Psalm 23 – In the E.R.

“The LORD is my SHEPHERD”

God is the GREAT PHYSICIAN Who is with me.  Because of that absolute fact, 

“I lack nothing”

The Great Physician knows every detail of every emergencyAnd will give me what is necessary to walk through each detail of every patient in my care today.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures…

He leads me beside still waters,”

Although the circumstances that surround me are dangerous and chaotic,  I know that He has gone ahead of me and He knows every detail of where I am.   I can trust that.

He restores my soul.”

When I  become overwhelmed by this place where I serve,

He is there. . . His Hand on my shoulder, His Whisper in my ear,

Gently setting me back on my feet to keep going.

That includes providing needed rest.


“He leads me in the right paths…”

When I don’t know what to do, He is there.  

He will guide me as I step into all the chaos, the pain, the fear as I live out, in this place, what I have been called to do.

“For His Name sake.”

In bringing me into this role, His own Name is at stake.

I want to represent Him well, making choices consistent with Who He Is.

He has entrusted me with His Name.

I serve, representing Him.

“Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death…”

The Front Line of this deadly pandemic battle is full of danger, caring for those who truly may die in my care.

Exposed to this great risk all around me,

My own mortality is very much in my thoughts.

“I will fear no evil…”

Somehow, knowing my Great Physician is present, I have a sense of protection and care in my very soul.  

Why??

“For You Are With Me.”

The Great Physician is not in some remote location.  It becomes very personal now. You are in the room.  You are in the hallways.  You are right here….with me.  No mask, no isolation, no contamination concerns or layers between us.  

You are with me.

“Your rod and Your staff  give me courage.”

Your ROD fights back the evil that wants to destroy me.

Your STAFF draws me nearer to You…an extension of Your own Hand on my shoulder.

You are in this battle with me.  

I am not alone.

“You prepare a ‘table’ for me, even tho’ the Enemy is watching, 

Even right in the room.”

God has blessed me in the medical field, giving me the knowledge of sickness, disease, and medicine.  I have so much to draw from as I step into the room…to the bedside of people fighting for their lives from its evil effects.

You, Great Physician, are with me here.  Not just as an observer, but if I pay attention, You give me thoughts, bring up knowledge at moments so desperately needed.

“You anoint my head with oil.

My cup overflows.”

My mind is full of knowledge of the body, how it works, medications that help, and training for bringing healing.  As The Great Physician, I look to You to use my knowledge, and things beyond my knowledge that You may bring to my mind, to know what is needed for each patient to begin to heal.  Things beyond my own knowledge,  I look to You to bring into my head ‘for such a time as this.’

“Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life,..”

As I serve those  . . . the sick and the dying , . . .may I hold tightly to knowing how GOOD You are . . . how much You LOVE to show MERCY, as I care for those who are in such fear and suffering.  May Your Goodness and Mercy flow from my heart, my mind, and through my hands to each person who comes under my care.   And please continually re-fill my emptiness when I have spent all I have to give.  Every day.

Always.

“…and I will remain in the Lord’s house for days without end.”

As I look to my own time of leaving this earth, may it be without fear, knowing that You are with me…here, There, and whatever days come until then.  

May Your Presence be with me today, tomorrow, and all the days I face in this role of “Physician….Healer” into which You have placed me.

BREAD

“I am the living BREAD that came down from heaven. 

Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”        

 John 6:51 niv

If we pare life down to the bare minimum, bread would probably make the list.  Who doesn’t know what bread is?   Who hasn’t ever eaten it?  It is a globally common food . . . from the most ancient of times.

I like bread.   I enjoy the great variety of bread that creative bakers have come up with.  I would guess that every nation, people group, and family on earth has bread that they have eaten their whole life.  I can’t imagine anybody on earth would not know some form of bread as a regular part of daily life.

I heard something the other day about bread.  It caught my attention, because I don’t remember hearing it before.  So I tried it.   

