The Lord is my Shepherd

When, blessings like a river, swarm.

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“The Lord is my shepherd.”  And thus begins Psalm 23.

King David is the author of Psalm 23; however, as much as we Christians would like to believe, David was not the first to pen the idea of God as shepherd.

History tells us, this metaphor, of comparing god to shepherd, was common place within the Eastern world.  For example:

  • There was a song written about Marduk, patron deity of the city of Babylon, during the early 18th Century BC, describing his care for the weak like a “benevolent shepherd.”  
  • Another song written of Shamash, Mesopotamian sun-god, proclaims, “You shepherd all living creatures, together, you are the herdsman, above and below.”
  • Hammurabi (c.1750 BC) claimed kingship by providing “the people with pastures and watering places, having settled them in peaceful abodes.”
  • A phrase, which closely parallels Psalm 23, was found inscribed upon ancient Samaritan text and it reads,  “A man’s personal god is a shepherd who finds pasturage for him.  Let him lead him like sheep to the grass they can eat.”

Some Christians, learning of this, may feel it weakens David’s writing, but I feel quite the opposite.  I’m sure David, a learned man, was aware of such comparisons; therefore, when he chose to liken his God to that of a shepherd, he, in essence, was elevating his God, Yahweh, above all other gods.

David spent many of his younger years, tending his father’s sheep.  The book of II Samuel, speaks of two incidents where David had to kill a lion and a bear in order to protect the fold.  David understood the lambs were vulnerable, and without his protection, they would most likely die.  Knowing this fact, when he wrote Psalm 23, he visions himself to a lamb, that is dependent upon the shepherd, and for David, this shepherd could only be Yahweh.  David humbled himself, and placed his entire well-being, within the hands of God.

I love how David makes Psalm 23 personal.  He could have written, “The Lord is a shepherd” and that would have been true, but instead he writes “The Lord is ‘my’ Shepherd.”  By that simple two letter word, David sheds light upon his close relationship to God.

I believe when we read Psalm 23, God desires of us, to make it personal.  He wants each of us to slip our identity within this passage, and when we do, this ancient scripture becomes alive.  We like, David, can proclaim a personal relationship with God, and when we are able to do that, God Himself walks with us.

Oh, what peace and joy this brings!

My Daily Prayer:

Lord, you are my Shepherd.  You care about everything in my life, even unto the minutest detail.  Help me today to ponder this thought.

When I’m tired, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will feel rest.  When I’m afraid, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your protection.  When I am lonely, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your presence.  When I am guilty, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your forgiveness.  When I’m down upon myself, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know I’m enough.  When I feel unloved, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your love.  And in that time, when I face death, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and I will know comfort and peace.

Lord, thank you for this day, you have made for me.  Help me to live it, with my hand in yours.  Help me, to be a blessing, to those you bring to my path.

In the name of Jesus, my savior, I make these requests.  Amen

***

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  — Jesus

When blessings, like a river, swarm

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(Information about comparisons of gods to shepherd was taken from the NIV Study Bible)

 

 

 

 

 

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You Are A Gift

We are uniquely created for reckless abandonment to our Creator. 

We crave Him,  and long for His sound and scent.

We yearn to share His story:  For God so loved the world.

 And no one else can tell the story quite like you. 

You are a gift to the world.

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How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.  When I awake, I am still with You. (Psalms 139:17-18)

(Daily Prompt: Scent)

Outside Looking In

A Conversation with God 8/16/16

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Me:  God, I’ve been thinking about those who’ve shunned me.  Sometimes I feel all alone.  I feel their world is going on without me, and I’m on the outside looking in.  I have this visual of a dirtied hungry child, hands and nose pressed to a store’s window, watching shoppers buying goods to carry home to their families.  The dirty child always has my face.

God:  Unfortunately, my child, sometimes family and those we think love us will treat us that way. Some do it for spite, anger,jealously and numerous other reasons and then there are those who do it in my name.

Me:  In  your name, Lord?  How?

