Sunday Sheep Ponderings- December 25,2016

Pondering today  on “SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT”. From what I can tell, humanity, has had a real problem with “stinkin thinkin” since the beginning. “Stinkin Thinkin” is not dirty thoughts but wrong, confused, untruthful thoughts. It seems to me, that starting in the garden, and all the way through to today, we just can’t seem to understand who God is. All religions of the world seem to be the result of a need that we humans have to “make things right”, “settle the score”, “even the playing field”. We’ve created gods that can only offer a vicious cycle of falling short, hating ourselves, needing guilt relief and offering sacrifice to appease. Some gods required a guilt sacrifice, some an animal sacrifice and some even human sacrifice. These gods were distant, controlling and required justice at any price. As I am typing this and pondering on the words, I even see traces of this sacrifice mentality in my beloved Christianity. My heart breaks when I see how my PERFECT, LOVING FATHER has been reduced to look like the other gods humanity has dreamed up and how I have participated in this sacrificial system. He has been portrayed through human writings, human understanding of their circumstances and human traditions as a god who required guilt, demanded justice and accepted all sacrifice…guilt, animal and finally human. 
What I’m about to type…when my eyes were opened to see it for the first time…I screamed “NO”…this messes with all I have ever believed…and yet…at my very core, the center of my being, my “knower”….it all finally made sense and peace flooded my soul, my mind and my heart. 
Perhaps, I was even seeing my Christian God, through a “stinkin thinkin” mindset. Hmmm…I’m guessing we could all do some deeper pondering on that.
And so, we arrive at Christmas! We read the traditional nativity story and we celebrate that our God has finally made a way to be appeased. That he will finally be able to look past our failures and love us. That justice will be served to a scapegoat, this little baby in a manger and He wrath will be satisfied. That the harsh Old Testament God will finally become the nice New Testament God.
Yet, I wonder. Did God send Jesus because HE NEEDED JUSTICE or ….was it because WE did? Could it be that humanity’s “stinkin thinkin” needed to be corrected? Could it be that Jesus was God’s way to SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT? Could it be that WE needed a sacrifice to feel loved and accepted? Could it be that God stooped down to our needs and met them? Could it be that man’s need for sacrifice even contaminated the message of Jesus? Caused his suffering? 
Jesus did set the record straight. He said I have come to give you life, I have come to find and save the lost, I have come to destroy your enemy (your stinkin thinkin)….I AM the Prince of PEACE! I AM the WONDERFUL Counselor! I AM your EVERLASTING FATHER! I AM the one and only mighty GOD of love! I AM like no other god you have formed or created. I AM SET APART, I AM OTHER, I AM …..LOVE. 
So in the words of the angel messengers….FEAR NOT! There is GLORIOUSLY GOOD NEWS for…ALL PEOPLE! The record has been set straight! God is finally revealed as He is truly is and YOU can get rid of that “stinkin thinkin” and KNOW that you are EXTRAVAGANTLY, UNCONDITIONALLY, PERFECTLY LOVED! Merry Christmas my so loved friends! REJOICE! Emmanuel, God is WITH us! 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- December 18,2016

Pondering today on shepherds. There is so much in the scriptures about shepherds but I’m going to focus on two specific occurrences in the Good News according to Luke…one a parable and one an announcement. 
In the parable, the Shepherd was on the giving end of the message. He shares that a GOOD SHEPHERD will leave the 99 safe Sheep to graze on the hill and He will go find the ONE that is lost. He will search UNTIL he finds them and WHEN He rescues them, He will rejoice! Now that my friends is such good news! 
There are many among us that stay with the shepherd in calm, safe pastures. They enjoy the peace, comfort and joy of being in safe arms of their shepherd. But we all know those, and maybe we are one of those, who wander off, loose their way, get hurt, or lured away by promises of a “better” pasture or a better shepherd. 
Oh, the JOY of KNOWING that our good shepherd will NOT leave them lost! He will search UNTIL He finds them! Not even death will keep Him from finding His sheep and bringing them back home! They may run, they may fight Him, they may spit in His face BUT HIS LOVE AND KINDNESS will lead them to turn and fall into His safe arms once again!
In the announcement, the shepherds were on the receiving end of the message. Contrast them with the Pharisees. They were uneducated, lowly and spent their life protecting sheep in lonely, dangerous pastures rather than standing on a platform and preaching down to the people “below” them. It is no wonder that the message to them was “Fear not! We have GOOD news that will be for ALL PEOPLE”!!!! Shepherds, you have spent your life protecting others but today, YOU will have a Shepherd and He is the Christ! The Son of God! The PERFECT SHEPHERD that never looses His sheep! You are safe now! You are loved! You are the focus of His affection and the purpose for His existence! You will not have to go to the temple to find this Shepherd, you will find Him here, in the lonely, dangerous places…He lives among you! 
So as we approach this final week of the Christmas season, my message to you is the same as the message to the Shepherds. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, whether you are in green pastures or lost in the woods, your Shepherd knows your name, will never abandon you and has GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY for YOU!!! 
Merriest of Christmases my dearly loved fellow sheep! ๐ŸŽ„โค๏ธ๐Ÿ

(Adding reference scriptures for those who need them) 
(Luke 15:4-8)

“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost ONE of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost UNTIL he finds it? WHEN he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing!” 


