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Sunday, February 23, 2014

"God Is Faithful!"

“The LORD will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs
in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.”
Isaiah 58:11 NIV

One of the attributes of God that I love the most is his faithfulness! I love this scripture so much because there have been many times when I have not been faithful to God, yet he has always been faithful to me. There have been times when I walked away from God or when I knowingly have been disobedient, still my God continued to stand nearby waiting for my return. He is a God that will not let any of us go and he will be with us here on this earth until we take our last breath. When we feel that he is absent or has left us it is only because we have allowed ourselves to wander away or because our focus has become self-centered. Sometimes the events of life leave us so devastated that we indeed wonder where God is.  But let me assure you, HE is there!
I love today’s scripture because it is a constant reminder that no matter what my circumstances may be the LORD is always available to guide me and satisfy my needs. He also does the same for you. In a world that is full of pain, suffering, death, and disappointments, God is still here with us. In a world where many do not consider God to be anything but “out there” and others do not believe in God at all, we often find ourselves, as believers, suffering the consequences of their unbelief. Our world has indeed become a sun-scorched land. Still our God promises to strengthen our frame and provide water to our spirit. This “Living Water” comes from a spring that will NEVER fail or run dry!
We must always believe that God is good and that when we are his precious child he will never let us go. God loves to lavish his love on us at all times and in many different ways. He is still a God of miracles and we must always look for where he is already at work on our behalf. Remember, God loves you with an everlasting love!
For the past four years I have posted weekly to “The Garden of My Heart”. The time I have spent with you has been one of my greatest joys. It has been my honor to simply write for Jesus. However, after much prayerful consideration, the time has come for me to focus my attention on other projects.
Today I want to tell you how much I value each one of you faithful readers. I have been blessed by your comments and encouragement. It has been my privilege to pray for you and hopefully challenge and encourage each of you. Some of you are my family and friends, others of you have come to the garden by way of a friend. There are also numerous international readers, who live in far away countries that I have never visited. Oh how you have blessed my heart! It has been my joy to know that you enjoy faithfully coming to the garden to meet with Jesus. Others of you have just happened upon the garden and regularly walk through the gate to read, pray, and meditate. No matter how you have come to the garden, you have filled my heart to overflowing by returning so many times. Not because of me, but because it has been a place where you have indeed met with Jesus. I am especially thrilled if it was a place where you met Jesus for the first time. I also want to thank my prayer partners who have faithfully prayed for this writing project. I would not have made it without you
 “The Garden of My Heart” will remain available so that you may continue to visit the garden anytime you want to do so. Please use the “archives” on the right side of the blog page to bring up four years of previous posts. There is also a “topical index” for your use. You may continue to contact me at . You may also leave comments at the end of any post. My Facebook “Garden of My Heart” site will also remain available for comments. Remember the access to the garden gate is .
I want to challenge all of you to continue to grow in your faith. There is so much to learn as you walk deeper into the garden with Jesus. The Master Gardener, Jesus Christ, will always be there waiting for you. I want to encourage you to remain faithful to the One who is always faithful to you. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is a friend that sticks closer than any brother, sister, husband, wife, child, parent, or friend. He is trustworthy beyond more than you can ever imagine.
So today, it is with deep regret that I leave all of you. I am currently seeking to follow God’s guidance regarding the future. Until we meet again in the garden or inside the gates of heaven, I remain in his love and service.
 Paula Hoover
“The Garden of My Heart”

Friday, February 14, 2014

God's Valentines To You

“Cast all you anxiety on Him because He cares for you!”
1 Peter 5:7 NIV

Today I admit that many times in my life there have been days when I have been in the middle of a situation that consumed all of my thinking. At times I have had a heavy, dark cloud of dread that hung over my head. I confess that many times I have been worried and concerned for days and nights at a time. I have also experienced a heavy pain in my heart that would not leave. Today, what is that circumstance that leaves you feeling fearful, helpless and out of control? Is there something in your life that you wish would change or go away?
No matter what it is that is plaguing us today or any day, I Peter 5:7 is a reminder that we are not alone in our situation! As I read that I am to cast all of my anxiety on God, because He cares for me, I realize that I must choose to embrace this verse and take it into my heart! The Bible has many examples of how intimately God knows and cares for each one of us. God does not loose track of a single human being that He has created.
Today we celebrate Valentine’s Day. I want to share with you some of God’s Valentines that carry the message of his everlasting love.
Valentine 1 – Jesus, the Good Shepherd knows your name.
“The man who enters by the gate
is the shepherd of his sheep.
…and the sheep listen to his voice.
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
John 10:2-3b NIV

I am amazed that God knows my name and never forgets it! I can’t tell you how many people I have been introduced to and two minutes later I can’t remember their name. God knows my name and He knows yours too, and he will never forget it!

