Monthly Archives: November 2015

Lost Sheep, Take Heart

Over the past couple of years, I find myself increasingly drawn to the outsider, the oppressed, the hurting, the abused, the marginalized, the overlooked, the misfit, the discounted.

The lost sheep.

But here’s the thing. It isn’t really pity or sympathy that attracts me. It’s a sense that their lostness says something important about them that matters. And that their lostness says something about those of us in the flock that needs to be heard.

I think many lost sheep have found our flock lacking in important areas. Many lost sheep have found our flock suffocating,  untrustworthy, or even dangerous. They’ve felt abandoned, misled, neglected or mistreated. In order to save themselves, they’ve had to get lost.

And guess what? If you are a lost sheep, feeling lonely and disillusioned and hurt and cast aside and overlooked… lost sheep of the world, GUESS WHAT??!?

God sees you and loves you. He gets you. He is looking for you and looking out for you. He seems to have a special place in his heart for lost sheep. And He – not the pack, not the alpha sheep, not the earthly shepherds, not the fat sheep, not the aggressive sheep, not the sheep council, but THE Shepherd – will always have the last word.

Lost, hurting, treasured, precious sheep… hear now the word of the Lord, who loves you and hurts with you and is desperately searching for you.

And those in the flock… elder sheep, and young sheep, and leader sheep, and earthly shepherds…  if we dare… hear now the word of the Lord, from the prophet Ezekiel, who has climbed up on his soap box and has some things to say to us.

Then this message came to me from the Lord:

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD:

What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve.

Lost sheep 8You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost.

Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them.

“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:

As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve.

“”Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says:

I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey.

“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land… from among the peoples and nations. Lost sheep 2 I will feed them on the mountains and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. Yes, I will give them good pastureland… There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills.

I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak.

But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes—feed them justice!

“And as for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says to his people:

I will judge between one animal of the flock and another, separating the sheep from the goats. Isn’t it enough for you to keep the best of the pastures for yourselves? Must you also trample down the rest? Isn’t it enough for you to drink clear water for yourselves? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Why must my flock eat what you have trampled down and drink water you have fouled?

“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will surely judge between the fat sheep and the scrawny sheep. For you fat sheep pushed and butted and crowded my sick and hungry flock until you scattered them to distant lands. So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another.

“I will make a covenant of peace with my people and drive away the dangerous animals from the land. Then they will be able to camp safely in the wildest places and sleep in the woods without fear.

I will bless my people and their homes around my holy hill. And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing. The orchards and fields of my people will yield bumper crops, and everyone will live in safety. When I have broken their chains of slavery and rescued them from those who enslaved them, then they will know that I am the Lord. They will no longer be prey for other nations, and wild animals will no longer devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will frighten them. 

“You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my people, and I am your God. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”  (Ezekiel 34:1-22;25-28;31)

Lost sheep 7

Lost sheep, don’t give up.

Shepherds and flock… go find them.

 

People and Parts and Chromosomes

[This post originated several months ago when I got up on my soapbox on Facebook. It seemed to resonate with people, led to a radio talk-show appearance, a local newspaper article, and eventually to this blog. It keeps reappearing, so I decided to repost it here.]

June 2, 2015

For the beloved Mama Bears, raising your LGBTQ children with tenderness and ferocity, this is for you.

For Tomm Zorn who committed suicide last week, and all the courageous transgender folks out there trying to find your path, this is for you.

For my many Christian friends who are struggling to understand while remaining true to your faith, this is for you.

For those angry and inconvenienced by the media attention, who prefer posts of what you had for dinner over the plight of children killing themselves, this is not for you.

When faced with the choice between passionate speech and wise silence, I’ve never had the sense to keep my mouth shut. Which explains why I’m dumb enough to make a “Caitlyn Jenner Post.” Here are a few points I would like to share from a recent Grand Rounds presentation that I gave at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, followed by some general opinions.

