the lord is my shepherd…

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart. –Helen Keller

Last night, as I lay in my bed making an attempt at falling asleep, I started worrying about how I was going to divide up my paycheck between rent, gas, food and utilities. I try hard not to think about those sorts of things in bed. You know how it goes – one little thought of “Oh, I get paid tomorrow!” surfaces and then the barrage starts.

The utility companies lob their shells over the border with “Pay me or you won’t have any electricity/cable/water.” Then here comes my car with its shots of “Make my payment and fill my tank or you’ll be walking!” Then from out of nowhere comes the screaming sounds of cat and dog bullets landing right in my heart saying “Feed us! Don’t forget about us! We’re hungry, too!” And finally, when I think the worst is over, here come the bombs from the landlord carving huge holes in my head saying “Pay me or you’ll be out on the street!”

Oh the horror! The humanity! My head! My anxiety level has risen to pandemic proportions so I can forget about sleep now. I can hear the blood pounding in my ears – my blood pressure is really high – this is verified, I remind myself, by me taking my pressure earlier in the evening. Oh the worry! Panic starts to rise in the back of my throat threatening to choke off my oxygen supply.

And then, out of the depths of my heart a still, small voice says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….” The bombs and bullets and shots are still raining down in the background in this battlefield of my brain, but I hold my breath and listen again. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters….”

And without even thinking about it I start to recite the 23rd Psalm in my head. But I can’t remember all of it. What was it now? “He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies and what else?” Oh! I can’t remember and the battle gets even louder. I try and try to remember beyond “The Lord is my Shepherd” but I can’t and the bombs and bullets and shots are getting worse and panic is scratching and clawing at my throat.

A still, small voice in my heart speaks again, “Get your prayer book.” Without a moment’s hesitation I get out of bed, go into my study and grab my Book of Common Prayer and bring it back to bed.

And as I lay there, reading Psalm 23 aloud, over and over, the battle slowly starts to go quiet. Panic lets go of my throat, and anxiety gives way to peace and silence in my mind. I venture past Psalm 23 to 24, 25, 26 and finally to Psalm 27. With these words I finally drift off to sleep, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.”

In the morning nothing has changed in the ‘what-to-do-with-my-paycheck’ arena. But I have changed just a little bit. I will wait on the Lord and He will provide the strength and wisdom to make the decisions that must be made.

 

 

Psalm 23 is a serigraph by John August Swanson from the Art + Psalms Exhibit featured at the 2012 Calvin Symposium on Worship. The serigraph Psalm 23 by John Swanson, along with the other art from the exhibit is offered to churches in the Art + Psalms CD Collection. The images are formatted for use as powerpoint, sermon illustrations and bulletin covers. The Art + Psalms CD Collection is available through Eyekons Church Image Bank.

Psalm 23 by John August Swanson

hope, faith, trust

We haven’t yet got eyes that can gaze into all the splendor that God has created,
but we shall get them one day, and that will be the finest fairy tale of them all,
for we shall be in it ourselves.
– Hans Christian Anderson

Hope. That is what I need right now, in this moment, on this dark day. Hope. I need but look to the natural world around me and if I look well enough, I will see Hope.

Faith. That is all I have right now. Faith. That the world will continue to move on. That I will survive this day. That I will make it through my work until I am home again. That I will feel the Presence of God in my life again. Faith.

Trust. That is what I am learning now. To trust in an Unseen God Who is an Unfelt Presence right now. Trust. That I may not know why I am experiencing such darkness (and actually, I do) but that I learn to Trust God will see me through it. Trust.

In the darkest of times, in the most difficult moments of our lives, of my life, it is the time to learn valuable lessons. It is a time to learn that hope is not a just a word on a sign posted on someone’s blog or page or website. Hope is just not a word on a t-shirt or greeting card. Hope is, as Emily Dickinson put it, “the thing with feathers that perches on your soul.” It is that ineffable thing that keeps me going when time is tough. It is that dream that I will one day come out of this dark valley and into the light. It is, as Elton John put it, “a candle in the wind.” That untouchable essence in my heart that tells me that the storm may rage within and without but I can and will go on. Hope is the stuff dreams are made of. Hope is the future, whether it is a minute from now or ten years or ten decades from now.

