Taste the Green!

by Kelly Wilson Mize

When I was younger, thinner, and a lot more energetic, I used to tumble. I learned in a gym, but my favorite place to put my skills into practice was a large, open area of thick, green grass. Still to this day, when I see a big green space, it calls out to me. I long to feel the freedom of reckless abandon that I once felt, when I was physically able to run and flip across the expanse.

Usually around this time of year, when the grass starts to turn green and the flowers burst into full-color, our lives too, begin to burst with renewed activity. With upcoming summer vacations, graduations, weddings, and summer planning–spring can often be chaotic and stressful, even with the aesthetic magnificence that is being reborn all around us.

But these last couple of years, the beginning of spring has been different–an unprecedented time, as we have often heard it called. Some of us have longed for the return of busy social schedules, and have mourned the loss of meaningful ceremonies that have been re-scheduled virtually, or postponed indefinitely. Most of us will remember this strange, uncertain pandemic experience for the rest of our lives. But there have been some positives too. With quarantines and social distancing, many of us have taken time to enjoy the outdoors, to fully digest the awakening spring colors and the peace and healing they can bring.

I have always been a devoted fan of chlorophyll. The sight of vivid green leaves and grass in springtime is so welcome to me after a long winter filled with dark skies and a world nearly void of color. The color green lies in between yellow and blue on the spectrum of visible light. Its hue is a mixture of the light of the sun, and the color of the bluest sky: God’s perfection. I can see the green of spring with my eyes, inhale its scent, and almost feel it in my soul. The season awakens senses that have been dormant for months. It offers a glimpse of new life, but also signifies the comforting return of an old friend. There is a green so vivid, I can almost taste it.

It’s not surprising that David refers to the color green in one of his most beloved songs of praise. Most of us have found restoration in those “green pastures” at one time or another. There is peace, strength, courage and comfort when we allow ourselves to submit to the only One who could make the grass green. The colors of springtime help strengthen our faith in an amazing Creator, and in the hope of growth and renewal that only He can offer.

As spring approaches, let go of the fear and uneasiness of the last year and remember that our skilled Shepherd is in control of every pasture. Take a few minutes to connect with Him in the perfect green meadow that was created just for you.

Be still.

Be renewed.

Be strengthened.

Be courageous.

Be led.

Be protected.

Be comforted.

Feast on His peace.

And this year, more than ever before,

Fully taste the green!

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23 NLT

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother of two young adults, and former educator with a master’s degree in education. In 20 years as a published writer, she he has composed numerous articles, interviews, curriculum projects, and devotions, and has contributed to eight traditionally published books. Credits include LifeWay, Bethany House, Guideposts, (in)courage, and others. 

Join the conversation: What does the beginning of spring mean to you?

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He Loves Ewe!

by Pam Farrel

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in need. Psalm 23:1 NASB

I am a true Bo Peep. I grew up on a Suffolk sheep farm in Idaho. So when I read Psalm 23, it is personal, encouraging, and comforting. Like most of the world, you may also need comfort or encouragement in your own life right now. There are a few qualities of your Good Shepherd that might encourage you, especially if you are feeling like you are traveling through the “valley of the shadow of death”.

The Shepherd is Personal

The Psalmist declares “the Lord is my shepherd” because the relationship between a lamb and a Shepherd can be close and compassionate. My first 4-H lamb was a “bummer”, meaning the mother had rejected or abandoned her own offspring. These kinds of lambs need extra attention, so I fed my little lambie with a bottle twice a day, holding her in my arms like a baby. I carded her wool, I hand feed her grain, I walked her, and yes, I talked to her. On cold nights, I tucked her into a warm pen, and if I heard howling coyotes, I got up and went out to check on her. I also named her, “Bunny” because when she was not in my arms, she would delight herself jumping from rock to rock in our pasture. Ours was an “everywhere that Pammy went her lamb was sure to go” kind of relationship.

The Shepherd is a Protector

I picture my granddad and brother as a definition of a protective good shepherd. Ravenous coyotes, wolves and wild dogs roamed the high desert of our family farm. These savage animals would attack and kill whole flocks of sheep in a single night. To keep our sheep safe, we armed them with bells collars. If we heard an occasional gentle chime, our sheep were grazing calmly but if we heard a cacophony of loud jingling, we knew the wild dogs were near by threatening an attack.

