Valley Moments

Nepal - Valley of Eternity  (Ripuk, Barun Valley)Creative Commons License“… He leads me beside still waters, somewhere in the valley below; He draws me aside to be tested and tried, and in the valley He restores my soul.” In a second verse of that same song, are these lyrics: “And I question, ‘Lord why must this be?’ ”

In the Spring I had an extended bout with bronchitis. While very ill, I was rejoicing that it had not gone into pneumonia. Along with the bronchitis I had what I thought was laryngitis. In spite of a compromised voice, I fulfilled several speaking engagements and even competed in two speech contests, placing second in both! Since the voice issues lingered long after the bronchitis had cleared, I was referred to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor who determined with one quick test that I have a paralyzed vocal cord on the left side.

That is just about the worst news a professional speaker could receive! And in my depraved humanity, I asked, “Lord, why must this be?” Why would you choose to afflict me in the one organ that impacts my ability to earn a living? What’s a professional speaker to do?

Oh, my! How dangerously close to outright rebellion those questions are! I confess to having asked them, but God in his gracious kindness and tenderness has rebuked me. Certainly he is not intimidated by my questioning, but there is great risk to me if I languish and wallow in self-pity and fail to see his loving hand. It is here that I must turn the questioning into praise because of who I know my God to be.

Thank you that you love me too much to allow anything in my life that is not for my good or your glory;
Thank you that once again your strength can be made perfect in my weakness;
Thank you that you have faithfully met my needs throughout life;
Thank you for showing my pride in thinking anything was up to me;
Thank you for “peace in the midst of my storm.”

Another thing I know about my God is that any trial he allows is part of a plan much greater than I could ever comprehend this side of Heaven, and my little part is very insignificant and not at all about me. It is possible that Christ could take a raspy voice and use it for his glory to an even greater extent. It is also possible that the door of public speaking is closing for me. Then, perhaps there are other untried doors about to open. While waiting upon the Lord for his direction, my part is to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”

I have been in God’s valley more than once in my life. Thankfully, he does not allow me to linger long or languish in “Why me?” Instead, he nourishes my heart in green pastures and calms my soul beside still waters that restore and enable me to walk in paths of righteousness FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE! With praise to my Savior, I am no longer in the valley. I’m just changing mountains!

The Lord be praised!

Dhilung Kirat via Compfight

Just Changing Mountains

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William Congreve was right when he wrote “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” Music that reflects Scriptural truth always touches me deeply, and often in the midst of trials God will use a song to stir my soul and refresh my spirit. In this case, there have been several songs that have spun around in my head in these recent weeks of trial. These Gospel songs represent the cries of a soul before God – cries I found myself singing to the Lord in recent days:
Strike One Luis Argerich via Compfight
“In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place.
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry,
Keep me safe til the storm passes by.”

In the midst of storms and trials, sometimes all you can do is cling to the promise that “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” until God chooses to lift the fog and reveal himself in the trial.
It Just Isn't Cricket, Is it. Neil Howard via Compfight
“When I’m low in spirit, I cry ‘Lord lift me up. I want to go higher with Thee.’
But nothing grows high on a mountain, so he picked out a valley for me.
And he leads me beside still waters somewhere in the valley below.
And he draws me aside to be tested and tried; in the valley he restoreth my soul.”

The screensaver on my computer is of a beautiful high mountain on which there is little vegetation. Truly “nothing grows high on a mountain,” but in the valley of verdant green pastures and soothing, flowing water we are refreshed and strengthened. The Psalmist David near the end of his life penned Psalm 23 and spoke so lovingly of the Shepherd in the valley who meets all of his needs. In the valley, even the valley of the shadow of death, God declares his presence with us and strengthens us for the start of the journey back up the mountain.

The Christian life is often a series of peaks and valleys. When we are on the mountain with Christ, it is easy to have faith and trust, but it is in the valley that our faith is greatly exercised.
Dry Mountain SP8254 via Compfight
“You talk of faith when you’re up on the mountain
But talk comes easy, when life’s at its best.
Now it’s down in the valleys, trials and temptations,
That’s where your faith is really put to the test.
For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley.
When things go wrong, he’ll make them right.
The God of the good times, is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day, is still God in the night.”

Our God NEVER changes! Hallelujah! It was his steadfast love and constant presence that saw me through these weeks of discouragement and repair.

“Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee.
How great thou art! How great thou art!”

With praise to the Lord, I am not in the valley. I’m just changing mountains!

Knots in the Ribbon

In reflecting over the multitude of life’s challenges, I realize I have been guilty of compartmentalizing my trials.  As I went through each hard place, I remember thinking, “When this is over, my life will return to normal.”  And there were brief interludes when there was a little bit of normal in my life only to be interrupted by another difficulty followed by the thought pattern of “When I get through this….”

Very recently the Lord showed me through a message I heard on the radio that my thinking about trials was all wrong.  God does not view my life  in segments of “good times” and “bad times.”  To him, my life is one continuous ribbon of his marvelous plan being unfolded through everything he has allowed for my good and his glory.  The hard times?  Yes, they are just knots in the ribbon of life, all planned by God, all allowed by him for the purpose of growing me into his likeness.  My life has not had many defining moments, but it certainly has had its share of refining moments!

 knots in the ribbonIn the now mature years of my life there is the tendency to think maybe I am past all the knots in my ribbon.  No so!  What is happening now is a continuation of the refining process as I watch from the sidelines while my children endure trials and hard places in their lives – all ordered by God to be sure as knots in the ribbon of their lives.  I pray it won’t take them as long as it did me to see that the difficulties are not isolated or compartmentalized.  They are part of one continuous ribbon of life planned by a loving Heavenly Father who desires to refine them as well.

“But, God, can’t I help just a little bit to make it easier for them?  I’ve been down this road, have the knot in my ribbon as proof.  Can’t I tell them what I learned? ”  In his gentle way my God responds that the lesson he had for me is not the same as the lesson he has for my child.  It is best if I pray and trust and keep my hands off.  I find that so much harder than going through the trial myself.

The Lord be praised!

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image Creative Commons License Elisabeth D’Orcy via Compfight