Get a bread that has been made and baked the simple, old-fashioned way….no preservatives.  Take a bite, but instead of gulping it down, chew it intentionally.  Start paying attention to all the flavors that start to happen as you chew.  I started noticing a hint of salt, but also other flavors I could not even identify.  As I kept chewing, more and more new tastes kept  emerging.  It was so fascinating and good that I was in no hurry to swallow.  And I found that when my piece of bread was gone, I kept getting little “taste memories” that reminded me of that taste-discovery.   It was 

suppertime before I even thought about a meal.   That piece of bread was fully satisfying for my day.  Some of the credit was to the handmade quality of the bread.  But some of it is how God created our mouths with tastebuds, saliva, and the interaction of grains, and simply letting all those elements work together with time.

Jesus said He was the Bread of Life.  For the past 3+ years, I have come to treasure beginning my day reading the Book of Life, and taking in the Bread of Life, Who always meets me there.  Taking the time, unhurried, and “chewing” on it for a while, brings more and more “flavor” to the Word of Life I’ve taken in that morning.  It’s not a time of lightning bolts or big emotional revelations.  It’s the little by little bites, and chewing on each.  New “flavors” emerge, and new discoveries.  Words I’ve known my whole life take on new meaning.  New life.  I don’t have to make the bread.  The Bread of Life comes to me. . . enough for that day.  Tomorrow there will be another.  It will never be gone.

Jesus comes so simply, so basically, in the routine of each day.  “Take.  Eat,”  He said.

Whispers in the Dark

“Tell in the daylight 

what I say to you in the dark. 

Shout from the housetops 

what you hear whispered.”  

Matthew 10:27

I have never experienced such darkness as in the night hours in the desert.  The first time I visited the refugee camps, I arrived by truck in the middle of the night.  I could barely distinguish that we had arrived, the darkness so covered the sands and the tents equally.  There were no lights in the camp, no electricity available.  In the headlights of the truck, I began catching sight of the dark tent shapes.  The truck ground to a stop and the driver opened his door…we had arrived.

Exhausted from the long, hard days of travel, I was focused on finding my bag and trying to not step on some strange desert creature that may be lurking in the dark.

Then, I looked up.  And gasped.  A gazillion stars…whole galaxies…filled that night sky.  I had never seen anything like it.  The black backdrop  that covered the entire sky made the sparkling diamonds shimmer and dance.  Shooting stars blazed across the vast sky.  It was breathtaking. I could do nothing but keep looking up at that living canopy stretching from horizon to horizon, unbroken by trees or tall buildings or any obstacles of the earth.  I couldn’t speak.  I could only watch.

Then the Whisper. . . “I Am here.”  

And He is.  

His Light shows up most spectacularly in the darkness.  No matter how dark your world may seem, look up.  Watch.  Listen. Really listen, for it’s a Whisper.   And then share with this dark world what you have heard.

The Whisper

“After the earthquake came a fire…

And after the fire came a gentle Whisper.”

1 Kings 19:12

I live in a very quiet setting, by choice.  But the world around me seems to be shouting.

We are in the midst of an historic pandemic.  It began rather quietly . . . something happening far, far away.  But its echoes have spread and grown to a deafening volume.

Our world has been shaken.  Our lives have been impacted, on a daily basis.

But though the world shouts, God often whispers.

Elijah, one of God’s most powerful Prophets, lived in an extremely difficult time in history.  He feared for his own life.  Powerful, evil voices were dominating and threatening his very life, as well as the existence of his nation.  He was on the run.  His life was full of dama, earth-shaking, life-rocking experiences.  He was in great danger.  But in the face of BIG….LOUD….Earth-rocking events going on around him, God came near…quietly.  A Whisper.

To be able to hear a whisper, you have to find the quiet.  It’s impossible to hear a Whisper when there’s loudness and noise all around.  God will allow the chaotic noise into our lives, but when we begin to long to hear His Voice, we need to position ourselves in  Quiet.  

