Psalm 23 NIV - A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Devotional from Jonny Campbell
Tristan Harris is a former Google engineer turned whistle-blower. Holding up an iPhone on HBO's 'Real Time' in 2017, he declared 'this thing is a slot machine!' An expert in mind-device interaction, Harris' job had been to make apps that aggressively harvest as much of our attention as possible through distraction and addiction. He recalled a 1995 whistle-blower who admitted that cigarettes were engineered to be addictive. 'They just want your lungs.' Harris joked. 'This app store wants your soul.'
A while back I realised I was suffering from two ailments that you probably have too: digital exhaustion and solitude deprivation.* However this unsettling discovery shed beautiful light on well-worn passages like Psalm 23. On his deathbed Jacob said in Genesis 48 'the Lord has been my shepherd all my life'. David compares God's presence to the same Shepherd tending the sheep. If life is essentially a series of choices, Psalm 23 asks the question: 'who or what are you really allowing to daily lead you and shape you?'
Poets, preachers, philosophers and prophets have argued for centuries that human desire is infinite. The Rolling Stones said 'I can't get no satisfaction.' Every day we are targeted by billion pound corporations who want to stimulate a relentless itch to see, buy, do, eat, drink, experience, visit and consume. David described God's presence a bit like this: 'I want for nothing. He leads me beside quiet waters. He shows me a wise decision and a life-giving way. I don't feel anxious or overwhelmed, I feel comforted and full. You slow me down. I can find myself. You love this time with me and my need for connection is met by your unfailing, inexhaustible love. My soul rises in lightness and hope.'
The assault of noise relents. Disillusionment, overload and anger subside and stillness comes. The kind of stillness that refreshes a soul.
Jesus would go on to say 'come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.' I'm trying to follow the advice of John Mark Comer in his new book 'why don't we bring back the quiet time and rock it like it's 1999?' It doesn't make life easy. Life is hard. Full stop. But spiritual practices like quiet time are like equipment that make life significantly lighter.
Anne Lamott famously said 'almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes... including you.'
* digital exhaustion is a feeling of unfocussed, irritable, hurried malaise and general negativity due to the dripping of dopamine from overuse of technology and social media.
* solitude deprivation is the inability to spend more than 10 seconds alone with your thoughts, often caused by the muscle memory of reaching for a phone in every second of a day's potential boredom.
Jonny, 30, lives with his wife Naomi in either 'the Braniel' or 'the Castlereagh Hills' depending on who's asking. He leads Alpha Northern Ireland for the Alpha UK team and is at Orangefield Presbyterian. He is enjoying watching the greatest Liverpool team of his lifetime and in the Alpha world he is widely considered a fashion icon.
He recommends this Jeremy Riddle version of Ps23 for a fresh musical cover of these treasured verses.