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Entries in Psalm 23 (2)

Tuesday
May222018

Upgrade Your 'Hope Rope'

My friend Pam Farrel always inspires me, because I know her responses to life are sifted through the grid of biblical truth. In this UPLIFT post, she speaks of the kind of hope only the Lord can give.  The ripple of my husband’s compassionate care of his parents impacted me as I tried my best to hold up our life and ministry as Bill held up his parents," Pam said. "We were both at the end of our proverbial rope."

As I (Dawn) have observed several friends and family members dealing with cargiving issues in recent months, I can attest to the kinds of stresses the Farrels are going through these days. But Pam's faith and hope point "true north" spiritually, as you will see in her story.

Pam continues . . .             

I was weary—tired to the bone, drop-dead fatigued, completely exhausted, “can’t take even one more step”, “leave it all on the field” beat.

It seemed we were caught in the perfect storm, and the ship of our life was being tossed about on a tumultuous sea of unending responsibilities.It was a year of up and down swells.

The positive included constant travel for our speaking, including large chunks of time spent internationally—which we love; but travel takes a physical and mental toll.

We also had multiple book projects in various stages, which are all wonderful blessings of opportunity—but these highs were also mixed with Bill having long absences from our ministry office as he drove back and forth through grueling Southern California gridlock traffic for months on end. He was commuting to care for his aging parents, one frail of mind, the other frail of body. 

His folks were fiercely desiring to maintain the independence of living in their own home—which put an ever-growing weight on the shoulders of my compassionate husband.

The Lord’s Life Line

I know that the Word has some prescriptions for handling weariness.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him (Psalms 62:5).

…“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest(Mark 6:31).

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest(Ex 33:14).

Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work (Ex 23:12).

I knew I needed a day off for rest, renewal, revival, rejuvenation—and recovery!

I am a part of a wonderful networking group called Professional Women’s Fellowship, and they were hosting a one-day retreat at a lovely private estate. I knew that I needed to get myself there (despite a looming book deadline).

I went begging God to speak to me and give me some HOPE!

I love this getaway because they minister to a person body, soul, mind and spirit. During the hour-long quiet time, I stretched out under the shade of a large tree near the pond. As I laid down on my stomach, spreading my journaling Bible open before me, I couldn’t help but notice that I was already seeing God be the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23.

He was making me lie down in a green “pasture” that was “beside still waters.” So, I continued to pray through Psalm 23:2-3:

Lord,  “refresh my soul….guide me along the right paths  for [Your] name’s sake.”  

Riggings of Rest and Recovery

I flipped opened my Bible to the Psalms, as I nearly always gain a measure of refreshing hope there. My Bible landed at Psalms 55:22:

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken....”

Immediately, I thought,

“Wow Lord, that was fast! This seems the perfect verse for me, but exactly what does it mean to “cast my cares” on You? How can I get better at doing it? And what does it mean that you will “sustain” me? —because I REALLY need some sustaining power! I know that my heart’s desire is to be “righteous”, and right now living “unshaken” is what I need, because I can’t see the circumstances changing all that quickly. Lord, I am open to Your message to me from Your Word.”

I had a smartphone with me, so I connect to my Logos Bible software to help me dig a little deeper into the context, the word meaning and historical frame around this verse.

I prayed out my weariness, then looked up what it meant to “cast” my burden. I was to hurl my net out like a fisherman. God was inviting me to catapult my burdens on to his net. (And I was happy to hurl them!)

As I continued to study, what surprised me is the word used for "burden" can also be translated “assignment” or “gift”.

I remember thinking, “A gift? Really?” (It was interesting that this word “gift” can also be translated “lot” or “allotment”, and is the same word as many of us pray from The Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10: “…Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border…”  which means to pray the equivalent of “God bless me by giving me the full allotment You have planned for me”).

I was beginning to see how the “burden” was how I was seeing the “blessing” of the responsibility, or allotment God had for me.

It seemed to survive, I needed a paradigm shift to a more heavenly viewpoint.

But as I surveyed my “gift” (my assignment) from God, it seemed too big for one to ever carry alone, so I kept digging, doing more word studies through the verse.

I read that God would “sustain” me—He would nourish, strengthen, and support me—and make me sufficient enough to handle this assigned “gift.” 

To me, God was whispering hope to my soul. Whatever my assignment was depleting, God would pour back into me—and more!

I was washed over with peace, relief and rejuvenating hope.

As a praise response, and to lock this refreshing word picture securely and vividly in my mind, I sketched out two hands, representing God’s caring hands. In one palm was my “gift” of cares and I placed myself in the other palm.

Both me and my assignment—both you and your calling—are held up by the Good Shepherd. We are in His sustaining, caring hands. God’s got us!

As the strong hands of a lifeguard are a welcome sight to someone caught in a tempest at sea, so Psalm 55:22 is a snapshot of the rescue God’s hands can give YOU!

Boats need their riggings and lifelines repaired or replaced on a regular basis to keep a sailor safe. You can tell a line is losing strength if it shows signs of wear and tear, fraying at edges, or corrosion.

Is your life showing any signs of needing to take time away to let God renew, refresh, repair or rebuild your lifelines of God’s reviving Word?

