Headed to the valley!

Another morning, another climb up the mountain out of the valley.  Forever cherishing the connection with the Father, our Creator in the alone time that has become a “need” greater than any desire I could list.  As I ascend around another corner, down below I hear a great noise.  Crashing through the dry brush beneath me are my deer.  The first realization was “How odd?”  That is what struck me first.  I stopped and watched them for a few minutes.  They had also stopped and through the bare trees, ground littered with fallen dead leaves, I spied the two -staring right back at me.  But all I could think was, “Why are you going down the hill into the valley? You guys are always on top of the mountain.”  They soon bounded off , zig-zagging tails waving at me as they headed down the hill.  As for me, I continued my ascent and had almost reached the first view, when a second crashing, branches snapping, leaves crunching noise startled me.  This time I could not see them.  The brush hugged the path too tightly to view them, but I knew.  God was emphasizing His point. “Follow me down to the valley!”

This may not seem weird or out of the ordinary to many people but on my journey it was very strange. What came to mind as I continued to walk was the book, “Hind’s Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurand.  It is a wonderful classic allegory about the deep desires of all God’s children to be led to new heights of love, joy and victory.  The verse referenced is Habakkuk 3:19 – “The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like Hinds feet (deer), and He will make me to walk upon mine High places.”

It is an amazing journey about crippled “Much-Afraid” (the main character) and her walk with the Good Shepherd, triumphing over every circumstance by accepting His will, lying down hers and moment by moment following Him.  Allowing Him to mold and shape her every day, through the good and bad. We are told,lighted path

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

 

She learns that with complete trust, sacrifice of self and acceptance of circumstances, we will triumph over the evil and learn from each experience.

What I failed to mention about that day was the mist that clung so heavily to the valley.  It was still shrouding my climb and created an eeriness through the cemetery.  Again the meaning was not lost. We cannot see ahead too far as we walk this path of life. God may be calling us off His mountain of peace and safety, out of our comfortable lives to go down into the valleys of the world.  To work with Him (the Good Shepherd), “for that is where evil and sorrowful and ugly things are which need to be overcome.”

fog up the mountain

 

Too many of us are limping, crippled like “Much-Afraid” in this allegory.  She comes to the conclusion that the only really satisfactory way of dealing with evil is “not simply binding it, but where possible overcoming it with good.”  So as for me, I have been allowed to hang on the mountain-top, learning lessons all summer, but now He is leading me into the valley to overcome the evil of abortion with good.  (See my ministry theredegg.org.)  I know no other way but His leading.  What comes to mind is how Jesus taught us to pray……let thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…..

 

Bury you dead

Another Sabbath morning, and Sheba and I head to our peaceful mountain top.  The sunrise is incredible, hues of pinks, blues and oranges softened by the morning mist that hovers over the valley.  From the top, I can look across the Susquehanna River valley that lazily twists and turns weaving through my little town of Owego.  As always, I am singing and having conversations with the Lord.  I am always expectant to see His glory of creation.  Never knowing what we are to talk about today.  As I head around a turn, I hear, “let the dead bury their dead.”  I look around the cemetery and see stone obelisks, headstones and statues of people long dead.  I mull over what He is trying to teach me……Matthew 8:21-22

Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Jesus then proceeded to get into the boat.  Not much is said about this statement. Jesus is on to the next teaching.  Yet many will say it is spiritual, like the “spiritually dead”. “Leave them,” he said, and this may be so, but the Lord was trying to teach me something deeper.  Many times as Christ followers we take scripture out of context or “cherry pick” a verse to fit our situation.  I knew that there was more to this.  In order to give the bible context, we really need to study the times and culture of 1st century Israel, in particular, their burial practices.   When a person died, the body was placed in a carved limestone tomb.  This was the initial burial.  A year later, once the body had fully decomposed,  a second more elaborate burial happened.  The whole family would return and “gather the bones of their ancestors” and place them with the other members on a different shelf or on the floor.   Unfortunately, Greek and Roman culture had influenced the second burial.  It had become more elaborate, more costly as the Israelite adopted the ceremony of placing the bones in an “ossuary” or bone box with the deceased members name written on it. This “secondary burial” called for a day of fasting in the morning and feasting in the afternoon. So now burying the dead had obtained a ceremonial status,  much like children’s birthday parties have become today. As in your non-Christ following family member that cannot understand how you could miss little Timmy’s birthday party to go on a mission trip.  You hear “but you can’t miss the birthday party!”

