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Four simple words. He restores my soul. But what do they mean? As a child, I had a vague picture of peace because of the previous verse in Psalm 23 – green pastures, sheep and cows grazing on the grass – still waters, easy to dip my toes into. So restoring my soul must have something do with the peaceful scene in my mind.

Does your child have that same sense of peace?

Ps. 23:3a

Ps. 23:3a

Theoretical Conversation #5

You: Do you know what a soul is?

Kid: Well… it’s kind of like the inside part of me.

You: Like your stomach or your lungs?

Kid (giggling): No. If I had an operation and you looked inside me, you couldn’t see my soul. It’s invisible.

You: How do you know it’s there if you can’t see it?

Kid: I just do. It’s what makes me me.

You: So no matter how you change on the outside – get fat, get skinny, stay blond or grow up and have brown hair, your soul is still you?

Kid: Yeah. You could cut off my arms and legs, and nose and ears. I’d still have my soul.

You: You’re right, but let’s not go there. What a horrible thought!

Kid (rubbing hands together): Blood and guts!

You: Change of subject. The verse says the Shepherd restores your soul. What is “restore?”

Kid: I don’t know. We store stuff in the basement, but I don’t think that’s the same. Where would you store a soul except inside yourself?

You: You have a point about your soul stored inside of you, but if you restore something, you take what’s old or broken and fix it to make it like new.

Before and After (1001rlqfw.wordpress.com)

Before and After (1001rlqfw.wordpress.com)

Kid: My soul isn’t broken or old. I’m only eight.

You: No, but if you get mad or scared, do you feel all squirmy inside like you wish you could run and run and run because you can’t stand to stay still?

Kid: Or I want to punch somebody.

You: A lot of people feel like that. They’ve lost that peace from the green pasture and still water. They need to get back there. Then their soul would feel like new, all calm and happy again.

Kid: But I thought the sheep kept walking beside the still water. Why aren’t they peaceful?

You: Sheep wander away sometimes.

Kid: Oh yeah. That other story about Jesus leaving 99 sheep to go look for the one that got lost.

You: And I bet when Jesus finds that lost sheep, it’s happy to have a drink of water and feel safe again.

Kid: The sheep got restored!

You: So when you get all upset about something, how can your soul get restored?

Kid: I guess I just “baa” until Jesus finds me and takes me back to the still waters so I can have a good, long drink.

 art by toia Thompson

art by toia Thompson

And Junior has reminded us how much we need our Shepherd. We stay lost and agitated without Him. Do I hear any “baas?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 23:2b – He leads me beside quiet waters.

Last week Junior and I had a discussion about enforced rest, when God makes you lie down in green pastures. In the next breath, the psalmist says, “He leads me beside the still waters.” Obviously, there’s a time to lie down and a time to get up and be led by the Shepherd.

I’ll continue to have a conversation with “my kid” while I hope you do the same with a child in your life.

quiet water

quiet water

Theoretical Conversation #4

You: “Quiet waters.” What kind of water is that?

Kid: The water doesn’t move much so it doesn’t make a lot of noise.

You: So I guess He doesn’t lead sheep by the ocean.

Kid: Or a river. Rivers move fast. Maybe a lake?

You: Sounds good. A lake on a day with no wind.

Kid: Good day for swimming.

You: Exactly. But in this verse, they aren’t going swimming. Since the sheep are beside quiet waters, they must be on the shore.

Kid: They can’t go in and cool off?

You: I guess not for the moment. But what can they do if they’re right next to the water?

Kid: They can drink it!

You: Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Kid: Well, that’s not hard to figure out. Everybody drinks water.

You: But not everybody drinks God’s water.

Kid: I’ve never seen God Water.

You: It’s not water like you pour into a cup. The Bible says God’s Word is His water. You can drink the Word and never be thirsty.

Kid (suspicious): I always get thirsty again. Besides you can’t drink a Bible.

You: I know I often say the Bible is God’s Word. It would probably be more accurate to say Bibles contain the words of God. But The Word is Jesus Himself.

Kid: I remember. I memorized John 1:1 for Sunday school. (thinks a moment) But how do I drink Jesus?

You: Not with a glass and a straw, that’s for sure. But you can read His words in the Bible and think about what they mean. You can talk to Jesus and listen for answers to your prayers. Those are ways to drink the Word.

Kid: And I won’t get thirsty?

