Today’s Word from Pastor Tom…

“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.” Psalm 23

My imagination has recently been held captive by four words, “the shadow of death.” Of course, it is painfully obvious the genesis of this fixation has been Brenda’s death. I cannot put into words how I miss her… suffice to say, her absence has provided me with quite probably the most emotionally debilitating time of my life. If someone is your soul mate (marriage notwithstanding), when that person passes your own soul is wounded. There is a tearing apart that needs healing. That healing is happening, albeit painfully, but it is happening. Thank you for your prayers and cards of encouragement.

I have a couple of observations. First, why is it impossible to say the 23rd Psalm without reciting it in the King’s English? “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…for thou art with me; thy rod…” it’s the Kings English. Precisely like the Lord’s Prayer. There is a lovely contemporary option of the Lord’s Prayer in our well planned-out fancy hymnal, but when left to our own devices we will, without missing a beat, revert to the King’s English, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Just an observation.

Secondly, it is the shadow of death that continues to be a problem. Not death, but the “shadow” of death. I confess the implications of this have been lost on me. King David did not write, “… though I walk through the valley of death” but “through the valley of the shadow of death.” What is the shadow?

The shadow has become a metaphor for me. The “shadow” of death is everything that reminds me my beautiful Brenda Magdaline is no longer with me. In life the shadow continues to linger long after the memorial service last hymn is sung. Generally, at this time, the shadow still evokes grief. But I believe, more and more, the shadow will leave a smile. Yet still, a story told, a photograph, finding a piece of Bren’s jewelry, planning her memorial service, facing down a closet full of LL Bean clothes and Nordstrom shoes… it can all leave me weepy. Like a shadow that sneaks up on you, the chill of grief can still be raw.

Brenda is good. I live with a profound gratitude knowing Jesus came for my Brenda early in the morning of July 23. At 3:30 AM she was fine, at 5 AM she was gone. Just like my Brenda to do it her way. I know Brenda is just fine with the Lord. She had this profoundly deep, personal Orthodox faith that I felt often left me wanting. I’m a bit of a mess, but she is just fine. And I am getting better because my faith leads me on the path of gratitude through the valley where life is verdant and hope can grow like wildflowers. Through the years I have witnessed those who in similar moments seek to retreat to the safety of mountain tops. To places of control where one’s grief can be walled off. They have traded the valley, with all its emotional vulnerabilities, for the pretense of controlled safety where the shadow cannot surprise them. We need to be mindful that nothing grows on the tops of mountains.

The Good Shepherd’s “rod” (an instrument of authority and rescue) and “staff” (an instrument of comfort and support) are all I need when the shadow of death would again attempt to leave me disabled by grief. With your cards and well-wishes, you have been a critical part of my journey through the valley. Thanks to you, the journey is getting better, the shadow’s reach is gradually diminishing, and I am becoming ever more confident I will again be able to preach a sermon without becoming a blithering idiot.

For the record, with regard to the 23rd Psalm, I still prefer the poetry of the King’s English.

Thank you again for your love, it has meant the world.

Pastor Tom