All that being said, Jesus came to do the Father’s will.  When you start to really seek who God is and know in your heart and by His word, that He is the same, yesterday, today and forever…..you know Jesus would never transgress the 5th commandment and not “honor your father and mother.”   As I search the scriptures (Berean style and historical records), I believe Jesus was talking about the second burial (full of man made customs, expenses and adornments), the disciple would have been expected at the family gathering and if we look at the very next line of scripture, “Then he (Jesus) got into the boat and his disciples followed him.”  Jesus knew that disciple would “miss the boat” literally and His next lesson.    As my “lesson” concluded, in His true nature and goodness, I was walking back in town over the railroad tracks and looked up.  There were my deer, our eyes locked and I heard Him say, “keep following me and you will find me.” With that, the deer headed to the river.

And that is what He says to all of us.  That means, Jesus came to do God’s will, those commandments are for now and forever (the 5th commandment still stands).   Man made rituals are just that and have nothing to do with the scriptures and only serve to draw us away from God’s best. However, God gave us freewill and the choice is ours. What is your choice? Will you seek the scriptures and seek Him with all your heart?

cemetery.jpg

 

Double take

Jeremiah 29:13  “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart”

Starting my walk later than usual, Sheba (my German Shepherd) and I commenced our routine of climbing the cemetery hill.  I knew we had missed sunrise and I watched as a jogger ran up ahead of us to the summit. Deep down I felt dismayed.  The early hours, the sunrise, the solitude I have found at the peak of the cemetery hill would now be unattainable because I had not left the house early enough. So I turned my attention to the Lord, praising Him, snatches of choruses from my favorite songs echoed in my head as I ascended. The verse I had been ruminating on all week came to the forefront of my mind…it was from Genesis when Eve ate the fruit from the “Tree of Good and Evil”.  Adam and Eve were not aware of both “good and evil”.  They had always only known God’s best.  His perfection. His complete attention. His pristine creation, uniquely melded together with perfect fellowship and idyllic peace.  I had always looked at “evil”, never thinking that “good” was less than God intended. It has bothered me all week.  The verse in Jeremiah 29:13 came back..”if you seek me…..” and suddenly I realized I was not looking for God in His creation!  My mind was elsewhere, distracted with good things but not the best.  By this time I was rounding the highest point, knowing I would not see the deer that He always allowed me to be unnaturally in close proximity, especially with Sheba at my side. So I started back down and noticed the “tree”- the brilliant tree from last year- it was drab looking. I took a picture with my phone. I passed by and turned the corner.  I realized that I had not truly identified the tree and turned to go grab a leaf to help me solidify its identity.  Lo and behold,  a 4 point buck was staring at me from underneath the tree.  Too late to grab my camera again.  I was way too close.  Our eyes locked, I stopped, always amazed at how close God allows me to be to his beautiful creatures.  I had a few more seconds and then he bounded off.  I was so thrilled to have seen him so close yet bummed I didn’t have a picture to remember it by.  I continued onward to the base of the tree and plucked a leaf.  Wanting to make sure it really was a red maple, the leaf had seven points – of course it did!  “7” God’s number of completion/perfection.  As I headed back down pondering its meaning and praising God…it hit me! I had taken a picture of the tree before!  Was the deer there? Even then?  I stopped, found the previous picture (see picture below) and blew it up larger.  Yes, there he was, but I did not see him because I was not looking for him.  Again, I heard the message…..God said, “I am always here but you must have eyes to see, ears to hear and you will find me.”  I am always humbled when He gives me such a beautiful message.  He is always there, how many of us get distracted with “good” things or activities and miss the “best” that God has for us.  Good and evil are all around us but only when we remember to seek God’s best will we find Him.

Matthew 13:16  But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.deer under tree