Psalm 23:5-6 (part 3)

Isn’t it amazing to be able to trust someone so much that even when we go through dark, dismal places that we don’t need to fear because we are never alone and we have the most incredible loving provider and defender and care taker.

I love this Psalm. There is so much beauty and depth within the words written here.

These last 2 verses resound inside me with their promises and truths.

Imagine being brought to a dining hall and the doors are thrown open and you are escorted in and an incredibly important person shows you the most incredible feast laid out and it’s all for YOU! It has all your favorite foods and drinks and even some that are specifically nourishing to what you need at this exact moment. It’s been laid out perfectly to honor YOU!

Now imagine that your “enemies” – the people who have been opposed to you, or angry with you, or jealous or resentful, or who have been treating you badly – have all been brought in to witness you receiving this great honor. It would be a weird feeling, wouldn’t it? We aren’t used to being extravagantly honoured, especially in front of those who oppose or persecute us!

Can you truly fathom what it is to be honoured by the Creator of all? Think about that for a moment.

It was customary at the time for the host to lavish extravagance on their guests, to provide for their every need and to protect them.

So not only are you being provided for and honoured and exalted, but you know that you are completely safe and can be relaxed and refreshed at the same time.

Having your head anointed with oil was also to refresh and revitalize you; if your cup runs over it means you don’t lack, you have more than enough. There is an abundance of blessing and provision in your life. How amazing is that! There’s something incredible that happens inside of us when we acknowledge truths that we know but may not feel.

We can “feel” a lot of conflicting emotions but when we align ourselves and our “feelings” with His truth there is peace and joy, even in the middle of uncertainty and chaos. The acknowledgment here is that He does refresh and revitalize us and that He provides for us is in abundant ways. We can trust that He is our good Shepherd.

Without a doubt, with all certainty and confidence and assurance……..that’s what “surely” means.

Without a doubt, with all certainty, confidence and assurance, goodness and mercy (God’s tender love that doesn’t give us the punishment that we deserve) will follow me – they will persue me – all the days of my life. I will be chased after by His goodness and His mercy every day for the rest of my life.

And that’s not the end because even when I die, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That’s the hope that we have as believers. That when all is said and done, it’s not just the end. It’s a whole new beginning and we will spend eternity with the one who loves us most; with the one who created us, who gave His life for us.

How incredible is that?

I love this Psalm and the meaning and imagery within it. Take this Psalm and recognize the immediate presence of it. The personalized reality of it…..the relationship between Him and You. Hold these truths tightly and it will change your life.

THE LORD is MY Shepherd, I shall not want. HE makes ME to lie down in green pastures. HE leads ME beside still waters. He restores MY soul.

When we truly encounter the reality of His love and His truth and His presence, we are changed. We can’t help but be changed.

Shattered and Beautiful

I was thinking about times in my life when I’ve felt so shattered and devastated by situations or circumstances.

I’m talking about the times when you feel so beaten down or broken that you don’t even feel like you have it in you to worship or praise or rejoice your way out of the situation. What you want to do is fall on the ground in a heap and either have a tantrum; or sob until you can’t breathe, or both. Or maybe you just want to curl up in the fetal position and hide……have you been there or is it just me?

I love how real David expressed himself in the Psalms. The Psalms are gritty and glorious and real; and filled with emotion and heartache and suffering and joy and praise and worship and even frustration and a desire for revenge. They’ve got it all and when I have no words to speak what my heart is feeling; there’s always something in the Psalms that resonates with me, no matter the situation or circumstance.

In Psalm 51:15-17, David is feeling all the feels and he cries out to God because He knows that praise will help him move beyond his immediate feelings. You’ve got to know that he’s not feeling like praising. He feels locked up, maybe shut down; but He knows what He needs to do.

He acknowledges that God isn’t interested in the surface things like how good we present ourselves or what we offer or give up to make ourselves look or feel better about something.

I think verse 17 is one of my favourites.

Think about the picture it presents. God’s pleasure is released like a fountain bubbling up and overflowing when we scrape up the pieces of our heart and offer them to Him. When we come to Him with all our brokenness and wounding and shattered pieces and say, “Here. I don’t even know what to do anymore.”

