“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
Some two thousand years ago Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Not once, but three times Jesus asked this of Peter, and three times Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
One may question, why did Jesus ask this three times?
Why wasn’t one “yes” enough for Jesus?
Was Jesus so insecure that he needed to hear Peter, say it three times?
Of course not. Jesus was trying to teach Peter a valuable lesson about true love.
This account is found in John chapter 21. When reading the story, we notice after each “yes” from Peter, Jesus says, “Feed my lambs,” “Take care of my sheep,” and lastly “Feed my sheep.” In doing this, I believe Jesus is trying to convey to Peter that, true love is not how you feel, or what you say, but rather, true love is what you do. True love is action.
I think it probable, Jesus asks us the same question, many times a day, and it’s not an answer he seeks, but rather a response.
We prove our love for Jesus, when we take care of his people.
My Daily Prayer: Lord, as I go through this day, help me to hear your question, “Do you love me?” May I hear it when I see the hungry, the poor, the lonely, and may I love you, by loving them. Jesus, fill me, that I may be you, to all those around me. In your beautiful name I ask, Amen.
My morning devotional, that I try to consume every day with a cup of coffee, told me, “We can live by the truth of God’s word and not by the way we feel.”
I grew up with low self esteem. I never felt good enough. As a child, I didn’t understand this to be a lack of self worth, rather it was just “my normal.”
One of my earliest memories of this was when I was in kindergarten. A symphony came to visit our school. It was a beautiful day outside, so the group set up their instruments and played under the pine trees of our school yard. As a poor kid, living in a cotton mill town, I had never heard such beauty. Spellbound, I sat crossed legged in the pine straw, trembled, and thought, “This is too beautiful, and I’m not good enough…”
At five years old, this was my realty.
Forty some years later, my knee-jerk reaction is to fall back into that same crippling mentality.
I want to be a writer and I think…“I’m not good enough…”
I want to be an artist and I think… “I’m not good enough…”
I want to be a friend and I think… “I’m not good enough…”
I want to be accepted and I think… “I’m not good enough…”
…and the list goes on and on…
Now, that I’m older, I realize I can rise above these feelings, …but sometimes…sometimes…I…. well, sometimes I just don’t…
So, it’s always refreshing when I read or hear words of encouragement. They become a balm, soothing and healing my soul as they are applied.
Eagerly, I hold fast to what God says about me. I eat it all the day long. I breathe into my being. I long for it to become my reality.
What does God say about me?
You are God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
Whatever God says about me, He also says about you.
Today’s word, float, reminded me of when I truly put my trust in Jesus.
I was sitting in a revival service, and the evangelist was teaching from the text of, II Kings 6:5-7. I listened as scripture was read and this is what I heard that night:
But it happened that as one was cutting down a beam, the axe head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Oh no, my master! It was borrowed!”6 The man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut off a stick and threw it in there, and made the iron [axe head] float.7 He said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out with his hand and took it.
In the story, the man of God, Elisha, asked the one who had lost the axe head, “Where did it fall?” The individual, extremely upset because the axe was not his own but borrowed, pointed to where it had fallen. Elisha then, threw a stick into the water, and the iron axe floated.
Somehow, sitting in that service, I identified with the axe head that had fallen into the water. I felt lost, heavy laden, and unable to save myself. I recognized my helpless plight and called out to Jesus. Jesus, by his Grace, lifted me from the water, my sins fell away, and I was safe in his embrace.
Jesus lovingly tells us, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
My prayer: Lord, thank you for speaking to my heart that night. Thank you for lifting me up, so that I could pass from death unto life. I was lost, but now I’m found, and it’s all because of your love and grace. May I fall more in love with you, as each day, of my earthly life, passes. Amen
Good day, dear friends! Here we are at close of another year. We’ve run, walked, and sometimes crawled these past 365 days. Now we find ourselves tying the bow, on the box we call 2016, but before we put the box upon the shelf, may we take a moment to ask the question: What has 2016 taught us?
Well, I can’t speak for you, but here are just some of the lessons I’ve learned from 2016:
Strict New Year’s Resolutions never last. Most New Year Resolutions have something to do with diet and exercise. I begin the new year with strict rules as to what I’ll eat and what I’ll not eat. I plan a strict regime of running with at least three days of strength training per week. I start out with the best intentions but as the weeks pass so does my determination, and I eventually find myself paying $20 a month to house a treadmill I rarely use. So this year, my resolutions are not as strict. Instead of limiting myself to a 1000 calories a day, I’ll pay more attention to eating healthier…you know, more vegetables and less junk food, and most of my exercises will consist of doing those things I love like playing with my dogs and taking long walks in the park.
