My Prayer for 2021

Today I opened the bible to this psalm, a prayer from thousands of years ago that seems particularly relevant today:

Why, LORD, do you stand afar and pay no heed in times of trouble? Arrogant scoundrels pursue the poor; they trap them by their cunning schemes. The wicked even boast of their greed; these robbers curse and scorn the LORD. In their insolence the wicked boast: “God does not care; there is no God.” Yet their affairs always succeed; they ignore your judgment on high; they sneer at all who oppose them. They say in their hearts, “We will never fall; never will we see misfortune.” Their mouths are full of oaths, violence, and lies; discord and evil are under their tongues. they wait in ambush near towns; their eyes watch for the helpless to murder the innocent in secret. They lurk in ambush like lions in a thicket, hide there to trap the poor, snare them and close the net. The helpless are crushed, laid low; they fall into the power of the wicked, Who say in their hearts, “God has forgotten, shows no concern, never bothers to look.” Rise up, LORD! God, lift up your hand! Do not forget the poor! Why should the wicked scorn God, say in their hearts, “God does not care”? But you do see; you take note of misery and sorrow; you take the matter in hand. To you the helpless can entrust their cause; you are the defender of orphans. Break the arm of the wicked and depraved; make them account for their crimes; let none of them survive. The LORD is king forever; the nations have vanished from his land. You listen, LORD, to the needs of the poor; you strengthen their heart and incline your ear. You win justice for the orphaned and oppressed; no one on earth will cause terror again.

Psalm 10

I cannot help but see the parallels in today’s world. We trap the poor into dependence on government aid. Cunning schemes convince those who are down trodden that God is not their savior, but man or money or a political party is. The wicked boast of their greed and power, they put down and oppress those who believe in God. They attempt to undermine our trust in God. We see oaths, violence and lies in every direction. The helpless murder the innocent in secret, abortions killing more than twice as many per year as COVID. We need to call on God to Rise Up! He strengthens the hearts of those who incline their ear to Him. We need to allow Him to rise up in us.

Lord,

I pray that I am not an arrogant scoundrel and that I don’t get trapped by their cunning schemes. Sometimes it can appear that they succeed, but I trust in your plan and your promises. I know that you care and that without you everything else fails and eventually falls. I worry that our country is about to see that too. I ask you to incline my ear to you, Lord. Strengthen my heart. Do not let me be fooled by oaths and violence and lies. You alone are my God. In you alone I place my trust. There is nothing on earth that can take the place of you. Help me to spread your word and love to others so that they can know the truth and avoid the traps and snares that surround us.

In God We Trust: Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad

Today, I needed a break. So I got up from my new home-office desk, formerly known as the dining room table, and decided to take a walk outside. It was beautiful. The morning air still had a crispness to it. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the green leaves still had enough dew on them to sparkle in the sunlight. Beautiful. And as I walked and continued to be struck by the beauty in God’s creation, a peace settled over me. And I found myself crying out to God: Help Me! The world you have created is so beautiful. Help me to find the beauty and stop getting caught up in the negativity.

I have noticed that I am becoming caught in the negativity that is plaguing our country. I am beginning to feel more anger and even hate towards “the other side” on whatever the issue may be. As I walked, I asked God to take this away from me, let me focus back on His world, not the mess that we have created. And I began to resolve to stop looking at Facebook, to stop watching the media and to pray more.

And then I came across Sharlene, an older lady who was also taking a walk (a short walk just two driveways down from her house). We said good morning and commented on what a beautiful day it was. And instead of continuing on my walk I paused for a moment to enjoy the beauty with her. And Sharlene, who I had never met or spoken to before, told me that she starts every day by reading the bible. And today she read:

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.

Psalm 118:24

My entire being rejoiced as she spoke, because the words she was saying resonated with exactly what I had just been thinking and praying to God. I was uplifted and filled with joy by this chance encounter. We chatted for a while longer and then continued in our opposite directions.

And when I arrived back home to my desk/dining room table, I opened the Bible to read the rest of Psalm 118.  And what a clear answer to my prayer it is:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

his mercy endures forever.

Let Israel say:

his mercy endures forever.

Let the house of Aaron say,

his mercy endures forever.

Let those who fear the LORD say,

his mercy endures forever.

In danger I called on the LORD;

the LORD answered me and set me free.

The LORD is with me; I am not afraid;

what can mortals do against me?

The LORD is with me as my helper;

I shall look in triumph on my foes.

Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals.

Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me on every side;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me like bees; they burned up like fire among thorns;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

I was hard pressed and falling,

but the LORD came to my help.

 

The LORD, my strength and might, has become my savior.

