He Restores My Soul

   Searching His Word

     Seeking His Heart

(David, the Shepherd) did for the sheep what they couldn’t do for themselves. Having the luxury to lie down in green pastures was one of those things. When one pasture had been well used, that meant moving on to another area. The shepherd sought out and led them on to good grazing land.

When our son was about a year old, we put him outside on a blanket with his toys. We were assured that he wouldn’t leave the blanket because he did NOT like the grass. The feel of it, I guess. He would make his way over to it, but as soon as he touched the prickly stuff, he made a face and moved quickly back to the middle of the blanket.

Not so with sheep. They walk in it, lay in it, and eat it—preferably green grass of course. To lay down means they are perfectly at ease, trusting the care of the shepherd to provide.

When it comes to water, some sheep are very finicky. If the water is a fast-moving stream, it will often scare the sheep. At times, a shepherd will cup his hands in the water to form a still “bowl” of water, or better yet, lead the sheep to a level area where the water forms a quiet pool rather than a flowing stream.

So, we see how the shepherd works and cares.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still [quiet] waters, he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

He restores my soul. Ah, can anything be better than these beautiful words? Being restored. Soul-deep restored.

I’ve decided that’s a phrase I want to hang on to. These are words to whisper to the Lord as you move through a good day or a hectic week. “Thank you, Lord, for restoring my soul.” Or “Help me, Lord, restore my soul.”

I had no more than written this blog when a few days later we had to take my mother to the hospital. On the way, I thought of my words of wisdom to you. So I whispered to God, “Restore my soul.”

The next day, there was talk of possibly doing a colonoscopy to find the source of her bleeding. A colonoscopy for a 95 year old? What a decision. I fretted over it and then decided to just put it in the great shepherd’s hands. I slept well and searched for what answers He would give the next day.

I had a text discouraging me to consider it. Later, a different doctor in the practice came in to discourage the thought of a colonoscopy. The Lord provided.

He often does things like that, restoring our souls with underlines. Whisper those words today.

~ Joyce ~

 

David, the Shepherd

   Searching His Word

     Seeking His Heart

As promised, we will explore the 23rd Psalm. It need not be read strictly at funerals, though that is appropriate, it can be a wonderful encouragement at any time. 

Looking back at many of the early psalms, they read like prayers from David to his heavenly Father, prayers of praise.

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. Psalm 9:1

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:1

I love you, O Lord. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. Psalm 18:1-2

Prayers of petition.

Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea: listen to my cry. Psalm 17:1

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. Psalm 16:1

Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Psalm 5:1

Do you hear the intimacy, the pathos, the relationship in just these few words? Where did he learn that? I believe it was in those quiet, alone times on the hillside.

Remember, before David slew Goliath, before David was a mighty warrior, before he ran for months in hiding from crazy Saul, and before he came King of Israel, David was a shepherd boy.

He learned the skill of a sharp shooter with his sling; he learned the bravery of facing off with a lion, he learned the wisdom of protecting his flock in the grazing areas. He worked hard caring for his sheep. He knew how totally dependent they were on his leadership and care.

In the afternoon as the sheep rested and at night once he had cared for and secured them in the sheep pen, David could relax in solitude. I believe it was in these precious moments that his mind turned to the Lord. Perhaps he played tunes on his shepherd harp and made up words to sing with the tunes. I believe he talked out loud to the Lord, words that came from the heart.

At some point it hit him, the Lord is my shepherd. He cares for me like I care for my flock.

So, this time, the song wasn’t a prayer to God, it was song about God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want [or in need.] He makes me lie down in green pastures. Psalm 23:1-2

I think that’s why the Lord carried me away to those ancient green pastures last week. (Strength from the Pasture) He wanted me to have a quiet time in the pasture to remember that He is perfectly capable of taking care of all my needs. “Rest in me,” He says. “You don’t have to do it alone.”

Or as David learned to pray, “You are my refuge and strength, O Lord.”

I hope you will have some “pasture time” this week so that He might restore your soul.

~ Joyce ~

Strength from the Pasture

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Do you have those days when you are bone tired? You feel exhausted. The to-do list just keeps getting longer.

In retrospect, I look back on my life and it seems that’s the way it has been for as long as I can remember. If I can just get through this unit of study, then I can breathe again. If we can just get through the terrible twos… Once this program is over… As soon as this event is past… There always seems to be that “next thing” looming ahead.

