The Shepherd and His Sheep

Terrorists bombed a bus in Israel today wounding 31 people and killing 1. Civil war is tearing Libya apart and impacting the world. An earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant failures wrought disaster in Japan. Fear can leave us wondering, What’s going to happen next and how close to home will it strike?

The psalmist King David wrote “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need” (Psalm 23:1, NLT). The New International Version states it this way, “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”

David was a shepherd. He understood a shepherd leads, protects and provides for the flock. No matter what came his way, he knew God, as his shepherd, would provide what was needed. David’s intimate relationship with God led him to this complete trust.

When we are afraid to trust someone it is because we think that person won’t do what he said he would do. We’re afraid our trust will leave us left empty handed. Unfortunately, that same mistrust of people pollutes our relationship with God.

Trust comes through knowledge.
My time spent reading the Bible has led me to verses like these:

“God is our refuge and strength,
     always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
     and the mountains crumble into the sea” (Psalm 46:2, NLT).

“God is not a man, so he does not lie.
     He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
     Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” (Numbers 23:19, NLT).

Trust comes through experience.
There have been times in my life when I didn’t know how I was going to pay the rent or put food on the table. But I cried out to God to provide a way to pay the rent and buy food; to provide wisdom and strength to endure until the circumstances past. And he has always come through.

Like David, my relationship with God has taught me I can trust him. I can stand confident in God in whatever comes my way. Are you struggling to trust God? Do you feel he has let you down? Leave your comments or encouragement below. 
Debra L. Butterfield © 2011

Q&A with Pamela Sonnenmoser

Tell us a little about your background and how you got into the ministry.

“My parents were evangelists and from the time I was a little girl, I thought I wanted to go into some kind of ministry. As I grew up, dreams of reaching people for God took a back seat to reaching for happiness and peace in everything the world had to offer. For six years I wandered in the wilderness of worldly pleasure. When I finally came back to the Lord, I thought he would never be able to use me because I had done too many horrible things. In 1996, God spoke to my heart in such a way that I knew He wanted me to surrender that prideful thinking and submit to His calling on my life. I finally realized it didn’t matter what I’d done before. It only mattered that I gave my life completely to the Lord.”

What was your inspiration for Praise & Paraphrase?

“I have always loved object lessons. I think having parents in ministry helped me to find examples of God’s truth in things we see every day. It seems like no matter what I am doing, the Lord uses the normal things in my life to show me what He is trying to teach me.  When I speak, I use a lot of these stories and object lessons. People kept asking me to repeat the stories, so I decided to make them into devotionals. Eventually, Praise & Paraphrase was born.” 

Now that Praise & Paraphrase is out in bookstores, do you have any projects that you're currently working on?

“It seems like I am always working on something new. I love it. Right now I am excited about the release of Pamela’s Healthy Pantry at the beginning of March; but this summer the book that is closest to my heart is being released by Beacon Hill. It’s called Beside the Empty Cradle. It’s such a personal book for me, because it’s our story of battling with infertility and the process to becoming content with God’s plan for our lives, even when it wasn’t our plan.” 

An excerpt from Praise & Paraphrase:

Baked Potatoes

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.- Hebrews 12:11

I love baked potatoes. Not nuked potatoes, but baked in the oven at 350 degrees, for an hour - BAKED potatoes. If you only bake them for 10 minutes they will still be hard. The potato cannot yield to the heat of the oven in just a few minutes. It needs the full baking time to be perfectly done - crispy skin, fluffy on the inside.
Sometimes as Christians we don’t want to stay in the heat very long. We want God to perfect our faith with a microwave instead of the fire. But there is something different about a Christian that tries to take a short cut around the fire. Just like those microwaved potatoes aren’t the same as a REAL baked potato.
What I really love is a great twice-baked potato.  To be twice baked the potato spends an hour in the heat, then it is taken out, cut open, its insides are scraped out and crushed. Good things are added to it and finally everything is put back into the shell. That potato has to go back into the oven at that point; back into the heat. Finally it is perfected and ready to serve.
 I want to be like a twice-baked potato; perfected by the process God requires, having all of myself removed and having the extra things that come from the Holy Spirit added. I want to be yielded by His refining fire again and again. I long to be ready to serve the glory of God. 

Where can readers find your book?

“Praise & Paraphrase can be ordered directly from me at or on Amazon, and from your local bookstores.”

Head on over to Pamela's blog to enter the drawing for not only copies of Pamela's book, but also a larger prize pack. Just click the Fresh Cup Ministries link above.  

Life in Exile by Guest Blogger Kristi Bothur

I've heard the words hundreds of times. "'I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'" (Jer. 29:11). Words often spoken with the intention of instilling hope, but so often they bring back that ugly bitterness in my heart, an unwelcome companion since my second-trimester miscarriage. What hope? What future, when the child I planned to raise is gone?? When I don't know if I'll ever get pregnant again? I have been harmed – physically, emotionally, spiritually. What kinds of plans are these, God?
Sometimes, though, I forget that these words were spoken to a people who had as little reason to hope as I feel I do. The Israelites were in exile in Babylon. They were a conquered people; their city and temple had been destroyed; they were far from home, and decades away from the Lord restoring them to their land. The older ones would not live to see that day. What hope, what future could they have? And yet, God gave them a task while they were in exile: Build houses. Settle down. Increase in number; do not decrease; seek the peace and prosperity of the city where you are exiled. In other words, live. Don't put life on hold, waiting to return to the Promised Land.

When I lost my daughter Naomi, I felt like I was going into exile. I had been in the pregnancy "club" where women talk about birth and labor and nurseries and baby showers, where the doctor's office was full of pregnancy and baby magazines. When I went back for a check-up after our loss, they scheduled me at a time for gynecology appointments, not pregnant women. The waiting room was the same, but I noticed – the magazines were gone. In their place were women's magazines that didn't scream "baby" on the cover. And while I'm sure they did that to save women the heartache of the reminder of what they'd lost, to me it was a stark reminder that I had switched club memberships, from expectant mother to mother of a baby in heaven.

I'd been exiled from the Promised Land. I felt conquered, defeated, without hope.

And yet – God had a task for me, too. To "increase, not decrease" – by committing myself to continue growing spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Would my time in exile end with a less mature woman than I had been at the beginning? Or would I use this time to grow? "Build houses" – I needed to commit to building the family and marriage that I have been given. Marriages have the potential to suffer terribly after the loss of a child. Would mine become a statistic, or would it come through stronger? "Seek the peace and prosperity" of my city of exile. I do not like the city of Pregnancy Loss. I don't think anyone who lives here does. But while I'm here, I can seek the peace and prosperity of those who live here with me – through prayer, encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on. I can build friendships with others who have been exiled here with me and help bring them back to the Promised Land – not the Land of Pregnancy, necessarily, but the Land of Hope and the Future, where we seek and find the One who does have plans for us and who longs to hold us in his comforting arms. And by seeking their "peace", I find peace, too, both within myself and with God.