The Names of God

My Wonderful Shepherd

"The LORD is my shepherd;  I shall not want." John 10:14-15

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"I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.... I lay down My life for the sheep." John 10:14-15

Day after day, my Shepherd leads me. In fact, He watched over us long before we knew Him.  Therefore my heart echoes the confident words of David, God's shepherd-king, "in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." Psalm 139:16

I didn't learn about my Shepherd those early years in Norway, yet He soon began to draw me to Himself. He gave me a Christian godmother -- a childhood friend of my mother who became a missionary to Africa. I remember meeting her only once, during a furlough. But what a difference she made! She gave me a Bible and encouraged me to say the Lord's prayer each night, and my faithful Shepherd never let me forget.  His precious prayer outline flowed through my mind each night, year after year. More than two decades would pass before He would open my eyes to truly understand His Word. But I continued to reach out toHim, for I knew I needed my Shepherd more than anything else.

Norway borders on Russia, and Stalin's cruelty was no secret to Norway's children. But my post-war fears and nightmares made my Shepherd all the more precious. He not only led me, He became a mighty, ever-present  refuge. And when we moved to America, my faithful Shepherd walked with me through many lonely teenage years when shyness and frequent changes of schools kept me alone with Him. He became my best friend and confidant.

Eventually, He led me to my wonderful husband, Andy, who loved His Word and shared my Norwegian heritage. I longed to learn more about God, but the social club atmosphere of the first Lutheran church we joined and the liberal emphasis of the second one brought confusion and discouragement. Desperate for evidence that would clarify my rising doubts, I immersed my mind in the theological books I found in the church library. "God is dead," they told me. It's time to "demythologize the Bible" and forget His miracles. My faith crumbled, and my Shepherd seemed to disappear. 

But then, when life seemed most hopeless, He opened my eyes and changed my life. By His amazing providence, I "happened to" watch the televised baptism of some "Jesus people" on the evening news. Their radiant joy revived the longing in my heart and brought tears to my eyes. "If you are for real, show yourself to me," I cried out.

Soon afterwards, a former member of our liberal church called to tell me that she had become a Christian. Then she invited me to the evening service of a local Bible Church. Yes!  sang my heart! A few days later, I sat in a church that was vibrant with His presence. "You are real! You are real!..." I whispered joyfully to my Shepherd. Indeed He was!

Suddenly His Book made sense to me! The Words I had often tried to read in the past came alive that night with new meaning, exciting realities, and a glorious hope!  Suddenly I knew that I knew Him! Not only was He my Shepherd; I was His sheep -- a new member of His worldwide family! No matter what He had planned or how hard life's challenge, He would surely lead me! And nothing could be more wonderful!


1. He leads me each step of the way

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake."

Psalm 23:1-3

I couldn't stop reading the Bible that first night. Seeing how far I had strayed from His truth, I cried, confessed sin after sin and sensed the sweetness of His forgiveness. By dawn I had reached Romans 5:5 and was reading these words: "...the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

"O Lord," I whispered, "I have so little love inside me. Please fill me, too, with your love." And He did! The overflowing joy inside me told me that He had answered my prayer.

"Where do You want me to share that love," I asked expectantly. And by His quiet, inaudible voice he spoke to my heart: "Go to the [local] Veterans Hospital."

I could hardly wait. At 8 AM, I called the chaplains' office. They had never used a volunteer before, but since I was a registered nurse, they accepted me. There, for the next two years -- until our third son was born -- my Shepherd would train me to share His love and gospel. Some of the most skeptical veterans would make up lists of hard questions together, then dare me to find answers. They seemed pleased with their attempts to shock and outsmart me. In search for life-changing answers, I would feed in the sweet pastures of His Word, and my Shepherd always led me to wonderful truths that amazed me as well as my challengers. What an exciting time to see and demonstrate His sufficiency in my weakness!

But for a shy, quiet introvert, it wasn't easy to be a sheep in His pasture. A few weeks after my conversion, He used a faithful Sunday School teacher at our new church to introduce me to Good News Clubs (Child Evangelism Fellowship) and to start a club in our backyard. Our two sons (then 5 and 7) invited their friends to our first meeting, and I prayed that no parents would come and stay for the meeting. I knew I could trust Him for the courage needed to teach the lesson to children -- but not  to adults. He graciously kept parents away for that first encounter. But for the next few years, God trained me to be a yielded vessel through whom He could spread His Good News and draw both children and adults to Himself. And I learned to know my Shepherd as my constant strength and sufficiency!


2. He shows me His strength in my weakness

Yea, 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." 

Psalm 23:4

Nothing was more difficult for this quiet sheep than to be in front people or speak up in a group. But I had given Him my life as "a living sacrifice" and I belonged to Him. Now He would train me in obedience.