Valentine 2 – God has known all of your days even before you were born.

“My frame was not hidden from you when
I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:15-16 NIV

It astounds me that God knew me before I was even formed in my mother’s womb. Even before a single day came to be all of my days were ordered by God. When it comes to our lives, we are always surprised by what happens to us in this life, no matter if it is good or bad. However, God is never surprised by the events that unfold in each of our lives. That’s why it is so safe to trust him, because God is prepared for every circumstance even when we aren’t.
Valentine 3 – God knows the number of hairs on your head.
“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
Matthew 10:30 NIV

I don’t know about you but every time I brush my hair some of my hair falls out. But God keeps track of each hair on my head and counts them all over and over again. I for one, am amazed!

Valentine 4 – God watches you sleep.

 "He will not let your foot slip –
He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed He who watches…
will neither slumber nor sleep.”
Psalm 121:3-4 NIV

 When was the last time you watched a precious little child sleep? When a little child is sleeping they are perfectly still. Sleeping children are precious! They are not fussing or doing a single thing that could get them into trouble. As we watch that child sleep our love for that child just flows from our heart. Imagine this…God watches YOU sleep. What a vision that is and what a comfort. Even with all of our flaws and shortcomings, God’s love pours out of his heart towards you and me as he watches us sleep. Do you still doubt that God loves and cares for you?
Valentine 5 – God stores your tears in a bottle.

 “You have taken account of my wanderings;
put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in your book?”
Psalm 56:8 NIV

 Our tears do not go unnoticed. God not only wipes away your tears He gathers them up and stores them in a bottle. What a loving reminder that God cares for us and never forgets our pain and sorrow.
Valentine 6 – God thinks precious thoughts of you.

 “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.”
Psalm 139:17-18 NIV

God’s thoughts of you outnumber the sand. That means throughout your entire life God will think trillions of thoughts regarding you. Even in your sinfulness and failures, God’s thoughts regarding you are still precious! He hates sin but always loves the sinner! God knows who he created each of us to be and he is pleased. We may not be there yet, but his precious thoughts of us are always in our best interest. God never forgets what he wants to accomplish in us and through us. That is why we need to trust him in all things.

1. Have you ever doubted that God cares for you?
2. Which of God’s Valentines to you do you love the most?

Dear God,
Today I thank you for these truly wonderful Valentines that express your love for me in an incredible way. Forgive me for ever doubting your love and care for me. Please write all of these verses on my heart so that I will always remember how very much you love me. I pray that these verses will become so much a part of my thoughts that they will enable me to fall into your trusting arms each and every time that I am feeling overwhelmed, fearful, discouraged, or unloved. Lord, forgive me when I fail to return my love to you. You lavish your love on me everyday. Help me not to miss your love! Lord, I want to fall so deeply in love with you that my obedience to you will be nothing short of joy because I love you so deeply.
In your son’s name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Promise With Two Parts