It seems to me that God has pressed a global “PAUSE” button.  What “was” has greatly changed. . . and not by human orchestration.  It’s far beyond that.  God has things to say.   He’s taking our faces in His Hands, so that we will look into His Eyes, and LISTEN.  

God will use the ‘earthquakes’ and ‘fire’ in our lives to get our attention.  But to actually hear God’s still, small Voice, we need to get quiet, and listen.  

Listen for the “Gentle Whisper.”

RUNNING With PATIENCE

 “Let us run with patience.”

Hebrews 12:1

Does the word “patience” connect with “running” in your mind?   It doesn’t in mine.  When I am in the act of running, it’s probably for only a few reasons:

                                    ~          I’m late

                                    ~          I’m scared

                                    ~          I’ve forgotten something urgently needed, or

                                    ~          A grandchild is escaping

Every Saturday morning, I see quite a long string of runners coming down the hill that levels out in front of my home.  Then they run up the next hill and continue on their way.

They’re not running from anything . . . they’re not running to anything, except for a finish-line I’ve never seen.  But they are running for a purpose which is personal to them.   And they are running in a way that is intentional, measured, disciplined, and meant to be sustainable for the long haul.

As they run, I cannot tell what is going on in their lives…in their hearts…  There may be pain, sadness, grief, . . . or joy.  They just keep on running toward their finish line.

When we choose to turn our lives over to God, we enter His Race.  It doesn’t really matter who runs the fastest, or reaches the finish line first.  What matters is that you have joined the Run.  You have set your mind on the Finish Line, even if you cannot see it or know exactly where it is, nor how long it will take to reach the end.  

What we can know for certain is that it is His Race, and He alone knows the Finish Line.

We can be sure that He knows every inch of the Race we run, and that He is with us….in the weariness, the stumbles, the pain that arises, and the limited vision we have of the Finish Line.  He promises to be “There” when we reach it, as well as with us each step along the way.  You may have thought this was just a sprint.  But you’ve come to realize this is a Marathon.  He joins you in the run, and will be right alongside you. You and He will be doing it together.

He has the Purpose in His Mind, and sees the Finish Line.     So, “run… with patience.”

Not Safe . . . But Perfect

“God’s way is perfect!

 The promise of the Lord has proven to be true.

 He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him.”

Psalm 18:30

I used to address a church leadership class as the senior/founding pastor’s wife of the church we established together.  I had also been in church leadership positions within the church my mom and dad founded and led throughout my growing up years.  So my perspective from personal lifelong experience in church leadership was rather unique.

Yes, I could present Biblical principles and examples to the classes, as well as stories from my own experience.  But what I really wanted to say was, “RUN!”  I also had suggested to my husband that the leadership class be given a T-shirt upon  completion of the class, printed with a big target printed on the front and back, with the word       

RUN!!

(He agreed, but not on a T-shirt.)

Leadership is brutal.  Were it not for “the promise of the Lord”  to my own heart, with repeated reminders from Him throughout the years, I would have loved to run away many times.  “God’s way is perfect!” had to become the foundational Truth that was rock-solid in my own heart.  There is a choice in that: choosing to believe it or not.  It has to be intentionally separated from the actions of people, who are not perfect, nor are their ways. 

King David certainly lived a life of extremes (little brother, shepherd, giant-slayer, national hero, future King, man-on-the-run for his life, personal failure, song-writer (Psalms), and ultimately the King of Israel…God’s nation.)   Yet David could declare, “God’s way is perfect!”   He certainly had great cause to doubt that throughout his life. As a great leader, he wrote this looking back from the perspective of having doubted God’s promises in the midst of tremendous pressures, temptations, failures, gut-wrenching losses, and miraculous victories.  

King David cites the experiences in life when he needed a shield . . . needed a refuge . . . needed to feel safe.  God had chosen David when he was just the little brother who had to miss all “the action” with his big brothers, to stay home and watch dumb sheep.  It wasn’t safe, but it was his training ground in experiencing the only truly safe place in this world:   God Himself.

