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Dear HFL community, I am so very proud to share with you the launching on my New Book, Psalm 23 Unwrapped- Hope in Difficult Times. Join me as we Unwrap Psalm 23 to guide us in our journey in the darkest valley, travel with me on this Amazing Adventure!
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Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong? What about one of those weeks, where every day is one big blur, and nothing seems to work out? You may look back over the last 12 months and just see disaster after disaster due to COVID-19. Do you feel that how you live your live life has been taken out of your hands? How many people do you know suffer from a restlessness that makes them so disconnected they fall into depression or they just give up on life? Perhaps the death of a loved one has stripped the person of purpose and meaning. Perhaps the feelings of grief are so overwhelming that they feel that they will never get over it. I know lots of people in this place, and I have helped them through it, and in fact, I been there a few times myself – and I am sure you have too- not a nice place to be! Or possibly you are facing your own impending death, and you don’t know which way to turn, what to have faith in, or what to believe. I think most of us can relate to one or two of these at least. So, what can you do when things like this happen? How can you find a coping strategy to get you through rather than allowing it to defeat or destroy you? Contentment is a precious thing, but how do you find it in the darkest valley?
As I have pointed out in my book, Nothing Good about Grief, grieving is not bad, but it is certainly not good. Although feelings of sorrow remain a natural and healthy, human response to trauma, grieving can leave you worn out trapping you in your grief, not knowing how to let go of it, however, there is hope. Through it all, dire circumstances can be turned around for your good, if we have the right focus. With the help of Psalm 23, this book offers ideas that may help you to learn coping strategies while maintaining a positive attitude, contentment, and happiness regardless of your circumstances. If you rely on the right conditions to make you happy, you will always be tossed about and will never find any kind of inner calm and joy- even in the face of death. This book and can be used as an enhancement to Nothing Good about Grief. If you put it to work, Psalm 23 will help you to let go of your grief and the fear of death, finding meaning, purpose, and peace in your life.
We have all experienced some sort of loss, which can bring about a reaction of immense psychological shock. This traumatises us emotionally. Some people think the effects of grief is a purely psychological thing and nothing to do with physical. However, recent research has shown that our psychological health has a direct bearing on our physical health. Therefore, I approach my work holistically by ministering to the whole person, body, mind, and soul. Loss is familiar to us all, and oftentimes we struggle to find purpose and meaning through it all. In facing death or difficulty, we may feel we have lost all hope and can’t make sense of it all. Our husband or wife or our partner may die or divorce us. We may lose our job or move home away from friends and family. We may experience an accident that robs us of our abilities. The COVID-19 lock down is taking its toll on all of us, and we grieve. We suffer loss when old age creeps upon us, our hearts aches when we lose the excitement and vigour of our youth. Perhaps you have retired from a beloved career that defined your purpose and identity for so long, and now you are struggling to find self-value. Heartache can make us feel that the valley of life is deep, dark, and inescapable. In these strange times, we live with heart ache and loss daily and it affects every aspect of our lives and we feel it in different measures. We need to have purpose and meaning in our lives to satisfy to only our minds, but also our soul- the real us. These days people are living longer, and memory loss is becoming commonplace. Researchers are working to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, and engage in much debate like, ‘where is our memory stored?’ The materialist’s answer is in the hippocampus of the brain for long-term memories and the neocortex of the brain. A vaguer solution would say that all memory is stored in the deeper level of consciousness. Someone once said that we know the memory of a computer is not stored in the keyboard, so why should we believe the brain makes us conscious, but can it be something else?
While living in Australia, one of the places I practised nursing was in the Southern Cross Residential Home. One of my patients, named Lucy, suffered from late-stage Alzheimer’s, and couldn’t communicate at all. Lucy, with blank eyes, would chatter meaninglessly and appeared to be in another world. She didn’t appear to have a sense of meaning or purpose- she just was. Although Lucy would not understand, or be responsive, both of her daughters decided they would tell her that her husband, their father, had died. So, they spoke to Lucy in the best way they could. But then when they talked to her of her husband’s death, she stopped chattering, yet still staring into space, a trickle of tears rolled down her cheeks. Her daughters were amazed, Lucy couldn’t verbally respond but she certainly understood.
That may not prove anything scientific about where the memory is housed, yet it suggests something about consciousness surviving the atrophy of the brain. It shows that Lucy was a person with meaning or purpose despite her disability. I believe it shows that love is stronger than memory loss or death itself. It also showed me that the human soul/spirit is separate from the brains function and is very much alive even when the body and brain fail. To watch someone whom we have lived with and loved for a lifetime, lose their memory and drift away from us, is watching the ‘real’ them die while alive. We grieve for our loved ones’ suffering, and for the quality of the relationship that once was but now has gone. What gives me hope is that the personality may be gone, but the person (soul) is still there and is aware.
