Looking to the Good Shepherd Jesus for the example of how to care for others... Keeping a discerning eye on those who claim to be shepherds of God's people... Learning to recognize, heal from, and speak out against abuse -- spiritual, emotional, verbal, and physical -- in churches, organizations, families, and society.
So for myStrength in Hymnseries, this isn't exactly a hymn in the modern sense like the others, but it sure is an ancient one. The early church sang the Psalms, as did the Old Testament saints. Just words for the eyes and mouth? No. Worship from and for the heart. As a teen and young adult, I sang it straight from the King James, with a little repetition to make the words fit the rhythm of the melody. Whatever the tune, whatever the version, it's a timeless and powerful testimony to the goodness of God.
"From Psalm 100, we're going to see that Christian worship is a weekly cosmic journey that takes us to a palace, a pasture, and a pantry, where we experience God as a King, a Shepherd, and a Gift-Giver." Josh Bales in sermon on 9/29/2013
"Why do people in church seem like
cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … On the
whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently
sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of
power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?
The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets,
mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear
ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash
helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should
lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or
the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.” — Annie Dillard, Christian nature lover best known as author of A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. This quote, which Josh Bales used in his aforementioned sermon, is from her book of essays, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters.
One more thing, a prayer of confession, from yesterday's service:
"Almighty God, we confess how hard it is to be your people. You have called us to be the church, to continue the mission of Jesus Christ to our lonely and confused world. Yet we acknowledge we are more apathetic than active, isolated than involved, callous than compassionate, obstinate than obedient, legalistic than loving. Gracious Lord, have mercy upon us and forgive our sins. Remove the obstacles preventing us from being your representatives to a broken world. Awaken our hearts to the promised gift of your indwelling Spirit. This we pray in Jesus' powerful name. Amen"
This morning Judy, a dear friend from church, was talking with me about the grace and goodness of God. As I left, she encouraged me to keep noticing beauty, to keep taking photographs, and to keep writing. That I will do, no matter what else is going on in my life, which sometimes is a bit much for my patience level. Participating in the beauty of the Lord helps to keeps my faith alive and to trust him when I might not otherwise.
The pictures in this post were taken in Baldwin Park, Florida, in a small neighborhood natural habitat preserve. Two of my younger children and I were waiting for my kids to get out of Lake Baldwin Church's youth group and decided to go on a nature walk and enjoy the beautiful creation of our King, Shepherd, and Gift-Giver. What is beauty? Good question, one which my son had asked me a little earlier when I told another mother she had "beautiful children." I replied simply, "Beauty is a reflection of the goodness of God."