Lesson’s Learned Through Nathanael’s Arrival

Ok…So I finally finished this post that I began on December 14, 2011 today on August 3, 2012.  Wow…what a ride.  I think the spring was just as eventful as the fall!!  I’ll explain later…on to the post!

The lessons that we have learned through the pregnancy with Nathanael and his arrival are plentiful.  To begin this post I want to share the founding principle that is the bedrock of our trust relationship with our Abba Father…God is Faithful!!  Yes, He certainly is!

This past Sunday was our second Sunday back at church since Nathanael’s birth.  Yes, I put him in the nursery!!  I know you Mom’s are wondering.  We are blessed with some great volunteer’s in our children’s ministry who LOVE babies!  That always puts a Mom’s heart at ease.  After a stirring message on God’s faithfulness, our worship team began to lead us in a song by Matt Redman called “Never Once”.  As I looked at the words and sung them my heart within me leaped.  This was our journey over the past months!  Quickly my hands were lifted in praise to my God and tears poured down my face and I proclaimed the Lord’s faithfulness to us.  I had no idea but Tony was apparently having the same experience.  I tear up just thinking about it.  I want to share with you the words to this song and then I will share several scenes that flashed through my eyes as I sang that song.

Never Once

Verse 1
Standing on this mountain top
looking just how far we’ve come
knowing that for every step
you were with us

Verse 2
Kneeling on this battle ground
seeing just how much you’ve done
knowing every victory
was your power in us

Never Once did we ever walk alone
Never once did you leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scares and struggles on the way
but with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts will say…
Never Once did we ever walk alone
Never once did you leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we walk alone
Carried by your constant Grace
Held within Your perfect Peace
Never Once, NO, we never walk alone
Every step we are breathing in Your Grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Some scenes that flashed…

1.  September of 2009 – The morning I was ready to deal with my fears of having children after God had spent the previous 8 months growing my level of trust in Him.  He was so kind and gentle with me and Oh, sweet freedom from those fears came rushing in like the ocean tide as God spoke truth to my heart.

2.  The look on Tony’s face and the tears that gathered in his eyes when I told him I had dealt with my fears and I was truly ready to have children.

3.  The calmness I sensed all through the year of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 knowing that we were desiring a family but God’s timing had not arrived yet.

4.  Laying out on the beach in Mexico with a good friend sharing with her how I found freedom and deep down inside knowing I probably was already pregnant.

5.  The sweetness of the day I crossed the finish line of the Albany marathon in early March of 2011 knowing I was almost 5 weeks pregnant and no one else knew but me and God!  I hope this was the first of many long runs together!

6.  The strength and comfort of Tony’s embrace and the tears in his eyes when I shared the news with him.  And the fantastic dinner we had at our favorite Italian restaurant.

7.  On the day Nathanael was born, leaving the house that morning saying Good Bye to our sweet Schnauzer, Nissi a.k.a “The Niss-Piece”.

8.  Sitting anxiously in the doctor’s office WAITING!!

9.  The walk from the doctor’s office to the hospital with my “face set like flint” on the Lord and His faithfulness.

10.  The scary walk from the prep room to the O.R. (yes, you walk that route…no wheel chair!)

11.  The look on Tony’s face when we heard Nathanael cry for the first time and knew he was ok!  I still love that cry!!

I learned that my God is so faithful and kind to me.  He cares about us, has made a huge investment in us and our freedom, and desires that we experience His life flowing through us daily.

Oh, God is faithful!!  Thank you, Jesus!!!

Naming Nathanael Douglas Dodd

Naming a child is no small task! I’m not sure how other parents have named their children but Tony and I wanted a name that communicated a message to our child. More specifically…a name that helped communicate their worth and identity in Christ. We know that identity turns into being a huge issue for use as humans. We all are trying to answer the question of “who am I?”.

When the Israelites named their children most of those names communicated a message. Often times God told the parents what to name their child i.e. He told Zechariah to name his child John. This John became “John the Baptist”. God also changed the name of several characters out of the Bible. When you look at what their previous names meant and then look at what their new name meant; the message Christ communicated was outstanding. While I don’t have time to go into a detailed example, some that you might want to study up on is Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel and Saul to Paul.

