Being a Sheep

There is a song that our children sing in church. It goes:

I just wanna be a sheep, baa baa baa baa
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa*

It’s a cute song and my boys love to sing it, especially because the other verses talk about what we don’t “wanna be”: a hypocrite (they’re just not hip with it), a Pharisee  (‘cuz their not fair, you see), or a Sadducee (because they’re so sad, ya see).

I certainly don’t want to be a hypocrite (although I know I am sometimes) or the other things either, but I don’t know if I can stand up and shout I JUST WANNA BE A SHEEP! either.

Every time the image of Jesus as the Shepard and his followers as the sheep comes up, I cringe a little. I know. That sounds awful, and I feel a little awful writing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the pastoral imagery, the connotations that He keeps us safe with love and guidance, and I am even ok with the whole “follow” him thing. I want to follow Jesus and his teachings. I do. I am a big believer in love and kindness.

But I don’t think I want to be a sheep.

sheep

Sheep follow blindly. They don’t question. Sheep are dumb. Sheep are thoughtless.

When I think of people as sheep, I think of that popular insult on the internet: Sheeple. You know, those people who seem to believe (and follow) every “expert” they read on the internet. The ones who blindly follow “data” without following up on it themselves. Those who don’t vaccinate, or do vaccinate, or use baby wraps, or co-sleep, or don’t co-sleep or vote Democrat or Republican, or repost articles without ever doing their own fact-checking. People who jump on bandwagons simply by trusting that what people (and the internet) tell them is true.

I know, I know. Jesus is different.

He’s a different kind of shepard. He cares about us and won’t lead us down the wrong path.

I get that. I do. And there probably isn’t other imagery that the writers of the scriptures could have used to adequately describe the idea that Jesus will take care of us if we follow him.

But honestly, that is where my faith gets weak. I have no problem getting behind the teachings of Christ. Love your neighbor? You betcha (even though I fail often, I still believe in this)! Love is the greatest? Yes, sir! Don’t throw a rock unless you are free from sin? Standing ovation.

I even get the whole, “Katie? You have to trust me. I know what I’m doing.” I get that. I don’t always act like it, but I do believe it.

But “act like a sheep and just follow with no questions just blind faith?”  I don’t think I can.

You see, I have lots of questions. If I was to be a sheep, I would be the bad sheep. I would be the one in the back saying, “where are we going? Will there be a snack because I’m hungry. What about a rest? Are we going to get a rest soon? My legs hurt. Hey, that tree is nice. Did you pick this way because of the nice view?  Do you think this wool makes my butt look big? I think I need a shear.”

I would be relentless.

I know there are Christians out there who would tell me, “just be quiet. He will take care of it.”  And I know in the Bible Jesus tells us not to worry. Birds don’t have to worry. Flowers don’t have to worry. And neither do we.

But I have questions. I have doubts. I mean, there have been some pretty terrible leaders who have told people just to trust them because they know what Jesus is all about and then those people drank some Kool-aid and well, let’s just say they didn’t end up in a green pasture.

I’m not comparing Jesus to those leaders. I’m saying those leaders thought they knew what Jesus wanted and they talked a bunch of sheep-like people into believing it too because sheep do as they are told. They think what they are told to think.

I can’t do that. I ask all the questions and have all the opinions.

“Listen, Shepard. Where do we go when we die? Why does it scare me so much? Is there a sheep heaven? Is it really like the book of Revelation says because honestly? That sounds weird. Why do good sheep fall down? Why do good sheep get made into stew and chops? Why are goats bad? Is it Ok if that goat is my friend? Because he plays a wicked guitar solo and I dig his sense of humor.”

Ok, so my questions and doubts are a little heavier that that, but you get the idea.

I can’t shut it off. I can’t stop being me with all my thinking and whatnot.

Sometimes I wish I could. I wish church would give us a little handbook that says, “Here are your opinions on all the things. Go forth and believe them no matter how anyone challenges them. DO NOT THINK ABOUT IT; JUST DO IT.”

