Looking to the Good Shepherd Jesus for the example of how to care for others... Keeping a discerning eye on those who claim to be shepherds of God's people... Learning to recognize, heal from, and speak out against abuse -- spiritual, emotional, verbal, and physical -- in churches, organizations, families, and society.
Why I Picked This Hymn: That's easy! We sang it in church on Sunday, to go along with our pastor's sermon "Love and Wonder" from the book of Ruth. Naomi, overwhelmed with widowhood, a long journey, and poverty, has lost her sense of wonder and excitement about life. It is only after returning to Bethlehem and experiencing a sequence of "divine coincidences" that she begins to come alive once more. Our pastor commented that it is easy to let cynicism rob us of our wonder, but that the kindness (hesed) of God, expressed through his providential care and through the hands of other people, can rekindle us. Personally, when I'm feeling spiritually jaded, the best way for me to renew wonder is to get out into God's creation. Even looking up at the clouds in the sky when I step outside to get the mail can lift my spirits. What takes it even deeper is to pay attention to the fascinating little details -- to notice the exquisite care he has taken to fashion each facet of his masterpieces, even the ones we brush by and take for granted.
As in nature, we often miss the glories of God's redemption plan because we aren't paying attention. I've been known to let my Bible get dusty on the shelf or read it so fast that I don't grasp the truth and beauty on the page. Or I mumble a half-hearted prayer without thinking or quietly listening for an answer. What is the answer? Take the time and the focus to read, meditate, pray, and worship. Delight in the intricacies of his compassion. I encourage you to go back and read this hymn line by line and let it illuminate the kindness of God to you. The hymn was written by John Newton, the slave trader captured by the amazing grace of God. (Yes, he wrote "Amazing Grace" too!)
About the Photos: All of them were taken at Kewanee Park, just a mile or so from my house. My son wanted to get some nature shots for his photography class, and I was more than happy to oblige, even though we'd been there just the night before at sunset. I wore my crocs, and padded softly down the boardwalk, savoring the beauty and drinking in those details. That's how I saw the heart in the wood grain, the funky tree with a branch like an elbow, the delicate spider's web on the curved palm leaf, the moth camouflaged like a torn leaf, all of the other shadows and patterns and textures and colors. What a feast for the eyes and the heart!
"Let us love and sing and wonder!"
Sunset over Kewanee Park
This post is the 24th in my Strength in Hymn series, which combines hymn texts, nature photography, and encouragement for disillusioned Christians. Most of the posts on this blog are about hymns, but I occasionally write ones on abuse of authority in Christian families, churches, and organizations, as well as the dangers of legalism. Would you be so kind to visit this short reflection that I wrote a week or so ago on this topic and let me know what you think? Vision Forum and Friends: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. Thank you so much!