A couple of days ago, I blogged this:

Over a week ago, someone gave a prophetic word to me on similar lines.  He spoke of the time when Samuel was looking for the one to anoint out of Jesse’s family. Jesse presented all his candidates, his eldest sons, and Samuel said ‘The Lord has not chosen these…God does not look on outward appearance, but on the heart’.  And then David, the youngest and least likely, was ‘brought in from the field’ and Samuel sensed God’s ‘yes’ for the task and then anointed David.  He continued:  ’Andrew, you’ve been brought in from the field at this time because you are the person for this ministry.  May God continue to give you the obedient heart of David for the task ahead.’

stickI think its now relatively safe to tell you the story of my stick.  I know I’m weird, but over the years I’ve just learned to be obedient to God’s leading.  Here goes:

Sometime in Autumn last year, I kept getting the image of a shepherd’s crook in my mind.  Both sleeping and when awake.  It did my head in, I’m not overly keen of the ‘shepherd-sheep’ concept of pastoral ministry…simply because its been taken too far and made into something that it’s not.  It reminds me of ‘heavy shepherding’, pastoral abuse and, honestly, a passive/reactive form of ministry (maybe just me).  Anyway, I kept dreaming about this stick and that the Lord wanted me to ‘take it up.’   I wrestled and wrestled with this idea…I was not going to slip into a ‘default pastoral mode’.

Still the idea came of this stick to the extent I felt strongly that I really should buy one.  Only because I had a sense that God was on at something.  Thankfully, Christmas was coming up, so I disguised my stick buying with the excuse of dressing as a shepherd for the Church Nativity.  And so, stick has been sitting in the corner of our sitting room since Christmas. If you’ve been, you might have noticed it.  Still unhappy with the idea of the stick, but its been there.

And then….two things.  Firstly, I have a dream and I’m dressed in combats going into some sort of battle.  I’m handed a weapon and, you guessed it, its a shepherds crook: stick.  It starts to make a little bit of sense.  Secondly, a former prison chaplain colleague of mine, Rev Louis Kinsey, put up a new Facebook status profile picture.  Louis is also an Army Chaplain and the picture was of him in Afghanistan in his combats and carrying his shepherd’s crook…which is what Army padre’s carry.  God has used ‘stick’ to help me adjust to the pastoral nature of the role I’m in…that element of oversight, protection, guarding but also getting over a soft fluffy and flimsy pastor role that I’ve so long felt ill-fitted for.

Stick is only used offensively when dealing with wolves…not to ‘Lord it over the sheep.’  It is used defensively to protect.  It is used heroically to rescue the ones in danger.   In the case of the Army padre, its a sign of his peacefulness in not carrying arms, but also a sign of his availability – a symbol of his supportive and protective role for the overall spiritual and emotional wellbeing of his men and women.  There are many who do pastoral care much better than me, and I’m more than happy for people to be released into that ministry, but there is always the image of overseer is different to ‘pastor’ in that sense.

So, I thought I’d get myself a big fancy robe thingy and a flashy mitre and process with my stick…or, maybe not.  Its a reminder that I’ve been called in out of the field for the task in hand.  God helping me, I’ll do what I can.

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