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, living on a boat in Southern California. When she is not kayaking to get her mail, she loves writing and teaching so others can find hope from God. Her newest book is Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience (by Pam Farrel, Jean E Jones, and Karla Dornacher, from Harvest House.) Learn more about Pam and her ministry at Love-Wise

Wednesday
Nov222017

Be Thankful—God Loves Ewe!

In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Pam Farrel encourages us to upgrade our lives with a little help from the Good Shepherd.

Our Good Shepherd pursues us to give his faithful love and all things beautiful and beneficial,” Pam says.

I (Dawn) have watched Pam in ministry. She knows a little about shepherds and sheep—the kind that go "baaa," and the human "sheep" who struggle and cry out to their Shepherd.

Pam continues . . .

I am a true Bo Peep. I grew up on a Suffolk sheep farm in Idaho.

I was a fourth generation shepherd. If there is something I am familiar with, it is sheep!

So when I read Psalms 23, one of the most familiar of all Psalms, it is very personal, encouraging and comforting.

You may also need comfort or encouragement in your own life right now. There are a few qualities of your Good Shepherd that might encourage you, especially if you are feeling like you are traveling through the “valley of the shadow of death”.

1. The Shepherd is Personal

For example, the Psalmist’s opening line, “The Lord is my shepherd,” became more precious when I became a shepherdess. The relationship between a lamb and a shepherd can be a very close, caring and even sometimes, affectionate relationship.

For example, my first 4-H lamb was a “bummer,” meaning the mother had rejected or abandoned her own offspring.

These kinds of lambs need extra attention, so I fed my little lambie with a bottle twice a day, holding her in my arms like a baby.

I carded her wool, I hand fed her grain, I walked her, and yes, I talked to her.

On cold nights, I tucked her into a warm pen, and if I heard howling wild dogs or coyotes, I got up to go out to check on her.

I also named her, “Bunny” because when she wasn’t in my arms, she would delight herself jumping from rock to rock in our pasture. Ours was an “everywhere that Pammy went her lamb was sure to go” kind of relationship.

2. The Shepherd is a Protector

It is really a picture of my grandfather, father and brother, and their vigilance that I carry in my mind as to what a truly protective good shepherd is like.

Ravenous coyotes, wolves and wild dogs roamed the vast expanse of high desert in the area our family farm was located. These savage dogs would attack and kills whole flocks of sheep in a single night.

To help us keep our sheep safe, we place collars with bells on them. If they we heard an occasional gentle chime we knew our sheep were simply grazing calmly, but if we heard a cacophony of loud jingling, we knew the wild dogs were near by threatening an attack

To protect the sheep, the men in my family would post themselves in the pasture with the sheep. They would wrap themselves in a down sleeping bag with their “rod and staff” within arm’s reach. It was a cold, uncomfortable, thankless job, but it saved the lives of all our entire flock of sheep and their lambs.

To this day, when I picture my God as my Good Shepherd, I see Him as my strong, powerful and attentive protector.

3. The Shepherd is a Provider

When I read, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul" (vv. 2-3), that is exactly the experience of my upbringing.

  • I would often walk barefoot through the deep, lush, green grass of the pasture, as the sheep serenely grazed.
  • I would take a blanket and a Bible, and lie down and spend quiet hours communing with God.
  • I might walk over to the creek, and sit on the simple wooden plank that created a bridge, and sit and rest quietly dipping my toes into the cool stream.

This was my place of solace and restoration, far away from the chaos my alcoholic, raging, earthly father might be creating in our small farm house. 

To this day, resting in an open meadow, or the sound of gently tinkling chimes, remind me of the restorative rest the Good Shepherd can create even in the midst of chaos.  

4. The Shepherd Is a Pursuer

As I have followed my Good Shepherd, I have seen how “goodness and mercy“ has surely followed me the days of my life. 

One could phrase the meaning of “goodness and mercy” as “certainly what is good, pleasant, agreeable, beneficial, desirable, beautiful and best, as well as God’s faithful, loyal, lovingkindness will pursue you.

Wow!

Our Good Shepherd pursues us to give His faithful love and all things beautiful and beneficial.

A recent example in my own life is the writing of this blog. It is an adaptation out of my newest book, Discovering Hope in the Psalms. I was going through one of my most challenging years of my entire life when my friend Jean asked me to edit, then co-author, this study with her.

See... my Shepherd sent goodness and mercy to pursue me, because He knew I was going to need to dwell in the green pastures of His Hope-filled Word to survive my own valley.

With the Shepherd, we can walk THROUGH the darkest valley and not tremble, because the Good Shepherd sees His sheep, knows His sheep and cares for each and every one of His sheep—including you!

What attribute of the Shepherd do you need, to hold on to hope?

Find a wool blanket, spread it in a green pasture near some still water, open your Bible and let the Shepherd send some goodness and mercy your way.

 Pam Farrel is still a shepherdess at heart. However, instead of living on her family farm, she now travels the world shepherding people’s hearts and relationships by speaking and teaching God’s goodness and mercy through the ministry she and her husband run: Love-Wise. She is the author of 45 books. Her newest is Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience.