Shadows

Epiphanies come at the oddest of times. Sometimes you are deliberately seeking meaning and understanding and the “AHA!” moment happens. Other times your attention is diverted and an epiphany breaks through unexpectedly. These moments of clarity are always welcome, as they deepen our understanding of God and our relationship with him.

A very long time ago I had an epiphany in the middle of a funeral. I was standing in the pulpit reading the 23rd Psalm when a word jumped out at me and the heavens broke open, with the angel choir singing a loud chord of resonant “AHHHHHH!”

The word was shadow. See if you can spot it.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

And there it is. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the SHADOW of death…” What a lovely epiphany! If you are grieving the loss of a loved one or fearful for your own death, what is this saying?

When David wrote this timeless classic (which is read at almost every funeral I have officiated) he was expressing the hope and the reality of our relationship with God. He praises God for providing for all of his needs. He paints images of green pastures and still waters as a way of suggesting that being in God’s presence is where we find peace. He reminds us that when we are weary and strung out, God restores us. If we are smart enough to follow God, our path will be one of righteousness.

With God, the valley we travel is only a mere shadow of death, for death has no sting.

This powerful image proclaims that death is not a real or a final destination…it is as fleeting as a cloud passing in front of the sun for a moment. Shadows come and go. Death comes and goes. Eternal life is forever, and it is in the house of eternal life that we will dwell with the Lord all the days of our lives. We walk through the valley of the shadow of death to arrive on the other side, where heaven is found.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

I pray that these words today bring you comfort. When I read them, my cup very much runs over with goodness and mercy.

Christ invites us to come to the table that is prepared before us and feast on peace, hope, comfort, and joy.

Cloud Shadow by Michelle Robertson

Having an Epiphany

(This was originally published in January 2020. It is a good reminder as we approach Epiphany Sunday that God is always shining a light on some aspect of our lives that needs illuminating. Where is he shining his light into your darkness? Follow THAT star. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!)

Ever have an epiphany? Like a really, really good one? I recall having an epiphany once about a toxic relationship I was in. For the longest time I had been blinded to the reality of it, following along and taking the negativity toward me as “personality-driven.” Every time something was said that made me wince, I wrote it off to the other person’s stress/having a bad day/quirky humor/maybe I heard it wrong. But I was hearing it right, and when the epiphany finally came that this relationship was causing me harm, I had to begin the painful process of extricating myself from the friendship.

An epiphany happens when we finally see the light. The word harkens back to the time in scripture when people literally saw the light: a star hanging over Bethlehem that lit the way to the manger and thus lit the way to the salvation of the world.

Matthew 2 (New King James Version)

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

The star led them to Jesus, but an epiphany warned them to stay away from Herod. An Epiphany epiphany.

The word epiphany comes from the Greek word meaning appearance or manifestation. We celebrate the day of Epiphany on January 6th as the final day of the twelve days of Christmas. Many people keep their decorations and lights up until this day to commemorate the Light of the World being made manifest on earth.

In all senses of the word, epiphanies are about the breaking of darkness by the sudden intrusion of light-power. That is what happens every time God appears. Yet in the sense that God is always there, perhaps it is more accurate to say that it happens every time we finally are ready to see the light.

The irony of the Epiphany is that the pagan astrologers saw what the religious scholars refused to see. Trapped in their ritual, expectation, scripture memorization, and endless arguments about doctrine, they missed the entire event, while the star-gazers got to see the Messiah.

Take a look around you. What is God trying to show you? Where is he shining a light on something in your life and yelling, “Pay attention to this!”

Epiphanies happen every day. God breaks into darkness every day. God sheds new light on bad situations every day.

Open your eyes, and behold.

The Hilton’s Epiphany star.

Having Epiphanies

Ever have an epiphany? Like, a really, really good one? I recall having an epiphany once about a toxic relationship I was in. For the longest time I had been blinded to the reality of it, following along and taking the negativity toward me as “personality-driven.” Every time something was said that made me wince, I wrote it off to the other person’s stress/having a bad day/quirky humor/maybe I heard it wrong. But I was hearing it right, and when the epiphany finally came that this relationship was causing me harm, I had to begin the painful process of extricating myself from the friendship.

An epiphany happens when we finally see the light. The word harkens back to the time in scripture when people literally saw the light, a star hanging over Bethlehem that lit the way to the manger and thus lit the way to the salvation of the world.

Matthew 2 (New King James Version)

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

The star led them to Jesus, but an epiphany warned them to stay away from Herod. An Epiphany epiphany.

The word epiphany comes from the Greek word meaning appearance or manifestation. We celebrate the day of Epiphany on January 6th as the final day of the twelve days of Christmas. Many people keep their decorations and lights up until this day to commemorate the Light of the World being made manifest on earth.

In all senses of the word, epiphanies are about the breaking of darkness by the sudden intrusion of light-power. That is what happens every time God appears. Yet in the sense that God is always there, perhaps it is more accurate to say that it happens every time we finally are ready to see the light.

The irony of the Epiphany is that the pagan astrologers saw what the religious scholars refused to see. Trapped in their ritual, expectation, scripture memorization, and endless arguments about doctrine, they missed the entire event, while the star-gazers got to see the Messiah.

Take a look around you. What is God trying to show you? Where is he shining a light on something in your life and yelling, “Pay attention to this!”

Epiphanies happen every day. God breaks into darkness every day. God sheds new light on bad situations every day.

Open your eyes, and behold.

The Hiltons’ Epiphany star.