The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the righteous:

“The LORD’s right hand works valiantly; the LORD’s right hand is raised;

the LORD’s right hand works valiantly.”

I shall not die but live and declare the deeds of the LORD.

The LORD chastised me harshly, but did not hand me over to death.

Open the gates of righteousness;

I will enter and thank the LORD.

This is the LORD’s own gate, through it the righteous enter.

I thank you for you answered me;

you have been my savior.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

By the LORD has this been done;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

 

This is the day the LORD has made;

let us rejoice in it and be glad.

LORD, grant salvation!

LORD, grant good fortune!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.

We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God and has enlightened us.

Join in procession with leafy branches up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, I give you thanks;

my God, I offer you praise. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

his mercy endures forever.

 

Psalm 118

 

“In danger I called on the Lord.”  I have been in danger.  In danger from the world around me.  Not so much the physical danger, as much as my soul has been in danger.  And no mask can protect me or others from that.  But the Lord is with me and has answered me!  How great is our God!!  He has set me free!

The words in this psalm are so powerful!  “What can mortals do against me?”  Nothing.  Nothing if I am right with God. “Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals.  Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in princes.”  No politician can save us.  We need to put our trust and hope in God, not any politician, democrat or republican.  In God we trust!  If only our country would turn back to this.   I cannot control the country, but I can control me: In God I trust!  I can resist the negative temptations of the world:

All the nations surrounded me;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me on every side;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

They surrounded me like bees; they burned up like fire among thorns;

in the LORD’s name I cut them off.

This is truly the day the Lord has made.  The beauty that surrounds us is all created by God.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Let us stop looking for sorrow and anger.  Let us stop focusing on the negativity.  God is great!  His mercy endures forever!  Thank God for that because our own mercy towards each other is short tempered and short lived!

God,

You are amazing!  Thank you for this beautiful day!  Thank you for opening my eyes and answering my prayers.  You alone are my God.  In you alone I put my trust!  Help me to keep my eyes focused on you!  There is so much to rejoice about with you, so much to be thankful for!

 

My Stronghold in Times of Trouble

I prayed before I opened the Bible today:  “Lord, what do you want me to hear.  What do you want me to share.”

The Bible opened to Psalm 9:

I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds. I will delight and rejoice in you; I will sing hymns to your name, Most High.

When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before you. For you upheld my right and my cause, seated on your throne, judging justly.

You rebuked the nations, you destroyed the wicked; their name you blotted out for all time.

***

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you; you never forsake those who seek you, LORD.

Sing hymns to the LORD enthroned on Zion; proclaim his deeds among the nations!  For the avenger of bloodshed remembers, does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

Be gracious to me, LORD; see how my foes afflict me!  You alone can raise me from the gates of death. Then I will declare all your praises, sing joyously of your salvation in the gates of daughter Zion.

The nations fall into the pit they dig; in the snare they hide, their own foot is caught.

The LORD is revealed in making judgments: by the deeds they do the wicked are trapped.  To Sheol the wicked will depart, all the nations that forget God.

For the needy will never be forgotten, nor will the hope of the afflicted ever fade.

Arise, LORD, let no mortal prevail; let the nations be judged in your presence.  Strike them with terror, LORD; show the nations they are only human.

Psalm 9

My God, you are great indeed!  You know what I need to hear.  You know the reminder that I need, that likely many of us need.  The last few months have been hard.  I feel persecuted against.  I feel like my faith is being challenged by the outside world.  I feel like we have lost our way as a nation and as a people of God.

The Lord is our stronghold.  No matter what the sins of the world around us.  No matter the sins within ourselves.  The Lord is our stronghold.

I am frustrated by much of what I see in the world and see in our country.  Frustrated by the hate and division.  Frustrated by what appears to be a lack of common sense.  Frustrated by the fear and the encouragement of fear by many.  Frustrated by the lack of faith.  Frustrated by the lack of acceptance of faith.  Frustrated by the attitude that everyone can make their own rules.  Frustrated by society’s attempts to push God out of our lives and the apparent willingness of many to accept this.

This line written thousands of years ago strikes a chord just as strongly today:

“The nations fall into the pit they dig; in the snare they hide, their own foot is caught.”

In a culture in which we love to cast blame, we have no one to blame but ourselves.  We have dug a pit.  We have hidden a snare.  We have made our bed.  Perhaps we need to be struck with terror.  Perhaps we need to see the bottom of the pit we have dug.  Perhaps we need to feel the snare crushing our foot, trapping us from what we think we want to do and where we want to go.

We need this so we will know where our help comes from.  Science has proven to be powerless.  The government has proven to be powerless.  Billionaires have proven to be powerless.

