Valley of Shadow


So on my walk today, I was thinking back to the Living Stream service from Sunday evening. The couple that brought the message shared about their CPE (clinical pastoral education) experience. I could relate because of my own training (10 quarters in KC, MO).
Their words, my walk, and my current situation, brought to mind the words from the Shepherds Psalm: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
Until my walk this morning, I always associated this verse with someone getting ready to die. Or for the family of someone who just passed.
But what if, we see it more as a verse that stays with the theme of provision. What if when we feel like we’re walking in the dark, into the unknown, we choose faith over fear, trust in the provider instead of our own wits and abilities?
Or…what if our training and experience prepares us to walk with others into their dark valleys. What if we are called to be their light and their comfort. Not everyone can do it. But if God calls us, he will equip us, and he will use us.

This Little Light of Mine

WP single light

14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, NRSV)

Being light is not a suggestion. Jesus didn’t say, “Hey, if y’all don’t have anything else planned, I have this really cool idea. How ’bout we let the glory of God shine through our broken places and carry light into the darkness.”

No. He said, “You’re it. You’re the plan. Go be who I created you to be. Be light. Be warmth. Shine brightly.”

And you won’t be able to hide it. A wise man once told me, “There are no secret disciples. Either the disciple will kill the secret or the secret will kill the disciple.” (Charles Munson)

Where will you shine your light today?

AFTERTHOUGHT: I want you to know I picked the version of “This Little Light of Mine” very intentionally. There were several renditions with a single voice. And at first, I thought I wanted that. But when I listened to this version by The Lower Lights, I was impressed by the group. I pondered again the verse and went to the Greek.

The “you” is y’all (humeis). You plural. His light will always shine brighter when we shine together.

WP many lights

Ineffective Light

We are in the middle of an arctic deep freeze. We’ve run out of words to describe the cold.

Last night during the weather forecast, the woman was trying to be positive about the fact that the sun was going to shine. But she was quick to add that the sunshine would be ineffective because it was going to be so cold.

Ineffective light. How can that be?

As you can imagine, I was quick to begin thinking in spiritual implications.

I was immediately reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount:
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it
be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and
trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither
do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and
it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before
others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

I have often considered what “un-salty” might be, or how it would taste, but I had never considered light that wasn’t light.

That would be darkness…wouldn’t it?

Maybe not.

Have you ever reached for a flashlight (after hunting all over for it) only to find the batteries or light bulb were too weak to light what you needed to see?

Ineffective light.

The flashlight holds all the potential to dispel the darkness, but because it has not been maintained or cared for, when it is finally located it fails to live up to that potential.

So how is your light? What does it take to not be ineffective?

That reminds me what of Peter said:
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to
goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control,
perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection;
and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing
measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge
of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Peter 1:5-8, NIV)

That’s quite a list. Maintenance of our light takes a bit of effort. We can’t hope to dispel sin’s darkness if sit on a shelf during the week and just show up occasionally at church on Sunday. Making every effort means making the most of every opportunity, and maybe even creating a few opportunities along the way.

I don’t want to have it pronounced over me that I was “ineffective and unproductive.”

I want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

How about you? What effort are you making? Do you struggle to add what Peter recommends? What works best for you?

Prayer: God, help us, teach us, lead us to know how to make our light shine more brightly for you. Amen

Advent 23: Consequences

It has not been a fun day at my house. The grandson and the Pepa locked horns. And a very stiff penalty was levied. The child didn’t think the adult was serious. The adult was unbending. There were many tears, but no true repentance. How do I know? The child blamed everyone else and continued to try and negotiate.

This did not help his case. In fact, I believe it only encouraged the adult to feel that he was right in his decision.

As long as we have been parents, foster parents, and grandparents, we have taught that actions have consequences.

And had to learn it, too. I tried to explain that to the child, but his heart was hurting to much to hear.

If you want to talk about harsh consequences, pull up a chair and listen to Adam and Eve’s story. It was just an apple. And they were unfairly tempted. At least that’s the way they saw it. One bite and not only were they booted out of the Garden, but then there was all that business about work and pain. Talk about harsh. I mean the rest of us have been paying for their poor choice through the ages.

But it’s not like we haven’t been warned. The Word is full of warning, the clearest being: you will reap what you sow.

Sometimes watching a child deal consequences makes it not much fun to be a mom or mema. It’s hard to not want to swoop in and rescue. It was very hard today.

In more ways than I want to try and explain, I have learned how choices result in consequences. But at the hardest point in facing those consequences, I found this scripture encouragement:
As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me.
8 Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.
9 I will be patient as the Lord punishes me,
for I have sinned against him.
But after that, he will take up my case
and give me justice for all I have suffered from my enemies.
The Lord will bring me into the light,
and I will see his righteousness.
10 Then my enemies will see that the Lord is on my side. (Micah 7:7-10, NLT)

Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything in the Word that spoke to God removing consequences. I wish, but no. Not there.

What is there is the promise that he will be with me…with you…all the way through.

In the darkest times, he will be there. He will be our light. He hears us. And he will bring us back to the light. And we will see his righteousness again.

And that’s good news to hold onto.

Advent 11: Lights

You are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14

I usually like to sit in an aisle seat when I’m flying. Then I can lean out into the aisle for a little more room. The flight was booked (overbooked, actually) and thankfully I was able to reserve a window seat.

The best part of the window seat for me is looking down and wondering about the people in the towns I’m flying over. It was especially fun this flight because I was flying at night and the lights were kind of like reverse stars twinkling below instead of above.

So many lights…so many people.

That doesn’t make everybody happy. I visited the telescope center on Mt. Hopkins atop the Santa Rita Mountains. The guide was telling us that the reason the telescope was put there was the desert was so dark and that made the viewing of the stars and beyond that much better. They would run their vehicles up and down the mountain with the headlights off to keep from disrupting the viewing process. One light could make that much difference.

So of course I wondered: how much difference does my light make?

Light plays an important role in the developing Christmas story.

Think about it: the Wisemen followed the light to get to the Light who came to bring light to those who would be his light in the world.

We light candles at Christmas. We put lights on our trees–inside and out. Some light displays are very extravagant, even being set to music. There are 1,850,000 hits on youtube alone for Christmas lights. They even put lights on the cacti in the desert.

What is this obsession?

It made me think about my fear of the dark. If I’m home alone I have to leave a light on. There are things in the dark that can hurt us. (My shins will atest to that!)

We do a lot to make sure that our physical worlds are void of darkness.

You are the light of the world–not physically but spiritually. Make sure this holy holiday season that you are plugged into the Source and that your light is shining bright.

We wouldn’t want anyone to have to be walking in darkness. Right?

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