May 13, 2007
"FOLLOWING THE SHEPHERD"
"By Right Paths"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Rev. Dicky Love tells the story of an overworked mother of three active young boys who was playing in the yard with her boys one afternoon when her neighbor came by to borrow a cup of sugar. One of her boys aimed his play pistol at his mother and yelled, "Bang! You're dead!"
Mom acted the part perfectly. She took the shot, groaned, "You got me." Then she spun and fell to the ground. When she fell to the ground, she didn't get up. Her neighbor waited for her to get up. But Mom didn't get up, so the concerned neighbor rushed over to see if maybe she was hurt from the fall.
As the neighbor bent over, the mother opened one eye and whispered, "Shhhhhh. Please don't give me away. This is the only chance I ever get to rest." (1)
Being a Mom is hard work. Being a parent is hard work because they don't supply us with a users manual. Somebody said "Being a parent is like being pecked to death by a duck. And a lot like trying nailing Jell-O to a tree or herding squirrels."
I like whoever said "Life's "Golden Years" aren't in retirement. The "Golden Years" refers to that period in your life when your kids are too old to require a baby-sitter and too young to take the car."
It's tough being a parent in today's world. And that's where the 23rd Psalm comes in. Especially that portion we're going to look at today. But let's begin by reading the 23rd Psalm again.
 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
The part I want to look at today is the second half of verse 3. "he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
One of the jobs of the Shepherd is to make sure the sheep receive the right nourishment and follows the right paths and trails to reach the pasture. The Shepherd has to be on the lookout to make sure none of the sheep get distracted and wander off or get lead astray by some patch of grass that looks greener or smells sweeter. In a sense, the work of the Shepherd is a lot like be a parent.
This being Mother's Day, there are some attributes of the Good Shepherd that as parents we need to develop so we can be the best parents possible and keep our kids on "The Right Paths."
A. The first one is really quite simple. BE THE PARENT. The Shepherd can't be a sheep. The Shepherd has to be a Shepherd. That's the Shepherd's job and calling in life. It's the same with parenting.
I think the greatest gift you can give to your children is to simply be their parents. Not their friend but their parent. Too many today parents want to be their children's friends. Our children have plenty of friends. And those friends who are a whole lot cooler and in the know than any parent will ever be. What they need isn't more friends. What our children need are parents.
That doesn't mean that you can't have those intimate conversations that friends have. That doesn't mean you can't do the things your kids like to do and share in the adventure of growing up. That's all part of being a parent. But a parent is someone who puts raising their kids and leading them on The Right Paths as a high priority.
Our children want to know that we care. That we love them with the same unconditional love that God has for us. You may not think so, especially when you get the rolling eyes and attitude. But our children also want to know the boundaries because they know they need boundaries. Friends don't set boundaries, parents do. And boundaries tell your kids that you care. It tells them that they matter enough for you to set limits on their behavior.
OH, they are going to push the boundaries. They're going to test you and see how far you'll stretch the boundaries. But that's OK. I know it's maddening as a parent but believe it or not it's in their job description. Their job description is simple, grow up. And how do you grow up? By learning what you can and can't do and what's acceptable to do and what's not. And how do you learn what you can and can't do? By testing your limits and testing the boundaries.
As Parents, it's our job to BE THE PARENT and set the boundaries.
B. As the PARENT, I also think it's important that you tell your family you love them. Not with gifts, not with money and not just by providing for them. I believe that you need to tell them and say the words: "I love you." And I don't think you can say it too much or too often.
Baseball iron man Cal Ripken, Jr. said: Growing up, "1 love you" wasn't spread around too much in our household. Not that it wasn't meant. I could tell every time my dad told me he loved me without saying it. It's just the way things were then.
