You Prepare A Table

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Dear Lord,

Sometimes I count my troubles, and sometimes I count my blessings. I am thankful for the way You have provided for my needs in ways that are more than abundant. I never want to take those blessings for granted, nor do I want to keep them all for myself.

If anyone could prepare a table, it would be You. With unlimited resources, unrestricted power, and unyielding love Your table will be the best prepared of the ages.

The anointing oil of Your love, compassion, and care is a sure expression of my worth to You. Not that I understand that, for I am most unworthy. Yet here I sit, at Your table, staring at Your feast, receiving Your attention.

More than sufficient, the blessings overflow. Isn’t there laughter in an overflowing cup? Perhaps a wink … a feigned spirit of surprise … a meaningful moment when the sight of the over-full cup paints a distinct portrait of what You want me to see Your presence and provision.

All of this…in the presence of my enemies. Perhaps these are the constant threats that will never go away until the regeneration of all things … the wolf, the cougar, The Wolf. But I’m mindful now of the enemies that steal my laughter, that remove my smile and leave me with wrinkled brow.

Fear.

Selfishness.

Unforgiveness.

Gluttony.

Loneliness.

Lust.

Anxiety.

Greed.

Death.

Doubt.

My Shepherd, since you know my heart so thoroughly, you know that this is just the beginning of a long list. Don’t You want to remove Your table and Your cup now? Perhaps there are other sheep who are more worthy. I’m guessing there are other sheep who please You more.

No?

In grateful tears I receive Your blessings today in the presence of my enemies knowing You have conquered them all. I thank You and praise You for Your table, Your oil, and Your cup.

~John

Your Rod and Staff Comfort Me

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me

Dear Lord,

As I take my time praying through this Psalm, I am always caught off guard by the way it touches the dusty corners of my heart. Your Word reaches so throughly into my hurts, my struggles, my weaknesses, my inadequacies, my humanness. Always with Your relentless desire to rescue me from myself … and convincing me that Your love has indeed saved me.

Your rod reminds me that You are perfectly capable of fending all enemies. I’ve been lied to so many times that the truth doesn’t always sound true. The Enemy has filled my mind with a thousand “what ifs” and “if onlys” and “why do you thinks” and other questions designed to raise my doubting heart. It is only when I take my eyes off of You that I can entertain such distractions.

When I see Your words,  I am humbled by Your wisdom.

When I see Your deeds, I am breathless in amazement by Your power.

When I see Your love, I am ashamed, but accepting.

When I see Your tomb, I hear the echo of its emptiness.

And then I remember that Your rod comforts me. I do not have to defeat the enemies of the cross, or my life, nor The Wolf, for it has been done.

Your staff reminds me that I am never out of reach. Gently You continue to guide me along this journey. As long as I am within sight of Your staff, I am within reach of Your care. In such a way I am free to be who You made me.

Yes, Lord, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Keep me near to you so that I may often look up and be reminded of Your power. You are able to completely fulfill every duty of being my Shepherd. I will be satisfied to be a sheep under your direction and protection.

~John

Even Though

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

Dear Lord,

When I started through this journey of praying through the 23rd Psalm, I knew that I would not like getting to this part.

I’m glad that this wasn’t the first sentence of this Psalm. I needed to know what kind of Shepherd You are, how good You are. My awareness of Your guidance, Your desire to lead me to still and quiet places, is where my  heart wants to be.

Even though…

I suppose that for the rest of my earthly trek I will continue to ponder the significance of the loss of our son in relation to your presence and power. My mind drifts back over David’s sweet and calm lyrics.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want … even though.

He makes me lie down in green pastures… even though.

He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul … even though.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake … even though.

Those two words reflect the subtext of grief in my life. It doesn’t make sense. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – MUST I?

Is Your leading and guiding taking me through the most treacherous place my  heart has ever been? Do You have to drag me through the hell of suffering in order to get me to the calm and quiet? Is Your ability somehow limited in some way that I do not know? What else will You allow me to suffer along this journey? Didn’t You know that this crushing loss would be more fierce to me than the most ravenous wolf? Wasn’t there another way? And weren’t You my son’s Shepherd too? While I am confident that he is now resting near quiet waters where we all long to be, I am left behind with questions and pain.

In the blackest of shadows, Shepherd, please take my hand. This valley of death is frightening beyond words. Yes, I have questions. Yes, my faith has some holes. Yes, I’ve questioned everything. But dear God, would You please continue to be my Shepherd…

Even though.

