My wife and I were in Wisconsin several years ago, staying at a bed-and-breakfast, which was also a fully operational sheep farm. It was an interesting getaway. I had never been around sheep before. Come to think of it, I’d never been around Wisconsinites, either.
Luckily, I found both sheep and Wisconsin folks to be pretty cool. Although truthfully I was not enthused about my wife’s idea of vacationing on a sheep farm.
I suppose the idea of a winsome barnyard with cascading green pastures seemed romantic to my wife. But, I can honestly tell you, there is nothing remotely “romantic” about the smell of hundreds of sheep.
Still, it was a great weekend.
One of the things I liked most was watching the sheep dogs. It was amazing to see canines herd hundreds of sheep. The dogs were always on duty. They herded the lumbering animals into different locations, constantly patrolling the outskirts of the farm, always making sure the sheep were safe.
There were several times during the night when we would awake to the sound of dogs barking like maniacs. The farmer told us this was usually the dogs alerting him to the presence of a poisonous snake entering the pasture.
“Do your dogs know the difference between poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes?” one of the guests asked the farmer.
The farmer proudly nodded. “These dogs know a lot.”
Another time, one of the dogs spotted what might have been a coyote or some other predator. The dogs went into primal defense mode. They circled the flock, emitting low growls, occasionally yelping to alert the farmer to danger.
Eventually, the farmer came cruising up on his all-terrain golf cart and scared the would-be coyotes away, and everything went back to normal again.
But by far the most interesting thing about that weekend was hearing a story about when a few of the sheep went missing.
One evening, the farmer and his helpers were taking stock of the herd on their muddy four-wheelers when everyone suddenly became nervous. It was clear to many of the inn’s guests something was wrong.
“What’s going on?” the guests asked the farmer’s wife.
The woman looked like she was going to have a cardiac event.
“The herd count came up two short,” she said. “And that means the dogs are with them, they could be hurt.”
What happened next happened in a flash. The farmer and his sons prepared for an all-out expedition. They were equipping their four-wheelers for action. They had rifles, rope lassos, head-mounted lanterns, two-way radios, you name it. These guys meant business.
“How will you find them?” the guests asked.
“Follow the barking dogs,” said the farmer.
It was a long night for the farmer. As it happened, two sheep had gotten stuck in wire fencing at the edge of the property. One sheep died from the stress of trying to free itself. The other ewe was still alive, tangled in barbed wire, covered in blood and screaming.
They tell me the farmer used his own jacket to stem the flow of blood, cutting swaths of fabric as tourniquets. They say the farmer scraped his forearms all to heck trying to snip the barbed wire with cutters, painstakingly working to free the ewe. In fact, the farmer was so torn up after the rescue, he required stitches himself.
Once they loaded the bloodred animal into the souped-up golf cart, they sped toward home. There was an emergency veterinarian who had just arrived, waiting to operate.
The farmer stayed by the animal’s side, keeping the ewe calm while the doc sewed the creature up. The next morning over breakfast, the guests learned that everything worked out and the ewe survived.
The guests all visited the bandaged animal, which was kept in a special pen. People fawned over the animal and took turns letting it eat out of their hands. And the farmer never left the animal.
After I heard this story, I was getting the sense that I had just heard something special. Something remarkable. Something that I guess my childhood preacher forgot to tell me about God, maybe because he was too busy telling us who wasn’t going to heaven.
I suppose you could say a story like this helps me put words to something I believe firmly. And that is this:
I don’t care who you are, what life hurtles at you, or what you think you know, when you can’t come to the farmer, the farmer will come to you.
frugalfellow - June 10, 2022 6:56 am
Lander - June 10, 2022 7:03 am
🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - June 10, 2022 7:48 am
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Amen
Lisa - June 10, 2022 8:31 am
Beautifully stated, Sean! 👏👏👏👏
Ella Herlihy - June 10, 2022 9:02 am
““Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”
Luke 15:4-6 NIV
One of my favorites. God’s promise to never leave us, to seek us when we are astray, to bring us back into his fold.
Mary McNeil - June 10, 2022 9:47 pm
And the song “The Ninety and Nine” is one of the most powerful hymns ! Not sung often enough. My Mom had it on a record sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford when I first heard it 60 some years ago !
Marion Surles - June 10, 2022 9:03 am
I love the last line!
But be prepared for an onslaught of email correcting you about the snakes! I know God loves us all, but snake people are weird.