(I’ve been in the process of preparing to move my mother to her new memory care home this past Monday. It has been exhausting, physically and emotionally.)

Then there are those ongoing tasks with extras added, and you come home and collapse under the weight of it all. That’s where I was last week. Surely I’m not the only one who goes through these phases.

I sat down in my recliner, pushed back and was too tired even to cry.

I thought about all those powerful words Sarah Young pours over me every morning in her daily devotional book, “Jesus Calling.” I pondered the encouraging words I write to you week by week and think, “Where is your strength, Joyce?”

About that time, the Lord brought to my mind a beautiful pastoral setting. I was on a grassy hill, sitting beside David, looking out at grazing sheep. David reminded me that, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. I have no need to be stressed and filled with anxiety. I have no need to want for anything. 

In my imagining, I looked over to see a stream of water running steadily over a rocky ravine, gurgling gently as it flowed. The sheep settled in, one by one, for their afternoon naps, completely given over to the care of their shepherd. David whispered to me, “The Lord is my shepherd.” 

I closed my eyes in my recliner and smiled. Yes, He’s my good shepherd, too.

I guess you know that next week, we’ll have a look at Psalm 23.

Sweet grazing my friends.

~ Joyce ~

Walking by Faith

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We left the disciples listening to Jesus as he told them to Go Out Two by Two with a Hefty Task

Wouldn’t you  love to follow along with one of these pairs to see how they fared in this challenging venture? They carried virtually nothing with them, walking only by faith.

I’m at this point in the manuscript for my third book, this one about the disciple, Matthew. I’m creating possible scenarios of what Matthew and Thomas may have encountered in their time out as missionaries.

As they enter the first town, they face the first challenge—”Find a worthy person with whom you can stay.” One sign of a good Jew would be one who welcomes strangers.

Once they settle in for the night, they likely begin wondering what the next day will bring. Will they find people receptive to their message? What will they say when they preach and teach? Perhaps they will remember what Jesus said to them,

…do not worry what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:19-20

I can’t say this always happens, but there are times when I’m preparing to speak to a group and realize the weight of doing so. I plead for God to give the words as I prepare. It is wonderful then, when I sense the Spirit moving in me, giving words I hadn’t even planned and receptive faces I hadn’t anticipated.

Imagine Matthew’s thrill when facing the first group of people and telling them the things that Jesus had taught, perhaps even in the way he taught. Did he make up his own parables to get across a point? Maybe something he saw nearby, or on the hillside, or a tool in someone’s hand. Was he amazed at how the words seemed to flow out of his mouth just as Jesus promised?

I try to envision what it was like at his first healing. How humbling to be the instrument through which the Holy Spirit worked. Oh the thrill of feeling God’s healing power surging through him to the wounded body or soul of another person.

While Matthew and Thomas found worthy persons who would take them in, Jesus warned that they would also encounter antagonistic situations where they had to shake the dust off their feet as they left town. The visual sign or custom for this was to take off their sandals and clap them together signifying that the dust (or the relationship) has been dusted away. 

No, they could not have imagined all that would happen to them in this mission effort. We, too, are sent out day by day to share our faith with our attitudes, our comments, and our hearts. We never know what our influence might mean in the timing of another person’s life.  

As Paul said,

We walk by faith not by sight. I Corinthians 5:7

~ Joyce ~

 

A Hefty Task

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we thought about the huge task Jesus gave his disciples to Go out Two by Two. They were to carry the message from Jesus, about Jesus—”The kingdom of heaven is near.”

Jesus empowered them to heal just as he had. They were to take virtually nothing with them. In other words, depend on the Lord to guide.

If we could look into their minds, I wonder what they were thinking. Maybe (selfishly or practically) they wondered, but where do we stay? What do we eat? Perhaps that’s why he said,

Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave… If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. Matthew 10:11, 14

He’s telling them, the Lord will provide. But if there is no receptivity, move on to the next town.

They are warned,

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16

This will not be a picnic. It could be dangerous. Evidently they are going to places where the word had not been planted. (It brings to mind trying to preach at liberal college campuses.) Shrewd, but innocent, a hefty task.

Once again, we see how these followers are going to have to learn dependence on the Lord to have wisdom and discernment. It means leaning rather than worrying. It means putting concerns at the feet of the Master instead of trying to bundle them up in your arms dragging them around with that heavy load.

