Posted tagged ‘Psalm 23’

The Illusion of Being In Control

May 21, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      May 21, 2019

                           

It’s May 21 In Colorado Springs and we woke up to a foot of snow on the ground. It started in the early evening, but surely it would spew for a while and then cease! 

It hasn’t! School closures on May 21 for snow storms aren’t the norm around here, but my back is mumbling something to me this morning that may be a mixture of pain and profanity.

Carol and I were out in the backyard at 6 AM shaking slumping tree branches that look weighed down by the misery of it all. 

The longer I live the more I realize how much of life I’m not in control of. Late May snow storms are beyond me, as are sudden sicknesses, achy knees, and 7th Grade algebra. I suppose I could take algebra off that list if I studied it long enough…maybe not! But all the hand sanitizer, Vitamin C, and hand washing does not make me immune to a virus that comes on like gangbusters.

My friend, Ron McKinney, was looking forward to his daughter returning home yesterday from her first year at a Boston area college, but at the last moment Frontier Airlines changed her flight from Monday to Wednesday. Isn’t it interesting how we can plan something like a trip, vacation, or major purchase and a business, an institution, or the unpredictability of nature scratches out all of our ideas and itineraries?

Being in control is an allusion that we live by. That’s not to say that it’s futile for people to plan and prepare, but rather to not be surprised by the wrinkle in the schedule.

Athletes train and prepare to compete with excellence, but a blown-out knee can happen to the best of the best. 

I’ve had friends who have lived a healthy lifestyle and suddenly been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that seems to answer to no one.

I’ve had people in the congregations where I served as pastor- faithful people, people of prayer and spiritual disciplines, who have an intimate relationship with Jesus- suddenly encounter life tragedies that shake them to their cores.

I’ve seen investments in stocks that seemed sound suddenly go off the deep end because the main products of a company became obsolete. Think Eastman Kodak! Or the arrival of Amazon speeding the departure of Sears!

A foot of snow on May 21st! And the forecast of temperatures in the 70’s for the coming weekend! 

What I can trust in is the God I serve always being faithful, always loving, and always merciful. As I plowed through the snow this morning with hesitation and white knuckles, I was reminded of my Father God who navigates the way of life for me if I trust in him…if I allow him to be the one who is in control. 

Psalm 23 is probably the most familiar scripture selection in the Old Testament. It’s also a psalm of surrender and recognition. It tells of the Father who is like a shepherd, the one who leads, protects, and provides. The reoccurring theme, however, is that he is our Father God who is in control. 

What can a person do on May 21st when a foot of snow greets him as his garage door opens? Grab a shovel, get the Biofreeze ointment ready, and live with what is!

A Two Year Old’s Stairs Shepherd

April 9, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 9, 2017

                               

On Friday I had the opportunity to spend the day with my just-turned two year old granddaughter, Corin (Rennie). Her regular child care provider was battling a sickness so “Granddad” got called up from the Reserves to Active Duty.

About an hour into our time together I thought that I caught a whiff of something…potent! Time to change the diaper, so I said, “Rennie, let’s go change your diaper, okay?”

“Okay!” she replied, a sure sign of the fact that she had made a direct diaper deposit. She headed for the stairway leading to the upstairs, and proceeded up the steps…one step at a time like her brother on the playground monkey bars. I followed along behind ready to stop a tumble. My focus, although she didn’t know it, was on her.

A few minutes later, now wearing a dry diaper and the clothes for the day, she began going back down the steps…one step at a time. She would sit on a step and slowly slide her feet off of the step below it while also sliding her butt off the step she was sitting on.
I went before her! I positioned myself below her, but facing her, and made sure she safely came down the stairs one step at a time.

I’m speaking at church this morning about Psalm 23, the Lord is my shepherd! It tells us about the protection of God and the care of God. He is a Shepherd that goes before us, but also follows along behind us. In essence, he is always there for us.

Rennie is only slightly aware that her granddad is looking out for her, being in the place and position I need to be in order to make sure she is okay. I’m like the shepherd of the stairs for her!

My guess, however, is that she is more aware of my protection on the steps than I am of my Shepherd’s presence of protection! Today, at least, I’m going to seek to have a heightened awareness of what my Lord is doing, where my Shepherd is leading, and how my God is following!

The Hope In Suffering

October 24, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        October 24, 2016

                                     

    People say that I’m more of an optimist! I can see the silver lining in just about any situation. If a flight I’m on gets delayed I think about the fact that the flight attendants will probably give us an extra mini-bag of pretzels during the flight. When my 7th Grade football team got beat 42-2 in a game this year I replayed in my mind several times the play where we scored the two point safety.

So it fits that I’m able to still stay the optimistic course when it comes to suffering. A week ago my friend, Greg Davis, passed away. I led his funeral service on Saturday. During the course of the week I had some heart-wrenching conversations with his family. It had been a six year journey with cancer. Even in the midst of the grief Greg’s wife was able to say that they had come to experience the hope of God.