Have you ever had someone despise you? It’s an awful feeling. Especially if they are despising your weakness? It’s like getting kicked when you’re already down. But God won’t despise you when you come to Him shattered. The opposite of despise is to cherish, adore, admire, love; that’s how He will receive you when you bring your broken pieces to Him.

Imagine. Imagine feeling like you’ve been broken into a million pieces and you can’t possibly see how you are worth anything to anyone in the shape you are in. You scrape together all the pieces and come before God with all the sadness and hurt and shattered-ness that you are feeling. And He looks at you with such love and compassion and holds all those pieces close to His heart until the warmth of His love softens them enough that He can mold and piece them back together into an even more beautiful masterpiece than what originally was.

May we offer those shattered pieces of ourselves to the One who loves us most. Trusting that He will create beauty from brokenness.

Psalm 23:4 (part 2)

Psalm 23:4 NKJV – Yea, 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.

I love that David is speaking out the truth over himself and his situation. In the first three verses, He speaks declaratively. I am cared for. I have everything that I need. I have safe places to rest and be renewed.

Have you ever done that? Especially when you are feeling exactly the opposite of what you are saying? I most definitely have.

When my feelings don’t line up with the truth in God’s word, you better believe that I speak His truth over my life.

In verse 4, David starts out by acknowledging the reality of his situation. It make look dire. You may be facing a difficult situation that feels like the end. You may see no positive ending in your future. I can imagine David, hiding in a cave believing that he would be captured and killed at any moment; or heading out to face Goliath the giant. In the natural, death was pretty likely in both those scenarios. David faced a lot of pretty discouraging and dangerous situations in his lifetime It would have been so easy to wallow. It would have been so easy to get stuck focusing on the reality of right now BUT….

David chose to believe that whqt God said was true and that He was going to believe His promises regardless of how awful the situation looked.

Have you walked through valleys in your life where it seemed like the end? Where the darkness of death hung over you. Maybe you’ve run out of money and can’t buy groceries or pay rent or bills? Maybe you are facing layoffs at work? Maybe you have a strained relationship that feels doomed? Maybe you are actually facing a life threatening illness? There are so many dark valleys that we face in our lives.

We get to choose how we act and react in every situation.

David speaks up again and says, “I will not fear.”

I think that all too often our first “ human” reaction is one of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of lack. Fear of loss. Fear of death. Fear of feeling out of control. Fear can easily and quickly overwhelm us, making it impossible to even be able to think straight. Fear seems inevitable but God…

David says, “I will not fear because You (God) are with me.”

God is with us. The creator of heaven and earth is on our side. He loves us. He is our Protector. He is our Provider. He is our Defender. He is our Healer. He is our Strength. He has promised to never leave or abandon us. If we truly grasp the enormity of what this means and how great His love is for us, then we too can walk through life without fear.

The verse ends with Your rod and staff they comfort me. These were tools the Shepherd used to do his job. They indicated his authority as the Shepherd. It was his job to care for to protect, to guide, to comfort, to feed, to defend, to lead the sheep in his care. He used these tools to do exactly that.David knew all about caring for sheep. That was his job. It was his responsibility to care and protect for the sheep. The sheep trusted their shepherd. They knew the Shepherd’s voice and would go where He led because they trusted him. They felt safe and cared for. They knew that the Shepherd was reliable and dependable and loving and caring.

We can go through terrible, difficult times that feel like the the end of the world and trust that our Shepherd is always there for us, leading us and guiding us; and taking care of us.

It’s possible that there were times that David’s sheep had to walk through a treacherous pathway to get to a glorious meadow where they could rest and feed and care for their young. They may have needed to trust that even though it looked pretty dicy that the Shepherd knew what he was doing and that blessing and peace and rest was on the other side. If they would just trust and follow His voice, they would wind up in an incredible place.

Will we choose to trust that our Shepherd has our best interests at heart and follow where he leads no matter how dark it seems?

If we do, then we too can say,

Even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. Psalm 23:4 TPT

Psalm 23 (part 1)

This Psalm has really come alive to me recently. Have you ever thought about what it really is saying? It’s such a popular scripture but have we slowed down and really thought about what it means and what it’s really saying and how it applies in our lives. It’s so powerful if you really break it down and make it applicable.

Psalm 23:1-6 NKJV

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, 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.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD

When you break it down, you really start to see the incredibleness of it.