“For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost.” 

(Luke 2:1-11)

But the angel said to them, โ€œDo not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
(Matthew 18:14)

“So it is NOT THE WILL of your Father who is in the heavens that ONE of these little ones should perish.”
(Romans 8:38-39)

“For I am convinced that neither DEATH nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, NOR ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Sunday Sheep Ponderings – December 11, 2016

Pondering today on John 3:16-17. I must preface this pondering with this…there are many thoughts and ideas dancing in my head as I begin to write this. Thoughts and ideas that may stir debate, doctrinal defensiveness and even outrage. Thoughts and ideas I never thought I would entertain. PLEASE DO NOT DEBATE OR PREACH ON THIS POST! My ponderings are simply that…ponderings. Questions, thoughts, open and transparent dialogue between a daughter and her Father, a creation and her creator. A quest for truth from God and not from man and answers that are free from religious tradition and bias. Maybe my ponderings will bring you peace and maybe they will bring you anger…those responses are for you to ponder on your own. 
Here we go. John 3:16-17 as translated by the NASB translators.  
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
This is the most quoted of all the scriptures but what does it REALLY mean? Seems straight forward but it is anything but clear. I began to research this scripture and was blown away at how complex the process was. I found “experts” that believe everything from “it was not part of the original manuscripts”, “it was originally a side note”, all the way to “it’s proof that God is not real and constantly contradicts himself”. So after reading many biblical experts, Greek translation experts, historians and theologians views… I walked away so utterly confused about this most often quoted scripture.
What strikes me the most is this … these words are used by some to share a God that has overwhelming love for all the world AND it is used by others to bring fear and punishment to those who don’t know of this God. Is this verse “good news” for all people or “good news” only for those who believe it? 
Here’s the thing…we do not have John sitting next to us to inquire of. John, did you mean that God loved all people? or God loved those who believed? or God just simply IS love? You see, the reason there are so many answers to the same question is because we don’t have the original letter. We have TRANSLATIONS of ancient writings. We have translations that differ from each other because the translators brought their limited knowledge, experiences and cultures to the translation process AND even more importantly, they translated other translations…not an original handwritten letter from John. We also have a huge gap in language and historical context. 
So with all this truth mixed in with error ….what do we make of this most popular verse of scripture? 
We get quiet with our Father. We block out all the differing opinions, the teachings we have heard from others and “expert” voices. We wait on HIS answers. 
I will share what I believe He spoke to MY heart regarding these verses and what I believe His message is to humanity. This is a heart to heart conversation that I am letting you in on …not a theology to be proven or debated.

My heart’s translation of John 3:16-17.

I love you Wendy. I love you and ALL my creation with a love that is beyond your comprehension. This love I have for all people I have created is displayed perfectly in my son, Jesus. He is the exact representation of me and you can trust that what you see Him do, is what I do. His love and acceptance of people in all walks of life is my love and acceptance. His passion to tell people they are his friend is my passion. His compassion and gentleness with those who have lost their way is my compassion and gentleness. His heartbreak over the pharisees misleading and misrepresentation of my love message is my heartbreak. His healing hand to those who are sick and hurting is my healing hand. 
Wendy, there are people who don’t believe I love them. They have either never heard of my love or they have believed lies about who I really am. They don’t know about Jesus and the love I displayed through Him. Because they don’t know of my love, they are hurting, they are hopeless, they are slowly dying inside. They are searching for something to save them from fear and loneliness. If they only knew and believed how much I love them, they would start to see things differently, they would really start to live this abundant life I have in store for them. 
Share my heart with them! I want them to know I love them! One day they will see me face to face and look into my eyes and believe that I have always loved them unconditionally but my desire is that they all would know of my love now, while in this temporal physical life too. I came to rescue them from fear and hopelessness. I came to silence the lies they have believed. I came so that they can stop beating themselves and each other up. I came to show them that they are valued, treasured and loved. I came so they can have abundant life in the here and now. I didn’t come to judge them or make them feel bad about themselves. I didn’t come to beat them over the head with their failures. I came with open arms that long to embrace them and hold them.

