Sunday, April 11, 2010

Psalm 23 Will Keep You Young

200/365  Two Hundred BooksImage by Merry~Blues via Flickr

My friend Joe Templeton, a crusty Army veteran, is now in his early 70s, yet he looks a young 50! Over the years I’ve learned about his war experiences, and how difficult his return to civilian life was, since he had lost half of his hearing and vision.

Despite his physical problems he went on to have a great career in Wall Street. Last Sunday at church, as he went up the steps to read the scriptures, I couldn’t help noticing the spring in his step and the vibrancy of his voice. Later, during our coffee hour and the passing of the peace, one of our friends said to Joe, “That was a good reading, Joe. You’re a good reader-- good voice.”

Hearing that snatch of conversation, assured me that I wasn’t alone in my own assessment of Joe’s remarkable youthful looks. “Yeah, Joe,” I added. “Are you keeping a Dorian Gray picture in the attic? What is your secret?”

“I count my blessings, not sheep,” was his simple reply.

Later he confided that his secret was a ‘good night’s sleep.’ Tossing, turning, reading into the wee hours of the morning, for years he had trouble going to sleep, and in fact he suffered from insomnia. Soon he noticed that the many sleepless nights --insomnia and weariness-- were taking their toll on him; not only did he feel exausted and irritable, but his eyes looked sunken and with dark shadows, his entire face haggard and unwell. “I cured my insomnia with Psalm 23,” he told us.

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.

“I only need these four verses,” he said. “And as I repeat the verses several times, I visualize the murmuring brook and the quiet pond behind the old house where I grew up in Sherman, Connecticut. Right behind our house there was a weeping willow tree, huge, branches and leaves drooping to the ground, green pastures all around.

“My father and I used to take naps under that old tree. I can still hear my dad’s voice: ‘See the small hills? Our property extends all the way up there. My dad left this land to me, and when you grow up it will belong to you, too. I always count my blessings before I go to sleep; I never count sheep.’ And soon he’d be snoring.”

Of course not all of us have that kind of bucolic property: murmuring brooks, quiet ponds, green pastures, and weeping willows, but we all have a mind. With little effort I can picture Joe’s childhood setting and see it right in front of my eyes.

Now Psalm 23 is long, but, like Joe, we need not memorize all of it—four verses will do.

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