Only God has true power.  Only God can save us.  Instead of fighting over whether the government should do more or whether people should wear masks, we need to turn our attention to the Lord.  “For the needy will never be forgotten, nor will the hope of the afflicted ever fade.”  God alone can raise us from the gates of death.  God alone can ease our suffering.  And despite what we may argue are desperate times, He never forsakes those who seek Him.  Instead of calls for what politician we need or what political orders we need.  We need calls for prayer.  Calls for the country to seek God.  Calls for the country to know that our stronghold is and always will be in God alone.  We are one nation under God and when we return to that belief we will be stronger together again.

My God,

I do not have the words to praise you with all of the praise that you deserve.  You alone are righteous.  You alone are powerful.  You alone know the true meaning of love.  You alone are my savior and my stronghold.  I fall on my knees before you.  I have helped dig a pit.  I have helped set snares for others, and I have fallen as a result.  I have feared standing up for you in every way that I should.  But I seek you now.  With all my heart, I seek you.  I need you Lord.  My family needs you, my community needs you, my country needs you, this world needs you.  We have allowed ourselves to believe too much in ourselves and all of the marvels that we believe we create, and have forgotten that we are only human.  We are flawed and ultimately powerless.  Everything that we create is temporary.  Only you create the eternal.  Be gracious to us O Lord.  We do not deserve it.  But we pray for it.  We need you and you alone.  We seek you and you alone.  We hope for you and you alone.  Have mercy on us and our nation.  Help us all to seek you with our full hearts.

Joy in the Morning; Separating Light from Darkness

Do you ever lie awake at night just waiting for the morning to come?  And it seems to take forever?  The morning brings light.  It takes away the darkness and shadows.  The morning brings renewal, a fresh start.  But sometimes the night seems long. The darkness seems eternal.  Will the sun ever shine again?  Will the sun really come out tomorrow, as orphan Annie sings?

David reminds us in his Psalm:

Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:5

The night is dark.  And sometimes it sneaks up on us.    And sometimes it lasts longer than we like.  It tarries. It lingers.  It waits.  But God created light from darkness.  And His light brings joy.  There is no darkness that He cannot shine through.  From the beginning, God has created light where there was darkness:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth—  and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.  God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:1-4

We do not have the power to create light, but we can find it.  We tarry in darkness, searching for the light, hoping for the light.  And sometimes we forget that the light is right there in front of us.  Because we struggled to see it on our own, God sent us Jesus.  Peter reminds us of this:

Therefore, I will always remind you of these things, even though you already know them and are established in the truth you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this “tent,” to stir you up by a reminder, since I know that I will soon have to put it aside, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me.  I shall also make every effort to enable you always to remember these things after my departure.

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.

2 Peter 1:12-21

God sent us Jesus — to be our guiding light in the darkness.  He is our lamp in the dark world “until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  We do well to be attentive to Him.  No matter how dark the place is, no matter how dark or long the night, the day will dawn.  The day will dawn.  Jesus will be our light until it does, until we fully allow the morning star, God’s light and love to rise in our heart.

Jesus,

You are my light!  I do not want to tarry in the darkness.  Help me make it to the dawn.  Help the morning star rise in my heart.  I want you to fill my heart and my life, with your light and love.  You separate light from darkness.  Help separate me from the darkness.

 

Comfort dog? Or Comfort God

As humans, we desperately search for comfort.  Hotels, cars, furniture, clothes, even foods, all advertise and try to lure us in because of the comfort that they provide.  We long for comfort.  We long for true fellowship and the comfort that it brings.

We struggle to find it in ourselves and in each other.  So we look for it in things.  And we look for it in God’s other creatures.  Comfort animals have become the latest “in” thing.  No one asks to bring a comfort human with them wherever they go, but there are plenty of requests for comfort peacocks, comfort rabbits, comfort bearded dragons, and, of course, comfort dogs.  In the last several years, the numbers of individuals carrying comfort dogs in their arms, or on leashes or in crates, wherever they go has greatly increased — why?  They help fill our need for comfort.  They don’t talk back.  They don’t judge.  They are fully present and attentive with us. They appear to love us even when we feel like no one else does.  Even when we feel like we don’t deserve it.

We so long for that comfort, and we so often miss the mark as to where to find it. As usual, we have it backwards.  We look to a comfort d-o-g, when we should be looking to G-o-d.

Throughout the Bible, we are reminded where we can take comfort.  King David frequently rejoices in God’s comfort in his psalms:

My soul rests in God alone,

from whom comes my salvation.

God alone is my rock and salvation,

my fortress; I shall never fall.

