Monday, August 29, 2016

Psalm 23: My thoughts for us, in this place, today.

This weekend, Nyasha and I had the privilege of sharing the pulpit in our Zimbabwean home church.  This was a daunting task with all that is going on in Zimbabwe this week.  I wasn't able to share everything I had prepared for the sake of time so I edited as we went, but here is what I had prepared:

Nyasha and I are a part of a ministry here at River of Life called Revive.  It’s a recovery program that is centered around Jesus.  Through discipleship we are finding hope, freedom, sobriety and emotional healing.  Some people come because of an addiction: alcohol, drugs, pornography, relationships, sex or food and others comes because of depression, anxiety, rejection or people pleasing!

By weaving together the historical recovery of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Biblical teaching of the 8 Celebrate Recovery principals with tools I have learned through 17 years of sobriety, we are, as a group, finding healing for what used to baffle us.

Anyone who has ever walked into a 12 step meeting knows how daunting and scary it is to face the steps for the first time.  Generally you will see them hanging on the wall.  Here is a peek:
  1. We were powerless over our addictions/compulsions, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
In 17 years, I have never heard anyone rejoice at the idea of living life this way.  No one I’ve ever walked through the steps with celebrated at this concept. 


This week in Revive, we read through the 23rd Psalm together and I was BLOWN AWAY!

In a room full of followers of Jesus who are so aware of their messy brokenness—like David who was also messy and broken, I heard things like:

“For me addiction was the Valley of the Shadow of Death and God is guiding me through!”

“The thing about the Valley of the Shadow of Death is that this Psalm never says that God is going to pull you out—it says that he’s gonna guide you through it!” 

“Psalm 23 IS Revive- it’s the surrender of Step 1 and the turning our will to the care of God in step 3.”

One member said that “restores my soul” reminded him that although God doesn’t allow us to regain the time we lost in drinking, he does allow us to regain our life!

Peace, protection, confidence, comfort. These are the words that I heard from people who walked into a room at some point in the past year- with their true self hidden from God, themselves and everyone else they knew. People who balked, like I did, at surrendering my life and will to God’s care, are now calling that same surrender A GIFT TO CELEBRATE.

That to me is the miracle of Psalm 23- it’s not a Psalm for death- like my culture has set it aside for funerals. It’s not a Psalm to be memorized by kids in a Sunday School class, checked off a list and set aside. Psalm 23 is a song for daily living- whatever may come!

When I need to rest, when I need renewed strength, when I need to be guided to the next right thing. When the days are dark and I need to be brave, when I need protection and comfort. When I need to feel welcomed, when I need to remember who God says I am and that my enemies opinions of me don’t change who I am and are really none of my business anyway. When I need to remember that His loving mercy pursues me every day that I take a breath!

This Psalm- it’s words- allow me to celebrate and rejoice each morning when I wake and make a decision to give my will to the care of God, because He can be trusted through all of this!

The Jesus Storybook Bible which we use at home, in all my work and even at Revive says:

“David was a Shepherd, but when God looked at him, he saw a king. Sure enough, when David grew up, that’s just what he became. And David was a great king. He had a heart like God’s heart- full of love.  Now, that didn’t mean he was perfect, because he did some terrible things- he even murdered a man." 
"No, David made a big mess of his life, But God can take even the biggest mess and make it work in His plan."
“God gave David this song to sing to His people so that they would know He loved them and would always look after them like a shepherd loves his sheep.”
This made me think about what song God would give me to sing to you all (If it weren’t an offense to your ears-don’t worry, I will NOT be singing):

I would sing that He is making things right even when you can’t see it or feel it YET. I would sing that surrendering to His will is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, that knowing God’s love is the most amazing gift we can ever receive and trusting Him is the only way to experience the full life He hopes and plans for us. I would sing that the scary truth we must hold onto is that the brightness of God’s love is seen best in the hardest and darkest times, so we must rejoice in those because without them we’d be missing out. I would sing that my life today: Redeemed Regina is only THIS because I know and try to follow Jesus and I would be a messier more broken Regina without Him.

I wouldn’t be able to sing this song without breaking into tears—probably an ugly cry of sadness mixed with TRUE JOY—because it would be so true-so real-so raw.

And because I would know that my entire life so far had brought me to this moment—putting these words onto this paper and that it had all been for one purpose: For me to know Him, love Him, follow Him, fully surrendered and totally imperfect. One purpose: Relationship between this flawed sheep and a perfect Shepherd. God wants that for me, for you and for all of us!

Friends, Psalm 23 is a CELEBRATION – our people at Revive taught us that! It’s a celebration of the gloriousness of living a life fully surrendered to Christ’s will for our life: in the greenest grass, beside the quietest streams, the darkest death filled valleys, in times of being welcomed by the most hospitable hosts and at six course meals in front of enemies that HATE US.

Surrendering to it all, knowing that His plan for our life is better than the best we could hope for because each experience is hand crafted or used by the creator to draw us nearer to Him.

David, broken, messy, heroic David, got that right and so can each of us today. Right here in this time and place- Harare, Zimbabwe. August, 2016. We can be a people fully surrendered to a God that can be trusted.