The Lord of the Harvest

Do you have trouble understanding what the Bible has to say about the end times and how the Church fits into it all? I do. There’s talk about a possible rapture in September 2017 because of a planetary alignment in Virgo, as there was in September 2015. I don’t follow that – it just adds to our confusion and then people get put off when it doesn’t happen, as happened with Harold Camping.

It’s much better to get our information from the Bible.

But can we work out where we’re at now from things that were written 2,000 years ago?

The Word of God can be quite enigmatic. Sometimes it seems like code. And Jesus put events that happened thousands of years apart in one paragraph! How are we supposed to understand?

When I worked as a programmer, and I had poorly documented “spaghetti code” to decipher, I’d plunge into the code by setting up a watch on the variables – things that were running through the code, to see if the logic was correct.

So I did the same thing with the Word. I put myself in the story as a character, and met with the Lord who was already there in his assigned role as “Lord of the Harvest.” Then I set a watch on the scene, dialogue and events as they unfolded.

I’ve come away with a good story and a satisfying understanding of end times events.

And I believe I get to talk to God while I am in the story. I call it “going into the Kingdom.”

So here’s the first chapter of my quest. From this, I am already beginning to piece things together.  I will sum it all up in a further post.  Enjoy.


The Lord of the Harvest, part 1

Wheat field 1

Smiling, she met the Lord in a grain field near his birthplace at Bet Lehem, the ‘House of Bread.’

Plucking a head of grain, the Lord put it into her hand.
“You will find fifty grains in that head of wheat” he informed her.

His eyes had an intent look as she studied the wheat grain.

He said “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” John 12:24
The wind rippled wheat bowed to him as if to thank him for his word.

They walked along in silence for a while.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“We are going to my Father’s house in Jerusalem six miles to the south, to the temple that was built on 1Araunah’s threshing floor.  David paid fifty shekels of silver for it.”

“Why fifty?” she asked.

“Fifty denotes a full price and a full purchase” he answered. (2 Sam. 24:24)

“What does Araunah mean?” she asked.

“Ark” he replied.

They arrived in Jerusalem to joyous crowds, who had gathered at the temple for a spring festival.

“What are they celebrating?” she asked.

“The feast of Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Weeks, when the First Fruits are brought into the temple seven weeks after Passover. Today is the fiftieth day.”

Leviticus 23,15-16

As a pilgrim brought the First Fruits to the Temple she heard him declare the word the Lord had commanded; “I declare today to the Lord our God that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us …” Deuteronomy 26:3-10

Observing the offering, she was sorely aware she was a stranger here, a Gentile without Jewish roots.

“Can you please tell me about the festivals, beginning with Passover?” she asked.

1You know the lamb’s blood was put on the lintel of the houses so the angel of death passed over my people in Egypt,” he reminded her. “My people celebrate for seven days in remembrance of this, without realising I am the Lamb of God. The Passover lamb is sacrificed at twilight. During this time, they eat Matzo, bread without leaven. The Greek word for unleavened bread is ‘azumos.’ The bread is striped and pierced, like my back.

Then there is a seven-week counting period after the three festivals of Passover, First-Fruits and Unleavened Bread.

Shavuot, the next festival means ‘weeks.’ It happens on the fiftieth day and marks the all-important wheat harvest.  The distinguishing feature of Shavuot is the offering of two leavened loaves of bread made of fine flour.”

Putting the emphasis on leavened, he used the Greek word ‘artos’ for bread. It meant a raised loaf of leavened bread – normal, natural regular bread.

“Doesn’t leaven mean sin?” she asked.

“No, in this case, it means to permeate. The clue was in the three measures of meal – the amount used in baking the shewbread, ‘the Bread of Presence‘ for the Temple. (Exodus 35:13)

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33

“Ah, so it’s sure to rise!” she quipped.

“Yes, anyone who believes me will be saved and I will raise him up on the last day,” he replied.

He continued, “I AM the Bread of Life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” John 6:48

There were two leavened loaves for the two distinct groups celebrating the fiftieth day; The Jews celebrating Shavuot – the Feast of Weeks, and the Church observing Pentecost.

LastSupper2 resized Taking the loaf for the Church, he broke it and offered her the bread.

“This is my body, given for you. Take, eat in remembrance of me” he said.

The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” 1 Corinthians 10:17.

Taking the bread, she knelt, thanking him for his body.

“Can you please tell me about Pentecost?” she asked.

