I sat on the middle of the living room sofa, having given over the left side of my head of hair to Michael James (6) for “braiding”, and the right side to Ellie (4) for brushing, spraying, and making pony tails. From the middle I read to them the little yellow “chapel chat” sheet* that Ellie had brought home from pre-school, this time focused on the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” It guided us to some really sweet and wonderful conversation….MJ asking, “So Mommy, just what IS mercy?” Ellie showing me the sign for “way” and singing “The Lord is my shepherd, I’ll walk with him always.” Both of them agreeing that I am like a shepherd to them, and telling me ways that they have been a shepherd to friends at school, helping show them “the way” to do something, guiding and comforting friends along the path. I told them how they often show me the way – when I see them being kind and loving to one another, it shows me to the way to unconditionally love Daddy and other people. When I see them laughing and playing, it shows me the way to be JOYful. When I see them enjoying the little things in life, it shows me the way to slow down and appreciate ordinary moments along our journey together.
As we talked about the “shepherds” in our lives (teachers, friends, grandparents), they both agreed that “ABCmouse.com” was a shepherd, guiding and showing them “the way” to do different reading lessons on the computer. (Not really what I had in mind, but okay…As long as we don’t get into a ““Her” situation with our technology.) Ellie busted out with, “You are the children that God dearly loves, so be just like him, Ephesians 5:1“. I looked at her in wonder with my jaw dropped…where did that come from? I had no idea she could quote scripture! She grinned slyly, and repeated it for me, so I could look it up in my Bible and check her work…sure enough: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.” Ellie told me that even though I’m a grown-up, I’m still a child of God. It’s fun to be surprised and impressed by your kids! They have amazing things to tell and teach me every day. I was thinking maybe we parents would do well to imitate our children more often – perhaps then we’d be a little more like God. I was thankful that we’d slowed down to allow this kind of “aha” moment for Mommy.
I am so happy they are my little lambs, and that they know how important they are in our “Manders” family flock and in God’s family. I know I don’t have as many little heads to count at the end of each day as some moms (and certainly not 100 like the shepherd in Jesus’ parable), but I’m thankful that God gave me these two particular precocious and precious little sheep. “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and they know me.” All the good and bad stuff. Their tantrums, my tantrums. Their tears and mine. Our shared joys and frustrations. Even our bodily functions! What an overwhelming, heart-opening, gut-wrenching, vulnerable, wonderful intimacy we share – the three of us. A mother and her young children. It is comforting to know that God/ Love is in this messy holy thing with us, guiding me on this path of imperfect parenthood, over the rocky hills and through the dark valleys, to the green pastures and quiet pools of water, both of us full-time shepherdesses.
*Here is the “chapel chat” if you’d like to share it with your own little lambs….I happen to be the chapel (and music) teacher at Ellie’s pre-school, CCDC in Lake Highlands, so I have the privilege of leading chapel each week with young children, and teaching them about God’s love. Let me know if you’d like more of my “chapel chats”…
The 23rd Psalm
Try this Psalm at bedtime or at dinner for an evening prayer with your family….
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This semester in chapel, we will be talking about the many “nicknames” for Jesus. The last 2 weeks we have focused on Jesus as “The Good Shepherd”.
- What nicknames do you have for the people in your family?
- Ask your child to describe the image of Jesus as shepherd we found in the chapel. (We have a lovely stained glass window of Jesus as a shepherd in our chapel space.)
- We read 2 story-book versions of the beloved 23rd Psalm with illustrations. I asked the children to imagine themselves as the sheep while we read. (Make sure you listen to their sheep sounds!) Ask them to describe or draw a favorite scene or picture from the books. (The books were “The Lord is My Shepherd by Hans Willhelm and one by Rob Lewis. Here is a link to many more choices: Psalm 23 Children’s Books)
- I acted out the parable of “The Lost Sheep”. Ask the children where sheep #100 was hiding. Have you ever been lost? What did that feel like? Who helped you find your way? (I rounded up several sheep – plastic and stuffed, and began counting…95, 96, 97, 98, 99…oh no! I’m missing one! With the youngest kids, I hid the 5 sheep around the music room, and they had fun finding them, hugging them, and taking them back “home”.)
- We talked about the jobs of a shepherd: to help sheep stay on the right path, to guide them to good things and away from bad things, to help them when they are lost or hungry or scared, to groom them, to take care of them by providing them rest, safety, and comfort. If you were a real shepherd, what job would you like best?
- We talked about people in our lives that act as shepherds for us, showing us “the way” – the way to be, to love, to follow God. Ask your children to show you the sign for “way”. (Make a “w” with each hand, and bring them forward from your hips.) Parents, teachers, friends, and children, too! Who is someone who helps to show you the way? How do they lead you on the right path?
Songs: “The Lord is My Shepherd, I’ll walk with him always.” (This one makes a lovely canon or round.) See Ellie and a friend sing it with the motions, Shepherd Song video…
The Lord is my shepherd, I’ll walk with him always.
He knows me and he loves me, I’ll walk with him always.
Always, Always, I’ll walk with him always.
Always, always, I’ll walk with him always.
Good News! God is like a shepherd, always with us, taking care of us.
Wishing you and your flock green pastures and a smooth path!