Linda Knight - June 10, 2022 9:12 am
And that, my friend, is one of your best columns ever…
Ed (Bear) - June 10, 2022 9:20 am
Such a cool piece Sean! I hadn’t thought of God as a farmer, but that is exactly what he is! This story of yours and Jamie’s vacation is a parable about God. We are His sheep and a lot of us get stuck in fences and need help.
I’ve never been on a sheep farm, so I don’t know the smell. But some of us human “sheep” can create some pretty stinky “smells” in our lives.
Sherilyn McGill Pharr - June 10, 2022 9:32 am
Beautiful story, beautifully written. Thank you.
I pray you are recovering.
Kim Kilgore - June 10, 2022 9:43 am
https://youtu.be/maCulbv0n6s Matthew 18:12
Frank - June 10, 2022 9:49 am
“So God made a farmer.” – Paul Harvey
Sue Rhodus - June 10, 2022 9:59 am
In these times of turmoil and pain in our nation..this story should be read every day..the shepherd comes to us.
Alison - June 10, 2022 10:20 am
Maybe my favorite ever….
Kathy Painter - June 10, 2022 10:31 am
I’m so glad I’m signed up to receive these messages. This is so powerful. You are an amazing storyteller. Thank you and I can’t wait for the next. God bless
Katrina Butler - June 10, 2022 10:44 am
Amen, Sean, Amen!
D. West - June 10, 2022 10:49 am
…when ewe can’t come to the farmer, the farmer will come to ewe.
Pam - June 10, 2022 11:21 am
Holly L - June 10, 2022 11:03 am
I think pastors from back in the day get a bad rep. For them love was telling you to repent and go to heaven. It was love for them to tow the line and keep you from failing. Even if done with fear of you going to hell. There is something to say about some real talk. Love always wins we say, and we are all falling short. What’s so wonderful is that our shepherd loves us no matter what. Beautifully written ❤️
Kay - June 10, 2022 11:03 am
David Britnell - June 10, 2022 11:10 am
The gospel in a nutshell. Beautiful!!
Sonya Tuttle - June 10, 2022 11:13 am
Read a comment recently that more farmers are committing suicide because it is so overwhelming. Depending on rain to get crops watered, or not getting decent prices for crops, cattle or chickens getting diseases, and multitude of issues. We take it for granted that they do what they love. But every career has its down times, and I am glad I am not a farmer. Praise God that so far, we are the beneficiaries of their labor. Good article!
suzi - June 10, 2022 11:16 am
Preach on Sean, I can sleep in Sunday🤗
Pam Williams - June 10, 2022 11:20 am
Amen and amen. The Good Shepherd loves his sheep. ♥️
Ann Thompson - June 10, 2022 11:23 am
❤️🐑❤️🐑. Hope your better.
Kristi Davis - June 10, 2022 11:27 am
Yes He comes after us. Needed that word this morning.
Debbie g - June 10, 2022 11:30 am
Beautiful Sean and Amen. And I’m sure the shepherd is with you today also praying for you and Jamie keep getting better love all ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Jenn in GA - June 10, 2022 11:45 am
I have experienced the truth of the last line, especially in the past four years.
Jenny Brannan - June 10, 2022 11:54 am
One of your best. I knew where you were going because I was fortunate to have a childhood preacher who talked about the Good Shepherd searching for the one list sheep.
Debbie Haggerty - June 10, 2022 11:59 am
Wonderful way to start my day. Thank you.
Ashley - June 10, 2022 12:02 pm
Wonderful, Sean. Thank you!
Linda - June 10, 2022 12:02 pm
Perfect day-after response!
KATY 8:06 - June 10, 2022 12:06 pm
💕🙏Bingo! Have you read the poem,”the Hound of Heaven”? God always pursues us 💕🙏
J - June 10, 2022 12:15 pm
And dogs are the angels.
Susie Frew - June 10, 2022 12:16 pm
Trilby - June 10, 2022 12:19 pm
Linda Rogers - June 10, 2022 12:21 pm
This is just beautiful.
I’m watching baby blue birds being fed by their mama. Another illustration of the helpless being provided for… and loved on.
So thankful for you, sharing God’s love in such an untraditional way!
Marilyn Johnson - June 10, 2022 12:21 pm
June 14th is Flag Day. It is my husbands’ Birthday and also the day of his Burial at a National Cemetery. Tim was the average guy you write about. He was a treasure.
Thank you for all you write about!!
scpearson201 - June 10, 2022 12:34 pm
I’m sorry your childhood preacher didn’t talk more about the parable of the lost sheep…….and the lost coin…….and the lost (prodigal) son.
