Psalm 23 reloaded

This post is a zinger, but I want you to know the person I am speaking about: myself. These words grew out of a recent conversation with my husband, in which I realized I have trouble giving myself permission to do three things: take up space in the world, have needs, and make mistakes. Out of this clarity I wrote what I sometimes live. May God have mercy on his child in need of grace, and if you could have mercy on me too I’d sure appreciate it.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not have needs

He maketh me to be just fine, thank you, and I have it covered

What you said did not hurt me and what you did does not make me angry

But I have a friend you could pray for, she is really having a hard time


The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not desire

I am content with the status quo and to admit hunger would mean to become incomplete

I am perfect in spirit, I drag along a body till I leave this old world and it obeys me better if I don’t listen

God’s way is best I will not murmur, hallelujah


The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not struggle

Those people out there do not have him, poor souls, but here in the fold we are good

And always put our best hoof forward. Our sins, supposing we had any, are under the blood

There is no looking back and we’re never in mental turmoil, praise the Lord


The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want

It’s been a while since I heard his voice but my wool is still squeaky clean. When he says

He comforts me I’m not sure what that means. As far as I know I have peace with God

And my fellowman so I don’t have any enemies. What does it mean to restore a soul?

the Burden

I saw a woman bent under a weighty Burden, staggering up a hill toward a clouded sky. When she turned her head to look once over her shoulder, I saw that the face was mine.

Atop the hill was a cross, and on the cross a Man upon whose face she could not bear to look. His blood dripped down down into the dust on which she walked.

As she walked she cried aloud Why, why if you are suffering for me am I bearing this weight? Have I not brought to you my Sin-Burden and laid it at your feet long ago? And every day I bring you more, my pride and shame and stumbles, each a load I release before your mercy? What is this great Burden still upon my back, Lord?

In my mind and hers we heard answer. It is not your sin you carry, love, but your Care. Wrapped in its heavy folds is everything you obsess over, every situation you manage for yourself, every person whose happiness you take upon your shoulders. Your Burden is friendships wrapped in fear, children wrapped in overprotection, dread of what others will think, timetables with which you torment yourself, worries for the future, lists and unchecked boxes and all the things you wish you could undo. It is a ponderous weight. Can you not let it go?

I saw her stumble forward, saw her hands fumble at the straps that bound the Burden to her.

Please, please take it for me, she said, and her tears and his blood were one in the dust. The load fell hard against his cross and he smiled. It seemed to me that the woman fell also, yet I saw she was not falling but shrinking down, down until caught like a crumpled leaf on a breath of wind she rose toward him, flew into the wound above his heart and was held in perfect love, no longer the Carrier but the Carried.

His blood dripped down onto the burden.

Monday’s confession of faith

I probably look like I always love him and I never doubt

And for many months this can be true


For many months the thought of him is sweet and I believe his words and am

So happy to be part of his family

The Bible is alive and the Lord’s Supper full of meaning

And when I sit in church on a Sunday morning, the sound of my own people singing hymns

Is the feeling of slipping into a warm and fragrant bath


But I will tell you honestly


I cannot stand us

Sometimes our meetings are endless and our trivialities a millstone

And our pastors insufferable

(Yes, I married one of them)

(His wife is even worse)

Sometimes God’s people are not that good

I said sometimes God’s people are not that good

Sometimes God’s people are not that good, folks

And the Lord’s Supper tastes like breadcrumbs and nothing more and

The magic does not descend


Sometimes it is a small discrepancy in Scripture that I stumble over

Calling into question the whole book and everything I’ve swallowed


Sometimes it is just life, when so many bad things happen at once that I wonder

How can it be that someone out there is taking care of us?

Would life look any different if he were nothing but a figment of my imagination?



What if he is there, but not who I always thought?


Can anyone really be that good?


Sometimes I drop into darkness and know that the world is empty of a Messiah

And that hanging all my heart on this one man to be true

Is folly


So I cry


And then

I blow my nose and think


Here I am

If I can imagine a God better than the one there is, what kind of contradiction is that?

Wiser people than I have hung their hope here and found grace to live and die by it

(Some of them attend church with that pastor’s wife

And love her anyway)


I have not found another philosophy on earth

That makes anywhere near as much sense as the one that says

The Master suffers

And pain heals the world



Discrepancies aside, the fresh-air truth blowing out of those pages gives me reason to go on

There is more right about this amazing, historic, eerily accurate book than wrong



If he is not

There is nothing to explain the beauty

And how buds form every spring and seeds grow and the earth is renewed and people are sometimes kind


And I pray please, please be real. I need you to be real.