We all have our heavy loads at times. Huffing and puffing under the weight of it. Worrying about it when we go to bed. Thinking about it again when we wake up. Lugging it around through the day.

On a personal note, we have decided to move my 95 year-old mother to different memory facility. I have to confess that I’m still carrying that load of worry. Will she adjust? Will the helpers treat her with love and respect? Did we make the right decision?

I must follow Paul’s advice to—

…be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is… Romans 12:2

It is a struggle to pray for wisdom and discernment, follow through, then test and approve his will. Hefty tasks indeed.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Go Out Two by Two

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Have you ever thought about how the twelve disciples might have reacted when Jesus said he was sending them out two by two? Evidently Jesus decided the time had come for his men to put into practice what they had learned from him.

They had watched Him heal, teach, preach, and interact with the people. They heard his illustrations (parables) to fit with many situations—sheep examples when shepherds were in the crowd; potter illustrations, rich men/poor men stories, or parables about lost things.

Now Jesus wanted his disciples to put their observations into action. Not only that, He said,

Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew 10:5-6

In other words, start where you are, begin with your own people, the ones you can best understand. In good time, the disciples will be told to go to the ends of the earth, but for now, going to their fellow Jews would be a good starting point.

What’s the message?

               

As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 10:7

The disciples had been with Jesus for sometime now. They realized that being with Him was like being near God’s own heaven because He was the Son of the Father. They must mimic the Son and tell people in the towns about Him.

He empowered them to do things only He had been able to do.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

Whoa, that’s a tall order! Up to this time we have no mention of the disciples doing any kind of healing. Not only that…

Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no extra bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. Matthew 10:9-10

In other words, “Learn dependence!”

This hits close to home for me. I’m feeling the need to move my mother to a different memory care facility. She’s been very unhappy were she is, but to make a move at 95 is traumatic and takes a lot out of a person with dementia. On the other hand, I want her to be content. Do I move her or not?

I have had to be very diligent in prayer this week, seeking  the Lord’s leadership. To put it bluntly—trusting. Learning yet again to be dependent on Him. I have had to call up one of my life verses.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Learning dependence on the Lord became an essential life lesson  for the disciples. We’ll follow them again next week and see how it goes.

~ Joyce ~

 

Gentle Communication

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Recently, I sat at a group table among many other table groups. Our goal—to discuss a certain matter and share opinions and ideas.

I had rather strong opinions about the matter and felt that the presentation was directed in an opposing view to mine. I say this to somewhat justify my reactions, but I have to confess that, in retrospect, I did not particular follow the lesson of Proverbs 15:1—

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

It wasn’t so much that I used harsh words. I stated my opinions with what I believed to be the teachings according to Scripture, but I’m not sure how gently it was received by those who disagreed.

It is said that 35% of our communication skills are in the words we say, but 65% in the way we say them. I think I was feeling pushed in a direction I did not want to go. Hurt people will hurt people. That certainly was not my intention, but I wonder in retrospect if it was indeed what I was doing. Paul encourages us to…

Speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15

I think I was speaking out of resentment, not love. I’m generally mild-mannered, but I know I can get pretty tenacious on certain principles at times.

We communicate with so many people in a plethora of situations throughout our week. Sometimes our communications are determined by how we feel physically: tired, sore, aching, rested, or energized.

Communications are also colored by our emotions: happy, at peace, silly, disagreeable, threatened, hurt, or discounted.

Again I turn to Paul’s advice.

Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to every person. Colossians 4:6

Salt seasons. It makes food tastier. It preserves. One can certainly apply that to communication. A little catch phrase I often hear is; be firm, fair, and friendly.

Well, friends, there you have it, my confessions for the day. Perhaps it will help you to consider how you’re communicating this week. Are your answers gentle? Spoken in love? Full of grace and seasoned with tasty, preserving salt? Let’s all work on it!

~ Joyce ~

Sowing Seeds

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I’ve had sowing seeds on my mind since the blog two week’s ago when Jesus talked of sowing and reaping. (4 – A Teachable Moment.)

I ran into an old friend at a funeral home the other day. He asked me about my writing and my books which then prompted him to tell me about a writers’ group he had started. He wondered if I could speak to his group sometime.

He shared something of the nature of the group and their goals. I told him I’d be glad to speak to the group.