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Psalm 23: 6 AKJV

 Today as I am sitting in the garden, I am feeling a little sad. The life that Jesus Christ lived on earth was such an amazing example of the way that God wants us all to live our lives. I feel sad because I fall so short! I get caught off guard and my attitude is crummy, my words are not kind, and fear is often just a thought away. People upset me and my response is not always gracious. At times I find myself being intolerant of others who are not like me. Time after time the example that Jesus set for me is there, yet I get it right only occasionally. I know full well that Jesus was perfect and I am not, but God did send his son Jesus, as an example to mankind so that we would recognize what holy living looks like. Jesus’ example is the bull’s-eye that we aim for.
I don’t believe that God demands perfection but I do believe that he wants to see progress in the lives of his children. God desires to see each of us moving continually in the direction of holiness. I am faced with daily choices. I must learn to choose godliness over sinfulness, goodness over evil, and mercy over criticism. It helps me to remember that my first thought does not have to be my last. I can choose to respond differently. My mother used to say, “Just take a deep breath and count to ten.”
The Psalmist says that goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. God’s goodness and mercy has followed me every day that I have been alive. God’s goodness and mercy follows both believers and non believers every day. All people experience good things from the hand of God, but it is the grateful believer that will acknowledge that all the goodness and mercy they experience in this life is from the hand of God alone.
The first promise found in Psalm 23:6 is true! God’s goodness and mercy does follow us around like a puppy dog! I am beginning to realize that God’s goodness is always followed by his mercy. God is so compassionate and merciful and those attributes are the very qualities that make his forgiveness possible. So if I am to be like Jesus then I must also make every effort to follow the example he modeled. Jesus always exhibited goodness and mercy, compassion and forgiveness. More times than not, I cannot do this in my own strength. But the Holy Spirit has promised to help us in our time of need. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NIV
I must admit that if I get upset with someone I often take a hike! I pack up my bag of goodness and mercy, leave the presence of the person that offended me and head for the nearest exit! As they observe my exit, I’m sure they are thinking, there she blows! How much better it would be if I could humbly reach up to the throne of grace and wrap myself in the blanket of God’s grace, goodness, and mercy. Then I would find that I am equipped to go back to that person with the understanding that they too are in need of Jesus’ goodness and mercy. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5: 7 NIV   My prayer today is that God would enlarge my capacity to be both good and merciful.
The second promise in today’s scripture verse is “…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  What will the house of the Lord be like? It will be a safe place and it will be a place of love and welcome. It will be a place where goodness abounds. It will be a place of eternal REWARD.
Our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, wants us to hang in there! He wants us to carry his banner of goodness and mercy high, as we walk through this valley of the shadow of death. I don’t want to be in a place that when others see me coming toward them they view me as an enemy. No, I want them to feel safe and loved. I want others to say, here comes Paula, and she is carrying in her arms goodness and mercy. I want them to be happy to see me.  If per chance I am actually able to do that, it is only by the grace of God and the example of Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit that enables me to have good thoughts and holy responses.
This is a beautiful day for reflection. The garden is quiet. The sunshine feels warm. There is so much beauty it nearly takes my breath away. I am beginning to remember all of the lessons to be learned from the 23rd Psalm. What a marvelous Psalm! It is indeed a perfect pattern for living my life. It is God’s ideal plan for my spiritual growth and development. It is also a Psalm of amazing comfort. Only six little verses but what an impact they have made on my life.
Jesus Christ, my personal Shepherd, wants a RELATIONSHIP with me. When I put my trust in my Shepherd and enter into a personal relationship with him he begins the process of REDIRECTION. When I am sitting still before the Shepherd and I am free of distractions he begins to direct my life and lead me down a fresh new path of right living. As I listen to my Shepherd, he begins the process of RESTORATION. He begins to shape my life and restore it back to the way he intended it to be before sin entered our world. There is much in my life that is in need of change but the Shepherd REMAINS with me through all of the dark valleys I will ever encounter. My Shepherd is always waiting to provide me with the soothing oil of his Holy Spirit which gives me comfort and peace.  My Shepherd will constantly be close beside me for as long as it takes for me to be able to trust him. He wants me to RELINQUISH to him all that keeps me concerned and worried. He wants all my fears and all my anger. He wants my pain and my suffering. In the moments that we spend together in deep communication, my Shepherd REFRESHES my spirit. I eat from his bountiful table of blessings and drink from his refreshing living water. I accept his lavish love for me. My Shepherd follows me day in and day out with his goodness and mercy. The Shepherd has promised me that at the end of my journey here on earth he will give me my REWARD. The reward is heaven, the place where I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever and ever. What’s not to love about a Shepherd like this? 

  1. What are the seven “R” words that indicate the pattern God has for your spiritual growth and development? 
  2. What “R” word best describes what you need from the Shepherd this day?
  3. What are the two parts that are promised in Psalm 23:6?
  4. Which of the six verses of Psalm 23 is the most meaningful to you?

Dear Shepherd,
I am so thankful that you care for me in such a loving way. According to the words of this Psalm I will want for nothing. Not now, not ever! What a plan! A Relationship with my maker, Redirection for my sinful life, Restoration of my spirit during hard times, and God you  Remain  with me as you wait for me to Relinquish my needs and all of my difficult circumstances into your sovereign hands. God you Refresh me and you Reward me! You have cared for me from the beginning of my life and will be with me forever. Only a God like you could have orchestrated such a perfect plan. What a beautiful picture of you loving goodness and mercy. Thank you Jesus, you are an amazing Shepherd.
In Your Name I Pray. Amen.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Lapping Up The Blessings

