Return and Rest

Pasture     He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

I smile, and breathe a deep sigh of ease, looking at a picture of my husband and younger son relaxing in our back yard.

It is surely one of those green pasture moments. My son is playing with his pecan-tree-branch walking stick and our fuzzy small dog. My husband is sitting on the porch steps, savoring every spoonful of his ice cream cup. And the sun sets slowly enough to illuminate everything.

And this is another green pasture moment. I sit on the plane, headed to vacation. Both sons sit behind us, still enjoying their reunion after the firstborn’s return from freshman year in college. Husband has his audio book and a nap. I have time to play with my phone, to actually change the wallpaper all by myself, to find the golden sunset picture. To be soaring here and there, all at once.

The next day I am praying to God, glad for rested sleep and strengthened body, the fullness of the day previous and the newness of the current day, letting thank you fill me until I feel it in my soles. This is green pastures too, taking a longer gaze at my Shepherd.

And in my prayer I trust him with the times He’s led me through and rested me from. As I pray, I am freed from wearying myself all over again when I remember them, and how they tried me.

And I trust him with the times He’s leading me to, where my soul will be called to remember Him and His green pasture. To return to rest not only in summer, but daily, and throughout each day. Not to commit entrance to his green pastures to memory, but to frequent His presence, to seek Him and enter fully into His rest at all times — instead of being stranded by the situation. To feast in His presence in the presence of my enemies: distraction, frustration, offense, pain, weariness and fear.

To become rooted there. Tended there. To be reminded that nothing in God’s green earth bears fruit from great concerted effort, but rather yields it.

Power of Praise

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Real Talk Ministries tweeted today: “God’s people will worship Him regardless of what their circumstances are.” To ready our minds to understand and celebrate that, we need to review that “regardless.”

We do regard our circumstances, and we were made to be alert and observe what goes on around us. 1 Peter 5:8 advises: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

People throughout Scripture called out for justice, just as people heeding current events of today. Right after God’s word explains how we suit up for spiritual battle, which we usually think of as our own personal trials, Ephesians 6:18 reminds us: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

And yes, people throughout Scripture called out in their personal pain, just as people facing struggles do today.

People of God are not called to denial. We are called to acknowledge our circumstances, and then to seek God’s response, already in awe. We pray expectantly, expecting God to act.

When we say God’s ways are above our ways, we’re not shrugging our shoulders in resignation. We’re keeping an eye out to see God to act on a grand scale.

We stay on the lookout, because we know that God’s grand-scale moves are not always obvious to those who aren’t looking for Him in a situation. Jesus — God’s grandest move yet, from the perspective of humanity — showed up in a stable, spent a few years on the run with his family, and altogether about 30 years in obscurity.

And the wait for this Messiah stretched beyond any one person’s lifetime. Yet still the faith of some allowed them to wait.

When we regard our circumstances, they can be our distraction, or serve as the education of our faith.

God’s people, once we truly come to know Him, will worship Him because of circumstances. Either we will praise Him for abundance of comfort, or the abundance of His comforting. Either way, we eventually realize we are so greatly blessed in every circumstance.

Romans 12:12 calls us:

Be joyful in hope,

patient in affliction,

and faithful in prayer.

And how do we do that – ensure that our hopes are not wistful, our afflictions are not fretful, and our prayers are not doubtful?

Praise Him,

Praise Him,

Praise Him.

Try it.

A 23rd Psalm Attitude

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My dog Al came looking for me. I was the only one upstairs, and he’s like a sheep herder’s dog, checking up on the flock.

Nah. He’s more like a sheep himself. After gazing into my face, he leaped into my lap and curled up there.

He’s a good sheep – for a miniature schnauzer.

I wanna be like Al.

My dog leaps into my lap because he knows he has a place there. He leans his head back all the way, just to gaze with adoration at my face. I want a 23rd Psalm attitude like my dog Al.

Whatever we’re eating, he wants some. He’s there, as close to the stove, table or dish that we’ll allow. Yes, his dog dish is full, but he’s still eager, for the crumbs we’ll surely drop. After we’re done, he’s allowed to leap up again, where he’s eager to even to sniff the fragrance of what we had.

He knows that staying close means sharing even more in what we’re enjoying.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

Freedom from fear — the fear of going without — is the idea that opens this psalm. The rest details tender tending for a sheep. Al, who’s carried, petted, entertained at length by the members of his household, would relate.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

In this psalm and elsewhere in the Word, we get the heads-up that we will face tribulations, and we are glad to get the Word that we will know victory. But that victory is more than the relief we experience when our tribulations are over. It’s so much more, because God also provides us the rest, comfort and peace we need before, during and after those tribulations. He tends us tenderly with healing for our souls – our minds and emotions – and strengthens and soothes our bodies.

In the midst of all this providence we find in the next verse the reason for great trust: our undivided awe for God, who is omnipotent within us and around us.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

God acknowledges and addresses what we face. Enemies stand against us; and we are given time to receive and be strengthened by whatever we need in that day – our daily bread. Disease and injury threaten; and we are fortified, soothed and healed.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Because God is everpresent and eternally faithful, our faith endures. And we always have a place to turn to, a place with Him.

Surely Al knows he has a place to go – a place of goodness, lovingkindness. He has a place to abide, and an abiding trust.

He’s so eager to draw closer. He’s leaping at the opportunity.

Let’s take a leap of faith today.