God:  My word is misunderstood and often it is used to hurt people.  I have many do’s and don’ts in my word and those do’s and don’ts were written for a specific people at a specific time in history.  The problem is, some take a scripture passage from the middle of my story and use it to justify their judgments of others.

(God slowly shakes his head)

God:  How often I’ve asked my children not to judge…  They can’t see the heart of the person they judge, but I can.  Also, judging others can be very dangerous because the way you judge will be the same way you will be judged.

(God pauses)

God:  Lisa,this makes me sad.  I would much rather my children err on the side of compassion.

Me:  Lord, I have been guilty of judging others.  Please forgive me.

God:  Your sins are forgiven, Lisa.  Jesus has already taken care of every one when He died on the cross.

Me:  Thank you, Lord.

God:  And Lisa…

Me:  Yes, Lord?

God:  Remember this…Jesus first came to his own and his own received him not.  You have a savior who understands the hurt you feel.  And Lisa…it doesn’t matter who forsakes you-even mother or father-I will never forsake you and will always take you in.

Me:  I love you, God.

God:  I love you too, Lisa.

***

When my father and mother forsake me then the Lord will gather me up.  Psalms 27:10

He (Jesus) came to his own, and his own received him not.  John 1:11

“Don’t judge others, and God will not judge you.  If you judge others, you will be judged the same way you judge them. God will treat you the same way you treat others…Why do you notice the small piece of dust that is in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood that is in your own?”  Matthew 7:1-4

Celebrate Life with Kindness

A Conversation with God 8/9/2016

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Me:  Lord, the cicadas sure have been loud this year.

God:  Yes they have…and do you know why?

Me:  No, Lord.  Why?

God:  Well, you see, in 1999, a brood of cicadas hatched and burrowed beneath the ground to feast upon root tissue.  It took 17 years but finally they matured and this year the millions emerged from the ground to begin their mating cycle.  It’s possible, and even likely, there to be a million of my little creatures per square acre; and with so many, it’s no wonder the Shenandoah Valley resounded loudly their serenade.

(God smiles and chuckles)

Me:  Wow, God…that’s just amazing!  I love how diverse your creatures are!

God:  Yes, I do enjoy diversity.

Me:  Lord…

God:  Yes

Me:  Gracie…she’s my little Golden Retriever puppy…

God:  Yes, I know Gracie.

(God smiles)

Me:  Well, just yesterday she scampered inside with something hanging out of her mouth. After close inspection I realized it was a cicada bug.  I tried coaxing it from her but was only successful with the top half of its little body.  Gracie ate the other half.  Then she sat on her haunches, looked at me as if to say, “Okay mama, fork it over!”

God:  Such is the cycle of life, my child.

Me:  Yes Lord, but it made me kind of  sad…I’ve always liked cicadas, even as kid.

God:  You sure did!  I remember you, pigtails flying, scavenging the neighborhood for their exoskeletons.  (God chuckles)  I also seem to recall the time you found some sort of cocoon during the cold of winter.  Not knowing what it was you stuffed in your coat pocket and kept playing.

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Me:  Yes!  I remember that!  I played outside for as long as I could stand the cold and then went inside to warm myself by our wood-burning heater.  I laid my cocoon treasure on the bookshelf beside the heater and went into the kitchen to make a sandwich.  Later I went back to get my cocoon and found the bookcase crawling with hundreds of baby praying mantises!

 

(I pause…lost in the nostalgia)

You know, Lord…I really do like the way you created the praying mantis.  They look wise and somehow…kind of… ancient.

God:   Yes, they are amazing creatures as is all life.  Life is precious…very precious…for it is a gift only I can give.  So go out today and enjoy my world …celebrate life…all life!

Me:  I will Lord.  I will be mindful of your people and all of your creatures.

God: Lisa…

Me:  Yes, Lord?

God:  Remember, the way to celebrate life is to be kind to life.

Me:  Yes, Lord

***

Psalms 104

He sends the springs into the valleys;
They flow among the hills.

They give drink to every beast of the field;
The wild donkeys quench their thirst.