Tony and I sought to find out what message God would want to communicate to our little Fella. I knew that about a year and a half after Tony and I married, God spoke to me very specifically about the issue of children and gave me the name Nathanael. First of all, the name Nathanael means “given by God”. We know that our little Fella literally is a gift given to us by God.

Also, you may have noticed that the way we are spelling Nathanael is different from most. That is because our Nathanael is named after the fourth disciple, Nathanael, that Jesus called to follow Him in John 1. Phillip found Nathanael and shared that they had found “Messiah.” Nathanael was one who had studied the scriptures of the law and prophets and was looking for Messiah’s appearance. He was a follower of Yahweh and a godly man of honesty and integrity. So when Nathanael met Jesus for the first time, He immediately recognized Messiah and chose to follow Him unashamedly. Jesus promised Nathanael that he would see even greater things if he followed. Jesus recognized Nathanael for who he was as a man of honesty and integrity in John 1:47. Oh, that Jesus could say that about all of us. In case you are wondering what happened to Nathanael…he went on to be a missionary and is known for his work in India. He was also martyred by being flayed and then crucified. Doesn’t sound to pleasant, does it?? Because Nathanael was a man of honesty and integrity, he stood strong for what he believed in even when it cost him his very life!

One other note that makes this name so special for me personally is that when Mike Woods, Pastor of First Baptist Powder Springs where I served for 12 years introduced Tony and I described Tony as “A Nathanael”. He knew that before I would agree to be “fixed up” with his nephew I needed a little information on who this guy was. He said the best way he knew to describe Tony Dodd was that he was “a Nathanael” – a man of honesty and integrity. Well, I can say that over the 12 years that I have known him now he has always showed himself as a man of honesty and integrity.

The name Douglas was my father’s middle name. Very interestingly, if I had to pick out several key characteristics that I admired in my Dad it would be that he was a man of honesty and integrity who truly followed Christ and watched expectantly for Messiah’s Rapture and Second Coming. So it was only fitting that Nathanael’s middle name be Douglas.

Our prayer for our Son is that he would come to know Christ intimately at an early age and that he grow into a godly man of honesty and integrity, seriously watching and waiting for the Rapture of the church and the Second Coming of our Lord. And even if one day it would cost him his very life – we pray that he would remain faithful to our Abba Father.

We love you, Nathanael Douglas Dodd!

Notes on Nathanael’s Arrival – 10/22/11

Saturday – Going Home Day!

Nathanael was back in our room at 6:30 and had passed all his tests with flying colors but the nurse had to come and get him again around 7:45 for his circumcision procedure and we really hated to see him go for that.  I think Tony and I both shed some tears over it.  After being stuck so much it was just difficult to let him go again.  He returned back to our room around 9:30.  We had gotten the final word that we could go home from all the Doctors that afternoon so we began the check out process and getting ready.  Early that morning Tony and I had a conversation about all that we had been through on this journey to having children that began a number of years ago.  We talked about all the fears, personal issues, doubts, questions and wondering about infertility.  Both of us knew that it had all been worth it – worth going down some difficult paths, facing fears, and plunging to new depths of trust with God.  We wept tears of joy as we celebrated God’s faithfulness.

Arriving home with a baby was quite surreal.  We had the best homecoming.  It was awesome to celebrate what God had done with our family.  Later that evening naps were in order for everyone all around.

So, a journey that began with many questions, fears and insecurities has ended with a deeper trust in Abba Father, an even deeper love for my Man and a joy unspeakable for our little Nathanael Douglas Dodd.  Thank you, Father for the gift given by You straight to us. For that is exactly what the name Nathanael means, a gift “given by God”.

To all of our family and friends that have stood with us over the last several days and weeks – Thank You!  Thank you for your prayers, support and words of encouragement.  You have played an invaluable part of this journey with us and we are forever grateful for each of you.  You are a treasure to us!


