“He Restores My Soul”

IMG_3198.jpgOur home has a small but lovely back yard and a wooden deck. I love the sound made when I walk across that wooden deck. Don’t know why! There are big maple trees towering overhead that offer bounteous shade and a sprinkling of autumn’s fall leaves. There’s a little table and two chairs, perfect for a quiet conversation. (We could enjoy some time together there, couldn’t we?) There’s a bench where I like to spread out my tea, my Bible, and my laptop. Here and there, flowers bloom in large pots. A rosemary bush scents the air. It’s beautiful to me. 

There’s just one problem:

When on the deck, there is NO internet connection!

(Cue thunder and threatening music.)

This might not seem like a terrible turn of events, and—in the big picture—it really isn’t. But at the moment, it was.

First, I grumbled, but of course, that didn’t do any good!

Then I decided to be pro-active and tried to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the internet booster out onto the deck. Sadly, the connection lines weren’t long enough. Technologically foiled!

So I took the only option there seemed to be. I closed the laptop and just sat there–on the bench, sipping my mug of hot tea.

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Have you ever felt like God just lit up His will in neon lights right in front of you?

Well, there weren’t any neon lights on the deck, and there was no special message in the Cape Cod towns written on my mug. It was Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer; it flooded my mind, especially verses 1-3:

“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.”

Last week was close to overwhelming (although I’m sure it wasn’t the “valley of the shadow of death” David writes of in verse 4 of Psalm 23). I did, however, feel like I was barely keeping my head above water. Have you had weeks like that? Not that I wish that for you, of course, but I hope you can empathize! The activities were mostly good ones, but they were numerous:

  • Work
  • Grocery shopping
  • Meal prep
  • Bible study
  • Walk the dog
  • Run errands
  • Clean bathroom
  • Paint upstairs trim
  • Purchase fall plants
  • Plant fall plants
  • Pick up ordered items
  • Help a friend
  • Tutor students
  • Do laundry
  • Entertain friends
  • Write letters
  • Make phone calls
  • Do Sunday school preparation and
  • Clean rug (Our dog got sick on our family room rug—bring on the baking soda.)

There were some hard decisions in there, too. Throughout the week, I had prayed and prayed for direction and for peace, and I prayed that wordless cry of the soul that wells up from deep inside you, accompanied only by tears.

But this was different. There were no tears now.

I sat.

I took a deep breath of fresh air.

I watched a small nuthatch at the bird feeder.

I watched a hummingbird seek out one of our last geranium blossoms.

I felt the soft breeze drift over me, gentler than cashmere,

I heard the rustling tree branches overhead.

I heard the plunk of hickory nuts falling on and rolling down our neighbor’s roof.

I smelled the sweet, complex scent of my tea. (Sloane Tea’s “Heavenly Cream”—seriously!)

I released the worry and stress I had worn like accessories, increasingly added throughout the week.

I loosened my grip on my list of self-imposed “to-do’s” and thought about what was really most important—to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and to love my neighbor as myself. (Matthew 22: 34-40)

Now this isn’t brain surgery, but once I took my eyes off that list of self-determined to-do’s, I could sense the complete sufficiency of Jesus which superseded the whole list. Decisions and priorities became clear.

The Lord restored my soul.

Only then, did I come back inside, jot down some notes, and then pop back out and snap a couple photos.

Now it’s time to give my Mom a call and text a couple of college students. Then, I’ll make a second attempt at rug cleaning! The laundry, painting, and planting can wait for another time.

May the Lord restore you, too, dear friend!

For Deeper Insight. . .

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Mass Market Edition - By: W. Phillip Keller I heartily encourage you to check out A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller.

It’s an eye-opening book that unpacks the 23rd Psalm in an accurate, contextual, and most meaningful way. (It is also undoubtedly one of my favorites!) It makes a wonderful gift at Easter or anytime.

It’s available in many formats. Here’s the link to read more about it and purchase it at Christian Book Distributors: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller 

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The Last Day of Summer

I am at a loss. Why? The end of summer is upon us! The month has dwindled down to a drop–

a day.

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Today, Wednesday, September 21, is THE LAST FULL DAY of summer.

More precisely,

(with a little help from “ye” Old Farmer’s Almanac)
Old Farmer's Almanac

tomorrow–Thursday, at 10:20 AM–is the last moment of this summer.

Gone are the days of. . .

ice cream Image result for ice cream cone

Image result for lazy summer morning lazy mornings

being poolside, dockside, or beachside Image result for public domain lake with dock and chair

Image result for chasing fireflies public domain  chasing lightning bugs

overflowing gardens  Image result for bountiful flower bed public domain

Image result for jumping through sprinklers public domain  jumping through sprinklers

barefoot walks in soft green grass  Image result for public domain feet walking in grass

Image result for watermelon slice public domain  watermelon

fresh tomatoes   Image result for beefsteak tomatoes public domain

But weren’t they wonderful? (And who says ice cream is only for the summer? I have a dear aunt who would strongly concur!)

