Photo of a rescued lamb recently found in a dumpster in England.
The story in the 23rd Psalm of the Old Testament Bible of The Good Shepherd was always my favorite, growing up, as was the accompanied photo of the Good Shepherd, used to depict the famed bible story. A shepherd leads his flock of sheep through valleys of green pastures and gentle slopes overlooking meadows and brooks flowing with clean, cool water to quench their thirst. It is a beautiful image. But, the story goes on to describe a darker, difficult journey on their way to the meadow’s brook before they can rest and take nourishment from all that the Good Shepherd has led them to.
Sometimes we walk through valleys in our life, into a path of uncertainty and we need the reassurance that our Savior, our Shepherd walks with us, leading us through it. My family had an experience like that once, over thirty-five years ago.
We were on vacation visiting my husband’s parents in Miami Beach, Florida when our daughter, age ten at that time, went walking one Friday night with my husband and his step-father.
The three followed the sidewalk along the edge of a baseball field during a game. Skipping along at a faster clip, she took a wrong turn, losing sight of them and lost her way. Realizing after some time that she was not around anywhere they looked they came back to my mother-in-law’s house with the news and to inquire from neighbors and enlist their help to look for her. There was no Amber Alert back then, but the neighborhood watch group wasted no time, got in their cars and drove around looking for her as did my husband and his step-father, in separate cars.
I immediately called the Dade County police dept., and reported her missing. They sent out two patrol cars to help, and hours later with no success an APB went out on their car radios to alert other officers.
As the agonizing hours passed during that time while waiting at the house with my mother-in-law and our youngest child I prayed fervently that God would watch over her and get her safely back home to us.
It was nearing midnight, and still no sign of her. I imagined filled bars and nightspots on a Friday night in Dade County with its heavy traffic. We refused to dwell on the possibility that she might have been abducted.
As my husband drove through a section in a well-lit commercial district miles from the site of her disappearance he spotted her bright orange tee-shirt on a crowded street. He honked till the horn went hoarse, sped to a stop and ran to her across the street.
When she was back home safely she told us how she’d gotten lost, couldn’t find her way back and just walked on, desperately seeking her father. The darkness, the fear and dread of that night was gone. We knew it was God who watched over her the whole time. Finding our lost child brought indescribable joy and celebration to our reunion that night.
When our ordeal was over, a police officer said to us, “You people are lucky. It does not often end so well.”
When difficult times come it is then when we need to know our Shepherd, our Savior has not left us, that we are not out of His realm of protection and grace.
Joyce E. Johnson (2015)
It is only Love
That can dispel darkness in
A world full of hate
Joyce E. Johnson (2015)
Today is a day we honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., a man of influence who had a ‘dream,’ a dream of equality and fairness for all people of color, race and religion. It is hard to believe that in 1965 back then when he and thousands marched in Selma, Alabama I was a senior in high school with little thought of him, or his dream at that time. I had only one thought that spring; to finish my senior year and graduate high school.
Little did we think or realize how things would develop and turn around, and change for a country so steeped in racial divide, prejudice and hatred back then for the black population. No one believed or ever thought there would one day be a man of color in the White House leading our country.
But, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of faith, a ‘preacher’ who not only had a dream of equality for all, but a man who was not afraid of what a ‘white man’ could do to him, only what a nation would not do to stop racial segregation and injustice, one who allowed rules where restrooms and sections in restaurants divided the white people from the black. And, where the KKK would be allowed to meet in secret under the disguise of white hoods to continue in their practice of hatred, prejudice, even killing and hanging black people to further recruit and promote for their ‘white supremacy’ agenda.
And now, we have racial division once more from the recent incidents of white police officers shooting and/or killing black people in a ‘choke hold’ defensive maneuver. The judicial system we have may have flaws, or maybe just a lot of gray area not easily defined. Time will tell and we will see where the sides and division in these matters decide who was right or wrong. But it emphasizes the fact that hatred still lives in the hearts of those who refuse to practice ‘equality’ and fairness for all, or even to love one regardless their color, faith, race or political perspective.
It slithered into their lives with no warning. They felt there was no reason to fear it. They thought there was no reason to mistrust it. It was cunning, crafty and deceptive.
The tree, the most beautiful in all of the garden stood in stark contrast to all others in the Garden of Eden, a garden where foliage flourished under a bright sun, where nothing ever died or wilted. The fruit looked like succulent scarlet jewels adorning the tree’s outstretched arms.
Declared the, ‘Tree of knowledge of good and evil,’ the, ‘Tree of Life,’ belonged to God. From all other trees of fruit in the garden they could eat; but not this one.
But, why? What could it hurt? How could one bite of the luscious fruit make any difference? Those were Eve’s thoughts.
Satan, disguised as a serpent used his deceitful manipulation on Eve, daring her.
“Go ahead. Take a bite. What harm can it do? Did God not give you all of it to enjoy?” He said.
So, she gave in to the flesh, and persuaded her husband Adam to eat of it too. The fruit was good.
