Monday, December 30, 2013

One of The Ninety and Nine

I wrote this  November of 2004

As most of you know, I attended the “Women’s Time-Out” in Boise a few weeks ago.  It was GREAT.  There was such a Spirit there…it will always be a cherished memory for me.

Michael McLean was there and as usual he was a spiritual magnet.  
I have always been a fan of his music because of the way it touches my soul and the spiritual insights I have gleaned from the words.  I had noticed that he had written a book about the stories and inspiration behind his songs, but I had been putting off purchasing it.  Needless to say, that day in Boise I picked up a copy and have not been disappointed.  It has touched me in a very profound way.  
Music is a very powerful tool for me in learning and sharing the gospel.

One of the stories and songs that spoke volumes to me was one titled: 

“I’m Just One Of The Ninety And Nine”

Ever since I can remember, I have felt an extra special bond with our Savior and our Heavenly parents.  All of my life, I have turned to the Savior because He was my only true friend.  And yet I still turned and walked away for many years.  
But I never stopped missing that beloved friend.  
When I found my way back I found myself wondering how the Savior could ever go back to being my best friend.  
I had been a very spoiled and rotten child.  
But He did come back right as if I had never left.  
I have countless times felt like His favorite.  
He is truly once again My Best Friend.

The last few years, I have watched countless of my friends who had never walked away and at times felt that, “they were not all that unique.”  They just keep plugging along as the Shepard goes and looks for that one.  
When I read Michael’s story concerning his inspiration for this song, I got so excited because in my minds eye also, it spoke to all my valiant friends who never went astray:

“I’m not a morning person.  
The only 5:30 I’m very familiar with is the one in the afternoon.  
I join the non-morning people in proclaiming that if God had really meant for us to see the sunrise, He’d have scheduled it later in the day.
This is not to say that I haven’t ever seen a sunrise or that 
I’ve never experienced the other 5:30.  I have. 
It’s just that I tend to arrive at dawn by staying up rather than getting up.  
That’s why it was so strange the Sunday morning I woke up at 5:00am and couldn’t go back to sleep. 
I stumbled into my writing room and picked up a copy of what Mark Twain labeled “chloroform in print” and started to read.
Why is it, I wondered, that the lost souls get so much attention in the scriptures?  If you’re the prodigal son who comes home, your dad throws a party.  If you’re a world-class persecutor on the road to Damascus, you get a light and voice.  Even if you’re a sheep that strays from the fold, the good Shepard leaves the ninety and nine good-guy sheep in search of the lost one.
            The argument can be made that all of us are lost, and these stories remind us that no matter how far we’ve strayed or how far we’ve fallen, there’s hope and a way back.  
These stories are exactly what we need to hear when we’re feeling lost and alone.
But what about the people who aren’t particularly lost but may feel unnoticed?  What about the ones who are carpooling Cub Scouts, serving in soup kitchens, taking clothes to Goodwill, donating blood, singing in the choir, volunteering at the hospital, visiting the nursing home, tutoring students, teaching Sunday School, coaching Little League, and doing the thousands of other activities the regular good guys do…without any spotlights or fanfare, without seeking any credit, without building themselves up?  What about the ones who are wearing out their lives more or less being the kind of people the good shepard doesn’t have to worry about?  What about them?  
I was rather surprised at how intensely I asked this question and 
how quickly I got a musical answer:

I am one of the ninety and nine.
I’m not perfect, but basically I’m doing fine.
I have not lost my way.  I have not gone astray.
I’m just one of the ninety and nine.
And I’m here in the heart of the fold.
I’m not mindless, but I try to do as I’m told.
I’m not tempted to run and become a lost one.
I’m just here in the heart of the fold.
So why is my Shepard coming this way toward me?
He’s holding His arms out and calling my name.
He’s calling my name, but how can this be?
I’m just one of the ninety and nine.
I have stumbled and fallen, but I’ve kept in line.
I’m not one He must seek; I’m not all that unique.
I’m just one of the ninety and nine.
So why is my Shepard treating me like His lost lamb?
He’s searching to find…me…and He’s holding me now,
He’s holding me now, and teaching me who I am.
And why am I feeling like I’m the only one here?
It’s like…it’s like I’m His favorite…

And He takes me aside and He sweetly confides
These remarkable words in my ear.  He says:
“You’re one of the ninety and nine.
Have you any idea how brightly you shine?
You are safe in this fold
And it’s time you were told that I know where you’ve been,
So I know where you’ll be,
Because all of your life you’ve been following me.
You are more than just one of the sands of the sea
Or just one of the ninety and nine:
You are mine…You are Mine…You are Mine…You are Mine.”
Guess I’m one of the ninety and nine.

After I wrote this song, a new paradigm started settling in for me.  I started seeing certain stories in the Bible revealing Jesus as being less critical than I used to imagine.  
For example, for years I thought that “Doubting Thomas” was a bit of a disappointment to Jesus because he was a fellow who couldn’t take somebody else’s word for it.  
But now, imagine the exchange between the skeptical apostle and the resurrected Master as being far more understanding and less critical of the personality that needed to see to believe. 
Remember, Thomas wasn't abandoning ship after Jesus died.  
He was just having a hard time putting all the pieces together.  
My new post-Ninety-and-Nine feeling is that if we’re doing the best we can and we need to see to believe then surely we will see if that’s what helps us on our journey to follow Him.  
And if seeing is not that important to us because we have believing blood, other blessings will be available, 
as needed.  Whatever blessing we need, we’ll receive.

I’m feeling that wherever we are on the path, that’s exactly where God will meet us and walk with us and teach us and encourage us and love us, if we’ll let Him.  
If His burden is easy and His yoke is light, that’s how He makes it so:  
He meets us where we are.  In the fold or out, 
He lets us feel what perfect love feels like.  
Life is hard enough without distancing ourselves from the One who has been willing to do whatever it takes to help us become all we have the potential to become.
I’m not sure how long it will be before I read these scriptural stories and see yet another way of thinking about the things that I missed earlier. 
But I’m open and waiting.”

My dear friends, maybe it’s just me, but I love how Brother McLean can put into words the power of Our Saviors love for each and everyone of us the lost and the ninety and nine.  It is my hope and prayer that we will all be “open and waiting,” for whatever our Savior wants to share. 

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