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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Matthew 18:12-14
Jesus says, "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost."

Our farm outside Lincoln, Illinois stretched across a blacktopped (eventually) county road. A sign near our driveway warned drivers, "Cattle Crossing." At certain times of the year those cattle crossed once or twice a day. I stood on one side and Dad stood on the other, herding them, hoping they wouldn't get any wild ideas.

They did sometimes. Cows have personality. They don't all follow instructions. And some of them get panicky and run. Those were the few that I really didn't like very much. And they were the ones we spent the most time with, too.

Late at night was the worst, after a neighbor's phone call: "Your cows are out." Maybe it's just one cow, and after a few moments of calling them back, it was certainly just one or two, lost in the dark. And those are the ones we spent an hour or two hours with - tracking them, chasing them, cajoling them, pleading with them.

Sheep are just like cattle. People are just like sheep. I am one of those people. I don't follow instructions well; I think too much. I see so many other ways to do it. I think I'm right. I know I'm right. I I I I like the feeling of getting outside the box. Somebody else's box. God made me creative and independent, didn't he? Ey, yi, yi, yi, yi.

Having been a cow-boy, and having done Dad for twenty-plus years, I understand Jesus' words through those experiences. When I'm searching I don't feel loving, but I'm acting out love. I can't let the lost stay lost. When my son or daughter or Dad's calf doesn't feel lost or is not ready to admit it, I act anyway ... but quietly. Gently.

Peter told us, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).

God does that better than anyone. And Jesus wants us to be just like him.

Lord, you always love me and keep me and find me and wait for me. Show me how to do that, too.

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