photo by BRUNO SCRAMGMON
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
The wisdom of the ancients gifted us with beautiful prose which gives rise to joy, reflection, admonition, encouragement and fearlessness. We awaken each morning to a plethora of opportunities to chase and beauty to behold. It’s our choice how we will respond to the new day.
Some mornings we open our eyes and want to simply roll over and return to a comfortable slumber. Some mornings we awaken to an unexplainable soul darkness which we don’t want to entertain, but cannot shrug off. Carryover words from a contentious conversation yesterday which were not resolved. Mind-numbing news reporting which has led us to dwell upon mankind’s inhumanity to man. Personal challenges which require action in our new day. All can easily be denied by simply rolling over and snoozing for the rest of the day. We can deal with all those issues tomorrow. Or we can enter that dark valley and, trusting in the goodness of a kind Source, carry our inner lamps to light the way.
The valley of darkness is often translated as the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ in scriptures. In my younger days this was a mainstay of any Christian burial service. But, Psalm 23 goes on to indicate that, after passing through this dark journey, there is light, hope, goodness and mercy beyond. My head is anointed and my cup is overflowing. That journey of darkness shall be behind us as we enter onto the next plateau of brilliance.
Therefore, if your day, or mine, is clouded and dreary, embrace it, walk through it and know that there is a lesson to learn. Perhaps it is a necessary time of reflection and meditation, a time to recalibrate the inner soul workings, a time to inventory ‘what is’ in relation to what we want it to be. Don’t be afraid. Rest in the opening words of Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
If you are conflicted today, if you are not seeing the rising sun on the horizon, take a few minutes to listen to Psalm 23 put to music. The ancients intended these words to be sung.
“I am much better, thank you.”
“What’s that you say? Larry, were you ill?”
“Were you in an accident?”
“No, but thanks for asking.”
“Have you suffered a loss? Did your cat die? Have you become homeless? Was your home burglarized? Did a stray dog bite you? Was you truck stolen? Did your best friend desert you? Have you switched political affiliation? Is the devil sitting on your left shoulder?”
“No, no, no. Nothing like that?”
I awakened this morning with an attitude that could have turned sweet milk sour and sent the sun in the sky ducking for cover behind the nearest clouds. My mindset upon crawling out of bed was one that would not be coddled by cheery verses of inspiration or a breakfast of pancakes with fresh strawberry topping. Nope, don’t bother me. I am going to be miserable today, mope around the house and probably take a nap before noon time. Then I will vegetate in front of a baseball game on TV all afternoon and I will probably not get out of my pajamas until supper time. Heck, why not just stay in PJs until bedtime?
But, I am better now, thank you.
“Why is that, Larry?”
Nobody came to my party. Pity parties are lonely affairs with no cake and ice cream nor gaily wrapped presents. There is no music to dance to and the conversation is boring. I choose to slouch in the chair with my chin drooping to my knees. Between sobs and sighs of “I am so lonely, I am so unlovable, I don’t have enough, I am stupid, I am worthless,” my pity party just drags on ad nauseam until the last bag of Cheetos is gone and all the Twinkies are history. Bingeing seemed like a great idea, but then I hate myself for breaking my diet and being such an emotional wimp.
Sound familiar? Well, congratulations to me. I did not stay at my own party. The Cheetos and Twinkies are still on the cupboard shelf. Today I shoved all those negative thoughts into the category of drinking thinking – “poor me, poor me, yeah why don’t I just pour poor me another drink?”
Drinking thinking is akin to stinking thinking – 1st cousins, I believe. Both will get any recovering addict into a world of do-do if he/she doesn’t take remedial steps pronto. Do a gratitude list, call a friend (no, not a drinking buddy), start a housecleaning project, take a walk, do some exercises, find a meeting. Sometimes just moving to a different room in the house will get us over that initial “poor me, woe is me.”
“This too shall pass.”
Fighting those negative feelings without a drink or a drug was always challenging. We are not normal people with normal emotions, probably never will be. It is of utmost importance to keep our battle armor nearby – a plan, a chore in which to engage immediately, an inspiring book, the list of phone numbers, an escape route from social situations that tempt. How about the easiest of all – a prayer to the God of our understanding? Talk to him/her/it as if you are the best of friends because, whether you believe it or not, that God always has been, always is, always will be waiting to caress you and me, hold us in loving arms and get us through the “poor me” moments.