“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies:
you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.”
Psalm 23:5 AKJV
This morning I am thinking about all of the blessings that I enjoy even when it seems I am passing through “the valley of the shadow of death.” In spite of the many hardships that life so generously throws my way, God’s table of constant blessing is spread wide before me for my enjoyment. His provisions for my life are always there. I shall not want, I have all I need.
This morning I think that I will again leave the garden and cross over to the “table land”. The flat “table land” is the place that I want to be because my Shepherd is there. I will sit at his feet. He will pour onto my head a fresh anointing of the oil of the Holy Spirit. I have come to recognize that this oil is not only soothing it is essential for my survival in life. Every morning I find that I am in need of a fresh anointing of that oil. It occurs to me that I wouldn’t dare leave my home early in the morning without a fresh cup of coffee. It is something that I have come to enjoy and something that I need to get my juices flowing! Likewise, it is also ridiculous to think that I would ever consider beginning my day or leaving my home without a fresh anointing from the Holy Spirit. This anointing is what I need in order to guard my heart and protect my emotions as I begin my day in “the valley of the shadow of death”. Receiving this anointing is not only something that I need; it is also something that I enjoy. It sooths the spirit and is good for the soul!
As I find my place at the feet of my shepherd, I am filled with a sense of peace. I do not know what I will encounter this day but I do know the One who holds this day and everyday in his sovereign hands. I now move in a little closer to my Shepherd. As I worship I lean in closer to Jesus and rest my head against his loving arms. Looking up at the clouds I begin to count my blessings.
First and foremost, my most important blessing is the gift of eternal life. My second blessing is my relationship with my creator. My third blessing is my assurance that God will never leave me or forsake me. My fourth blessing is for the wonderful gifts of love, joy, and peace that fill my spirit to overflowing levels of delight. I then look around and marvel at all God has created to bring inspiration and delight into my life. If this was all there was in life, I would be truly blessed.
But for me there is more. God has blessed me with a wonderful loving family; I have shelter, food, and clothing. I also enjoy heat during the cold weather and air conditioning for the hot months of the year. There is electricity, running water, a bed with clean sheets, a car to drive, friends, a wonderful church, and the gift of creativity that I so enjoy. I really must stop here because the list just goes on and on. I’m sure you get the picture. I pray I will never take these blessings for granted. I must always give consideration to the fact that I am richly blessed and that all my blessings come directly from the hand of God.

Yes indeed, like a sweet soda that overflows the glass and spills onto the table and runs into the floor, such is my cup of blessings. My cup runs over and over and over! I am reminded that blessings do not stop during hard times. God does not pull the plug when we are down and out or things get tough. In the presence of my enemies God’s blessings still overflow. My plate is always full of good things.
I am overjoyed to know that my Shepherd desires to REFRESH me and one of the ways that he does this is through an abundance of blessings. It is impossible for me to think of a blessing without smiling. The emotion I feel when I reflect on any one blessing brings joy to my soul. That joy is the perfect antidote for refreshing my weary spirit, my downcast head, my troubled heart, and my confused mind. Is life hard? Yes, and sometimes it gets harder. Can we be refreshed in the midst of brokenness, pain, sadness, confusion, and concern for ourselves and those we love? Yes. How do we do this? We run to the “table” and we bow our head to receive the oil. We eat from our plate of blessing and we drink from our overflowing cup of God’s endless love for each and every one of us.
I am aware that some people are struggling to survive on every level. Jobs have been lost, food is scarce. Some are cold and have no bed to sleep in. Burdens are heavy and emotions are raw. But the Shepherd sees their need. Sometimes God’s answers are so simple they go unnoticed by most of us. Even the homeless seem to survive. Not of their own doing, but their survival comes from the hand of God. However, we must not forget that God uses those who have to give to those who have not. We must find ways and be willing to deliver a cup of cold water when God tells us to give or go.


  1. In your mind are you feeling forgotten by God?
  2. What are you struggling with?
  3. Are you in a “wait” holding pattern as you long for change in your circumstance?
  4. Do you need refreshment as you continue to wait?
  5. When was the last time that you visited God’s table of blessing and expressed gratitude?
  6. What do you think about asking God for a fresh anointing of his Holy Spirit every single day?
  7. What is God asking you to do regarding those in need?

Dear Shepherd,
Forgive me when I forget to acknowledge my blessings. The fact is, I have so many blessings that I can’t even write them all down. God, today I come to your table of blessings. I thank you Lord, because my plate is full and my cup overflows. I thank you also for the amazing blessings that minister to my spirit. Your love and peace are indeed priceless! Even in the presence of my enemies your blessings are endless. Jesus, please guard my heart from depression and discouragement. Give me a heart of gratitude. This day I accept your antidote for self pity and ask you for a fresh anointing of your Holy oil of joy so I can go out with joy and face life in “the shadow of death” with confidence and peace deep in my heart. Help me to remember that even in the darkest of days you are still able to minister to my spirit. For this blessing I also give thanks.
In your name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Passing Through

