Monday, February 25, 2019

True Pasture

Douglas Frank Photo


True Pasture

The lyrics written below come from Homeward Bound(lyrics below) by Christian poet and songwriter Marta Keen Thompson of Nevada as a new phase of life’s journey began. Some think of it as a funeral-song like Goin’ Home, but I think it is more of a ballad in search of life’s “calling.” 
Marta Keen Thompson (selected verses)
When adventure's lost its meaning -
I'll be homeward bound in time
Bind me not to the pasture
Chain me not to the plow
Set me free to find my calling
And I'll return to you somehow
If you find it's me you're missing
If you're hoping I'll return,
To your thoughts I'll soon be listening,
And in the road I'll stop and turn
Then the wind will set me racing
As my journey nears its end
And the path I'll be retracing
When I'm homeward bound again
Bind me not to the pasture
Chain me not to the plow
Set me free to find my calling
And I'll return to you somehow

Adventure was waning and life’s meaning and purpose were questioning. When is the day of harvest, is it now? She was listening to the road, the wind and the question of purpose, the pasture and returning rest. What is my calling she asks?  Her song is both different and similar to Simon & Garfunkel’s song of the same name penned in 1966, the year of my high school graduation when I headed to Alaska in search of adventure, calling not yet on my mind. God’s majestic wilderness seemingly stretched endlessly like the road in the above photo by my cousin Doug Frank. I almost “bought the ranch” several times on that journey with a lifelong friend in plane, car and waterfall crashes. The meaning of life and living through it did not begin to make sense until much later in my life when God’s faithfulness on that voyage brought a new worldview that began to point me to my “calling.”

Simon & Garfunkel
Got a ticket for my destination, 
a tour of one-night stands…
Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought's escaping,
Home where my music's playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

Was home “where my love lies waiting,”or “in the road I’ll stop and turn.”It was both. Yes, home was where my love and future wife of now 49 years was waiting and it began a very slow turning in the road that did not really move the opposite way until 1990 when God stopped me in my tracks on the Superior Road in a midnight blizzard. Then I was first called. Only then did my selfish sin stop playing and His grace came free flowing, “setting me free to find my calling.”  Yet it would be another decade of following Jesus through trials and triumph and while at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul that I would begin to know my true calling was in serving the Lord in pastoral care full-time ministry as a hospital chaplain and writer. 

The journey continues in my 18thyear in healthcare chaplaincy and writing a blog and books about God’s grace, and faithfulness (www.greatisgodsfaithfulness.com.) The pilgrimage has taken me to a place of rest as the writer of Hebrews tells us. It is the Sabbath rest in the Priest Forever, Jesus Christ. It is the always and forevermore, as long as He lives I live and rest in green pastures, beside the still waters of Psalm 23. It is in the renewing, refreshing, and revitalization through His Holy Spirit that we find real rest. Jeremiah describes the lost sheep of Israel who wandered the desert for 40 years.  “My people were lost sheep. Their shepherds led them astray. They abandoned them in the mountains where they wandered aimless through the hills. They lost track of home, couldn’t remember where they came from. Everyone who met them took advantage of them. Their enemies had no qualms: ‘Fair game,’ they said. ‘They walked out on God.  They abandoned the True Pasture, the hope of their parents.’’’(Jeremiah 50:6-7). Jesus is The Shepherd and the True Pasture, the only way of hope home. He leads His sheep if they will listen.

 I have listened and I say, “I belong to the Lord…and I will write on my hand ‘The Lord’s.”’(Isaiah 44:5). As well God said, “I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).  This lost sheep have found his “True Pasture.” He is the One who makes us lie down to rest in green pastures as Psalm 23 describes.  Jesus said His sheep know His voice and He leads them. ‘ “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…My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish”’(John 10:14-15; 27-28). 

Homeward Bound sings of not being chained to the plow and bound in the pasture. But Christ says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  Are you lying down in His green pastures and beside the still waters finding real rest that is restoring and renewing that revitalize our souls. Or are you spending more money on Tru Green®to find rest on a lawn filled with toxins like the world, devoid true God created life.

The freedom to find and follow our calling as Homeward Bound sings is in Christ and His Word. “If you hold to My teachings, you will be My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” (John 8:32, 36). Where are you heading for safe harbor and true pasture? Are you looking for greener pastures in the wrong places? Or are you looking to “the most excellent way” (1Corinthians 12:31) that Paul is speaking of as the way of love above even faith and hope. How can he say this? Because love is patient and kind and not about us; it rejoices with the truth, always protecting, trusting, hoping and persevering. You see it is the greatest because “God is Love”(1 John 4:8) and “It (He) never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love, but Perfect Love drives out fear…We love because He first loved us”(1 John 4:16-18,19). 

True Pasture is in Him, the Living Word, who laid down His life in love so that we can lie down in His true green pastures to find rest, restoration and redemption through His perfect love poured out.

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