Psalm 23: Shadow of Death

The words of Psalm 23 have run through my mind this past week.

As a child, I memorized this Psalm.

{It’s actually pretty funny, because the Bible translations of today don’t have a version that says it exactly the way I memorized it.}

Here it is, “my version.” [ The ESV is pretty close, though 🙂 ]

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He RESTORES my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for HIS name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear NO evil, for You are with me.

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil,
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me ALL the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

It’s an amazing Psalm.
There is such truth in it, and such amazing promises to hold onto!

There’s a phrase in there, “shadow of death.” I always picture a deep, dark valley with a menacing cloud over it. It’s always scary.

I actually see something similar to this photo, except void of color, black, depressing…the type of terrain you would have to suck in a deep breath and summon much courage to descend into and hike across.

Valley

What does the word, “shadow,” actually mean?

  1. A dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface.

  2. Used in reference to proximity, ominous oppressiveness, or sadness and gloom.

I’ve been realizing that:

  • A shadow is not reality.
    A shadow pretends. It mimics. It copies. It hides.
    A shadow can’t actually hurt anything.
    (But it’s easy to be afraid of it, because it looks so real.)
  • A shadow attempts to hide the truth.
    It tries to smother beauty.

The image above is gorgeous. It is living and breathing, full of life and vivid color.
The shadow of death attempts to steal, kill and destroy all that is beautiful, loving, full of life, joyful.

Yes, there are times of real struggle and death and pain and heartache.

But…amid all of it, God still remains. Steadfast. Unwavering.
“I will fear NO evil, for you are with me.”

He goes with us. Before us. Beside us. He is for us. Always.
We needn’t fear even in the midst of what “seems” to be the worst.
It is but a shadow.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 (NLT)

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I love that. I love HIM. My God is GOOD.
His promises give me strength to walk forward into tomorrow.
The unknown doesn’t seem as scary.
The shadows are still dark, but it doesn’t matter. They’ll flee.
I have a Mighty Warrior who is called Jesus, the Son of the Living God.
He walks beside me.
He holds my hand.
He delights in me.
He fights for me.
He LOVES me.
He loves YOU.

HOLD ON.
He is fighting for you.

A hornet the size of a hummingbird

Do you know what it’s like to get stung by a hornet? I sure didn’t.

I had heard it was far worse than a bee sting…but I never wanted to find out.

For 27 years I had escaped getting stung by any sort of bee, hornet or wasp. I was wary and a bit paranoid around them, and I would commonly run away if they buzzzzed near me. Now I think it’s all so silly! I think the most reasonable explanation was that I just didn’t know how much it hurt to get stung, and I didn’t really want to find out!

imag2138I was minding my own business the day it happened. We were on tour of Jordan, riding camels and trekking through the stunning, colorful, rocky and cave-filled landscape of Petra.

It was beautiful. It was HOT. I could explore that place for hours. Maybe not in the intense heat again, though. 🙂

imag2170 I was vastly enjoying this trek, even though it was so hot. We were walking down an incredible entrance that you could tell would have looked grand in its day. It was reminiscent of what I picture it may have been for Jesus as he rode the donkey into the city…and the crowds waved palm branches on every side of Him. “Hosanna!” Such a beautiful image.

imag2194This was the moment right before it happened. Look at me. So clearly happy…so blissfully unaware!

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*WACK*

One minute I was lost in thought as we made our way down the sandy pathway, the next, completely stunned and in pain, with something soft and fuzzy wedged between my sunglasses and my face.

My face jerks hard to the right and my hands frantically try to get whatever has just hit me “off of me,” whatever that means. Nothing worked, the pain began and the dive-bombing bee was still wedged against my face.

I lost all knowledge of my body movements as instinct kicked into high gear and I flung my sunglasses as fast as I could away from my face and into the powdery sand. Aaaaahhhhhh!!! (I think I screamed, or yelled. Who knows? It’s all a blur!)