"If you love me, you will keep my commands," He told me again and again in His Word. And the first command is the hardest of all: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart... mind... will and strength." And, as He did with the "rich young ruler," He began to put His finger on the things I loved more than Him. I had to learn to be more concerned about pleasing Him than pleasing people. That meant "dying to self" in order to live for Him. Day after day, I would "reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God." (Romans 6:11)

During my second year as a Christian, some church members talked me into attending the large annual women's retreat. I was about 4 months pregnant with our third child, but I had given away my maternity clothes and had little time to buy new ones. Feeling fat and unsightly, I hid in the back row of the auditorium during the first evening's message. From there, I watched the speaker struggling with an unstable wooden block of a podium. When she leaned on it, it moved. Upset, she called for a custodian. For some strange reason, he couldn't fix it.

Suddenly, with a shock that sent my heart beating so loud that it throbbed in my head and confused my hearing, I sensed my Shepherd telling to me to fix it. Oh no! I can't do that, I whispered. Our speaker had begun her lecture, and the last thing I wanted was to disturb her and call attention to myself. But He gave me no peace. My beating heart drowned out all her words and made me want to crawl out of the room. Then, my Shepherd told me raise my trembling hand, and I had no choice. But the speaker simply ignored it. Again He spoke to me, and in spite of myself, I waved my arm from the back row. Finally the speaker stopped and -- visibly irritated -- asked into the microphone, "Did you have a question?"

"No," I shouted from the back row, "but I think I can fix the podium." Well, come on up here then," she said. She sounded neither happy nor hopeful. I didn't know how to fix the podium, but I stumbled my way up toward the front. In the second row, on the left side of the center aisle, someone grabbed my left hand and put something into it, squeezing my fingers back over the thing. Walking up the steps to the large, formal podium, I looked down and saw a thick wad of paper. Moments later, I gently pushed the podium, and it leaned away from me. All it needed was a wedge! Had God just blinded the eyes of the others so they wouldn't grasp it? I stuffed the wad of paper into an opening near the bottom of the heavy stand. Our speaker tried leaning on the podium again, but it wouldn't budge. She thanked me and I rushed back to my seat, blushing with embarrassment. Then I took a deep breath, and began to rejoice! My Shepherd had proven Himself strong and faithful on behalf of this weak and reticent sheep. Thank You, precious Lord, I sang in my heart.

In the years ahead, I would face all kinds of challenges but God kept proving His sufficiency with each one. Since I dreaded crowds and microphones, His early assignments were especially daunting. The first time I was asked to give a talk at our church, I quickly said no. "Well, pray about it anyway," was the retort. Stunned, I stood on the church patio feeling faint with fear. The worst headache of my life was about to hit. Then, after three days of stalling and pure misery, I called the woman and accepted the call.

One morning a few years later, as I was reading in the Old Testament, my Shepherd impressed on my mind that I would be asked to lead the women's Bible studies -- and that the obscure verse on the page in front of me would be His promise to me. Once again, a wave of fear threatened to overwhelm me, but as the months passed, that painful moment faded into a faint memory. That is, until the call came in early fall. "And by the way," the caller said, "here is a Scripture we felt led to give you as encouragement." It was the same one He had given me seven months earlier.

"I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." 1 Corinthians 2:3-5

During the next four years, I would retreat once a week to a lonely place in the hills behind our house where my Shepherd would provide the Bible study lessons for the week. I never could write well; even personal notes were a chore for me. But my Shepherd was teaching me, and by His grace, my heart would listen and I would write.

Other churches soon began to use our lessons, so someone suggested the studies should be published. I was invited to attend a writer's conference, and on the first night I was once again sitting in the back row of a large auditorium. I greeted the person next to me, and when the lecture finished she asked me what I was writing. "Bible studies," I answered. Then she asked, "May I look at it? I am the acquisitions editor for Victor Books, and we are just starting a women's Bible Study series." My Shepherd had led me to Carole Streeter, the encouraging editor who would publish my first three books.


3. He trains me in spiritual warfare

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over."
Psalm 23:4

I was a full time mom in those days, but Andy wanted me to maintain my RN license. That meant taking some continuing education courses, and soon after I became a Christian, I picked a class on "holistic health." I knew nothing about it, but it sounded interesting. I attended a workshop on "Polarity," and neither its Yin Yang symbol nor the promise that the special massage would "balance the male and female energies" of my body alerted me to its occult source. Since the facilitator assured us that she could fix any kind of back problem (I had a crooked and painful back because of polio), I signed up for a private session.

A few weeks later I drove to her clinic and was ushered to a massage table. Andy and I had prayed together that morning -- and my Shepherd had already trained me to put on His armor each day -- yet I felt uneasy and a bit nervous, especially after noticing a mystical drawing on her wall. "What’s that?" I asked the therapist when she came into the room.

