Remember these lines?
You prepare a table before me/in the presence of my enemies;/you anoint my head with oil;/my cup overflows./Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me/all the days of my life,/and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD/forever. (Psalm 23:5-6, ESV)
They are surely some of the most cited poetic words of the Old Testament. These words were penned by King David and comprise the closing verses of Psalm 23.
Illustration: This morning before I drove to meet with soldiers I’m training in Idaho, I looked out from my hotel window as the sun rose. The ridges had snow on the highest parts. And the various spruce trees whipped back and forth in the morning winds.
My cup was already being filled.
And as I drove onto the military installation, I could feel my adrenaline racing. I’d been able to get in a workout at the hotel, had a hearty breakfast, and I’d seen the sun come up, had checked on my wife and family back home, and had entered through the checkpoint where an Airman scanned my government ID card.
As I drove to meet with fellow soldiers, the wind was whipping the American flag and the POW/MIA flag up above and in front of me.
I met with soldiers, and they showed me around their work area and the area of operations. I met with the commander and she welcomed me to the unit and expressed her endorsement of and support for the skill sets we chaplains bring to the armed forces. We worked on calendars for my next trip out here to teach and minister to her unit.
I found the chapel and met the senior chaplain and assistant, and we coordinated for them to participate at this week’s training.
My cup was being filled.
I saw another chaplain conclude a counseling session with a soldier and saw the soldier hug the chaplain at the end, thanking him for his help. It appeared a genuine thank you, a universal expression of gratitude and human connection.
My cup was being filled.
I remembered a passage from a book I am currently reading by Charles Baxter entitled Wonderlands: Essays on the Life of Literature:
“At the time of writing this essay, I [Charels Baxter] found myself in an elevator in downtown Minneapolis with approximately six other people. I was the only person on the elevator who was looking at the display indicating which floor we were approaching. Everyone else was gazing downward at their iPhones. Gertrude Stein once said that the only thing that changes from generation to generation is what people are looking at. Every time I see someone tapping away at an iPhone, I think of Gertrude Stein” (49).
Baxter, a brilliant writer in his own right, saw what evaded the others. Human connection.
iPhones, wonderful as they are, are to be viewed as tools, not as ends in themselves.
Just by having read Baxter’s book last night at the hotel, and by seeing and experiencing what I was already experiencing today, my cup was being filled.
Ridgelines with snow; my nation’s flag under a blue sky; being with soldiers and being able to minister to them this week; pondering Baxter’s observation and Gertrude Stein’s insight into people . . . it all partook in filling my cup.
The forecast here calls for heavy snow tomorrow and I am pumped. I will rise very early and watch it fall on the mountains surrounding the hotel, and try to remember the privilege I have, and labor to be faithful, and notice that what matters–what really matters–are the people to whom I’m able to minister. I am grateful for them and for the opportunities I’ve been granted.
May I use the time wisely to minister well, to work (in hope) to fill others’ cups, and be part of God’s cosmic plan that includes the use of fallen vessels to pour a message of redemption to all who will hear.