(from Grand Rapids Montessori Walk a Thon)

(from Grand Rapids Montessori Walk a Thon)

You: If I hand you a glass of water, and before you finish drinking it I come back with another full glass, will you get thirsty if I constantly have a full glass ready for you?

Kid: I’d never have time to get thirsty. The water would always be there.

You: That’s how God makes sure you never have to be thirsty. The Word is always there. You can always talk to God, always remember Bible verses you’ve learned. Like the sheep, you can walk along that lake shore and keep sipping on the water as you follow the Shepherd.

Kid: Cool! And maybe sometimes He’ll let me jump in and swim, too.

You: Maybe He will…

still-water

still-water

 

Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of a conversation while you’re sitting on a quiet lake shore? At sunset? I’m putting that on my bucket list.

I’ve been having fun making up possible conversations with my favorite kid. (PC disclaimer: since I have three sons, I tend to imagine these conversations with little boys. I’m not being sexist, it’s just what I’m accustomed to.) We’ve talked about verse 1 of Psalm 23. Your kid understands that Jesus takes care of him like a shepherd takes care of sheep, Jesus yanks him out of harm’s way and will give him everything he needs and more.

Now for the first half of verse 2. Why would He want us to lie down in green pastures?

green pastures

green pastures

Theoretical Conversation #3

You: Describe a green pasture for me.

Kid: It’s green… lots of grass…

You: How big?

Kid: Maybe a mile? You can see trees at the end.

You: So it’s big and wide open with lots of green grass. And in the psalm, it says He makes you lie down in it.

Kid: Does that mean he makes you take a nap in the grass?

You: Maybe. Why would he do that?

Kid: I don’t know. It would be fun to lie down in the grass for a little while, but (wrinkles his nose) cows poop in pastures. And ticks are in the grass. I don’t want one to get stuck in me. Anyway, I’d rather run around in the pasture and play tag or something.

You: Since this is God’s pasture, let’s assume He doesn’t have any bugs in the grass that will bite you. And it’s pretty easy to avoid any cow patties that might be scattered around.

Kid: Okay, but I still wouldn’t want to lie down for long. Boring!

You: Remember when your mom used to make you take a nap, even when you didn’t want to?

Kid: Yeah, she said I got too cranky by dinner time if I didn’t get some sleep in the afternoon.

You: So she wanted you to be rested and happy.

Kid: Yeah.

You: And Jesus the Shepherd wants you rested and happy, too.

Kid: So He makes me take a nap in the pasture?

You: Not a real pasture with grass, but it’s like a pasture when He makes you stop being too busy and just sit around for a while.

Kid: Like summer vacation?

You: Right. Like that.

Kid (nods head wisely): Yeah, I’m in school all day, then I have homework and sports, and I don’t even have time to watch TV. But in the summer, I sleep late, play all day, just do fun stuff. No rush.

You: Good way to put it. When you’re in a green pasture, you’re not in a rush.

adirondack chairs at sunset

Adirondack chairs at sunset

Sometimes, I enjoy my green pastures, and sometimes I’m trying to move on while God wants me to rest. What green pastures are you enjoying right now? What about the kids in your life? Are they also enjoying green pastures? Have a conversation with them and find out.

 

 

Image

 

QUESTION: Does the word want mean desire, or does want mean need?

ANSWER: Yes, as I am likely to say on many ambiguous issues.

Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

That’s how I learned it in the King James Version. NIV says, “I shall not be in want.” For purposes of adult/kid conversations, I’m sticking with KJV where a child can easily misinterpret the meaning. When I first heard this verse, my mind pictured a kid in a candy store wearing a cheesy smile: “Any Thing I Want.”

Let’s listen in on a second fictional dialog between you and your favorite kid. Just so you know, I’ve spent my adult years in Ohio and Indiana which explains my taste in baseball.

 

Theoretical Conversation #2:

You: So now you know Jesus the Shepherd protects you and will pull you away from dangerous places. What about the second part of the verse: “I shall not want?” What does that mean?

Kid: It means that I shall not want anything because Jesus will already give me everything I want.

You: Everything?

Kid: Yup.

You: Do your mom and dad give you everything?

Kid: No. They can’t afford it. They say money doesn’t grow on trees. But God has plenty of money, as much as anybody wants.

You: Do your parents give you anything you want if they can afford it?

Kid (frowning): No. They wouldn’t buy me Zombies on the Planet Murderodor for my Xbox 360.

You: Really? Why not?

Kid: They said it was too violent, pick something else.

You: So they didn’t give you what you wanted even though they could have.

Kid. Yeah. (pouts)

You: Do you think Jesus would give you Zombies on the Planet Murderodor?

(Kid looks at you like you’re crazy.)

You: I mean, you said Jesus will give you everything you want. You don’t even need to ask.

Kid: Well… maybe not everything.

You: Because…

Kid: Because He probably thinks it’s too violent, too.

You: Maybe it’s like when a shepherd doesn’t let his sheep eat poisonous weeds. They want the weeds, but he doesn’t want them to get sick. If your parents think something is bad for you, they won’t give it to you. And Jesus the Shepherd gives you only healthy things, too, things you need. So “everything you want” in this case doesn’t mean that you get your every wish. It means God makes sure you get everything you need. “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not need anything.”

Kid: So want doesn’t mean want, it means need?

You: It means both. Neither your parents nor Jesus will give you what’s bad for you. But they also give you more than you need. Lots of times, they give happy little extras that you didn’t even ask for.

Kid: Like what?

You (holding up tickets): Like going to see a Cubs game?

Image

 

Any talk with your favorite kid will mention different wants that get denied. See how you can adapt the above conversation to those desires versus needs. I’d love to hear how the conversation went.

“The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.”

shepherd

I’ve known Psalm 23 my whole life. When I was little, people read it to me. Later, I memorized it, and over a lifetime I have daily read the psalms for decades. When it’s number twenty-three’s turn, I tend to run through it once again. Ho-hum. And shame on me.
But it struck me on my last reading: how do these words sound to kids the first time they hear the psalm? What were my perceptions when I heard this at age three, five, eight?
I want to look at each verse through fresh eyes. Today, let’s start with verse one. Just the first part of it.

THEORETICAL CONVERSATION #1
You: The Lord is my Shepherd. What does that mean?
Kid: Oh! Oh! A shepherd wears a long robe and some kind of scarf on his head, and he carries a stick that looks like a candy cane, and he tells the sheep where to go.”
You: That’s right. And do the sheep always go where he tells them?
Kid: Yeah. But if they don’t, he has a dog that chases them back to all the other sheep.
You: What if he doesn’t have a dog?
Kid (takes a moment to think): He yells at ‘em?
You: Maybe, but that’s what the candy cane stick is for. He grabs the sheep with the hook part and pulls it back to the rest of the flock.
Kid: Ow!
You: Yeah, but it doesn’t hurt as much as a wolf eating it after it runs away.
(Now, that could make an impression on a young mind!)
You: Do you know that Jesus was really talking about God and people? Jesus is the Shepherd and the people are sheep.
Kid: I’m a sheep?
You: You’re like a sheep. You don’t always know the right thing to do, but Jesus the Shepherd does. He tells you which way to go and what you ought to do.
Kid: So who’s like the wolf?
You: Anyone who tells you to do something bad so you can get in trouble. The devil, for sure. Sometimes, bad people who try to get you to do the wrong thing could be called wolves.
Kid: But Jesus doesn’t grab me with a candy cane stick when I get in trouble.
You: No, but he uses people to make you behave or protect you from trouble. Remember when your dad held onto you so you wouldn’t fall off the edge of the waterfall?

floatiing on Grafton Pond

I could go on with this fictional conversation, but you get the idea. What if you had a similar conversation with a child in your own life? Or maybe you already have. I’ll bet the child’s viewpoint was as refreshing to you as yours might be to him or her.
Once a week, I’d like to add a little more of Psalm 23. It might make for interesting conversation during your family devotions.

reading glasses

I never went to the eye doctor until I was almostfifty. We have excellent eyesight in my family,and I was proud, very proud, that I was the lastand the oldest of four siblings to need readers.Thank you for the applause.

Pride.

banana peel

True to Bible warnings, I have endured a few falls, and my insistence that I don’t really need glasses has been a slippery banana peel in my path more than once.

There’s something humbling about getting glasses at fifty. You have to admit that you no longer reach the high mark of your youth. It falls in the same category as gaining weight in middle age, going gray, and watching parts of you sag and droop that never used to.

 

There’s a companion problem with the issue of wearing glasses. Because I only need to them to read, I forget to take them along on outings. Right now I’m almost sixty. That’s ten years of reading glasses, ten years of leaving them behind on the kitchen counter or by the computer or on the table in my reading nook.

