This morning, just a few hours ago, as I was doing my morning devotions, the lake outside my window looked like this.

The still waters of Stumpf Lake.

The still waters of Stumpf Lake.

The phrase that came to mind was “he leadeth me beside the still waters.”

When I was a child, I memorized one of the most comforting passages in the Bible, Psalm 23, in the King James Version. You might have also. I invite you to say it aloud with me.

Psalm 23

23 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: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The poet Wendell Berry may have had this Psalm in mind when he wrote his own poem about the healing power of still water:

The Peace of Wild Things


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

You can hear Wendell Berry read his poem at this OnBeing link. His deep, resonant voice, full of love and absorbed pain, will make the words even more strong and beautiful.

In a few hours, I will join a group of nuns in praying the Psalms in Mid-day Prayer, a 1500-year-old practice that has offered the world a great Benedictine value: stability.

During the sixth and seventh centuries, sometimes called the “dark ages,” the monasteries carried on their missions. Without them we would not have had the flourishing Renaissance.

I am also remembering my own Anabaptist/Mennonite community. And missing it. I have this video of Mennonites singing together in a Music and Worship weekend two years ago. Sisters and brothers, watch and sing along!

Then, this afternoon, I will go walking in the woods with a friend who called to ask how I was doing.

Some days, the only thing to do is pray and read and sing and walk. Such days give us strength for all the other callings of our lives — and for all the days ahead, no matter how difficult.

What are YOU doing today? Your stories will sustain me, I know. They always have.

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