Ashamed of their sin, and naked they covered themselves with leaves and tried to hide from God. But, God could see all which He had created. They were banished from the ‘Garden of Eden.’
Adam and Eve were a part of God’s master plan of creation. Now, they became a part of ushering in His plan of redemption.
To learn more about Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden you can find their story in the book of Genesis, chapters 2 & 3 of the Old Testament Bible. The above is my own paraphrased interpretation.
Joyce E. Johnson (2015)
When the new year got off to a fresh start there were no big booms in the sky with fireworks, carvings in stone, or plans inked on paper to initiate my New Year’s resolutions. But, what I vowed to myself was to restart some of the good, old habits that I had not kept up through the years. My first and foremost important one was to return to my daily Bible reading and devotion time with God. It is an area of my life that slacked off when I became too involved in working solely on writing and posting. With a new Bible reading plan from BibleGateway.com online I was able to set up an automatic scripture reading plan for both the New and Old Testament Bible books. Each day’s reading passage is sent to me via email and I can just follow the link to the planned daily scripture passage and daily verse. The app is convenient and easy to establish a good study/reading habit during my devotional time with God. It feeds my inspiration with new ideas, insight, and perspective as well as providing the essential tools I need to apply the biblical principles to my life. What I especially love is the beautiful poetry in the Psalms, the rich history of the Old Testament stories and people, and the parables of Jesus. Having my large NIV study Bible handy helps too as I often look up cross references and notes. Because I also lead a writers’ group sponsored by my church I know it will better equip me in my leadership role to those in my group who are new to writing, blogging and posting on social media networks.
With the wealth of all that is in the, ‘greatest book ever written’ and the ‘best selling book’ of all time I anxiously await new ideas and inspiration I will glean from some of the oldest stories that date back to the beginning of time. And, who knows what kind of discussion and thoughts, or comments might come back to me with another’s perspective as well.
Joyce E. Johnson (2015)
Antique Kodak Duaflex IV camera with photos of my grandfather and relative
Through the lens of time
searching to find all but gone.
Slow to come to mind,
the memories grow too dim,
photos I clutch in my hand.
Where was this taken?
Whom is it I cannot see?
It is all I ask
God, you grant this wish for me
and bring back my memory.
Joyce E. Johnson (2015)
A view of Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountains from Estes Park, Colorado. Photo credit; Thomas W. Johnson
Life is not about
the mountain top experience
but the climb that counts
I have never climbed Longs Peak, shown in this photo, but my husband, both our girls and grandchildren have, more than once. It is a very arduous, difficult climb and gets technical during the last two hundred feet or so as the climb becomes more vertical and slippery on the granite face of the peak. There is a dangerous ‘cliff hanger’ known as the ‘Keyhole’ where it becomes slower, steeper and grueling. Climbers have been killed or fallen and rescued from the summit ledge, near the north face on the peak. But, reaching the summit is a euphoric ‘high’ for most, a pivotal point of success, as one can scratch it off their ‘bucket list’. Longs Peak at 14, 259 ft. in elevation, is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains. My knees are too weak and unstable to try it, so I’ve just settled for shorter hikes, up the trails to the trail heads, usually no more than two – four miles long.
I used this poetic metaphor to illustrate the way life can deal us difficult challenges along the way. Often times those things come doubled or tripled when we struggle to get through one before another one comes right behind, and often requires a determination that makes the going rough, the ‘climb’ harder. But, climbing it with God’s help makes us stronger in the process, in faith and perseverance when we go through it with Him.
I hope the new year will hold success and prosperity for you, and you will have that inner strength that comes from knowing Him if you face such challenges and find the ‘climb’ in life a difficult one. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” NIV It is in knowing Him and knowing what He can do through us that the ‘climb’ becomes easier and the ‘mountain top experience’ all the more real.
Happy New Year to all,
Joyce E. Johnson (2015)
AND HIS NAME SHALL BE CALLED
Nestled snugly to her breasts the baby wrapped in cloth
was cradled in his mother’s arms, her voice comforting and soft.
The beating of her heart, her milk and warm embrace
left him feeling so content when he looked into her face.
Livestock gathered near to ward off wind and chill;
They shared their sheltered space quiet, cold and still.
Heaven’s glory filled the skies immersing them in joy.
Radiant beams of light gushed towards the baby boy.
The story of his birth was heard throughout the land,
“The prophesied Messiah is born in Bethlehem.”
People came from all around to see the child king,
“Where is he that is born those angels about him sing?”
There was much rejoicing as shepherds ran to see
the baby born to the world, the prophesied to be.
Magi heard the news traveling from places far
with gifts for the baby king guided by the star.
Kneeling before the Savior they stretched out hands in praise;
God’s unfolding gift of love, how awesome His wondrous ways.
Mary pondered all these things and marveled how, that He
from one; a virgin came the Son of God, Jesus, Majesty.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALL!
Joyce E. Johnson (2013)
Footnotes: Although I published this post last Christmas I am re-posting it again with my wishes to all for a very blessed and wonderful Christmas and a happy new year in 2015.