“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
Arriving at hospital in labour, my preferred Obstetrician was not rostered on. But then as I was being admitted I heard her cheery hello and she walked into my room. She had just popped into the hospital to check on a patient and had learnt I was there. The next thing I knew she was scrubbing up to assist with the delivery.
Coincidence? I’d say actually orchestrated by a loving God! One of my lasting memories of the birth of our baby with the complications that ensued, is of her bright smile and encouragement that my baby would be okay. In the midst of the busyness that is the operating theatre this Doctor gave me courage and hope. God knew what was before me and prepared the way with someone who was looking out for me.
We often quote Jeremiah 29:11 when we’re thinking about our future – ” “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ” It’s a great Scripture to hold onto especially in times of worry and concern over our future. Often though we hold onto it for those events that are weeks, months and even years down the track. But it also holds true for our very next moment, the next minute. God is always watching over us, taking care of us. He has plans to prosper us or in other words to give us peace in our daily lives.
God knew what I would be faced with in that Delivery Room and His love shone through a Doctor who gave up her Saturday night to be there for me. And one whose smile and encouragement brought grace and peace into the room.
I can therefore declare that “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
Fighting a migraine for several days and I was left exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I commented to my husband that it’s at these times that my mind is not kind to me. Thoughts of failure, guilt, discouragement seem to assail me and I have little energy to fight them away. I am vulnerable, tears come readily. Feeling like myself again seems elusive.
But then I remembered the words from the oh so well known Psalm 23 – “He restores my soul.”
“He restores my soul.” The literal translation is that God causes my life to return. To restore is to replenish, to return to its original state. Restoring my soul means that God gives the enjoyment of life back to me. My troubled, exhausted and wearied spirit is refreshed and filled with new joy. My mind is restored to its equilibrium. My soul can be and is restored by God.
How? The key lies in the first part of the verse – “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters…”
Ah soul – find rest and peace with God. He’s in control and finds us the still waters, the green pastures.
The Lord is my pace-setter, I shall not rush
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals;
He provides me with images of stillness,
Which restore my serenity.
He leasds me in the way of efficiency
through calmness of mind and His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day.
I will not fret
For His presence is here
His timelessness, His all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment, His all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of activity
by annointing my mind with His oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours.
I shall walk in the pace of our Lord and dwell in His house forever.
(A paraphrase of Psalm 23 by Japanese Poet Toki Miyashin)
“The Pause that refreshes“. A marketing slogan for Coca-Cola in the 1920’s with wisdom for us in 2015. In the busyness of our days we should apply the same. Not so much the reaching for the carbonated soft drink but the pausing – the taking time, taking moments to pause, to let our soul breathe.
Maybe, just maybe it’s as simple as pausing and listening to the birds when collecting the mail. Maybe in the rush of the morning it’s taking your littlest for a coffee for you and a gingerbread man for him before his preschool starts. Or it’s actually drinking the cup of tea that you brewed instead of allowing it to go cold as you send that important email or put on the next load of washing right then and there. Perhaps it’s allowing yourself a few moments to just sit in the sun.
Learning to pause allows space to be, to breathe. Wayne Muller in his book “Sabbath” writes about a South American Tribe that would go on a march that would last days, when all of a sudden they would stop walking, sit down and rest for a couple of days. Their explanation – “they needed the time of rest so that their souls could catch up with them.”
Has you life been marching for too long without a rest? A pause? An opportunity for refreshment? The taking of time so perhaps a soul can catch up?
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.”
21st Century life is the busy life. The making most of every moment. Expectations are high and sometimes relentless. Work is demanding. We try and cram as much life as possible into our lives. We add in alarm clocks and other devices to schedule our way to a fulfilled life. We can’t stop, sometimes won’t stop and we forget to slow down. We find it hard to schedule in rest across our days, weeks and months even.
Yet Jesus sees us pouring out, anxious to meet the myriad of expectations that come our way. He sees our hard efforts at work. He sees the countless times we are up to sick children, our helping out friends in need. He sees our serving in our churches and communities. And He has compassion and love for us.
And so, in amongst our busyness Jesus calls to us. Out of love and out of care, He says come with me and rest. We see that demonstrated by His concern for His disciples, when He would allow them to pull back from the multitude of people in need and rest.
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” ” (Mark 6:30-31)
If there is one thing we all need to add to our schedules, it is intentional rest. To have the deterimination to make space in our calendars for us to pause and be still. But the rest that Jesus calls us to is not just a rest doing nothing but rather one that beckons us to refocus our hearts, quiet our minds and enjoy the presence of God. It is a rest that allows space for God to restore our souls so we can embrace life with all that is in it.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3)
“Life is loud. You need to search out the quiet.” (Holly Gerth)
Life is noisy! It’s busy and it’s fast. There’s always something to be done, people to see, places to go. But in the rush of 21st Century living we need to learn to search out the quiet. We need to give our souls the opportunity to breathe. To find the peace, to find the rest and embrace it.
It is in the quiet places that we can hear the tenderest of whispers from God. It is in the quiet that we learn that life is more about being than doing. In the stillness we discover afresh that God’s love for us is for who we are not what we do. It is in the quiet that our soul finds rest. And it is God’s intention that in our daily lives we would find it.
It says in Psalm 23 that “He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Or as the Message Bible puts it “You let me catch my breath.” God wants us to pause, to rest. To relax into His protection and comfort.
In the quiet our soul is restored.
“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalm 116:7)
Sitting here now at my desk I can hear a plane flying overhead, the hum of the dishwasher. If I incline my ear though I can hear the birds outside, the rustling of the wind through the trees and the wind itself. And as I continue to pause, to embrace the quiet I become aware of the Presence of the Lord around me. And I know “surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)
It is in the quiet that our soul finds its equilibrium again – it finds its rest in God.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God” (Psalm 62:5)