Mountains? Help comes from the Lord

I raise my eyes to the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. — Psalm 121:1-2 (HCSB)

“I can see the mountains very dimly!”

Distant mountains

This picture was also taken from eastern Colorado, but we traveled for hours from Bennett before the mountains looked this close.

My little brother’s excitement woke the whole family after what had been a very difficult night. It became the turning point of our trip to California.

My father had accepted a visiting professorship at the University of California and decided to buy a trailer.… Read the rest

Walking through the valley of the shadow of death


No one goes looking for hard times to go through, but no one escapes them, either. David described encountering and overcoming the valley of the shadow of death. What kind of hardship is your valley of the shadow of death? A path in a valley might wind through a dense forest. In David’s time, there might not even have been a real path. It might be impossible to see very far ahead. In this metaphorical valley, when we don’t know quite where we’re going, I can attest from personal experience how easy it is to be afraid. How can we come to David’s boldness in claiming to fear no evil?… Read the rest

Lamps for our feet: gaining godly wisdom

Oil Lamp

Oil Lamp

Psalm 119:105 reminds us that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light on our path. Let’s not let the familiarity of that verse turn it into a cliché. What is a lamp for? To chase away darkness. Wherever it’s dark, we need a lamp, or maybe more than one, to see well. Perhaps we’re trying to find something, trying to see something, or just trying to avoid obstacles as we move.

No matter how many lamps we have, none will do us any goodin the dark until we turn one of them on. In Bible times, lamps were made of clay to contain oil.… Read the rest

Moses and the Burning Bush: The Presence of the Living God

The story of Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3) is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. Pharaoh had ordered all Hebrew baby boys killed. Instead, Moses’ mother put him on a raft so Pharaoh’s daughter would find it, and then joined her household. Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s court with all of its privileges, but also with full understanding of his heritage. In his zeal for justice, he murdered an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, then fled. God met him in the burning bush forty years later. Sometimes the story’s very familiarity keeps us from understanding its meaning.… Read the rest

Hedged behind and before

My wife and I bought two puppies a couple of years ago and started collecting information on how to raise them. Nearly every author recommended crate training, and then had to take time to defend the idea. Apparently they had heard lots of people protest that confining an animal overnight seems cruel. But dogs are not people. They are denning animals and find crates homey and comforting, especially when we put blankets over them to make it nice and dark.

Sure enough, two years later our dogs still sleep in their crates. Bed time comes and we walk together into the bedroom.… Read the rest

God’s presence in the storms of life

Clouds get so thick they obscure the sun. The air becomes heavy with humidity. The wind picks up. Rumbles of thunder come closer and closer. Soon it’s raining hard. Forget your plans and run for safety, as lightning flashes and all manner of debris flies through the air.

Does that sound like a description of what the weather outside can be like? Or does it sometime sound like a metaphor for our lives? The loss of a job, the breakup of an important relationship, the death of a loved one, health issues–don’t these things often seem like a storm, with the ensuing flooding or loss of power or damage from falling trees?… Read the rest

Hearing the voice of God

Back in the mid ’80s I had an apartment in what used to be a storefront. My door opened directly onto the sidewalk. One winter it snowed a lot, and there was a stretch of several days when there was just a deep puddle during the day, then at night it would freeze. I didn’t know what my liability was, but I didn’t want to be responsible for someone slipping on the ice and breaking a hip or something.

I felt kind of helpless. There’s not much you can do about either a puddle or a sheet of ice with a cheap snow shovel.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: What’s bothering you?

“What are you discussing together as you walk along?” Luke 24:17 (NIV)

After Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other women, he turned up on the road to Emmaus, where he met two men not otherwise mentioned in Scripture. They had been following Jesus and had hoped he was the promised Messiah. Even though they had indirectly heard about the women’s report, they walked in discouragement.

So Jesus asked them what they were talking about–not as an idle question, but as a means of getting them to open up so he could minister to them. I find two noteworthy statements close by.… Read the rest

Dwelling in the secret place

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” — Psalm 91:1 (NKJV)

The secret place of the Most High means nothing less than the inner sanctum of the heavenly temple, and the shadow of the Almighty is located between the wings of the cherubim on the ark of the covenant. What does it mean to dwell there?

In the natural, I have had several dwelling places, including dorm rooms, apartments, and houses. In every case, I have been able to visit other people’s dwellings, but my own dwelling is always different.… Read the rest

Where is joy?

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” — Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

As I write this, the New Orleans Saints just won the Super Bowl. That fills their fans with joy. We all know what it means to realize a hoped-for outcome, especially if for any reason success was ever in doubt.

Everyone but team members, though, only observed the Super Bowl win and the season leading up to it. We did not experience it. The rest of us must now return to our own realities, which may seem grim and threatening.… Read the rest