The crisp cool air hit his flesh, biting into the fingertips that grasped the walking stick. The wind on the peaks had yet to cause anything more than a stirring of the fading leaves here in the holler through which he trod. A fateful night of harsh wins left the trail littered with pine cones and limbs. Up ahead, a fallen flock of trees lay across the path, like obstacles in a steeplechase, over which he must straddle. Onward, like the current in the stream that flowed nearby, his body moved; silent and steady. In his mind, the words of the 23rd Psalm swirled like falling leaves upon the gentle breeze. Their parallel to the model prayer of which Jesus taught his disciples teased his curiosity. Lost in thought, he ambled on, as memories as clear as the crystal waters that gurgled in his ears echoed their distant reply.
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
“Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”
The air that day had been as crisp, with a matching breeze. The brilliance of the sky was only enhanced by the majestic snow-capped peaks which reached to heights of which he had never seen; at least not from the foot of the mountain. With a small satchel upon his back, he began his unknowing ascent upon the footpath that had been well worn from centuries of pedestrian traffic. To be in the presence of such imagery caused him to pause often and stand in awe. Likewise, the reverence for which he watched became increasingly intense with each footstep upward. Like climbing to the Father, our approach to God the Father, each new day living in Christ, we come nearer to Him. In that manner, we humbly enter into his glory, and by his Grace, we are saved. It is at that point we can boldly say, He is my shepherd.
The burdens of the week began to drift back into the man’s train of thought. Instinctively, he began to prioritize the list, then stopped. “I shall not want,” he said to himself, “God’s got this.” He reminded himself once again that he was trying to do it all. “I must decrease so that He may increase,” he whispered into the chilly air, his breath drifting ahead of his pace.
Once we are aware, the awakening of our spirit allows to know him and He us. In that manner, we can then know that He will care for us as a shepherd to his flock. There shall no need of want. No worries shall cause our brow to cross. All we will ever need will be provided if we only trust in Him.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul.”
Give us this day our daily bread.
As the man returned to his journey up the Germanesca Valley, he recalled standing along the rushing waters of the mighty torrent that tore through the rocks. Like the sound of a roaring freight train, the angry waters thundered past into each falling abyss below. Thirsty, he longed for a drink. Around the next bend in the terrain, a waterfall fell from up above into the pearl blue basin. There, in the foreground of that thundering cascade swirled a beautiful pool of still waters. They beckoned him to come and sup. Bending down, the reflection of a bearded image stared back. He was not the young man he often thought of; rather, this man was aged, but his features showed an internal strength. Cupping his hands, he pulled up toward his face the fresh ice, cold water from the colorless liquid. He drank deeply, as the sweet water poured down his throat, overflowing his chin, it began quenching the deepest desires. He felt a fullness at that point, unlike ever before. The words came to mind, “He who drinks of this water will never thirst again.” The chill of the frigid water touched the core of his body as if his soul had drunk from the well; his spirit was likewise fed; “Restoreth my soul,” he said.
“He leads me down paths of righteousness for his namesake.”
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
It was at this point that the man ran into another traveling companion that had ventured upon the same trail. His name was Stanley. He was the Pastor at a church in the Michigan area. He too was here with the same group with which the man was traveling. “Are you thinking about going further,” he asked.
Looking up at the distant peak, they both questioned the challenge that intrigued them both.
“Yes, but you know that the bus leaves at 4:00 pm,” the man replied. They both looked back up at the seemingly impossible climb.
Deep down inside, each man could hear the voice of one calling.
“How about we set ourselves a time limit, and when we reach that point, we have to agree to turn around; regardless,” the man said to the younger traveling companion.
“Okay,” Stanley quickly replied, “you got it.”
“We have to both agree that no matter what, no matter how beautiful it gets, we can’t keep going.”
“Agreed, the young pastor smiled broadly.”
Shaking hands, they took off and began the arduous climb.
Each winding turn in the goat trail that led upward kept turning back pages of scripture. It was as if God were rewinding each page of his life with the turn of each fragile page of the Word of God. Hand in hand he had lived his life with God watching over him, sometimes unknowing, other times purposeful; always led by the hand of the Lord. He literally had been led down God’s path of righteousness, but not of his own accord.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
When the two men had finally reached the peak. There was little time to commune with God. Sitting down, they both knew that this may the only time in this life that they might have the opportunity to reach this point on earth. Praying, they both sought His Majesties presence such that they would feel the Master’s place at their table. Around them, a gentle breeze blew, as raptors soared before them, floating effortlessly upon the unseen currents, slowly drifting past where they sat. Like a parade of God’s creatures great and small, the display of His creation came alive. Not far from their vantage point, wild mountain goats pranced in the snow, while nearby mountain ferrets chased one another in play.
Once they caught their breath, turning, their eyes followed the long dark chasm from which they had emerged. From this valley that had climbed. Below, in the shadows of the massive peaks upon which they now sat, the farthest reaches of the sunlight strained to find the earth. Where there was light, there was no darkness. Yet, even in the light of the midday sun, there were shadows upon the land. Like stains of memories returned, so many countless lives lost; blood scattered upon those very valley floors from whence they trod. Now, far beneath the soil, their memories not forgotten as the word from which the men quoted had remained alive; preserved by those martyrs of ancient times; the ancient Waldensians.
“He preparest a table before me in the presence of thine enemies.”
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Death was merely a shadow, and as such, they feared it not, for to live as Christ was as death, each a gain either way. The rod and staff of God had provided for them even in the darkest of times. When the soldiers came to eradicate them from their homes, they fled to this point, there where the two men sat, and beyond. To the upper reaches of the earth, where if not for safety, to be closer to my God and thee. There the angels carried many to their final resting place.
The pair sat solemn silence. The awe-inspiring scene before the two men left them speechless. Here, the closeness to God was unmistakable. As they dined on the meager fare from which they carried, clouds chased their images upon the nearby snow-capped peaks as the multitude of waterfalls spoke in hushed whispers.
The vantage point from above, so close to Him, so far from that terrestrial countenance that resided in the shadows of the peaks from which they had now climbed. Their apex but merely temporary achievement, but for that which they truly awaited was one far above this point.
There was nothing more one could say, so divine was the beauty before them.
“He anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over.”
Each man finished and sat in repose; their thoughts inward and upward.
“Stanley,” the man said turning to his newfound traveling companion, “we may never make it here again. This may be the only time in our earthly life that we see the world from this vantage point. Let us give thanks to God for all that we have and for this opportunity to share our meal in his presence.” Stanley nodded in agreement. It was then they both knelt in prayer and praised His holy name as one.
Silently and stoically they stood, walking back to the direction from whence they came. Back down to the lower reaches of that distant valley. There was little to say at that point. No words could encompass what they had just felt.
The man rounded the bend in the road, to the place where he had crossed the river many times. The water today was gray and angry. Its reflection was cold and forbidding. Inside, his heart he had been warmed by the memory of that journey now so seemingly far away. For a moment he wondered about Stanley and where it might be in life. Like strangers upon the road who travel along for a while, their union would become a memory for life; a shared point in time. Until that day when we shall all be called to Glory, then we shall reunite with those momentary acquaintances once more and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Yes, as the psalmist wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen”
Matthew 6:9-13, The Model Prayer
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”