The crack in the center of this mountain
is the narrow valley.  
The flat green grass is the "table land" .
“Yes, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for you are with me;
your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
Psalm 23:4 AKJV
Today the garden of my heart is especially beautiful. The hot pink Crape Myrtles are breathtaking. The orange Tiger Lilies are stunning, and the yellow Black-eyed Susan’s sway in the breeze.  I can’t imagine this world without color. If I could, I would surround myself everyday with beautiful flowers, majestic mountains, and gorgeous sunsets. Indeed, God has made everything beautiful!
I believe that the beauty that is found in creation is there for our inspiration and also to surround us with such magnificence that deep within our soul we are eye witnesses to the very existence of God. The Psalmist David also enjoyed the beauty of creation, yet now he dares to make mention of the “shadow of death.” What is “the valley of the shadow of death?”
It is my understanding that a good shepherd leads his sheep through the mountains in order to get to the flat “table land” on the other side of the mountain. This can be a dangerous journey. Sheep can fall off the rocks that carve out a valley between the mountains. This is also a place where wild animals may attack the sheep. This valley is a dark cold place that is void of sunshine. It is called “the shadow of death” not because you die there but because the possibility of death is near. Even though the sheep can be unruly, the shepherd has gone this way many times before and is confident as he leads his sheep. He knows that once he is through this hard journey the flat “table land” of refreshment awaits all of his sheep.
When my husband and I were on the island of Hawaii, we stood on a high cliff and down below us was the beautiful lush green flat “table land” and in the distance stood a huge mountain. At first glance I didn’t see much, but as I looked closer I could actually see the crevice of the valley that was dividing the mountain. I exclaimed with great joy! That’s it, there it is, the “valley of the shadow of death!” I was so excited to get an actual visual of what the Psalmist was talking about. In that moment, Psalm 23 came alive to me in a new and precious way. I shall never forget that moment.
As I think about the “valley of the shadow of death” it occurs to me that death is not the problem but it is “the shadow of death” that is the culprit. This life is the “valley of the shadow of death” and we are passing through this life on our way to heaven. Because we live in a world that is rooted in sin we are susceptible to all kinds of dangers and attacks. Evil rears its head in the form of darkness, depression and despair. We experience the pain of disappointments, and the coldness of loneliness. It is the wild attacks from Satan and all of the unexpected agonizing occurrences of life that send you and me plunging into the depths of loss and despair. No, it is not death that we as Christians fear, it is “the shadow of death” that grips our heart and sets our knees to knocking. Yet, our Shepherd says, “do not fear for I am with you”.
I am so thankful that the psalmist writes; that we “pass through” we don’t remain in difficulty forever. The “table land” that will be used for our grazing is just on the other side of our difficulty. It is the Shepherd that REMAINS with me every step of the way. I may not see him, hear him, or feel him but the fact is that my Shepherd remains with me as we travel this life together. The many hardships of life are not found in death; but rather they are found in “the shadow of death.” Death itself, if we belong to Jesus will be glorious!
The shepherd’s rod and staff are the tools of his trade and they are symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The rod corrects the sheep and the staff leads and rescues the sheep. Both tools provide comfort to the sheep. My spirit is comforted to know that my Shepherd also has provided me with comfort and direction through the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. My job is to RELINQUISH all of my pain and sorrow to my Shepherd.
Oh, the lessons that I learned in the garden today have been amazing! It is almost time to leave the garden. I find myself leaning one last time on the back fence where a Mandevilla vine is adorning the fence with a blanket of pink blooms. In the distance I see the mountain and if I look really close I see the valley carved out in the middle of the rock. I can almost see my Shepherd emerging and I am following close behind. The sight of the flat “table land” makes my heart leap for joy. Once again the “shadow in the valley of death” is behind us. My Shepherd and I have come through the dangers of life together and the “table land” of heaven is in clear sight!
  1. Do you relate to this life being “the shadow of death?”
  2. What do you fear?
  3. How do you feel about the knowledge that Jesus remains with you every step of the way through “the valley of the shadow of death” in this life?
  4. Are you able to relinquish that fear to Jesus, the Good Shepherd?
Dear Father,
Thank you that you will go with me through every difficulty I will ever encounter. You have promised me that you would never leave me or forsake me. I find great comfort in that knowledge. Help me Lord to trust you with every circumstance in my life. I want this day to relinquish to you ________________. Lead me and guide me through this difficult time. I take joy in knowing that no matter how hard life may be it is only temporary. I look forward to the “table land” of heaven and I do not fear death itself. Father, in this life as I am passing through the valley, please take hold of my hand and never let it go! Father I know that there is no one else that I can trust to get me safely home.
In Your Name I Pray. Amen

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Following Close Behind The Shepard

“He restores my soul:
he leads me in the paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.”
Psalm 23:3 AKJV

