The Warmth of the Sun

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It’s one of my favorite Beach Boys songs. Like “In My Room”, it’s haunting melodies underscore the quintessential feeling and mood one feels while drinking in the congenial rays of a friendly sun. As autumn dawns, the warmth of the sun, when it does shine on the Northern California coast, especially in Indian Summer, is a truly invigorating, kind and soothing phenomenon. Unlike the brutal summer sun, as welcoming as it is after a cruel winter, it becomes unyielding and unbearable when it beats down into triple digits.

Today is the beginning of fall. Like my fellow fall-a-philes, we look forward to the shorter days which are bordered by crispy mornings and brisk evenings while filled with a warmth of the sun that beguiles the season. Autumn is “the season between summer and winter comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of September, October, and November or as reckoned astronomically extending from the September equinox to the December solstice,” or as we “poets” muse,  “a period of maturity or incipient decline”. While the days shorten, the year faces its end, and the leaves fall and die, this season, and the warmth of its days, for some reason invigorates the soul and all its creative impulses.

The colors associated with this season construe earth, nature, home, if you will, at least to me. Browns beckon us to the dust from which we were formed. Burnt yellows and oranges warm our hearts like a small fire. Deep forest evergreens envy their deciduous cousins whose deaths make such a spectacular display.

It’s been a tough couple years, years fraught with demanding work, family discord, parental decline, loved ones’ depression and, sadly, death.  So much so I haven’t been able to appreciate the little rays of warmth that have shone through the storm clouds. But as I get older, I am learning to appreciate those very rays, those rays which are, indeed like photosynthesis, life giving.

My office is away from the main hub of activity where I work. I have to walk over to that office a couple times a day. Despite the cool summer we had on the Peninsula, many mornings the sun would shine in such a gentle fashion that I’d just look up and let the warmth of the sun wash over me.  Like the plant converts the sun’s energy into life, so the rays from the sun convert my sadness into joy,  my darkness into light and my pandemonium into peace. It’s amazing that this free resource of peace surround us daily.

I took a little trip up north for just a day. I needed to get away and stop – just stop – no activities but sitting on the pier, lounging in the river and soaking up the trees, the birds, the smells of by-gone days and, of course, the gentle end-of-summer sun. I told my niece I was enjoying the ministry of nature. The difficulty of the past few years reminds me of a story from Mrs. Cowman’s devotional, Springs in the Valley.

In the deep jungles of Africa, a traveler was making a long trek. Coolies had been engaged from a tribe to carry the loads. The first day they marched rapidly and went far. The traveler had high hopes of a speedy journey. But the second morning these jungle tribesmen refused to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. On inquiry as to the reason for this strange behavior, the traveler was informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and that they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.

This whirling rushing life which so many of us live does for us what that first march did for those poor jungle tribesmen. The difference: THEY KNEW what they needed to restore life’s balance; too often, WE DO NOT.   –July 11

One of the reasons why I like photography is that I can capture some of these free resources that surround me whether it is a spectacular Pacifica sunset, a cool morning by some “still waters”, a plucky stellar jay, Erin’s sunflowers or the last blackberries of the summer, to name a few. All these little things, like the warmth of the sun and the colors of autumn, help me sustain my life and perspective in a big way, and allow my soul to catch up with my body.

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He Restores My Soul

Shepherd Returns Jean Francois Millet

Thru the Bible radio has begun the book of Psalms. The Bible Bus’s extended excursion through this wonderful book weaves in all the Messianic references so a clear picture of Jesus Christ emerges. Perhaps the most pronounced foreshadowing occurs in David’s famous psalm: Psalm 23. Today’s Thru the Bible Sunday Sermon is titled, “The Psalm of an Old Shepherd.”  It is a wonderful sermon, you can listen to it here.

I was born in San Francisco, and pretty much lived, and continue to live,  near this metropolis so I don’t know much about country living, although I’d like to learn. I needed to do my homework to understand not only the significance to this “shepherd” theme, but the many other pastoral themes in the New Testament like sowing and reaping. Jesus speaks to fishermen, farmers, blue-collar folks like shepherds whose trades are far from my accounting/secretarial office experiences.

According to Wikipedia, “A shepherd or sheepherder is a person who tends, herds, feeds, or guards herds of sheep.” Also, “shepherding is among the oldest occupations, beginning some 5,000 years ago in Asia Minor.” Like David, Isaiah likens the Lord to a shepherd: He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” It was to the night watch shepherds that the glorious announcement came 2,000 years ago:

“8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2

The connection between David’s shepherd and Jesus Christ is uncanny. John quotes Jesus in chapter 10 of his gospel: I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. The writer of Hebrews adds: “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep..” And finally, Peter, the fisherman, encourages us that, “…when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

There is something of a longing in the human soul for someone like a shepherd, one who protects, provides and guides. Even Ira Gershwin tapped into this yearning with his immortal lyrics from the classic “Someone To Watch Over Me.

I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the wood, I know I could always be good to one who’ll watch over me.

In Psalm 23, the Shepherd not only provides peaceful green pastures and still waters, but also He protects while we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. A stroll all of us will take one day. And, finally, He wondrously promises an eternity – a forever – in His dwelling, foreshadowing that great verse in John: In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” 

In Psalm 23, David says the Lord, his Shepherd, restores his soul. Many believe David wrote this as an old man, after his great sin, and after he wrote Psalm 51 where he expressed his repentance when he cried out, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” God answered his prayer.

One night, years ago, I couldn’t sleep. What weighed down on my shoulders, I don’t remember, but I do remember it was during a time of real wrestling with my circumstances. Circumstances that I foolishly thought I had control of. Not long after this night, I learned, AGAIN, the meaning of Proverbs 3:5 and 6. This night, however, all I wanted to do was sleep, and I could not. I struggled to pray, and I could not. I tried to recite scripture and all verses fled from my memory except the “sublimely simple and simply sublime” psalm of the shepherd-king. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Well, those words raced right past me, but “He restores my soul” was the brick wall I ran into. I stopped there and pondered, and let the balm of these four words make its way into my troubled soul. It wasn’t long before the wrestling subsided, the peace restored and the slumber came. Four words. The Bible is a wonderful book.

This whole psalm restores not only our souls, but also our lives.  Our souls are restored through the redemptive work of the Shepherd, Who, two thousand years ago, laid down His life for His sheep. Our emotional well-being is restored with peace, protection, provision and spiritual promises. And our bodies – sinless – will be restored on the Last Day.  All the hope of Eden will be restored on that Great Day.

Jesus is The Shepherd of Psalm 23, He is David’s Shepherd; He is the Good Shepherd of John 10, the Great Shepherd of Hebrews 13, and finally, the returning and living Chief Shepherd of 1 Peter 5. He is our Shepherd, and He restores our souls, our lives, and, one day, our physical bodies.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I WILL dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”