He Prepares a Feast Before Me

Elaine Knudtson

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . . Ye thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me. . . You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. . . I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Ps. 23

blur bokeh candle christmas decoration
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

As Christmas approaches, my mind is preoccupied with the family gatherings scheduled for December.  It is a privilege to prepare a feast for my loved ones and I take special care to make sure it is an expression of the love and appreciation I have for each of them.

I recently examined the 23rd Psalm in light of the phrase, “He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”  When I was a little girl, my parents would often prepare me for a doctor or dentist’s appointment by promising me something special at the end.  “If you’re a good girl, we’ll go out for ice cream when it’s done.”  I kept my eye on the reward at the end and somehow it made it easier to go through the event.

In the same way, knowing that God has prepared a feast for us even while we are facing our enemies, gives us hope that we might otherwise not have.  No one wants to go through the valley of the shadow of death.  Those are the “Good Friday” moments of our lives where we experience darkness, doubt, fear, loneliness and death, whether real or imagined.  Knowing that there is a feast, the resurrection, awaiting us on the other side doesn’t make it easier, but it gives us hope in the bleakness.

I CAN

I was visiting my new granddaughter in Ontario when I had a “valley of the shadows” experience.  I woke in the middle of the night and began to cough up bloody phlegm.  Because of my cancer scare in the 2000s, any unusual physical symptoms send me back to those dark days and I begin to panic.   My instincts are always to deny and hide, hoping I can dodge a visit to the doctor simply by waiting it out, but I knew I could not overcome this on my own.

The hours ticked away slowly as I waited for the dawn, knowing that my husband would also feed into my panic when I told him what was happening.  I wanted to talk to my Dad, but he was two time zones away, so it was even earlier in Alberta.  In the darkness I remembered all the lessons of the past:  Fear Not, Be Healed, I Am With You, Peace Be Still.  But these thoughts did not comfort me.

“I need to hear fresh words of assurance, Lord.  Why this darkness?  Why has my joy been taken?  Who can deliver me from this bondage of fear and death?  I can’t release myself, I need you to do it, but it’s dark, in the middle of the night, and I feel so very alone.”

I spent the day in the emergency ward at the hospital, going through a series of tests that revealed a treatable pneumonia.  I had come through the other side, but the trauma of uncertainty and the ambiguity of illness took its toll.  “What if. . . ”  “Maybe. . .” All the questions I had fought through when I had cancer returned.  They came like demons and attacked me, stealing the confidence and certainty I needed to heal.

As we were driving to our hotel I cried out to the Lord:  “I can’t add any more worries to the catalog of fears I already carry.”

I CAN—those words stopped the conversation.  “Come to me all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am weak and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls” Matt.11:28-20.

come-to-me“Come all of you who thirst, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy and eat!  Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” Is. 55:1

“If anyone is thirsty, let Him come to me and drink” Jn. 7:37.

Jesus was offering me a drink from the well–a feast as I came through the valley of the shadows.  The joy of His love and presence filled my longing as He drew near to me in the sweetness of peace and love.  My husband and I felt loved that night as we considered what it meant to be “carried” through the valley to the feast God had prepared for us on the other side.

I CAN

I AM

Perfect love casts out all fears.

 

Wordless Prayer

By Paul Knudtson

 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes[a] with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God,[b] who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit[c] intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.[d]  Romans 8:26-27

monksFor years I have listened almost every day to the chants of Cistercian monks (“Chant: Music for the Soul”). Since prayer expresses the deepest longings, sorrows, and joys of the heart, it is not surprising that there should be a connection between music and prayer. We’ve also been listening to a choral music playlist which also helps one pray (Apple music).  Music speaks to our souls, apart from the words.