Notes on Nathanael’s Arrival – 10/21/11


We got in bed very late Thursday night after being over in the NICU until 10:30 and then they brought Nathanael to our room for the Midnight feeding and then he went back to the nursery so we were already sleep deprived come Friday morning.  They brought Nathanael back to our room about 6:45 and he got to be with us all day.  He had his hearing test done in our room and he got an excellent score on it which was very reassuring.  He was able to get adequate naps in between feedings without being stuck off and on through out the day.  This increased his eating and made for a happier baby.  We had some great visits from family and friends and even did a photo shoot for baby pictures that afternoon.  That night I had a baby shower that I was supposed to be at but thanks to some great friends and technology know how, Nathanael and I were able to attend via Skype.  Nathanael got some really great things and it was great to see everyone.  It was a busy day with some quiet moments of rest in between all the happenings of the day.  I guess the highlight was being able to love on sweet Nathanael all day and enjoy him.  After the midnight feeding Nathanael had to go to the nursery to have two more blood tests done as well as the car seat test that they do now and we sure hated to see him go after having such a great day with us without being stuck.

More about Saturday Coming Up!


Notes on Nathanael’s Arrival – 10/20/11



After only getting 3-4 hours of sleep our day began.  The Doctor came in early to check on me and all seemed well with my incision and progress.  My body temperature was a little more regulated by this point and I was beginning to get back to feeling a little more like myself.  As the Doctor left I was soon greeted with hospital food!  Oh, joy!  I have decided that the only thing that they fix well is jello!  And when you are on a “soft” diet like I was, jello is pretty appealing.  When the nurses changed over that morning we were blessed to have another great nurse.  I was doing well until about lunchtime.  I’ll spare you all the details but just suffice to say I took a bit of a step backwards.  I had been told that I could be wheeled over to see Nathanael in the NICU when there were certain things I could do and I think I got a bit anxious about it and that caused a set back.  When our sweet nurse got my pain under control she realized what was going on and said,

“I’m going to go get a wheelchair and we are going to go see that Baby Boy!”

That brought so much peace and was the right solution.  Come to find out all my other issues seemed to resolve themselves.


We got to meet Nathanael’s nurse who was wonderful.  She brought us up to speed on how his tests were turning out, where he was with being able to maintain a proper blood sugar level and how he was doing with eating and pottying.  She even let me change his diaper.  He was not happy as they had to stick him to draw more blood and he does not like his diaper changed.  We watched his blood pressure, respirations and heart rate numbers on the monitor above his little bed and when they handed him to me and I began to talk to him we noticed that immediately his numbers began to drop back down to the normal range.  How cool is that!  They really know their mother’s voice!  We had a sweet visit with him for a couple of hours.  The world of NICU is quite amazing.  The Pediatric doctors and nurses over there are amazing and I can not help to thing that our Abba Father walks in and out of those small, dimly lite rooms watching over those babies.  When we took a good look around and then looked back at Nathanael we immediately knew how blessed we were and how great a miracle our God had performed.  After dinner we got to go back over again for another visit and learn about how to feed a preemie infant and learn whether or not he would be able to be in our room with us on Friday.  His blood sugar levels were holding pretty good so we got the go ahead.


It had been an exhausting day but we were relieved that our little guy was doing much better and Friday was looking to be a good day.


More about Friday tomorrow!



Notes on Nathanael’s Arrival – 10/19/11


It was so nasty and raining last Wednesday morning as we drove to the hospital. It was a serious but confident trip as we focused on God’s provision and tears came easily. I only slept about 3 1/2 hours Tuesday night but spent some time in prayer off and on through out the night. My verse that God gave me early that morning was Exodus 33:14 “For my presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” Our meeting with the Dr. in his office went well and then we headed over to the hospital. At our visit I asked if during the C-Section he would be able to get a sense of what was going on to cause our issue and he responded yes, that he would be looking for the culprit. He also asked me if anyone had mentioned that I had a misshaped uterus. I couldn’t exactly remember but it seemed like someone had mentioned that at some point but no one had ever indicated that it could present problems in having a child.

As we walked over to the hospital seemed to be the one walking out front leaving Tony and my parents behind. By God’s grace determined and confident, I was ready to get the show on the road. Plus, it was cold outside!!

After getting checked in and prepped, the waiting began. Tony and I shared some sweet moments in our little room together as we talked, cried and prayed. I even let him capture a picture of me and if you have seen our Facebook pages you will see I had gotten up, washed hair and had a full face of make up on! I had decided that I was walking into that O.R. with what I call my “game face” on!

