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Archive for October 25th, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 6.50.51 AMI grew up on the east coast of Canada, with rolling hills, spectacularly colourful autumn foliage and green, lush valleys.

It is my understanding of the east coast valley that has created for me the imagery of a valley in Psalm 23.

lush.

soft shadows.

cool.

life-giving.

Recently I came across an article about a valley between Jerusalem and Jericho. There are parts of this valley where the cliffs on either side are so high that the sun only reaches the bottom when it is at it’s noontime high. Most of the day it is

dark,

cold,

and every sound reverberates eerily throughout the valley.

This valley sounds more like the Valley of dry bones that Ezekiel wrote about after having a hum dinger of a dream.

I wonder which valley David was thinking of, when he penned the twenty-third Psalm?

Recently I realized that I am like a lifeguard. When a crises or emergency occurs, I become a person of calm, of peace. I think clearly, I speak wisely (ok, that might be a stretch), I care for those who are hurting, I do what needs to be done. Basically, I walk through the Valley of the shadow of death with ease and peace … as though I am being guided, confidently, through this death valley by the Shepherd himself.

Then, days, weeks or months after the crises or emergency I go from strolling through the lush valley with my Shepherd, to fearfully stumbling in the shadows, feeling lifeless, scared and so very alone.

I think that, like myself (like you?) David experienced both types of valleys. He experienced the shadows, and the presence of the sun. He walked through lush green growth, and the dry rocky paths. He heard nothing but the echoes of his own fear-filled heartbeat, and the comforting whispers of the Shepherd.

The thing is, the Shepherd (God) was and is present in both the valley of Ezekiel and the gentle ones I knew growing up.

In the one, Ezekiel is given a vision, by God, of dry bones in the desert. God told Ezekiel that these bones are his people, who say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely” (37:11). That’s a dark valley! A dark, shadowy, fear-filled valley. We have all walked through that valley! Then God instructs Ezekiel, to tell them to live. He told him to say, “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live” (37:5).

Those dry bones might be quite representative of me when I am stumbling through the dark, shadowy valleys, feeling scared and so very alone. The thing is, though, that shadows are not really something to be fearful of, for a shadow cannot cause us harm, and a shadow is evidence that light is present, for shadows do not exist where there is no light.

In David’s valley there is not just an awareness of the presence of God, but of him leading  the way through the valley. For some that very direct leading can happen right in the midst of walking through the shadow of death. For others it is in retrospect, looking back on that time living under the shadow, that one sees that they were never alone, that they too, were being led by God himself.

The shepherd is there with us, deep in the valley of the shadow of death. He is gently guiding, whispering to us to inhale the breath that makes dry bones come alive. He never leaves us alone, whether we see the fertile lushness of our valley, or it is a mirage that leaves us confused. He is healing our souls … our broken, dusty souls, with his healing presence. He nourishes us, right in sight of our enemies, showing evil that good is being restored.

I wonder …

could it be that when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

that our Shepherd whispers sleep into our minds,

and while we are sleeping

our souls receive his refreshment from him?

Maybe, while our reality is the dark and deep crevasse, his presence transforms our souls to a restful, peaceful valley, where we can be restored.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
  He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

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.

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.

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