The Lord is my Shepherd

The root of the word that’s most commonly associated used for “shepherd” comes from a word that means best friend. So not only is the Lord referenced as responsible overseer of his flock (that’s us….we are His sheep) but he is our best friend; He never leaves us or abandons us. He is always there for us. He is a caring, loving nurturing father-figure who doesn’t just tend to his flock out of sense of duty but out of a deep sense of love. Shepherds were also fierce protectors of their flocks; keeping them safe from harm and predators. That’s amazing to see it like that. To see the depth of meaning in those five words! It’s so much more than just some random person guiding a bunch of dumb sheep around.

I shall not want.

I will have more than enough. I lack nothing. I have everything that I need. My emotional, physical and spiritual needs are met. I am provided for. What a powerful truth. What would it look like if we truly walked out our daily lives believing this truth and living in it! I’m pretty sure that we’d operate differently than we often do. How much more confidence would we have if we fully believed that everything we needed was taken care of? What would we do differently, if we really embodied this truth? Think about it! Wow!

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

In God’s incredible love for us, He provides a safe place. A place where I can rest, free from all fear, because I trust that He has led me there and is watching out for and protecting me.

He leads me beside still waters.

I can confidently follow where He leads me, because He brings me to peaceful, calm places where I can be refreshed.

He restores my soul.

When we follow the paths where He leads(to the green pastures and still waters) and rest in His loving, safe presence; our souls and lives are refreshed. So often life wears us down as we do our own things, our own ways, on our own; but He wants us to follow His ways, His path and be refreshed and restored!

He leads me in the paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.

This phrase actually translates as “circular paths of righteousness.” Did you know that the sheep on the hills in Israel would wander in circles as they grazed and they would slowly circle their way up the hills to the tops. It was so much easier than just heading straight up. Even though it may seem like we are just going in circles and not really getting anywhere, when we follow where our Good Shepherd leads, we gain ground; and in doing so, we bring honor to His name.

How incredible are those first three verses? I’d love to hear what part stands out to you the most.

I’ll share more of my thoughts, on the rest of this Psalm, in another post.

God is Love

I’ve been thinking about God’s Love recently; and how that plays out in my life.

God Is Love!

1 John 4

God is the embodiment of perfect love. In wanting to be more like God, I want to know His character and have it evidenced by His Love inside of me; in my every thought and action and word.

And God lives in us. Which means that the expression of our lives should be evidence of His Love. And fortunately for us, He gave us clear instructions on what love looks like in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I want to be able to substitute my name for Love and have this be a description of myself. That when I think about myself or when others think of or talk about me that this is what they say! I don’t believe the large part is talking about my physical size but rather that Love is Large within me. Although being honest, I’m not exactly a small person, so I guess that fits, too!

Patti is large and incredibly patient.
Patti is gentle and consistently kind to all.
Patti refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else.
Patti does not brag about her achievements nor inflate her own importance.
Patti does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek her own honor. Patti is not easily irritated or quick to take offense.
Patti joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong.
Patti is a safe place of shelter, for she never stops believing the best for others. Patti never takes failure as defeat, for she never gives up.

That’s quite the passage to live up to; to line my life up to. But, WOW, I can see how beautiful life is, as we operate from a position of love.

Galatians 5 talks about the fruit of our lives and I love the way the Passion translation puts it.

Galatians 5

The fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is
DIVINE LOVE in all its varied expressions.

And this goes right back to wanting the expression of God’s Perfect Love evidenced in my life.

I want overflowing Joy in my life, no matter the situation or circumstances.
I want to live a life of Peace, trusting that God’s got everything under control.
I want Patience that endures forever and ever.
I want to be Kindness in action.
I want to live a life full of Virtue, evidenced by high moral standards.
I want to live full of Faith; believing and trusting God, no matter what!
I want Gentleness to be so evident in my life.
I want Strength of body, soul and spirit so I can be confident and boldly move forward in life.

I so desperately want God’s love to be evident in my life in every way. I want my words and my thoughts and my actions to be loving towards myself and others.

Going back to the first verse in 1 John, when God’s love is working in my life and I fully grasp and understand and live a life of perfect love, then I will not be walking in fear.

Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection.

There is a footnote in the Passion Translation indicating that the context of the word “Fear” is the fear of correction, punishment or rejection.

So if I’m walking in Love then I won’t be walking in fear. Which means if I’m feeling fearful, I’m likely scared that I’m going to be in trouble, or be punished or rejected.