Who will I turn to instead?


I probably look like I always love him and I never doubt

But I believe in doubt

As the birthing stool

Of faith


To the forgotten one

I do not often pretend to have His words, but – This is for you.

I am the light you cannot see, searching, piercing – not the mild sunlight of a summer day or the glimmer of candle and firelight, but the unescapable blaze of a streetlight on a deserted parking lot when all around is darkness.

I love you.

I saw the look on your face when it happened again, the thing you feared. It was only there for a second before you hid it, but I saw. You were not alone.

When you look around, you see the smiling Others whose lives seem to work – their bodies, their faces, their families. They seem to skip over the hard bits, or laugh them off, or overcome them. They seem so on top of things, and in the darkness you wonder why you are the odd one out.

I know the grief you carry, the tightening of your heart when the subject comes up, the dread of insensitive questions and curious glances. I know how you cry when people move in to care, and cry when they do not.

I know you worry that it will be too much for you, that this thing will make you crack if you face it, that the price is too high. I know exhaustion. I see it in your eyes. I know what you have sacrificed, and though you wonder, I am the one who knows it is not in vain. It will never be in vain.

I see you.

I know you.

You are not the only one.

I know the things you hold close to the chest, the horrors you cannot share lest your world cave in around you. In scores of stripes across my bleeding back I carried them for you. I carry you still.

In your loneliness I am there. When the night closes in, you are held in my light. When everyone else has someone, when the silence of the people who matter the most screams at you, when you’ve forgotten how to be the person you were, when the radiant ship sails without you, I am there.

I know what lies beneath your frustration and your turmoil, I know the palpable midnight of your fear. I am there when it yawns beneath you, when frantically you flail your way to solid ground, panting, shrieking.

Darling, you could fall all the way down and I would be there.

You are mine.


A case for hurry

You know what they say.

You’ve probably heard them yourself, and you know what they say.


Look at Jesus, they say. He was never in haste, and never late for an appointment. Let Him be your model. His people should be calm and unhurried.

They are full of it, I say.

Well, alright. In light of the present age, with its busyness-as-personal-worth measuring stick, they may be offering a valid pushback. Although Jesus did a lot of things His people don’t achieve… I haven’t had anyone haggling me because I can’t walk across a lake in a storm, or heal paralysis by touch.

If Jesus was never in a hurry (which I am not convinced of, to be really honest with you), it’s because he was God, and God does not miss His own appointments. But Scripture is full of stories in which holy people rushed around to join Him at His chosen times and places.

Look. You have…

A 99-year-old Abraham hustling to tell Sarah of angelic visitors, then running to fetch a tender calf for their dinner

Angels rushing Lot out of the city

Rebekah hurrying to water Eliezer’s camels

The Israelites scarfing down the first Passover meal, per God’s commandment

Moses hurrying to worship

Holy armies hastening to war

David running toward his giant

Abigail hurrying to fend off the attack of armed and dangerous men

The kings of Babylon jumping to witness the work of God

Mary hurrying to see Elisabeth

The shepherds dashing to the manger to worship the Baby

Zacchaeus launching out of his tree

and Paul hurrying to celebrate Pentecost in Jerusalem.

There are even a few Old Testament references to God hastening His plans to fruition at the right time.

If you want to tell me that the lives of Jesus’ followers should not be characterized by agitation and constant rush, you have a point worth making. If you want to say we’re rushing for the wrong things, or that proper planning can save last minute scrambling, I’m on board. If you want to say that listening to the Holy Spirit can quiet our hearts and supernaturally prepare us for things to come, I couldn’t agree more.

But we are human. We usually cannot see the future, we make mistakes, and we struggle to stay ahead of our tasks. “Christians should always be unhurried” is awfully close to “Christians should always be comfortable” which is awfully close to straight-up heresy.


Sometimes we are capable of far more than we think, if we’re willing to put up with a little rush and chaos. Sometimes the unexpected arrives on our doorstep, and we hustle to make it work.

We hurry to join God in the places He wants us.
It’s time we stopped feeling guilty for it.