It is a time to learn that faith is not just a term to be bandied about by religious types and believers in blogs and behind pulpits that say “‘Just believe! Just have faith! All will be well with your soul and your life if you just have faith!” Faith is not something that is served up only on Sundays and Easter and Christmas. Faith is not worn on the bumper sticker of my car. Faith is not something I claim to have simply because I’m a white protestant female. I don’t have faith only because I was christened as a Methodist as an infant or baptized as a Baptist or confirmed as an Episcopalian as an adult. Faith is a part of my very being, it is ingrained in me so deeply that I am unable to separate it from my soul – nor would I want to.

Faith is believing in an Unseen God that the world denies. Faith is knowing in my heart what my head refuses to believe. It is what I hold on to when my feelings run amuck and me into the ground. It is my lifeline and my lifeboat when the world around me is shaken. It is what tells me know matter what – that NO MATTER WHAT – God loves me, cares for me and watches over me until I am back in His Divine Presence.

It is time to learn that trusting God is not something to be undertaken lightly or frivolously. Trusting in God means I trust him with my life, my future, my now and my past. Trust means I let go of past grudges and hurts. It means I let go of my future and give it to God. It means I let go of my present and believe God will see me through. Trust means dying to my desires and my wishes and my wants and taking up what God wants me to do. Trust means letting go of me completely and holding on to God.

I can’t learn these lessons in the heady days of joy and celebration. These are lessons to be learned in the dark days of struggle. Now, if only I can learn them…

 

Hope is the Thing with Feathers by GH Yeoh

trust just for today

The calling to be a shaman comes in the form of
a dream, accident, sickness, injury, disease, near death experience, or even actual death.
In this kind of school of shaman wisdom we can learn about fear, anger, hate, confusion.
We learn about other worlds and how to travel between both.
We learn about our strengths and weaknesses, power, love, reality, healing and life itself.
We learn that there are, indeed, two separate but interrelated worlds of existence,
the physical and the spiritual.
-Medicine Grizzlybear Lake

I have been really down for a couple of days. It is this whole thing about giving up of myself and completely trusting in God. It just swirls and whirls around in my head until I am either depressed or dizzy over it. Why don’t I just let go? Why is it so hard for me to trust in God completely? Because my human head and heart are fighting against my faith and spirit.

But gratefully, I am feeling better today. The only thing that has changed is my decision to trust God for today – and just for today – I will think about trusting Him tomorrow, tomorrow. At this point it is all I can do. I have prayed that my needs are met, not my wants. I hope to use this crisis as a way to draw closer to God even if I am not even 100% sure 100% of the time that He is there.

Faith tells me He is. Reality says not. Who am I going to trust? Faith or reality? I choose to trust in my faith. I choose to trust in the evidence of things not seen yet hoped for. I choose to take a step forward even if it means three steps backwards in trusting God.

With each step forward in trusting God my brain dutifully reminds me of all the times where I trusted God but God didn’t come through for me. So I ask my brain these questions: was it really God you put your trust in or was it just lip service? Did you really trust God with your needs and then as soon as you left His Presence you took your worries back and carried them throughout the day? Did God meet those needs only in a way you didn’t expect and since you expected Him to meet it in a specific fashion you missed it? Those are all valid questions that my brain has no real answer for.

In light of missing answers there is only faith. And trust. And hope. And love. Those are the things I must, absolutely must, rely on. Without those things I am nothing. I am reminded once again that without God I am nothing. It is only through His Grace and Love that I am even here on this earth at this moment.

He has provided for me in ways I know not. I therefore, choose to trust God. Just for today.

 

  by Ross MacDonald