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Still Waters and Green Pastures
The book, Reflections of a Wyoming Shepherd on the 23rd Psalm, looks through fresh eyes at one of the most famous passages in the Bible.

What happens when a life-threatening car crash causes you to re-evaluate everything?

“…his look of fear was because he was afraid I had been killed on impact.”

Patricia McClaflin was looking forward to a year-long sabbatical. The mother and educator would finally have the time to finish her research project based on a series of interviews with three generations of homesteaders from her native Wyoming. But on a bitterly cold Sunday in February 2001, McClaflin’s car spun out of control on an icy highway and hit a snowplough.

In the seconds before her car accident, McClaflin vividly remembers beginning to recite Psalm 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 (Psalm 23 KJV).

“I do not remember colliding with the snowplough,” she writes. “I can only recall the bone-chilling blast of wind that blew into my face as I looked into the scared, weather-worn face of a man I had never seen. I did not realize till later that his look of fear was because he was afraid I had been killed on impact.” Reaffirming beliefs In the wake of the car accident, McClaflin decided, after a great deal of soul-searching, to retire from her position at the university and change careers. She became a real-estate agent, hoping to continue her project while spending more time with her family.

“The 23rd Psalm is universal; it reaches across generations and nationalities.”

But as McClaflin slowly recovered, her thoughts turned again and again to Psalm 23. A lifelong Christian, she had “grown up loving the words of this chapter of the Bible.” She realized she had another story to tell.

Reflections of a Wyoming Shepherd on the 23rd Psalm, a collection of intensely personal anecdotes and poems, is the culmination of McClaflin’s thoughts on both the life of a shepherd and on God’s watchful care of her own life. It is not a book of theology.

“Rather,” notes McClaffin, “it illustrates that the 23rd Psalm is universal; it reaches across generations and nationalities.”

Each chapter of the book explores one verse of the psalm, linking the shepherding images to events in the author’s life. In the chapter entitled “He Leads Me By Quiet Waters,” she shares anecdotes about travelling to the sea, a related poem called “Beachcombers,” and an explanation of how the verse applies to the lives of real shepherds.

She informs us that shepherds must lead their sheep to quiet water because they find fast-moving water too difficult to drink. They must be watched over carefully, because their wool easily becomes weighed down in water and they drown quickly.

McClaflin’s own background and her thorough research make this book unique—to look at Psalm 23 again through a shepherd’s eyes is a powerful exercise. She’s not afraid to address the more difficult aspects of faith, especially in the chapter “Valley of the Shadow of Death.” But throughout, McClaflin shares stories that reaffirm her beliefs and attest to God’s work in her life.

While the stories are all close to McClaflin’s life and are obviously a testimony to her family and close friends, Reflections of a Wyoming Shepherd on the 23rd Psalm remains a touching story for the rest of us as well. By unpacking a well-known psalm with new eyes, this peaceful and contemplative book reminds us how much sheep and humans need a Shepherd.

Originally published in Faith & Friends, August 2009.




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