~John

He Guides Me in Paths of Righteousness

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Dear Lord, Trustworthy Shepherd who would never lead me into the wrong direction, I love You. As I experience following in Your ways, I am surprised at every path. I forget that these are well worn paths that You have traveled many times with many others.  They are pathways created through uncertain hillsides where You know every step, every rock, every branch, every danger, and every spring. When I walk in Your ways I am assured You have selected for me the most advantageous trails.

I love You for Your insight into who I really am, what I really need. I love You for your foresight, which has – before I was born – worn dirt grooves throughout the earth for me to follow. I love You because You knew that my path would not head in the right direction without Your intervention. I love You for the cross…and the empty tomb.

Lord I’ve already confessed that I’m not a very good listener. I am convinced that Your way is better than mine. Your will is more important than mine. Your guidance is more dependable than my own. Stronger than my own stubborn heart is Your inexhaustible love. You call me to paths of righteousness and I remain in a continuing spirit of penitence for walking down paths of unrighteousness.

Lord, I confess that You are my Chief Shepherd. I never want to walk away from your path. I desperately want the righteousness that only you can give. I need Your forgiveness, grace, but more. I desire what only Jesus can give… His righteousness. Mine is too damaged to repair. His is pure and holy and fit for Your presence. So cover me in His righteousness Lord. When You hear this prayer, would You hear His voice first? Would You see His blood covering my weakness and sin? Would You accept me because I wear His name? And then Lord would You help me remember that I am completely accepted in Your arms, hearing Your voice, obeying Your gentle admonitions, and giving You my heart?

And my loving Abba, please give me opportunities along the paths to bring honor to Your name.

~John

He Restores My Soul

He restores my soul.

Dear Lord,

In all of the ways that I am touched and blessed by Your grace, nothing is as meaningful as the restoration You bring to my soul. That part of me that seems unreachable and sometimes unteachable, is easily within Your grasp. Your desire to give my soul the life it once knew is incredible to me.

After all, it is due to my wandering that I need to be restored. I’ve been whipped by the cruel rod of the Wolf and left for dead. I’ve tried to find my own way to green pastures and quiet waters, and gotten discouraged that I couldn’t find them without You. I’ve been hurt by others in the flock, surprised by their treachery. I’ve sometimes blamed others for things I’ve done. And I have walked outside of your paths into dangerous pastures filled with snares.

Yes, Shepherd, I need Your gentle restoration. I’m much too confident in Your shepherd’s heart to doubt your desire to save me. I know that with one word you are at my side. With no ability to fix the mess I’ve made, and as I begin to breathe the first words of sorrow, You are already mending the torn places in my heart. Gentle Shepherd I can sense your compassion and mercy. I’m quite familiar with them because, as You know, I so frequently need them.

Restore the joy of my salvation.

Restore the vigor of the faith I had when I was young.

Restore the wisdom of my faith I often neglect.

Restore the trust I had before the Enemy tore it from me.

Restore the love for your will and word when it fades.

Restore the commitment my heart made in the past, makes daily, and will make forever.

Lord restore my awareness of your presence.

Restore my soul.

~John

He Leads Me Beside Quiet Waters

He leads me beside quiet waters.

Dear Lord,

My Great Shepherd, who could I ever expect to know my deepest needs but You? Beyond knowing, Your care and guidance always bring strength to my soul. Though I have never served you perfectly, you have never failed to Shepherd perfectly. I know that my heart can have peace without measure in your presence as you take me to quiet places.

Quiet places make me crazy. When I am at rest I wonder what I ought to be doing. When there is no noise I bring it into existence…TV…Radio…iPod…going places… going nowhere… creating the noisy environment. The world I create is not nearly as serene as the one You created. Yes, the one You created that best suited Your creation.

I’m almost afraid of the quiet. In the silence I have time to think clearly. I am able to see my reflection and wonder how this has happened to me. In the quiet moments The Enemy brings my regrets, my mistakes, my disobedience, my losses … he elegantly places them around me so that no matter which direction I look I am reminded of the failure of my trek. But this is not the quiet to which You lead me.

You lead me to quiet waters that allow me to drink without fear. I see my reflection in the waters and do not see failure but redemption. I see You. Standing beside me, giving me assurance. Near these quiet waters of my heart, I understand why You have led me here. No amount of noise, confusion, crisis, or thunder can rise above the holy  din of Your peace.

Lord, when I’m running through my days … would you remind me to come back to this place? As  You already knew, I needed to come here.

~John