Often, when I can take a step back from my situation, and think about what I am feeling – that assessment is correct. Fear of punishment, or getting in trouble or rejection is often at play.

The more that I realize that I’m operating out of fear, the quicker I can align myself back to LOVE. Get my focus off my situation and circumstances; and back on the ONE who loves me unconditionally. The One who’s love for me is patient, gentle, kind…..perfect! And when I’m walking in alignment with Him, then I am also walking in Love. So that same love that He gives me, I can then give out freely to those around me. Its such a beautiful concept to think of – His love fills me because He lives in me; and as I fill up and overflow, His love pours out to others. Wow!

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I was berating myself, this morning, for my lack of self control (great start to the day, eh?) and I felt God whisper to me “Just follow my unforced rhythms of grace! I love you so much! I’m not condemning you and you shouldn’t condemn yourself either.

And that stopped me in my tracks.

All of the sudden, I went from feeling shame and condemnation, to feeling loved and treasured.

That’s a huge shift in both feeling and perspective.

I went and found that verse in the Message. I love the way that verse is shared in so many different translations but for this situation, The Message’s interpretation really speaks to me.

No matter the situation or circumstances, if we walk with God and work with Him; if we learn from Him and see how He does “it”, we will learn to live a life of freedom. We will recover. We will rest. Our journey through this life will be characterized by a lightness and not weighed down and burdened.

That sounds amazing to me.

And in His grace and mercy, He will lead and guide; and I can trust that what He asks of me will bring me life. It won’t be a heavy and difficult burden.

And just like that, my whole day turned around.

I no longer felt shamed to force myself to do something. Instead, I asked the Father what He wanted me to do and did that. There is such a joy and peace and “lightness” in following His ways.

Oh Disappointment.

I had an experience today where I felt misunderstood and I received (To be clear, it was never said that I was a disappointment. I would hazard a guess that I heard it through my own hurts and trauma) the message that I was a disappointment.

Oh my! Did that ever trigger me. I can feel myself spiralling downward and I don’t know how to stop it. Okay, let’s process this.

I can remember as a child, feeling like I’d disappointed people and it feeling devastating because I was trying my hardest to be good, to do good. The message I received was that “my good” wasn’t enough. That’s got to be so hard for a little one who is looking for worth and validation from those who love them.

How can that be? What would lead me to accept and believe that I’m not good enough? Did I feel rejected? Did I feel a relational separation or distance when disappointment was expressed?

That’s definitely another huge issue for me. I’m desperate to feel connected and accepted in relationship. Is that wrong? I don’t think it is. Isn’t that what we were created for? To be in relationship. If so, then a separation or distance would feel intolerable.

I wonder if, when I was a child, disappointment and relational distance was used in an effort to affect behaviour? I don’t believe it was done maliciously but I also don’t see how that is not traumatic regardless of intention. I can think of several instances where both disappointment and relational separation were used, at home, school and church. At that point, that was my whole life.

So how do I deal with this.

Well it sucks. It’s brutal to receive a message that indicates that you’re a disappointment and that the comfort and love that you crave and need in relational safety will be withheld if you displease someone.

When I think about the little parts of me. The small child that I was, my heart breaks for her. No child should feel like they are a disappointment. No child should receive the message that they aren’t good enough and no child should be left to figure out relationship on their own.

I can’t fathom doing that to my kids. There are times when I’ve been disappointed in their actions and I’ve tried so desperately hard to pull them close and indicate that I love them even if I didn’t particularly like a choice or action they made in the moment. I’ve tried to make it abundantly clear that they aren’t defined by any one action and that my love for them never changes. I communicate that I see the good in them and I speak it out over them. I want them to hear and know and believe that they are the incredible people that I see them as.

So how do I do this for myself.

Well, I guess a start could be reminding myself of all the good that I do see in me. I can speak out over myself that I am a good person. I am loving and kind, considerate, thoughtful, and encouraging. I want to do my best and to be my best.

And, I guess it’s possible that my best might not always be appreciated or accepted or even good enough for others. While I might wish that I was always appreciated and accepted and seen as good enough, the mature adult parts of me can recognize that’s not really realistic or even really necessary.

Oh but to the small parts of me it sure feels necessary, sometimes. Those wounded parts want to feel loved and safe and connected.

