NOTES FROM THE VALLEY
June 10, 2007
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for you are with me." Psalm 23.
Cathy and I are encountering more and more people these days, friends
and relatives, who have been drawn into some form of "New Age"
religion. You know, the ones that take the easiest and nicest parts
of various belief systems and combine them into something that feels
good and makes little or no demands upon their time or lifestyle!!
Which definitely leaves no room for Jesus or His teachings.
It came as a shock to us that one of the primary reasons these dear
people give for their closed mindedness about Christ is the behavior
of Christians. To roughly paraphrase one dear friend, she believes
we Christians are elitist, overbearing and two-faced. We will not
accept that there can be any other God or belief system but ours. If
someone, like her, refuses to accept our beliefs, we come down on
them with damnation, angry and hate-filled words. And we talk one
way of living, but live another way entirely. She refuses to be a
part of any such hypocrisy. In the face of such strong opinions, we
find ourselves totally frustrated and asking God "What can we do?"
I know we can't fix these loved ones. We can pray for them and be
ready the instant they ask us about our faith if that opportunity
ever comes again. But the Holy Spirit will have to convict them to
seek Christ first. And God will have to bring people across their
paths who live their faith as a testimony to them about who God
really is and what His children are truly like. So that is my prayer
for God's ministry to them. I also know we can't fix other
Christians. But we can ask God to continue His work in us and teach
us the hard lessons we need to learn from this experience. Lessons
that will change how we live our lives and how we will relate to
God sent His Son into the world with a message of reconciliation, not
condemnation. That's the message Christ gave to us. That's the
message Christ told us to go and give to the world. 2 Corinthians
5:18-19 (NIV) says, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to
himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting
men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of
But we have failed to deliver that message with the same measure of
love as was given to us. That failure is having eternal
consequences. The message of the Gospel is "good news." God loves
us and has reached down to us through His Son with a free gift of
salvation. But instead of conveying the love and presenting the
gift, many of us convey judgement and present a threat. We threaten
with "if you don't" where Christ promised "if you will." We seem to
have forgotten that to be a Christian means to be an imitator of
Christ. We need to read again of His dealings with the woman at the
well, the woman who was to be stoned, the Centurion, the sick, the
suffering, and the possessed. How did He deliver the message of His
Father's love to them? We need to find that answer and then strive
to be like Him; to deliver the message like He did.
Someday, some gentle person who has learned the hard lessons and
seeks only to serve the Father in the same manner as the Son, will
lovingly tell our lost love ones about the Christ who has filled
their life with meaning, peace, understanding, joy, and forgiveness.
The sincerity of their words, the witness of those gifts in the
living of their daily lives, will lead them to accept Christ. It may
be you. It may be Cathy or me. But it will definitely be someone
who lets the Christ who has taken up residence within them to shine
through them in loving kindness, tender mercy, and unfailing grace.
As always, I remain a work in progress,
(Author Max Lucado)
All of the Garden's inhabitants paused to witness the event. Hawks
hovered. Giraffes stretched. Trees bowed. Butterflies paused on
petals and watched.
"You will love me, nature," God said. "I made you that way. You will
obey me, universe. For you were designed to do so. You will reflect
my glory, skies, for that is how you were created. But this one will
be like me. This one will be able to choose."
All were silent as the Creator reached into himself and removed
something yet unseen. A seed. "It's called 'choice.' The seed of
choice." Creation stood in silence and gazed upon the lifeless
An angel spoke, "But what if he ..."
"What if he chooses not to love?" the Creator finished. "Come, I will
Unbound by today, God and the angel walked into the realm of
"There, see the fruit of the seed of choice, both the sweet and the
The angel gasped at what he saw. Spontaneous love. Voluntary
devotion. Chosen tenderness. Never had he seen anything like these.
He felt the love of the Adams. He heard the joy of Eve and her
daughters. He saw the food and the burdens shared. He absorbed the
kindness and marveled at the warmth. "Heaven has never seen such
beauty, my Lord. Truly, this is your greatest creation."
"Ah, but you've only seen the sweet. Now witness the bitter."
A stench enveloped the pair. The angel turned in horror and
proclaimed, "What is it?"
The Creator spoke only one word: "Selfishness."
The angel stood speechless as they passed through centuries of
repugnance. Never had he seen such filth. Rotten hearts. Ruptured
promises. Forgotten loyalties. Children of the creation wandering
blindly in lonely labyrinths. "This is the result of choice? the
"They will forget you?"
"They will reject you?"
"They will never come back?"
"Some will. Most won't."
"What will it take to make them listen?"
The Creator walked on in time, further and further into the future,
until he stood by a tree. A tree that would be fashioned into a
cradle. Even then he could smell the hay that would surround him.
With another step into the future, he paused before another tree. It
stood alone, a stubborn ruler on a bald hill. The trunk was thick,
and the wood was strong. Soon it would be cut. Soon it would be
trimmed. Soon it would be mounted on the stony brow of another hill.
And soon he would be hung on it. He felt the wood rub against a back
he did not yet wear.
"Will you go down there?" the angel asked.
"Is there no other way?"
"There is not."
"Wouldn't it be easier to not plant the seed? Wouldn't it be easier
to not give the choice?"
"It would," the Creator spoke slowly. "But to remove the choice is to
remove the love."
He look around the hill and foresaw a scene. Three figures hung on
three crosses. Arms spread. Heads fallen forward. They moaned with
the wind. Men clad in soldier's garb sat on the ground near the trio.
They played games in the dirt and laughed. Men clad in religion stood
off to one side. They smiled. Arrogant, cocky. They had protected
God, they thought by killing this false one. Women clad in sorrow
huddled at the foot of the hill. Speechless. Faces tear streaked.
Eyes downward. One put her arm around another and tried to lead her
away. She wouldn't leave. "I will stay," she said softly, "I will
All heaven stood to fight. All nature rose to rescue. All eternity
poised to protect. But the Creator gave no command. "It must be
done...," he said, and withdrew. But as he stepped in time, he heard
the cry that he would someday scream: "My God, my God, why have you
forsaken me?" He wrenched at tomorrow's agony.
The angel spoke again. "It would be less painful..."
The Creator interrupted softly. "But it wouldn't be love."
They stepped into the Garden again. The Maker looked earnestly at the
clay creation. A monsoon of love swelled up within him. He had died
for the creation before he had made him. God's form bent over the
sculptured face and breathed. Dust stirred on the lips of the new
one. The chest rose, cracking the red mud. The cheeks fleshened. A
finger moved. And an eye opened. But more incredible than the moving
of the flesh was the stirring of the spirit. Those who could see the
unseen gasped. Perhaps it was the wind who said it first. Perhaps
what the star saw that moment is what has made it blink ever since.
Maybe it was left to an angel to whisper it: "It looks like . . . it
appears to so much like . . . it is him!" The angel wasn't speaking
of the face, the features, or the body. He was looking inside - at
"It's eternal!" gasped another.
Within the man, God has placed a divine seed. A seed of his self. The
God of might had created earth's mightiest. The Creator had created,
not a creature, but another creator. And the One who had chosen to
love had created one who could love in return.
Now it's our choice.
Copyright © 1998 - 2007 by Stephen J. Hall - Notes from the Valley
and Humor from the Valley are meant to brighten your day and
encourage you along the way. If you are blessed by them, please feel
free to make copies and pass them along to others. If you have
something you'd like to contribute to a future edition or would like
to ask us a question or make a comment, please contact us at:
Your love, God, is my song, and I'll sing it! I'm forever telling
everyone how faithful you are. I'll never quit telling the story of
your love . . . (Psalm 89:1-2 The Message)