During the service I read Romans 15:13, a verse that Greg had underlined in is Bible. It reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In the journey with the uninvited passenger of cancer the Davis family discovered that God is hope. Granted that discovery was paved with a multitude of tears, countless moments of confusion, and a list of questions all beginning with why, but they slowly arrived at the village of Hope.

Greg’s journey paved the way for other conversations I had last week with other people about being a follower of Jesus and the uncomfortableness of suffering. Some tainted theology emerged from people’s minds. Simply put it said what is the use of following Christ if he doesn’t protect you from things like cancer. If Jesus isn’t a lucky charm warding off evil, accidents, and illnesses why follow him? Great revealing questions that evolve out of a person’s real motives, that being “What will Jesus do for me?” People are always more comfortable with Jesus as a savior, but Jesus as Lord is not nearly as agreeable.

What Greg and his wife Jordan discovered is that God walks closely beside us. Following Jesus is not like having a rabbit’s foot in my pocket, but rather knowing that he is with me in the valleys, not waiting for me on the far side of the valley. It’s knowing in the depths of my soul the truth of that verse in Psalm 23, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

     Times of suffering are a part of life as much as times of delight. The hope comes in knowing that the love of God is constant and pure, a mighty shoulder to cry on and a hand to lead me on. The only person who enjoys pain and suffering is a masochist, but when the agony of life makes a stop on the front steps of where I live it gives me a peaceful assurance knowing that the Good Shepherd is standing beside me as I open that door. And that isn’t optimism, but rather heart-felt belief!

The Silence of Sunday

August 7, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           August 7, 2016

                                    

When I was pastoring one of the favorite times of the week would come on Sunday morning for about an hour and a half before anyone else arrived at church. I’d be the only one in the building and the quiet of those moments would prepare me for the next few hours of preaching, teaching, and pastoring.

The quiet was nourishment for my soul.

The phrase in Psalm 23 that always seems to speak to me greatly is where the Psalmist says “He leads me beside quiet waters; he restores my soul.” Quiet waters…soothing rain…peaceful thunder storms…silent snow. For me it seems that I associate many of life’s most peaceful moments in the “quiet waters” of life.

This morning my physical body is still “feeling the noise” of spending yesterday with our three grandkids. Quiet moments kept their distance from us. Our grandkids seem to feel comfortable enough with us to use their loud voices…all the time! The two older grandkids frolicked in the turbulent waters of our hot tub. The youngest granddaughter, who is sixteen months old, delighted me with her actions and words, and yet her endless energy left me exhausted. This morning quiet waters sound very appealing. Therapeutic waters for an aching lower back sound pretty good, also!

It seems that we live in a world that doesn’t appreciate silence, a culture that doesn’t see value in quiet. We’re addicted to noise. We’ve fallen to the deception that noise means life.     Sometimes noise is used to block out noise. I’m writing this while sitting in Starbucks with ear buds firmly inserted listening to music, in order to block out the noise of Starbucks. Weird, huh?

Quiet is disturbing to many of us. Strange that “disturbing the peace” usually is the result of excessive noise. The silence of a moment is the probe into my soul.

If you look in scripture you’ll find that silence is usually a part of someone’s encounter with the holiness of God, or the judgment of God. It’s like the boot camp buck private standing before the drill sergeant. No words are needed; in fact, no words better even be said! It is the realization for the private of who he is.

The silent moments of scripture are deafening experiences.

Quiet waters and deafening silence.

“Lord, lead me today beside quiet waters. When my life is speaking too much and listening too little, silence my spirit to get my attention back on what you are saying! Amen.”

The Deaths of Two

December 22, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     December 21, 2015

                                           

This past week has been a time of death. That may sound morbid and dark, but it is the reality of the blessing of lives lived and dreams unfinished.

One death was of our church’s former pastor, a man who impacted many lives and dealt with a number of health difficulties, although the seeds for his death may have come as a result of an accident a few months ago. Regardless, death came… and took… and left confusion behind. Grandchildren were left wondering. Friends recalled shared events, conversations had, camping trips taken.

There was sadness, and yet understanding.

The second death was of a sixteen year old young man. It was most unexpected and hard to accept. Death does not discriminate between ages. Although it mostly accompanies the elderly to the next life, sometimes it chooses a different partner that takes the breath away from those left behind.

Death seems to be especially hard at Christmas time, and, unfortunately, more frequent. Our own family views Christmas a little differently now since my father-in-law passed away on Christmas Day nine years ago. In the midst of our kids and grandkids and son-in-laws there is still a whisper of loss as we remember Christmases past.

The family of the sixteen year old are being supported by numerous friends and family as they walk through this, but there are deep wounds inside them that will take lifetimes to heal. Death is like that. It comes and stays. Even when we try to shove it into the attics of our memories it knocks on the ceilings of our hearts to remind us that something…or someone is missing.

The walk through the valley that is overshadowed by death (Psalm 23:4) takes on new meaning as people struggle on.

Our hope is in the last part of Psalm 23:4. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.” 

Although very few of us are comfortable with death, we can take comfort in knowing who walks with us.