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Posts Tagged ‘the valley’

For about a week or more I have been stalked, but not by a vicious serial killer. I have been stalked by a word, the word mercy.

It has been everywhere; in the songs I’ve heard, in the messages shared, in the verses I have read. Mercy has been quietly creeping up in my life, subtly (or maybe not so subtly) forcing my awareness of it’s presence in my life. Communicating to me that I need to pay attention to whatever message it has for me.

Generally mercy means that one who deserves punishment is given the gift of not receiving that punishment. This freedom is unmerited, undeserved, and it is freely (not forcefully) given. It is an action on the part of the merciful, not a feeling or emotion.

When one asks of mercy from another, they ask knowing that they do not deserve it, but also knowing that the one they ask is fully able to give it, fully. When one gives mercy, they do so not out of ‘feeling’ sad, or compassion for the other, but they grant mercy because it is what is asked of them. The act of requesting mercy is a humble one, the act of giving mercy is an equally humbling one.

In the Psalms David cried to God for mercy over and over again:

“Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1)

Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony” (Psalm 6:2)

“I said, “Have mercy on me, LORD; heal me, for I have sinned against you” (Psalm 41:4)

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1)

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1)

have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long” (Psalm 86:3)

“Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name” (Psalm 119:132)

I am not exactly sure why it is that mercy has been stalking me. Usually when a message is delivered to me in this way my reception of the message comes when I already know why it has come, or it comes as I become aware of the lesson I need to learn, or the message I need to learn. I am not sure whether this message of mercy is to prompt me to be merciful or if I might be the one crying for mercy from another.

Whatever the case, even as odd as it seems, I know where this message has come from, and I know that this messenger is always trustworthy and timely. So, here I sit unwrapping this gift, and holding it close for the day the I will need to make use of it.

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One of the best lessons I ever learned was from a woman speaking about the Twenty-Third Psalm.

The visuals that she created in my imagination are with me still, and there is not a time when I hear or read that Psalm that the pictures do not resurface in my mind’s eye.

The main point that I took from her beautiful speaking had to do with “the shadow of the valley of death.” Doesn’t that simply sound dreadful? Frightening? Foreboding? Dark? That is what I had always thought … until I heard her speak on this passage.

She described:
– the beautiful coolness, and protection that walking through a shadow on a hot day can provide
– the lush green, and refreshment that come from spending time in a valley

From her description, I am certainly not left with images that are dreadful, frightening, foreboding or dark. I am instead left with images of solace, rest, refreshment, and wonder.

“He makes me lie down …”

We mere humans are not often very wise. We push through the business of life. We equally push through the difficult of life, putting our nose to the grind, working only to get it finished (whatever ‘it’ might be). At times, God needs to force us to lie down. Not as an abusive figure who pushes us to our bed, but as a loving Father who sees our blurry-eyed stare, our inability to think straight, our fatigue that encompasses us from the inside out. And he gently takes our child-like hand, and leads us to a place of perfect rest, where He can watch over and care for our personal needs that we have denied.

“Yea, though I walk …”

It says nothing of running, yet, when we are going through a dark and difficult valley, our greatest desire is to run, so that we can get this season over! This was another of the points of the speaker I had heard, Jill Briscoe. Her point was that if God has allowed us time in the valley of the shadow, then there must be purpose in our placement there. There must be a message, a lesson, a maturing that He desires us to learn. It is not a place to race through, but instead a place in which to have our souls restored, while we are being taken care of by the refreshment, and protection in that valley.

“For You are with me …”

This valley is not a place where God plunks us down, and says, “I’ll be back when you have gotten a sufficient amount of sleep, and learned your lesson.” Instead it is a place where his presence, his comfort accompany us. We do not wander through the valley alone, we are walking through it, while our hand is held by our heavenly Father. Or, like the author of the famous Footprints poem, we are cradled in His arms.

“You anoint my head with oil …”

God is giving us His blessing. This blessing is the inheritance of the eternal valley of refreshment, an eternal Garden of Eden, where we can walk and talk with our Creator.

It is here, in the valley, that we will “dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.”

And that does not sound so dreadful.

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