I will walk through the valleys of darkness, because that’s what humans must do to get to the light beyond the horizons. Our God will guide us and protect us so that we can walk fearlessly on paths of comfort and blessing. Over that next summit is an overflowing cup of joy and peace. Go for it! We are worthy and loved.
“And all the weight that brings you to your knees…..He knows.”
All the bitter weary ways
Endless striving day by day
You barely have the strength to pray
In the valley low
And how hard your fight has been
How deep the pain within
Wounds that no one else has seen
Hurts too much to show
And all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees
He knows, He knows
Every hurt and every sting
He has walked the suffering
He knows, He knows
Let your burdens come undone
Lift your eyes up to the One who knows
We may faint and we may sink
Feel the pain and near the brink
But the dark begins to shrink
When you find the One who knows
The chains of doubt that held you in between
One by one are starting to break free
Every time that you feel forsaken
Every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
Only you, Lord, know the depth of our suffering and pain. Loss of friends, health issues, insecurities, fears, self-doubt, depression bring us into the deepest valley with seemingly no escape. But, You know us, You know our pains and You have the words that heal us. You never abandon us even in the darkest times. Hallelujah!
Songwriters: Jeremy Camp,Seth Mosley
© CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFind
There is an abundance of material presented daily for us to read and absorb. Some of it is straight forward news – local, national, international – presented by dedicated news people in unbiased reporting. Some of it is pure entertainment, while a growing segment is opinion representing viewpoints regarding every issue under the sun.
The internet, blogging in particular, is a godsend for those of us who are driven to write and share. Whether you or I want to compose a book and be published or write just a few lines to vent and reveal pieces of ourselves, how we use our creativity is a personal decision made every time sitting down at the keyboard. Sometimes, having a game plan is irrelevant – we merely type one letter after another until words, then sentences, then paragraphs are created. We are not censored and should not be discouraged from sharing what our minds have fabricated. That’s what blogging is all about for many of us.
All too often, when I limber up my fingers, I assume the role of opinion writer. And that would be fine if that is the type of writer I aspire to be. But, it’s not. Many others in our blogging world do a fine job of sharing opinions just as many others are fine news reporters, but my opinion, as pertinent as it could be, is not what I want to share. My views on politics, society, religion are as valid as yours, but as my wise old grandpappy said, “Opinions are like a certain body part. Everybody’s got one.”
2019 finds me struggling – emotionally and physically. Life ain’t what it used to be and certainly not what I hoped it would be. So, what do we survivors do? We take stock, adjust our binding underwear, grab the appropriate ball cap with a message and wear it proudly. Early AA friends always said, “Fake it until you make it.”
And that’s what I’ll do because I’m too damned stubborn to quit.
“When all hope is gone and your Word is all I’ve got.”
Bill Wilson in his writings often discussed the periods of depression he suffered long after he claimed sobriety:
“When I was tired and couldn’t concentrate, I used to fall back on an affirmation toward life that took the form of simple walking and deep breathing. I sometimes told myself that I couldn’t even do this – that I was too weak. But I learned that this was the point at which I could not give in without becoming still more depressed.” Bill Wilson “AS BILL SEES IT”
It sometimes seems that those of us who face our alcoholism have battles with depression that defy the serenity and joy we ought to have as recovering addicts. Those bouts support one of the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous which says that “the drinking is just a symptom of deeper, underlying illness”. Treating our character defects with the prescribed 12 step program is one pillar of our recovery, but, addressing the emotional baggage we carried with us into sobriety often requires professional counseling and guidance.
As a younger man, jogging was a huge part of my life. On the trail in my Nikes the pitfalls of life became secondary to my breathing and the cadence of my footsteps. I was able to center on the inner journey coinciding with my external activity. The experience of runner’s euphoria was the carrot on the stick, a reason to get my head out of my butt and do something about the lurking depression just waiting to immobilize me.
