Category Archives: Gleanings from Lessons from a Sheep Dog/Phillip Keller

#5 – And on this happy note….we end the week… =0/


So if you have hung in there with me this week, we have reached Day 5 of the series…

and while I sincerely DO hope you have a happy and wonderful weekend…

the last request is much needed but never wanted.

Let’s dig in.

I basically underlined the entire last chapter of the book.

It is a subject near and dear to my heart; because I fear we do little to embrace this part of following Christ, and Phillip Keller nailed it.

On pages 66 and 67, Keller talks about how he would send Lass out to gather the stragglers.

“Fetch them, Lass!” he would tell her. “Go out and bring them home.” 

He writes about how she would go without hesitation.

She would push through the undergrowth and brambles, run across rough rocks and give herself wholeheartedly to the task until she brought every sheep out safely.


Keller tells how this came at a price for her.

She would be weary, her face scratched and torn by thickets, her coat clogged with burrs and debris and often the pads of her feet would bear cuts from the sharp stones.

Yet she did it willingly because she wanted to be part of the process of his work.

Watching his dog labor, Phillip Keller questioned his own willingness to give so sacrificially to the work of Christ.

He notes that being the friend and follower of Jesus is no guarantee that we will be spared from hard or disagreeable circumstances.


As her master, he never sent Lass into hard places to hurt her…

“But I put her into challenging circumstances to save the sheep. And it was out of all of these endeavors that she gradually matured and developed into a magnificent worker.”    pg 67

Like Keller, I have noticed that suffering is not one of the highlights featured in a membership drive or evangelism outreach event for the church.

When Jesus restored Peter, He asked Him if he loved Him three times.

Each time, when Peter enthusiastically affirmed his love…Jesus gave him the same task as proof of his love…

“Feed my sheep”…

And Peter did.

At a high cost….





Because he heeded the call of His Master…

“Go out and bring them home!”


Many of the disciples and leaders of the early church knew the price of following Christ and sharing the Gospel.

Many around the world, in years since and especially today, suffer in ways we can not imagine as they receive Christ and then share the Gospel in their villages, towns and cities.

It is humbling to me how comfortably I assume I can live out my faith when so many truly suffer for Christ.

Keller shares these words of exhortation,

“We are reluctant to share our strength, time or talent to touch others in trouble. We draw back from the distasteful situation where we might have to suffer a bit in order that others might be saved.”  pg. 67

So for Day 5, my prayer would be:

Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for those who willingly sacrificed their comfort to bring my wandering feet back to Your fold. As one who grew up knowing You and yet strayed so far, thank You for not giving up on me. Lord, You know I don’t like to suffer; so I ask You to give me courage to not shrink back when the going gets rough. Help me to be more interested in saving sheep than I am in my own personal well-being. When the work for Your Kingdom comes at a high personal cost, remind me anew of the price You paid for me.   <3


**Lessons from a Sheepdog by Phillip Keller; Thomas Nelson, 2002

#4 – When obedience is better than…well….really anything…


This week on the blog, I have been sharing some requests that don’t seem to make too many prayer lists.

I have been reading a small book that was gifted to me called Lessons from a Sheepdog, by Phillip Keller.

Keller was, among many things, a shepherd. In the book he shares insights into his own faith journey that he learned while training a rescue dog named Lass.

Lass had capacity to be a great help to him, but she needed much guidance and patience.

From his experiences in training her; he relates how Christ, as our Shepherd, might view our sometimes wayward progress in learning to follow and serve Him.


His insights have helped me form some prayers that I think God may have been waiting patiently for me to learn to ask.

It took a long time for Keller to even get this dog to trust him. However, once she did develop a sense of him being her master, she became so attached to him that her affection sometimes trumped her obedience.

He needed her to be obedient to his commands in order for her to be a useful partner and co-worker in tending the flock.

Her own desires and excitement for the lively parts of caring for the flock would often draw her away from the actual work he expected from her.

Keller likened it to followers of Christ when we allow our zeal for God and outward displays of service to become the focus of our efforts instead of obedience.


