Sheep may safely graze….

Picture waking up in a castle in Wales that was first built in 1277. Outside the opened window are sounds of bleating sheep, mooing cows, and even the cry of peacocks. As you peer out the window, sheep are grazing on the green hillside without a care in the world. Another gentle shower has ended. The air is cool as it touches your skin and the freshness of it all is full-on therapy. Breathe deeply. Take it all in and experience the beauty of the moment through each of your senses. This is God’s beautiful creation in stillness and peace.


I recently stayed in this Medieval castle and experienced this very scenario. As we drove to this hidden gem, the fields and meadows along the road were covered with lavender and other wild flowers, but mostly dotted with sheep. They’re everywhere in Wales. As the road winds over the hills and through the valleys, occasionally it is lined with dense trees, literally mini-forests. It was a step back in time, and we wondered if Robin Hood and his merry men would actually appear. God’s creation of hills, valleys, forests and meadows is quaint and magical.  He gave us all good things to enjoy.


Back at the castle, it is truly an amazing fortress of every feature you could ever imagine. At one time, a moat would have surrounded it.  The front entrance is guarded by stone lions.  In the back, a life-sized chess set is awaiting two contenders.  Long hallways lit dimly by chandeliers are decorated with paintings of Edward I, Charles I Coat of Arms and the Welsh Dragon painted on slate, as well as the armor of knights standing tall in the corners. What else would you expect from a Medieval castle?


Upon exploring the gardens and grounds, you find hidden paths and remnants of rooms everywhere.  Imagine the past 700+ years of history here…. battles and romance, knights, lords and ladies, feasts and fare. Ah, the intrigue of it all!


On one afternoon during my stay, the sheep were disappearing through a path in the trees. As I leaned out of the window, I was completely mesmerized watching them trail one another until there was only one sheep following far behind… limping. I felt compassion for this loner who was attempting to keep up with the flock. I wondered if it had fallen or if something had pierced its hoof. Prior to finally reaching the trees, it stopped… and slowly turned its head to look directly at me. I froze. Literally, it took my breath away. It was a God moment. You see, I had stayed behind that day (from watching our choir in a competition) to rest. I was feeling left behind. And as that sheep gazed at me, God spoke to my heart as if to say, “I see you. I know where you are. I will never leave you behind.”

After a moment, the lone sheep turned and slowly limped out of site through the trees. My heart was full knowing that God used that one sheep to tell me that He loves me and He cares about me.

IMG_2401Photo credit:  Cindy Klein

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:27-29


If you’ve got a moment, listen to Bach’s Cantata No. 208, “Sheep May Safely Graze.”  It is beauty for your ears and food for your soul.  Soli Deo gloria.


Voice the Dream in 2015

Happy New Year!! It’s time to voice your dream in 2015!

God lavishes His love on us, every single day. This year, look for Him daily in your dreams and desires because He put them there. He has given us a purpose to fulfill… His dream for us. If you’ve written out your New Year’s Resolutions, it’s time to step beyond the pen and paper and give your dreams a voice… your voice. Look at your life as your own composition with a melody, harmony and form. What do you want your song to sound like? It’s your gift back to God. God is with you today as you begin your 2015 composition. He loves you.

“Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell Him what to do? Anyone who has done Him such a huge favor that God has to ask His advice? Everything comes from Him; everything happens through Him; everything ends up in Him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.” (Romans 11:33-36 MSG)

I love this passage! Always glory and praise! Yes! So, start writing your song of praise today. God gave it to you. He is waiting to hear your melody… literally, you are music to God’s ears.

There are 3 steps in voicing your dream.

1. Visualize your dream. Make a dream board, frame it, and hang it where you can look at it daily. My dream board sits on the credenza in my music room/office and I see it dozens of times per day. Words on my dream board that jump out at me are joy, share, inspire, love, women who make a difference, family comes first, and hope. Create a folder on your notebook or iPad with photos of your dreams… all shapes and sizes of dreams, all-over-the-world kinds of dreams! God has created a beautiful world and He wants us to enjoy His creation!

2. Voice your dream. Whatever it is, write it down and speak the vision into your life… literally out loud with your voice! Believe it in your heart. Mine goes something like this:

I am able to do so much more than what I’ve done so far and so much more than what I am dreaming about right now. God has plans in mind for me that have not even entered my mind or heart. He is able to do abundantly beyond what I ask or think, or what I write, as is written in His Word. Beginning today, I give myself permission to dream those God-sized dreams. My dreams are to have a beautiful home with a view of the ocean for my family (my future grandchildren), to have meaningful and deep relationships with family and friends, to help others grow in their walk and faith in God, and to inspire and encourage others through my music.

3. Venture toward your dreams with action! Do something every day, even if it seems simple and insignificant, toward your dreams. Read a few pages of a book about someone doing what you want to do. Watch a documentary about that person. Have coffee with someone in that profession or doing what you’d like to do and just talk to them for awhile. Little steps add up to big steps toward your goals and ambitions. Never underestimate the power of little becoming big! Have mustard seed faith and act on it!

Yes, you are the composer, the director, and the singer of your dreams! Voice your God-given dream melody, visualize it,venture out with action, make it an adventure and surrender it all over to Him. What’s most important in achieving your dreams is to believe in what God has placed in your heart and never give up!

“You are the melody of your dreams. You are the composer. Give your dreams your voice and never stop singing!”

Photography by Annette Biggers

May God bless and prosper you and yours!
Jolene Anderson Riley