“The Church began on the fiftieth day,” he began; “After my suffering, I presented himself to my disciples and gave many convincing proofs that I was alive. I appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while I was eating with them, I gave them this command: “Do not leave but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:3-5.

“Fifty days after Passover, the Holy Spirit was poured out on 120 followers who waited in Jerusalem on the day of Shavuot when the first-fruits were being brought into to the Holy Temple. That day was called ‘Pentecost,’ meaning fifty. From this day, the spirit has been and is being poured out.”

“What does that look like?” she asked.

“Like the birth of a new person,” the Lord marveled. “I told Nicodemus, a teacher of the law that he had to be born again. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:5-7

Watching the wind move through the wheat, the Lord said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

After the Holy Spirit was received by the 120 people, Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy. Acts 2:12-17

Leading her back to the wheat fields, the Lord said, “The spring harvest of first fruit has begun.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

Reminding her of the first group of seventy, who had worked two by two, he said, “The harvest truly is great, but the are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2

“How long will the harvest go for?” she asked.

“It will continue until the end.”

Taking her to the fields of Sychar, he said “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” John 4:35.

Sychar wasn’t a Jewish village.

“Why did you go to Sychar, when you said you were sent for the lost sheep of Israel?” she asked, wondering at the Lord’s strange detour into Samaria.

Reminding her of what he told the woman of Sychar, he said Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” John 4:30-23

“Ah” she said, getting it. He was speaking of two harvests. First Fruits represented Himself and the Church he had begun on the fiftieth day. It was already underway. The Autumn harvest, representing the Jews, would begin at its conclusion when the Times of the Gentiles were fulfilled.

“What does Sychar mean?” she asked the Lord of the Harvest.

“End” he replied.


The fading flower …

Shortly after my last post where I asked “Who wants to live forever?” my mother passed away.  For most of her life she grappled with the highs and lows of bipolar disease.  She’s free of her demons at last. 

My memories of her when she was bipolar aren’t good, but in between times she had a happy, sunny nature.  And that’s how I want to remember her.

I’ve made a youtube video of the powerpoint I prepared for the funeral, showing scenes from her life, which I and my family feature in.

It’s here if you want to see it.  The music is “Who am I?” by Casting Crowns.

It brings to mind the scripture that God has compassion on us mortals – who are here today and gone tomorrow, just like the grass and flowers.  That’s why Jesus wept at the grief of Lazarus’s sisters.

As a father has compassion on his children
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.”  Psalm 103:13-19

I wasn’t sure of how things were with her and God.  He gave me a story to tell her on the last occasion she had a serious heart attack, which I wrote here.

superscript_seven_u2077_icon_256x256God gave us a sign that she’d gone to be with him.  Seven is the number of rest, and she’d entered his rest, dying at 7pm on the 7th day of the 7th month, aged 77.

He explains about that rest in Hebrews 4;

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest … Hebrews 4:9

I recommend reading the whole passage from Hebrews 4:1-11.

SeriousFaith_ImagesREST

Hebrews 4:1-10 The Promise of Rest

So now I know what can go on my mother’s headstone; “At rest.”  Two simple words that say so much.

Who wants to live forever?

Here’s an interesting post from another blog which gives three ways to avoid life’s greatest certainty, death.
Click on the picture on the right and it will take you there.

I don’t think it’s wise to rely on the Tech giants solutions (especially after reading about Microsoft’s latest mishap with ‘Tay,’ their embarrassing AI chatbot.)

No one wants to die, because we were made for eternity.  It’s been set in our hearts.

In Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV) we read “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

But forget about Eternime, where you go virtual, or Cryogenics where you have your head frozen.

Only one man came guaranteeing us immortality.  Jesus said Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”  John 8:51 (NKJ)

So if you want to live forever, believe in the Lord and the one who sent Him (God).  Keeping His word means reading it and storing it up in the heart, where eternity has been set.

I’ve read and stored His word by weaving it into a story, but do whatever works best for you.

Finally, we can’t cheat death here – but we can get a rough idea of how long we’ll live.  Just take this test.  Apparently I’ll make it to 91!

http://media.nmfn.com/tnetwork/lifespan

psalm90_12

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.      Psalm 90:12

Having ears to hear

When Jesus wanted to communicate truth, he used stories and said it was “for those who had ears.”  How many of us are deaf to God because of unbelief?  It shuts us down because we can’t believe God would want to have a real conversation with us.  And when we do, we don’t always hear in the same manner – or we doubt what we’re hearing.  We’ll trot out our objections with “Yes, but …”

We have to test the spirits.  Because Lucifer can pretend to be an angel of light.  He is completely deceptive.  Don’t go near him.