Psalms 62:2-3

St. Paul also rejoices in the comfort of our Lord who has enriched us with spiritual gifts and provided us with grace through Jesus:

I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus [Christ].  God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

We don’t need a new car, or the softest fabric.  We don’t need a certified comfort animal.  God will keep us firm to the end.  He alone is our rock and our salvation.  Where our human comfort fails, God is faithful and by him we are called to fellowship with Jesus.  It is only through Him that we truly find peace, rest and comfort.  How did David and Paul know this?  Because God tells us.  He told Moses and Joshua (and tells us):

Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

He told us again through his son, Jesus:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27

Although this world may make us feel alone and afraid, God is always with us.  He has spoken back to us, in a good way, through His word.  If we truly turn to him, we will find ourselves buried in His chest before we can even fully turn around, because He is in fact that close.  He is the peace and the comfort that we crave.  He is always fully present and attentive with us.  He loves us even when we feel like no one else does.  Even when we feel like we don’t deserve it.

Lord,

You are my rock and my salvation.  You are my comfort and my peace.  When I am lost and afraid, help me to remember to turn to you.  I want you to be my comfort.  I want to rest in your arms.  Thank you for telling us time and time again that you are here.  Help us to listen, every day and particularly when we need it most.  It is so easy to get lost in this world.  Thank you for all of your beautiful creation, including the animals that bring us comfort, and all of mankind.  Help us to do a better job of bringing each other comfort (through love and fellowship rather than material things).  Help us always know that true comfort comes when we turn to you, when we are in fellowship with you.  I want to live in that fellowship.  I want others to share in that fellowship. Help me to bring your love and comfort to others.

Vanity: This Psalm is About You

Whenever I hear the word “vain,” I think of Carly Simon’s song “You’re so Vain” about a self obsessed person.  I rarely think about its other meaning: useless.  I am surprised at how often vain or vanity appear in the Bible.  Last week, I opened the Bible to Ecclesiastes where we are told all is vanity.  Today the Bible opened to Psalm 127:

Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build.

Unless the LORD guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch.

It is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night, To eat bread earned by hard toil—all this God gives to his beloved in sleep.

Psalm 127:1-2

I have built a house (or actually paid to have it built).  It was one of the worst experiences of my life and also one of the best.  It caused significant stress on me and my family.  There was financial stress, marital stress, weather stress and overall building stress.  I did not know what I was doing.  And I did not know what I wanted.  I did not have God involved.  The stress became too much and I reached a breaking point in my life.  And in the darkness of the breaking point, I found God, and my life was saved.  My life was renewed.  I openly welcomed God into my house.  To this day, the only thing hung on the walls of the first floor are two crosses.  The house itself is not perfect, but the home inside is much better.

This Psalm reminds me of  the struggles we had building our home.  Whatever we try to build, whatever we try to create is useless unless the Lord is involved.  It is also useless to try to guard or protect whatever we have unless the Lord is involved.  I cannot help but think of the multi-million dollar homes in L.A. that were destroyed by fire and mudslides or our cities that are riddled with violence.  Everything we have, everything we accomplish is a tribute to God.  When we forget that  — when we become self obsessed, when we become vain, then our labor is in vain, and everything is useless.

Lord, Thank you for pulling me out of the darkness.  Help me to recognize the vanity in human treasures.  Help me to keep from becoming self-obsessed.  I want my focus on you.  I want to be God-obsessed.  I know that only through you will I find happiness and rest.

 

 

Seek, Fear, Love

The Bible is filled with reminders that if we seek the Lord He will be found.

The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he destroys.

Psalm 145:18-20

The Lord asks us to seek Him, fear Him and love Him.  The seeking and loving I get – the fearing, I struggle with.

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him. We have all heard this. I certainly want Him to be near.  And yet I don’t seek Him as much as I should.  We should  reach out more.  He should be our first  speed dial.  He should be tagged in all our posts.  Knowing, as we do,  that when we seek Him He is near, why aren’t we constantly and honestly seeking Him?

I have never liked the Bible verses that suggest we must fear the Lord.  I suppose I want the warm, gentle God. The post 80’s Father, where corporal punishment is discouraged – so surely smiting must be out of the question.  I am not sure that God wants us to fear Him, at least I want to believe that He doesn’t. So why is the Bible filled with fear?   I think the fearing is necessary.  I think we need to fear to recognize how much we need God.  Without fear, we think we can do anything. We think we are invincible.  We think we don’t need God. And then where would we be?  God saves us.  He saves us from ourselves.

