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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Language is a funny thing. If you had lived in the 1500’s you might have gathered small sticks into bundles for kindling and carried your “faggots” home to help with fire building. If you were an elderly woman in the 1600’s eking out a meager existence by making faggots and selling them, you would have been called the pejorative term “faggot-woman” or “faggot” for short.

If you were a fool or a simpleton in the 1800’s, you might be a dope. In the sixties, you might have smoked it. But now you would be excellent.

It is in this light that I have been ruminating(no pun intended) on the word “sheep”, which seems to have become a pejorative term in today’s culture used to describe people who willingly become vaccinated or wear masks or follow directives from authorities.

I don’t have a desire to examine the politics of this, but as a Christian, I have been contemplating the spiritual aspect of this term as well as the oft repeated concept of not wanting to be a “sheep” because all I need to do is trust God for my health.

Yes, in the Old Testament prophets often warn that the people of God were like sheep without a shepherd, with all of the chaos that implies. But the key word is WITHOUT. Even our psalmist acknowledges that the God who made us, who calls us His own, declares we are the sheep of His pasture.

That same God, in His mercy, gave us a Shepherd, one who would never leave us or forsake us. And, as I get to know Him better, my contentedness in my “sheep-hood” deepens.

I freely confess I am not a Biblical scholar and rather classify myself as a fool for Christ. But I do know this to the core of my being. I am a sheep.

I am living in New Testament times, and the sheep of God’s hand, of which I am one, are no longer without a shepherd.

My Shepherd, Jesus, made this very clear, “My sheep, listen to my voice;I know them, and they follow Me.” That’s what the sheep of God’s hand do – they follow.

But they don’t follow the ways of this world where position and privilege and personal liberties and power are the currency. They don’t follow political leaders or pledge allegiance to flags or governments. The sheep of God’s hand follow a Shepherd, one whose sole purpose on this earth is to serve others.

This is the Shepherd who is “good,” and His goodness is revealed in this: He willingly lays down His life for His sheep. If my purpose is to be more and more transformed into the likeness of Jesus, then any movement in that direction leads me away from self and towards doing whatever I can, laying down my life if need be, for the sake of others.

You may hear in these times some people demanding their rights and freedoms, but may you never hear that from followers of Jesus. You may hear the word “sheep” thrown at you like an epithet. Wear it like a crown. Because our Shepherd Himself was led “like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth.”

Amidst the cacophony of the brokenness of these times, I listen for the sound of my Beloved Shepherd who calls me to lay down my life for the sake of others. And in the context of His ultimate sacrifice, what is being asked of me in these times comes at little cost.

I am a fool for Christ.

I am a sheep with a Shepherd.

And I experience my deepest peace when I listen to His voice and follow Him to the best of my ability each and every day in His mission to sacrifice and to serve.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

A family came into my view on a trail along the shores of Lake Whatcom early one morning as I walked my grand puppy. A young father was in the lead followed closely by his wife, and in the rear meandered a young boy on a small bike.

His progress was interrupted by an informative sign, and he stopped and called out to his parents. Their response caught me by surprise. Without a single trace of annoyance or impatience, they turned and walked back to the boy. Reaching the sign, his father began to read what was there, stopping along the way to answer the many questions that poured forth from the boy. This interruption in their walk caused no interruption in the spirit of the day. Gentleness surrounded this family, an unhurried sense of grace, especially towards this little boy.

I suppose my surprise was born of experience, having just visited a national park and witnessed the painful interactions between harried parents and hurried children. Adults seemed so determined to get to the “next thing,” and the children’s natural curiosity and amazement were slaughtered in the wake of these artificially created “must do” lists.

In the refreshing breeze of this gentler family encounter at Lake Whatcom, I began the slight ascent to the car through a forested section of the trail, a quiet almost mystical place of thick ferns and old growth.

A man passed me, and in his wake a little girl of about three was bent over something on the trail.

“No stopping!” he called after her gruffly.

Something in me snapped. He would not have his way with her today. I bent over next to her. “What do you have there?”