Speaking of “walking into the O.R.” you literally walk from your pre-op room to the O.R.! Seriously! No bed, no wheel chair…you walk that walk yourself! We laughed and called it “walking your Green Mile” (you’ll get that if you have seen the movie) and walking your own “Via Delarosa”. To top it off, the operating table is in the shape of a cross!! And yes, you have to climb up on that thing all by yourself! In the words of my other sister in law that had her second baby via C-section at the end of June, “It’s takes a big girl to climb up on that table!” I’m thankful I could bank on God’s presence walking that walk with me, climbing up on that table and facing that whole procedure. And yes, He did grant me sweet rest in my soul. As Tony came in when they had me ready he sat right at my head supporting me all the way. I think he would have totally traded places with me if he could have. On a funny note…just before they began to prep me, the Doctor walks in and starts rambling off these words, “I acknowledge I have one Dana Noelle Dodd, birth date 12-24-69 on the table for a C-Section.” All the other O.R. staff begin going around the room saying, “I concur! “I Concur!” etc.… I wasn’t sure if I should have joined in saying, “I concur, too” or panic that they have to go to such extreme to make sure the right patient has been brought in for the right procedure! Scary, isn’t it??!!

Within about 20 minutes of starting the actual C-Section Nathanael was born at exactly 12:53pm. As they pulled him out Tony and I waited to hear that first cry (or should I say squeak), as we knew that would mean he was breathing on his own. Seemed like an eternity, but when that cry came, it really was the most blessed sound we had heard. I know others say, “oh, just wait…that cry will drive you crazy” and maybe so, but right now; after all we have been through to get him here, safe and healthy we’ll take that sweet cry! As they continued to work on my I listened as best I could as the team worked on Nathanael. Every minute or two I would hear one of them saying, “Oh, that is great!” or “Oh, that is good” and tears just rolled down our faces as more and more relief came with every good report. We knew our God had yet again showed off and performed a raging miracle for us and we were blessed! Tony got to cut the cord, put on Nathanael’s first diaper and later in post-op he got to feed Nathanael his first bottle.

During that time the doctor was diagnosing my issues and did say that the misshaped uterus caused the placenta and baby only to be able to grow on one side and it affected the cord which was only 1/3 the size that it should be. So our little fella was not able to get the nourishment that he needed in order to grow. He mentioned that this is also the cause of babies being still born years ago. Now they have the technology to monitor the baby and catch some of these red flags like they did with me and prevent that. The timing of being able to keep Nathanael in the womb until 37 weeks were up in order to give time for proper development of vital organs and the skeletal system and yet, get him out before he came under distress was orchestrate by Father Himself! What a miracle!!

Another miracle happened in post-op. Nathanael could not keep his blood sugar level up and that was when he was sent over to the NICU. They began working with him and got things stabilized and checked him over well for the next two days.

Also in post-op was when my body temperature bottomed out. I knew I had been cold and felt weird but I did not know all of what was going on. The nurses became focused and scurried around and suddenly wrapped me up in this thing called a “bear hugger”. It is like a huge swimming pool raft that they wrap you up in and then this machine blows hot air into it. I personally thought it was fantastic and asked if I could take it home with me. Unfortunately they would not let me bring it home and that may very well be the only time I am warm this winter! I stayed in that thing all night Wednesday night and into the day on Thursday and then slept in it Thursday night.

Wednesday night was pretty tough. I got sick just before some of our family was leaving and we only slept about three and a half hours with all the interruptions as they were keeping a close eye on my body temperature. Our nurse and her assistant were wonderful that night and really saw us through some rough spots!

I’ll pick up with Thursday tomorrow!


Do You Worry?

Just the other day I was having some time alone with God and reading in a popular devotional book. You may have heard of it before…”Jesus Calling”. I highly recommend this book for your daily time alone with God. I am not a devotional book type of person, but this one has captured me. I prefer more of a Bible study to be working through verses a devotional book. Not sure why, but just about the time somebody puts a date on something it all falls apart for me. LOL!! But “Jesus Calling” is different. When you see it you will understand.

Well, on with this post…As I was reflecting back over that days reading I began to think about why I worry sometimes. I constantly come back to the fact that often times it comes down to an issue of control. We don’t like to feel out of control. When we worry we are usually out of control in that particular area. I have often times realized that I am really not in control of much of anything! God, however, is in control of EVERYTHING! When I realize this and choose to receive it and believe it, I can rest because I know He has got it. He knows what is best anyway and can do all things so I don’t have to worry!

