HE Restoreth My Soul

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. (Psalms 23:1-3 KJV)

Within the dark clouds of this global pandemic, God has provided silver linings. Several folks have expressed the addition of considerably more family time. Often stay-too-late-at-the-office parents have become stay-at-home moms and dads (which makes me wish COVID had come sooner, if it had to come, when I often stayed too late at the office). Several websites report cleaner skies and less polluted bodies of water. Even old pastors have been forced to adapt to new technology and move into the 21st century (ahem!).

One of the blessings that I have experienced has been a greater walk with God – literally. When COVID first hit, our health club closed and my wife and I were fearful of even playing tennis with our friends. We enjoy walking together, but the monotony of multiple laps around our neighborhood and neighboring shopping centers quickly got old. In addition, our daily 10 plus mile hikes while vacationing in Wyoming’s Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks spoiled us. After a little research, my bride discovered literally hundreds of miles of hiking trails and historic walks less than a half-hour from our house. We’ve trekked the historic 5 plus mile Slave Trail in downtown Richmond, walked past the abandoned coal mines throughout Mid-Lothian Mines Park, strolled over bridges and under overpasses through tunnels, and rediscovered multiple parks, many of which we had visited numerous times with our children when they were little, but had no idea of the surrounding rugged, wooded and shaded trails within their boundaries. The ones I enjoy most are those trails that run along the rivers, around the lakes, and through the streams and creeks, where occasionally we’ll fail to navigate the slippery rocks and confirm that our hiking boots aren’t completely waterproof.

In my pocket I carry two small Moleskine notebooks with various Scripture and memory verses I have written over the years to keep God’s Word top-of-mind. There’s one particular passage, however, that I never feel the need to rewrite or reread, because it is indelibly written in my head and on my heart – Psalms 23. Almost without exception, these powerfully God-inspired verses given to King David are re-gifted back to me, and recited as I walk, especially along the “still waters.” Often times I literally prayer walk the verses as I walk along the water. “The Lord is my Shepherd,” I begin, and in my mind’s eye, I imagine my Shepherd Jesus walking beside me. “I shall not want,” I am reminded as I praise God for the many blessings He has given me, and that if I focus on His will, then not only have all my needs been met, but also the desires of my heart. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,” I repeat as I praise Him for those nights of restful sleep, but also as my gaze is lifted up during those times my wife spies and alerts me to the grace of horses, deer, foxes and/or other furry creatures running, galloping, trotting and/or leaping through the occasionally open fields along the paths. “He restoreth my soul,” for some reason is the most vivid feeling I experience as I imagine the cool waters of the brook, lake, creek, river or small stream refreshing me, and somehow I feel energized to continue my journey. “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake,” I find myself praying as hopefully the Holy Spirit continues to guide my journey as a pastor, parent, partner-for-life, son, friend and faithful follower of Christ. Sometimes if someone has passed or something is troubling me “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me,” will have more meaning and more impact, but most of the time I just continue until I have concluded the short albeit powerfully poignant half-dozen verses of David’s 23 Psalm. The calming effect and stress management of our walks are a welcome relief from the distractions of life, divisiveness of the world, and dizzy-busy duties of the pastorate. For now, as long as my Lord has a plan and purpose for my life here on earth, this will certainly suffice. I know of course and am confident that when that time comes, when my Lord calls me home, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” God bless.

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