Trish - June 10, 2022 12:38 pm
Becky - June 10, 2022 12:40 pm
Thank you, Sean. For more on this topic, I recommend a book called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Philip Keller. It is a short book written by a man who had his own flock of sheep. He interprets each verse in light of his experience and offers great insights.
NancyB. - June 10, 2022 12:42 pm
Not much left to say but–
Sarah - June 10, 2022 12:46 pm
You hit the ball out of the ballpark with this column! Simply beautiful and perfectly written! You do good work, especially for a sick guy!! Thank you for this!
Brenda - June 10, 2022 12:50 pm
Lovely story. I’ve recently been walking each morning at a local park where there is a pond and lots of trees for shade. We are definitely into hot summer here in Florida. Most mornings I see an elderly woman using a cane due due to a slight disability. She walks very slowly with a beautiful blonde lab as her companion. He stays beside her watching her to make sure she is safe. It is wonderful to see how protective he is with her showing so much love. Special moments.
Sean, hope you are feeling better from covid.
B.D. Thrasher - June 10, 2022 12:51 pm
That will preach, from the choir loft to the narthex.
Priscilla Rodgers - June 10, 2022 12:58 pm
Amen! Best sermon I’ve heard in awhile. Hope you’re feeling better.
Cathy M - June 10, 2022 1:06 pm
All we have to do is ask him to come into our hearts and he has our back forever. It is such a gift❤️
Wyvern Beach - June 10, 2022 1:10 pm
You should go to the sheep herding trials in Heber City, Utah over Labor Day weekend. Unforgettable!!!!
Janice LeMaster - June 10, 2022 1:11 pm
Perfect story for the times we live in! Thank you!
Susan W Fitch - June 10, 2022 1:16 pm
Love this! So very appropriate!
Deborah Johansen - June 10, 2022 1:34 pm
You always say it just right. Thank you.
Ruth Gunter Mitchell - June 10, 2022 1:36 pm
You made my day!
Rhonda - June 10, 2022 1:45 pm
WOW!!! One of your BEST EVER!!! ……Amazing thing is that I find myself thinking that about so many of your writings!!!!
Bennette R Purvis - June 10, 2022 1:47 pm
Truer words were never spoken! Thank you for the reminder ❤️
Mark - June 10, 2022 1:52 pm
Excellent rebuttal to a lot of yesterdays comments.
James Key - June 10, 2022 1:56 pm
Did the guests dine on lamb chops afterward?
Marianne Bryan - June 10, 2022 2:11 pm
THE GOOD SHEPHERD… yes. 🙏🏻♥️🙏🏻
CW - June 10, 2022 2:20 pm
Reminds me of the sheep/sheepdog/wolf analogy.
Laura - June 10, 2022 2:25 pm
Beautiful image of God’s grace flowing from your words, Hope you are feeling much better!
Delaine Dendy - June 10, 2022 2:33 pm
Wonderful ending to your story. Many, many times the farmer has come to me.
Eshanne - June 10, 2022 2:37 pm
Gordon - June 10, 2022 2:42 pm
Amen! Your wisdom and insight is impeccable.
Anne - June 10, 2022 2:42 pm
Wow! I have chills! Thank you for this wonderful story and reminder of our Heavenly Father’s truly awesome love and care for us. God bless you. I hope you are feeling better.
Glenda Busby-Fowler Hinkle - June 10, 2022 2:45 pm
Beautiful and well said.
BEX - June 10, 2022 2:53 pm
Connie Pearson - June 10, 2022 3:15 pm
What a shame that your childhood preacher didn’t talk more about the parable of the lost sheep . . . and the lost coin . . . and the lost (prodigal) son. While you’re recovering from Covid, may I recommend that you take a listen to my son? Not surprisingly, he’s my favorite preacher. You might actually LIKE sermons after hearing him. 🙂 Right on the front page of the website, you can click to watch/hear last Sunday’s sermon. https://westfranklinchurch.com/
jachanin - June 10, 2022 3:16 pm
Does this place still exist? I applaud that farmer! I would love to visit sometime.
Shirley Northington - June 10, 2022 3:35 pm
Oh, Amen! The story of the good shepherd.
Beverly Schaffer - June 10, 2022 3:53 pm
This brought tears to my eyes because I know God is just like that farmer and He will never let us go.
Connie - June 10, 2022 3:55 pm
I don’t think I’m the only one with leaky eyes after that one. A good lesson for us all. Hugs.