He said one reason for starting this group was to find people who would have a common interest and enjoy being together. But the underlying goal was to develop enough trust in the members that he could begin sharing his faith. I thought, “Wow!”

Then he said he had another group of men who like to fish and he had formed a fishing group of sorts—with the same goal in mind—to sow seeds and reap believers. Double Wow!

Then this week, we were at a 50th wedding celebration and sat with a bubbly woman we knew and her quiet husband. She mentioned, in passing, that he had had two heart attacks. When she had to leave for a phone call, I tried to engage this quiet man in conversation.

I asked how his health was now and he said he was back to playing senior men’s baseball since his surgery five years ago.

That opened up a flow of stories from this quiet retired preacher. He’s in two or three leagues that play several times a week. Many don’t know the Lord. He feels like this is his new ministry in retirement. He plays with them, gets to know them, and they trust him. This leads the way for witnessing opportunities and several have come to the Lord through this man’s care.

These are unique ways of engaging people in things they love and sharing the love of God with them. It occurred to me that, while starting these marvelous ministry groups is wonderful, some people can’t add one more thing to their plate. But wouldn’t it be great to have that same ministry outlook with the groups of people in which we’re already engaged?

As Jesus told the disciples in our thoughts about sowing and reaping…

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35

As we have just celebrated Easter, what pleasing goals these would be to the Christ of the cross who paid it all for us.

~ Joyce ~

The Hope of Spring

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

On the way to our subdivision, trees line the road and, in many places, form an arch over you—lush and green in the summer. But in winter, the dark, bare limbs reach out with eerie arms against cloudy skies. It seems all life is gone out of them.

We bear the cold winds and the dismal colors, believing full well that Spring will come. We’ve seen it over and over every year, so we have confident hope it will come again.

Sure enough, the weather gets warmer, the first daffodils bloom, and we know that Spring is coming. Soon, the forsythia waves its yellow arms at us.

Then, just as the daffodils begin to fade, the dainty weeping cherry bushes sprout their pink blooms. Suddenly pear trees and cherry trees join the pink and white display along with new lime-green  growth on trees and bushes.

Slowly leafy growth moves up the taller trees, then the red bud trees dress in their purplely-pink accents. It is glorious! The hope of life has come. Likewise…

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior! Waiting the coming day, Jesus, my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus, my Savior! Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus, my Lord!

Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus, my Savior! He tore the bars away, Jesus, my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;

He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with His saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

How wonderful that we had a late Easter this year—just in time to put us right in the most beautiful Spring ever.

For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies,

For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies:

Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise.

A blessed Easter Resurrection Day to you all.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

4 – A Teachable Moment

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Tucked between Jesus’ discussion with the woman of Samaria (2 – The Woman at the Well) and her witness to the townspeople (3 – She Spreads the Word!), Jesus senses the disciples’ response to the woman and takes advantage of a teachable moment. 

You may remember, the disciples had left Jesus there at the well while they went looking for food.

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman.

Never mind the five-husband business, just the fact that he is sitting there talking to a woman (a Samaritan woman) was taboo in their culture.

But no on asked [her], “What do you want?” or [him] “Why are you talking to her?”

They may not have spoken these words, but you can sure bet there were thinking them!

The woman gets up and leaves her water jar behind, because she’s on a mission to tell the townspeople about Jesus.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

They have food on their minds, but Jesus has already been fed by his conversation with the woman and in anticipation of what will happen to the people of the town. 

Jesus tells the men,

“I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

The disciples whisper to each other,

“Could someone have brought him food?”

They are thinking physical food while Jesus has spiritual food on his mind. Jesus launches into this teaching moment in almost parable fashion. Keeping with the food theme, he compares the harvest of the field with the gathering in of believers. Listen up boys!

       

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” 

Harvest for eternal life! Okay, maybe now they get it—spiritual food. Tie that with the analogy of what they have just done in going to buy physical food. 

“Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” John 4:27-38

They will soon see how this Samaritan woman is in town sowing and Jesus will be reaping the harvest. They will witness perhaps their first Gentile harvest—a task they will be doing after the resurrection for the rest of their lives.

Open my eyes, Lord. Where do you want me to sow the seeds of your love today? Has someone else sown seeds and you’re just waiting for me to harvest a new believer into your kingdom? Open my eyes, Lord.

~ Joyce ~