True friends/family still love you, even when you’re ugly. I’ve never been as ugly as I was on election night 2016. That night I sat in front of my TV, and as I watched state after state vote for Trump, I entered into a downward spiral, one that wouldn’t stop until I drowned myself in gin and vomitted obscenities all over Facebook. Friends, it was ugly…very ugly. I was ugly. If you’d like to read the sordid details visit my post Vomiting All Over Facebook After that night, I was unfriended by many, however my true friends, understood I was in pain, and that the pain must have been great, for me to do something so out of character. My true friends didn’t judge me, but rather offered a shoulder for my tears. Most importantly, they gave me the space to hurt, while lingering close enough to feel their love.
Depression fades with passion. I’ve battled depression for as long as I can remember. I use to think, if I awoke in the morning with a feeling of depression, that I was doomed to spend the rest of that day feeling sad. This past year I’ve learned, that my depression fades and sometimes, even disappears, when I’m doing the things I love, like painting, writing, reading, cooking, gardening and taking long walks. The hard part is making myself begin, as the depression I battle begs for solitude and darkness. The key, for me, in 2017 is to have the initial will power to set my passions in to play.
Making a difference in the world, happens one person at a time. After Trump’s victory I fell into hopeless despair. The very next day, I hid within my home, crying and thinking America was lost. I worried for my fellow-man. I worried immigrant families would be torn apart. I worried suicide would increase within the LGBTQ communities. I worried, my rights as a gay American would be stripped away. I worried young girls would lose self-esteem in a world that judged them by their appearance. I worried for my Muslim friends…would they be sent to internment camps? I worried for all out-casts…myself included. I worried so much, I became debilitated with fear. The third day after the election I forced myself to go outside. As I drove, I noticed a homeless person standing on the side of the road, holding a cardboard sign with the words, “homeless and hungry,” scribbled across the front. With tears running down my face I handed the gentlemen a twenty-dollar bill, our eyes met, and as we stared at each other, I felt the fear inside deminish. I smiled and he smiled and I felt hope. I realized in that moment that, yes… “we are stronger together.” Regardless of who our president happens to be, we still have the power to change the world…one person at a time.
Everyday I try to read something encouraging and then spend time in prayer. The last day of 2016 I read a portion from “My Utmost For His Highest,” a devotional book written by Oswald Chambers. His words gave me hope for the coming year. When I sat down to write this blog, my intentions were to simply share this hope with you, but one word led to another, and so after 725 words, I still haven’t shared Mr. Chambers words.
His words reminded me, that our future is not contingent upon our past. We are not bound by the mistakes of 2016, but rather we can be transformed by them. By God’s Grace we have been given a new slate to write upon in 2017.
May his words bless you with hope for the coming year…
“…Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future…As we go forth into the coming year…let us go out with the patient power of knowing that God will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.” ___ Oswald Chambers
Friends, let us go into 2017, confident and full of hope!
(May hope fill the interior, and radiate outward.)
Sometimes I shiver with the thought of getting old. This shiver, like a wave of panic, reminds me: Time marches on and stops for no one. Logically, I knew this all along; however, now that I’m over fifty, it’s beginning to really sink in. It’s quite the paradox, for as I gaze into the mirror, I see a body consistently aging, but my soul seems to remain young. I ask myself, how can this be? When did my body catch up and pass my soul? My body descends into frailty, but my soul remains a kid of yesteryear.
I have come to the conclusion, that the soul never ages. Bear in mind, I have no scientific proof to backup this theory; it is just that…a theory…or simply put, reflections from my redhead. I hold to this logic because, as I said before, my body is beginning to feel its age-parts of me hurt that I never knew I had; and, all the while, as this daily decline marches on, my soul, on the other hand, desires to frolic like a freckle-faced kid running barefoot, and climbing trees. Could this mean, I’m still a kid at heart? I’m not sure, but this I know: The melody of my soul, still plays an energetic tune.
I further, believe it possible, that at the moment our soul entered our body, whether in the womb or upon birth, it came to us fully whole and fully competent. The soul, the essence of us, came to us “ready to roll,” and was only limited by our lack of cognitive development.
In theory (mine of course), as our mind matured, we became aware of our soul, and this awareness, was the key, that unlocked the knowledge and power held within. Our “soul power” has always been inside, waiting patiently to be released. The more we tap into its power, through thought, prayers or meditation, the more spiritual we become. And so, this continues, until we reach a point in our life, where our soul grows stronger, as our bodies grow weaker. I think this true, regardless of one’s religion or lack thereof. It’s a matter of tapping into the soul and everyone has a soul.