I hope you were able to enjoy some special times this past summer, dear friend. Did your garden bloom beautifully? Did your friends rejoice with you? Did you share sparkling morning sunlight and evening starlight with someone special? Did you walk increasingly more closely with Jesus?

Among His many characteristics, God is a god of relationship. Look at the friendships of David and Jonathan, of Paul and Barnabas and Timothy. Look at the marriages of Adam and Eve, of Abraham and Sarah, and of Joseph and Mary. Look at the kinship of Jesus and His cousin, John. Look at the bonds between Jesus and the apostles–and Jesus and you.

Relationships span time and seasons. They are important, in every season. So, let’s be thankful for the summer days we enjoyed and praise God for those moments and memories.

But what about difficult days? Have the hottest summer days been accompanied by trying and soul-strengthening trials? Have you been through a personal summer thunderstorm?

If in this past summer you experienced some bitter or difficult times, remember God does not leave us without comfort. We have His Word. We have His ear. We have His Spirit. We have those relationships. Like that gangly last tomato plant, continue to lean on the firm support that only Jesus Christ is. He came and died and rose making that relationship possible–all for you!

Remember

  • how very much He loves you,
  • that He is in control, (and that He is in control), and
  • to humble yourself and concede, “Thy will be done.”

With that attitude, we can be thankful for the summer days and for the fall days just around the corner. We can look forward with great expectation to see the unfolding of His good and perfect plan for our lives. We can be encouraged to walk even more closely with Jesus as we enjoy. . .

Image result for fall leaves public domain Colorful leaves (and leaf piles to jump in!)

Uniquely shaped gourds and pumpkins Image result for pumpkins gourds public domain

Image result for public domain thanksgiving dinner Thanksgiving dinner

Hot mulled cider Image result for public domain mulled cider

Image result for public domain pumpkin pie Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin butter, (pumpkin ice cream?)

Crisp air  Image result for public domain fall in the blue ridge

And when we don’t know what will happen or when we pray and pray and PRAY for something or someone–let’s commit to wait with expectant eyes to see the realization of the wonder that is God’s will.

Let’s be awed and amazed with. . .Image result for public domain fall heart leaf

each uniquely colored fall leaf,

Image result for public domain breath of mountain hiker  each breath of crisp air

Image result for public domain hands making heart shape

each day He gives us.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

In Hot Water?

Have you ever felt like you’re about to be in hot water? You know that feeling: Your name’s about to be called or all eyes are on you or you’re plunging headfirst into img_3174uncharted territory. There’s a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. Your breathing repetitions increase. A seemingly logical dread swamps your thinking.

And then nothing bad happens.

Or maybe something bad does happen.

Whichever outcome, there’s hope in Psalm 51, verses 11 and 12.

In this deeply repentant song, we see David’s heart–repentant, sorrowful, honest. And talk about deep water. David’s deep water incident had just become known to the prophet, Nathan, and Nathan had just confronted David with his sin with Bathsheba. David felt very humbled and very convicted that he had sinned against God. Click on the blue link and you can read the whole tragic story narrated in 2 Samuel 11 and 12.

Now let’s look back at Psalm 51. In verse 1, David opens with a searing cry for mercy based on the steadfast love of God.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!”

Have you ever cried out for mercy in the middle of that hot water moment? I certainly have. Sometimes it’s been through tears. Sometimes it’s been with eyes wide open. Mercy. Lord, have mercy on me.

Now let’s look further down the chapter at verse 12.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

Isn’t our greatest plea for mercy answered most wholly with restoration? And the most wonderful restoration of all, which is the restoration of the joy from God’s salvation. We see that joy of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 and numerous other  New Testament verses attest to that. The latter half of the verse asks God to grant us a willing spirit to bolster us on. How can we be assured of that?

We just have to read verse 17. Here, David illustrates the sacrifice that pleases God, and shows his heart of hope:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

When we have those moments  when we’re about to fall into that pot of boiling water, so to speak, or even trials of more temperate natures, a broken and contrite heart and a sincere prayer to be upheld and given a willing spirit, is heard by the God of lovingkindness and steadfast love. Our broken spirit, our broken and contrite, sorrowful heart is the evidence of and the reason for our cry for mercy. And it is answered in the restoration of forgiveness and the assurance of joy that comes from knowing Christ, our salvation.

Then, we might just realize anew that God can bring something good even out of boiling water trials. (img_3175Remember James 1 and Romans 8:28?) Sure, our dinner was tasty, but I mean something more. Deeper faith. Wisdom. Remembering God is good and faithful even in hot water times. Remembering Jesus Christ is our deepest, truest joy in all times.

 

Hitting the Nail on the Head, so to speak

Each morning–or honestly I should say, most mornings or at night!–I read a short devotional from Life-Changing Moments with God: Praying Scripture Every Day by David Jeremiah. Each day’s reading begins with a succinct summation IMG_3161followed by a compilation of verses from the Bible and closes with a short prayer and then the verse references.

This morning? Do you see that hammer? Well, the reading today left me amazed and humbled at yet another time when God’s Word makes a direct hit on the tenuous, weak spot in my heart. I won’t go into all the details; the details aren’t really what’s important. What’s important is. . .

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