by Rev. Laura Spangler
He Restores My Soul was first posted on GreatFamilies.net on April 25, 2020
Go find a quiet, local oasis that points you to the beauty of God’s word and presence. Celtic Christians called such holy space, “thin places,” where there is a thin line between us and heaven.
I was blessed by Psalm 23 and God’s creation at Tanglewood Park. The Holy Spirit led me to a bench beside green pastures and trees. He restored my soul as I sat there for a long time, feeling the wind and warm sunshine, resting in His peace.
The sin, hurt and stress affecting our family during holy week brought on by the changes and separation of the corona virus, caused me to leave the house and seek a greener pasture. After texting my husband at work to say where I was, I locked my phone in the trunk of my car in the parking lot to prevent distractions. I needed to take some time to soak in the restoration and healing of God’s presence and beauty.
I sat on that bench, walked the trail and again sat on that bench for hours. A number of families walked or strolled by, yet I feared no evil. They all kept their 6 foot distance. While I sat, I recalled how the day before, I had asked a dear Kenyan friend to recite the 23rd Psalm to me in her native Kikuyu language. Then I tried to recall all I could remember in English. Praying Psalm 23 brings solace.
The Lord was and is my shepherd. He led me to that bench to be still and know that he is God. Gradually, some emotional pain subsided. I was not comforted by a rod and staff, but by 3 beautiful horses in the pasture that came as close as they could to the fence near me. They visited for a while, then leisurely strolled away. Next came a colorful bluebird perched right in front of me. This sign of happiness brought me a smile and stayed long enough for me to enjoy the orange breast and bright blue feathers.
Goodness and mercy came through a lovely place on a gorgeous day outside. My enemies began to take a back seat on that bench as the gentle stillness of the Holy Spirit surrounded me with Christ’s peace. My down-turned countenance slowly lifted.
On the bench, I took time to recall and give thanks for my January 2020 pilgrimage to Israel’s Holy Land. I remembered King David finding sanctuary at En Gedi, an oasis where some believe he wrote Psalm 23. It was also a place where David hid from Saul who was trying to kill him. I loved the natural beauty of En Gedi, with the ibex and waterfalls. I appreciate that we also have mountains, animals, parks and waters here in NC.
I knew Easter would be different this year, yet the holy week season of Jesus’ death and resurrection provided a kind of anointing for a real presence. My sensitivity was also heightened knowing that this grandmother had a birthday in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. My sister told me to take time to appreciate my new age. Could it be a holy Saturday? What kind of table would be spread before me, physically distant from many relationships? What would our church’s Easter worship be like? I had to accept the mystery and uncertainty of sacred events to come. I know that the Lord wanted me to trust in Him alone no matter the circumstance.
As the wind picked up, the hymn, “Breathe On Me, Breath of God,” came to mind. Praise God, I had breath and could sing. I loved God’s breath in the stillness and in the vigorous breeze. I fasted lunch that day, but as dinner grew nearer, my hunger began to tell me it was time to head back home.
I was now more ready to face whatever was to come. My husband asked why I was gone so long. I simply said, “It was relaxing.”
I had a better than expected birthday and Easter weekend. The Saturday lunch table spread before me on our back deck was abundant, with a daughter, husband and flowers that my parents sent. A son and two grandsons delighted in coming to join us outside and play in our yard. My Kenyan friend came for an outside dinner. God blessed us with another lovely day, no rain and not too cool or hot. Over conference calls, our church had the biggest Easter “crowd” we have had in years. The Lord is our shepherd who can restore our soul and resurrect our spirit.
Laura Spangler is a daughter, cousin, niece, sister, friend, wife, aunt, mother, grandmother, and Lloyd Presbyterian Church pastor. Laura also serves on the Board of Directors for Great Families of the Triad.