A Miracle in the Valley

IT WAS FIRST SILENCE. Deadly silence.

He could almost hear a pin drop.
From the cliff where he stood, he saw that the valley stretched before him was a white carpet. With brown patches. As he descended the hill on the wings of the Spirit, he saw the carpet take a three-dimensional form. With contours.

White carpet? Hardly.

White carpet – bones, thousands of them. Brown patches – sand.

He didn’t believe his eyes! Shapes like skulls, breast bones, fists and — what the…

He stepped down into the valley and was at eye level with the bones. Frowning skulls, clenched fists, flexed thigh bones across broken hip sockets. They all seemed poised to action, but without a flesh. They were disjointed.

Dry. And. Very dead.

He went round them and thought he was seeing faces. Depressed, downcast ones. Wishing they had won the battle that brought them down in this valley. He was probably unborn when the war was fought and ten years old when the bald vultures got tired of meat.

His face squeezed in a grimace as desperation rushed through his veins. The gory sight made him queasy.

Dry bones in the valley of death.

But before he got overwhelmed with sadness, the master GOD tapped his shoulder and said, “Son of Man, can these bones live?”

Live? Dry bones. How long does it take a human being to decompose to dry bones – ten years, twenty? He could have looked it up on Google.

If souls do travel by foot after death, theirs would have reached their destination long ago. Now to call them back?

I don’t know, he thought. But he knew better than to voice his doubts. So he said, “Master GOD, only you know that.”

Yes. This was the Master GOD, not mere man. This was the One who made a walled highway on the Red sea by the wand of a cane walking stick. This was One who made dresses that grew through the years so His people did not need to swap dresses. It was Him who rained manna from heaven for food. Same God who scolded His people and drew them back to Himself.

Only You know that. Only You can know that.

What is death?

Hopes lost. Dreams dashed. Heightened expectations crushed.
Being dead is like being in sin, being alienated from God and condemned to the harsh consequences of iniquity.

Death is what happens to a substance addict who isn’t himself when there is no fix. His sanity and sobriety are dead. His joy is late. He ravages mummy’s drawers, steals her trinkets or dad’s suit pocket for cash so he can fix himself up. Or else –

A dead guy is like a victim of a bad habit like a furious temper. No one knows when he will let rip so everyone plays safe around him. Don’t annoy him or he becomes a big red machine -energetic on the outside but he feels dead within. Self-control, love is dead.

When you set out to execute the bright ideas that pop up in your consciousness, you always meet a dead-end. No matter how hard you try to study for a test, you still flunk it. When you manage to keep your head above the water in school, but you know you won’t stay afloat for long, that’s dead-ness.

Or those bright ideas are limited by a debilitating physical illness. You can’t help but feel dead and wimpy.

Do you see yourself like the colt tied to the stakes? It has never been used. It has potentials, but still tied. Maybe his owners felt he’s still too small, or has a weakness they do not want to risk exposing.

Like dad and mum does to you – you’re still too small. You stammer or can’t speak your bright ideas in front of a crowd. Potentiated but restricted –more or less dead.

Or you have a fear of failure that makes you fail the test in your mind before even writing it. You’re already dead before you start living.

Dead. Dead. Dead.

If it takes years for human bones to decay, it means you’ve had this problem for long.

So Master GOD spoke again: Speak my words to these bones.

Ezekiel did speak and there was a rustling sound. The bones began to shake and come together. At first it was bone to bone, then muscles, subcutaneous tissue, ligaments, tendons, skin and hair began to form on the bones. Before He knew it, complete humans were fashioned.

Then He prophesied to the wind – which promptly responded and gave them the breath of life. They lived and became an exceeding great army. The dry bones became an exceeding great army. Once again. And for the rest of the day, he walked around dazed because he had seen a miracle.

Yes, what you need is His Word, the very one that created the beautiful universe. The very One that came down, lived among us and saved us – you need Jesus Christ. The very one that is ready to make you alive again.

Ezekiel saw a miracle. Do you want to see one?

Then come to the source of the God kind of life. Jesus awaits you at the well. His words are spirit-words; it gives Life to dead things.

He says:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Will you come to the valley?

