Tag Archive: Shepherd

Restore

Even in the midst of a new variant, Omicron, on the Covid pandemic, our lives during Christmas and New Year’s felt full. While our get-togethers were with smaller family groups, we enjoyed the times we could be together.

This week? I find myself a bit lethargic, tired, unmotivated. Do you? Seems that now that life is quieter again I’m kind of worn out. We’re tired of masking, of conflict within families and friendships, of isolation.

I think that’s normal after the holidays; perhaps more so with the continuing pandemic. Friday afternoon Don and I took a wonderful 3.5 hour nap (very unusual!), then slept a full night. After church and Starbucks this morning, we took a walk with Paigey in her stroller. She seemed very content in the beautiful sunshine and fresh air, while we got some steps in. It was a renewing time for us.

So how do we respond to a bit of a letdown after a busy and uplifting time?

Following are a few things I find restorative:

Music can soothe the soul
  • Naps are helpful but, then, I’m retired. Not everyone has room in their life for naps. I didn’t either when I worked full-time.
  • Walks in the fresh air are renewing.
  • We enjoy our Sunday ritual of church and Starbucks, hearing the Word taught, then hanging out together.
  • Reading–the scriptures or a good book.
  • Listening to a challenging podcast.
  • Listening to, or playing, music. This afternoon we listened to a number of the old hymns we grew up with and felt encouraged. I used to play piano well, but am seriously out of practice. Nevertheless, those times when I sit on the bench of my mother’s piano and play, my soul feels restored.
  • Focus on a specific scripture, like Psalm 23. Close your eyes. What does it mean to you that the Lord is your Shepherd? That he leads you beside quiet waters and refreshes your soul? I used to have a favorite mental picture of a certain valley on the drive from San Jose to Fresno. The grass was lush, trees scattered about, and a lovely, bubbling stream wended its way through the valley. I can picture myself walking with Jesus in that valley, being refreshed in His company.
  • In the same chapter, think of what it means that He walks through the valley of the shadow of death with us? I experienced that with the loss of my first husband. No, He didn’t remove the pain; but He gave purpose and presence during the loss.
  • Last, find someone who needs help, and give it! I’ve found there’s not much sweeter than meeting someone who is lonely, or hungry, whom I can help, sometimes in little ways by giving a packet of non-perishables, sometimes by listening, bringing groceries or a meal, sometimes by praying for the person(s). Giving renews the spirit.
  • Exercise thankfulness. Like a muscle, it grows with use and changes our perspective.
  • Focus on his love–for you.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

I John 4:9-11

Did I mention naps? I took a short one before finishing this. Sweet! And I’m challenging myself with this post. These are the things I need to do to renew, to step out of my lethargy and move ahead with those tasks God has given me to do.

What do you do to renew yourself?

Blessings!

post by carolnl | | Closed

Twinkling Lights and a Shepherd

Twinkling lights spreading warmth through colorful shopping markets. Cuckoo clocks, shawls, candles, handmade porcelain and other gifts. Lighted carousels and Christmas trees and snow! Weinerschnitzel, where the tender veal covers the edges of the plate. One dish definitely enough for two!

Photo by Thomas Schmidt / Eyeem

Don and I were looking forward to visiting the Christmas Markets on the Danube, leaving the day after Thanksgiving. Seeing sparkling lights in beautiful old villages along the Danube.

Then Austria locked down, and our cruise was cancelled.

Surprisingly, we were almost relieved. There had been so much “will we, won’t we, can we, can’t we” as we gathered warm clothing, tried to ensure we had all our needs covered, that we were stressing about it. We didn’t realize how much until, the night after we got the cancellation notice, we slept ’til 9:30 am!

As much as I would love to take this trip, I have a Shepherd who watches over me. He knows what is best for us, even when it doesn’t feel so great. And in light of the trials so many are experiencing, this is a small thing.

Last week I wrote about how the Shepherd guides me, my GPS, directing my steps and leading me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. This week, Pastor Tim talked about God’s name in Psalm 23, Jehovah Rohi, the Shepherd and Companion. He covers not only my physical needs (rest, refreshment, guidance), but also my emotional needs.