As I was processing through all of this, I realized…Worry is a CHOICE we make! I can draw in close to Christ and experience His perfect peace or I can focus on my problems and all the questions of uncertainty and sit in my worry. When I am sitting in all that worry it is because I am walking after my flesh and trying to handle it in my own power, strength and resources. I also realized that when I am focusing on all the problems and questions, I am measuring the problem up against my strength to handle it and I am always going to come up on the losing end of this equation. My strength is never adequate or sufficient. God’s strength, however, is a different story! Nothing is impossible with Him. When I put His strength in the equation of me and my problems that always tips the scale in my favor! God’s strength and resources will always be greater than (remember that little math lesson in school) my problems. When I align myself with Christ and His strength that always equals victory!

So, why worry? As Christ’s children we can face all uncertainty and problems with His perfect peace…if we so choose! Let’s choose peace together today!

John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on the earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” NLT

Isaiah 26:3-4 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.” NLT

Keep your thoughts fixed on Him and communicate with Him all throughout the day. By doing so, you build intimacy with Him and that makes trusting Him easier and when you are trusting Him more, you will worry less!

Happy 2011

Hi Everyone,

The blog below is what I just wrote up to our prayer team as a year end review of New Life Design.  I thought I would post it up here on our blog as well so you could see what all has been happening with us at NLD.  2010 has been a great year and we are looking forward to what God has in store for us in 2011.  I guess I could say a major theme that I sense the Lord telling me for NLD in 2011 is to be on the look out for where He is at work and take those opportunities as invitations to join Him there.  So, that is our plan for 2011!

Happy New Year!

We hope you got 2011 off to a great start.  We certainly have here at NLD.  Time has really flown by and it is hard to believe that we are actually sitting in 2011.  We are closer to our Lord’s return than ever before.  It is our desire to join God where He is at work in and through NLD in 2011.

Highlights of 2010

Along with our weekly coaching with clients that we do here at the office, here are some highlights of the 2010 year.

We began 2010 in faith that God would provide for us financially and he has done so in miraculous ways!  We have seen support and gift giving come in at just the right time and we have ended 2010 with God increasing our client number and despite our economy we have ended several months in the black!  God is so good!

We had the opportunity to lead 2 semesters of our Spiritual Formation Group.  Last winter/spring semester we went through an 8 week study of the Grace Life Conference and this Fall we studied “Portraits of Intimacy”.  This was a study that I wrote and put together.  It was an awesome group of folks and we had some great feedback from our evaluations.

In May I had the opportunity to teach several sessions of the Advanced Grace Life Training with our friends from Life Discipleship International as we worked with the Pastor and his wife from Haiti.

I also had the opportunity to continue teaching on Wednesday mornings in the Ladies Bible Study at FBC Powder Springs.  This has been a great opportunity to continue to teach about Grace, our identity in Christ, the cross and our co-crucifixion with Christ, etc…  This fall we ventured into Revelation!  This was particularly exciting as we looked at prophecy and what the Bible has to say about end time events.  Keep looking up, folks!  His return is closer than you think!  Are you ready?

This past Sunday while home for the holidays, I had the chance to teach the College/Young Single Adults Sunday School class that my Mom has begun at their church and it was yet another opportunity to begin to share the message of God’s grace.  It was awesome to see them participate and listen with such interest as I mapped out the diagram of Body, Soul and Spirit for them and shared about their “new life design” in Christ.

As you can see, we have been busy!  I am constantly reminded that our level of influence and effectiveness flows in direct proportion to our level of intimacy with Father.  Therefore, I am taking careful precaution to nourish and sustain my own personal relationship with Christ in a number of ways.  Number one is making sure I have adequate time alone with Father each morning.  I call it “Breakfast with Papa”.  I offer him a bowl of cereal most mornings but He is never interested.  I guess when you are the “Bread of Life” you really don’t need cereal!!  LOL!!  I also am focusing on sharpening my “listening to God” skills and learning that He has a lot to say when we get still and open to His plan and agenda for the day and quit being so wrapped up in our own agenda.  I obviously continue to read everything on grace that I can get my hands on but have also begun reading a lot of Henry Blackaby materials.  Tony and I are continuing to attend his Bible study that he does once a month.  This has proved very beneficial for both of us and we really enjoy it.  I don’t know what is more challenging, the message we receive or getting up at 4 in the morning to attend the study!