By them the birds of the heavens have their home;
They sing among the branches.

He waters the hills from His upper chambers;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.

The trees of the Lord are full of sap,
The cedars of Lebanon which He planted,
Where the birds make their nests;
The stork has her home in the fir trees.
The high hills are for the wild goats;
The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers.

He appointed the moon for seasons;
The sun knows its going down.

You make darkness, and it is night,
In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.

The young lions roar after their prey,
And seek their food from God.

When the sun rises, they gather together
And lie down in their dens.

Man goes out to his work
And to his labor until the evening.

O Lord, how manifold are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all.

The earth is full of Your possessions—
This great and wide sea,
In which are innumerable teeming things,
Living things both small and great.

There the ships sail about;
There is that Leviathan
Which You have made to play there.

These all wait for You,
That You may give them their food in due season.

What You give them they gather in;
You open Your hand, they are filled with good.

You hide Your face, they are troubled;
You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

You send forth Your Spirit, they are created;
And You renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
May the Lord rejoice in His works.

He looks on the earth, and it trembles;
He touches the hills, and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

May my meditation be sweet to Him;
I will be glad in the Lord.

May sinners be consumed from the earth,
And the wicked be no more.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!

 

Walking Through Psalms: Focus

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Johnny Depp getting a better focus in Sleep Hollow

When my glasses become smudged, I’m forced to read words through a haze.  Many times I’ve taken them off my nose and used my shirt to wipe away the haze; however, it only creates a greater murkiness in which to navigate the letters upon the page.  This is frustrating.  Why doesn’t the shirt work?  Shirts are readily accessible…we wear them, for goodness sake!

Ah…but alas, it never fails, I sit down to “put words to page”-(ancient Greek for keyboard typing)- only to realize my glasses are dirty.   I usually have lens wipes close at hand for such occasions; however sometimes, I reach for one and it’s not there.  Then I remember, I used the last one at the previous sitting.  I had intended to replenish the stack but of course I forgot.

This conundrum creates a dilemma.  Do I get up and get a lens wipe or do I attempt to create my story peering through dirty glasses?  I usually try to do the latter, because the creative juices are flowing, and as a writer, I want to “get it while the getting’s good.” (okay…confession…laziness may play a small part)  Inevitably, I always get up and get the damn lens wipe, as I hate looking through dirty glasses.

I thought about this scenario, as I read Psalms 18:1, “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.

In the midst of living life, it’s so easy to forget the source of our strength.  I don’t think that a sin, I just think it’s human nature.  Whenever this happens, we focus on the problem and then laboriously we try to solve the riddle.  The problem then grows, our strength falters and we are forced to acknowledge our weakness.

This can be a good thing, if it causes us to redirect our focus to Jesus.  Doing this will not make the problem go away, but it assures us we are not alone.  It assures us we are connected to a God who loves us, a God who is ever-present, a God who is working on our behalf and a God who is in control.  Dirty lenses can make us aware of our need for God.

To see clearly, our glasses need to be cleaned and cleaned often.

So get up and get the lens wipe.

***

Fear not, little flock;  for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  

(Luke 12:32)

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.  

(Psalms 18:2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Not on my Deathbed…

Let my sentence come forth from thy presence…  (KJV)

Only you can say
    that I am innocent,
    because only your eyes
    can see the truth. (CEV)

Psalms 17:2

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Death is right around the corner…maybe not the next corner but it’s surely waiting behind one of them.

Last week, I had a “scare.”  You know the ones…those that make you stare death in the face.  Well, I looked at it and chewed on it a bit, and this was one, of the many conclusions, I came to:  If it be true, I would not tell my estranged christian family.

“Why?” you may ask.  “Is it because you don’t want them to worry?”  No.  In a sense they already worry about me.  I wouldn’t tell them because I don’t want them flocking to my bedside to save me from the pits of hell.

You see…my family misunderstands me, my “lifestyle” and most important my relationship with God.