God raised Jesus from the dead, and if God’s Spirit is living in you, he will also give life to your bodies that die. God is the One who raised Christ from the dead, and he will give life through his Spirit that lives in you.
Romans 8:11 NCV

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A Miracle in the Valley is a tiny part of the first draft of an upcoming anthology set to release in 2021. Watch out for more details soon.

This article was written in 2012. References: Ezekiel 37, Matthew 11:28-30, John 6:63. Article initially inspired by “Spirit Wind,” a song by Casting Crowns

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The Curious Case of Doctor Maundy

Why you shouldn’t let ‘the ‘Rona’ — ahem, coronavirus — dominate your mind.

When the first case of Coronavirus occurred, no one expected it to redefine our 2020 experience. This time is so peculiar in the history of our world.

Massive layoffs, hundreds of thousands sick, and many dead, disruption of industry and economy, shortage of household and medical supplies, and individual financial constraints are a few select consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And it’s not over.

For some who are unable to work, this may be the longest time you’ve spent with your loved ones or the longest time you’ve spent with yourself even. Trust me, your children and pets can’t believe their good fortune of having some of you around all day.

Maybe it’s time to appreciate the incredible work school teachers are doing with your kids, and maybe it’s time to do a little of that, and help them understand and process what is happening in our world today.

And boy O’boy, have I read and seen all sorts in the last few weeks. From the city of Wuhan, the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei province, the ‘Rona traveled and with it, diverse perspectives.

Some feel that the apocalypse is upon us – down to the bunkers you go! Many other people smell a fish and there’s been a handful of conspiracy theories floating around cyberspace. Some think it’s bio-terrorism at it’s finest, designed to cripple the western economy. I mean all sorts.

You know what, whatever it is, we don’t have time for divisive perspectives. For whatever is unclear about this situation, there’s a lot more that is clear, and we’ll serve ourselves and the world better by focusing on that.

So what is clear?

This pandemic has proven once again the ability of unprecedented situations to bring out the best and the worst in us.

The ‘Rona has shown how clueless some of our countries’ governments are about leading us in safety, it has brought the worst in human nature by way of prize gougers, has shown how misinformation can torpedo the best of minds and has spun out of potential storytellers, an unsettling number of conspiracy theories.

But it’s not all doom and gloom

It has also given us the opportunity to watch the global cohort of heroes – individuals who by reason of their jobs, means, their good nature or a combination of many factors, are bravely helping the world heal, one good act after another. We have seen on display, what Fred Rogers meant when he said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Covid-19 has dealt us a heavy blow and disrupted daily life as we know it. The threat of death is palpable but we must not allow fear to paralyze us.

There is one thing that should be clear to anyone who believes: the faithfulness of God in a terrible situation, and the incredible divine gift of resilience of humans. The joy of the Lord your strength! I have read and seen and believe in our ability to rise out of the ashes of our dying night today into the breaking of a brand new hopeful day.

Our role in that resurrection starts with accepting that all of us need help. Lots of it. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each of us must realize that we have something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one thing that connects us.

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So think about one thing of value (and trust me, you do have at least one) that you can share with the hurting world around you.

And while you’re at it, ensure you stay safe and follow precautions that enable you to stay healthy. As you practice social distancing, pray for the healing of your world, for if you have forgotten, it’s your sacred duty, as well as to find ways to be a helper to those around you, for you may find that you are God’s hands and feet at your workplace, or neighborhood, bringing hope with every smile, every hot meal, cold drink, every sanitizing wipe or encouraging word you give.

Our leaders are waking up. They’re responding, and with the proliferation of more useful information and provision of relief resources, we are going to deal with this better, so don’t lose hope.

And for those who think the world is going to implode, I’d say, probably not!

Resist the urge to spread fear and falsehood on that little ticking time bomb you cradle around your palms. With as much effort if not less, you can find verified helpful information to share. And then you’ll join the league of heroes and helpers. CDC and the WHO are two examples of organizations that have done a fantastic job of providing useful information that can keep you healthy and others around you. Share that!

And to the believers again, C.S. Lewis says, “If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb (or Coronavirus), let that bomb (or virus) when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs (or spreading falsehood and fear about the ‘Rona”).