To protect the sheep, the men in my family would post themselves in the pasture with the sheep. They would wrap themselves in a down sleeping bag with their “rod and staff” within arm’s reach. It was a cold, uncomfortable, thankless job, but it saved the lives of the entire flock. To this day, when I picture my God as my Good Shepherd, I see him as my strong, powerful, and attentive protector.

The Shepherd is a Provider

When I read, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul,” that is my upbringing. I would often walk barefoot through the deep, lush, green grass of the pasture, as the sheep serenely grazed. I would take a blanket, a Bible, and lie down to spend quiet hours communing with God. I might walk over to the creek and sit on the simple wooden plank to rest quietly, dipping my toes into the cool stream. This was my place of solace and restoration, far away from the chaos that my alcoholic, raging, earthly father might be creating at home.  To this day, an open meadow, or trickling brook, reminds me of the restorative presence of the Good Shepherd, even in the midst of chaos.  

The Shepherd Is a Pursuer

As I have followed my Good Shepherd, I have seen how “goodness and mercy “has surely followed me the days of my life.  One could phrase the meaning of “goodness and mercy” as “certainly what is good, pleasant, agreeable, beneficial, desirable, beautiful and best as well as God’s faithful, loyal, lovingkindness will pursue you.” Wow! Our Good shepherd pursues us to give his faithful love and all things beautiful and beneficial. 

With the Shepherd, we can walk THROUGH the darkest valley and not tremble, because the Good Shepherd sees, knows, cares, and prepares hope and help for each and every one of his sheep…including you!

Find a wool blanket, spread it on some green grass, near some still water, (or a comfortable, cozy space) then open your Bible to let the Great Shepherd send some goodness and mercy your way.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

pam ferrel

About the author: Pam Farrel is still a shepherdess at heart, however instead of living on her family farm, she now shepherds people’s hearts and relationships by speaking and teaching God’s goodness and mercy as Co-Director of Love-Wise. She is the author of 52 books including Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience.

Pam and Bill are the bestselling authors of Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti (and small group DVD series); Single Men Are Like Waffles, Single Women Are Like Spaghettiand the teen version: Guys are Waffles, Girls are Spaghetti.

Join the conversation: What other metaphors in Scripture about God bring you joy?

Mourning Peace

by Louise Tucker Jones

 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

It had been several sad and lonely weeks since my three-month-old son, Travis, died suddenly from previously undiagnosed congenital heart disease. In fact, the weeks had now turned into months. The sadness was more than sad, and the grief still so raw, it cut my heart in two. The shock of his death brought me to my knees, as I held onto God with all of my strength.

But now my heart was so broken that I couldn’t even pray. Questions assaulted me. Where was God? Why didn’t He prevent this? What kind of God takes babies from their mothers? I felt totally abandoned, and became so angry I vowed to never pray to God again.

There was just one problem. I had a four-year-old son, Aaron, who missed his brother dearly and would ask me questions daily. “Mommy, what’s Heaven like?” “Mommy, can I go to Heaven and see Travis?” Or, “Mommy, why can’t Daddy go get Travis and bring him home?” These are tough questions, especially when you are mad at God.

I couldn’t stand the thought of hurting Aaron with the bitterness that was consuming me. I had taught him every day of his young life that Jesus loved him, and I couldn’t bear to destroy that faith. I loved my four-year-old son with all of my heart, and seeing him in such grief was more than I could bear. I knew I had to find peace beyond my own grief so that I could be a good mother to Aaron.

Finally, one night, as I lay alone on my bed in the darkened room, I poured out my heart to God—my anger, bitterness and pain. I prayed, “Lord, I have tried to change but I can’t, so if you want me whole again, You will have to do it. But please let me know that my baby is okay. Please heal my broken heart so I can be a good mother to Aaron.”