Most of the people in my group were behind me, and everyone just stopped, totally confused, and stared at me.

“Guys, I think I just got stung!” I said, shakily raising my left hand to touch the side of my face.

Later on they told me it was HUGE. They could see its wings from 100 feet behind me, and unfortunately a couple of them saw it fly off after it remained in the sand, stunned, for a minute.

Man…I wanted that thing DEAD. If I could’ve, I totally would have smashed it. It just hit my FACE…it should have died! Ha!

At this point I had gathered a crowd of curious Bedouin locals, the guys who ride the donkeys and sell “air conditioned taxi rides” to and from different points along the path in Petra.

I knew I needed to sit down, so I wandered over to a bench in the shade. They all clustered around me, jabbering in Arabic, assessing the damage as the left side of my face throbbed in firey pain. I am certainly grateful for high pain tolerance!

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I was in pretty intense pain (1, I’d never been stung and 2, my face wasn’t used to being stabbed). That thing sure got me good.

A couple of the ladies on my team were quick thinkers and made some mud from water and sand to put on my face. They didn’t quite have to use spit to make mud, but I imagine it was something like what Jesus did with the blind men, mixing sand and water to make a paste and put on their eyes.

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The best part of the day was the old timer who clearly had seen a thing or two in his day. He came up to the group wearing his red checkered turban – his white facial hair highlighted the deep wrinkles in his tan, weathered face. He leans close to examine the problem. Then he squints his eyes and proceeds to tell me, “You must squeeze it, like a thing on your face!”
I am pretty sure he meant “squeeze it like a pimple!”

I laughed, and it hurt, but I couldn’t help but smile at these men who were so kindly helping me.

They didn’t have to help, you know. In Muslim culture, it’s not normal for a man to talk or touch a woman. In fact, one of the Bedouin guys put mud paste on my face, and then the old timer sat down with me to take a picture.

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They kept coming back over to check on me, to see if I was okay, the look of concern clear in their eyes. I could see the beauty of kindness in the wrinkles around their eyes as they smiled.

I hope these men saw Jesus in the way we interacted, in the way the men of my team rushed to help me, in the way they gathered around me to pray for me when we weren’t sure if I was going to be okay or not.

It definitely makes my visit to Petra so memorable that I won’t ever forget it.
I also won’t forget my wonderful teammate who sat with me and prayed over me as I cried after the adrenaline ran its course, 1) from pain and 2) from disappointment that I couldn’t climb to the top of the highest point and see the views of all of Jordan. I won’t forget the stories that were told in the days after this happened, and each time the hornet grew bigger, the tall tale was told in larger, more grandeur details. It was the size of a hummingbird! I didn’t see it, but all I can say is…so they say! 🙂

This next part really cracks me up. Logically…this is strangely abnormal. But…I was crying and I don’t cry often, I had just been stung in the face by a giant killer wasp/hornet/hummingbird thing, and that’s not a normal experience either. I wasn’t quite thinking clearly, so the next logical plan of action is to take a picture. Of my face. Haha. I actually took a picture of my face.

imag2195I naturally had to post this…I’m weird, I know.

I look really, really sad! Everytime I look at this now my internal dialogue is something like this, “Oh my goodness! Wow. Ohhh…I look so sad!” And then I laugh. Because that is seriously my reaction to everything. I laugh. No matter if it’s good or bad or funny or not ok…my reaction to it will be to laugh. So…I don’t honestly think everything is truly funny, it’s just the way I react the things.

Oh goodness. So there you have it. I don’t quite know how to end this epic-ly. I’m just very grateful I didn’t see it coming. Best to be blissfully unaware, I guess!

I can probably just say this day was such a mix of awesome and traumatizing and exhausting and memorable that I slept really well that night. I won’t tell you about the part where my face throbbed the rest of the day and night. Ok, I guess I just did.

2 weeks later and I can still feel where I was stung. It’s a bit stiff & slightly sore at times. I have no idea if that’s normal! Quite the way to get my first “bee sting,” I tell ya!