Rona alone

Corona may break our bodies, but it need not dominate our minds.

Again I say, it’s not over. We will win this.

Through the thick or thin of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, whatever may come our way, let it meet us hopeful and helping.

Stay safe, friends.

P.S. If you have not listened to my latest podcast episode, you can find it here

12: Light

Let there be light!

In many places in the Bible, light represented the entrance of the divine presence in the ordinary world, clarity for decision making, and guidance for life’s journey. The first recorded statement was one spoken by God to jump-start the creation of our beautiful world.

“I am the light of the world.” – John 8:12

In Jewish sanctuaries, there was a fire that burned perpetually at the altar, and the priests were tasked with daily rekindling it with wood so it doesn’t go out. It represented perpetual conversation with God and man. However, unlike the fire that burns out or lamps whose wick need to be replaced continually, Jesus is that eternal light that always shines. He never goes out because He is alive and active in any one who believes in Him.

He is the light of openness and trust and vulnerability. He is the light that gives clarity and sense of purpose. He is the light that guides through and through, and ignites hearts for exploits.

And he says you, yes YOU — are the light of the world.

Darkness only prevails in a place until light is shone. The one who was born on a wintry night is the light the world needs. The one who is now made a light is the one who shows what the world needs.

Do not stay hidden. Shine!

“You are the light of the world. – Matthew 5:14

THE END

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Post-Script
I have taken you through my 12 Toys of Christmas. This is a good time to refresh your mind about what truly matters. The few days before year ends is great time to take stock and re-strategize. Let the Lord within have His way. Seek Him, Sing your new song. Bask in the comfort and guidance of the Spirit. Receive the gift that keeps on giving. Dwell in the shadow of His wings. Shine!

2020, are you ready?

11: Throne

How do you feel when the odds are against you, when you feel that everyone around you, who should celebrate you is out to get you? How do you respond when you feel defeated before you even step out to do something good with your life?

Jesus’ survival was at stake from the get-go. The throne during his day was against him — the king sent Assassins after him. At such challenging times, it is very easy to lose hope and yield control to the difficult situation. But as I read through the story from the Bible, I started to think to myself,

“whose throne is really in control?”

Is it the earthly throne that could be snatched in a coup by someone more powerful, the throne that could become empty when the one who sits on it stops breathing? Could it be that the existing powerful challenges and authority I so quickly cower before is only as valid and the fleeting breathe in every human?

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God showed us through Jesus’ story that He is in control, not anyone else.

So that the next time you feel small and threatened, you can pause and ask yourself — whose throne is really in control?

I hope you know the answer.

Pro Tip: it’s your heavenly Father’s throne.

“ — no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,” Isaiah 54:17

Tomorrow, the last day, we will be looking at a Lamp

10: Dove

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Doves and Pigeons!
They are cute stout-bodied members of the Columbidae family with short necks and bills that have a large distribution in most places in the world. Jesus Christ’s birth and life sure had its share of birds — turtle doves and pigeons were utilized on the day of his dedication, a dove often represented the descent of the Spirit, symbolizing the presence of God and the manifestations of power!

But unlike these beautiful birds, the Spirit of God is in fact, everywhere. And the best news is that, because of Jesus, He is still here, with us. And not just around in nature, but inside of every one who believes in Him, and is able to provide power, comfort, truth, strength, direction for everything life spins.

Jesus’ fulfilled promise, “I will send him unto you,” holds true today.
Will you take advantage of it?
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“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Luke 4:18

Tomorrow’s toy is: Throne

9: Temple

In Jesus’ time, the temple was a place of fortification. It was a sacred place, the seat of spiritual authority, and to the people, a place to detox, to congregate, to fellowship, to learn and be empowered. It was a symbol of hope in the perilous times in the history of the Jews. It was a portal of divine connectedness. They would say, it’s God’s dwelling place.

You — are a temple.
You are God’s dwelling place.

What does this mean?
It means that you need to protect that place within — that temple that is YOU. Take time to cultivate your mind and spirit. Build, weed, nurture and protect your internal space. Learn to think, grow your faith, sharpen your perspective and open your heart to love and be loved. All this is possible when God’s spirit breathes life to dead places, and pours fresh water into your dry land.