Our sexuality is a lot more than the “parts” that show on the outside. It is made up of our chromosomes, our brain sexuality, our internal parts, and our outside parts. The chromosomes direct the formation of our inside parts (ovaries and testes) and sexual differentiation of the brain. The brain and internal sex organs make neurotransmitters and hormones that impact each other as well as forming the outside parts. Most of the time those things match — outside parts, inside parts, brain sexuality and chromosomes. Those four things combined together establish, likely before birth, our sexual orientation (who we are attracted to) and our gender identity (whether we believe we are a girl or boy).

Here’s the rub. The external parts form very early in fetal development (the first trimester) but sexual differentiation of the brain much later (second and third trimester). Hormone surges can and do occur throughout the pregnancy… so a fetus can TOTALLY be born with a female brain but male outside parts. Or with a male gender identity but female attractions and mannerisms. There’s a tremendous amount of science available, and over the next weeks and months I will begin sharing what I know.

In ancient history, all that mattered were the outside parts. But now that we know all that we know about what’s going on inside our brains… now that we know about chromosomes and hormones… now that we know that people can honest-to-God be born with parts and brains and genders and attractions that don’t match… could we maybe just stop long enough to think about that?

If I woke up tomorrow with guy parts, that would seriously mess me up. Or if someone told me I had to figure out how to be attracted to women in order to be “normal”… well, it just wouldn’t happen.

And you guys out there… what if you woke up tomorrow with big old boobs and no dude parts? Or what if you straight guys had to figure out how to be attracted to one of your “bros” and how to not be attracted to women in order to be considered normal?

I’m not trying to be offensive, I’m just saying… THINK ABOUT IT. That would be really difficult. And lonely. And scary. We might hide from the world… or act out… or do crazy things to try to draw attention away from that part of us. Or we might get depressed, or start drinking, or doing drugs. Or kill ourselves.

We know that men who are paralyzed, women who have mastectomies, or people who suffer a mutilating injury are still a man or woman — even if their “sex parts” are absent or dysfunctional. Why? Because the sexuality of our brain and the chemicals it produces and the hormones raging through our bodies (given that I’m a menopausal woman, the term “raging” is quite appropriate) are more important than the outside parts. That’s just the truth.

And as a Christian, that doesn’t threaten my God OR my Bible. He absolutely created us male and female… but what that means is a heck of a lot more complicated than checking the parts below the waist. What makes us male and female is infinitely, gloriously, divinely, beautifully complicated. It’s the reason that after 24 years of marriage, Mike and I sometimes communicate like we are the same person, and other times like we come from different planets. We aren’t “typical” — not by a long shot. I love pro football, took a charge from him on the blacktop basketball court on our first date, cry at least twice a week and think out loud. He loves to cook, is a librarian, thinks about things for, like, 2 months before he speaks them out loud, and loves his alone time.

Sexuality is complicated. Human beings are complicated. That’s because we were created by a God that is way bigger than we can ever begin to imagine. If He had required the perfect design and the perfect people, Genesis would’ve been a very short story. But guess what? Us humans screwing up His design of the garden, of our humanity, of our relationships, and of the whole world was NOT a deal-breaker for Him. Instead, He continued to love us and pursue us and demonstrate compassion. He even made CLOTHES for Adam and Eve to help them with their embarrassment in the garden!! Who does that??

The point is, we don’t always know nearly as much as we think we do. We can misinterpret science, and we can misinterpret the Bible, and we can misinterpret each other’s intentions. And we can really mess each other up in screaming about how messed up everyone else is. But really, we are all pretty messed up… and we are also all pretty cool. Every one of us are walking around bearing the fingerprints of God.

So I think it’s up to you and to me how we respond to things we don’t understand. We can respond with anger and fear and ridicule, or we can respond with compassion and respect and a genuine desire to learn and understand. Our choice of response reveals our character and faith, and history will judge how well we did…