Posted in Faith Nuggets, Psalm 23, Thoughts, Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Scripture

Relational Rest

I write a monthly column for Arkansas Baptist News. Because I always try to write about what God is teaching me, sometimes it’s good to go back and reread old columns – like processing back through journal entries to remember what I’ve learned.

This morning I reread – and desperately needed the reminder of – this article from last fall. I thought I’d share it with you! This one turned into a four-article series, so I’ll share the remaining three over the next few weeks.

Life is tiring. Have you noticed? We hit the ground running and eventually forget what it means to stop. To rest.

I am convicted each time I see how seriously Scripture handles the Sabbath. This day of rest was instituted long before the law came into being. In fact, rest existed before sin corrupted the world and laid the burdens of exhaustion upon our backs. Rest is critical, and we must allow God to teach us how to rest.

God has been opening my mind to aspects of rest I have never before considered. Recently, He showed me that rest is relational.

When I think of rest, I think of curling up all by myself with a good book and no distractions. You see, I am an introvert. I love being with people, but social interaction typically drains my energy. I need to recharge after I spend time with people. How in the world can rest be relational?

Fortunately, God is a patient teacher. He is willing to prove His truths to me, even when I am skeptical.

Several weeks ago, my husband dropped me off at the airport for a weekend work retreat. I was about to spend three days at the beach with ten other amazing women, but all I could think of was the energy that would be required of me through the weekend. I went into it tired. How long would it take me to recover once it was all said and done?

I never expected to come away from that trip energized. Those ten women poured into me even as I poured into them. We respected one another’s needs, helped each other recharge, and lived out the beauty of Hebrews 3:13. We pooled our talents and passions, seeing productivity flow even out of our times of fun and relaxation. We rested together in ways we never could have done individually.

For the first time in my life, I saw that even introverts cannot experience the fullness of rest without support and encouragement from fellow believers. Rest really is relational.

Scripture supports this in a profound manner. Consider Psalm 23. This beloved passage wraps me in peace every time I read it. I have always thought of it as a personal passage, but recently I was confronted with a startling truth: David was a shepherd. He knew sheep. And, he knew that sheep do not do well at all on their own. They rest when they are surrounded by the safety of their flock and the protection of their shepherd.

We are God’s sheep. We need to draw upon the presence of one another, encouraging each other daily that we may truly find rest.

This article was originally published in the ABN.

Posted in Psalm 23, Thoughts from Scripture

I Shall Not Want

As I have prayed through several situations over the last week or so, I have found myself returning to Psalm 23. The thoughts from the first phrase continue to comfort me, but I have processed heavily through the rest of it as well. It is amazing that such a familiar passage can continue to come alive over and over again.

Two thoughts about I shall not want

1) I will lack or need nothing because God will provide. I neglect to keep this promise first and foremost in my heart and mind on so many occasions. I still fret and worry, allowing anxiety to dictate my prayers and behavior.

My first thought about provision naturally falls to my physical needs, but the idea of His provision extends so much further than what I will eat, drink, and wear. His provision also extends to:

  • Wisdom. I need guidance. I need help to know how to make certain decisions and interact with people. I shall not want covers those things, too. I will not lack for wisdom, knowledge, understanding, direction, or the answers I need when I need them.

  • Emotional peace. I cannot help but think of the song lyric, "Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer." I shall not want for that peace when I acknowledge the Lord as my Shepherd. Even when my heart is heavy with despair, I can know His miraculous peace in the middle of it!

  • Practical thoughts. This was a big one for me this past week as I had to work through some writing tasks. As I wracked my brain trying to come up with just the right words, God continually had to remind me that He provides every word if I will listen to Him!

2) I must determine in my heart and mind that I lack nothing! Oh how easy it is to convince myself that I must have this or do that. If I do not, then I am incomplete! I am lacking! I cannot possibly proceed with a productive life! Those are lies, plain and simple. I shall not want because I know that my Shepherd is enough. Following Him is enough. If my eyes are on Him, I know I lack nothing. Only when they stray do I see stuff that I think I must have.

I shall not want is both a promise that I will be provided for and a declaration that I will keep my eyes on the Shepherd, fully satisfied in Him as my provision. I choose to walk in that promise and declaration today!

Posted in Psalm 23, Thoughts from Scripture

The Lord is My Shepherd

One morning this week I found myself struggling to pray. My mind wandered to this and that, and my heart just could not stay settled. So, I began quoting the first Scripture passage that came to mind: Psalm 23. Only I didn’t get very far.

The Lord is my Shepherd…

Hmm, Lord, what does it mean that You are my Shepherd? I think it means that I should follow You. It means that my job is following and eating. You lead. You guide. You protect. You open and close the gates. I am to listen for Your voice and nourish myself as I exist in Your presence.

But, what about those wolves that linger about?

What about that other pasture we visited once?

What about the pastures You could take us to in the future?

What about these other sheep?

What about the sheep that should be here but aren’t?

I have a lot of questions, Lord. It seems that there are so many things that need to be solved. You are just leading us calmly. Do You see these issues? Do You think far enough ahead to get us to the next pasture at the right time? Do You remember how good the last pasture was? Don’t You think we should go back there? Oh, and do You see what he/she is doing! Oh my goodness! Are You really going to put up with that? Do You really know what’s going on?

But none of that is my business, is it? That is not my responsibility. You are my Shepherd. You are the Shepherd of each sheep around me. You know the dangers around us. You know the best place for each of us. Some of us needed to stay in the last pasture and some will go to the next field. But You know I am supposed to be right here.

You are my Shepherd. I am to cease striving and know the truth of who You are. If I obey, You will guide me right where I need to be. You will put me with the sheep with whom I need to interact. You will use me to draw in the sheep who as of yet have no fold.

Not only that, but as my Shepherd, You will provide my every need. I must not worry about the old pasture or a new pasture. You have placed me right here for a reason, and all I need will be provided by Your hand.

You are my Shepherd. The only question that remains is this: will I be the sheep I need to be?