Some nights I go to bed too late and I wake up too early the next morning. When my sleep pattern has been so totally disrupted I am in desperate need of an immediate cup of caffeine coffee! Later on in the day I may need a short nap or just a time to sit down with my feet propped up for a few minutes. My body is telling me that I am in need of restoration. If I don’t make rest a high priority soon my spirit will be in need of restoration as well! When I am not rested I become a very tired and agitated sheep. I have been told that sheep can be quite irritable and that the least little thing can set them off. I relate! Sheep also have a definite butting order and don’t mind engaging in a little butting action in order to get what they want. I relate!
Even on good days when I am rested I can still take on the characteristics of a discontented sheep. Sheep never seem to be satisfied with their position for grazing. They always seem to think that the grass is greener on the other side. I relate! I imagine that if a sheep could say anything besides baa, baa, baa, their words would be cranky and crabby. I relate! A good shepherd knows when to free his sheep of all distractions and make them lie down in the pasture for RESTORATION. I too am like a sheep and I often need restoration from the exhaustions and pressures of life. When I take my eyes off Jesus and loose my focus, my perception of my circumstances is capable of going way beyond south! I can become lost in self pity, I can become angry, I can cower in the corner in fear, and I can speak words that are not becoming to a Christian. This behavior does not glorify God nor does it honor his name. So it is for his name’s sake, for the protection and honor of his great name that our Good Shepherd calls us to a place of restoration. The Shepherd does this because it is vital that our focus returns to him so that our behavior will glorify him.
I am learning that I cannot move forward in my faith, I cannot be a positive witness for Jesus Christ, I cannot be inspired to write, I cannot encourage anyone, and I cannot be at peace as long as I reject the restoration of the Shepherd. In order for me to move on down the path of righteousness it is imperative that I am routinely restored.
I must admit that at times I am ashamed and upset with myself that I repeatedly fall into this pattern that calls for serious restoration. At times I beat myself up with thoughts of failure and I am discouraged by my lack of Christian maturity. Satan uses this self inflected shame as an opportunity to keep my mind off of my Shepherd.
I am so glad that my Shepherd has made provision for my sinful short comings. He remembers that I am dust. Psalm 103:14b NIV. Yes, the 23rd Psalm is a perfect plan for my growth and development. It is a plan that the Shepherd knew that I would need. Step three in this Psalm of relationship is RESTORATION and it is amazingly built into the Shepherd’s plan. God knew I would need to be restored so that he could lead me down the path of right living. He knew I would be walking a dangerous path of self-destruction unless I had him leading me every step of the way.
You see, the path of righteousness replaces irritable responses with kind words. This path leads us away from judgmental thoughts and replaces them with compassion and mercy. The path of righteousness shows me how to step aside and let others go first; it allows others to succeed and enables me to be happy for their success. The path of righteousness shows me how to avoid envy and jealousy. The path of righteousness takes away discontentment and replaces those feelings gratitude and contentment. The Shepherd’s path allows me to be satisfied with my many blessings and satisfied with Jesus, who is more than enough!  The path of righteousness rebukes my sinful ways and words and it holds me accountable for my behavior. This path calls me away from crankiness and crabbiness. In their place God guides me and gives to me his grace and his power to choose words of love, restoration, encouragement and forgiveness.
Jesus was perfect. I am not. You are not. But those facts do not excuse us from raising the bar in our lives and trying harder every day to choose to behave in a Christ like manner. Choosing to practice godly behavior is not easy. I find that I go along pretty well when I am thinking about it and then something surprises me and catches me off guard and in a blink of an eye I have lost it! My mouth runs ahead of my brain! My attitude jumps to a sinful reaction. Oh how I desire that those times would become less and less frequent! I do not want to mar and cloud the name of Jesus.
Today I find myself back in the garden. This has been a wonderful morning. This morning I have humbly allowed the Shepherd to restore me. I have prayed that God would guard my mind and tongue from quick emotional outbursts. I feel at rest and at peace in my spirit as I sit here among the exquisite roses and superb hydrangea I am contemplating some of the choices that I must make this day. The Confederate Jasmine smells wonderful. I also breathe in deeply the sweet aroma of Jesus. I give thanks for his faithful love and care and I feel compelled to follow close behind my Shepherd, as he leads me down the path of righteousness, for his name’s sake.

  1. Is your spirit in need of restoration?
  2. What event or events have caused you to loose your focus?
  3. Do you find that at times your actions damage the name of Jesus?
  4. Is it the desire of your heart to follow close behind your Shepherd as he leads you on the path of righteousness?

My Dear Sweet Shepherd,
Forgive me for marring your precious name. Today I am desperately in need of your restoration. I admit that I have lost my focus. Please redirect me to a place where I can seek to know you and your ways. Create in me a clean heart, forgive my sinful short comings, and teach me your ways as you guide me down the path of your righteousness. Jesus, how I long to follow close behind you, placing my steps inside your footprints. Thank you that you have provided a plan that allows for my restoration because you know that I am dust. Lord, help me to know that you are always more than enough no matter what my circumstances may be.
In Your Name I Pray. Amen.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Green Pastures Inn and Still Waters Spa

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures:
he leads me beside the still waters.”
Psalm 23:2 AKJV

