Praying The 23rd Psalm

Steve & Shirley

Steve & Shirley

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fill no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23

This Psalm is probably one of the first scripture I learned as a kid. Back then it was more of a learning task than anything else. It really didn’t have the depth of meaning back then that it has come to mean over the last fifty years.

I love this Psalm because it reminds me of how God interacts with his children – how he looks upon us – and how he cares for us.  As the years went by and I experienced more of life, became a little wiser, more realistic about how fragile we really are, I began to make my nest in this Psalm… I came to rely on it more.

I remember in Vietnam this Psalm was my morning and evening prayer. I needed to know that God was with me. I needed to know, as people were dropping all around me, that God was there…I needed to know that when atop hill 881 when the mortars came falling from the sky and my team and I started digging fox holes as fast as we could…we needed to know that God was there and that no matter what happened to our physical bodies, God would take care of our soul. Even though I was still very scared, I knew that God would not leave me.

When, at 48, I had a severe heart attack… and almost didn’t live… again through that whole life changing ordeal of heart attack, heart failure, congestive heart failure I have lived with for 18 years, and the fear… my prayer was the 23rd Psalm. Yes, I was afraid… yes, I was reminded everyday this could happen again. But the Psalm was there to bring me comfort that God was there.

Many times when dealing with members who were going through very difficult days – those facing life changing and life ending events… I used the Psalm as a prayer for them. I remember in my second appointment, Mrs. Bessie, a ninety year old feisty lady whom I had visited with in the hospital for months. About two o’clock one morning I received a call: “Come quick, Mrs. Bessie is dying.” All the way to the hospital I repeated the 23rd Psalm to give me strength in order that I may give them strength. I prayed it over and over and over, getting the words out-of-order most of the time. But when I entered that hospital room as a young pastor facing the first member to die… I entered with a sense of peace in my soul that came from that Psalm.

There is something so very special about this Psalm which lets us know that we are loved and never, ever forgotten that touches and renews our soul. I pray that whatever you may be going through today – however big or small – grand or mundane – know that God is walking with you THROUGH the journey – all the way through.

Start praying the Psalm everyday and perhaps it will bring you the comfort you seek daily. Amen.

Grace and Peace


Passing the Mantle

For those who missed the first four blogs.

The Journey

It is Saturday night at Annual Conference and everyone knows what that means… the ordination of Elders and Deacons. Have you noticed an ecclesiastical progression during the week? First there was the recognition of the new provisional members and their commissioning (the first step on the conference level toward ordination). The next day us old fogies – 41 of us retired from active ministry – we made room for those coming after us. And now tonight, after years of study and examination by the District Committees and the Conference Board of Ministry, we ordained Elders and Deacons to serve God and the Church. The mantle of responsibility, accountability and creativity with Jesus has been recognized and approved by the church.

Now these new Elders and Deacons will take their place in the ranks of leaders in the church and will be the one who we lead the church for the…

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Called, Dragged & Tagged

For those who missed the first four blogs.

The Journey

Over the years people have asked me how my family and I came to be called into the ministry. My typical answer has always been my version of the truth. I was called. Shirley was dragged, and Stephen tagged along.

And that has been the way it has been for 40 years now. I was the one that was called and I promised Shirley and Stephen they could be themselves and didn’t have to be stereotypes of pastoral wives and children. We just sought to live our lives as best we could for our family, our faith, and our Jesus.

Over the years my wife and son have been avid supporters of all that I sought to accomplish in the name of Christ. They have been faithful… even went to church when they had issues with the preacher (me).

My son grew up a very, very good and caring child…

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Perceptions and Dreams

For those who missed the first four blogs.

The Journey

Last night I had a very hard time sleeping. My back was hurting even though the sixth floor of the Terrace is supposed to have new mattresses. I am flipping back and forth, sleeping a little and then waking up. You will never guess what was waking me up.

Our room is on the sixth floor and three floors beneath us is the kitchen and dining hall. As I am rolling around in the bed trying my very best to go to sleep… I kept smelling bacon, eggs, sausage and pancakes. Wow, it was so powerful that I could almost taste it. In fact I imagined that it was almost time to get up and go partake of this powerful breakfast.

I fought it as long as I could and finally got up to go to the bathroom – thinking that I needed to be getting ready for breakfast. On…

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First Mention of Retirement at Annual Conference

For those who missed the first four blogs.

The Journey

Today we are at Annual Conference… that place where United Methodist Clergy and Laity delegates get together each year to discuss the business of the Annual Conference. This afternoon we were in the clergy session – where only clergy are allowed in and we discuss the changes of categories of ministers… i.e. being commissioned or ordained, status changes like going on disability or leaving the conference or leaving the ministry. Now the retirees have gone through a mound of paperwork and meetings with the conference in order to retire.

Today we made our way through all the other status changes and came to that point where we were going to deal with the elders who will be retiring this year. In front of me is a list of some 33 ministers retiring. I quickly scan this document and came to the “M” section only to find there is no Martin…

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