Often, when I think about getting old, I liken it to a bird, captured within her cage. My soul, of course, is the bird, and my aging body, the cage. Like the bird, I presume, the soul will be agile, still yearning to play; but my body will be too tired-too old-to satisfy her cravings.
I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s words, from her poem Caged Bird:
“But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.”
And so, when I’ve come to the end, as stand upon my own “grave of dreams,” will my soul, like Maya’s caged bird, still sing and fly free upon the melodies of her song? I hope so.
As a Christian, I believe God lives in my soul. Many years ago, by faith, I invited Him into my soul, and I believe He put His Spirit inside. He promised He would, if only I’d ask, and I take Him at his word: “For His Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am the child of God.” (Romans 8:16)
And so, my hope is in God, and I know when I reach the valley of the shadow of death, God will be there, in my soul, so I will not have to face death, alone. And when, death has come, and my last breath expired, the cage door will open, and this soul of mine will fly away and into a beautiful place, that my God has prepared for me.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” Psalms 23:4
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2
Me: Well God, I woke up this morning to three big piles and a puddle. Had to steam mop the floors-of which- I finished the living room, kitchen, dining room, and hallway-ALL- before 7:30 this morning!
God: Some days are definitely better than others, but…
Me: Yeah, and some nights are better than others too! Gracie barked most of the night. I had to get up and take her outside at least 3 times… pfhh…probably more than that…I don’t know, Lord…I kinda lost count. Corinne and have nick-named her Monster.
God: During those times, whisper my name and…
Me: Well, I kind’a recollect s…s..saying your name, but… it may n..not have come out as reverently as I would have liked…I’m sorry, Lord.
God: Lisa, because of my Son, you are forgiven and I will think of it no more. Remember when I said, “As far as the east is from the west, that far have I removed your transgressions…?”
Me: Yes Lord, I remember King David writing that. He sure had a load of sins…huh, Lord…?
God: None less than yours…
Me: Yes Lord…I’m sorry.
God: You see, Lisa, it’s not about the sins you commit-sin is sin-and all have sinned. The most important “take away” here is that Jesus died and rose again, and because of that your sins are forgiven. I would much rather you dwell upon Christ and what he’s done, than upon all the mistakes and “bad things” you’ve done. My mercy is gracious and plentiful, and I want this to be obvious and personal for everyone.
Me: Lord, thank you for your mercy.
God: It makes me happy to forgive my children and my arms are always open….regardless of what they’ve done.
Me: (bows head) Dear Lord, what a wonderful thing Jesus did for me. Thank you, my Jesus and please help my mind to rest upon You all day today.
God: I will help you, Lisa…remember my Spirit goes everywhere you go. That means I am an ever-present help…ask you shall receive.
Me: Thank you, God. Um…God….
God: Yes Lisa?
Me: It sure is a lot of work taking care of a puppy. Do you think I could, maybe…um…lose some weight?
God: Hmmm…not if you keep eating the muffins that are meant for the JMU students.
Me: Oops…guess you saw that the other night…
God: Remember, I –am- with you always. (God smiles)
The Lordis merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lordis from everlasting to everlasting
Me: Hello God. Are you there? Are you really there?
Me: Do you, really, hear me, or are my words like dandelion seeds, dangling in the air?
Me: Do you hear when I pray?
Me: You see, Lord, there are those who think my words never break the barrier of the ceiling. They smirk at my offer of prayer. They point to “things” in my life and knowingly claim, “Because of these “things” a righteous God will never hear you pray.”
Me: So God-You tell me-do you hear me when I pray?
(silent pause and then…)
God: Lisa…Do you have faith?
Me: Yes Lord, I have put my trust in you.
God: Then-your faith- and -our relationship- is none of their business.
Me: Yes, Lord…but sometimes I can’t help wondering if they are right…
God: Lisa…Do you have faith?
Me: Yes Lord, I’ve given you my heart….but they…
God: Lisa, do-you-have faith?
Me: (closing my eyes in despair I utter) …but…
God: Lisa, do -YOU- have faith?
Me: …yes Lord…I do…
God: Then don’t fret what others say.
God: Lisa, your faith in me, is between us and no one else. Your faith will grow stronger the more you come to me…and the more you come…the more we talk… the less other opinions will matter. Listen to my voice by faith-even if that faith is small as a mustard seed-then everyone else’s voice will fade into nothingness.
Me: Thank you, Lord. I sure needed this talk today.
Me: Yes Lord?
God: You are mine and I am yours-there’s no one in-between.
Do you have faith?Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. Romans 14:22
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: 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