A Tour Guide for Life

A Tour Guide for Life


Rev. Dr. Susan J. Foster is the pastor of the East Woodstock Congregational Church and author of Retreats to Go: Twelve Creative Programs that Renew and Refresh.

Scripture: Psalm 23 (Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan Merrill)

O Beloved, You are my shepherd, I shall not want; you bring me to green pastures for rest and lead me beside still waters renewing my spirits.

You restore my soul. You lead me in the path of goodness to follow Love’s way.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow and of death, I am not afraid;
For you are ever with me; your rod and your staff, they guide me, they give me strength and comfort.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of all my fears; you bless me with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.  And I shall dwell in the heart of the Beloved forever.  Amen.

Reflection: A Tour Guide for Life


In a previous life (the one before seminary and pastoring), I worked briefly as a tour guide for school groups visiting Europe.  It really was one of those fast-paced, “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Munich” kind of tours.  These were high school students who had never been abroad and their teachers’ goal was to expose them to as many experiences and cultures as possible in a short time.  I cringe a little bit when I look back on that crowded week of traveling through three countries (Germany, Switzerland, and Austria) as we visited sites as diverse at the Neuschwanstein Castle (the one that the Disney World castle is modeled after) and the concentration camp at Dachau. It was a tremendous amount of information to absorb along with the emotional highs and lows that each experience offered.

Psalm 23 reminds me of a different type of tour – a tour through life with the ups and downs that each of us will surely experience.  No matter what age you might be, I imagine all of us could look back and say, “How did I end up here? This is not exactly the path that I envisioned for myself. There have been twists and turns, celebrations and disappointments that I could not have foreseen.”

Psalm 23 can help us review our lives while also offering courage to face whatever is to come. We might take a few moments and wonder – Where have been the green pastures of your life?  Are there places and activities that reliably offer peace?  Can we be intentional about reconnecting with those places (distant or in our backyard) and taking time for those activities that are life-giving.

Those green pastures help us recognize that renewal and rejuvenation are non-negotiable parts of any tour. And then let’s name what we are escaping from or at least what we are taking a break from.  What is wearing us down, what is making us weary?  Why do our hearts ache for the calm of those green pastures?  The psalmist knows that we can’t endlessly work without a pause. We can’t ignore the forces that threaten to exhaust our spiritual and emotional resources.  It’s significant that the first stop on this “tour” is one of Sabbath and peace. It is an important ordering of priorities – we’ll need to rest if we are going to be able to go on.

Perhaps those green pastures will remind you of someone who has provided care for you in the past.  Let’s take some moments to give thanks for those caretakers, those nurturing shepherds who have offered sustenance, care, and a listening ear. We can express gratitude for those who have provided us with space to be who we authentically are without comment or censure.  This wise psalm encourages us to seek out people and places that restore our souls and remind us that we are beloved.

Strengthened by that love, we are better prepared for those arduous parts of our journey. These are the detours, the roads not chosen but rather forced upon us which lead us into loss and grief and fear. No one books this tour. No one chooses this pain. But I have yet to discover any traveler who has not experienced those shadowy valleys and dark nights of the soul.

The psalmist, our heavenly tour guide, assures us that our needs will be met. We will not be alone in those overwhelming circumstances. That same faithful shepherd who gently prodded us toward green pastures will offer guidance and strength when the path is rocky and the way forward is unclear. Sometimes presence is what we need the most – the gift of knowing that we are not expected to rely solely on our own power or strength or ability.

The kids on those bus tours always asked, “Will there be snacks?” And the answer is a resounding – yes!  We are invited to the heavenly banquet. There are no dues or fees or extra surcharges for this meal. Here is a safe place where everyone is welcome whose daily specials include a never-ending feast of grace, forgiveness and mercy. 

The tour never ends. It continues all the days of our life and beyond so that we can dwell in the heart of the Beloved.


Heavenly Guide, be with us on our journey. Open our hearts to place our trust in you and remind us to lend one another a helping hand along the way. Amen.

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at cochranem@sneucc.org.

Prayers of Intercession:

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

This Week in History:

April 22, 1970 (53 years ago): Earth Day, an event to increase public awareness of the world’s environmental problems, is celebrated in the United States for the first time. [History

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Sue Foster

pastor of East Woodstock Congregational Church

April 17, 2023
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