Beginning 2011

We are jumping in to 2011 with many opportunities ahead of us as well.  This week I resume the Ladies Bible Study at FBC Powder Springs on Wednesday.  This next Sunday I have the opportunity to begin a 4 week study with a Sunday School Class at FBC Powder Springs focused on Grace and at the end of February Tony and I will be headed to the Cabo San Lucas area of Mexico to pray and help some folks search out some mission opportunities there.  Its seems God is up to something and He is inviting us to join Him there!  That is just the beginning!  I know God has great things in store for 2011 so please keep praying for us!


Merry Christmas from NLD

Merry Christmas! Because of what we celebrate this time of year, you and I have forgiveness, freedom and FUN! Yes, I just said FUN! I don’t now if you have ever thought of the Christian life as fun, but it can be the greatest adventure you have ever embarked on. A month before my Dad passed away in early 1992 we wrote several letters back and forth with each other as I was living in Texas and he in Mobile, Alabama. I had asked him about how he was feeling as he struggled with cancer and what he felt God was doing in his life. He responded back by asking me why more Christians were not happy. He said, “Christians should be the happiest people on the earth, Dana.” I confess I did not have the answer to his question. Here my Dad was fighting cancer one month before God would call him home and he is asking me why are Christians not happy! WOW! Just over 10 years ago I found the answer to that question when I learned the principles of the “Exchanged Life” – the exact principles we teach here at NLD. So many don’t enjoy the Christian life and are not truly happy and content because they have no idea who they are and what they have inherited through gaining a relationship with Christ. Most importantly, they are not daily experiencing that relationship so they are not enjoying intimacy with Him. A quote that Rebecca and I looked at this morning was this, “The ultimate protection against sinking during life’s storms is devoting time to develop your friendship with Me (God).” This is found in Sarah Young’s devotional book entitled “Jesus Calling”. That is what my earthly father found – intimacy with Jesus. Through that intimacy he learned who he was and whom he belonged to and that brought peace and joy in the midst of adverse circumstances. I don’t know what you are facing this Christmas – but if you know Jesus, then take time to build an intimate friendship with Him and that will see you through! This is what many of our clients are learning this holiday season. I pray for them and I am praying for you that you find this truth for yourself as well.

You Prepare A Table Before Me…

Let’s begin by defining “Table” = a high usually flat topped plateaus of the continent.  Classic example is Table Mountain, near Cape Town, which is world renowned.   They are also known as alp lands or tablelands.  These are very sought after by the shepherds.  Another word commonly used to refer to these particular places is “mesas” – the Spanish word for table.  So it may be seen that what David referred to as a table was actually the entire high summer range. This is when the Sheep are reaching the high mountain ranges where they will spend their summer.

Early in the spring even before all the snow has melted the Shepherd will travel all the way up to the high tableland to prepare the range for the sheep.  Several things must be done. First there is the preparation of the grassy fields.  The shepherd will spend countless hours on his hands and knees looking for poisonous weeds like the white cammas.  If these are spotted they must be pulled up by the roots.  These could prove fatal especially for the young lambs.  Just a few bites or even a nibble would cause the sheep to become paralyzed and stiffen up like wood and then the sheep would succumb to all the toxins of poisons in his body from the plant and die.  The shepherd will take drastic steps to avoid these plants or just eradicate the entire grazing range of them.

Second, he will make a trip just before the sheep arrive in order to do more preparation of the tableland for them.  He takes along a supply of salt and minerals to be distributed over the range at strategic spots for the benefit of the sheep during the summer.  The intelligent, careful manager will also decide well ahead of time where his camps will be located so the sheep have the best bed grounds.  He goes over the range carefully to determine how vigorous the grass and upland vegetation is.  At this time he decides whether some glades and basins can be used only lightly whereas other slopes and meadows may be grazed more heavily.

This is exactly what David has in mind when he penned the phrase, “He prepares a table before me….”  He has gone on ahead of us and prepared the way for us.  Here is a clear parallel of the Christian life.  Like sheep and especially lambs, we somehow feel that we have to try everything that comes our way.  We have to taste this thing and that, sampling everything just to see what it’s like.  And we may very well know that some things are deadly.  They can do us no good.  They can be most destructive.  Still somehow, we give them a whirl anyway.  Christ has gone before us and knows that what is out there is destructive and that is why he warns us and makes provision for us if we will just take it.

