Shepherds spend lots of time outside, and this familiar and
popular psalm attributed to David invites us to the healing
landscape of green meadows, flowing rivers, and tree-shaded
paths. Such places offer renewal and restoration, and needs are
I remember a time of discernment around a possible vocational
shift. I spent many Saturday mornings walking along
smooth, shaded trails that eventually led over a rocky path to
a hidden pool that only turned into a stream in wet seasons.
There, with my journal, I would reflect on current ministry,
notice the changes in my “still waters,” and listen for nudges
of a new call. I experienced the nurture of nature, the soothing
sounds of water, the envelopment of peace. I trusted that I was
being led on the right paths.
Today, many people focus their attention on screens of all
sizes and spend less time outside. Long work hours and many
obligations keep people from enjoying the outdoors. Vacations
become destinations to air-conditioned resorts or spent in fancy
recreational vehicles complete with satellite hookups. Some
writers say we have an illness, a nature deficit that no pill and
no amount of watching a nature show can make up. Researchers
have discovered that walking in meadows or among trees can
lower stress and improve blood pressure.
The first verses of the psalm invite us to slow down, feel the
grass under our feet, and watch the river. They bid us rest and
breathe deeply, receive the good tidings of nature, and let God
restore our souls.
Take me, Shepherd God, along peaceful paths. Slow me to a gentle pace where I hear the birds, smell the flowers, feel the brush of spiderweb, and smile. Sit with me in verdant meadows as I dip my toes into cool streams. Teach me to be a grateful steward of your handiwork. Amen.
First Samuel 16 reminds us of the bold risk that Yahweh took in the anointing of this young and unheralded shepherd. If 1 Samuel 16 causes us to wonder about the adequacy of all human shepherds, Psalm 23 reassures us that one Shepherd never fails. The New Testament passages consider the tension between light and darkness as a metaphor for the conflict between good and evil. In Ephesians 5, the struggle has already been resolved but takes seriously the continuing problem of sin. By means of the love and presence of Jesus Christ, even the power of evil cannot withstand the light. Then John 9 emphasizes the power of Christ as a bringer of light in the story of the man born blind.
• Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. How often do you allow external appearances to affect your decisions? In what ways are you learning to look on the heart?
• Read Psalm 23. When do you take time for yourself by slowing your pace, breathing deeply, and allowing God to restore your soul? How might this become a daily habit?
• Read Ephesians 5:8-14. How do you discover what pleases God? How does your living reflect your discovery?
• Read John 9:1-41. When have you experienced a “healing” that brought you back into community—either at home, work, or faith setting?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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