But I know I would fail at faith if that was how it worked.

In fact, as a young adult, I thought that was how it worked and I thought I failed.  I’m coming to find out now, that maybe I’m ok the way I am: full of questions, doubts, and opinions.

But is it Ok to not wanna be a sheep?

*************

*lyrics and music for I Just Wanna Be a Sheep

**googling free images of sheep will make you happy because sheep are rather cute, if not totally stupid.

help us accept each other

Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us;
teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace.
Be present, Lord, among us and bring us to believe
we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

I struggled with going to church yesterday.  It was snowy and cold and I was so very tired.  It seemed like it was SO MUCH work getting everyone in the car with all the whining and meltdowns and just…BLAH.  Charlie was going to miss his morning nap and Eddie was going to be, well, Eddie.

We had to go though because we were scheduled to usher.  It’s not like no one would notice if we didn’t come.  I mean, I am sure everyone is smart enough, they could have found their own seat, but our names were in the bulletin, it was our responsibility.

We went, of course, and I am so very glad.

We have a very traditional service.  We have things like “The Prayer of Confession” and “The Assurance of Forgiveness” and “The Anthem”.  We have “liturgists” and we are “commissioned” at the end of the service.

Our church is currently between pastors and so we are in a “transition” phase.  I haven’t been part of the team that meets, but I know this: we are divided on how we want our worship to be, traditional (like it always has been) or contemporary.  The service today was to bring to light and to make the congregation think about this polarizing that is happening.

And while I knew in my head this was the reason it was being presented to us, I couldn’t help my heart from hearing another message.

Teach us, O Lord, your lessons, as in our daily life
we struggle to be human and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people, for all not just for some,
to love them as we find them or as they may be come.

Recently I have started to dip my toe back into the faith of my childhood.

I have always had some level of faith. Even at the height of my questioning, I somehow always believe there was something bigger than me…bigger than all of us. I can’t explain it…which is weird because I am very much a science and facts kind of person.  I can only say I believe it.

I am still very young in this new me.  I would say I have always been a Christian, but recently–within the last year–I have decided (due to a lot of prodding, I believe, by God) that I need to do more than just say I am, but not attend church, not explore the MILLIONS of questions I have, not talk about it.

I have some serious questions and doubts.  There is no question about that.  Such doubts, that I am sure it would make my mom sad and some of my family very angry that I dare to question certain things.  But I can’t help it.  And I don’t think God is mad about it, either.

With all this new thirst for answers…or at least peace that the questions can’t be answered…people have really felt the need to “minister” to me.  I find it so strange that as someone who knows more Bible stories than the average person, who can pick up more Biblical allusions than most in literature and culture, and who can cite historical facts about Biblical times, people still feel like I need “saving”…even though I have said I am saved.

The truth is, they want me to be saved “correctly”, meaning they want me to be saved the way the believe is right.  Their way.

Let your acceptance change us, so that we may be moved
in living situations to do the truth in love;
to practice your acceptance until we know by heart
the table of forgiveness and laughter’s healing art.

The reading today that our pastor used for the launching pad of her sermon was 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11. The passage is about the spiritual gifts God gives everyone.  I have heard this thousands of times (and it always confirms that God gave me the gift of teaching), but today, I picked up something different.

Today she read and focused on the part that goes like this: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit” (4) and the rest of the verses around it that talk about how all praise and gifts come for the Lord.  The diversity of all is God-made.  She was using it to show us that however we worship is from God and it’s not wrong if it’s from God.

I took it a step further. I heard her say this, “The only sin Jesus mentions as being unforgivable is that of blasphemy.  Blasphemy is when you say something from God is wrong.  We come dangerously close to this all the time.”

Again, she was speaking of how we worship.  But I thought broader.  ALL PEOPLE are of God.  To pick and choose who you deem “acceptable” then is blasphemy.

