The Anointed One Anoints Me

You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.  Psalm 23:5b

This Psalm is more than just poetry.  I am invited to picture walking in green pastures.  I am encouraged to see Jesus with his staff, guiding and protecting me.  I am urged to behold a banquet table laden with delicacies prepared by God’s own hand.  I am even invited to perceive God’s enemies looking on from afar.  I am comforted that they have no access to this holy moment. 

And then, there’s the anointing.  As I anticipate it, I think of another anointing by water when Jesus was baptized.  John the Baptist was breathless with wonder.  He was about to lower the Lamb of God beneath the surface of the river Jordan.  Time stood still, and this holy act unfolded in slow motion.  Jesus was submerged, then burst forth.  This only lasted for a moment, but neither was ever the same again. 

I’m told that the Anointed One anoints me. After a sumptuous meal at His table, this is His holy benediction.  He pours oil over my head, and it runs down the side of my face.  “I have called you, and you are mine,” He says.  I am filled to overflowing as His Spirit energizes each word.  The anointing accomplishes its purpose as I am refreshed to live and serve in the power of His Spirit, just like Jesus. 

I leave this holy place in my spirit and enter the wilderness of my life, just as Jesus did.  Oftentimes I am tempted to doubt the love of the One who anointed me, but memories are powerful things. Anytime I want, I can revisit them. I was created with eternity in my heart. My spirit, even at this moment, can feel the impact of this encounter with the Anointed One.  Because the Word of God penetrates the mind, soul, and spirit, the taste of manna and the feel of oil on my skin are real enough to impact me dramatically, to change me, and to sustain me. 

Anointed for service.  Filled to overflowing.  I live today for Your glory.  Amen

Nana’s Big Blue Bowl

My heart stands in awe of Your words.  I rejoice at Your Word as one who finds a great treasure. Psalm 119:161-162

In the mid-nineties, I dropped by Pier One on the day of their best clearance sale.  I was shopping for a very large salad bowl and went straight to the dinnerware section.  In front of me was a beautiful blue and white bowl.  It was 75% off and a real steal.  I was thrilled and made my purchase.  Years later, I still love it.  The bowl now has quite a history.

I’ve used it to serve a main dish kind of salad when I’ve fed a lot of people at our table.  A salad for twelve people was no problem.   When it wasn’t in use, it was on display.  It graced the middle of our kitchen table. Or, it was placed in the middle of our stove with lights overhead shining down on it.  But most of the time, it sat on the counter with ‘stuff’ in it. Bananas, raisins, good chocolate, nuts, licorice, trail mix, apples, and pears.  Always stocked well and the contents constantly switched up. 

Now, here’s the fun part.  Our family has always headed straight for the bowl whenever they walk into the house.  Adults and kids alike, it’s calling their name.  There’s a quick greeting, ‘Oh hey, Nana!’, and then there’s a collective beeline made for the bowl.

Just say the words ‘blue bowl’ in our house, and everyone feels happy. 

This is not unlike what happens to my spiritual senses when I approach the scriptures on a good day.  When my spiritual hunger is engaged and my need are worn on my sleeve, I can’t wait to mine for gold.  I never know what I’m going to find.  I keep digging until I’m given just the right ‘word’ for the day.  God keeps His word stocked – full of surprises – and loves it when I find the treasure.

I know this is just a foretaste of ‘pleasures forevermore’ that will be waiting for me one day.  When I finish exhaling the earth’s air and inhale celestial air, this will be the moment when my appetite is completely satisfied.

Feed me.  Satisfy my cravings.  Delight me.  In You are pleasures forevermore.  Amen

What Is One Loss Too Many?

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?  Psalm 56:3

How long can you keep going under pressure before you give up?  How many losses can you sustain before a particular one seems too much to bear?  The threshold of abdication is different for each of us.  I know someone who lost one of her children to cancer, and she never recovered.  She lives with a perpetual suspension of emotions and is internally numb.

But I know another woman who lost one child in childbirth and another in a custody battle. She lives alone and is essentially childless.  Though she is acquainted with the valley of hopelessness and has flirted with feeling total despair, she leans on God for the grace and grit to get up each day and live.  She is a wise old soul who gives gifts of compassion, advocacy, and wisdom to those who feel that no one fully understands their pain.  She searches for those lost in themselves and is able to look deeply into their eyes, see their soul, and call them out.

Losses don’t just involve death.  There can be the loss of a dream.  The loss of a marriage.  The loss of a friend.  A loss of respect.  A loss of opportunity.  The loss of dreams.  The loss of years.  A loss of health.  Some are irreparable on this side of heaven. 