My spiritual hearing wasn’t that great.  That’s why I constructed my story, so I could keep a record of the things that God told me and check it against the Bible.  God became the main character in “The Kingdom” through me doing that!

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAMy husband hears God’s voice differently from me and wants to hear from him better.  He’s a bit goofy at times, as you can see with these ‘ears.’

We spend our day solving technical problems on computers and computer networks.  He has to think on his feet.  Sometimes he arrives at an answer so quickly I go “How did you get that?

He doesn’t know whether his decision speed is from his thought processes or God’s voice.

Early one morning he was thinking about the day ahead. “God, the other day I asked you about my decision speed getting in the way.  Is it my thought processes, or is it you?  I never heard an answer.  So what is it?” he asked.

John 3″ was the instantaneous reply.  In John 3, Jesus was explaining to a religious ruler what people have to do to see the Kingdom of God.  The verses that spoke the most to my husband were 3:8 and 3:29.

“8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

The same month I watched kite surfers on the beach at the end of my street, as they were borne along by invisible wind currents.  It was on a hot Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago.  I didn’t even notice the breeze but they were finding it offshore.  It was a beautiful sight to see them glide across the water.

So it is with us when we are born of the Spirit and are able to hear God, the Holy Spirit’s voice.  When we realise we can hear him, we can actually hear God, it brings joy – and hope.  Our morale and spirits soar.

If we hope in the LORD we will renew our strength. We will soar on wings like eagles; we will run and not grow weary, we will walk and not be faint. 
That’s a promise from Isaiah 40:31.

Wind

Snells Beach, Feb 2016. This is my picture which you are free to use.

The master’s voice

The other verse that spoke to my husband, verse 29, was where John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus exalts the King.  John is comparing himself as the best man at Christ’s wedding.  29″ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”

I can’t find a picture for that – but look at the joy this dog is showing to hear his master’s voice.  It sums it up for me.

God talks back

hearingGodMy book “The Kingdom, Here Be Dragons, Here Be Dreams” starts with my great-great grandmother Anna, a deaf woman who lost her hearing soon after her arrival in New Zealand in 1875.  Anna spoke German and never did learn English. 

Her hearing and language difficulties must have impeded her relationship with others, and NZ would have been a horrible country for a German to be in during World War 1 in 1914-18.  She would have gone through that period with the mute button on.

How many of us go through our spiritual journey with God with the mute button pressed?  Not because we’re in hostile territory – but from a lack of belief.  I mean how many of us believe we can have a back and forth conversation with God?

I’ve recently finished reading a book at the moment by Mark Holloway called “The Freedom Diaries, God Speaks Back.”  It’s true.  He does.  I learned that for myself on the 2nd Jan 1994.  That was the day my life changed.

When God first started talking to me, I wasn’t on “the right path.”  Some people who knew my situation doubted I could hear God.  They believed I had to “get right with God” before hearing him like I was doing.  Some couldn’t hear him for themselves and believed it was just wishful thinking on my part.

Doubt can creep in after he speaks.  Did God really say that?  Listening to them made me question things.  Why would God speak to me when I wasn’t right with Him?

the-sowerGod likens his word as seed for the sower (Isaiah 55:10-11).  He said it shall not return to Him void.

But the birds can scoop up the seed.  Jesus told a story in Matthew 13:3 of a farmer who went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.”   He explained that “when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” Matthew 13:19.

The birds are often a symbol for demonic forces.  Jesus likened the mustard tree which grew from the smallest seed planted in the field to the Kingdom of Heaven, or Kingdom of God.  And the birds come and nest in it’s branches. (Matthew 13:31).

How could I stop the birds from snatching my seed?  God headed that one off by inspiring me to write down the message about the Kingdom.  He inspired me to write about a King, a Princess and a Kingdom, and to record the conversations the Princess had with the King.

So I created a world where it was safe for me to hear him, and the King started guiding “the Princess.”  Wonder of wonders, when I was writing in my epic journal I could hear Him. God became a real character in my story.  He actually replied and conversed with me.  At some points we even see the story from His perspective.

Within a year of writing about “The Kingdom”, my life began to change and eventually the things the Princess heard “in the Kingdom” started to happen in real life.

I invite you to come and read what happened.  If you contact me I’ll offer the eBook free for a review.


