Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Big Thunder Ranch Petting Zoo: On Being Sheep

By Randy Crane

Kids love petting sheep and goats. Who am I kidding? A lot of adults do too, and this is a great location to do exactly that. Sheep seem cute and cuddly, but have you ever really looked at one? We’ll do just that, especially since we're called “sheep” sometimes, as well. It might be helpful to know what being a sheep means, wouldn't you say? Let's take a closer look at Disneyland's Big Thunder Ranch Petting Zoo and relate it to our lives in today's new article...

The Big Thunder Ranch Petting Zoo is tucked away along Big Thunder Trail in Frontierland, the path between Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Fantasyland. Formerly part of the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland (as far back as 1960), when that attraction was closed in 1977 this patch of land sat unused for nearly a decade. Big Thunder Ranch, including the petting zoo, opened in 1986.

Inspired by the western ranches of the 1880s, Big Thunder Ranch features a small wooden ranch house and petting barnyard where young cowpokes can meet and pet barnyard animals, such as cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, and pigs. From time to time, the ranch has even served as home to the Thanksgiving turkeys that used to be pardoned by the president of the United States.

When I think of petting zoos, and this one in particular, I think of sheep. Sure, there are other animals, but mainly sheep. The obvious connection here? Christians are called the sheep of God’s pasture, and Jesus the Good Shepherd. For now, I want to focus on us, the sheep.

Yet for Your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. (Psalm 44:22)

But He brought His people out like a flock;
He led them like sheep through the desert. (Psalm 78:52)

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27)

When we imagine sheep, we might imagine cute, fluffy, and gentle creatures. We may think of Jesus holding a little lamb in His arms. People who have spent a great deal of time around sheep will tell you a different story, though. Sheep are:

• Foolish
• Slow learners
• Stubborn
• Unattractive
• Totally dependent
• Straying
• Single-minded
• Skittish or fearful
• Restless

And believers in Christ are called sheep. Not a very flattering picture, is it? If we’re honest with ourselves, though, these characteristics are true, especially when we compare ourselves not to other sheep, but to the Shepherd.

We wander off at the least provocation. We’re fearful. We’re slow to learn the lessons God tries to teach us. We are totally dependent on God (though some may not want to admit it). We’re stubborn beyond reason. And we are restless. When hungry, afraid, not at peace with each other, or bothered by insects, sheep will not rest. Are we any different?

But sheep have one other characteristic: they are valuable to people. People use sheep for wool, milk, and meat. Their horns were (and in some cases, still are) used to make musical instruments or to hold oil. And under Jewish law, they were used for sacrifices.

Their value is not recognized by other sheep (as far as I know). Their intrinsic worth doesn’t come from how good they are at being sheep, or whether they obey the shepherd. Rather, their value emanates from the shepherd who cares for them.

That’s you and me. You may not be all that pleasing or appealing when you look at yourself, or compare yourself to others—but you are valuable to God. He made you. He loves you.

So when you visit the petting zoo, look more closely at the sheep. Then remember that you are one of God’s sheep, and that He knows you, has compassion on you, and considers you valuable.

Takeaway: Which of the above “sheep characteristics” do you most identify with? What changes when you remember your intrinsic value?

Randy Crane is a highly-regarded speaker and author, presenting engaging and thought-provoking messages on a variety of topics. He has a natural rapport and connection with audiences that makes them relate well to him, engage in his presentations, and come away with a fresh understanding of the subject at hand. Randy is also the host of the “Stories of the Magic” unofficial Disney podcast, where he interviews people from throughout the Disney company, from front-line Cast Members to Legends. Randy grew up in the church, but—like many others—wandered away from the faith for a time in high school. Now, he is an ordained minister, with both a Bachelor’s degree in Church Ministry (emphasis in Preaching) and a Master’s degree in Congregational Leadership from Hope International University in Fullerton, CA. He has been preaching and teaching since 1998, and has been a drummer/percussionist on church worship teams since 1992. He married his wonderful wife Faye in November of 2000 and they are expecting their first child in April of 2015. Randy is the author of two books, Once Upon YOUR Time and Faith and the Magic Kingdom.

You can find all of Randy's articles here.

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