Kay Keel - June 10, 2022 4:53 pm
Amen! Another Grand Slam with that last line Sean!
Russell Moulton - June 10, 2022 5:48 pm
Frank beat me to it…..I was also reminded of the Paul Harvey “So God made a farmer. Good one Sean one of your best.Hope you feel better!!!
David Feder - June 10, 2022 6:36 pm
As my rabbi used to always say, “if you feel yourself far from G0d, you should ask yourself which one of you moved.”
Gloria Van Nostrand - June 10, 2022 7:07 pm
Enjoyed this column so much…reminded me of all the times I was taught about THE GOOD SHEPHERD who counts his sheep and always goes to find the lost ones. 🐑✝️🐑
MAM - June 10, 2022 7:48 pm
That was awesome, Sean! You told it so well, and you summed it up perfectly. Yes, the farmer, AKA God, does come to us when we need help. I sure hope you are feeling better!
Linda J Hendrix - June 10, 2022 8:07 pm
Ron - June 10, 2022 8:33 pm
Apply the 23rd Psalm here.
Connie G Thomas - June 10, 2022 8:54 pm
You got IT! Most folks don’t have any idea what it takes to ” care ” and “watch over” a herd of Sheep ! …it take deep LOVE for each animal . Yes , The Lord is our Shepherd .
Mary McNeil - June 10, 2022 9:43 pm
I checked on the snakes : There ae two poisonous snakes found in Wisconsin :mostly the southwestern part of the state. They are the Timber rattlesnake and the Eastern Massasiga, and they are well known as being formidable snakes (there are a few found here in Ohio too, but we tend to have more Copperheads, even though Sen.. VanLandingham is long dead.)
Linda Moon - June 10, 2022 10:11 pm
Needles and scans and cancer, oh my. That’s what most of my day has consisted of. But….as soon as I arrived at the clinic, guess what I saw—a LAKE MAGAZINELIFE with a large picture of Sean Dietrich on in its cover! Boy oh boy, did that make my day go better! And, if you’re still battling COVID, Sean, I hope something will happen to help you over that hurtle soon.
Melissa Armstrong - June 10, 2022 10:31 pm
Rose Eliff - June 10, 2022 10:59 pm
How wonderful that you too that trip, that you witnessed the farm work and the rescue and that you were able to relate the story to us. Just beautiful. The Divine is always with us. When my mom passed years ago, my grief was so overwhelming that I couldn’t “feel” the Divine as I always did. So I prayed and said that I was imagining a thick,sturdy rope between us and that I was going to hang on to my end, trusting that the Divine was connected to me on the other end and that I would hold on until I could feel again through my grief. A rope is a handy thing to have available.
Ann Hart - June 11, 2022 12:55 am
Thank you, Sean! That is an awesome example of true love, just as God loves us! ann
Dale Parsons - June 11, 2022 1:06 pm
From a former preacher who was a pastor three times over 18 years, thank you. I usually got this part wrong.
Margaret Jackson - June 11, 2022 3:21 pm
But the Bible does teach this lesson. Remember the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 sheep to go look for the one which was lost?
I’m sure He scratched His arms, trying to free the sheep from the thorns and used His cloak to bandage the bleeding wounds. He stayed with the wounded sheep until it was strong enough to rejoin the flock.
Jesus’s parables were not just stories, they were lessons taken from real life to teach His people.
I sure hope you are recovering from Covid and I am praying that you do not suffer lingeting aftereffects that I have heard of.
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - June 11, 2022 11:15 pm
Linnea Miles - June 12, 2022 1:51 am
Sean- This is one of your best: the good news in all its beautiful simplicity.. Thank you- I needed to hear it this way.
Ruth Rhea - June 12, 2022 10:23 pm
God cares for each of us.
Marcia De Graaf - June 12, 2022 10:28 pm
That’s beautiful, Sean. And the Good Shepherd left the 99 to find the one lost sheep…me! Thank God!
Alice Grimes - June 13, 2022 3:58 pm
Yes! The Shepherd so loves His sheep that he will leave the ninety and nine and go look for the one lost one.
Patricia Gibson - June 14, 2022 12:05 am
joseybell - June 16, 2022 11:33 am
WE all are His sheep…and we have a wonderful Shepherd. He will always keep us safe if we will just trust Him.
DeeDee - June 16, 2022 8:32 pm
Awesome ending. You are absolutely correct! Hope you are recovering quickly and completely! Love your writings and YOU!!