Pauses for Hope began with a request for “the shepherd poem.” An acquaintance asked me about a beautiful poem she recalls hearing at a funeral at a church. It must be Psalm 23, I said. As the spread of coronavirus flooded the news and our city issued stay-at-home orders, anxiety rushed in everywhere. I thought there must be others also looking for some offering of comfort, religious or otherwise. I would record Psalm 23 for those who may seek a quiet moment with words of divine protection.
Later that day, I turned from the evening news sensing the brewing urgency. I sat at my computer to offer the psalm on an old website I let dormant. Different words flooded in like waves. That night, Pauses for Hope began with the first post, A Single Garment.
This morning, I rose with “surely goodness, surely mercy” in my mind, the melody from one of my favorite worship hymns drifting. I thought, maybe today I will finally offer Psalm 23 for the evening pause.
Surely goodness, indeed, for when I opened the lectionary reading this afternoon, the assigned psalm reading for today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, was Psalm 23.
A beloved Psalm for many. A "shepherd poem” for some. For me, I always recall the scene of a pasture by my in-laws’ home in Dallas. On those scorching July days, the cows on the flat ranch lazily gathered to rest under the shade of the grand oak tree in the middle of the field. The sheep, presumably extra hot under their thick wool, wandered aimlessly—sheepishly grazing here and there—under the hot blanket of the Texas mid-summer sky. How tired they must be, I thought.
Sheep need a shepherd.
The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures;
The Lord leads me beside still waters
and restores my soul.
The Lord leads me in right paths for the Lord’s name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Listen again for a word.
Hold onto a word or a few words from the psalm.
Speak the words as the day ends.
Speak the words as the morning light floods in.
Do the same again tomorrow evening.
Bless the ending of this day
All that is complete
All that is unfinished
Yours is the day
Yours also is the night
Quiet my heart
Lead me by your love
Protect me by your presence
Guide me to rest
All my days