The Shadow-lands

Wandering alone in the shadow-lands. That’s how I described life and ministry to a friend almost two years ago. Darkness seemed endless and (to be honest) my faith felt unstable. I was afraid of my weakness and overconfident in my abilities. (I had no idea what lay ahead. It was far worse than I could have anticipated.)

My friend did not respond to the plea of my aching soul as I hoped. In fact I initially despised his words. He said, “My first matter of prayer for you is that you will see God in the shadow-lands; that even without the good times, good feeling, and showers of blessings you will be satisfied with just Him, Himself … for however long God purposes to be the sole encouragement you have.”

I like chocolate. I like coffee. I like rich worship, family fun, and walking with my wife. I do not like pain…hurt…loneliness or suffering, at all! The words of my “friend” stung with the reality of my having to walk through the valley of the shadow.

My perspective for months was suffocating in grief and uncertainty. My friends perspective was that we, “would never choose to go (to the shadow-lands). But that is precisely why God wisely and lovingly superintends our paths to bring us there.”

The exhortation of my friend, was to seek and to see God in the darkness. His prayer was for my success, not my relief. Life during that entire season was extremely unsettling; which I discovered, was the point.

God does not need me, I need Him.

Are you currently in the shadow-lands? I urge you to spend some time with God here: Deuteronomy 8:2-3; Nahum 1:7; Exodus 14:13; Psalm 46:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12:9-11

“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”

2 Corinthians 3:4-5

I am weak, but He is strong.


Christmas in Heaven

Golden-Christmas-ornaments-christmas-22229833-904-768I see the countless Christmas trees
Around the world below,
With tiny lights like heaven’s stars
Reflecting in the snow.

The sight is so spectacular
please wipe away that tear
for I am spending CHRISTMAS

I hear the many Christmas songs
that people hold so dear
but the sound of music can’t compare
with the CHRISTMAS CHOIR up here.

I have no words to tell you
of the JOY their voices bring
for it is beyond description

I know how much you miss me,
I see the pain inside your heart
for I am spending CHRISTMAS

I can’t tell you of the SPLENDOR
or the PEACE here in this place
Can you just imagine CHRISTMAS
WITH OUR SAVIOR face to face?

I’ll ask him to lift your spirit
as I tell him of your love
as you lift your eyes above.

Please let your hearts be joyful
and let your spirit sing
for I am spending CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN
and I’m walking WITH THE KING.

By Wanda Bencke

(Lysandra Kay Bencke was my thirteen year old handicapped daughter. On Christmas day 1997, Lysandra had a seizure and was in a coma for five days before she died. During those five days I wrote the poem “Christmas in Heaven”. I sent it out in a belated Christmas cards to friends and relatives that year. They also sent it on to other friends and relatives, thus the poem and the story behind it have been changed. )

God is God

And the pain falls like a curtain
On the things I once called certain
And I have to say the words I fear the most
I just don’t know

And the questions without answers
Come and paralyze the dancer
So I stand here on the stage afraid to move
Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must
On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust

God is God and I am not

I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

And the sky begins to thunder
And I’m filled with awe and wonder
‘Til the only burning question that remains
Is who am I

Can I form a single mountain
Take the stars in hand and count them
Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me
He is first and last before all that has been
Beyond all that will pass

God is God and I am not

I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge
How unsearchable for to Him and through Him and from Him are all things

So let us worship before the throne
Of the One who is worthy of worship alone

~ Steven Curtis Chapman

A Poem for Difficult Days

3053Lord, Just today I read
That Paul and Silas were
Stripped and beaten
With wooden whips.
“Again and again the rods
Slashed across their bared backs”
But in their desolate dungeon
Their feet clamped in stocks
They prayed.
They sang.
They praised.
In this musty midnight of my life
Imprisoned in the dungeon of confusion
Bound by chains of anguish
Help me, please help me
To pray
To sing
To praise
Until the foundation shakes
Until the gates fling open
Until the chains fall off
Until I am free
To share the Good News
With other chain-bound prisoners.

—Ruth Harms Calkin,
Tell Me Again, Lord, I Forget