Jesus did not just hang out with the rich, “righteous” people.  Quite the opposite.   He put himself among the “least of these,” the people society wanted to pretend didn’t exist.  He didn’t care about political views or race or ethnicity.  He didn’t care about gender or social status.  All people are God’s children.  ALL OF THEM.

He didn’t just tolerate people who were different than him; he accepted them.

We are told not to just tolerate, but to accept.  Otherwise? We are dancing on the verge of blasphemy.

Just because someone does something differently than you do, doesn’t make it wrong as long as it comes from a place of love and light.

Think about that. I did.  It’s not just how we are “saved” or how we worship. It’s not just about “church stuff”.

It’s about how we choose to parent.  What lifestyle we have.  Where we choose to live.  Who we support politically.  What views and beliefs we hold. Who we call our family. How we spend our money.  How we run our business. Who we choose as friends. How we spend our free time.

The list goes on.

If the choices are made for the right reasons? They are not wrong. Even if they are different than your choices.

Lord, for today’s encounters with all who are in need,
who hunger for acceptance, for righteousness and bread,
we need new eyes for seeing, new hands for holding on:
renew us with your Spirit; Lord, free us, make us one!

I almost stood up and yelled out, “AMEN, SISTA!” when she was done. But instead I smiled because it was exactly what I needed to hear.

It was exactly what has been on my heart.

I know I fail at this, if not out loud, in my head and heart.  I am working on it, and my prayer is that the rest of the world will work on it too.

*************

*Lyrics from “Help Us Accept Each Other”. which we sang at the close of church. emphasis added by me.

Preparing For The Arrival

Since September, we have been making a concerted effort to make it to church since Eddie is now three and able to go to Sunday School.

Up until now, it has been Cort going to church with Eddie, and I have been staying home since our church starts at 10am and that is smack in the middle of Charlie’s morning nap; and we all know…you DON’T mess with nap.

But lately, Charlie has been sleeping in on the weekends and taking his morning nap late.

Because today was the first Sunday of Advent, and I had been craving to be in church for Advent, I decided Charlie and I would join the other boys today.

Advent.

The preparation of the arrival of Christ.

It’s so exciting this year.

I think it’s because Eddie is old enough now that we can talk about what Christmas is and what it means and I can share with him why it makes me so happy.

I have been absolutely bursting to share stories of my childhood and giving and sharing with others and Jesus’ birth and God’s love for us with my son.

Saturday Eddie and I went Christmas shopping together for the first time ever.  We started with donuts at the bakery and then we window shopped and discussed what Grandma and Grandpa and Granny and Grandpa Ray and Charlie would love.

We stopped at the library and saw the train show.

We bought gifts for people we love and I asked him why we give presents.  He said, “when it’s someone’s birthday.”

So I asked him, “well how come we all get presents on Christmas?  It’s not OUR birthday.”

“I don’t know, Mom. Why?”

“Well, it’s Jesus’ birthday.”

“But Jesus can’t get presents. He’s in heaven with my Papa and God and Louis.”

“I know. Jesus WAS the present.  God gave him to us.  So to remember, we give everyone we love presents.  What do you think of that?”

“I like it because I like trains and presents.”

Later I told him we were going to pick out two presents for a boy and a girl who otherwise wouldn’t get presents at Christmas (we donate to Toys for Tots…I wasn’t going to try to explain that some people don’t celebrate Christmas. I’ll leave that for another year. I can’t do ALL the teaching in one year, ya know. Raising enlightened children takes time, yo).

“Why won’t they get any presents?  Were thems naughty?”

“No, bud. They were good.  But there are some parents who don’t have money, so even though their kids were good, they can’t get any presents.”

“But we have money.”

“We have some.  Enough to buy two presents.”

“I will pick them.  For a boy and a girl.  We will get thems presents for Christmas. And Santa will bring them. And then God will give us Jesus, right mom?”

“Right, bud.”