So, I will tend to those parts of me. I will be gentle with myself and compassionate towards myself and show love to myself. I will act towards myself in ways that foster relationship and connection, especially with the small parts of me who struggle to believe. Because I am good enough and I am worthy of love and connection. Even when I struggle to believe and assimilate it, it’s still true. I will look for those who are gentle and compassionate and loving towards me and I will notice and be so thankful for every interaction that affirms the truth.

I am a blessing. I am loved. I am cared for. I am safe. I am good.

Midnight Musings

I’m laying in bed with a million thoughts running through my brain. You’re welcome to tag along, if you’d like.

Why do bad things happen? I’ve never really focused or got stuck on that concept and I’m not sure why. I’ve certainly had my share of tough situations. I know that it’s a common thing. Why? Why did this happen? Why did that happen? Why did it happen to me?

I have a vague recollection of my dad saying that there’s no point in focusing on “The Why.” I think he shared that with me either after his mom died or after Nathaniel died. He wasn’t saying it in a dismissive way. I believe he was encouraging me to accept that sometimes bad or difficult things happen. We don’t always have control over our circumstances but we do have the ability to choose how we act and react moving forward. Getting stuck focused on circumstances beyond our control doesn’t help us; but we do have the ability to focus on and choose what to do next.

I wonder if it has something to do with assigning blame. Does “the why” look to figure out what went wrong so there’s something or someone to blame? Or is it just a distraction? Is it our minds looking to shift focus from feeling to doing in an effort to alleviate pain? Hmmmm…

Is it possible to search for solutions without assigning blame? This is a weird thought trail I’m wandering down. I think it must be possible? Right?

I have this song playing on repeat inside my head and heart tonight.

All my life You have been faithful. All my life You have been so SO good. With every breathe that I am able. I will sing of the Goodness of God.

I want to always remember that my life has been so filled with goodness and love and grace; and that nothing can take away from that. That goodness and love and grace can coexist along side the tragedy and heartbreak that we experience; and although they don’t take away the pain or hurt, maybe just maybe, they fill our heart and soul with enough light and comfort that it makes it all just a little more manageable.

Getting Started

Someone recently shared a photo with a book that I was intrigued by.

I love writing and I’m tired of feeling burnt out. This book “Journal Therapy for Overcoming Burnout” hits both of those issues and so I went onto Amazon and purchased it. I opened it up, sighed and put it on my bedside table; where I’ve looked at it every day for almost 2 weeks but done nothing with it.

Why would I be needing a burnout journal? Isn’t everyone kind of a little stressed? It’s been a hell of a past couple of years with the pandemic , no? When you add in all the previous life adventures that we’ve been through, it’s a wonder I haven’t crashed and burned long before now.

Well, honestly, I did

In fact last summer, I crashed and burned in the most spectacular way. By spectacular, I mean devastating. I kept going trying to “take care” of everything and everyone except myself, until I couldn’t any longer.

It’s been a tough year, as I navigate the fallout from the crash and attempt to “do life” in a way that is honouring to both me and those I love.

I want to be the very best version of me that I can be. I believe that I am kind and considerate, compassionate, caring, understanding, respectful, loving, encouraging and many other wonderful descriptive words.

My own childhood traumas and triggers have me doubting whether anyone else sees me the way I do and if for some reason they don’t see the good in me, am I delusional? Am I actually a bad person? I can’t fathom that and yet, those little parts of me seek approval and can’t quite believe that they are good enough to be loved and accepted. It sucks.

Sometimes…..most of the time, I want to dive head first into pursuit of emotional healing and other times the insecure parts of me feel overwhelmed and fearful that there is just going to be more pain and hurt. I feel like I’ve experienced at least “a world of hurt” and probably deserve a short break from it.

I don’t think that’s how life works though and I’m more than willing to put in the work necessary because I want my best life and I’m responsible for creating it.

So, I sat down for 5 minutes this morning. Read through day 1 and wrote for 3 minutes. It wasn’t nearly as hard or difficult as I had made it out to be.

Sometimes, we just need to get started. Even if we do it scared. Especially when we know we will benefit.

Is there something you’ve been putting off that you know will benefit you? Is there a small first step that you can take? Sometimes, I find that “putting it out there” helps to hold you accountable or gives you that “kick in the butt” to get going.