This month as you come to the end of your journey through Psalm 23, please remember: to slowly make your way through these final verses listening for the tender voice of your Shepherd, seeking to linger with God as God guides you. Take your time to heed, savor and embrace the words of the Shepherd and fully enter into the invitation and challenge that may be contained in these exercises. Sit with the questions and explore the feelings that arise as you journey the following exercises. Be willing to wrestle with God, with yourself, through this process.
As you ponder the verses for this month, pay attention to the words and images you are most drawn to, most resistant toward. What might be God's invitation, challenge, reminder and/or encouragement from those words for you? So, slow yourself down, externally and internally, and listen for the voice of the Shepherd as you complete your journey through Psalm 23 by meditating on Psalm 23:5-6.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies/fears:
1. What are the enemies/fears that cause internal anxiety and unrest for you? What would it take for you to be able to rest and find refreshment in the midst of your enemies/fears?
Take some time to share your fears one by one with God, listening for Gods response to you.
2. Create a collage that expresses your fears and present it to God. Is there any hope expressed in your collage? Why or why not? Share your collage with God.
You anoint my head with oil:
The shepherd would anoint the sheep with oil for the purpose of healing. However, throughout the Old Testament, anointing one's head with oil was an indication of being set apart by God for God, and it denoted an honoring of the individual who was anointed.
1. You have been and are honored by your Shepherd. You have been anointed and set apart as a daughter or son, a royal priest, a chosen and beloved one, a friend of the Shepherd.
Do you see yourself as someone anointed by God, set apart and honored (not because of what you have done but because of who you are, a one-of-a-kind masterpiece of God)? Why? Why not? How does this make you feel about yourself, about God?
Spend some time sitting in, resting in, and soaking in Gods honoring, valuing and prizing of you. Are you able to receive Gods graciousness in choosing to set you apart by anointing your head with oil? Why or why not? Are you able to receive the healing that this honoring that God bestows upon you brings with it? Why or why not? How does it make you feel to know that God has chosen you, anointed you with oil? Sit and ponder your feelings.
2. Imagine you are living an ordinary day, doing something you regularly do, when someone comes up to you and says, Jesus would like you to come and see him. What are your feelings as you hear these words, as you make your way to where Jesus is? When you arrive at the place where Jesus is you see him smiling and holding something in his hands, something that he keeps hidden from you. When you reach Jesus he looks you in the eyes, smiles directly at you, and asks you to kneel before him. What are you feeling as Jesus asks you to kneel before him? As you kneel you hear what sounds like the breaking of a clay jar. Then you feel oil being poured upon your head and, as the oil drips softly down your head and onto your shoulders, you feel the hands of Jesus placed gently on your head. What are you feeling as you realize Jesus has anointed you? As Jesus puts his hands on your head he begins to speak. Listen carefully. What are Jesus words to you today?
My cup overflows:
1. When have you experienced the abundant blessings of God in your life? Take time to make a list of the times you have really experienced the love and graciousness of God? How did you feel about God and your life when you had these experiences? What have been the lasting results in your life? Why? Now take some time to create your own psalm of thanksgiving and praise. Have you been able to draw strength from these times of blessing in your life when you were face to face with evil, walking through the dark valleys, or surrounded by your fear, anxieties and/or enemies? Why or why not?
2. Take a small cup and a large pitcher filled with water. Using your God given imagination, see yourself as the little cup and the pitcher as filled with God's love and blessings. Start pouring the water into the cup (you) and keep pouring the water (God's love and blessings) even as it overflows. Pay attention to what you feel as you observe the overflowing love of God and God's blessings as God pours it on you, into you. Share your initial feelings with God. Now think through you own life: have you experienced God blessing you in this way? If yes, how did that impact your life? How does it continue to impact your life? What has it taught you about God? If no, how does that make you feel? How does that impact your interaction with God?
Finish by expressing your feelings to God (be honest).
Surely goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life:
1. One translation says that goodness and unfailing love will pursue you all the days of your life. How has this been your experience? What is a time when you sensed this happening in your life? Reflect back on the circumstances surrounding your awareness of God's goodness and unfailing love pursuing you. How did it make you feel when you realized Gods pursuit of you? What were the results in your life? How is God currently pursuing you? How are you currently experiencing the goodness and unfailing love of God in your life?
How does it make you feel knowing Gods goodness and unfailing love is pursuing you?
2. Take a walk in nature at a park, lake...somewhere outside) around the grounds, paying special attention to how God is pursuing you with goodness and unfailing love. What do you see, experience, feel as you are walking seeking to intentionally be present to Gods pursuing goodness and unfailing love? How does this awareness make you feel about yourself, God, your life? Give yourself permission to linger in the feelings of being caught and embraced by Gods goodness and love.
Share your thoughts and feelings with God.
3. Try and capture the truth of Gods goodness and unfailing love pursuing you with images through collageing and/or painting.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
1. Share with God what the above statement means to you and makes you feel. Is this something that you look forward to? Why or why not? What do you feel about your answer? Share your feelings with God? What might your answer reveal about your heartfelt sense of who God is?
As you have journeyed through Psalm 23, hopefully you have come to realize that this Psalm is not about isolating the sheep from the harsh and cruel realities of life, nor does it promise to bubble wrap you with divine protection, safely encasing you away from the pain and evil that has taken up residence in the world. Rather, the message is that the Shepherd will be with you as you walk through the dark valleys of death, pain, suffering and evil, as well as invite you to rest in green meadows and linger along quiet waters. So, what you feel towards and believe about the Shepherd and how you view the Shepherd becomes a very important knowing for you. I encourage you to continue to intentionally pursue your relationship with God, your Shepherd, learning to recognize and hear his voice as he calls you by name and invites you to follow him in and through the circumstances and interactions of your life. God is with you, loving you, delighting in you and celebrating who you are and God will never leave you or forsake you.
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