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The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. -Psalm 23

 The 23rd psalm is one of the most quoted passages of scripture in all the Bible.  Many of us memorized Psalm 23 as children growing up in Sunday school, almost always with the words from the King James Version.  Most commonly, we hear the 23rd Psalm read at funeral services as a source of comfort and strength, reminding us of God’s everlasting love and concern for our souls.  But that if the 23rd was the prayer of our hearts and a reflection of our way of in this life?

The Psalmist begins with the proclamation: “The Lord is my shepherd.”  The psalmist is not the shepherd or leader of his own life.  He is not lead by the ways of the world, his career, his money, emotions, or the thoughts and opinions of others.  How differently would our lives look if we could declare the same in our own lives?

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 I grew up surrounded by cow pastures outside of Atlanta, Ga.  I set one of those pastures on fire once (but that’s a story for another day).  I remember the beauty of those rolling hills early in the morning or late in the afternoon.  Nearby was a road where two large ponds were connected by small creek which snaked its way through the pasture of one of our neighbor’s.  At those times of the day, all was still, and the water was as smooth as glass.  Every time I read the 23rd Psalm, that’s what comes to mind.  It was so peaceful.  We don’t see a lot of scenery like that much, but I believed our soul longs to experience the same serenity.  When the Lord is the shepherd of our lives, such contentment is promised, even during the chaos of this life.

So too is the restoration of our souls.  How is it with your soul?  Are you tired?  Anxious?  Overworked?  Underappreciated?  What would it look like if your soul could be restored?  Have you sought such restoration in God?  Instead of approaching God as a ridged disciplinarian that must be pleased, what if you cried out to the loving shepherd that longs to give you rest and an abundance that overflows?

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

As difficult and chaotic as our lives can be, most of them are filled with good things for which we can be grateful.  Gratitude is powerful and contagious.  When we are able to be present to ourselves and the things that make us thankful, the things that so commonly get us down disappear into the ether.  When we live with this perspective, we, slowly but surely, begin to see that every second of every day is lives in the goodness and mercy of God’s loving, caring, and shepherding presence.  The 23rd Psalm is a promise for this life, not the next.

Which of promises from the 23rd Psalm are most encouraging to you?  Make it your prayer for the day, and trust God to shepherd you, whether you walk through the paths of goodness or in shadows of the valley of death.