 

Maybe I’m having more senior moments then I realized…

I can’t count how many times I’ve gone to lunch with a friend and had to ask her to read the menu out loud to me. I get to enjoy an extra helping of humble pie every time that happens. If she wears reading glasses as well, she usually lends hers to me so I can read the menu myself. Still, it’s embarrassing to have to ask.

 

Same problem going out with my husband. When I ask him to read the small print, I receive an exasperated look. After ten years, he doesn’t think it’s cute anymore.

 

Ever try to read music at choir practice without your glasses? I watch the conductor, desperately hoping he’ll mouth some key words to help my memory. At least, there’s an upside to that experience; he probably believes I’m his most attentive soprano.

 

Have you tried to read nutrition labels at the grocery store without your glasses? That can be costly. Especially if you’re allergic to some of the ingredients. Last month I bought some dairy creamer. It didn’t advertise itself as “light.” The ingredients list was microscopic, so I just looked at the calorie count – without my glasses. 80. That sounded about right.

 

In actuality, the number was 60, which would have told me less sugar. And I’m highly sensitive to artificial sweeteners. Two weeks of itchy, swollen eyes later, it occurred to me to recheck the ingredients list wearing my 2.00 readers. And there it was. Sucralose.

 

I think it’s time for bifocals.

pride will mess you up

All those banana peels have wasted my time, wasted my money, inconvenienced my friends and family, and compromised my health.

 

Take an inventory of your own “banana peel” incidents. Where has pride taken you down?

 

P.S. Can you guess why this post is in a font size of 18? Or did I click 28? The numbers on my toolbar are kind of tiny…

THREE CLUES TO AUTHENTIC FAITH

How do you know if you’re carrying around a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill in your wallet? Unless you’re an expert, you don’t. Yet cashiers and bank tellers are trained to look for clues. Red and blue fibers, not red and blue printed lines, are the real McCoy. Things like clarity of border lines, alignment of numbers – so close to the real thing, but not quite.

photo by Matt-_money_features

What about being able to tell the difference between a true Christian and someone counterfeit in faith? From the first generation of the Church, people have been asking, “How do I know that I’m truly saved?” And church people point fingers at each other over dogmatic differences, sure that the other could not possibly be saved. It’s no wonder the world is sick of Christians.

But the question of who is truly saved is a legitimate one. Counterfeit money is worthless, and it’s a grave disappointment if someone refuses to accept your cash. False Christians in the church can cause far worse damage. So how can you know for sure?

Magnifying-Glass-S-5009-

3 Clues

 You can’t, but I’m offering three clues for all of us to consider, whether we’re doubting ourselves or ready to accuse others. Notice I say clues. God is the only expert who can discern the condition of every soul. We can only evaluate indistinct evidences.

1. Do you have any “Before and After” Feelings?

This one’s for the self-doubter. If you cringe like other conscientious Christians when you mess up and sin, the question haunts you. “If I were truly saved, would I have done such a thing?”

When many of us came to Christ, we knew what we were like pre-salvation. We knew how we thought about issues, about faith. After we got saved, our whole worldview changed. If our lives were plotted on a graph, you probably wouldn’t see a solid, upward line of spiritual growth. More likely there would be steep climbs and plunging drops, but positive progress would be significant.

Even if you’ve believed in Jesus your whole life, you should be able to look back and see how your faith has grown.

line graph

2. Has anyone ever told you that you’re different than the way you used to be?

And they see something good? I don’t mean that you’ve lost the tire around your waist or you’re sporting a fresh, perky new hairstyle. They see a character change for the better. The best compliment I ever received was from an old friend of my mother. After spending an evening together, she said, “I can’t believe how much you’ve changed in twenty years. You’re so… serene.” Thrilled, I answered, “I think you see Jesus in me now.”

If it’s natural to give Jesus credit for the change in your character, you just might really be saved.

3. What hurts your soul?

Every human being feels a deep wounding when betrayed or seeing a loved one hurt, but the Christian feels the same pain when Jesus is disparaged and openly hated. When my son became a Christian as a teen, he asked a couple of his close friends to refrain from using the Lord’s name in vain. He explained that it made him sad.

How do you feel when Jesus is a joke in the midst of the party? Or the object of someone’s contempt? Do you laugh with the crowd? Shrug off the nasty comment? Or does it hurt your soul?

 

These are three clues to follow. There are dozens more, I’m sure. Feel free to share the clues that you use to help you evaluate true faith in Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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