A Trail of Goodness and Mercy

Living as Apprentices

I have the reputation of being a “word person.”  This phrase is the first thing my husband says when he  introduces or describes me, probably because during our conversations he is constantly being quizzed about which word he really means.  Today, my pastor shared this truth about me in his sermon!

I must agree. I love words and aim always to use them exactly and appropriately and even creatively. Years ago I took a class in linguistics as part of my graduate studies and, of course, found every minute of it fascinating.  My long-term “take-home” from this class became the application of the terms lexical ambiguity and structural ambiguity.  This is just a fancy, though useful, way of pointing out that words and phrases can often be interpreted in different ways.  English, particularly is famous for this quirk – which is why audiences have such fun with Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde and other masters of the beauty of English.

Psalm 23 is often referred to as the Shepherd'...

Psalm 23 is often referred to as the Shepherd’s psalm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometime ago when I was saying Psalm 23, a bedtime ritual, it occurred to me that the phrase “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and  I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” can mean two things.  I have always thought of it as meaning that because I live in the kingdom of God,  I can anticipate God’s showering of goodness and mercy on me all for eternity.  Suddenly, the “structural ambiguity” of this phrase came alive.  Could it also mean that because I live in the kingdom of God, I can leave a legacy of goodness and mercy behind?  I began to wonder how I could intentionally work with the Holy Spirit to create that legacy.  Here are some ideas.  Perhaps you  have some to share as well.

  • I can daily surrender my thoughts, feelings, agendas, relationships, and dreams to God.
  • I can purposely create times of silence and of solitude in every day – times to just “be.”
  • Instead of “trying harder” to conquer my anger, impatience, and judgmentalism, I can fill my heart and mind with joyful experiences, creative thoughts, and pleasant memories so that there is less and less room for bitter negativity and “it’s not fair” comments and more room for goodness and mercy.
  • I can look deeply at the life of Jesus to see how he responded to the world around him.
  • I can steep myself in the Psalms, the most honest self-reflection in scripture.
  • I can live in the land of reconciliation and forgiveness – making amends instead of holding grudges.
  • I can pray daily for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, for the courage to change the things I can, and for the wisdom to know the difference (which is surely the hardest assignment for  “enablers”- of whom I have been chief.)

How wonderful it would be to not only be graced with goodness and mercy by God but also to leave a trail of goodness and mercy as I walk through the world!

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3 Responses to A Trail of Goodness and Mercy

  1. Pingback: Going Deeper with God – “God Will Never Say Good-bye” (Psalm 23: 4) | Living as Apprentices

  2. Thank you for the words of affirmation, Ruth!

  3. Ruth Evenhouse says:

    You, Karen, have already begun leaving an abundant trail of good and merciful crumbs (listen and learn, Hansel and Gretel), for the increasing group of Apprentice lambs you have trained. There is, however, no fear of not finding the Path home. You continue to highlight it for us as you walk Upon the very path of God. (Travis West might remind us that God is the ground beneath our feet).

    I LOVE your re-interpretation of that verse from Psalm 23. It will lead me into a good and merciful sleep tonight, for I, too, say the 23rd Psalm as a soul training and a mind quieting benediction.

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