Ultimately, God is love.  And He wants us to love Him.  This is a hard juxtaposition – fear and love.  God wants us to come to Him in love.  Not out of obligation.  As a parent, we don’t want just the obligatory hug and I love you from our children. We want the warm hug and meaningful expression of love.  We want our kids to want to be with us.  But we will sometimes take what we can get, hoping that as they mature, they will come back. So does God.

I wish I could show Him how much I love Him.  But my love is immature compared to His.

Lord,

Teach me to love. I want to be with you.  I don’t want to fear you, but I fear being without you.  I want to honor and respect you.  You are almighty.  You can destroy or buildup. I am nothing but what you have created. I am nothing without you.  I owe everything to you.  Help me to grow through your love, your grace and your mercy.

God’s Protection

There are fires in California, Oregon, Washington and Montana.  A large earthquake in Mexico.  Hurricane Harvey just pushed through and Hurricane Irma is closing in. (And those are just the current “natural” disasters not the ones we inflict on ourselves — roughly a million assaults, 15,000 homicides, 60,000 drug overdose deaths and 35,000 motor vehicle deaths each year.)

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty, Say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.”  He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare, from the destroying plague, He will shelter you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield.  You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day,  Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon.  Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you it shall not come.  You need simply watch; the punishment of the wicked you will see.  Because you have the LORD for your refuge and have made the Most High your stronghold, No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent.  For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go.  With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.  You can tread upon the asp and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon.  Because he clings to me I will deliver him; because he knows my name I will set him on high.  He will call upon me and I will answer; I will be with him in distress; I will deliver him and give him honor.  With length of days I will satisfy him, and fill him with my saving power.

Psalm 91

The Psalm is titled Security under God’s Protection.

No matter what the disaster.  God is there.  No matter what the terror of the night.  God is our refuge.

Lord, protect all those who are facing disaster, destruction, pain and suffering.  I pray that they call out to you and rely on you for strength.  I pray that any harm they suffer brings them closer to you.  God, you are my refuge and my fortress.  I pray that I can live all of my days under your shelter.

Make my roots deep and strong!

I need structure.  I need rules.  I need God. This is what the Bible told me when I opened it today.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.  Rather, the law of the LORD is his joy; and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers.

But not so are the wicked, not so! They are like chaff driven by the wind.  Therefore the wicked will not arise at the judgment, nor will sinners in the assembly of the just. Because the LORD knows the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

Psalm 1:1-6

We all face wickedness, sometimes from within, sometimes it surrounds us.  It can be easy to be swayed by popular opinion, by what the world thinks is good, by whatever is “in” right now.  If we do not have a foundation, if we do not have God’s word, his law, it is much easier for us to get tossed about by whatever way the wind blows. But it we focus on God’s word, on his law, if we focus on God, we become planted in fertile soil, nourished by God’s flowing river, by His love.  Like a tree we may sway with the tumultuous winds around us, but we are firmly rooted in God.  We won’t get swept up in the wickedness around us.

God,  Your word is my joy!  I want my roots planted deep and strong! Help me to make the time to nourish and strengthen my roots in you.

 

 

The Lord is My Shepherd

It is fitting that tonight the Bible opened to this Psalm:

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.

He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name.

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 comfort me.

You set a table before me in front of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days.

Psalm 23:1-6

I have always equated this psalm with death.  But as I read it now, I see that it is all about life! With the Lord as our shepherd, what can we need?  He provides us with everything.  Green pastures to lie down.  (Think about a beautiful green pasture.  I cannot help but smile when I think of a bright green pasture lit against a blue sky.  Peaceful.  God provides us with rest for our mind and body.  There is so much around us that is just beautiful and peaceful if we stop and look.)  Still waters — to restore us.  Water to drink.  Water to wash over us.  Water to restore us and give us new life.

He guides us along right paths. (Oh, how I wish I would stop trying to explore on my own!)

And then the death part — even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…  I will fear no evil for you are with me.  At our darkest times, God is with us.   David goes from talking about “the Lord” to talking very familiarly about “you” because in our darkest times, God is right there.  He is not a far off being, referred to in the third person.  He is right there, as a friend, as a confidant, as a protector.  “I will fear no evil for you are with me.”  He is there as a father: “your rod and your staff comfort me.”

This is not about death — this is about life.  Life here on earth where God walks with us, provides for us and pursues us with His goodness and mercy.  Our cup overflows with God’s love.  And life with God for endless days.  God sets His table before us — He invites us to join Him.  He pursues us with His goodness and mercy.   He pursues us.  Imagine the power if we pursue Him.

Oh Lord,

I ask you to be with those who are walking through the shadow of death.  Lift them up.  Show them your goodness and mercy.

Thank you for pursuing me and never giving up.  I pledge to pursue you.