"It’s my spirit guide," she answered.

Her spirit guide? A demonic personality in Satan's occult armies?
I almost hopped off the table. Praying for wisdom, I asked, "Where does your power come from?"

"It’s from the universal force," she began. "It goes through my spirit guide into me, then through my hands into you."

I wanted to run out, but I sensed He wanted me to stay. After a quick and fervent prayer for God's guidance, there came a comforting assurance that He would guard me. The hymn, "How Great Thou Art," flowed through my mind. Silently, I praised God, put on His armor again
(Eph 6:10-18), and waited.

As soon as the facilitator-therapist touched my back, she began to cough. Soon she was coughing so hard that she could hardly breathe. So she squatted on the floor next to me. When her coughing slowed, I turned my head and asked, "What are you doing down there?"

"Re-aligning my energies," she finally answered. She stood up to try again, but the moment she touched me, the coughing resumed. Angry, she stepped back, waited to catch her breath, then announced, "I can’t help you. MY POWER WON’T GO INTO YOU! You might as well go home."

Delighted, I tried to explain why. But she didn’t want to hear about the difference between my God and her cosmic force. "Just leave," she warned. I did, and all the way home I praised my Shepherd who had shown me that "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."
(1 John 4:4)

That wonderful victory left me with a solemn awareness of the power of the evil one. Several years later, when I was writing my second book, Your Child and the New Age, I stood in a local coffee shop/bookstore glancing through some of the magazine for news items. Above the international news was a shelf with New Age and Wicca magazines. As I glanced at them, I sensed my Shepherd telling me to take one down and buy it. I recoiled, not wanting to touch anything that might be linked to the occult. His insistent prompting caused me to rush outside, put on the armor and wait again. I couldn't believe He really wanted me to buy that magazine. But once again He nudged me. I went inside, bought the magazine without opening it, then hid it in the garage after praying that God would cleanse it from any spiritual entanglements. I didn't even know what that might be.

Several months later, a friend called. Her daughter's sixth grade teacher was using a book called The Dark is Rising as the mandatory "reader," and my friend thought it looked spooky. Did I know anything about it.

I didn't, but I told her I would pray for insight. I hung up the phone, knelt, and asked my Shepherd to guide me. He prompted me to go to the garage, find the hidden magazine on witchcraft. I did, then opened it up to the center pages. It featured a report on a 5-book series of books titled The Dark is Rising. Stunned, I read about its effectiveness (from a pagan perspective) in introducing witchcraft to children.

My Shepherd had prepared not only an answer to my friend, but also a much-needed lesson for the years ahead. While equipping me to write the next two books, Under the Spell of Mother Earth and A Twist of Faith, He would send me into one occult or pagan circumstance after another. But I would never fear the enemy for I knew that He would be my strength, shield, and sufficiency wherever He would lead me. As long as I followed Him, He would provide all my needs!

A bout with cancer led to a mastectomy, but that was no problem, for -- whatever happened -- I could rejoice with Paul, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!" My children and friends faced difficulties, but there, too, I could trust in His sufficiency.

Perhaps the most painful experience was facing slander, but through it my Shepherd taught me forgiving love. A fellow researcher whom I had trusted as a friend began to mail a list of lies about me to countless people and to hosts of conferences where I would be speaking. Only one host cancelled my assignment, but knowing this slanderous message was being sent to unknown numbers of researchers and friends was painful. Yet, in the midst of the pain, my Shepherd's nearness became all the more precious. So did the many Psalms that described similar assaults. The worst moment came at a large UN conference in Turkey when I learned that a dear fellow-reporter had received the same letter -- and believed it. The most painful thing was not the loss of a roommate at the hotel, but the sense of betrayal and aloneness among people I had trusted. Who else had believed the lies? I didn't know.

But my Lord knew, and He was my Shepherd. As I knelt before Him -- again and again -- forgiving, interceding, asking Him to bless my enemies, His presence became sweeter than ever. Day after day, I walked and talked with Him as He led me to vital meetings, interesting encounters and new friends. As the apostle Paul discovered,

"....we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." 2 Corinthians 4:7


4. He will guide me all the way home

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Psalm 23:5-6

I love the old hymns that fill my heart with reminders of His exciting truths. But one stands out among all the others, for it continually stirs my heart with the wonders of my Shepherd and His care for His sheep. Written by Fanny Crosby, its melody can be heard at cyberhymnal.org

All the way my Savior leads me, what have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my Guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate'er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me, cheers each winding path I tread.
Gives me grace for every trial, feeds me with the living bread.
When my weary steps may falter and my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the well before me, lo, a spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me; O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised in my Father's house above.
When my spirit clothed immortal, wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way!

References:  What it means to be a Christian | Our Shepherd

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