I can still remember a particularly beautiful Spring day when I was eight years old. The flowers had just begun to bloom around Sugarloaf Mountain, not far from Frederick, Maryland, near the Virginia state line. I remember sitting there high up on a mountain ledge. It reminded me of granite shepherds silently watching over the lowlands and local communities in the valley way below me.
I can also remember sensing the divine presence of the Lord God there. While I sat high on the ledge, observing the scene below in all its beauty from the height of the mountain, His sweet, still voice spoke to my heart, saying, “My son, what do you see?”
I responded to Him through my thoughts as I prayed. When I opened my eyes I said, “My heavenly Father, I can see that in the distance the area around Sugarloaf Mountain is still just as beautiful as it ever was.
I loved looking out at all the vast farmland below, divided only by jagged rows of wooden fences. I can still remember small clover blossoms of purple growing throughout all the green grassland where the farm animals grazed. The still waters of many small grassland ponds glistened. Little babbling brooks also branched off in many directions as they flowed through the farmland, restoring life wherever they went.
Then, once again, I sensed that same sweet voice from God saying to me, “My son, what do you really see around you?”
I responded, “My heavenly Father, I see my own fears: how rough and dangerous the jagged rocks seem to be, and how sheer the cliffs appear. The precipitous trails that lead down this mountain seem unstable. I can also see the fresh, trickling spring water flowing between the uneven ridges to the base of the mountain.”
Again the same sweet, still voice spoke to me and said, “My son, you observed well.”
Then I realized what He wanted me to recall to my mind while I sat on the mountain ledge:
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 forever (Psalm 23).
[This was my mother’s favorite psalm.]