Suddenly, the room was filled with an almost palpable peace and I heard God speak to my heart, “Louise, Travis is with me. He’s okay. He’s with me.” Then, to my amazement, I felt the weight of my baby son placed against by breast and I could almost smell his precious baby sweetness and feel his soft hair brush against my cheek. I couldn’t open my eyes as tears streamed across my temples, soaking my hair. I lay absolutely still, allowing God to comfort me in a way I had never known as I continued listening to His gentle whisper: “Travis is okay. He’s with me.”

How long I lay in the mighty presence of my loving God, I don’t know. I only know that when I awoke the next morning, the bitterness and anger were gone. I still missed my son, Travis, terribly. I still had no explanation as to “Why?” But I knew I had just had the most intimate encounter with God’s healing love and presence than I had ever experienced in my entire life.

Are you in a place of pain? Even when we can’t understand the why or feel His presence, God promises to never leave us. As David wrote: “He restores my soul…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:3-4 NASB). We will never struggle with pain alone.

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Mourning Peace – insight on finding God from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet) 

Louise Tucker JonesLouise Tucker Jones is speaker, columnist and award-winning author. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the book, Special Needs—Special Ministry. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands.

Louise’s book, Extraordinary Kids, is a Gold Medallion award winner. It provides parents with vital information to help celebrate, nurture, and prayerfully champion their special-needs children.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced God’s discernible presence? Please share your story!

Keeping Hope to Keep the Call

by Pam Farrel           

I was weary—a tired to the bone, drop-dead fatigued, completely exhausted, “can’t take even one more step” kind of weary. It seemed we were caught in the perfect storm: the ship of our life being tossed about on a tumultuous sea of unending responsibilities.

The positive included constant travel for our ministry, which we loved, but it did take a physical and mental toll. We also had ongoing multiple book projects, which are wonderful blessings, but require much labor.

And in the midst of it all, we were dealing with aging parent care, which required Bill to drive through grueling Southern California traffic for months on end. We were both at the end of our proverbial ropes.

I knew that the Word has some prescriptions for handling weariness.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV )

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” Psalms 62:5 NIV

“. . .Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV 

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Ex 33:14 NIV

“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work…” Ex 23:12 NIV

I knew I needed rest, renewal, revival, rejuvenation—and recovery! So, when the Professional Women’s Fellowship hosted a one-day retreat at a lovely private estate, I went. And begged God to speak to me there and give me HOPE!

During the hour-long quiet time, I stretched out under the shade of a large tree near the pond. As I opened my journaling Bible, I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 23 as I lay down in “pasture” that was “beside still waters.” So, I continued to pray through the psalm: Lord,  refresh my soul….guide me along the right paths  for [Your] name’s sake.  

I flipped opened my Bible to other Psalms, as I nearly always gain refreshing hope there.  I landed on Psalm 55:22 (NIV): “ Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

I thought, “Wow Lord, this seems the perfect verse for me, but exactly what does it mean to “cast my cares” on You?  And what does it mean that you will “sustain” me —because I REALLY need some sustaining power!”

After praying out my weariness, I looked up and found the word translated as “burden” could also be translated “assignment” or “gift”. I thought, “A gift? Really?” I was beginning to see that I had been viewing the responsibilities God had given me as a burden rather than a blessing. Obviously, I needed a paradigm shift to a more heavenly viewpoint!

I also saw the promise that God would “sustain” me– He would nourish, strengthen, and support me — and make me sufficient to handle my assignment.  God was whispering hope to my soul, that whatever my ministry was depleting, God would pour back into me—and more!

In that moment, peace, relief, and a rejuvenating hope washed over me. To lock this insight into my mind, I sketched out two hands, representing God’s caring hands. In one palm was my “gift” of cares and in the other… myself.

Both you and your calling are held up by the Good Shepherd. We are in His sustaining, caring hands. God’s got us!

pam ferrelAbout the author: You too can find hope from God in the Psalms: Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience by Pam Farrel, Jean E. Jones, and Karla Dornacher, from Harvest House. Find out more at discoveringhopeinthepsalms.com.

Join the conversation: What burdens do you need to cast upon the Lord?

