Living in the Valley

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a faith post. My husband and I went on a vacation to visit places and people in Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable trip, but I didn't have much time to write. While it is fun and important to get away, the reality is that we live in the ordinary moments of life much more often than in the extraordinary moments. Who doesn't want to live on the mountaintop, but most of us spend the majority of our time trudging through the valley bottom. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Let me say, the valley bottom is not the pristine, green grass, river filled valley. No, it is the valley that runs between two rugged, rocky cliffs and there is no water in sight for miles. Overhead the vultures are constantly circling, waiting for the valley dwellers to stumble and fall so they can begin to feed off their soon to be dead bodies. Not a pretty picture.

When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. It takes much more of the grace of God, and a much greater awareness of drawing upon Him, to take that next step, than it does to preach the gospel.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - March 6th

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers. He says it takes more grace and a more concentrated effort to draw on Him to take the next step in living the ordinary, mundane life, than to preach the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree? 

I have been finding life more and more challenging lately. My energy level is lower, I have physical issues that I never had to deal with before and I am continually reminded, not only of all the things I need to do, but also of all the things I have absolutely no control over. These factors all become part of life in the valley. Living here in the valley becomes a matter of trudging, not running, or skipping or even walking. Every once in a while, it becomes a crawl, a begging on hands and knees with the Master of this land to come and either let it end or bring about some sort of change. It was from this prostrate place that Oswald realized the thoughts he shared in the quote above. It truly does take the grace of the Almighty to take the next step.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

I know, without a doubt, that some of you are in this place. Just like me, you go to bed so exhausted, that you pray God will take you in your sleep, so that you don't have to get up in the morning. Some of you, don't sleep. He doesn't even give you that. But, you do get up in the morning and you start all over again...the walk, the stumble, the crawl. You feel like you could use time away, a retreat, but there is no retreat. You feel like you could use a good, long cry, but you know the tears won't change anything, besides you are too busy, too tired. You feel like you want to run away, to leave everyone and everything behind, just go somewhere and become someone different, but you know that is not the right thing to do and you are just too tired. Day after day, drudgery after drudgery. This is life in our valley.

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NIV)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
— Psalm 121 (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

I know life can be overwhelming, but God is not overwhelmed by it. We've heard it before, but I need to hear it again. Peter walked on water, though the stormy waves raged all around, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. If you are down and out by life, look up. Jesus will always meet you exactly where you are at. 

Remember, we are all together in this valley. 

 

Lessons in the Dark

I find inspiration for my writing in the oddest places, but then I guess that is what makes writing for me so much fun. I can look at a situation and think, "Oh cool! I could write about this or that!" I suppose it is something akin to a photographer or an artist finding inspiration in something as grand as a sunset or as simple as a bowl of fruit. The grand things of life are full of titillating word choices and descriptive metaphors, but how do I take the simple things and find beauty in them? It really comes down to perspective. 

 Photo Credit  Valerie Boltneva  on StockSnap

Photo Credit Valerie Boltneva on StockSnap

The apostle Paul knew about perspective. He went from being a vehement hater of Christians to being the foremost authority on Jesus Christ. Paul went from the darkness of not knowing Christ to the light of knowing and being fully known and loved by that same One he had early on, persecuted.

When we were packing up our campsite Friday morning we noticed a particularly strange smell emanating from beneath our tent. We noticed it as we took out the tent poles and stakes and began rolling up the tent. My husband is a pro at problem solving, he teaches logic after all! He stuck his nose right next to the tent floor as he was rolling it up. Then he brought it over to me and said, "Smell!" Hesitantly, I stuck my nose to the floor of the tent. It didn't smell at all. 

We had placed a large piece of black plastic as a ground cloth beneath the tent to help preserve the floor and keep moisture, sand and gravel from making our clean up more laborious. When we pulled the plastic back to start cleaning it off we were disgusted by the smell and the number of species of creepy crawlies that had taken up residence beneath our canvas condo! Eeeeewwwwww!

My spouse quickly decided we really did not need to keep that black plastic, rolled it up and promptly placed it in the garbage. While he walked the short distance to the camp garbage cans I looked at the space our tent had previously occupied. It was wet with condensation from camping in the hot Florida sun. The bugs were quickly finding other dark places to hide or being eaten by some of the many anole lizards that resided in the camp's palm, sand and myrtle oak trees. I was shocked to find in the middle of all this putrefaction a tiny frog. As an average citizen, who gets a good percent of my knowledge off the internet, it appeared to be a Squirrel Tree frog. When I noticed him, he was a light tan color, blending in perfectly with the sand and gravel under our tent.

I'm sure this little guy didn't comprehend the danger he was in when he wiggled his way under our tent. We have no idea how long he had been there, but it was obvious he had gone under there to feast! It was a bug buffet and he was getting in for free. I realized as I looked at this odd little creature that my husband or I could have stepped on him and never even known!

That tiny little frog, who simply makes our lives better by eating lots of bugs taught me some very important lessons. First of all, there is danger in living at the beck and call of our appetites. The frog is merely doing what its God given tendencies tell it to do, in other words finding creepy breakfast food in dark, moist places. But how often do I give in to my appetites? In all honesty, daily. I struggle with eating well, exercising, not spending too much and so on. Many people struggle with "bugs" that are much bigger and more addicting that my own, and their living at least part of their life in the moist darkness of putrefaction. The greater our lives are lived in darkness the less we will know and identify with the light.

 Photo Credit  Matthew Wiebe  on StockSnap

Photo Credit Matthew Wiebe on StockSnap

That brings me to another important lesson learned from the frog: just because it is available, doesn't mean it is necessarily what is best for you. There are all sorts of delicacies available to wet our appetites. Food, entertainments, sex are all things that can be good when used in the appropriate ways under the appropriate circumstances, but living under the tent floor can make a person forget what is good.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’
— John 8:12 (NASB)

Our little frog friend had a somewhat baffled look on his face when we pulled off that black plastic and exposed him to the light. I've seen people look that way, when they start hearing the words of Jesus from the Bible. The frog, of course went about his way, slowly crawling across the open space and hopefully back to a place of safety. But people don't have to listen. They don't have to care whether they are under the tent floor, dangerously close to getting squashed. They can just keep on feeding their appetites oblivious to the dangers looming over them.

Get out of the darkness and back into the light. As His creation that is exactly where we belong!