I've been working on memorizing Psalm 23. Not the old, King James Version, but the New Living Translation. I wanted something that would not be mindlessly rambled, but that would take an engaged mind, and heart in the saying.
1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
As I daily work on my verses, I realize how many preconceived ideas I have about this familiar passage. It is often read at funerals... I had relegated it to a portion of scripture that was only for enduring the bad times. The "valley of the shadow" times of life. But the more I meditate on it, the more I'm convinced that this is a psalm for daily use, and is actually recommended for noon prayer when "praying the hours."
Daily the Lord is my shepherd. Daily He leads me in peace, by the power of His Spirit. He cares for me daily - during peaceful times and when I walk through the hard times. He wines and dines me in the face of my enemies. He lavishly pours out His Spirit on me, enabling me to bring Him honor. He daily pursues me with goodness and unfailing love. That's what it's like when you live in the house of the Lord ~ forever!
This simple, familiar psalm that I once pushed aside as being trite (Lord, forgive me) is fast becoming my daily bread. When I stop what I'm doing at noon to breathe its words, my perspective changes and peace washes over my soul. I am reminded that being in the flock of Jesus is all I need. He is the Good Shepherd, and being His sheep is bliss!
Read what others are saying about walking with the Shepherd here:
It's finally spring. The April showers are falling and I hear that on the mainland, things are beginning to grow and bloom. Living in Hawaii all my life, it's hard for me to imagine a time of year where most everything dies off and has to start all over again. That just doesn't happen here.
Where I live, plant life is always growing full force. Yards must be mowed, weeds must be pulled, trees must be trimmed, and something is always blooming. The city doesn't have seasonal maintenance crews. They work year-round. I imagine they start at one end of the island, and by the time they reach the other end, it's time to start all over again. Hawaii is an environment of continual growth. I never have to wonder if it is the right time to plant something. I just plant it - and usually it grows. (If it doesn't, it's not the weather, its the gardener...) I guess that's just life in the tropics. We're close enough to the equator that we always have plenty of warm sunshine and lovely trade-wind showers. The perfect climate for life.
Do you see where I'm going with this? It got me thinking about these verses:
Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT)
It's a challenge for me to think of making my life an environment where new life happens all the time, in every season. Just like in my natural world, I go through times of rain or times that are dry, but can something bloom even then? Even in the dry times, is there an area of my life that can produce fruit?
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you.
For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine,
and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.
Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.
For apart from me you can do nothing." ~ Jesus
John 15:4-5 (NLT)
As a child of God, I have been made new. In my old nature, nothing would grow. All was dead. But now I am living in new life of the Spirit of God.
It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own.
Our qualification comes from God.
He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant.
This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit.
The old written covenant ends in death;
but under the new covenant,
the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (NLT)
The secret to having life and producing much fruit is to remain in the Vine. A branch that is connected to the vine cannot help but produce fruit. It is a by-product of being attached. Living life with Jesus is like living in the tropics - living things can't help but thrive there.
It may not always be spring, but in Hawaii, there is always something beautiful ready to harvest. I'm striving to do the same!
It's another beautiful Monday morning. Even though life is stressful, I'm finding that keeping thankfulness before more keeps things in perspective.
As I write this, the kids are sitting quietly at their desks, working on their school work. The dog is sleeping under my desk. The bird is chirping away with the birds outside. And the spring sun is shining. Glorious day!
Psalm 50:14-15, 23 (NLT)
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.
But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.
Here is this week's list of the 1000 Gifts: (177-189)
There are so many things going on in my life. I regret that writing has gone down on the priority list. Seeking a new rhythm and finding time to get it all done is not easy. I'm really not a natural writer. I didn't grow up with a diary under my pillow and all those college essays were like pulling teeth. So I guess that explains why I don't turn to writing when things get crazy. It's not yet a habit. Maybe it should be, I know it helps me to sort things out.
In all that life hands me, I still find many things to be grateful for. I pick up my list...even though it's not Monday. Yes, I fell off the gratitude wagon. But I'm jumping back on and taking you for a ride with me.
Here is my next installment of the 1000 Gifts list:
Good Friday prayer
God's word given through a friend
sin stains washed clean
my risen LORD
a full sanctuary for Easter Sunday
a break in the rain for the egg hunt
cool evening rain that waters my plants
a table filled with family and friends for Easter dinner
waterfalls out my window
dear children that help me daily see His grace
that there is always enough
the comfort of shepherd pie
a new parakeet just for me
new strength and new direction for schooling
finding that the millionth kiss is sweeter than the first
I heard the hymn, The Old Rugged Cross, the other day and it got me thinking. The lyric, "I will cling to the old rugged cross..." was stirring around in my head.
Take that line and mix it with Luke 9:23, "Then he [Jesus] said to the crowd, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.'"
I wonder if the cross we cling to should be the cross we choose to take up every day. Christ's cross was a once-and-for-all proposition. He said himself, "It is finished." But my daily dying to self, being that living sacrifice is all that I have to give. Is that what I will lay down and exchange someday for a crown?