Once in a while we have glorious, spirit lifting experiences where we feel as if we have just spent time atop the mountain with God. The key is to take the experience, the lesson and the emotion back down with us when we descend the mountain and head into the valley.
Even if the valley we descend into feels like that valley of death.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalm 23: 4 ESV)
When we think of being in a valley of the shadow of death, we think anxiety and uncertainty, misery and pain. But there are other things going on.
GOD’S SHADOW IS RESTFUL
Remember the way the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary? It was God at His best, blessing Mary and protecting her. When the angel spoke to Mary, he used the Hebrew word episkiazo, which was the same word Matthew and Mark both used when talking about the transfiguration of Jesus. The overshadowing was a bright cloud covering Jesus, Moses and and Elijah as God the Father exclaimed His joy and love for Jesus.
It reminds us of the way we can rest in the shadow of His wing; we can retreat from the terrors of the world and rest in the shade he provides. See also Psalm 91:1-2, Psalm 17:-8-9; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 57:1; Psalm 63:7; Hosea 14:7. Shadows can definitely be a good thing.
SHADOWS OCCUR WHERE THERE IS LIGHT
If there is a shadow, it means there is light on the other side of the shadow. Specifically, the shadow is nothing of substance. The light of the world however comes from just one source: God. Remembering that God is the light, shining through the shadow, can give us encouragement for the journey.
DEATH HAS NO MEANING
When Psalm 23 was written, Jesus had not yet come to live in the world. He had not yet been crucified. He had not resurrected to prove to us his power over death. We have the benefit of seeing Jesus live again. We have the understanding that we are eternal beings. We need not fear evil in the valley of the shadow of death because we know that Jesus has triumphed over both evil and death. The valleys are no longer the valleys of the shadow of death. They are just lovely, restful, pastoral valleys. We might as well enjoy their beauty.
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Mountain tops are awesome. They provide us with a vision of the grand and amazing. We are able to see vistas clearly and get a sense of the big picture, literally and spiritually. But the valley is where we live. And when we look for Jesus in the valley, He is right here, walking along side us, whether the valley is shadowed or lit with heavenly sunbeams.
Enjoy the journey.
Those 2016 goals you set in January? How are you doing moving toward accomplishing them? Do you need a reminder? Do you need to recommit to them? Or revise them?
In January, I selected my one-word focus for 2016: Legacy. I was convinced that one word reinforced my decision to work on my young adult novel with the working title: Legacy. So I set my writing goals for 2016 to work on that novel along with my other writing commitments.
Later in January though, during prayer, I clearly felt God asking me why I was limiting what He could do through me. Why was I limiting my goals to just working on a single book?
Then revised goals. In addition to my other writing commitments, I then and there committed to working on 8 books in 2016. EIGHT books. And the original novel commitment wasn’t even included.
Note: I didn’t commit to completing all 8 books; I committed to working on them. And I set out a month-by-month schedule for specifically what I intended to work on to accomplish those goals.
For this review of Q1, I am ahead of schedule.
I released I am Elizabeth (fifth book in the With Faith Like Hers Bible study series) in January. I released my book about praying through the writing process last month (not next June, as planned). Here it is. A book for writers about writing—but mostly about praying for your writing and the writing of others.
I am Elizabeth flew through the production cycle and The praying Writer went together quickly. Maybe God was showing off. Or maybe God was reminding me that when He is involved I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Either way, I’m still on track for that second set of goals. Out of an 8-book goal set, six books are left to work on this year. The goal is to independently publish one more in 2016, have one ready to release in 2017; complete one to submit to editors and write 3 book proposals to submit by the end of 2016.
Once God reminded me that my one-word focus—Legacy—didn’t necessarily refer to my novel, but to leaving behind a legacy of faith through my writing, the Holy Spirit took over and is increasing my faith by helping me put that faith into words for others to read.
Wouldn’t it be just like Jesus to help me finish up all those goals and still have time to work on that novel? I’m starting to think I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? What goals did you set for 2016? How are you doing on them?
One of the great sayings that came out of the 1980’s was to “stop and smell the roses.”
It’s a wisdom for the ages. When life gets too filled with busy-ness, sometimes we need to stop and simply enjoy the beauty around us.
Life absolutely is a gift. God wants us to enjoy this one and only life we have here on planet Earth. But we are meant to do more than just enjoy it. Our life isn’t just about ourselves.
My life isn’t just about me, my wishes, what I want, what will fulfill me. Me, me, me.
Yes, God wants us to experience and grow, learn and have fun. But He also wants us to share our lives with other people who are living on planet Earth.
Sometimes that means we stop and smell the roses.
Sometimes that means stopping to pick a bouquet to take to someone who may never have smelled roses themselves; or doesn’t have time to stop; or is unable to reach the roses; or who has been pricked by a thorn in the past.