Elaine and I have been enjoying a group called “The Sons of Korah” (who sing the psalms). I am used to reading a psalm or two every day and find it nice to hear them sung as well. The psalms, as well as music/singing, help me to pray. Our son-in-law preached a sermon on the importance of singing as a spiritual discipline in remaining in Jesus.  Sometimes at night, when words elude us and the “terror of the night” enshrouds our hearts, music alone can soothe.

beautyI just ordered a book by Henri Nouwen (“The Beauty of the Lord”) about icons and prayer.  This has not been part of my prayer life coming from my Lutheran tradition, but I have long felt that I have underappreciated beauty as a way to God.

Pope Benedict XVI addressed artists in the Sistine Chapel in November 2009, linking beauty, truth and God through transcendence.  As explained by Michael Schrauzer in “Toward the Transcendent”:

“Beauty and truth are inseparable because they both come from the same divine source, God, and so can lead back to Him. Because God is One, they are in some sense interchangeable, as Keats instinctively understood.

Along with goodness, beauty and truth are aspects of God’s perfect Being, which means that He is not just their author, or that He is “beautiful” or “truthful” in the way created things are more or less full of beauty or truth, but that God is Beauty itself and Truth itself.

In short, every encounter with the beautiful, the true or the good here on earth is really an encounter with a facet of God, a reminder of His original beauty and truth.” https://www.osv.com/TheChurch/Article/TabId/563/ArtMID/13751/ArticleID/9945/Toward-the-Transcendent.aspx

 It seems to me that most of North American public culture does not address the depths of human experience–it is often superficial and preoccupied with what is trivial. But there is a lot going on within us; we are like a deep well. Something needs to address those depths, most of which we may feel but not be able to put into words.

Beauty speaks to our heart, much like music, “with sighs too deep for groaning”.

beauty-is-truth-truth-beauty-that-is-all-ye-know-on-earth-and-all-ye-need-to-know-203236.jpg

 

The Legacy

By Elaine Knudtson

Rest.  Is that what I expected when I left home to celebrate the coming birth of my new granddaughter?  Before I got on the plane I meditated on the words of Psalm 23.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

  • Slow me down Lord. Allow my restless heart to trust in your provision and love.
  • Prepare the table before me.

What did I expect to bring my granddaughter?  I’m not a fairy godmother bestowing on her blessings of beauty, wisdom and wealthy.  I’m not a guardian angel to protect her from pain, disappointment and mortality.  I don’t come with a magic mirror to give her insight into the future and assure her of a long and fruitful live.

But, I carry her inheritance, passed down from generations of believers who learned to be still in green pastures.  It’s the legacy of faith, forged in the fires of the unknown; cooled in the still waters of His love.

I bring stories of God’s faithfulness in plenty and want; of His guidance through the shadows of fear and doubt.

20181110_195934.jpgI bring assurance that the good Shepherd will carry her, keeping her from losing her way through the obstacles of life, as He brings her to green pastures.  I will hold her, whisper in her ear, brush my cheeks against hers, so that my old flesh can remember that it was once touched by the elders of my past who bequeathed love and assurance on me.

They wait for me on the other side of eternity now, just as I will one day wait for my new granddaughter, another link in the lineage of faith that leads back to Christ.

 

The Legacy – 

I wait for the kindling of life in the crucible of her mother’s pain. 

The intensity of birth making sweeter the joy and peace at her borning cry. 

Why must joy be linked with pain? 

Why must grace be tied to the cross? 

Birth and death come together as one generation passes the torch of faith to those who will carry it forward to the generations I will never see. 

Let me be true to the calling; to walk faithfully ahead of her, even as my shepherd goes before me. 

He will lead her through fire and water and storms. 

Teach her to rest.  To listen to that still small voice, so easily missed in the noise of life. 

To wait and see the Goodness of the Lord in the land of living. 

Come here my beloved granddaughter.  Let me inhale the fragrance of eternity as you step through the gateway into new life. 

I will wait for you some day on the other side when I will welcome you to your final home in the presence of God for all eternity.  

Welcome to the journey.