. Jesus showed the apostles He could provide for them when He called them to follow Him. He told them to cast their nets on the other side of their ship and afterwards, there wasn’t room enough for the bounty. He called them to be fishers of men. The same goes for our children, we have to gather them (or collect them) before we call them to follow our instructions and/or example. We humans have a much easier time following instructions when we’re gathered/collected first.
All we like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53) - we’ve all been called and given instructions to follow and have gone astray. Our shepherd doesn’t get mad, He gently guides us back to His fold and gives us another chance to follow those instructions. We need to do likewise with our children. We, like Peter, are called to feed His sheep and His lambs. Those lambs are our children. We’ll be much more successful in feeding them when we gather them beforehand.
He has shown that He is capable of feeding us and providing for our needs. Will we follow Him? If you’re not sure He can provide for you specifically in your specific situation, what can you do to be sure? The same thing others have done before you. Experiment upon the word and let it work in you (Alma 32). It’s not going to happen overnight; things that last rarely do. We humans are creatures of habit and creatures of comfort. We need to spend time with ideas and let them work in us before we’re comfortable with them. Our comfort zone moves and expands as we see the fruits of the gospel evident in our lives. The truths of the gospel for us to plant in us aren’t only found in the scriptures either. We can find evidence of these truths in a multitude of places i.e. nature (God’s university), great literature (I totally have suggestions if you want them!), fine art, beautiful music, scientific studies, daily interactions with others, etc. Sometimes it’ll make sense to our hearts before it will to our minds. Oftentimes the truths of the gospel seem counterintuitive to our minds, but our hearts see and feel the truth of them when we practice them through our faith in Jesus Christ. Sometimes it takes one or the other a bit of time to get on board with the idea and that’s okay.
The times when we are more worried or concerned about something are often the times we search, ponder, and pray more fervently. When we search, ponder, and pray more fervently, we’re more likely to be ready to receive revelation. We’re putting considerable effort into receiving it and therefore our hearts and minds are open to receive.
What is weighing on my heart and mind? What is most pressing to me right now? What am I most worried about? A few years ago, I read Wendy Watson Nelson’s book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life and in it she suggested a 30 day exercise that opened my eyes to finding answers to my questions. She suggested identifying what was most concerning to you at that moment and then reading in your scriptures until you received the answer either on the page or through revelation. I undertook this exercise, with a little bit of doubt I might add, because although I believed the scriptures could answer prayer, I thought my questions and concerns needed to be spiritual in nature. Little did I realize that the Lord was absolutely serious when He said that all things were spiritual to Him. I created a chart in a notebook and each day I would write what was most pressing on my mind at that moment and I would read until the answer came to me. Most of the time I was just reading straight through the Book of Mormon, but without fail the answer came. And most of my concerns weren’t “spiritual” in nature. I only had two small children at the time and some of my concerns/worries were decidedly temporal: finding the motivation to vacuum my house (yes, seriously), finding the motivation to exercise, how I could eat more healthily, how I could help my girls feel loved and attached to me, how I should be a better mother today, how I could better support my husband, and so on.
For some of these temporal ones, which honestly were the most pressing concerns on my heart and/or mind that day (I am a simple person, what can I say?), I was worried that I’d have to read for hours. How can I find the answer for exercising more in here?! The Lord knew my time constraints and He led me to the answers, even though they weren’t always on the page. He showed me that He can provide for me in ways that I didn’t think possible. The day I was most worried about exercising I was reading in the war chapters. Those chapters say nothing about exercising my body (exercising faith yes! Body? no), but the answer came to me and was impressed upon my heart because I was searching and He provides! The apostles must have been equally doubtful when a strange man came to them and suggested they try their nets on the other side. I mean, they’d been fishing all night with little to no success. Why not though? What did they have to lose? What do you have to lose with such an experiment? The Lord cares about me and He cares about my desire, or lack thereof, to vacuum, because it’s important to me. He gets down to where I am (to collect/gather me!) and lifts me higher. He knows my needs and He meets them in miraculous ways. I just need to open my eyes to see and recognize the miracles and tender mercies He extends to me in so many ways.
This exercise proved to me that the Lord can and does provide for my needs, all of them, even the lack of desire to vacuum ones. The Lord is my shepherd, and I can trust my shepherd to lead and guide me down the path He knows is best for me. I can trust that He has my best interests at heart.
All we like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53). When we stray, and we all do in some way, He’s there as a Good Shepherd who is always ready to guide us back to the fold. He feeds and gathers us. He doesn’t force feed us though. He can and does only lead us to the source of food/water. It’s on us to partake. He invites us to trust in Him - we trust Him more and more as we come to know Him and realize He keeps His promises to us. We have to know those promises to recognize them of course - we learn those promises as we study the scriptures and we realize their fulfillment as we live the gospel.
“The Lord is My Shepherd” Hymn #108
The Lord is my Shepherd; no want shall I know. I feed in green pastures; safe-folded I rest. He leadeth my soul where the still waters flow, Restores me when wand’ring, redeems when oppressed, Restores me when wand’ring, redeems when oppressed.
Thru the valley and shadow of death though I stray, Since thou art my Guardian, no evil I fear. Thy rod shall defend me, thy staff be my stay. No harm can befall with my Comforter near. No harm can befall with my Comforter near.
In the midst of affliction my table is spread. With blessings unmeasured my cup runneth o’er. With perfume and oil thou anointest my head. Oh, what shall I ask of thy providence more? Oh, what shall I ask of thy providence more?
I'm Tiffany and I live in sunny Arizona (love me some sunshine!). I have 5 beautiful daughters. I know what you're thinking, that's A LOT of estrogen! and you'd be right, but we have some of the greatest times known to mankind through our adventures in learning (we homeschool), loving, playing, and growing together. In my spare time, I love to read (I own literally thousands of books) and hike in the beautiful mountains near my home.