Sometimes that means we plant roses to grow after we are long gone, leaving behind something we do that makes the planet Earth better for having lived in it.
Thinking about roses always reminds me of Jesus. In the Song of Solomon, we read:
I am the rose of Sharon; a lily of the valleys (Song of Solomon 2:1)
Many Bible scholars believe that this verse refers symbolically and as an analogy to Jesus as the rose of Sharon. That makes it even more meaningful to:
Stop and spend time with Jesus
Share Jesus with others who may not know Him
Live a life for Christ, leave a legacy of faith for him; plant seeds of faith in others
Do you have roses in your life today? Do you need some? What will you do when you find them?
Jesus tells us that the names of people who love Him are written in His book of the lamb; that those people will live with Him in heaven.
Names are important. They mean something. I love to pray that people will live the meaning of their names—for Jesus. Here are two more names. Do you know anyone with either of these names?
Leonard: brave lion; hardy
Dear Jesus, I pray that Leonard will live the meaning of his name. I pray he will have courage in life; the courage and strength that comes from you. I pray he will stand firm in his faith in you, remembering that the lion symbolizes royalty and that you, King of Kings, will be the Lord of his life forever. Amen.
Dear Jesus, I pray that Mia will live the meaning of her name. I pray she will know to whom she belongs. I pray that when she asks in prayer that you reveal her worth to you, that you will answer, “You are mine.” I pray she will keep a faith of belonging to you in her heart and knows and trusts she will be yours forever. Amen.
We recently saw the movie, Risen—the account of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection from the point of view of a fictional Roman soldier sent by Pilate to investigate the truth. I definitely recommend the movie, but that’s not the point of my thoughts today.
The point that struck me was about the actor, Cliff Curtis who played Jesus. He is the same actor who played the FBI director working with Homeland Security in the movie Live Free or Die Hard.
When I mentioned that to my husband, he said, “From homeland security to Jesus—that’s quite a promotion.”
But really, isn’t that what Jesus is all about?
Jesus came to give us spiritual security here on our earthly home—leaving us the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us in all things.
But Jesus also came to die so that we have eternal security, knowing that we will be loved and safe from evil forever in heaven—our true home.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20).
As we walk through holy week, we look forward to Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate that Jesus died for us, was resurrected, returned to heaven to prepare a place for us and will come back to take us with Him—to our forever home.
Jesus, thank you for our forever home and for making our citizenship there completely secure.
The Book of Revelation tells us that the names of those who love Jesus are written in His book of life. Those names are important and they have meaning. I love praying that people live the meaning of their names.
Here are two prayers for people with the names Liam and Stella. Do you know someone with one of those names?
Liam: resolute protector
Dear Jesus, we pray that Liam will live the meaning of his name. We pray that he will be a protector of others and a protector of his faith in you. We pray that in his walk with you, he will be resolute, following your ways all the days of his life. Amen.
Dear Jesus, we pray that Stella will live the meaning of her name. We pray that she will live her life with gratitude to you so that she will shine like a star in the sky. We pray that you will shine through her and that she will shine so that others will be led to you—the source of all light. Amen.
I am a turtle—metaphorically speaking. I begin a journey and continue on, one step at a time. Usually I get to the end. Not always the first. But neither do I often give up.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my turtleness. Scripture tells us to run the good race of faith; to work out and get in shape so we have endurance for the long haul.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
That idea of running with perseverance puzzles the turtle-ness in me. But since turtles must think turtle-ishly, something s-l-o-w-l-y began to make sense.
Running a race as an in-shape athlete is hard work. Even a sprint takes a lot out of you in terms of muscle effort and breathing. Running a long-distance race is even harder.
Now think about the poor turtle. Even in-shape athletic turtles have a tough time in a race. Not only do they have to carry a heavy, bulky house around with them, they also have short, squaty legs that stick out from the sides of their bodies. We humans have legs nicely positioned directly beneath us to allow for better running form and speed. Not the poor turtle.
In the end, what I find appealing about being a racing turtle is that the race of faith may be slow but it is steady. It may be uncomfortable, but it moves me forward. I may not look graceful or athletic, but the degree of difficulty not only keeps me humble, it allows me pride in the running.
And in this case, pride is a good thing.
This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
There’s probably also a parable in here somewhere relating to the fact that a turtle lives inside the home he carries with him and the fact that the Holy Spirit has made His home inside me. But perhaps that’s a thought for another day. Meanwhile, I’ll meander outside, find a warm rock and discuss my legacy of turtle faith with Jesus.
In Scriptural symbolism, the right hand is the hand that holds power. Isaiah is assuring us that God’s right hand is not only righteous, but He chooses to uphold us with the hand that holds power. We need not be afraid, dismayed or weak. Ever.