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Survival Kit (Devotional)


He Restoreth My Soul Prolouge by Rebecca Jackson

There I sat at my friend’s grandfather’s funeral on a dreary winter day early in January.  I was saddened by the loss for my friend, overwhelmed by the mental calisthenics of my new job, exhausted by trying to be all things to all people.  I could not even remember the correct sequence of the familiar psalm the minister had asked us to recite together.  I was so tired I could not even pray!  I felt like a total disgrace!

How could an intelligent woman come to this?  A former school teacher, mother of three grown boys, wife of one fabulous man, and newly elected chief executive officer of the largest county in Kentucky could not recite the first few lines of the Twenty-third Psalm!

King David’s psalm of the good shepherd is beautiful poetry.  As with so many beautiful poems, I could remember all the lines—but not necessarily the correct sequence.  Which comes where: paths, still waters, green pastures, and His name’s sake?!?

I made a resolution.  Nothing would deter me from learning the correct sequence.  After all, I knew the rest of it.  Every child in Sunday School knows about the valley of the shadow of death! 

I decided to learn a line each week by rote.  It would be slow going, but worth it when I knew the first lines as well as the last.  I would start with thfirst three lines: 

The Lord is my Shepherd,

I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

Several times each day for an entire week I recited these first three lines.  The next week I added the next line: 

The Lord is my Shepherd,

I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

 If I knew these lines so well I did not have to think about them, then I would no longer hesitate when reciting this beautiful Psalm.  I was buoyed with a sense of accomplishment.  I must confess—I was not pretending to comprehend the meaning of these lines—only to memorize the sequence.

In the spring of that year, my very wise husband decided to take me away from it all.  He made all the arrangements, hooked up the boat and hustled me into the truck.

I slept all the way to the lake and the entire first day and night. 

That following morning brought sunshine and clear, blue sky and we went out on the calm, still lake.  We sat together in silence while we read and listened to the water gently lapping against the sides of the boat.

The next day I could pray again!  The fog in my mind had lifted and the beauty of the nature God created became evident all around me.  I could hear Him in the voice of the crickets chirping me awake just before dawn.  I could see Him in the light of the sun reflecting its glorious sunset off the waters of the still lake.  I could feel Him in the cool, gentle breeze that stirred through our cabin throughout the night.  The many blessings God had bestowed upon me were easy to count.  I gave thanks for them.  I could concentrate on learning the correct sequence of passages for the Twenty-third Psalm.  I found myself smiling again as I drifted off to sleep in a beam of moonlight streaming in through the window!

After another night of refreshing rest, Ralph and I started making plans for the future.  I could focus on a future.  God was working and we could see where we needed to be going to work with Him.  The big picture was back in view and I was able to see how the details fit into it.  We could decide how to fit the important family activities and events into the schedule we would have to keep during the four years of the term of office.  There was no doubt that I would have to be more selective in how I spent my time.  I had to be true to our priorities and learn to say “No” to activities, good as they may be, that did not fit the plan God was revealing to us.  Mapping the route to get through the next four years as a child of God, partner to my husband, mother to my grown children and a leader of the county became an achievable task.  We praised God for the many blessings He has given us—especially the blessing of our opportunities and lives together.

Then, when I was not even looking for it, I realized God had used these experiences to demonstrate the meaning of the first verses of the Twenty-third Psalm.  His own prescription for the weary became evident: 

The Lord is my shepherd, Allow Him to protect.

I shall not want.  Depend on Him

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, Lie down and rest.

He leadeth me beside the still waters, Sit still and listen.


He restoreth my soul. Receive Restoration.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness. Beguided to the right road.

For His name’s sake. Give God the glory.


There are few among us who cannot identify with King David’s cry: “My bones are in agony.  My soul is in anguish.”  God has an answer.  He revealed it to me through King David’s psalm of the good shepherd.  Walk with me, now, through some other experiences in my life and the lives of some of my friends that help to demonstrate these verses of Psalm 23.  



THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD by Rebecca Jackson


The Lord is my shepherd

I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,

He leadeth me beside the still waters, 

He restoreth my soul.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness

For His name's sake.

There was not a car in sight, but I knew Ralph was coming home!  Buffy's tail was wagging her whole body.  She was prancing, dancing, and watching the door.  Sure enough, moments later I heard the car and then it pulled around  the corner to our little townhouse on the Air Force Base.  Buffy jumped into Ralph's arms as he opened the door and soon there was no place on his face dry enough for me to kiss.  Buffy was a German Shepherd puppy.  My brand new husband had presented her to me as my "lap dog."  Buffy became my husband's dog very quickly.  He took her to obedience school, worked with her, disciplined her, played with her, and fed her.  She knew the sound of his voice and the racket his car made.  She could depend on him.  He could always depend on her to be a welcoming committee of one!

As David wrote the 23rd Psalm, he knew that sheep were like Buffy.  They knew their master’s voice and responded to him.  Jesus spoke of this in John 10: 2-4:

The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.  The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

The Air Force Base let enlisted personnel build white picket fences around our back yards.  They had to be four feet high and the pickets had to be the right width and spaced to regulations.  It was only natural for us to build a fence so Buffy did not have to be on the leash all the time.  Ralph worked for weeks on the fence.  Buffy would go out and stand guard as Ralph measured and hammered away on the beautiful fence.

At last, the fence was painted and the gate was ready to put on the hinges.  We were so proud!  Buffy was in the yard watching.  I was on the porch with a glass of tea.  A new neighbor came walking down the street with a little Dachshund prancing behind her.  Buffy went to the fence and put her nose through the pickets to get a better look.  Ralph finished the gate with a showy “TA DA!”  Buffy pulled her head from between the pickets and hopped over like a jackrabbit! 

