Into the valley

I’m preparing for a vacation trip across the country. I have to fly and I don’t like flying. As a child, my father flew small planes and after we moved to Virginia, our family would make the trek back home to Mississippi and Alabama several times a year. I hated those hours of flying. When I moved to Savannah a few years back for a short while, I flew home several times; I hated flying then, too. Each time the plane took off I would pray for the pilot and co-pilot, asking that they use wisdom in their decisions and thank God that my life was in His hands, not those of the pilot’s.

So as I begin to mentally prepare for the journey, it’s natural for me to think about dying. I make sure my will is up-to-date, my burial plans, and what will happen to my fur-babies. I want to make sure ‘all my ducks are in a row’, so God if/when calls me home, then my family will not have to make any hard decisions.

But for all the planning for death, do we think about happens when we actually cross over the threshold? When we must take that first step into the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23.4)? If you’re like me – I don’t think about it. I don’t want to think about it. It’s a scary thing to ponder what happens after your last breath. It’s scary because although everyone goes there, no one ever comes back to tell us what happened. I know that some people have near-death experiences and I’m not discounting what they’ve seen; but for those who have died, the ones who have walked into the valley and have not returned, what happens to them?

A lot of people don’t like the unknown. The unknown is not an adventure. It’s like approaching an amusement park haunted house, not knowing how badly you’ll be scared and being scared at the prospect of being scared. So we do our best to avoid the subject altogether. Sure, I’ll plan my funeral, make sure my family is cared for, make the appropriate medical choices, or maybe none of the above. But I won’t think about the valley. I’ll avoid the valley like the plague. It’s just too daggone scary.

But God doesn’t want us to be scared – He tells us, by way of Psalm 23, that even though we all go into the valley, we don’t stay there. Not only do we walk through death, but He leads us through to the other side. “…for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

We are not in this thing alone. It may feel like it, after all, we do take that first step, however unwillingly, alone. But God assures us that before our foot has even touched the floor of the valley, He is there to welcome us and lead us to our eternal home with Him.

There is no tangible proof for this; those who have gone before us have not returned to reassure us. None but One and He has promised to be there. The only ‘proof’ I have is my faith.

By faith I trust God. By faith I don’t walk alone. By faith I’ll take that first step into the valley when it is time for me to do so and not an nano-milli-second before God calls me home.

By faith I trust God.


Its’ All About…God

Arrogance sneaks up on me in little ways.

When I write this blog, I have no (or, almost no) forethought as to what I’ll write. All the words and thoughts are God-given. Some days I sit in front of the computer and just stare at the screen, reaching out for something to say. Other days the words flow so quickly I can’t get them on the screen fast enough. But most of the time, the words come slowly, piece by piece, phrase by phrase.

I have a tendency to go back and reread what the words are – ostensibly to check for spelling errors – but really to check my turn of phrase, to enjoy what I’ve just written. Sometimes, I’ll even go back and read ‘favorite’ essays because I liked the way I wrote it and I enjoy how well I did.

The trouble is, I didn’t write it. Not really. Yes, I sat here at the computer typing the words as they came into my head, but they aren’t my words – they’re God’s. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying I’m prophet or saint or anything. But like a preacher or priest receives inspiration for their sermon or homily, I receive inspiration from God. I am but a tool in the great work that is Gods’. He alone deserves all praise, even though in my arrogance like to take the credit.

If I forget that God is the Author and Creator of me and all that I am, or ever hope to be, then He will gently remind me when I sit here, in front of a white screen, thinking, praying, reaching out for inspiration to write great words, and nothing comes. My creative-dry spells are reminders from Him that I serve God and He alone provides all inspiration and He alone deserves the praise.

One more thought about arrogance. If any man had the right to feel proud of what he accomplished, it was Billy Graham but he always gave any praise he received to God. And, even in death, he remained humble. Even though some folks may have thought he deserved the very best of caskets, he chose to be buried in a plain pine box made by the inmates at the Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary. A humble burial for a most humble man of God.

Its’ All About…

It’s all about me. Did you know that? This world and everything around revolves around me. When I go out into the public and people stop and stare – it’s because they’re looking at me, thinking, “Look! There she goes! Isn’t she wonderful?” I make all the decisions in my own life and they are always the right decisions. I never take a misstep. I never make a mistake. Nothing ever happens to me that I don’t orchestrate. I can explain everything that happens in a way that makes me come out on top, because I am on top. I cannot fail. Everything I do is successful.

Crazy statements, right? It’s not all about me. The world doesn’t revolve around me. And contrary to any belief it doesn’t revolve around anyone else either. We all think it does sometimes. As children we cry out and our parents, if they’re loving and good, will come running to our aid, kiss our boo-boos and send us back out into the world. If our parents were not loving and good, we over compensate and try to parent ourselves. Either way, when we become adults, we have the tendency to believe that we are the ones always in the right. “The customer is always right.” Uh, no they’re not. Sometimes the customer is just plain wrong and throws a temper tantrum like the 3-year-old child he or she is inside wanting that parent to come kiss their boo-boo and make it all right.

The trouble with that type of thinking is that we tend to forget where we came from. I’m not talking about egg and sperm. I’m talking about, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” (Book of Common Prayer) and “For dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19). Next time you drive by a cemetery, remember, we all end up there.

By remembering where we came from and where we will end up – at least its where our bodies will end up – should make us more reasonable and understanding in our daily lives; instead it has the reverse effect and we end up being more arrogant and angry that our lives are so short and seemingly futile. Then life becomes a race to see who can get to the top the fastest with the most toys before you die.

And all the while, God is there, waiting and watching as we enact the futility of arrogance, knowing that He could take it all away with one blink – with one nanosecond of a blink. But He doesn’t because He loves us beyond our understanding. And it is that with love that He leads us to an understanding that ‘It’s all about Him’ and the world really revolves around God. If we keep that in mind, we may be able to take a more humble stance in our world, a grateful outlook rather than a prideful one. One that is thankful for everything in our lives, knowing that even during the absolutely awful times, the times that are so bad we can’t even scrape ourselves off the floor, God is right there with us, loving us, wanting us to reach out to Him for the strength to go forward.

And, in the words of musician Keith Green, “And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown, for my reward is in giving glory to You.”

Life really is all about God.