Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Alpine Heights of His Heart

My family gave a musical vesper program at my grandma's church a few weeks ago. What I shared that evening included excerpts from a book by a shepherd on the 23rd Psalm that I read earlier this year. This book is filled with practical insights from every day sheep husbandry that has greatly deepened my understanding of this wellknown psalm. It is on my "highly recommended" list. 

Here is a bit of what I shared from the chapter on the Valley of the Shadow of Death:

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“Many shepherds take their flocks on long drives to distant summer ranges during the summer. The sheep move along slowly, gradually working their way up the mountains behind the receding snow. By late summer they are well up on the remote alpine meadows above the timberline.

With the approach of autumn, early snow settles on the highest ridges. . . Finally, toward the end of the year as fall passes, the sheep are driven back to the ranch headquarters where they will spend the winter. It is this segment of the yearly operation that is described in the last half of the poem.

During this time the flock is entirely alone with the shepherd. They are in intimate contact and under his most personal supervision day and night. All the dangers of rampaging rivers in flood; avalanches; rock slides; poisonous plants; the ravages of predators that raid the flock or the awesome storms of sleet and hail and snow were familiar to David when he wrote this. He had handled his sheep and managed them under all of these adverse conditions. Nothing took him by surprise. He was fully prepared to safeguard his flock and tend them with skill in every circumstance.

In the last verses there is a grandeur, a quietness, an assurance that sets the soul at rest. “I will not fear, for you are with me. . .”

Many Christian people speak of wanting to have mountain top experiences with God. Often we get an erroneous idea about how this takes place. It is though we imagined we could be “air lifted” onto higher ground. On the rough trail of the Christian life this is not so. As with ordinary sheep management, so with God’s people, 

One only gains higher ground by climbing up through the valleys.

There is a second reason why sheep are led to the mountain tops by the way of the valleys. Not only is this the way of the gentlest grades, but also it is the well watered route. During the journey the flocks experience intense thirst. How glad they are for the frequent watering places along the valley route where they can be refreshed. As Christians we will sooner or later discover that it is in the valleys of our lives that we find refreshment from God Himself.

A third reason why the rancher chooses to take his flock into the high country by way of the valleys is that this is generally were the richest feed and best forage is to be found along the route. The shepherd wants to be sure there will not only be water but also the best grazing available for the ewes and their lambs. Generally, the choicest meadows are in these valleys along the stream banks." 

~A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

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In my own life journey, specifically with cancer, I have found this to be solid true. In every dark crisis and challenge God has proved his consistent and gentle care. 

It may be hard for some to imagine how refreshment could be found in what, from all outward appearances, seems to be a dangerous and dismal place. As a human, I instinctively fear darkness – but with God I am secure - even joyful. As David wrote in another psalm, “ Not even dark is dark to you. Night will shine like the day.” 

Though there are hard decisions to make. But though there is grief - I am not afraid of cancer. 

God is with me. 

The dangers of the journey are not unknown to Him. As we walk along together I am in wonderment at His tenderness, surprised at His provision for the smallest needs, and joyful in His love. 

The view from the trail is stunning. 

May all your valleys become passages to the alpine heights of His heart.


4Hisgloryforever said...

Blessed so much as I read this. Praying for you and your family and also praying for me. I find in reading what you write and about your experience a call a challenge to go deeper. Thank you

Maria Perrine said...


Your words touch my heart deeply. I love that book, too. :)

I read some of your story, sweet girl. I see you are choosing the best.... a life poured out for Him and all He loves.
May you continue to walk in His grace, dear one.

Love in Christ,

CynthiaJSwenson said...

Dearest Caitlin, I remember reading some of your cancer story last year. I can't tell you how touched I am to read more of your story. What you have discovered is so true about God being so close in the valleys. I was bedridden for two months with my last child, in extreme danger because of placenta problems, not knowing if I'd survive the delivery. I was NOT AFRAID. I was planning to blog about this experience & here I find you describing some of my exact discoveries about the Lord! You describe it wonderfully! Love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia

Bill said...

Dear Caitlin, Your Greaat-Uncle Bill knows that "valley" as well. I hear crystal clear "ring" of your Trusting-Faith in GOD's providing HIS Grace as you travel day by day down this path of life. You are prayed for daily by me and your Great-Aunty Doreen. No "Carry-Over" minutes with intercessory prayer.:-) GOD is not stumped by how to send HIS GRACE to you. Hugs & a Squeeze, Great-Uncle Bill

Jason V said...

beautiful and powerful.

To rest in the love of God is an amazing, mysterious gift.