Here’s just a few things they believe to be true…

  • 1.  Satan has blinded my spiritual eyes.
  • 2.  This blindness has caused me choose the wrong path.
  • 3.  All are born sinners, but none can be born gay.
  • 4.  Therefore, I have “chosen” to be gay.
  • 5.  God has given me over to a reprobate mind.
  • 6.  I was never “truly” saved.
  • 7.  I am on my way to hell.
  • 8.  It is their mission to keep me from hell.
  • 9.  They must not associate with me so that I “will feel ashamed and turn back to the truth.”
  • 10.  By believing the preceding nine, they are loving me, the sinner, but hating the sin.

 

In the past, I’ve always felt  the need to “explain” my position.  Countless times I’ve rehearsed my spill; but I’m far…far beyond that, now.  I’ve realized that no amount of reasoning, no amount of “biblical interpretation” and no amount of scientific evidence would ever be enough to change their minds.  For them it’s either black or white, period…  “The bible says it, I believe it and that settles it.”

When facing someone with this mind-set there is no common ground where with to meet, let alone, to plead one’s case.  I’ve already been “righteously judged and righteously sentenced.”  However, after all these years, my knee-jerk reaction is to explain away the preceding ten.  Perhaps I should do just that in another blog, but that’s not the purpose of this one.

From reading Psalms 17, it seems most likely, David found himself in a similar situation. No, he wasn’t gay…(but his relationship with Jonathan did seem quite intimate)…but he too was misunderstood.  Those closest to David, had passed judgement and stood firm in their belief and would not compromise.

So what did David do…did he try to explain or justify his case?  No, not at all; instead he said this to God,  “Let my sentence come forth from Thy presence.”  or as it is interpreted in the Common English Version, “Only you can say that I am innocent, because only your eyes can see the truth.”  He also writes, “You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me…”

David sought rest in his personal relationship with God, and that is what I must do.  No one can really see my truth.  No one truly knows my heart.  I was alone when God visited me in the darkest of all my nights. So, it is He, who will be my vindicator, and my sentence will come from Him.

Knowing this, does temper the pain of rejection, but it doesn’t take it away.  It’s a burden I struggle with daily, it is the cross I’m called to bear.  Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me…” he didn’t say it would be easy.

This passage and other bible verses, serve to bring comfort but they do “fix” the problem. Scripture, taken from here or taken from there, is not meant to be used as a switch to turn off our suffering.  God never gave us his Word to “make it all better.”  He gave us his Word so we wouldn’t have to walk alone.  He gave us his word to walk with us through  the pain and suffering.  He gave us his word for comfort, but not as a “quick fix.” He gave us his word to be Jesus, until the day we are physically in his presence.

In closing, I’d like to add that my “scare” seems to be just that, a scare. I’m not totally out of the woods, but let’s just say, there are very bright glimmers of hope, that all will be well.

When I do face my death, I want no “christian” at the bedside telling me what I need. I’m going to be holding God’s hand and the hand of the woman I love.  I will have no hand for them…not at my death bed.  (If they can’t hold my hand in life…why would I want them to hold it in death?)

Ultimately all will be known…until then we should all keep our judgments to our-self.

My Prayer:

My God, even… though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever…because of Jesus, amen.

(Part of the “Walk Through Psalms” series)

Be On The Lookout

Psalms 16:11

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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Beth, my daughter, looking out over the Shenandoah Valley.

This morning I was reading my little devotional (Jesus Calling) and one sentence seemed to jump off the page and speak to me in a personal way.  It said, “Be on the lookout for what I am doing in your life.”

God used those words to snap me back to attention.  Those words brought immediate conviction into my heart.  I realized I had become apathetic.

Sometimes we forget why we do the things God has called us to do.  It becomes routine. I’m sure I’m not the only one who unknowingly falls into this kind of snare.  It’s easy to stay so busy that we lose sight of God’s presence.

Evidently, King David understood this struggle as he wrote,   “You [God] will show me the path of life.  In your presence is fullness of joy…at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Just to paraphrase in my own words…this is what that scripture says to me…  “Oh God..open my eyes!  Wake me up so I can see what you are doing.  Wake me up!  You are here…in the now… in this very moment!”