Photo by Victoria Palacios on Unsplash

He Loves Ewe! Help from the Good Shepherd

by Pam Farrel

I am a true Bo Peep. I was a fourth generation shepherd, growing up on a Suffolk sheep farm in Idaho. If there is something I am familiar with, it is sheep! So when I read Psalms 23, one of the most familiar of all Psalms, it is very personal, encouraging and comforting.

You may also need comfort or encouragement in your own life right now. There are a few qualities of Your Good Shepherd that might encourage you, especially if you are feeling like you are traveling through the “valley of the shadow of death”.

The Shepherd is Personal

For example, the Psalmist’s opening line of “the Lord is my shepherd” became more precious when I became a shepherdess. The relationship between a lamb and a Shepherd can be a very close, caring, and even sometimes, an affectionate one. For example, my first 4-H lamb was a “bummer”, meaning the mother had rejected or abandoned her own offspring. These kinds of lambs need extra attention, so I feed my little lambie with a bottle twice a day, holding her in my arms like a baby. I carded her wool, I hand feed her grain, I walked her, and yes, I talked to her. On cold nights, I tucked her into a warm pen and if I heard howling wild dogs or coyotes, I got up to go out to check on her. I named her, “Bunny” because when she wasn’t in my arms, she would delight herself jumping from rock to rock in our pasture. Ours was an “everywhere that Pammy went her lamb was sure to go” kind of relationship.

The Shepherd is a Protector

It is the picture of my grandfather, father, and brother’s vigilance that I carry in my mind as what a truly protective good shepherd is like. Ravenous coyotes, wolves, and wild dogs roamed the vast expanse of high desert in the area our family farm was located. These savage dogs would attack and kill whole flocks of sheep in a single night. To help keep our sheep safe, we placed collars with bells on them. If we heard an occasional gentle chime, we knew our sheep were simply grazing calmly, but if we heard a cacophony of loud jingling, we knew the wild dogs were near by threatening an attack.

To protect the sheep, the men in my family would take turns staying in the pasture with the sheep. They would wrap themselves in a down sleeping bag with their “rod and staff” within arm’s reach. It was a cold, uncomfortable, thankless job, but it saved the lives of our entire flock of sheep and their lambs. To this day, when I picture my God as my Good Shepherd, I see him as my strong, powerful, and attentive protector.

The Shepherd is a Provider

When I read, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul,” that is exactly the experience of my upbringing.  I would often walk barefoot through the deep, lush, green grass of the pasture, as the sheep serenely grazed. I would take a blanket and a Bible and lie down and spend quiet hours communing with God. I might walk over to the creek and sit on the simple wooden plank bridge and sit and rest quietly, dipping my toes into the cool stream. This was my place of solace and restoration, far away from the chaos my alcoholic, raging, earthly father might be creating in our small farm house. To this day, resting in an open meadow, or the sound of gently tinkling chimes, remind me of the restorative rest the Good Shepherd can create even in the midst of chaos.

The Shepherd Is a Pursuer

As I have followed my Good Shepherd, I have seen how “goodness and mercy” has surely followed me  the days of my life.  One could phrase the meaning of “goodness and mercy” as something good, pleasant, beneficial, desirable, and best. Our Good Shepherd pursues us in  faithful love to give us these things.

I was going through one of my most challenging years of my life when my friend Jean asked me to co-author Discovering Hope in the Psalms. My Shepherd sent such goodness and mercy because He knew I needed to dwell in the green pastures of His hope-filled Word to survive what I was facing.

With the Shepherd, we can walk through the darkest valley without fear because the Good Shepherd sees his sheep, knows his sheep, and cares for each and every one of his sheep…including you!

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…I know my own and my own know me.”   John 10:11, 14 NASB

pam ferrelAbout the author: Pam Farrel is an international speaker and author of 45 books, including her newest, an innovative Bible study co-authored with Jean E Jones and Karla Dornacher:  Discovering Hope in the Psalms.   Pam and Her husband Bill are Co-Directors of Love-Wise, a ministry to enrich, educate and encourage people’s most vital relationships. When not traveling for speaking, the Farrells enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, walking the beach and hosting guests on their floating home on the ocean.

 

 

Join the conversation: What attribute of the Shepherd do you need to hold on to hope?

Photo by Sam Loyd on Unsplash