For the Flock, Day 7

“He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3

The Shepherd leads.
The sheep follow.

A Middle Eastern shepherd walks out in front of his flock. He keeps up a running monologue so the sheep can hear his calm voice.

In the West, sheep farmers ride horses and shout. Dogs are used to herd their sheep, barking and nipping and driving the flock from behind.

On one of my trips to Israel I once saw a man behind a flock of sheep, driving them down the road by holding out two long sticks, one on either side, in an attempt to force them to stay together in front of him. Puzzled that I had never seen a shepherd lead his sheep like that, I asked my guide, “Why is that shepherd driving his sheep that way? I’ve never seen that before.” “Oh,” he answered. “That’s not a shepherd. That’s a butcher. He has bought those sheep and now he has to drive them to the slaughterhouse. They won’t follow him, because they don’t know him. He can’t lead them, so he has to drive them.”

Shepherds lead from the front. Butchers drive from behind.
~Hershael York

Be not afraid. He goes before us into this day.
Listen for His voice. Stick to the path.

shepherd

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” John 10:3-4

For the Flock, Day 6

“He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:3

Years ago, my mother bought a love seat and chair at an auction. The furniture had been stored in a barn for decades. The upholstery was chewed by mice, cobwebs covered the woodwork, and it was peppered with bird poop. My dad drove the truck to pick up mom’s purchase, but only under cover of night so no one would see him hauling pieces of junk home.

Mom spent hours in the basement removing the build-up of grime, stripping down the layers of varnish, and tearing off the tattered cushions. Then, she brought it back to its former glory, she brought it back to life, she restored its soul.

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We’ve been covered with a grimy build-up of bad news this week.
We’ve piled on layers of “I’m ok, we’re ok, this is going to be ok” veneer.
Our emotions might be a bit tattered and frayed.
We need a time-out for restoration.

The word “restore” in Hebrew means “to fetch home again”.
Let’s let the Spirit fetch us back home to the Shepherd.

Sundays were created to be restorative —
whether its a run-of-the-mill Sunday
or a-nation-in-crisis Sunday.

When David wrote the 23rd Psalm, he didn’t ask God to restore his kingdom, or his wealth, or his relationship with his son. David asked his Shepherd to take care of his soul, his deepest self, his heart.

We don’t know what the coming week will bring, but we all will be better equipped to handle it if we do some soul care today. Read some scripture, sing a hymn, confess a sin, intercede for others, pray for a miracle, pray for a revival, journal your thoughts, give thanks, be restored.

“You will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

restores

In the eye of the storm He remains in control.
In the middle of the war, He guards my soul.

For the Flock, Day 5

“He leads me beside still waters.” Psalm 23:2

That’s what I need today.
Still waters.

Do you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of information?
Not today.
Do you sense a current of fear trying to pull you under?
Not today.
Are overwhelming thoughts raining down on you?
Not today.

Today, I will let Him lead me beside still waters.

No scrolling.
No surfing.
No viewing.

Just this.

still

Be still and know that He is God.
Be still and listen for His voice.

For the Flock, Day 4

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Psalm 23:2

Have you ever tried to make a two year old lie down?

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My most recent experience has gone something like this:

It’s nap time, Abel.
He runs away and hides under the piano bench.
You can pick out one toy to take with you.
He crawls out and picks up 3 cars, 5 army guys and a stuffed bear.
I concede.
Daisy Duck, Nonnie?

Oh, yes, let’s read your favorite book before lying down.
He jumps up and down on the couch while I read.
Time for a nap now, Abel.
We go into the bedroom and I tuck him in.
I’m thirsty, Nonnie.
I go get his water bottle. But he wants a Dixie cup from the bathroom, so I put one centimeter of water in a cup and bring it to him.
He arranges his cars and army guys.
I tuck him back in.
I’m hot, Nonnie.
I help him take off his socks. And his pants. And his shirt.
Sing, Nonnie.
I start singing a lullabye.
No, Nonnie. Frosty.
I sing Frosty the Snowman, making up lyrics.
He re-arranges his cars and army guys.
I say, “Let’s close our eyes now and snuggle.”
He cuddles up close, but three army guys fall off the bed.
I convince him that army guys always take naps under the bed.
Ice-cream, Nonnie?
Yes, we’ll have ice-cream after you take a nap.
He wiggles around until the covers come off.
I pretend I’m sleeping.
He puts his little hands on my cheeks and stretches them this way and that.
I keep pretending to be asleep.
He gently takes my eyelashes and lifts my eyelids open.
It’s really hard, but I keep pretending.
He whispers to his cars and drops the other two army guys under the bed.
I am almost asleep.
His two little lips brush across my cheek.
I smile.
He rolls over and falls asleep.