Don’t get tangled in theological and doctrinal weeds my friends. Run free in the wide open spaces of His love. Happy Sunday and happy pondering. 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- December 4,2016

Pondering today on the Magi, Wise Men, Kings from the East. 
There is much to ponder on about these men. Where exactly were they from? How many were there? What was their occupation? Why was this journey so important to them that they would give up years of their lives to make it? Why and how did they make it into the story?
What I’m pondering on today is the gifts they brought; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Why these? 
Over the years I have learned from various biblical scholars and historians that these gifts were not only symbolic but practical. Symbolically of Jesus himselfโ€”gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming. Practically these gifts offered financial means to survive and medicinal uses. 
So here is my question…what would you bring? 
These gifts were brought to an earthly king. A flesh and blood man with flesh and blood needs. 
It’s like the question we ask ourselves every Christmas…what do you get for the person who has everything? 
Some would say “service” is the gift they would bring. A kind gift indeed but He doesn’t need it.
Some would say “worship” is the gift they would bring. A beautiful gift indeed but He doesn’t need it. 
Some would say “obedience’ is the gift they would bring. A noble gift indeed but He doesn’t need it.
Some would say “my resources” (time, talent and money). A generous gift indeed but He doesn’t need it. 
It seems as though everything we could offer Him, falls short. He doesn’t need any of it. That is the point!!! That is where I believe He wants us to be…empty handed and FREE. Free of a religious system that teaches us that WE need to give in order to be loved and accepted. Free from the pressure of pleasing Him. Free from the striving to do just the right thing to make Him happy. Free from the treadmill of performance. Free from trying to be the “giver”. 
You’ve heard it said, “you can’t out give God” but do you understand it? Are you constantly trying to please Him, make Him happy, concerned about disappointing Him? OR are you enjoying the gift HE gave? You see this isn’t a gift exchange. He doesn’t give us a gift and then we give one back. It’s ALL Him! He is the giver and you are the recipient, NO STRINGS ATTACHED! His gift does not cost you a thing! It is free! It is a gift that does NOT require but RESTORES. 
So today, ponder on this…are you trying to “give in order to get” with God? Do the conversations in your mind sound like this, “If I do “x”, then God will hopefully do “y”? Do you feel the pressure of, “since God has done so much for me, I should try to give back to Him”? If so, I believe we may have missed the true meaning of Christmas. 
While it is far better to give than receive with your fellow man, my prayer is that on your journey with God, you find the joy and peace of receiving without giving. 
Happy Sunday my friends! 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- November 27,2016

Pondering today on “walking in someone else’s shoes”.
With all the election drama that has transpired over the last few months and with all the extended family togetherness the holidays bring, I find myself wondering. 
I wonder why some people see things as black while others see them as white? I wonder why some people rejoice while others are so downcast? I wonder why some people are so passionate while others are so passive? Why do some see the glass half empty while others see it half full?
So I ponder. What is it like to walk in their shoes? What joys and hurts have shaped the way they see life? What victories and defeats created their insecurities? What cultural practice or religious lense do they see life through? 
In general, many of us are quick to judge others. 

We jump to conclusions and try to read a book by its cover. We attach broad, generic labels to people who are intricately unique and valuable.
But people are worth the benefit of the doubt. They deserve 2nd and 3rd and 4th chances. We are all making our way through this journey called life. Some of our journeys look like a stroll in the park, some look like a marathon run, some a roller coaster ride and some seem to be climbing Mt. Everest and feel like they will never make it to the top. No two journeys are alike and it’s for this very reason that we should be “quick to listen and slow to speak”. We should take the time to read the book and discover the whole story.
What if…we took our shoes off and tried someone else’s on for a few steps? What if…we took a detour and walked beside someone else for a bit? What if we saw what they’ve seen? What if we felt what they feel? What if we learned what they know? What if?
I’m so thankful that the love of God can transform us from “Judge” to “Advocate”. Mine has been a long journey of judging, sentencing and punishing people. I sat on the bench ruled by religious arrogance, personal insecurity and closed mindedness. I missed so many opportunities to love others and to extend compassion and empathy. BUT that’s not the end of my story. I’m so thankful for a God who loves us unconditionally. I’m so thankful for a God who has walked EVERY step of my journey in my shoes with me. I’m thankful for a God who does not judge as people judge but sees our heart. Hearts that have loved and hearts that have lost. Hearts that have been full and hearts that are starved. Hearts that have been nurtured and hearts that have been stabbed. Hearts that He alone will revive and restore. 
So next time we are tempted to judge, label, or criticize…let’s stop, ponder, and try on a different pair of shoes. Happy Sunday my friends! Love well. 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings- November 13,2016