Another thing on the Shepherd’s mind is attacks from wild animals that would seek to do harm while they are grazing on the tableland.  This takes a watchful and careful eye from the Shepherd.  Prey like coyotes, wolves and cougars are quick and very stealth.  You will never see the animal but all the sudden you see the damage it has brought about.  They will lie in wait and watch the sheep looking for the best opportunity to attack hoping to stampede and scatter the sheep knowing that one little straggler will be caught off guard and they will catch it.  With many raids it can look like the cougars would almost play with them like a cat would with a mouse just before it kills it.

This is very time consuming for the Shepherd and is full of drama and danger.  He could lose his life in the process of securing safety for the sheep and He knows this.  If there are animals like this present the   will have to go hunt them down and kill them so that the flock can rest in safety and refuge.

It would do all of us well to walk a little closer to Christ because that is the place of sure safety and security.

The provision of our Good Shepherd in all this is that Christ; our great Good Shepherd has Himself already gone before us into every situation and every extremity that we might encounter.  We are told emphatically that He was tempted in all points like as we are.  We know He entered fully and completely and very intimately into the life of men upon our planet.   He has known our sufferings, experienced our sorrows and endured our struggles in this life; He was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.  Because of this He understands us; He has totally identified Himself with humanity.  He has, therefore a care and compassion for us beyond our ability to grasp.  No wonder He makes every possible provision to insure that when we have to cope with Satan, sin or self in that situation before; He is in it now again with us and because of this, the prospects of our preservation are excellent.

It is this attitude of rest in Him, of confidence in His care, of relaxation as we realize His presence in the picture that can make the Christian’s life one of calm and quiet confidence.  The Christian walk can thus become a mountain top experience-a tableland trip-simply because we are in the care and control of Christ, who has been over all our enemies who would demoralize and destroy us if they could.

We are going to have trials and tribulations even on the tableland but Christ has gone ahead of us and made provision for our victory.

Question:  When I come to the Lord’s Table for communion – a feast of thanksgiving for His love and care do I fully appreciate what it cost Him to prepare this table for me?

Phil. 2:5-8 – This meant laying aside His splendor, His position, and His prerogatives as the perfect and faultless One.  He knew He would be exposed to terrible privation, to ridicule, to false accusation, to rumor, to gossip, and to malicious charges that branded Him as a glutton, drunkard, friend of sinners, and even an imposter.  It entailed losing His reputation.  It would involve physical suffering, mental anguish, and spiritual agony.

In short, His coming to earth as the Christ, as Jesus of Nazareth, was a straightforward case of utter self-sacrifice that culminated in the cross of Calvary.  The laid-down life, the poured out blood were the supreme symbols of total selflessness.  This was love.  This was God.  This was divinity in action, delivering men from their own utter selfishness, their own stupidity, and their own suicidal instincts as lost sheep unable to help themselves.

In all of this there is an amazing mystery.  No man will ever be able fully to fathom its implications.  It is bound up inexorable with the concept of God’s divine love of self-sacrifice which is so foreign to most of us who are so self-centered.  At best we can only grasp feebly the incredible concept of a perfect person, a sinless one being willing actually to be made sin that we who are so full of faults, selfish self-assertion, and suspicion might be set free from sin and self to live a new, free, fresh, abundant life of righteousness.

Jesus told us Himself that He had come that we might have life and have it more abundantly.  Just as the sheep man is thrilled beyond words to see his sheep thriving on the high, rich summer range it is one of the highlights of his whole year, so my Shepherd is immensely pleased when He sees me flourish on the tablelands of a noble, lofty life that He has made possible for me.

Note:  This is why he had to come and die for us and we couldn’t die for ourselves – we are so full of sin, selfishness and self consumption and our own comfort; none of us would have been willing to lay our lives down and be the sacrifice for sin-not even for ourselves much less for anyone else.  John 15.  Christ knows that it is in the self sacrifice that we find life so now our sanctification process is about teaching us to deny self, sin, Satan and lay our lives down for others.  I think this is another reason why we will have trials and tribulation here on this earth.  Christ is teaching us an appreciation of the ultimate sacrifice as well as getting us less and less attached to ourselves and looking more and more like a Phil. 2 attitude.