“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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To-Do or Done?

OK. This is a confession. I’m running in circles and not getting anything done! It feels like I am the Road Runner from that old cartoon–and I keep stopping to look at the coyote! Sometimes, in spite of my best intentions, I just don’t get everything done that I intend to.

Here is my kitchen counter (which I snapped when I should have been dealing with each of the items photographed):

counter 1. Lamp shade to be painted.

2. Mug to be washed.

3. Light bulb to be put away.

4. Printer ink cartridges to be refilled.

5. Paint and paint thinner for a furniture project.

6. A paint roller for a room that will be painted.

7. Cilantro that must be used tonight or be tossed.

 Is it any wonder all that sent me outside, to sit on the bench on our deck?!

But from the deck, I saw the car. Sigh… Call it more red lights or longer to-do lists, but in spite of running errands for over FOUR hours, I still have four things left in the car to return or drop off.

Between that lingering thought and the mosquitoes buzzing about my ears, the deck was not the sanctuary I’d hoped it would be. Plus, I started sneezing.

Retreating inside, I plopped the laptop on the counter–bravely right next to those misplaced items. I grabbed a tissue to soften the sneezes and thought–how great to have tissues! (We’d been out for a week or so.)

Then it hit me.

Instead of being overcome by the myriad things left to do, what if I think about the number of things I have done!

Weight off my shoulders! Peace and joy!

And as I named each thing (Luke 5 study, a friend’s encouraging text, our son’s handy help, my husband’s smile, pick up this, drop off that, hardware store, fabric store, outlet store, and lunch with our daughter), I put those pesky items in their rightful places. Ah…a smile with each thought AND a cleared counter.

As I think about it, it occurs to me that that’s kind of how God looks at me–not as a long list of sins or even as a check list of good deeds, but as His forgiven and redeemed child because of Jesus Christ. I hope and pray you feel the same way!

Just consider John 1:12:

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

and Colossians 1:11-14:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Now that is a weight off our shoulders. That is the truest peace and joy.

And now it’s time to start dinner–using that cilantro that’s waiting on the cutting board. I will be thankful and appreciative and enjoy time with family this evening. In fact, I may not even post this for a few days–giving you time to enjoy your family and friends as well.

I hope you do. Treasure all the moments our heavenly Father grants us–trials for the refining of our souls and triumphs for His glory, remembering all along that we are His, cleared of sin like a clean counter top.

Peace and joy!

 

 

Thursday To-Do’s and Too Many Tabs

Do you head out the door to work most mornings? Today is my one day off from work this week. Ahhh… I awoke at the usual early hour and was thankful for a warm shower and a calm morning. Then I remembered:

It’s my ONE day off!! And we are moving in ONE month!

I intended to get busy, but before I could make a To-Do list (my normal house management modus operandi), I noticed that our dog, Teddy, had gotten sick on the living room area rug. That trumped making a list and was definitely Job Number One. Soon, the rug was clean and Teddy seemed fine.

On a roll, I put away some clothes carelessly heaped on the floor in our bedroom. Then I washed a few dishes, stamped a letter to mail, and made a couple of phone calls. Next, I sorted through and organized some papers and made list of other papers I needed to find.

Now, I’ve had my share of rapid breathing, walking in circles, and even tears when faced with disorder and chaos. But there I was, sipping my morning grapefruit juice and listening to a favorite speaker’s message on the local Christian radio station, and in that moment, I felt a sense of peace and order even amidst the chaos on my kitchen counters and the piles of yet-to-be-packed boxes lurking in the basement. And no, my eyes weren’t closed! Only God can do that. Only the peace of Christ passes understanding and lists our vision above the chaos and despair.

So today, I will NOT make my normally overwhelming To-Do list. I will NOT fret over the number of tabs I have open on my laptop. I will NOT stress over the myriad things to do, pack, mail, or write. I will simply hold on to the anchor of my soul spoken of in Hebrews 6~the person and saving work of Christ~and strengthened by the peace He gives me~by that right relationship with God through the cross and the tomb~I will do the next thing. (John 14:27)

That anchor, that peace can be yours, too. Let’s purpose to hold onto Christ, our soul’s anchor, come deep trouble or high water. Let’s remember Jesus’s words, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)