 Jesus, the Master Gardner is always surprising me by taking me to a place in my heart’s garden where I have never been before. Today is such a day. As we walk hand in hand he leads me down the winding pathway that presents a never ending parade of gorgeous flowers on both sides of the path. There is electric blue Salvia and sunny yellow Yarrow. I love the sweet, light blue Forget-me-nots, reminding me that Jesus never forgets me. Every step is a joy as the Master Gardner and I walk together and admire his amazing handiwork.
We are now nearing the back fence of the garden. Beyond the fence lies the surprise! It is a beautiful lush emerald green pasture that is dotted with wooly sheep. They are lying down in perfect contentment. This is only possible because they have a good shepherd. Sheep are on the go most of the time because they refuse to lie down unless they are free of fear, friction, torment and hunger. This shepherd has met all of their needs and now they are able to relax and rest.
The Gardner speaks to me and tells me that people are a lot like sheep and he begins to teach me about sheep. He says, “Did you know that sheep require more care than any other livestock?” “Paula, I want you to know that you also require a lot of care.” I reply, “Yes Master, I know I do because my husband always tells me I am high maintenance!” Jesus smiles. He then tells me that sheep are fearful and timid. Sheep are stubborn and do lots of stupid things. Sheep have many bad habits. They run off and get lost and they fall down and cannot get up by themselves. Sheep are helpless animals when it comes to caring for themselves.
The Master Gardner speaks and says, “My sweet daughter, do you see any similarities between you and sheep?” I do not like that question! I frown, I deny the accusation, and I try to talk to him about my friend who has all of those characteristics.
The Master simply moves the conversation back to me and says. “Paula, you need my care. You need REDIRECTION. Let me take your fears, your friction, your torment, and provide for you all that you hunger for deep within your spirit.” He reminds me that life is hard and that he stands ready to help me with all things. The Master says, “Allow me to lead you to the green pastures that are beside the still waters.” “Paula, you need to get alone. You need to get rid of distractions. I want to provide a place for you to relax, soak up nature, meditate on scripture, listen to soft worship music and speak to me about your wants and desires. I want you to tell me what is bothering you. Confide in me what it is you fear, where is the friction in your life, what torments you and what are you hungering for?”
I look a little to the right side of the pasture and I see a beautiful stream. The waters are clear, still, and look cool and refreshing. The Master tells me that the still waters are also important because they will provide relaxation and refreshment. I am completely wowed by this scene. Trust me when I say, this looked to me like the spa of all spas!  The Master informs me that I need to leave the garden and check in to the “Green Pasture Inn and Still Water Spa”. This suggestion thrills me because I already knew that when my rest and relaxation was complete and it was time for me to leave this wonderful place, I knew I would be look’n good and feel’n fine!
As I begin to contemplate going to the spa I begin to take a hard look at my life. I have to admit that it has been rather stressful lately. I have been a little up tight. My responses to others have been less than acceptable. I am stressed and feel a huge need for rest. My mind is cluttered with dates, appointments, and responsibilities. I feel depleted. Indeed, this spa will be the perfect place for me to relax and attempt to find redirection for my life.
While leaning on the fence I begin to dream. Yes, I will go to the inn and when I arrive I will head straight for the “Still Waters Spa.” I will allow the Shepherd to massage my heart until all the tension, stress and anxiety leaves my body. I will release my fears and receive the Shepherd’s peace.  I will confide to him my hurt and pain and receive his comfort. I will confess my sin and experience his forgiveness and grace. This will be a fantastic place where I can read and pray and it will be quiet enough that I can actually hear God whisper amazing truth in my ears and I will feel his arms of love and comfort. Maybe the “Green Pasture Inn” will have a gentle rippling brook running beside it and perhaps I will be able to hear it from my window. I will enjoy a long soak in a bubble bath and then I will take a greatly needed nap. I will relax in the arms of Jesus and fall asleep listening to the sound of a gentle refreshing rain hitting the tin roof of the inn.
Now I am wondering, does God enforce this rest in my life? I would like to suggest that if I need to lie down and I refuse to lie down, this scripture says he makes me lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.” I think that God would rather that I lie down of my own free will, because I love Him and I desire to be in His presence. Yet, I believe that my Shepherd loves me enough to insist that I lie down so that he can get my attention and he leads me to still waters so that he can provide for me what my soul needs. If I am going to mature in my Christian life, I must allow God to redirect my life often so that I do not loose sight of what is really important. Sometimes God brings us to a place of his enforced rest and yet, I still resist and seem to be unable to recognize that this unwanted change in my life could be an opportunity for me to draw near to my Shepherd.

  1. What is going on in your life right now?
  2. Do you feel stress or peace?
  3. Do you think you could benefit from a trip to the “Green Pasture Inn and the Still Waters Spa?”
  4. Where do you most need redirection in you life?