Physical limitations have retired my running shoes, but I know today, many years into continued sobriety, that the walking/hiking routine is essential to a happy, contented Larry. The pace has slowed considerably, but the focus on breathing and the “clop, clop” of stepping still carries me to another world. It is a world of victory over depression.
Much of the AA program seems akin to the “Path” of Buddhism and also the “Way” of Jesus and his followers. Meditation is advocated by both. Meditative walking is a new endeavor for me. It is also an activity focused on breathing and stepping. The intent is to empty the head of worldly concerns and replace that circus with the beauty of the inner self, the soul. Repetitive chanting enhances the exercise. This is a much slower, deliberate type of walking very suitable to a much slower, deliberate Larry.
With entry into the “golden years” (whoever coined that phrase was undoubtedly drunk or high) the clutches of depression can increase. Our bodies fail us, our friends leave us through relocation or death, our family ties become weaker. We feel lost in the loneliness of retirement and many younger folks see us as burdens which they would sooner ignore. Financial security is a joke; one uncovered medical emergency will wipe us out and scammers are lurking on every website to relieve us of our monetary resources.
I need my walking to stay balanced emotionally and fit physically. I need my faith to approach the “final stretch” of this QUEST with confidence and joy. Scripture, the words attributed to Jesus and the Buddha, feed that faith. In John 16:33 Jesus tells me:
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Hardly a day passes by that I don’t look at this page and wonder, “Do I really want to write another post?”
“C’mon Larry, you can do it. Just get out of the boat and walk over here to me.”
The story in Matthew tells me that Peter did indeed get out onto the water and walk toward Jesus. But, then, fear set in. “What if the waves overcome me, what if the winds blow the boat farther away from me and I won’t be able to return safely? What if Jesus disappears from sight into the depths of the sea? What if Jesus is not who he says he is and I am left to fend for myself? What if all those people on the shore see me and laugh at me? Oh Lord, I can’t swim.”
What’s that you say? You always trust Jesus. Really?
Would you trust Jesus enough to drop your nets and your livelihood, leave your family and become essentially a homeless beggar? Would you trust him enough to risk imprisonment and death by preaching his heretical beliefs? Would you trust Jesus enough to move to the poorest of slums in India and minister to the poorest of the poor as Mother Teresa did?
Truly? Well then, undoubtedly you would also have answered “Yes, I know this man, he is my Lord and Savior,” when questioned three times if you are not a follower of the man inside being sentenced to crucifixion. The cock would never have crowed three times for you.
Aren’t we amazingly hypocritical? I know I can be. I can talk the talk but many times walking the walk is too difficult or dangerous. I’d rather hang in the background with the crowds making small talk, small acceptable talk. I’d rather focus on problems of the world instead of proclaiming the beauty of the universe dwelling within. It’s who I am.
People will jabber incessantly with me about the price of potatoes at the grocery, the climate challenges we are facing, the lack of civility amongst Americans, but, when someone mentions Jesus and God, “Oh, I’ve really got to run, my favorite soap is starting in 15 minutes,” or, “I’ve got my own beliefs and we like our church. See ya.”
No, no, no! I don’t want to talk about your beliefs or your church. I want to talk about your faith and your heart, your good heart. What makes you tick? What gives you reason to get out of bed in the morning? More importantly, what keeps you from walking on water? (And if you can walk on water, please tell me how you do it.)
“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14:29
The writers of Matthew also tell me that faith as small as a mustard seed will move a mountain. In the physical world that is virtually impossible. But, within my inner sanctum a flicker of faith the size of a pinhead can overcome enormously mountainous obstacles of anger, aggression, depression, anxiety……addiction. I don’t know anything about moving Mt. Everest, but let me tell you what just a smidgen of faith in Jesus has done for anger issues, depression, alcoholism. That faith makes walking on water nothing more than a Sunday picnic cake walk.
Bingo! Its’ an inside thing, isn’t it? When I look over the side of my boat surrounded by despair and hopelessness I have two choices; 1) I can stay chained to my oars of self-doubt or 2) I can jump out onto the water and trust in something of much greater substance than me. Call that hand extended over the water beckoning to you whatever you like; I will call it Jesus.