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He makes me lie down. 
I fidget and wiggle and resist.
I think about my needs.
I hold on to distractions.
I desire to be entertained.
I want to know what’s going to happen.
I poke at those nearest to me.
Sometimes, He has to make me lie down.

And like a good Father,
He draws near.
He comforts the hurting.
He gives strength to the weary.
He sings over the anxious.
He gives courage to the fearful.

He lays down His life for us.

My soul finds rest in God alone.
Psalm 62:1

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For the Flock, Day 3

I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

When I read this psalm, I always picture a Sunday school version of David, the shepherd boy, sitting on a peaceful hillside on a summer night. He is strumming his lyre as happy lambs are softly baa-ing under the starry sky. I imagine him watching over his contented flock in a lush, green pasture, the sound of a nearby stream gurgling. He reaches for a papyrus scroll from his backpack and begins to write,

“The Lord is my shepherd. I have everything I need.”

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Except that’s all wrong. 

When King David wrote this famous psalm, he was probably on the run from his own son, who was trying to depose him and take over the kingdom. David and his entourage had left Jerusalem, weeping openly, in order to avoid conflict with his boy. Things were falling apart in his nation.

For the first time in years, the King found himself away from the palace and sleeping under the stars, reminding him of his sheep-herding days.

Then it hit him.

“The Lord is the one who is shepherding me.” (ISV)
“I do not lack.” (YLT)

sheeps

David was away from his office, unable to carry on his normal duties, and isolating in the desert. His future was uncertain, he was emotionally spent and physically exhausted. He wasn’t sitting on a peaceful hillside, he wasn’t strumming his lyre, all wasn’t right with the world. Yet, David did reach for a scroll and he did begin to write,

“Yahweh is my shepherd; I will not lack for anything.” (LEB)

That’s what faith sounds like.

The first duty of a sheep is confidence in the Shepherd. — Spurgeon ❤️

For the Flock, Day 2

The Lord is my Shepherd. Psalm 23:1

What happens to a flock of sheep that has no shepherd?
They panic.
They go helter-skelter all over the pasture.
They cry.
They stay awake all night, bleating and pacing.
They get lost.
They fear being attacked by predators.
Sometimes, they start picking on each other.

lost lamb

What happens to a flock that has a Good Shepherd?
They trust.
They stay close to His side.
They sing.
They lie down and sleep in peace.
They abide.
They take refuge in the shelter of His arms.
They take care of each other.

Let’s be a flock that acts like it has a Shepherd.
Because we do.
He is the Lord.

He is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. 1 Peter 2:25

For the Flock, Day 1

How is everybody doing?
I know, me too.
I’m just a little unnerved by news reports,
but watching for a move of God in our midst.

As we all do our part and practice social isolation for fifteen days (at least), I hope we each can redeem the time by using it wisely. I hope books are read, books are written, music is listened to, music is composed, bread is kneaded and baked, garages are cleaned, letters are written. I hope families pray together, play games together, are patient with each other. I hope the still, small voice of the Lord gets our attention. I hope we find strength and comfort in His Word.

But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands.
Psalm 31:14-15

I listened to a reading of Psalm 23 this morning, and it felt like a moment of calm in the chaos, a balm for my jitters, a restful reminder of who I am and Who is leading me.

We are the flock.
We have a Shepherd.

Over the next several days, I invite you to meditate with me on this psalm of David. Let’s let our minds soak in the beauty and comfort of these life-giving, faith-building words.

sheep