Are you interested in hearing from God yourself?  Here’s a helpful sermon by Pastor David Wilkerson of Ttimes Square Church, Hearing and Knowing the Voice of the Lord.

 

That sneaky woman

yeastHere’s another parable that’s difficult to explain;  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”  Matthew 13:33

The trouble with this parable is that leaven (yeast) is likened to pride and sin!

Some say that in this instance leaven is a good thing. It means the good news of the Kingdom will change the whole world, and then the Kingdom of God will come.  I don’t think so.  There’s nothing to back that up in scripture – nor has it come to pass.  How many of us have families who are all following the Lord?  The gospel brings persecution – not peace.  Jesus, when he was talking about persecution, said “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”  Matthew 10:34-36. 

Let’s look at what Jesus meant when he said “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  Matthew 24:14.  If you read this in context you’ll see he’s talking about the tribulation after the disciples asked him about the end times.  I believe he’s speaking of the preaching of the two witnesses and the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, after the Church has gone.  Because he said in the next sentence that when they see the Abomination of Desolation in the temple, to run for the hills.  Matthew 24:15.  And he was speaking to the Jews because he said to pray that their flight did not take place on the Sabbath.  Matthew 24:20.

So what did Jesus mean by “the Kingdom of Heaven being like leaven?” Well, lets look at what was specified for offerings in Leviticus;

On the eighth day they must bring two male lambs and one ewe lamb a year old, each without defect, along with three-tenths of an ephah (three measures) of the finest flour mixed with olive oil for a grain offering, and one log of oil.” Leviticus 14:10

So the woman sneaked leaven into the offering.

Jesus said I AM the Bread of Life.  He is bread without leaven.  This unleavened bread has stripes.

The Body of Christ is likened to bread, but unlike Jesus, it has leaven.  “Is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.”  1 Corinthians 10:16-17

The leaven has had 2,000 years to rise!  It’s really puffed up in some places.

There’s different types of leaven, just as there’s different types of yeast.

quotesram.com OtEAV3iFirst, Jesus warned about the leaven of the Pharisees:  “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”  Mark 8:15Matthew 16:6-11  He explained that the yeast of the Pharisees is hypocrisy.  Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1

In Matthew 23, A Warning Against Hypocrisy, he pronounced seven woes on the Teachers of the Law and said “You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23:13.

And then there’s sexual sin.  Sexual immorality is leaven within the church, destroying its fellowship. Paul took on the church at Corinth who were proud of their tolerance.  They had sexual sin of the kind that even the pagans didn’t tolerate.  He said,

“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens [ferments] the whole lump [of dough]? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump [fresh dough], as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 RSV)

(The festival that Paul told the church at Corinth to celebrate was the Festival Of Unleavened Bread that the Jews observe at Passover.)

Finally, in the book of Galatians 5:9, Paul speaks of leaven, this time in connection with legalism, with trying to put people under the Law.  Christ came to set us free from that.  When I was handed my baton (Chapter 74 The Year Of Inheritance) and told to run my race, (Hebrews 12) I was warned about this.  The legalism for me came in the form of prosperity doctrine.  And it was subtle.  The leaven was well and truly hidden.  It did hamper me from running my race, until we got out of that church.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?  That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.  “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”  Galatians 5:7-9.

Now we don’t know who the sneaky woman was who introduced the leaven.  It could be Jezebel, mentioned in Revelation 2:20.  That spirit likes to promote immorality.  It twists and distorts the truth, teaching so-called secret things.

As for things done in secrecy, Jude warned For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” Jude v4.

Jude was the brother of Jesus Christ, and one of the Twelve Apostles appointed by Jesus to lead his Church, and he urged Christians to contend for the faith.  In England, on the same day the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation was celebrated at Westminster Abbey, the peers voted to allow David Cameron’s same-sex marriage Bill to continue its passage through parliament.  The Queen, who is called “the Defender of the Faith” broke her oath by signing the Bill into law the following month, July 2013.  Within months England had a string of severe storms and floods in the UK, beginning with the St. Jude storm on 27-28 October 2013, which was also known as CycloneChristian’.  Prime Minister Cameron called the UK floods ‘biblical’ after the Thames burst it’s banks on 11th Feb 2014, but I don’t know if Britain noticed the sign about Jude.  (I wrote about it in my other blog Red Sky in the Morning.)

Jude also warned against those who run greedily in the error of Balaam, who prophesies for profit.  (Jude 11 and Revelation 2:14).