That part is different in my family. I want my kids to hear it. I tell them, "I love you no matter what," which means, "Whether you're good or bad, happy or sad. It doesn't matter whatever you are. I love you. Unconditionally. Always." (2)
It all goes back to security, just like setting boundaries. Just as setting boundaries makes them feel safe and loved, telling them you love them and you'll always be there for them does so even louder. You might run the risk of telling them you love them so often that it loses meaning. But you know, I'd risk it.
BE THE PARENT. Set boundaries and tell your family you love them.
A. SECOND, We're called to BE THERE. In the last couple of weeks, I've learned and relearned more about sheep and shepherding than I've ever really wanted to know. Commentaries and a book by Phillip Keller that I read years ago titled: "A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23" have been invaluable.
One of the things I've rediscovered is that just like in raising cattle, the success of the flock also depends on good land management. A lot of folks who have hobby ranches don't pay too much attention to pasture. But that often leads to over grazed land. That's not good for cattle or sheep.
With good pasture rotation and a watchful eye both the land and the livestock can prosper. But that takes someone willing to devote the proper amount of time. It means walking the fields and knowing the state of each of the pastures. It means walking among the livestock to check them out first hand.
I know when I was farming, I'd walk among the cattle almost every day. They got used to my presence. I carried cubes in small bucket for my favorites. Up close I could tell when I needed to start dusting for flies or grubs. I could get a look at the newborn calves or check the progress of a steer or just rub the ears of the bull, who was just a big old baby. He'd been hand fed and hand raised from a calf by a young man who decided not to show him. The only thing I had to worry about was his size and the playful way he nudged me in the back begging for cubes.
Being out in the field with the livestock was invaluable. And I think there's a parallel between shepherding and parenting.
B. When I was in 5th, 6th and 7th grades, I played Little League baseball. I wasn't very good but I liked to play. I started in Center Field and occasionally played catcher. I don't remember too much about many of the games, a stand up triple stands out in my memory. The one game that stands out in my memory though, is the only game my Dad ever attended. That's because He as there.
He saw me strike out and he saw me get a double and a single. He saw me score a run. He was there. He said, "Good hit. You might try dropping your left shoulder a bit." I've forgotten almost everything else but I remember that. There's not too many times I can say that my Dad was there, but that night he was there. And that one game meant so much to me.
As parents we're called to BE THERE. Being there affirms and confirms the "I Love You". Being there empowers the boundaries we've set as Parents. Being there helps lead our children down THE RIGHT PATHS.
Randall Mundt in SHORT SHOTS ON FAMILY said, "Children are natural mimics, who act like their parents despite every effort." (3)
Remember your folks saying something like this? "When you grow up and have children of your own, I hope that they turn out JUST LIKE YOU!" Well, it works.
Our children aren't looking for someone to like, they are looking for someone to BE LIKE. They looking for someone to follow as an example.
Be the example. John Wesley said "I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians of England." (4) Susannah Wesley lived by example.
Do you want to be the greatest influence in your children's lives? Then BE THE EXAMPLE. Show them what a Christian Mother or Father is supposed to be by being that Christian Parent.
There was a small boy who sitting was with his mother in church listening to a sermon titled, "What is a Christian?" The Preacher kept coming back to the question and at key intervals would ask, "What is a Christian?" And every time he did, he pounded his fist on the pulpit for emphasis.
About the third or fourth time the Preacher asked, "What is a Christian?" The boy leaned over and whispered to his mother, "Momma, do you know? Do you know what a Christian is?"
Mom said, "Yes, dear, I do. Now try to sit still and listen."
As the Preacher was wrapping up the sermon, once again he thundered, "What is a Christian?" and pounded on the pulpit. The boy couldn't stand it any more and he jumped up and cried, "Tell him, Momma, tell him!"
If we as parents will BE THE PARENT, BE THERE AND BE THE EXAMPLE, our children won't have to ask if we know what a Christian is. They'll see it for themselves. They'll know first hand. And they'll follow you down THE RIGHT PATHS for God's name sake.
BE THE PARENT, BE THERE, BE THE EXAMPLE
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