He writes:

“Love for the Master is not some sentimental emotion that sweeps over the soul in moments of special piety. Love for Christ is a deliberate setting of the will to carry out His commands at any cost. It is the delight of accomplishing our Father’s highest purposes, no matter how challenging.” page 56 *

He ends with the idea that the ultimate goal of our “love for Christ expressed through obedience to Him” is that others are blessed and cared for.

As I read his thoughts, I could truly see the tendency of God’s people to take activities and talents used in service to God and exalt THOSE instead of submitting them to be used BY God…in whatever way HE chooses.

I also read this week a suggestion that we often use greater effort resisting God and His instruction than we do in turning from disobedience.

And so, in keeping with my theme this week, I would add this to my prayer requests…

Heavenly Father, I pray that I would not equate emotion and passion and feeling with service to You. I pray that I would desire to be obedient to You more than anything else. I pray to be consistent and credible in my faith walk by daily living out what I proclaim to believe. Help me to use my energies to resist the temptation to exalt my own ideas of how service to You might look today. Strengthen me to obey You in the challenges of genuine service so that others are blessed and cared for.

**Lessons from a Sheepdog by Phillip Keller; Thomas Nelson, 2002

#3 – Keeping The Main Thing the main thing

The third prayer request I would add ties to yesterday’s post // …distractions that pull me away from the purpose God intended.

Oh…and please note…I realized I have been calling the dog “he” and she’s a she….so thank you very much WordPress for your editing feature…


As Phillip Keller develops the idea of the problem arising from the blackbirds drawing his sheep dog away, often the animal was not a bit sorry for the wasted time.

In fact, Keller writes that the dog often seemed to be quite pleased as she fell into a heap after a good chase.

He realized that to her, the whole thing had been quite entertaining.


And again, he draws a comparison to the community of faith.

He writes:

Without being unduly critical it is essential for each of us to examine our own lives and ascertain what diverts us from the highest duties to which God calls us as His coworkers.

Within the community of our churches it is often the temptation to entertain rather than edify God’s people. It is the desire to amuse audiences rather than instruct them in God’s Word.” *

I understand this struggle.

I love very much to make people laugh.


I love it when what I say strikes a cord of agreement.

It is a wonderful thing to hear that what I have said or written has encouraged someone.

But it is a great temptation to move from exhortation to entertainment.

It is a great temptation to begin to seek ways to delight listeners and readers instead of seeking to be a vessel for what God would like shared.


I particularly appreciate the admonition of this gentle author when he reminds me that there is room for me to make you smile some days…to share some of the funny and tender parts of the journey.

Telling about God’s story of what He is doing in our lives doesn’t have to be boring…but when our desire moves from sharing the Gospel to how we can amuse people…we have lost sight of The Main Thing.

And so I have added to my prayers, this simple request for Day 3:

Oh Father God, You have made me and wired me and You know me better than I know myself. You know how easily I can forget what You have called me to do and lose sight of speaking the truth of Your Word to encourage others. Lord, thank You that I can share Your instruction in the unique ways You have given me, but keep me honest before You when I start to steer away from the deep waters of encouragement into the shallow pools of entertainment.  Lead me deeper still into Your Word. Impress Your teachings  on my heart that they would always be the overflow of my life through my written and spoken words.   <3

*Lessons from a Sheepdog by Phillip Keller; Thomas Nelson, 2002; page 49

#2 – The Distraction of Annoying Intruders


If you are just checking in, I am doing a series this week of requests that I don’t think I have seen on a prayer chain…prayers that I have added for myself after reading Lessons from a Sheep Dog by Phillip Keller.

He writes about an event that occurred every spring that caused some serious interruptions to his shepherding; the arrival of a flock of crows that nested in trees adjacent to his pastures until their fall migration to a warmer climate.

The crows delighted in taunting Keller’s sheep dog who would spend hours chasing them. Leaping in the air as the birds swooped down, she would end up completely exhausted and having accomplished nothing to help with the sheep she was supposed to be tending.