Any sacredness, any excellence, any wisdom, any good thing you will exude to others will come from within.

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“— your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you —” -1 Corinthians 6:19

Tomorrow’s toy is: Dove

8: Compass (plus Merry Christmas!)

A compass makes me think of a journey.

Joseph and Mary were directed to Egypt, so they would avoid Herod’s murderous campaign. It was no doubt, an arduous journey. It was an uncharted terrain in their lives – giving birth to their first son and escaping from the sword of the most powerful person in their jurisdiction. But it was worth it because they carried Jesus, who grew to become the Savior of the whole world.

Even in His adult life, Jesus had a sense of purpose and was directed by God in all He did. He’s finished the course and has passed the life-baton to you.

“What do you want to do with your life?” “Who are your friends?” “ Is this business a good deal?” “What do you want to study?” “Who do you want to marry?” Trust me, you need direction.

Your life is a journey through uncharted terrain. You have a purpose, but you do not have a map so you do not know every little detail about your life’s journey. If you did, you wouldn’t need faith.

But you have a compass from the One who says “I will lead you and show you the way to go.”

You can set your sights on the glory and purpose of your creation and He can make your journey through the triumphs and challenges of life worth it. He can direct your path.

All you need to do is trust Him. You don’t have to go alone.

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“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. -Psalm 32:8

On a major note,

Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow’s toy is: Temple

7: Crown

Crowns represent authority, royalty and kingship.
Good things ehn? But the ‘crown’ of Jesus’ day was after his life.

“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;” Matthew 2:3

Herod felt threatened by the little baby that was called the King of the Jews. In the process of hunting the baby Jesus, he caused pain for a lot more mothers and families. He thought the violence would assert the authenticity of his ruler-ship. Thankfully, Herod’s sword could not take off Jesus’ crown because God’s shield was over him.

Jesus is the true king who died and brokered the peace and salvation of his people through the sacrifice of His blood.

So what swords are threatening your crown? Your identity? Your passion? Your heart? Are the crowns within? Remember that you are only being hunted because you are an asset to this generation. You are valuable.

You are a child of the King, if you believe. And that means there is Someone looking out for you.

Trust that He will take care of you.

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“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Matthew 2:13

Tomorrow’s toy is: Compass

6: Shield

The sword is a historical weapon of war. The soldiers king Herod sent to find and kill Jesus most likely took swords. They went in the power of the king, ready to wreak havoc on countless lives.

With swords, we remember shields. Herod’s sword could not take off Jesus’ crown. That is because

God’s shield was over him.

Here is something exciting — Jesus is your shield. He took the hits so you do not have to. The divine shield is still active today. He protects anyone who trusts Him.

Do you know that?

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“— he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” Psalm 18:30

Tomorrow’s toy is: Crown

5: Gift

Gifts!

At this time, checkout lines in many stores are longer than usual — filled with parents shopping for kids, spouses and friends shopping for each other. Stores are sending out last minute emails so online shoppers can order gifts that would come in time for Christmas. Millions of secret Santa gifts, year-end bonuses are being passed around, and the gift bag and wrapper business is booming.

It’s no surprise that there’s so much giving at Christmas. The wise men brought gifts — gold, frankincense and myrrh when they came to see Jesus in the manger, and though the Bible did not attach any symbolic meaning to the gifts, it was clear that the gifts were accompanied by worship and they meant something to Mary and Joseph.

The birth of Jesus was the manifestation of God’s gift to humanity. A gift that had a purpose – to broker a pathway back to God. When anyone receives Jesus, they receive the gift of Life and light and peace and joy that sustains them through life’s journey.
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As Jesus is God’s gift to man, so you are to your generation. This season, disabuse your mind of self-doubt. Let today’s card remind you that:

You are a gift. You have a purpose.
You have a gift. That gift has a purpose.

In addition to the greatest gift, Jesus, that unique ability that you have (or that you despise as inconsequential) is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your worship and your gift to your generation.

What are you going to do with the gift that you are?

“Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

Tomorrow’s toy is: Shield