We bought an Advent calendar this year.

While I think they are cute, I really didn’t want one that involved the boys (ok, Eddie since Charlie is too little) getting something each day.  To me, that is not what Advent is about. It just becomes a countdown to Christmas when they get the big gifts.

I wanted something that reminded us of what we are celebrating.  What Advent is…preparing for the coming of Christ.

(And for those of you who are wondering, Cort had that kind growing up, but we didn’t do one at all.  We didn’t have much of a discussion over the Advent calendar other than I said I wanted to start the tradition and he was like, “do it up, Babe.” and so I did).

So we bought one with cards and verses.

It is 28 cards and the verses align with what I am reading for my Advent Devotional Plan with #SheReadsTruth. The first six days we read about the fall of mankind…the reason we need Jesus in the first place.

I decided that since Eddie is only three, instead of reading all 15 verses on night, we would read verses 1-3 the first night, and two more verses each night until we get through all 15.  You know, break it up.

Honestly, I had no idea how it would go.

The first night we sat together before dinner, I took the first card down and read these words:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”

I asked Eddie if he knew what a “serpent” was.  He did not. So I told him it was a snake. And I read it again with the word “snake”.

I asked him if he thought the snake was a good friend.  He said no and then he asked me why the snake was so “crafty”.

He had noticed that word!  He had been listening!

We talked about people who try to trick us and how that is being “crafty”. It was decided that people who try to trick us are not good friends.

Tonight at dinner I asked him if he remembered what we read last night. And he said a snake was trying to trick a girl.

Yes! He remembered!

So then I read,

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

I asked Eddie if the snake was right or if the lady should listen to God.  He said she should listen to God. I asked why. He said because the snake is naughty.

We talked about why it’s important to listen to our dad’s and mom’s.  Why obeying is important.

Then I asked him to guess what would happen next in the story (yes, I am an English teacher, why do you ask?).

He said she would NOT eat it because the snake is naughty.

So tomorrow he will be let down, but we will keep talking about it.

Because we are preparing for Jesus.  For the miracle that is God’s Grace and God’s Love.

we promise

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free;
and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
~1 Corinthians 12:13

Sunday was a special day for our family.

Our whole family gathered in our little church to witness our promise that we would teach Charlie about the love of Jesus.

Picking a date was important.

I know some churches just tell you when “Baptism Sunday” is because they do a bunch at once, but our church is small.  Baptisms get scheduled as babies are born, so it was pretty much up to us when we wanted it to be.

Eddie’s baptism date is super meaningful, so I didn’t want Charlie’s to just be random.

Since Eddie was baptized on his namesakes’ birthday, we wanted to do the same for Charlie.  However “Charles” is not anyone’s name but his.  However “Thomas”, his middle name, is after my dad.  And my dad’s birthday was yesterday.

(I did give my dad the business for not having a Sunday birthday this year.  Stupid leap day messing up my perfect plans.  Sheesh.)

We settled for April 29 as the Baptism date because it was the day before Charlie’s namesake’s birthday.

To make it even more special, Charlie’s cousins, Kingston and Kyrie, were baptized alongside him.

i chose a safari shirt since he was getting baptized with his ethiopian cousins...can you see it?

Charlie never woke up. First baby in Pastor John's history to not at least squeek.

Eddie was very good, but so very done by the time pictures were taken.

And Kyrie was just plain tired.

The day was sunny and breezy.  Almost every member of our extended family could be there…including Charlie’s great grands.

I know it’s just a five minute part of a church service that otherwise is not about the baptism.

I know for some people the Baptism is just a formality and not something to throw a huge celebration about.

But it’s special to me…to us.

I guess I can’t speak for Cort, but for me, the ritual of standing before the congregation and our closest friends and family and promising to teach our son about God’s Son is important.  It’s a big deal.

Not so that those people can constantly point out our shortcomings in our teachings; we don’t need help knowing we fall short and are frequently hypocrites.