In her day, she had been known to take a six-foot fence from a standing start.  Her abilities as a fence jumper became well known to our neighbors.  She loved to jump fences and run free.  We spent countless hours looking for her.  Eventually we learned her favorite places and her behavior was no longer a mystery.  Ralph would discipline her with a rolled newspaper.  Sometimes this proved to be an effective deterrent, sometimes only a minor inconvenience for her. 

David was a good shepherd tending his father’s flock.  He knew his sheep like Ralph knew Buffy.  He knew which were obedient or which were playful.  He knew the wanderers, the contentious, the submissive, and the aggressive.  The shepherd knew how to work with each to insure the peace and safety of the entire flock.  He rounded up the strays and fought and killed wild animals to protect his sheep.  God is seen in Psalm 23 as a good and glorious shepherd.  We can depend on Him to know us—our needs, our desires, our thoughts, where we go when we run from Him, and our possibilities. 

He chose David, His servant, and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance, and David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

Psalm 78:  70-72

God calls us to be shepherds to those around us.  It is easy to understand and respond to this calling with family and friends.  God also calls us to shepherd others He puts in our paths like my friend Jeaneete did.

The dog days of August were upon on us.  There was no place to hide from the heat, ozone, and humidity of the Ohio Valley on days like these.  However, this would be a fun day!  Jeanette was taking her daughter-in-law and baby granddaughter shoppping.  The first stop was the furniture store.  Jeanette had been in this store so frequetly she knew the employees.  Today a new young man came to help her.  His accent made his foreign descent obvious.  Perhaps he is from the Middle East, she thought.  Hello, my name is *Ali.  How may I help you?"

He was a customer's dream-thoughtful, attentive, courteous, non-intrusive, and seeking to find the perfect buy.  Jeanette and Heidi looked at every piece in the store—at least twice!  In the two hours they perused, the young man continued to be courteous, attentive, and willing to please.  They chatted about his wares.  The baby and Jeanette needed a rest and sat down while Heidi continued to look. 

That was when he asked the question:

            “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?”

 “Yes,” was the answer from my rather surprised friend.

“I thought so.”


“Because of the way you love your baby.  Because of the way you speak to your daughter.”

“I wonder if he is a Christian?”  she thought, but did not ask.  He shared that he had been in Louisville about a year and was working at the store on a visa.  Jeanette, Heidi, and baby Elizabeth did not find what they wanted and went on to the next store.  The questions the young man asked lingered in her mind, but what could she do?

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

The day of tragedy struck and Jeanette was in shock along with the rest of the nation, indeed, the rest of the world.  Her mind returned to the young man in the furniture store.  Would he be harassed?  Would be he persecuted because of his national origin?  Would his visa allow him to continue in Louisville or would he be deported?  

Finally, she called the store and asked to speak to Ali.

“Ali, I am sure you cannot remember me, but I was in your store with my daughter-in-law and baby a few weeks ago.  You told me you were working on a visa.  I am calling to check on the status of your visa.  I promise I have no ulterior motive.  I am only calling to see if I can help you in any way.”

There was a prolonged period of silence on the other end of the line.  “My visa is OK.  I am here on a political asylum visa.  It is good for a couple more years.

“You are right; I don’t remember your face.  Will you come back to the store and let me see your face?”  Ali asked.

“That is not necessary; I was just concerned for you.”

“Will you come and let me see your face?  Will you come at 10:30 on Friday to the main store?”  There was urgency in his voice.  She could not refuse.

At 10:30 on Friday, she was embroiled in a plumbing disaster!  She called the store wondering if Ali would even remember.  He was waiting for her.  He again made the plea to see her face and asked her to come the next day. 

She went.

There he was waiting for her at the front of the store.  When she asked for him, he took her hand in his and gently kissed it. 

“I cannot believe somebody would care!  I cannot believe somebody would just call!”  The sincerity in his voice and the tenderness of this unfamiliar act moved her to tears.  It does so every time she recalls it.

  “I called my parents in Iran and told them of you.  I called my friends in Europe and told them of your call,” he explained.

They went to a quiet part of the store and spoke.  She finally asked:  “Are you a practicing Muslim?”

“No.  Ask me if I believe in God—yes.”  He continued his story.  “When I was run out of Iran for my political beliefs it was Christians and Jews who helped me and hid me.  There has always been someone to reach out to me along the way.

“I have seen God work in ways that I never understood before.  While I was hiding in the basement of a church in Europe, I got to know many Christians.  It was a life changing experience!  I found out what God’s love is all about.  I realized that God loves more than the Muslim people—He loves all people—including Christians and Jews.”

He and Jeanette shared several moments together.  She says the experience of his story is nearly indescribable—the look in his eyes, the depth of his feeling, the sincerity of his belief and appreciation.  All these worked together to cause a life changing experience in Jeanette as well.  She will never ignore another urging.  The blessing she received was a totally unexpected gift from God. 

All of this started with a phone call—a simple act of obedience to God’s call to be a Shepherd to a young man alone in our nation.  God has used many Shepherds in the life of this grateful young man.  My friend Jeanette was privileged to be one of them.

Keep watchover yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.

Acts 20:28

The Lord is our shepherd.  He knows you.  He knows me.  He cares for each of us.  He loves us as his own.  He sends others to shepherd you and me in times of stress.  He is dependable.  He sends you or me to shepherd others when they are in need.  What more could you ask?


*Ali is not the real name of this man nor was the store a furniture store.  I am using different names to protect him.

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