Through this coronavirus, pandemic, many feel they have no meaning or purpose anymore and grieve over the countless lives lost, especially when it’s close to home. Death seems to be ever-present with us in these days. Before we come to the ultimate demise of our bodies, we pass through death at many levels of intensity in our lifetime. And yet as with Lucy, there is a core of consciousness even when all the signs show that awareness has flickered out. Human consciousness connects us together which gives us meaning and purpose to help and love each other. Even in physical death, though faith, we are connected within the matrix of the Divine Christ in the hope of resurrection of our bodies. The persistence of deep memory and love is embedded within the soul, that continuously remembers and is renewed. Love, like faith, is eternal. This is because God is love itself, and God is eternal. Our faith in Christ is something that is deep within our consciousness that goes beyond our physical death, allowing heaven to touch the earth right here and now. Deep memory/consciousness transcends death and shows that life is a great constant of purpose and meaning beyond physicality. Life is inextinguishable, we are eternal beings, we have eternal hope, each life is of high value. Consciousness itself is life, and memory shows that love is stronger than death. Personal relationships teach us this, so does Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrates that we are a transmission of love in a stream of consciousness of a living memory that connects us to our source – God who connects us to each other; while carrying us forward on our individual journey. In these strange times, our personal journeys are also connected by the threat and fear of the coronavirus. Psalm 23 can help us because it is a picture of life’s journey reminding us that we are not alone in this. For some of us, the pandemic has already meant we have experienced the death of a loved one, for all, it triggers an awareness of our own mortality and the uncertainties of a future that we cannot control. Psalm 23 Unwrapped, offers a few strategies that has helped me in my times of loss, and may help you to cope with your journey through the dark valley, renewing your sense of purpose and meaning.
Our spiritual life cannot be separated from our everyday existence and adjusting to a daily rhythm to fulfil basic human needs is a first step to getting a handle on the feeling of fear, panic, and uncertainty. It helps us to see health, death, and spirituality differently, even amid a pandemic. When we have re-connected to the sense of the present by attending to our daily needs, and trusting in God, we will find peace – the peace we lost in all that stress – is closer to us, deeper within us, than we ever had imagined. To help you through, I have chosen to share with you a concise study of Psalm 23 because it shows the Lord as your Good Shepherd, your protector, your daily provider, your peace, rest, and guide through every circumstance in life or death. No government strategy, no systems, or ideal will lead you like God’s faithfulness does. The Shepherd will lead you through the shadowy valley while watching over you with his rod and staff. All of that is amazing enough to prompt us to praise him, but we may wonder what happens after we pass through the valley? What does the Lord do then? How do you maintain your joy and happiness? Who is this Shepherd? Just briefly taking the last question, to understand who the Shepherd is to understand Jehovah-Raah, which means The Lord, my Shepherd. A shepherd is a role description, not a name of a person. Jehovah is not a name either. Translated as The Existing One or Lord. So again, it describes who God is. Also, it suggests becoming or specifically to become known. This implies that God always discloses who he is. A shepherd is the one who feeds or leads his flock to pasture. An extended translation is a friend or companion. This indicates the intimacy that God desires between himself and his people. Untangling the Name like this reveals to us that God is our friend, guide, companion and is the ever existing One. The One who loves and cares for his sheep. The Shepherd guides us on our journey, and just doesn’t point the way telling us where to go but walks with us through the darkness. The life we live is a very physical journey though time, but also a spiritual journey beginning and ending in mystery, full of inexplicable pain and ecstatic joy full of wonder. It is faith in the end that frees us from any kind of fear. When we are free from fear, we are set free to learn from good and bad experiences.
In times of vulnerability, we are exposed to our real predicament of the possibly of not having a spiritual path and lacking a source of meaning. Without faith, we cannot see the spark of life hidden in the darkness of our grief or in our death. Unbelief, false hope, and delusion are symptoms of another virus rampant in our materialism, that we wrongly call enlightenment. Maybe you are reading this book because you are looking for ways to cope in these strange times, or you may be searching for God, whatever your reason is for reading this book, it is my hope that this Psalm 23 Unwrapped shows the way out of the delusion of materialism, and false hope into a bright new way of being. Faith in Christ is the remedy which overcomes the hopelessness of grief and the fear of death and dying and gives us the resurrection hope. We search far and wide in this coronavirus world to find peace, solace, and contentment. Sifting through daily issues, dealing with family matters, crisis, worry, anxiety, and stress, have all become part and parcel of the life we live. Nevertheless, this is not unique to our times. History offers us narratives of vast difficulty, struggles and unrest which causes us to wonder, has God abandoned us? Is he deaf to our cries? Does he care that we need help, or has he separated himself from the affairs of humankind? In this book, you will find to the contrary. Here, you will unwrap the nature and purpose of God, igniting your faith, bringing new hope, vision, and purpose. Your understanding of God will grow helping you to abide in hope, faith, and love.
At the end of each chapter are a few simple questions you can answer using your Bible. I have placed scripture throughout, so please stop to look them up to derive the overall meaning of each point. I have offered two translations of this the 23rd Psalm to help you grasp its fuller meaning. I encourage you to take notes. Jot down your thoughts and ideas as they come to you. Note your memories that these pages may evoke. Write down your goals, projects, and tasks that this book may have inspired or brought to mind. Psalm 23 Unwrapped can be used for a Bible study either alone or with a group and may serve as an encouragement and guide for you personally. I have not written Psalm 23 Unwrapped as a story book, or an exhaustive theological exposition, but one you can use repeatedly to help you through the tough times in your life. In whatever way you decide to use it, I want this book to be very practical and supportive to You.💕
23rd Psalm of David – Amplified Version (AMP)
1 The Lord is my Shepherd to feed, guide, and shield me, I shall not lack. 2 He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters.
3 He refreshes and restores my life (myself); He leads me in the paths of righteousness uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but for His name’s sake. 4 Yes, though I walk through the deep, sunless valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod to protect and Your staff to guide, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my brimming cup runs over. 6 Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord and His presence shall be my dwelling place.
23rd Psalm of David – New King James Version (NKJV)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord – Forever.
Paula Rose- Parish, BTh.MA.