As one person whom I met over Mark Matlock's speaker breakfast put it, "I come here to remind myself why I'm not quitting."
The opening of the general session today illustrated the importance of this anchor of being in a community "who get me." An attendee was interviewed and shared the heartbreak of their church recently losing their main youth worker to a tragic illness. You have a sense as such a story is shared that no one really knows how to respond to that, and yet you also know that everyone is responding... even if only my empathy. "We get it," we convey.
Maybe that's why the video Lanny Donohoe showed cracked everyone up, or why the Skit Guys yet again found a way to help us find the natural humor in the Scriptures we hold so sacred. Or how the worship band is a group of "somebodies" who have chosen to be "nobodies" so that the spotlight is on Jesus as they sing, "Everlasting God," "Jesus Messiah," "Mighty To Save," and "It's All Because Of Jesus."
This is when Margeret Feinberg began to share about a Shepherd who "gets us":
- She shared about her experience in Alaska and what God began to do in her heart.
- She felt led to looking up concepts of "sheep" and "shepherd."
- We see the original conflict of Cain and Abel that it was over livestock versus the field. Moses' story has the sheep component, too - all the way up to Jesus where Shepherds were invited to the birth of God, the Lamb of God. And toward the end of Revelation
- With hundreds and hundreds of references to sheep and shepherds in the Bible, I thought maybe I should spend more time with both.
- Gwen showed me the landscape and started to whisper because "the very first sound of my voice, they will all come running." And the very first words, "Sheep, sheep, sheep," they all came running.
- John 10:1-5
- Just as Gwen knew the unique characteristics of her flock, so does God know us and describe us this way (Psalm 139) Not only do the sheep hear the Shepherds voice, but the Shepherd hears their voices.
- Exodus 3/Numbers 13 - the spies don't come back with any milk or honey, but grapes and produce.
- I asked a beekeeper why this is... she talked about how of the 50,000-70,000 bees there is a queen bee whose job it is to make babies all day long, every day. Then there is are bees who bring water to the hive, and others who use it to cool it. And then the guard bees who protect the hive, and the mortuary bees who remove the dead bees from the hive. The organizational structure of the beehive causes awe and wonder.
- When every one of us fulfills the role God has for us, sweetness can happen in this world.
- For any hive to overflow with honey, it requires everything to be working in its proper order. Every single bee fulfilling its proper role; the ecology of the land allows for it to happen; the proper order and timing of God's hand has provided.
- If we look at the people God has entrusted to invest into and lay our lives down for His sake, we understand what happens when even one person does not.
- John 15: I am the true vine...
- I hear these ideas of pruning, and I fear God will come at me with a machete - and whack away at me - and trim me down to a stump.
- I learned that it is actually a small set of clippers that are used to finally prune the vine down so it can receive the right amount of sun and shade, nutrition and water, so it can give off the flavor it is intended to give.
- We fill find that there will be days as we pour out into kids, that God is the Good Shepherd and nothing has escaped His notice; that we are to not get distracted from our task to bring forth sweetness in this world; that He is pruning us for eternal purposes and we must simply abide in Him.
One last thought...
I write this as a volunteer... someone who has been both back stage and in the crowd. I've seen the hands of people raised in worship and others who have collapsed into a thankful silence from all they have received; I've watched the camaraderie backstage among speakers and stage hands, and see lead worshippers come off the stage giddy that they got to praise God.
So in that context, I hope I believe I speak on behalf of everyone to tell God, YS, and Zondervan, "Thank you for choosing to 'get us' - because by being your sheep these NYWC days we can actually become the shepherds in the lives we go back to."