My joy is full when I abide in His presence.  When I know my God walks beside me…I at his right hand…my heart becomes so full of Joy that I can’t hide it…it spills over to all those around.  And that…that… dear friends, is why we do God’s work.  My church’s motto sums it up well…  “receive love.  give love. repeat”  But in order to accomplish this, “We need to be on the lookout to what He is doing in our lives.”

My prayer:  Lord, forgive me for being so lackadaisical in my daily routines.  Open my eyes and be my vision.  Help me to abide in Your presence even when I do the mundane, because You are here and You have something for me to learn.  Lord I don’t want to miss it…I want to recognize and hear your voice.  Please help me to be on the lookout for what you are doing in my life.  Thank you, Lord.  In Jesus name…amen.

 (A publication in the series “Walk Through Psalms)

Do you like spooky stuff?  Visit my other blog Creepy Reflections.

Look to the Birds

(A poem for all generations)

“Most of the situations that entangle your mind are not today’s concerns; you have borrowed them from tomorrow.”  __ Sarah Young

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Photo taken at Myrtle Beach SC

Preserve me, oh God:  for in thee do I put my trust.  (Psalms 16:1)

Look To The Birds

Look to the birds, the fowls of the air.

No needs have they, no wants nor care.

Unlike the farmers, that sow and reap,

No gardens to till, and yet they eat.

Our Father in Heaven, hears their call.

He knows their need and feeds them all.

Look to the lilies, their glory behold.

Their beauty surpasses, Solomon’s gold.

The grass of the field, God blankets with green.

It’s here for today, tomorrow unseen.

Surely, Our Lord, who cares for these,

Loves us much more than birds in the trees.

“So take no thought,” Jesus did say,

“What will I eat, or wear this day?”

Your Heavenly Father, your needs doth know

So look to the birds, and the lilies that grow.

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Photo taken at Brookgreen Gardens in SC

 

Behold the fowls of the air:  for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are ye not much better than they?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not neither do they spin:  And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you…?  Therefore take no thought, saying What shall we eat?  Or, what shall we drink?  Or where-withal shall we be clothed?  For your heavenly Father knoweth ye have need of all these things.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow:  for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  (Matthew 6:26-34)

(This has been a publication in the series “Walk Through Psalms”)

Do you like ghost stories?  Visit my other blog, Creepy Reflections

We are the Apple of His Eye

O You who save those who trust in You…
Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings…

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Picking Apples from Applecrest Farms

 

Apples are pretty darn important in our house.  I like to eat them with shaker of salt in hand and Corinne loves them cooked in a pie.  (I’ve found the best apple pie recipe that I will post at the end.)  Zechariah 2:8 says this of you and I “…he who touches you touches the apple of His [God’s] eye.”  David in Psalms 17:7-8 puts it this way, “O You who save those who trust in You…Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings”

How comforting it is to know we are the apple of His eye.  What does that mean?  Well, according to word-detective.com it means we are   “…the cherished object of [His] affections, and to be regarded as especially precious and dear to [Him].”

As diverse as this world may be, God wants you to know, you are His cherished treasure and precious in His sight. We are so precious, that God, as a mother hen, shelters us under His wings.  What a beautiful picture the psalmist paints!

Today, as you come to Him with all your hurts, remember you are the very apple of His eye, and He so longs to gather you under his wings.

“When you start to feel stressed, let those feelings alert you to your need for Me.  Thus, your needs become doorways to deep dependence on Me and increasing intimacy between us.”___Sarah Young/Jesus Calling 

My prayer…Lord, gather me under your wings that I may know Your love.  Take my hurts, worries, and despair for I will trust you with them.  And as my day continues and I but lose sight of You, gently remind me, You are there and that I’m safe under Your wings.  In Jesus name…amen.

 

Apple Pie by Grandma Ople

IngredientsApple Pie by Grandma Ople

  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored and sliced

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.
  2. Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.
  3. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

(Find this recipe at Allrecipes.com)