The Year of the Shepherd


My scripture for 2014 was the 23rd Psalm. I was rather shocked. Do I not know this? It must be more profound than I imagine. To recite the words surely means we understand!

I realized that God Himself has elevated this one Psalm to a place of prominence. The most familiar Psalm to all people! Songs are sung about it. Books are written to explain. To live it is to know your Self and your Shepherd. Yet all believers are living this poem, mostly without comprehending it. We are sheep.

The Lord is my Shepherd. Mine. There may be a flock, a herd, a noise and a crowd but the Lord is here for me. I do not notice Him but He is ever watching me. I run away from Him but He knows where I am and goes there with me. His every sheep is His only sheep.

The flock is not mentioned in this Psalm, just the one. Just me. So there is one journey, one encounter, and one history for every Christian. And it is gathered into this Psalm, simple and brief, yet barely understandable. “All we like sheep” are hedged in to this one pathway. Why? Because – though we scarcely know it – we are sheep, unable, inept and always rather stupid.

Ah, to just to be what we…are! What freedom.

I will tell this about myself, but the story is true of this little Shulamite flock: every one of us can say we have been reduced from goat-independence to sheep-weakness. And that ~ if we could see it ~ is the story of every year. We found out who we are – the least of the least, the weakest of the weak. And a cherished flock amidst all the loved. Our Shepherd walks with the one and corrals us as many.

My year was named Crisis. I watched in amazement as the Shepherd took this vessel over and became the caregiver of my husband’s very terrible illness. For months (actually a full year), we lived from one dire emergency to the next. The whole flock was fully involved as the Shepherd led each one to help in practical ways. And prayer flowed intensely, even from across the world.

Now in these days of wonder, my husband is living fully and strongly. I was with his doctor recently. Knowing well the ravages of his disease, she said what is amazing for the medical world: “Your husband is a miracle!”

So my experience became the experience of the flock. We moved as one and one was made well.

As life settled down, the Shepherd literally airlifted me up and “made me lie down in green pastures.” I was given a gift of Hawaii for 7 sunny, breezy, lazy days. “He leads me beside the still and restful waters.”

As we lay back in lounge chairs on the green lush grass, gazing at the blue horizon, we marveled again and again at the stillness of the Pacific surf, usually so turbulent. “He refreshes and restores my life (my self).”

Then the ‘Great Shepherd of the Sheep’ led us again through the valley of the shadow of death. My daughter was diagnosed with melanoma of an aggressive kind. This beautiful, young, active mother of 3, wife of a most wonderful man! And she, our beloved, only daughter!

Another sheep was ‘cast.’ When a sheep is down, injured, or just heavy with lamb, it is utterly helpless. Unless the Shepherd comes and is ‘with the sheep,’ it will die.

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 NKJV

Christ’s power and protection are His very Heart totally present, utterly aware. Fully intimate with His one lamb.

“In its sense of comfort, the word (nachem) does not describe casual sympathy, but rather deep empathy. It is like “weeping with those who weep,” or actually “sighing with those who sigh” (Word Wealth: Spirit-filled Life Bible).

The Shepherd’s presence with His lamb was so intimate and perfect that she was reluctant to speak of it. “Too precious to talk about,” she said. Her Shepherd, by His staff of guidance, His rod of protection, carried her through with the best of medical care. And by the outpouring of the Spirit’s energized prayer, she came to divine healing of spirit, soul and body.

Through the ‘valley of the shadow of death,’ Christ is so present with His protection and guidance, that you come to “fear or dread no evil.” Compared to the Power of your Mighty Shepherd, you discover death is but a shadow.

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    • Tammy

      Thank you for this Martha.
      I have heard in Pod Casts and maybe even elsewhere that one of the reasons you didn’t want to be a writer was because you were a “private” person. Thank you for sharing your heart so transparently. I cried as I read it and continue to weep as I type this. I’m not sure why I’m crying but it doesn’t really matter. Being given the privelege of praying for your husband, your daughter, your family, and those who are the Shulamite Body through this past year has been a greater blessing than I can explain.
      I am excited to see what all He will share through you in this coming year. I will be praying for you…all of you.

    • sue

      After reading this beautiful writing, this song is singing in my heart, “How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love for me (YOU). Bless you for sharing this most private story with us. May these blessing be shed abroad in our hearts!!!!!

    • Sam

      Oh my. Really you are tasting the staff and the rod and the strength of the arm of the Shepherd. You are to be envied for this “sheepness Shepherding” He is working out in and for you.

      And I envy your abandonment to the (only) care of the (Only) Shepherd.

      May He fill your days with the Shepherd!!


    • Paul

      Thank you Martha for sharing your amazing journey over this past year. As I read it, I was so reminded of that famous anecdote that relates the story of 2 who recited Psalm 23. One was an eloquent linguist and the other an old unknown gentleman. At the conclusion of both recitations, the linguist came forward and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, I know the words of the Twenty-third Psalm, but this man knows the Shepherd.”

      We’re so blessed to read the words of one who intimately knows her Shepherd and we’re so thankful to Him for His faithfulness to you through every crisis over this past year. I’m with Sam, in envy over your abandonment to the Shepherd’s care; but also with gratitude for the encouragement to trust Him more! Thank you, Martha! Praying great blessings over you and everyone at Shulamite Ministries.

    • Susan

      Martha, bless you for sharing the riches of His grace with us from your real life experience.. The debth of His love leaves us rather undone.

      • Annalie du Toit


    • Robin Dixon

      Thank you Martha.

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