Pondering today on sovereignty. A fancy way of saying “God is in control”.
This pondering may ruffle some feathers and I can say that because it ruffled mine. Please remember that my Ponderings are simply that…my questions and the limited revelation I have today. We are all learning and growing and that is one of my favorite things about this journey called life. I share my Ponderings to simply provoke thought in you. AFTER pondering on what I write, you may agree or you may disagree and that is ok…just don’t argue here.
I would say, that for most of my life, I would have said “God is sovereign” or ” God is in control”. There was supposed to be comfort and reassurance in those words but for me….it made me doubt his love. So, a 5 yr old little girl is raped and murdered…but God is in control? Hitler rises to power and brutally murders 11 million innocent people…but God is in control? I could list example after example of heart breaking situations that people claim God to be in control of. If this is true, is God really love? That is the dilemma I have quietly struggled with for many years…afraid to say it out loud for fear of all the judgement from my fellow Christians and, dare I say it, even possible judgement from God.
But the season of the journey I have been on for the last several years has brought peace and understanding. It has removed all fear of judgement and replaced it with an exciting anticipation of what beautiful truth I will awaken to next.
So where have I landed on the sovereign question? I have landed with this…God is ALL powerful, ALL knowing, and ALL LOVE. He never promised to “control” and his desire is not authority or supremacy. His promise was to be with us, to be in us, to love us. His desire is relationship. 
Scriptures draw a picture of this relationship as the love of parent and child. A parent teaches. A parent guides. A parent shares wisdom. A parent celebrates your victories. A parent holds you in your defeats. A parent treasures you. A parent desires that you soar in freedom and confidence. A parent loves unconditionally.
Scripture also tries to explain this relationship as the love of a beautiful marriage. A husband encourages. A husband empowers. A husband enjoys your presence. A husband knows you intimately. A husband values your thoughts and ideas. A husband makes your victories taste sweeter. A husband makes your valleys not so dark and lonely. A husband loves passionately. 
If this is your understanding of this relationship that God desires to have with you …you find way more peace and comfort knowing “God is with you” than “God is in control”. 
I don’t believe God controls this world…I believe God loves this world. I don’t believe God has a master plan that includes all kind of pain and evil. I believe God will hold me as I walk in a world full of pain and evil. 
And I hope that I will always give God the benefit of the doubt when things happen that I don’t understand. And I hope that I will always error on the side of “God is love” when life hands me pain and suffering. And I hope that I will always believe in God’s goodness, over every thing I hear or see to the contrary.
Happy Sunday my friends! 

Sunday Sheep Ponderings – November 6,2016

Pondering today on relationship. 
I think that we, as humans, tend to relate to God in the same way we do to other humans. I mean we say that He is far greater than us, that He is “other”, that He is “God” but don’t we pull Him down to our level when we try to relate to Him?
I think most of us see this relationship as a “give and take”. If I do this, then God will do that. If I love Him, He will love me. If I give to Him, He will give to me. If I serve Him, He will serve me. If I do “right”, He will accept me. If I do “wrong”, He will reject me. If I believe correctly, He will save me. If I don’t believe, I am dammed. 
Don’t get me wrong, I related to God this way for 40 years BUT no more my friends. You see what I believed was “good news” for most of my life, wasn’t really good news at all. I was trying to have a “relationship” with God that was far inferior to the the “relationship” He wanted to have with me. I just didn’t see it. I just didn’t get it. I just didn’t understand it. 
GOD IS LOVE! EVERY THOUGHT HE HAS TOWARD US IS LOVE! He doesn’t have a hidden agenda. He isn’t keeping a record of wrongs. He has no expectations of you. He doesn’t need you to “do”, “believe” or “serve” in order to be accepted by Him. There are no “ifs” in this relationship! It is not a “give and take” and it is so extremely one sided that there is no way you could tip the scale! Ever! 
You are completely and perfectly and extravagantly loved and nothing you can do or say will stop it! His love is not dependent on you! His love is all Him! 
We all have a choice. 
We can reject His love and wander through this life without peace, joy and hope. We can reject His love BUT that does not mean His love rejects us. He just keeps pouring it out, expecting nothing in return. (Don’t get your religious feathers ruffled here๐Ÿ˜‰)
The other choice is to accept His love. To just “be”. Be held. Be accepted. Be adored. Be comforted. Be encouraged. Be amazed. Be loved. 
Our choice doesn’t change Him…it changes us. 
If there are “ifs” in your relationship with God, you may want to ask Him about those. If there are requirements in your relationship with God, you may want to ask Him about those too. If you are using scriptures to support these “ifs” and requirements, you may want to ask Him if you are reading those in their proper context and translation. And after asking Him, listening for HIS answers and not religions answers….you may just see things differently. I did and it it has changed me forever. I have found a love like no other love, a God like no other being and a relationship that far exceeds what I could have asked or hoped for. 
Happy pondering my friends!