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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
   for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   my whole life long. (NRSV)

True rest is hard to come by it seems. As much as we talk about self-care and work-life balance, we talk about them because we live in a society that undervalues them. Sometimes where productivity and efficiency are king it even seems to vilify them. We internalize that drive to produce so much that we often can’t get ourselves to turn off or be restored when we finally do have down time.

The Lord as shepherd imagined here, then, is countercultural. Not only does the God of Psalm 23 provide and protect, but God “makes me lie down” in those green pastures. (“Hey, you. You’re going to rest now. Here. STOP.”) And it’s real, restorative rest: the Hebrew verb suggests lying down stretched out, fully extended. There’s a feeling of complete surrender to gravity and sinking into the green grass.

When is the last time you really stopped to rest? Turned off the computer, put away the phone, and stepped away from your many to-do lists? How productive can we really be when we’re constantly tired and burned out? God gave the Israelites the commandment to take a sabbath once a week for a reason, and our shepherd God leads us to grassy fields and quiet streams for soul restoration—even in the presence of enemies or through death-dark valleys. As tough as it can be to do it, finding rest is a spiritual practice. Let’s find ways to dwell there.

Shepherd God, thank you for providing for me. Thank you for giving me places and ways to be restored in you. Help me quiet my brain to listen to your voice and to take the time to do so. Let me dwell with you and live in your goodness and mercy. Amen.

Written by Sarah van der Ploeg, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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