I know we don’t have the best attendance at church, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t teaching our boys about the love of Christ.  It doesn’t mean we aren’t teaching them to pray and sing to God.  It doesn’t mean it’s not talked about in our house. It doesn’t mean that Cort and I don’t try our hardest to show, not just our boys, but the world, the face of Jesus in everything we do.

We invite those we love to hear our promise so they too can be part of that promise.  So they can fill in where we fail.  So they can talk and sing and model for our boys the love and compassion of Christ.

And we are trying so hard to be in church more as a part of that modeling.

Because we promised we would bring the boys up in The Church.

And we keep our promises.

*************

Incidentally, the sermon this day was about healing through Christ’s salvation.  The Pastor talked about Christ being all around us in the faces of each person we encounter each day.  Throughout the service, two tiny babies were on my mind, needing the healing hand of the Lord. And their mother needing strength.  If you are the praying sort, meet Diana and her boys…whom she almost lost…and is now fighting to save.

sweaters and smiles

Of course after admitting to the world that I have nothing to blog about, I have jotted down a thousand things.

But they all feel a bit weighty or mooshy for a Monday.

So instead, you get a glimpse at our Easter.

The day was beautiful.  Sunny skies and mid-50’s when we left the house for church at 9:30am.

I even got all of my boys to wear sweaters and smiles.  Plus we were able to take Eddie’s crazy curls with a load of tangle spray and some heavy brushing.

After an absolutely lovely service, we packed up and headed to my parents’ house for Easter baskets for the boys.

Eddie dived right into his asking, “mommy, you open this for me?” about everything…mostly about all the candy (thanks, mom)…chocolate in particular.  Seeing as we hadn’t had lunch yet, I only let him open his brother’s m&m’s (let’s face it, Charlie won’t miss them).  But that little stinker found a loophole in my system.  Grandma had chocolate eggs in a bowl.  No need to open his candy when he can shove Grandma’s chocolate in his mouth.

Oh well, it’s Easter.

And he wore a tie and sweater for me.

And stood nice for this family picture:

Eat up, bud.  In fact, here’s some more m&ms.

After my parents’ we went over to Cort’s mom and stepdad’s house for dinner, and egg hunt, and more Easter baskets.

My mother-in-law’s Easter dinner might be one of my favorite holiday meals all year.  I am not even a ham fan, but hers always has this yummy crust on it.  Plus she has all the things I deny myself otherwise:  green bean casserole, rolls, and cheesy potatoes with potato chips on top.  Don’t worry, I ate a strawberry too.  You know, to be healthy.  Or something.

Anyway, I was too busy stuffing my face and making Eddie eat try at least a bite of everything on his plate to take pics of the food.

Cort and I learned that our older son is quite cut-throat when it comes to Easter Egg hunting.  He knew his 11 month old cousins could not get around to find the eggs, so he ran and grabbed almost all of them, despite our yelling for him to “share with the babies, Eddie!”

Why yes, Eddie did outrun his aunt Kenzie because he knew she was weighted down with his cousin.  And yes, he DID ask her to hand over the eggs she had collected for Kingston.  The boy meant business.  I think he is going to be disappointed next year when those tanks cousins of his can team up and push him off the eggs.

Thirteen eggs collected probably equaled about $2 in change, but it was the fun of getting them in his basket.  And of course “feeding his pig” (piggy bank) when he got home.

Granny sort of out does the whole world when it comes to Easter baskets.  So many fun goodies, but the annual ones are swimsuits for the boys.  Charlie got a shark suit with  matching water shoes this year.  Yes, I may have swooned.

And how did she know sticker books are Eddie’s favorite?  He even showed Great Granny how they work.  I think she was impressed.

After all that fun, it was finally time to go home for naps. For everyone.

Because remembering our loved ones who have passed on and praising God for giving them (and us) eternal life through Jesus is exhausting.

Or we were in food comas from Granny’s cooking.

One of those.

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