We have to accept that there will be leaven in the bread, but we can combat it by knowing our Bible.

Timothy, pastor at Ephesus between AD 64-66, wrote “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:16.

Finally, a bit of trivia.  The word “yeast” comes from Old English gist, gyst, and from the Indo-European root yes-, meaning “boil”, “foam”, or “bubble.”

It brings to mind the opening scene from Macbeth where the witches are going “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”

I think the sneaky woman with the leaven would have got on just fine with the witches.

Get the gist?

Blessed are the peacemakers

peacemakersIn the sermon on the mount, Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”  Matthew 5:9

I asked the Lord what he meant by that on my early morning walk today.  

First, he gave me a scripture; God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”  Colossians 1:20.

The Lord explained that he was the first peace maker; and when we become his sons and daughters, we become his peace makers.  He reminded me what I’d done with my mother last year.  We never had a good relationship.  But he saw her differently from me.

Here’s my story about making peace.

Shepherds call

Seven years passed.  Healed from the hurt of the past, Joanna went from strength to strength.  But she still had bad memories from her childhood.

One day her mother grew seriously ill.  Joanna approached the Lord, concerned about her mother’s salvation.

“Father, it’s up to you whether she’ll pull through this time. I forgive my mother for all the abuse she heaped on us. She wasn’t able to be a good mother because she was abandoned at the age of three.

Is her name written in your book, the book of life?  She believes in you – but she doesn’t know you. I want to be able to bring her to you, but I can’t reach her. I can hardly go through the four spiritual laws, or walk her down the Roman road.  Lord, how can I get her to trust you? You promised that if we lack wisdom, we should ask. I’m asking.”

albrecht_schenck_shepherd_call

Shepherd’s Call, by Albrecht Schenck

“I will come to her,” He replied, pointing to a painting that her mother used to have; a vintage 1900’s painting called ‘Shepherd’s call’ which depicted a collie barking for the shepherd after finding a lost lamb in the snow.

“Talk about that painting. Ask her who the dog is barking for, and then bring me in. I want her to know she is the lamb …”

“What a brilliant idea. I’d never have thought of that,” Joann replied, impressed. “But I don’t want religion getting in the way. What should I do if it does?”

The Lord gave her an answer for that.

Later Joanna sat at her mother’s side, alone.

“You know that painting of the dog and the lamb you had?” she began.

“Yes, I gave it away,” her mother replied.

“Yes, you did. Remember that lost lamb?”

“The lamb didn’t have a mother,” her mother recalled.

“Yes, that’s right Mum, she didn’t have a mother,” Joanna replied, sad.

“The Lord said for me to tell you that you are that lamb” she said, as soon as she’d gathered her composure.

Tears came to her mother’s eyes.

“Who was the dog barking for?” Joanna asked.

“The shepherd,” her mother eventually answered.

“Did you know the Lord is the Shepherd?” Joanna replied.

More tears came.

Just as Joanna had foreseen, Joanna’s mother talked about religion.

“Mum, do you know what the Bible says true religion is?” Joanna responded.

Her mother shook her head.

“True religion is to take care of widows and orphans,” Joanna replied, giving the answer the Lord had given her.

“I’m a widow,” her mother said.

“That’s right, you are a widow,” Joanna replied, impressed at the Lord’s answer.

“Who is the Lord to you?” Joanna cautiously asked, feeling like the Collie.

Her mother was silent.

“Are you afraid of death?” Joanna asked.

“Yes, I’m afraid of the devil – I don’t want to see him,” she replied.

Joanna introduced the Shepherd.

“Mum, Jesus tends his flock like a shepherd. He looks for lost lambs and he saves them. He wants to carry you in his arms, close to his heart,” she added.

“Who would you like him to be?” she asked, watching her mother’s face.

“My protector,” her mother replied.

“Like a saviour?” Joanna asked.

“Yes,” her mother agreed.

“Do you accept him as your saviour?” Joanna asked.

“Yes,” her mother replied, with childlike faith.

“You are saved,” Joanna told her, relieved to see the lamb now cradled in the Shepherd’s arms.

“Now that you have accepted Jesus as your saviour, you need fear no evil in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The Lord is your Shepherd, and his rod and staff will comfort you,” Joanna reassured her, remembering her own staff.

That was as much as she could do.

Outside, a piece of rainbow shone out from clouds above the Ruahine mountain range.

That night, her mother sang.