Little Lamb

Image, by Winnie C, Pixabay

Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bade thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
– William Blake

Many of us are familiar with the shepherding analogies of the Bible, from the shepherd boy David penning the 23rd Psalm, to Jesus’ telling the parable of the good shepherd who searches for the one lost sheep.

Human beings have often been compared to sheep, because we exhibit so much of the same behaviour, tending to flock together, often heedless and helpless in the face of danger, and in need of provision.  But one thing sheep do possess, and that is an instinctive knowing of their shepherd’s voice.  A friend who once raised sheep on the family farm testified to that, saying that her husband could call the sheep from a faraway field and they would come, but that they would totally ignore her.

In Matthew 25, Jesus pictures Judgment Day as a process similar to that of a shepherd separating the sheep from the goats.  My knee-jerk reaction sometimes saw that as discrimination.    Certainly, we love our little kid goats, too – our family farm included Susie, the goat, a curious and playful and resourceful creature.  But goats and sheep are different in personality, with different food needs, vulnerable to different diseases and hazards.

Jesus’ parable was perhaps not so much about sheep and goats themselves but to show that these natures are clearly distinguishable: the criteria would be based on our treatment of others.  When we ignore the needy we are distancing ourselves from our own intrinsic humanity.   How we react when we see others hungry, or thirsty, in need of clothing or hospitality or in prison is crucial.  Our response is given as if to Jesus himself, who loves his sheep like a shepherd.

Pastoral care is also that kind of shepherding, alert to the straying ones, using the oil of kindness to assuage the wounded ones, giving direction by being that orienting voice that leads them, searches for and provides for their spiritual nourishment.   Especially in times of social distancing, it is important that people can hear their leader’s voice, and that leaders have a sense of where people are.

Every day, a shepherd would call out his sheep from the fold, to set out for the pasture.  Unless we recognize the Shepherd’s voice, admit his leadership for both our unique and our common humanity, we cannot resource the provision God has made for humanity.  And God’s greatest providence has been the life of his Son, the great Shepherd who became the sacrificial lamb.

We are beginning the season of Advent.   Over two thousand years ago, Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, the place near Jerusalem where the sacrificial lambs for the temple were kept.  Mary may very well have taken the strips the shepherds used to wrap baby lambs to help keep her newborn warm.  It was the angel’s sign to the awed shepherds, so that they would recognize the Messiah.  The Lamb of God and the Great Shepherd in one very seemingly tiny, vulnerable human being.

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee;
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee.
– William Blake


Although we’ve had a balmy fall, the gales of November came slashing last weekend as they often do, the gusts blowing down fences and branches, and knocking out power in the Port Stanley area.   The woods to the west of us afford protection from the wind, but also threaten possible danger from toppled trees.  Here, on the north shore of Lake Erie, storm winds can send impressive and fiercely frightening surges of waves on to the shore.  It can be a humbling reminder of our insignificance.

The storms of our lives are often memorable:  from the time in childhood when lightning struck the nearby pond and a fireball hovered in the air, to the tornado that pulled a majestic willow tree out of the ground by its roots on my in-laws farm.  My then-boyfriend discovered the destruction when he returned home in the early morning hours after our date.   This resulted in a reprimand by his crusty old co-worker:  he shouldn’t have been out in the early morning hours of the “Lord’s Day” as the news article had reported!

In August of 1990, a tornado struck the little hamlet of Frome just west of us, causing damage to half of the homes there, but also causing problems in our home on the east side of St. Thomas.  Our roof leaked with its torrential downpour and our basement flooded.

Sometimes we have no idea of what direction the storm will come.  A few years ago, while traveling the beautiful Natchez Trail through Tennessee, we heard tornado warnings on the radio, but hadn’t caught the location.  There was nothing to do but keep on going and hope we were traveling away from, instead of into the storm.

There are stormy times in our lives when we feel battered by the waves of change or trouble.   It was the prophet Hosea who warned that we are sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind when we abandon worship of the true God, choosing to adulterously serve idols.  Wiktionary also interprets the meaning of this saying as “Every decision has consequences; a person’s actions will come back to them; if one starts trouble or takes actions in spite of the discontent they cause, one will incur negative consequences.”  In Dante’s Inferno, the lovers Paolo and Francesca are among those who forever spin in the tempests of the second circle of hell, because they been swept up in illicit passion:

“As the wings of wintering starlings bear them on in their great whirling flights, just so the blast wherries these evil souls through time begone.”  

We pity the poor bird attempting to navigate a raging gale.  We pity these poor lovers, who have not considered consequences.

We know that all the powers of nature are in God’s hands, that he can send the storms of our life so that we learn to trust and obey Him in those times.  And this same God who is Master of creation can send the storm to stop a runaway Jonah or tame these winds to a whisper, as he did to speak to the prophet Elijah.

December Storm Sky, Port Stanley Photo Credit: Bette VanderGiessen

George MacDonald pictures this in his children’s classic At the Back of the North Wind.   In his story, God directs the North Wind in wild tempest or gentle breeze, specific to His purposes.   And we know Jesus, who calmed the raging sea by mere command,  is Master of both winds and waves, whether it be in Nature or our nature.

“They all shall sweetly obey thy will
Peace, peace, be still.” 

 Jessy Dixon


Shed Architecture

It’s quite common for people to put up little toolsheds on their properties to hold yard tools and various implements.   These little structures dot our backyards, and small as they are, they can be very unique.

We both grew up on a farm, and our shed had a mini-barn look.  The roof even sloped off to the side like the typical Farmer McDonald barn.  The neighbour to the north of us found real joy in collecting rocks, and he had an extensive collection.  The shed he put up looked weathered from the start, like an old prospector’s Yukon cabin.  When our next door neighbour built a shed, it looked mystifying tall, until we recalled that he used to manage the local airport.  It just makes sense that he would build a miniature airport hangar!

And tiny and temporary though it is, even the birds create their nests, busily constructing them out of available materials, shelter for themselves and their young ones, as this mother did next to our brick wall.

We all have our place in the world, and these buildings express designer architecture, even if the place be temporary.   Our sand castles, nests, sheds, our houses, our soaring design in skyscrapers or places of worship offer a scope for creativity.  God created us in such diversity and we can express and enjoy it even as the smallest of creatures in the humblest of places.

Mexican-influenced, Salvador and Wilma’s shed.