Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Come Heal With Me; Week 7

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

Notes from the book: There is, the book says, an actual place called the Valley of the Shadow of Death in Israel. It stretches from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and is a dangerous place for leading sheep. The Valley of the Shadow of Death is literally "the glen of doom" and can be many things, not just death.

Mother's notes: Lily of the Valley... Go through the valley to the mountain.

My notes:I know this area. I have seen it. Driven through it. Walked in it.

Lovely to behold. Dangerous, perhaps, to walk through.

The sheep are oblivious to the dangers, but the shepherd knows. The sheep think, "I have the shepherd; why should I worry?" while the shepherd trusts in his instincts...trusts in God.

The valley is not just death, Charles Allen wrote. But is there any valley deeper to walk through than death? Perhaps for the one passing over the valley to Heaven's Mountain, it is a place of peace and joy. A looking ahead to the moment of seeing God's face, to bask in the Presence of His glory, His magnificence. But for the one left behind or to be left behind...

It is an odd thing to watch someone die. To want the suffering to leave ("Death, come!") yet knowing that once it is over, it is done ("Death, stay away!").

I held Mother's hand. I watched it swell with fluid. I listened for days on end as machines pumped, as they breathed in and sighed. I held my own breath as she struggled with hers.

Rattling in the chest... danger on the mountain.

Suctioning meant struggle. Hers, physical. Mine, emotional.

Notes from the Book: I have said to many people in "the valley of the shadow of death" to get off by themselves in a quiet place. Quit struggling for a little while. Forget the many details. Stop your mind for a little while from hurrying on to the morrow and to the next year and beyond."

Mother's Notes: Sense peace.

Notes from the Book: Just stop. Become still and quiet.

Mother's Notes: Not easy.

My Notes: No, it's not...

But like the sheep wandering along the dangerous path, I am not alone. The Shepherd is with me. It is time, I think, to find moments of respite wherever and however I can find it. In the quiet places of my home, in the cafe of a bookstore, before the sparkling waters of a wide lake.

Find the Lily of the Valley, Eva... Stop long enough to drink in His beauty, to drink in His perfume.

"Be still and know that I am God" is just that.

It's being still.

It's knowing...

Blessed assurance...Jesus is mine.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Come Heal With Me; Week 6

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Notes from the book: The book's author, Charles L. Allen, writes of God's direction. Like a shepherd, He guides, he does not "drive" His sheep as would a cattle rancher. When decisions have to be made...which road to take, which path to choose...the shepherd guides.

Mother's Notes in the Margins: Tsid Kenue. God, our Righteousness.

My Notes: When I was in Israel in 2007, my dear friend and coauthor of Reflections of God's Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel, Miriam Feinberg Vamosh pointed to the circular paths that wound around verdant hills. She said, "These are circular paths, made by the shepherds leading their sheep in a safe manner."

The paths don't lead up or down. The poor sheep, with their poor vision, would become afraid. Or worse, fall to their deaths.

Miriam said, "When David wrote about paths of righteousness, he was talking about circular paths."

Wherever God leads, there is safety.

I think now of that moment when my brother Van and I were led into that little, nicely-decorated room and given the bad news of Mother's current and future condition and what the doctors expected, which was the worse. I remember how I felt as I walked behind the doctors and in front of Van. It didn't seem real, and yet it was very much so.

I had gone online the day before and studied everything I could about Mother's condition and about the signs and symptoms I'd recorded from the medical personnel. I already knew about the Glascow Coma Score. I knew the brain damage was severe.

What I didn't know was why. Why had God brought us to this place, to hear this news. Would God, I wondered, lead us down a path in which Mother, who loved life and the living of it, could be solely dependent on one of us for her every need?

I said to my brother, "What I fear more than her dying, is her living."

For two days, we continued to allow God to guide. The path chosen was that he would take her Home to be with Him. And now, without her as our maternal and spiritual guide, we continue to follow Him in the days, weeks, months and years we are left without her.

I re-read that passage after taking my notes. He leads me in circular paths for righteousness sake.

Tside Kenue, Mother wrote. God, our righteousness.

So what if God leads us down those circular paths in order to bring about his own plan of righteousness or for righteousness sake? What was gained out of all this?

Mother reached her eternal reward, yes.

But Van and me? We are a little more spiritually wise, a little more spiritually broken. But I don't think we will fully know for a while yet all that God had/has in mind.

After all, the sheep don't know they are on a safe path or where that path will lead. They only know to follow their shepherd; that he will care for them, guide and direct them, along the way. We can ask for no more from our Shepherd, can we?

Proverbs 3:6: In all thy ways acknowledge him and he will direct they paths.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Come Heal With Me; Week 5

He restores my soul...

Notes taken from the book: When the sheep leave the sheep pen, they march out in an order they will keep the whole day. But sometimes the sheep wander away from the path. Some will walk away from the shepherd and he, in turn, will go after the one. Other times, the sheep will walk toward the shepherd, looking for a touch, a whisper, and a way back to the fold. The shepherd guides the anxious fellow back to the path for his day.

Mother wrote in the margins: Rapha-- healer.
Protected by God with giant and Saul.
Psalm 32 & 51.

Mother is referencing David's affair with Bathsheba. David had walked away from God and was wounded in his soul in the process.

My notes: When David sinned with Bathsheba, and after he was caught, he ran to God and begged for restoration. But sometimes it is not our sin that drives us off the path, it's life. Living holds all sorts of elements that will suck all life from our lungs.

And life is air.

Air is life.

Impossible to breathe moments.

Without the ability to inhale fully, we are left without enough oxygen to sustain life. We cannot go forward on the path because we are nearly lifeless.

When God breathed air into Adam's nostrils, he (Adam) became alive. Fully alive. Awakened to all there was around him. Blinking in the bright life of the Father's presence, he stared then into the face of his Creator.

Life, for Adam, was new and full of possibilities.

When Adam sinned, he was driven away from the Garden. But he was not driven away from God. God, his Shepherd, never turned his back on Adam. God continued to love and guide him, throughout all his joys, throughout all his sorrows.

When life sucked the air out of Adam, God was walking alongside him, waiting for this one sheep to come over for a touch, a whisper, a nudge.


Holding Mother as she had her first hemorrhage was a life-sucking event. The look in her eyes--the lack of life within them--haunts me still. The immediate knowledge that this was more than being sick to her stomach and a headache.

Seeing her second seizure.
Her head shaved.
Studying the symptoms online to gain better understanding of her illness.
Listening while doctors and nurses gave the news, always bad...never good.

Letting her go...

Her release of life was my release of life. But the Shepherd stands close by. I can choose to walk away from him or toward him...

...For a touch.
A whisper.
A nudge...