If what I’m losing, or whom I’m losing, is the center of my world, despair is close by.  But if God is the center of my world, He is the Anchor who promises to hold me together.  He sings over me and the song gives me strength.

There are days I see the edge of an abyss.  Before I fall, catch me and keep me. Amen

Slipping Over The Edge

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4

While it is comforting to know that Jesus’ rod and staff will guide and protect me, how does that fit with walking through the valley of the shadow of death?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4

In Israel, there was an ancient trail one must walk to travel up to Jerusalem.  It was steep, and the traveler had to climb way above a deep precipice.  The Jews called it “The valley of the shadow of death.” It is believed that David imagined this journey while writing Psalm 23. When pilgrims walked this skinny dirt path, it was easy to slip and fall over the side into the canyon.  Added to the danger were the thieves who hid behind huge boulders on the mountainside.  Attacks, and the physical struggles that followed, almost always resulted in someone’s death.

This stretch of the journey was the most dreaded as God’s people traveled to the Holy City. The Psalms of Ascent reveal that they sang songs of Zion and recited God’s promises to deal with their fear and fatigue. They lived for the joy that awaited them when they entered the gates of Jerusalem. 

With that as the backdrop, I can know that on the most difficult part of my journey home to heaven, Jesus will shepherd me through a similar treacherous valley.  The wiles of the devil won’t diminish at the end of life, far from it.  Satan will try to prey on my fear.  He will thrive on oppressing me when I’m at my weakest.  Never will Jesus’ presence, and His rod and staff, be more needed. 

Jesus also knows the way. His Father led Him through that same treacherous valley as He hung on a cross and approached the end of His mortality.  God’s rod and staff guided Jesus from the moment He said, “It is finished,” to the moment of glorious reunion with the Trinity.   

He will not let your foot slip; he who watches over you will not slumber.  Psalm 121:3

Shepherd in life, Shepherd in death.  My life is continually under your perfect care.  Amen

My Enemies Know There Is A Banquet Table

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  Psalm 23:5

There are two incredible things about these words.  1.) God, Himself, is setting a table for me.  And 2.) The feast is available while in the company of enemies. 

The Shepherd’s sumptuous meal is available no matter the season.  When I’m resting, there’s green grass to nibble on.  When I’m working, there’s fuel for my labor.  When I’m with kindred spirits, there’s fodder for rich conversation.  And when I’m with enemies, there’s a banquet while in hostile territory. 

The thing is ~ it’s the same Word ~ with the same power ~ from the same Shepherd.  What changes are my circumstances and degrees of spiritual hunger.

Do my enemies discern that such a spiritual meal exists?  Yes, and it confounds them.  If their intent is to bruise, even cripple, it frustrates them.  If they have inexhaustible energy to criticize and try to steal my joy, it confounds them when I sing through the pain.  They wonder why I don’t give up, why I’m not bitter, why I’ve not conceded in the battle, and why I have the strength to keep going when human strength should long have been exhausted.  While they may not actually see the banquet table, they know it’s there because they see its rejuvenating effects in me.

A few will lay down their weapons when they understand that this Shepherd is inviting them into the sheepfold.  For those who will repent to shelter in Christ, there is one thing we will all hold in common.  At one time, we were all enemies of the Shepherd.  And now, all His friends.   

Lord, the arrows may fly, but I smell the bread baking. Amen

The Intellect and Faith

He leads me in paths of righteousness . . . Psalm 23:4a

The beauty of walking slowly through a passage is being able to look at every little thing as if it were a new gift to unwrap.  As someone well-seasoned in Bible study, I can just assume that I understand a phrase like ‘paths of righteousness.’  I don’t, and I’m still learning!  

I have often asked, and perhaps you also voice these questions ~ Why does God make it so hard?  Since He promises to lead, and since He tells me that I am a sheep who cannot find my way on my own, why does He not speak louder so that the right path is unmistakable?

God is all about growing me up into the stature and maturity of His Son.  If I can take God by the hand and not have to think for myself at all, isn’t this the stuff of toddlerhood?  Infant faith begins with these kinds of baby steps, whereas mature faith encompasses the ability to engage my intellectual faculties to the glory of God.

I must learn to train my mind, to know how to build precept upon precept.  Sound decisions are made by a student of the Word who has set out to learn the mind of God, through the Spirit and through Scripture, with abject humility. 

Paths of righteousness are ever before me.  God makes them clear for every level of spiritual development.  Milk for the babes; meat for the mature.  And, in that light, I can know that God will grant me the humility to listen.  He encourages every intellectual pursuit that is harnessed to the truth of the Scriptures.

I can be lazy and want to be led like a baby.  Forgive me.  Amen