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Friday, June 21, 2013

Comfort Food – The Care of God – Psalm 23

The first time I talked publically about Psalm 23 was on a Mother’s Day.  At a funeral. For my mother-in-law, Gayle.  It was a very, very hard day. 
            Gayle had died suddenly of a heart attack at the young age of 55.  Pam and I were in Chicago and immediately thrust into the surreal chaos, raw emotion and numb pain that unexpected death brings.  Rushing to find plane tickets, struggling to understand the details of what had happened, coordinating schedules, embracing fond memories, weeping over regrets – they all came rushing in.
            Gayle’s husband (Pam’s step-father) was already an abrasive personality and the pain of his wife’s death accentuated his sharp edge.  He did things that weren’t nice, he said things that weren’t nice – for crying out loud, he scheduled the memorial service on Mother’s Day because there weren’t any other services scheduled that day!
            In the midst of such tremendous pain and unfairness my wife Pam exuded a level of grace that could only have come from the presence of her heavenly Father holding her and leading her.  God cared for us.
            The 23rd Psalm from the Bible has long been embraced by our culture at large.  There is a strength and peace that exudes from these brief six verses that draws us in to its power.  The dominant metaphor for God is one of shepherd.  Even those who have never been on a farm or around farm animals still understand what this means from the Psalm.  A shepherd has the responsibility of leading, caring for and protecting his sheep.  It was a combination of being a scout, nurse and warrior all wrapped together.  When you have been shepherded well, you recognize it clearly after-the-fact.
            To be shepherded we have to accept the shepherd.  We have to realize that we indeed need someone to direct us where we should go, to bind up our wounds and fight off the wolves that surround us.  This is life.  It is very lonely and frightening when we go about it on our own.
            It was 21 years ago when we got that horrible call about Gayle.  There have been other very painful valleys we have traversed during that time that have been oh so very dark.  The Shepherd has always calmly, patiently, gently, lovingly walked before us to show us grace on the journey to the table of his provision.
            God cares.

Peace and grace,

David

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