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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 23’

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Peering beneath the edge of the steel frame where the carpet and dark space intersect, I imagined all sorts of evil lurking in the five inches of space beneath the mattress and covers.  Nibbling at the edge of a fingernail, I shifted from side to side considering my options. The risks? Certain punishment if I refused to quickly locate myself beneath the warmth of sleep-inducing blankets or—to my impressionable mind—possible capture by whatever monster or boogie man lurked beneath the confines of a seemingly innocent piece of furniture.

At the tender age of four or five, Shadow had become a thing of nightmares and illusory power.

Too often, though, it seems our fear of Shadow follows us into adulthood. While disguised in more grown-up form, we still tremble at its existence and our thoughts are filled with untrue or unfulfilled imagery that leads us from a place of comfort into the obscure illusion of “What If?”

The “What If’s” come in many shapes and may be different for each of us.

What if…my husband leaves me?

 What if…my child dies?

 What if…I’m really never happy?

 What if…this wound refuses to heal?

 What if? What if? What if?

 Oh, dear One, the Shadow of What If is—and always has been—a robber of joy and imitator of truth designed to obscure the Light of Hope. We fight each dark pursuer—out of breath and in need of relief. Somehow, we’re certain a jab or swing in the Shadow’s direction will ensure some sort of relief. So we listen to Oprah…read books by Dr. Oz…try the newest diet trend…anything to help us battle the dark, elusive threat that is our greatest Fear.

But in so much of the struggle we rely on ourselves—forgetting the promises of scripture. Psalm 23 reminds us that even when we’re surrounded by a darkness so deep it casts death’s shadow, He is there! Even in the most frightening of times or the loneliest moments he guides…protects…comforts. He is the one who will manage our struggles and wage our battles.

Our futile attempts at Shadow boxing can cease. No more useless jabbing or dodging. Let’s give the battle to the Champion of hearts and souls—the giver of life, conqueror of death, and victor over sin and its effects.

 Suggested Scripture and Questions for Reflection

Read Psalm 23.

What dark valleys has God guided you through already? If your journey is taking you through a place filled with Shadows are you relying upon the Shepherd—or self? I know I struggle with this–vacillating back and forth.

As a gentle reminder to yourself about God’s abounding faithfulness and protection, reread Psalm 23. This time, replace each “me” with your name and “my” with the pronoun “her”.

A David Psalm (MSG)

23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

 

Linking up today with–

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The place name dogged me all week–my thoughts returning again and again to the words of John 18:5.THE NEW YOU

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. (NIV)

Familiar with the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, I knew of the events preceding the crucifixion. The humble Creator stooping over the dirt-encrusted feet of His disciples and cleansing them of Jerusalem’s desert sand—the actions of a servant. Christ—breaking bread in the presence of beloved companions and a friend turned foe.

But until a few days ago, my eyes seemed to pass by any mention of Kidron Valley. What could be its significance? Why hadn’t I noticed before? Jesus walked purposely through the Valley of the Shadow of Death to reach the Garden.

The symbolism is too rich to ignore. Kidron Valley, meaning black or sad, was a burial site to Jewish kings, priests, and prophets encased in tombs along the rocky slopes. And today? Thousands of limestone coffins stand end to end—the bodies of Jewish hopefuls awaiting deliverance through the long-awaited Messiah.

I can almost imagine Jesus surveying the valley and its surroundings. There, high on the slope, He could make out the southeastern edge of the Temple. How many hours had He spent within its walls proclaiming the truth? Inhaling deeply as He passed by a stand of olive trees, Christ might have swept His gaze to the far edges of the landscape and noticed the Mount of Olives. Did His stride quicken as He anticipated ascending into Heaven from that hill—the Father’s call beckoning Him home?

Determined, Jesus continued on as the dark valley rose sharply on either side–evening shadows deepening. He knew the history of the place—He’d seen it clearly from Heaven’s throne room. Christ knew of the treachery encased between the walls of this gorge—when the Chosen Ones had displayed worthless idols here. The people turning away from I Am not once…not twice…but three times. (1 Kings 15: 12-13, 2 Kings 23:6, 2 Chronicles 19:16).

Jesus knew—they would again turn from the Way and choose another.

And soon, the blood of hundreds of thousands of lambs would spill into the wadi, filling the valley with the scent of death; innocent blood staining its walls. The disciples might have noticed a look of satisfaction cross Jesus’ face as He considered the near future—that moment when His own, untarnished blood would pour out for all sin and sinners. Once for all—if they would only accept His gift. The perfect Lamb. The ultimate Sacrifice. The exchange of the Sinless for you and me.

Each step Jesus took in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, friends, brought us closer to Him. Because of His death and resurrection, we can claim the beautiful promise of Ps. 23,

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (NIV)

 

 Thank you, Jesus, for walking the dark valley of sin that we might be the sinless ones. Praise God for His mercy and overwhelming love. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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woman-570883_1920I vividly remember standing beneath the wooden doorframe of my bedroom–terrified of the imagined evil lurking in the five inches of space beneath mattress and covers. I stood motionless…weighing the options. The risks? Certain punishment if I refused to quickly locate myself beneath the warmth of sleep-inducing blankets or—to my impressionable mind—possible capture by whatever monster or boogie man lurked beneath the confines of a seemingly innocent piece of furniture.

At the tender age of four or five, Shadow had become a thing of nightmares and illusory power.

Too often, though, it seems our fear of Shadow follows us into adulthood. While disguised in more grown-up form, we still tremble at its existence and our thoughts are filled with untrue or unfulfilled imagery that leads us from a place of comfort into the obscure illusion of “What If?”

The “What If’s” come in many shapes and may be different for each of us.

What if…my husband leaves me?

 What if…my child dies?

 What if…I’m really never happy?

 What if…this wound refuses to heal?

 What if? What if? What if?

 

Oh, dear One, the Shadow of What If is—and always has been—a robber of joy and imitator of truth designed to obscure the Light of Hope. We fight each dark pursuer—out of breath and in need of relief. Somehow, we’re certain a jab or swing in the Shadow’s direction will ensure some sort of relief. So we listen to Oprah…read books by Dr. Oz…try the newest diet trend…anything to help us battle the dark, elusive threat that is our greatest Fear.

But in so much of the struggle we rely on ourselves—forgetting the promises of scripture. Psalm 23 reminds us that even when we’re surrounded by a darkness so deep it casts death’s shadow, He is there! Even in the most frightening of times or the loneliest moments he guides…protects…comforts. He is the one who will manage our struggles and wage our battles.

Our futile attempts at Shadow boxing can cease. No more useless jabbing or dodging. Let’s give the battle to the Champion of hearts and souls—the giver of life, conqueror of death, and victor over sin and its effects.

 Suggested Scripture and Questions for Reflection

Read Psalm 23.

What dark valleys has God guided you through already? If your journey is taking you through a place filled with Shadows are you relying upon the Shepherd—or self? I know I struggle with this–vacillating back and forth.

As a gentle reminder to yourself about God’s abounding faithfulness and protection, reread Psalm 23. This time, replace each “me” with your name and “my” with the pronoun “her”.

A David Psalm (MSG)

23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

 

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imagePerched atop a weather worn balcony, my gaze sweeps the views afforded by the Arkansas River valley.  Surrounded on every side by mountains, the prairie splays wide between–a broad swath of sun kissed grasses and gray-green sagebrush.  Barbed wire fences zig zag across the landscape and disappear somewhere in the distance where plains and mountains merge.  And the rush of the river below creates a duet with the black capped chickadees darting from one pine branch to another.

I pause…inhaling the calm of this place–a welcome respite from the clamoring sounds of suburbia.

 

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I’m struck by the river as it hurries by–always moving toward something unknown…the promise of what lies around the next bend luring it away from the beauty of its here and now.  And in its incessant winding and wending, I wonder if the river ever pauses long enough just to notice.

But maybe it’s my life I’m really considering–how quickly time moves and twenty years young suddenly becomes forty and now I am my parents while my children have become me.  And like ripples across the river’s surface, my face has begun to wear life’s lines and the days rush by.

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I wonder… In all of the busyness–does my life make a difference?  I pray that even in my smallness God will show Himself large…that these worn mother’s hands will willingly do the work of laundry and dishes and tucking into bed with the tenderness of  the Heavenly Father and that simple words shared on a page will remind you, dear Friend, that the Word is eternal.  He stands strong in the rushing waters–even walks on them–with his hands extended toward you.

No matter how rapid the current and despite the busyness flooding our lives, let’s hold onto the one who leads us beside still waters. (Psalm 23)

 

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 A friend recently told me I was trying too hard to be the perfect Christian mother.  We REALLY need to get to know each other on a deeper level.  She would never have made such a misguided comment if she had witnessed some of my more recent failings and faux pas.  Consider the challenge of spiritual growth.

As a mother of four children it can be difficult to establish a regular devotional time.  First, there is the concentration issue.  All mothers know a nursing baby can be demanding.  In fact, I’m awake so much at night I could hold my own candlelight service!  Unfortunately, because my eyes cross at any attempt to read Psalm 23 (you know, the one that soothes frayed nerves with the verse “He market me to lie down in green pastures”) and drool leaves a permanent wet spot on the Bopp pillow during our nightly nursing sessions—not from the baby, but her mother—I have recognized that 3 a.m. is not the best time for me to memorize Old Testament genealogies.

Another problem is that reading the Baby Bible Book to my two-year old after bath time probably doesn’t qualify as an in-depth Bible study.  It’s true I can deftly perform a perky finger play about most of the major Bible heroes, but I haven’t yet learned about the transfiguration or the implications of free-will versus predestination.

One of the greatest challenges is finding a few solitary moments to thoughtfully meditate on God’s word.  Many times, I will have managed to tuck the two little ones snuggly in their cribs for naps.  I surreptitiously grab my Bible and sneak off to a quiet spot (usually the bathtub where I slink down and draw the curtain in hopes I won’t be discovered) when I hear the tell-tale sounds of my two older boys scuffling and rolling about the living room floor.  I vault from the confines of my hide-away to discover that Ben, my first-born, has his younger brother in a scissors lock rivaled only by the best of the best in WWF wrestling.  Yes, I may have just read about “a gentle and quiet spirit”, but surely God didn’t expect for me to exemplify that sweet demeanor when my children have turned the sofa over on its side as their ring-side boundary.

At face value, this glimpse into my family life may not seem to offer much.    Like many other women, I am just a busy mom who loves her Lord.  But, there are three spiritual survival skills imbedded within this story.

 Matters of the Heart

God commanded Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”   This passage sets a pattern that helps believers relate the Word of God to our daily lives.  We are to love God, think constantly about his commandments, teach his commandments to our children, and live each day by the guidelines in His Word.  God emphasized the importance of parents’ teaching the Bible to their children because eternal truths are most effectively learned in the loving environment of a God-fearing home.’ Life Application Bible, 291

 Hide and Seek

              While it is possible other women don’t resort to hiding in the bathtub in order to study the scripture, the concept of hiding away is an important one.  It can be a challenge to make time for God when your day is full of diapering, disinfecting, and various other pressing duties.    But, in order to develop the heart relationship just mentioned, it’s a necessity.  As one fellow Christian put it, “Every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed alone with God.  Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!”

Super steward vs. Supermom

Society promotes the idea that a mom should have it all together.  She should, in fact, be Supermom.   Assuming such a role is prideful because it removes Christ from the position He should maintain in our lives. He is to be a mother’s strength.   Children belong to Christ while a parent is only a steward—meant to tend and guard God’s precious treasure.  There will be times in mothering that we are overwhelmed, unsure, or even frightened. But, remember the Lord is the Abba Father. He will calm our hearts as we claim the verses from Philippians that counsel with the words, “The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

So find your quiet place, friends—bathtub, closet, or coffee shop.  Your Strength and Wisdom waits for you there.

Recommended Books for Busy Moms

http://www.amazon.com/Real-Moms-Real-Jesus-Friend-Understands/dp/0802483615/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345775204&sr=1-3&keywords=devotionals+for+moms

http://www.amazon.com/Mom-After-Gods-Heart-Devotional/dp/0736947590/ref=sr_1_21?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345775347&sr=1-21&keywords=devotionals+for+moms

http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Care-Me-Mommy-Becoming/dp/B000O3S39S/ref=sr_1_35?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345775395&sr=1-35&keywords=devotionals+for+moms

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