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 staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

He is not surprised by our valleys–death, illness, loss, hostility, depression, fear, plan changes. While these things can mess with our minds for a time, we can walk through them with Him at our side. My Shepherd is with me. His rod guards, like a club, to protect. His staff guides and directs. With a shepherd’s crook he can hook a wayward sheep and pull it back into the fold. I want that kind of Shepherd!

We’ve all experienced losses these past two years–family or friends who have died from Covid or for other reasons. Friends who have gotten Covid, walked through the valley and come out on the other side. Loneliness and fear have become prevalent companions for many, as fear was for me last year.

I don’t know what valley you’ve experienced recently, but I do know you’re not alone. You have a Shepherd, and hopefully other companions who have walked with you through your particular valley.

We can’t walk from mountain to mountain without going through a valley. But we walk through by realizing the valleys are not our final destination. We must keep walking through them to reach the mountains on the other side.

So instead of traipsing through the snow and looking at Christmas wonderland in Austria and Germany, Don and I will put our tree up earlier than expected, will have Christmas carols playing through the house, will reach out to our neighbors, family and friends to extend love and hope and joy.

I wish you a joy-filled Thanksgiving filled with praise for our Good Shepherd!

GPS and a Shepherd

I had just gotten into my SUV after the Sunday school class and had not asked for directions. But my phone’s GPS popped up with “17 minutes to Evergreen Valley Church.” I have been attending a Sunday school class at another church, then scooting home to pick Don up and go to Evergreen (EVC), our home church. How did my GPS know where I was going next? Hmmmm, think someone/thing is tracking?

Pastor Tim is teaching on Psalm 23 this month. He challenged us to memorize this psalm, and to use it as a basis for thanksgiving. There is so much wealth in this poem. We need to start with God–always; it’s so easy to start from my point of view, my circumstances. But the Psalmist begins, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3, ESV
freepngimg.com

When I start with my circumstances I can easily become disheartened, overwhelmed, and even numb. But when I look to God first and ask what He is doing through my circumstances, I have a different perspective.

He is my shepherd, right now. My GPS, my personal guidance system, from now ’til eternity. You don’t see sheep running around on their own, like you might wild Mustangs. Sheep are totally dependent on their shepherd for food, water and protection.

And so am I. I live in a country where independence is highly valued. Self-reliance can become a barrier to trusting God. But I’ve often been reminded of my need to rely on my Good Shepherd…

  1. When I, and the staff women with whom I lived in the inner city, were threatened with death and mutilation
  2. When I had to trust God for financial provision while working in a non-profit
  3. When I have choices to make that will either further my agenda, or His
  4. When I lost a beloved husband to death
  5. When I’m weary and my husband needs help with his computer and I need my shepherd’s “green pastures” and “still waters” to respond rightly
  6. When my neighbor is critically ill and I feel helpless in knowing what to say, and God just helps me love her
  7. When family members and dear friends suffer with chemo and Covid and loss, and I cry out to Him for them

We are made to have companionship with the Lord, to rely on Him, to trust in Him. These words of Isaiah are familiar to many because they are repeated in Handel’s MESSIAH:

He will tend his flock like a shepherd;

    he will gather the lambs in his arms;

he will carry them in his bosom,

    and gently lead those that are with young.

Isaiah 40:11

Within the twenty-third Psalm is the wonderful truth that as our Shepherd, God leads, guides, and directs our paths. How often have I headed one direction to have Him turn me around, sometimes painfully.

  • The man I thought I’d marry (which would not have been His best for me)
  • The career choices I made with His guidance
  • Asking forgiveness of others where needed because of His Spirit’s conviction
  • The two lovely men I did marry, and the blessings of each
  • And the joy of serving God in a variety of ways over the years.

There’s much more in this Psalm yet, but for this week, these scriptures will be my focus.

Where have you experienced God as your Shepherd?