Sunday, August 29, 2010

City Life

"What do you like about the city?" Chris asked.

We were having lunch in downtown San Francisco and I had just exclaimed, "I really like it here!"

I grew up in rural, northwest Minnesota. You'll laugh when I tell you that I graduated with a class of 17 and the whole school (K-12) was less than 200 students. From there I moved to Moorhead, Minnesota which actually had an interstate highway! I never thought I would live in an area as urban as San Francisco. But I do love it here!

I love that I can take a bus or walk to work. I love that its a 10 minute walk to a major supermarket—but even better is the Mexican produce shop right across the street. I like walking by all the cute little boutiques on Valencia or discount stores on Mission St. There is no shortage of places to hang out, things to see, or do.

Last weekend, Chris and I took a walk down a street in our neighborhood. We were totally surprised to see a variety restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and bookstores, a video store, the library, and a natural food store! Yesterday, we discovered an amazing farmers market just a mile away too! I love my neighborhood!

Yes, sometimes the noise is too loud, the traffic is bad, and the busses run late. The weather is funky (I just heard that summer is in September!) and sometimes the sun only shines in one part of the city.

It reminds me of my time in Gambia too—the markets, the walking, and the public transportation were things I loved about that country (beyond those things, you can't really compare the two places at all).

I think its this urban lifestyle that makes me feel like I'm participating in something beyond myself. I'm surrounded by people everywhere I go: the bus, sidewalks, markets, etc. I'm never really alone (even in our apartment the street noise is very present). I'm reminded everyday that life is not about me! (I'll tell you more about that later!)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Good Shepherd—Amazing Presence!

Two weeks ago, at our Thursday night church gathering the subject was on the spiritual discipline of "Simplicity, Silence, and Solitude." Basically, the idea was that in order to hear from God, we need to make time for him and step away from the noise that surrounds us, quiet our thoughts and listen. The speaker used Psalm 23 to demonstrate these three things. The very next day, I started reading a book called, "The 23rd Psalm for the 21st Century" by Lon Solomon (its published by Jews for Jesus's production company). The author spends an entire chapter on each line/verse—and its amazing!

I think I've memorized the Psalm not by trying to, but just by hearing it and reading it so often. But even though I know the words, I have never captured the meaning of it like this pastor does in his book. I read it during my 15 minute breaks at work and it completely covers me in the Lord's peace and calms my mind down completely. I wish I could tell you all the wonderful things he says in the book . . . (but there are copyright laws).

I do want to tell you that the words of this Psalm are meant to describe to us the relationship we are to have with our God. He is the shepherd, we are the sheep. He truly cares for us the in the most loving and protective way anyone possibly could. He is there to guide us—He knows what is coming up ahead, he knows that we have to walk through valleys, but he also knows HOW we will get through it! He takes us to the places where we need to be and provides all that we need! And he is there with us always! I think its the presence of the shepherd that got me really excited—the sheep don't go anywhere without the shepherd (if they do, they end up in trouble and the shepherd has to rescue it). It's the shepherd's presence that gives the sheep the comfort—not the absence of difficulty!

How wonderful is it to know that being in God's presence, knowing the Good Shepherd is what is going to get us through! That we don't have to do anything on our own or by ourselves except follow Him! Read the familiar words again, let each line sink in. Let the Spirit fill you with His peace! Trust Him!

The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
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 have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.