A Classic Case of Thinking Outside the Box

I’ve been on the hunt for a new book to read. From the stack of books on my bedside table, I stumbled upon an intriguing biography on the life of Jesus from the point of view of his beloved disciple John. So far it has been an absorbing read! What I like about it is the intricate descriptions of that period in time and the depth of the relationships between the characters. I really feel thrown back in time when I peruse the pages of this book.

So far the most profound impression this book has made on me is how Jesus was not afraid to go against some of the norms in that society. I call this a classic case of thinking outside the box. Lepers were considered unclean and were to distance themselves from the rest of society. Their ashy, ghost-like skin was viewed with disgust and they were looked down upon. Yet Jesus crossed this boundary, physically touching and healing a leper.

Jesus was becoming well-known and was gaining in popularity among certain sectors of society. I can imagine it would have been easy to just proceed in a manner that would maintain his popularity but that was not Jesus’ style. He was not concerned about what people thought of him but with fulfilling his mission to heal the sick, the brokenhearted and preach the Good News, regardless of what this did to his reputation.

While the self-righteous Pharisees viewed Jesus as a kind of heretic rebel, he was the one who defied the norms of that society, touching lepers, talking with a Samaritan woman at a well, dining with tax collectors, all while maintaining his humility and compassion towards others. Jesus acted “outside the box” to fulfill the goals and mission he had been sent to do. This makes me think that in my own life, there are ways to go above and beyond, ways to be courageous and creative, in order to achieve a worthy goal that will ultimately benefit others.

The Master, A Life of Jesus by John Pollock
The Master, A Life of Jesus by John Pollock
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

Living a Fruitful, Contented Life

I am on to reading my next book and I have to say this book has surprised me and challenged me in ways I never expected. I picked it up at church one day from a stack of books that were being given away to the public. It was published in the 70s and its pages were yellowing and the binding had come undone such that some pages fell out and floated to the ground when I opened it. The cover had an old fashioned image of a shepherd with cute, cuddly sheep running around him. I was about to put the book back when a person behind me cleared their throat and said, “That’s a great book. You should read it”. So I decided to take it home with me…where it landed a spot on my bedside table for the next 3 months.

Whenever I need a new book to read, I usually sift through books we already have at home since my husband and I are both avid readers and we literally have hundreds of books stacked throughout the house. I often manage to find something to read before having to spend money to buy one! So lo and behold, I came across this beat-up book with the shepherd on the cover lurking on my bedside table. I decided to start reading it.

The book is about an actual shepherd’s perspective on God as the good shepherd taking care of his sheep. It’s simply called “A Shepherd Looks at the The Good Shepherd and His Sheep”. There is nothing like an experienced shepherd to actually tell you about sheep! Jesus liked to speak using parables in the Bible and it sometimes leaves readers perplexed. What does he mean referring to me as a sheep? Well, I love how the author of this book (Phillip Keller) explains in great detail how a shepherd actually takes care of his sheep. You would think this would be boring to read but no, there is a purpose for every task he does. His sheep mean everything to him and he works very hard to give them everything they need to thrive.

One of the analogies I loved from this book is how the shepherd unlatches the gate early every morning to allow the sheep to go out of the sheepfold, corral or boma to find fresh pastures. The sheep cannot stay in the fold all day for it is covered in dust, dung and other unsavory things. Every morning is a fresh beginning for these sheep and an opportunity to be revitalized and strengthened by the dew on the foliage they eat.

The shepherd wants what is best for his sheep. The shepherd knows what ground is best to feed on, which areas are safe to walk on. He will not lead the sheep off a cliff or where there are dangerous crevices. The sheep learn to recognize the shepherd’s voice, run to it and have complete trust in it. Without this implicit trust, the sheep cannot benefit from the shepherd’s direction.The sheep live a seemingly uncomplicated life, they have surrendered and trust their shepherd for their best interests.

I am half-way through the book and it has inspired me to think about what gives me direction, what my priorities are and how I can live a fruitful and contented life:

  • Seeking daily refreshment: Life gets so busy at times but I am learning the importance of setting time aside daily to refresh my mind and body. My new goal is to have my devotional times first thing in the morning before the family wakes up. I realized that even with all good intentions, if I don’t schedule an actual time, there are days when things are busier than expected and then God gets last place on my agenda. I tried waking up early today today and although I was a little groggy, it was great to have the house quiet and to just focus on my thoughts, sing, pray and read. I contemplated my previous day that had been a challenge with the kids, acknowledged it had been tough and then cleared it away from my mind, focusing on how to make today better. Clearing our thoughts in this manner is like a virtual exit from the dusty sheepfold of our minds, seeking new, positive thoughts to refresh us for the new day.
  • Having an outward focus:  Although it’s important for me to have goals and a vision for my future, I cannot let that trample on the time or relationships I have with family and my outer social circle. I am challenging myself to think of and uplift more people in the course of my week be it through a phone call, visit, email, note, or text. It’s time to get out of the sheepfold and into the outer world where I can have a positive impact!
  • Letting go of the worries: This is easier said than done but I have found myself to be much more contented when I let go of yesterday and embrace today. I cannot change yesterday, I can only affect what happens today and this largely depends on my attitude. I can plan for tomorrow but I cannot worry so much about it, that I miss out on today. I don’t know how many tomorrows I will have, I only have today at my immediate disposal. My shepherd leads me into green pastures and even if a storm comes, he knows how to get me out.

Even though there are so many uncertainties and potential worries, I am finding that by refreshing myself daily, focusing on others and not getting caught up in the daily worries, I am happier and more productive.

A Shepherd Looks at The Good Shepherd and His Sheep by Phillip Keller
A Shepherd Looks at The Good Shepherd and His Sheep by Phillip Keller