I think I’ll take a bumblebee over a hornet any day. If I act a little jumpy the next time I’m with you and a bee flies by, you’ll know why. Hopefully you won’t laugh at me too much :). Just another interesting day in the life of Jess! I can’t help but wonder what random adventure experience is next…best I don’t know, probably! 😛

More photos and details about my trip to come, I’m sure.

See ya on the next blog!

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These are Transitional Years

tran·si·tion

noun: the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.


The beginning of a yearning…
…a yearning that burns, leaps at the thought of the World Race.
Oh to be there again.

Memories of ages past. No, not ages, just years…but it feels like ages.
Ages gone; ages home.
Time flies, yet inches along.

When I returned from the World Race, I thought I’d never want to go again.

I was tired. No, exhausted. Longing for the embrace of family and all familiar things.

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Family is beautiful, and I’m so grateful.
Memory tricks us, lures us back to comfort.

But little did I know I would jump right back home into the familiar, but soon into transition. Changes came quickly, and I was swept along in the current. A beautiful, fast-moving, white-water rapids current, splashing me rudely in the face one minute and rushing over me and calming my fears in another.

I was left with little time to process. Or maybe I am a terrible processor. It takes me forever to figure out what I learned from something. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this is normal.

I’m still processing the World Race and feel like I will continue to do so for a very long time. I think, that this is ok.

Change comes for all of us. Transition is inevitable.

>>Fast forward to a year after I returned home, and I’m longing for it all over again. The World Race.

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This must be what mothers experience after giving birth to their child…they say they will never do it again, then time forgets the pain and you remember only the joy and long for it again.

Pain is what grows us, challenges us, changes us.

P1100017 - Version 3(the day my Thai pants were eaten by termites…)

Pressure cooker, that was the World Race. We hate it and we love it.
Oh…to be that close to the Lord again. Oh to feel His presence with every breath, every step.

He is still here. Oh so close. Right here.
Just, He feels different.
Grown closer, yet feels farther.
As if that is possible.

I have thought and thought about how these past 2 years have gone since I left for the World Race.

I began a life of transition that has never stopped. Oh how my life has sped through many twists and turns since September 2012.

I should be used to transition by now, but the thing about transition is that each new one brings new challenges. You can get used to moving but constant change brings uncertainty. It requires great trust in the Lord.


 These are transitional years, but these are defining years.
I am learning who I am–who He has made me to be. This is EXCITING, AMAZING, THRILLING, TERRIFYING, WONDERFUL.

Life as I know it now, is not how I thought it would be.
This is okay.
I trust the Lord. He is faithful.
He provided an amazing job and a place to live.
He is making a way for my family.
He will lead us and guide us.
He hears the longing of my heart. He knows it better than I even do.

cropped-cropped-copy-Cambodia2.jpgAnd so I trust Him with my future and the future transitions.

All of the growth and challenge and pain, that will bring more growth and challenges and delights and failures and laughter and hugs and tears and struggles and LIFE, which causes me to go back onto my knees in prayer, giving thanks to my Father for His GOOD gifts, He has given me life and breath and these struggles are momentary.

Our lives are meant to be lived for our King.

I will keep lifting my eyes to Him. Transition means stepping closer to Him.
Focusing my eyes on the Giver of Life.

I trust in the most Trustworthy One. He is my Faithful Guide.


I see these transitions continuing, and though I know it won’t be easy, I’m not worried or afraid.
Instead I am confident in what my Savior will do, in the plans He has for my life.
Transitions require us to move, to take a step, to ACT, to obey.

Transitions move us closer to Him, because they shake us from comfort.

He didn’t say it would be easy, but He said He’d be right here with us. That’s a promise I’m holding onto.


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So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
-Isaiah 41:10

———-

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,

    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,

    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.
Turn from evil and do good;

    then you will dwell in the land forever.
For the Lord loves the just
    and will not forsake his faithful ones.
-Psalm 37:22-28

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