By Pastor Mark Woodward
Maple Leaf Parish Churches: Spring Valley: Faith, Cherry Grove, Fountain, Preston (and Lenora)
Have you ever had one of those days when you find yourself running here and running there and and just having too many commitments and things that require your attention, along with other things that cause stress, pressure and anxiety? I had one of those weeks recently. It was a very full and busy week!!! In the midst of all of it, I had a moment to sneak off into the woods on our property with my Bible in hand.
I snuck off to one of my favorite spots near an old log and stump. It was a beautiful moment… cool breeze, clear blue sky, a few remaining colorful leaves and behind a clump of pine trees, two deer…It was a glorious afternoon.
I got to reading Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” As I read those familiar words, I paid careful attention to “…he restores my soul.” In the midst of a stressful and busy week, it felt so good to be in the presence of my Shepherd and to experience for myself the gifts of renewal and restoration. The wind whistled in the trees, the deer looked my way and the sunshine filtered through the branches. It was a holy moment.
After spending some time in the woods reading and re-reading Psalm 23, it was time to return to the work and commitments of the day. The words of Psalm 23 gave me a real sense of renewal that day. I took the words of the Psalm and fashioned them into a sermon for the following Sunday… It had been a busy week and I was kind of tired, so the sermon was more or less kind of disjointed. I was not overly happy with it, but I did the best I could at the moment. Then it happened. Several people came up to me and said that my sermon on Psalm 23 really touched them and called them into a closer relationship with making more time for God in their busy lives… One person told me how important it is to spend more time with God’s Word and to make time to pray, think and allow God’s Holy Spirit to bring about renewal.
Yes, these are stressful days in many ways and we need to open ourselves to the moving of God’s Holy Spirit. As I sat there in the woods that day, I got to thinking about my Shepherd and how I can really allow my Shepherd to guide my life each day. At the end of Psalm 23 are these powerful and inspiring words: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” These are words we all need to remember because in them our hope is renewed and our days are filled with joy and God’s unending love.
I am making it a priority to spend more time in prayer, Bible reading and being renewed in the joy of the Holy Spirit. I feel so blessed that I went out in the woods that day with my Bible in hand. I am so thankful for Psalm 23 and most of all I am thankful for my Shepherd… and you know something? That Shepherd is OUR Shepherd and he reaches out to you and me to be with us through all of life to guide us and uphold us through all of those stressful, busy days… “The Lord is OUR Shepherd, WE shall not want. He makes the US lie down in green pastures, he restores OUR soul… Surely goodness and love will follow US all the days of OUR LIVES and WE will live in the House of the Lord forever.”
That was a beautiful day out in the woods… these are beautiful autumn days and may we walk hand in hand with our Shepherd! Praise be to God in Jesus Christ!