“A rock,” she said as she rose up smiling, cradling it as though it were a diamond. Her clear, limitless blue eyes looked up at me without guile as she shared her three-year-old insights about the rock treasure.

We walked together towards her dad, and then I remarked about her beautiful necklace laden with charms. She began to caress each one and tell me what it was until she came to a small round one encrusted with “diamonds”.

“It’s a…. it’s a….” Looking perplexed she looked up at me for help…

“Well, it’s very sparkly…and very round…”

“It’s a…. it’s a….” A panicked look crossed her face.

Just then, her dad interceded. “It’s the moon. The moon.” The world took a breath and relaxed. They both walked off, and it felt like the air had changed between them.

Finishing my walk, my thoughts were still held captive by the image of that little girl. All of us, I think, had come to take in some kind of view this day.

The little boy on the bike was viewing the world from his particular place… his three foot height. His parents climbed down from their perspective to help him interpret and appreciate his three foot view.

The little girl whose neck was adorned with a sparkly moon was viewing an eighteen inch world as she bent over the path. And the only person who could stand with her in amazement admonished her instead to “stop looking.”

Devoid of any insight, the day left me with a profound sadness. I suppose if there was any lesson in this day, it was simply this:

All my life, I have been that little girl, caught up in my eighteen inch world…

being admonished to stop looking,

and struggling to find words to describe the moon.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

When The Woman Who Runs first overcomes me on the trail and glances back, I notice a soft light that seeps from her spirit into the air surrounding us both. Slender and athletic, she is half running, half walking, and her voice, when she speaks, is warm and inviting. She appears to be slightly older than I am, but my perception is colored by the fact that I often imagine I am still 25. Her form disappears, and I get lost in the passing conversations of others on the trail as my charge for the day, a senior black lab, slowly guides me along the trail.

Nearing the end of my walk, people dressed as bumblebees and flowers are staffing what appears to be a finish line. As I near the corner past their station, The Woman Who Runs passes me again and turns her head as we exchange glances. She pauses for a moment, and I ask her if she is almost done.

“No, I am part of an endurance marathon.”

“How long does it go for?”

“Today through Sunday.”

When I express my incredulity, she explains that participants will run/walk for 12, 32, or 48 hours, no breaks, no naps….day and night until the goal is met, around and around this lake. A young man passes, and he flashes his number, explaining that his color badge means he will be running for 12 hours. The Woman Who Runs, still running in place as we chat, shares that she is choosing to run 36 hours, and she waves goodbye.

In her absence, I contemplate my lack of physical stamina.

Often wracked with hip pain and foot pain, making it for these three miles had filled me with a sense of accomplishment until I pictured this joy-filled woman moving through the wood-lined path for another 24+ hours. Self condemnation begins to flood my thoughts, and my abilities now appear meager, eating away at the banks of my self-confidence.

And then a quote floats like a raft into my thoughts:

Comparison is the thief of joy.

I think back to The Woman Who Runs. Her light, her glow, her warmth…those emanate from her because she is anchored in who she is created to be. She runs. That is her happy place. And in her wake, joy trails her like soft perfume.

I can’t run for 12 hours. Or perhaps I have no desire to. But I will sing Baby Shark for hours in a car with small children and revel in the explosive laughter of small ones making rude body noises. That is music to my ears, and it brings great joy. And when I walk, even at my slow pace, in woods and near water, my heart explodes with love for the Creator of all this beauty and with gratitude for the Lover of my soul.

So tonight, I think, I will travel back to the lake as the sun sets to sit along the shore and await a passing appearance of The Woman Who Runs. Perhaps I will bring my guitar and sing praise to the hills and valleys, to the rivers and the sea as I wait.

Should I be blessed with another encounter, I anticipate The Woman Who Runs will still leave joy in her wake. I celebrate that.

She is The Woman Who Runs.

But I am The Woman Who Sings.

And I will send my songs across the water like skipped stones, and, hopefully, joy will travel like ripples to the shores of the lake in the wake of the notes.

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