Dear Jesus,
Life has noisy, powerful, rushing rivers with deep and dangerous currents. The roads I travel are rough and full of pot holes. The events of life can throw me into a state of fear and panic in a heartbeat. There are so many sad and upsetting things that happen in life because we all live in a sinful world. If we are not affected at the moment we soon will be. All I have to do is look around and I see pain and suffering in the lives of many of my friends and loved ones. Frankly God, this is life outside of the pasture and far away from the still waters. This is why I am desperate for a Shepherd. God, I need a good shepherd that will take care of me, spend time with me, and give me redirection for my life. I am in frequent need of being repaired, redirected, and refreshed. Thank you Jesus, that you are that Good Shepherd. Please show me the path that you want me to follow. Give me your peace and restore to me the joy of my salvation.
In your name I pray. Amen

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Repairing My "Wanter"

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
Psalm 23:1 AKJV

What are your first thoughts when you think of the 23 Psalm? Often our first thought of this psalm is usually death. Frequently, the familiar 23 Psalm is recited as a psalm of rote that is void of meaning and understanding.
When I spend time with God in the garden of my heart, God teaches me amazing things. This has been true for me in regards to the 23rd Psalm.  This psalm is not only about comfort it is also about our relationship with God.  Even more importantly, it is a pattern for living and it tells us of God’s plan for our spiritual growth and development.  This psalm also explains why we should be able to live a victorious life.
During my quiet time this morning I was remembering that “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  My heart’s response to that thought was, “No God, I don’t think so.” “God I want for plenty!” “God, I want for a new kitchen floor, I want to go on a cruise, I want that gorgeous dress I saw last week when I was shopping, and I want a cleaning lady. In addition to all that I want a day at a spa!! Yes indeed God, I want plenty. I want, I want, and I want some more. God, “I shall not want” is a foreign concept to me. In a world that is full of so many choices and a place where I am inundated with thousands of advertisements and opportunities, how can I help but want?”
My next thought was crystal clear. Paula, you need your “wanter” adjusted. Those things that you desire are all good things but I have not promised you any of those things. When any of those things come to you they come from my hand of blessing. Never because you deserve them but always because I love you!
I began to understand that what I wanted and what I needed were two different things. I began to realize that what I absolutely need is to want for my life what God wants for me. Yes, my Shepherd walks before me and provides for my basic physical needs, but more importantly he wants to provide first and foremost, what it is that my spirit needs. This provision is based on RELATIONSHIP with my personal Savior, Jesus Christ. I need to be in close relationship with my Shepherd so that I can trust him to provide for me. I began to realize that God sees far beyond what I can see or even imagine. He knows what I have needed in the past, what I need today, and what I am going to need tomorrow.
A shepherd marks his sheep so that he knows they belong to him. When we accept Christ we too take his mark. He knows that we belong to him. In fact, he knows us so well he calls us by name.  “He calls his own sheep by name” John 10:3b NIV
God is my provider. He provides not only for my material needs but my spiritual needs as well. In this life God’s provision for me first comes in the form of his compassion, mercy, love, forgiveness, and grace. When I belong to him his provision also includes his comfort, peace and joy, as I learn to trust him for all of my needs. My personal relationship with Jesus Christ allows me to say with confidence, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”


  1. From a materialistic viewpoint what “things” do you want?
  2. Do you want success, money, power, more education, recognition?
  3. What do you want for your spirit?
  4. Is your “wanter” in need of repair?
  5. How do you feel when you know that your Shepherd goes before you making sure that you “shall not want?”

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the personal relationship I have with you. Thank you that I can come before you in complete honesty and ask you for anything I want or need as long as I leave the outcome up to you. Today Lord, because I am human and not divine, I need to clear the cobwebs of my mind by telling you all of the materialistic things I want. I know you are not rude and I know you will listen. In fact you may even put them on a personal “wish list” for me for future blessings. But now God, I want to move beyond my wants and ask you, “What is it that you want for me?” Father, please help me to desire for my life the same things you desire for me. Help me to want the spiritual blessings that you so readily want to give me. You alone know what I will need both today and for all of my tomorrows. I know that your care for me also includes my physical needs as well as my spiritual needs. Lord, I trust you. Today I humbly ask you to please fix, repair, adjust, align, and purify my “wanter”. Please remove my spirit of discontentment and greed and replace it with the joy of knowing that you are providing for me all that I need this day. Thank you that you are my Shepherd and with you I am safe. Father, I am incredibly grateful for all of my many blessings and I trust you to provide for me all that I will ever need. It is my joy to know that it is my spirit that is your greatest concern for my life. It is comforting to know that your most important concern for me is to guide me and refine me so I can enjoy your presence forever. Thank you for loving me so lavishly!
In your Son’s name I pray. Amen.