In the book, Phillip Keller pointed out that the crows had come from outside the property, were in no way a part of the work he was trying to accomplish, and yet, his sheep dog would become completely preoccupied with their existence .

The distraction of these invasive and tormenting crows exhausted his dog and kept her from performing useful service.

In the book, he points out that we encounter similar distractions as we attempt to serve God and His Kingdom:

“Circumstances which are not part of His purposes for us intrude themselves into our experience.

The difficulty is they distract us from our most important responsibilities to Christ.

They call us away and tempt us to take off in hot pursuit.

In the process our energies are wasted, our strength is expended – yet the benefit to God or His flock is nil.” *


I think how often I can lose an entire day because of some annoying set of circumstances that has intruded on me from outside.

I get worked up and lose all focus as I attempt to eradicate something that really has nothing to do with the work God called me to do that day.

This does not apply to the divine interruptions that God sends our way…you know the ones…where you had your day all neatly planned until you get a call from someone who needs help.

No, the things I am talking about are the “noisy crows” that clamor for my attention; things that are outside of God’s purpose for me and yet I find myself expending precious energy on these things instead of God’s things.

At the end of the day, the intruders are unscathed, God’s purposes remain unfulfilled and I am worn out.

And so my prayer for Day 2 would be:

Heavenly Father, help me to recognize annoyances and circumstances that are outside Your purpose for me each day that clamor for my attention. Give me strength to resist the temptation to be distracted by these. Help me to be wise about where I expend my energy so that it can be spent on the things You have set me to do, according to Your plan for me. Enable me to keep my focus firmly on You throughout the day no matter what swoops in to taunt my mind and jar my nerves. 

*Lessons from a Sheepdog by Phillip Keller; Thomas Nelson, 2002; page 48

#1 – To hold fast when you can’t see the Shepherd


I just finished reading a little book one of my friends gave me called Lessons from a Sheep Dog by Phillip Keller.

Keller died in 2001. He was, among many things, a wildlife photographer, shepherd, naturalist and author.

This particular book is based on his experience with a wayward, neglected sheep dog that he rescued and trained. From the dog, he learned much about his own relationship with the Lord.

I underlined so much of the book that I decided to copy these impacting lessons into notes and as I wrote them, I discovered five things that I would suggest would make excellent prayer requests for all of us who claim to follow Christ.

I am sharing them this week…

Day 1:


Phillip Keller writes that there are times when a shepherd has work to do, for instance repairing a broken fence, that requires him to leave the flock under the care of his sheep dog in one location, while he goes and works in another.

His dog did not understand that when her master disappeared, it was her job to remain faithfully watching the sheep until Phillip returned.

The dog would become restless, wanting to find her master and be close to him.

The animal enjoyed being actively involved in what the shepherd was doing; as well as enjoying the companionship that they shared.

Of course, if the sheep dog left her position…the sheep scattered and often came to harm because of the dog breaking faith.

Phillip Keller says it so well, as he points out that we all desire AND have the capacity to be the hero:

“But it takes a much more steadfast faith in our Father to stay true in the quiet places where He puts us.”  *


Often in this journey, Jesus seems far removed from my every day life.

Oh, I love Him and I know He loves me.

I pray and I sing and I read and apply His word to my daily living…

and there are glimpses of His Hand…

times of assurance that I am on track and on task…

but much of this Christian life is lived by faith…

by trust that He is working somewhere that I cannot see at the moment.


And so in those times when I cannot see Him, or sense Him, or feel His presence, as long as I know it is not sin that has separated me from Him, then I am to continue tending to that which I have been given to do until I receive further instruction.

And so I am adding to my prayer list this simple prayer request…

Lord, help me to “wait well”…to keep watch over the “flock” You have assigned me; even when I cannot see the Shepherd. I pray that I will be found faithful when He returns. Help me, Lord, to not grow restless when the work becomes tedious and there is little to capture my attention. Keep me alert and diligent to continue to serve You steadfastly wherever You have placed me          <3

*Lessons from a Sheep Dog; Phillip Keller, Thomas Nelson 2002; page 44