Ride Through the Desert

“Sing to God; make music to praise His Name. 

Make a highway for Him to ride through the deserts. 

The Lord is his name. Celebrate in his presence.

 The God who is in his holy dwelling place 

is the father of the fatherless

 and the defender of widows.”  

Psalm 68:4-5

A camel race in the desert!   I was in the Saharawi camps (Sahara Desert) when there was an actual, competitive camel race . . . something that I will never forget.  The camels, decorated with traditional saddles, brightly colored fabrics, leather reins and tassels, were a stark contrast to the endless beige landscape of sands, blazing sun and clear blue skies.  The camel riders wore flowing white robes and black head-dresses, covering everything but their eyes.  I had not realized what was about to happen as I stood with a large gathering of people all around me.  

Then I heard a sound I’d never heard before.  The desert floor began to tremble and the crowd began to cheer.  All the women raised their voices in their ancient, spine-tingling sound of celebration,  exploding in high, piercing tones of excitement and joy.  I felt as if I’d stepped into the old “Lawrence of Arabia” movie!

The ground shook.  The sands created clouds of dust around the thundering camels with their colorful, intense riders shouting them on.  Goose-bumps instantly covered my whole body as I stood in absolute awe and wonder  of those powerful beasts thundered to the finish line.  The great burden-bearers were doing what they were created for….perfectly suited….to be able to withstand the intense heat of the blazing sun, their feet fitted to engage with the sand and push themselves forward with tremendous power and thunderous speed.  The thrill of the drama mixed with the awe of these powerful animals left me breathless.

The writer of this Psalm passage knew what it was like to experience the power of the desert beasts who were created to move through the ever shifting sands.  The desert Psalms (Songs)  have a role to play as God’s Spirit moves through that dry land.  Some of our earliest experiences in the desert refugee camps centered around listening to worship music during the long, unbearably hot afternoons.  The music carried words of Love from the Heart of God to that dry, thirsty land, and began to open a Road in the desert.  Built by the Spirit of Jesus,  the Road led to the Father of the fatherless….the Defender of widows, left alone by war to raise their fatherless, vulnerable children,  desperately longing for the Father-heart of God to come near. 

Even There

“He [God] found them in a desert land, 

In an empty, howling wasteland.

He surrounded them 

And watched over them;

He guarded them as His most precious possession.”

Deuteronomy 32:10

The first morning I pushed open the heavy old iron door, the incredibly hot blast of  burning desert heat literally took my breath away.  The light was blinding.  Having arrived in the dead of night, completely exhausted and disoriented, my waking exposure to this desert place was absolutely shocking.  Shielding my eyes, all of my senses were assaulted at the same moment, I remembered thinking, “What kind of hell is this?!!!  NOBODY should have to live here!”

I was in a massive refugee camp in the Sahara Desert of North Africa.  My home in my beautiful, green dairyland in the USA seemed as if it was not even on the same planet as this place I had landed in the night.  

Then, in the distance, I saw the black-covered figures . . . people leaning into the harsh wind, black robes blowing and faces covered against the stinging sands.  Black-robed figures,  a sea of tents and sand stretching as far as I could see.     I will never forget that shocking scene..

That place . . . those people. . . have been in my life, my heart, for over two decades now.  They have changed my life.    I am SO thankful.

It has changed the way I read God’s Word, too.  God, too, “found them (His chosen people) in a desert land…an empty, howling, wasteland.”  His love for them was deep, and His plan for them had been so different than this.  But God’s response was that of the Loving Father, “surrounding them. . . watching over them. . . guarding them . . . “   They were His most precious possessionthe “apple” (pupil) of His Eye, through which all that is  seen directly enters His mind.  

I, too, have tasted that from my Loving Father.  His lovingkindness stands out the most  when I am in the harshest of life’s “desert.”   How I got there, it seems, is secondary.  

As our own world moves through these most unusual times, “even there” He sees, He  knows, 

                                                         He is present.

