Sunday, October 18, 2015

Celebrating "The Lord Is My Shepherd"

By Linda Grupp Boutin

I returned to church this morning after missing for the last three weeks. Two of the last three Sundays I spent in the hospital and it drives me wild when I cannot go when we are in the middle of a new sermon series. Pastor Brian launched a new series called "Sojourn: Life as Temporary Residents" emphasizing that the Earth is just our temporary home. Nothing like two weeks in the hospital with my digestion shut down to bring this to a fine point.

Today's sermon explored 1 Peter 2: 19-25 and he opened his message with the question "How do you respond when life isn't working out like you planned?" Shortly afterward he followed up with a second question, "What is God's desire for us?" I must admit these hit home with me given that one more time He rescued me from the hospital and restarted my balky digestion. One more time!

I know I have a tough time responding well when I land in the hospital. I didn't want to go to the ER, but my close friend called me and hearing how sick I was, insisted that I go. Both Gary and I knew how badly I had been feeling, but after the events of the last 10 months another trip to the hospital seemed simply impossible. Yet Cathy's clarity of the need for help became clear and we went.

In today's sermon, our pastor advised that Peter is counseling the church to live an excellent life doing good and be submissive to God's will for us. During both the music we sang and in the message I found myself repeatedly tearing up, trying to wipe those tears away without notice by those sitting around me.

As soon as I sat down, Gary pointed out to me that the bottom of the sermon notes wrapped up with the 23rd Psalm. He knows that it is one of my favorites and reading it in 1986 helped me decide to agree to the surgery that turned my life around. I submitted the decision to God and let the surgeons do what they needed to do to preserve my life. Afterwards during my recovery I regained the ability to eat again and no longer had to rely on intravenous nutrition for all my food. When the doctors still look at my x-rays, they scratch their heads and wonder how anything at all makes it through my tortured digestive tract.

So what is God's desire for me in my life? I believe He has been preparing me to declare His Miracle in more and more ways. I first began declaring Him in the Aspiring Writers' Forum. Next I worked with our Coffee Break speakers encouraging the women of our congregation to share their walk with the Lord in our once-a-month woman's ministry. I shared my story in February 2012 and it changed my life for the good.

Pastor Brian's final question summed up the whole message for me, "Where does God want to use your submissive life to transform another's life?" Of course, Jesus is the model for us that we can never live up to no matter how we try. He wrapped up the whole message with a careful reading of the 23rd Psalm and there was no stopping the tears for me.

Psalm 23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
A Psalm of David.

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;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

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

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

And this simple Psalm sums up my life for me. I lie down in green pastures and beside the still waters. I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death and with His gentle Hand upholding me returned to try again for another day. He has prepared a table before me in the oddest of ways and my cup does overflow. His goodness and lovingkindness do follow me. And I believe that my faith and His grace will secure a place for me in the house of the Lord forever.

My friends and me the night I spoke at CoffeeBreak, (left to right) Cathy, Darlene, me, Coleene