                                                            Even there.

Down in the Ravine

“Hide in the Cherith Ravine.”

1 Kings 17:3

I live at the bottom of a long ravine.  A river that flows north cut through the earth ages ago, creating a long ravine at the lowest part of the long, long valley.  There is a lot of life in and along the river, and in all of the cities and villages that have grown up along its banks.

Elijah, one of the most colorful Prophets of God, had again stirred up trouble by dropping a “God-bomb” message to the King at the time.  After delivering his unpopular message, Elijah literally ran for his life.   God told him to “hide in the Cherith Ravine.”

God knew what Elijah was dealing with.  He knew what it cost Elijah to be His Prophet in those days.  And He knew Elijah needed a break.  God was there in that ravine, and provided the rest and refreshment that was so sorely needed.

When mortals step out at God’s bidding, there is an added cost because of the increased spiritual battles that rage when we “mess with” the Kingdom of Darkness.  God’s Kingdom is in deadly conflict with the kingdom of this world, and anyone  God calls into that conflict becomes a living target.  It’s as if they are handed a t-shirt with a big bulls-eye target printed on the front and back.  And the Enemy of our souls draws his bow.  

Elijah was a major target for the Kingdom of Darkness.  I’d say he had a full bodysuit with the targets plastered all over it. (It seems that part of his special toolkit also included being an extraordinary runner as well.. . running the other way.)

God was with Elijah.  He knew every detail of the evil Battle that swirled around Elijah all the time.  God knew his exhaustion: Physical, emotional, and spiritual.  When God drew him to the quietness of the river ravine, He provided the much needed rest. Ravens brought his bread and meat beside the stream of fresh water . . . morning and evening, every day.  There was much more drama ahead for Elijah, but God provided the simple daily refreshment for His faithful prophet.

God knows what we need in our humanity.  When we faithfully follow His plans for us, He faithfully provides what we most need. . . for the next step in our journey.

When God Gets Pushy

“He guarded him  . . . 

like an eagle

that stirs up its nest 

and hovers over its young,

that spreads its wings to catch them

and carries them on its feathers.”

Deuteronomy 32:11

I tend to avoid pushy people.  They ruffle my feathers.  But when God gets pushy,  . . . I’ve learned that I’d best pay attention.   I know I’m not going to win that fight.

There’s a huge old gnarly tree about 3 miles from my house, and in it is a massive  nest.  Eagles.  Every year, the eagle pair adds to the huge thing, and soon I  begin seeing the babies being cared for by the attentive parents.  They truly do “hover” over their little ones, and continue to stay with them for the entire summer.  It isn’t that long before the young eagles are nearly the size of the parents, yet they continue all sharing that family nest until late Fall.  

God takes care of us that way.  Nurturing, protecting, and staying very near in our beginning stages of being His.  Then there’s a gradual “weaning” us off of our total dependency, and we have to learn some lessons from experience.  

When it comes time to begin strengthening our wings and learning to fly, God begins to get ‘pushy,’ like the eagle parent.  He starts moving us to the edge, and with a nudge…we’re out there.  Over the edge, flapping like crazy.  As the free-fall begins, He swoops in and carries us away from the pending crash.  Again and again, we get the nudge, without our permission, and freak out in panic.  Again and again, He catches us on His wings…and we grab onto His feathers, gradually learning how amazing it is to be flying with Him.  The landscape broadens . . . the sky beyond our branches is amazing, and the wonder of the ride draws us into venturing out on our own.  Scary, but we begin to learn how to “do it better” next time.  

If He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t push us.  And we’d sit out our lives in the big old picky nest.  Not much of a view.  

But He wants us to experience the wonder of soaring high.  Where He is.

What’s God nudging you to do?  For me it has seemed like that cycle has repeated many times in my life.  And I am the richer for it.  Though those flight lessons are scary, very scary, the View from above … seeing what He sees … doing it with Him,  has been worth it all.

And best of all, . . . . He is there.