Scenario: Tables in the Valley

I expected to feed the birds, as one does upon hanging up a bird feeder; I did not expect to entice a variety of rotation. First came the chickadees, peckish and flighty. The house finches showed up next, one and then a dozen, alongside a striking but small woodpecker. Now, the sparrows seem to have domain – or, at least, have been added to the rotation of visitors. And I can’t help but to think of my own rotations of life…

The places I’ve been, the people I’ve known, the times I’ve been fed by strangers, the known and unknown hands looking out for me; and I wonder whom I have fed, known or unknown, like the birds gathering around my feeder, coming and going – I, not knowing where they are going, they, without a care as to where me or my feeder hailed.

Somewhere between sensitive transitions and numbing familiarity, we catch glimpses of heaven held by the fragility of perfect scenarios. Not perfect people or perfect circumstances but the brittle and glossy reflection of just the right moment, the right space, the right words, the lovelier hopes, the right table set – momentarily – right in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death (that is, in the middle of this thing called life).

The seasons, the weather, and the changes of life teach us that these moments don’t last. And how can they? We are not yet made new, in body and soul, present with our Creator; we are not perfected this side of glory (and anyone who claims so needs only to make the claim to prove the fault of their boast). People come and go. What once was lovely fades, if not falls flat down – sometimes by our own hands, sometimes by others’, and sometimes by the unknown or mysterious workings of time and spirit.

The bird feeder sits empty. The hand behind the feeder dies or moves away. The season pushes the birds en route elsewhere. Sylvester eats Tweety. The perfect scenario comes to an abrupt end.

The manager that held everything together takes another job. The pastor that splayed heart and soul for you, dies. The one you thought you’d love forever suddenly does you an ill-turn and leaves you abandoned. The small band of sisters you’d acquired dissolves into the busyness of middle-age. And everything changes.

I’ll admit, my prayers are all selfish of late; catching glimpses of heavenly light makes them difficult to pray. One-too-many perfect scenarios on rotation chastise and chase away all my woes – in remembrance of Him.

I’d love to tell you that I woke in the middle of the night to write these words under the perfect skies of the Northern Lights, but the truth is that I woke by the fright of the washing of the valley of death rolling over me. Getting up in the dead of night to do anything is uncharacteristic of me. Feeling waves of death and being compelled to write are far more characteristic – whatever the time. Even so, what blessed peace is mine!

When in remembrance of Him, my head and heart settle the matter once and for all: My Maker sets all of my tables – my time table, my bread table, and my scenario table. In such moments of remembrance, Jesus is my Prince of Peace, and I fear nothing – not time nor lack of it; not people nor lack of them; not my accomplishments or ambitions nor lack of them. For, in remembrance of Him, Christ reigns sufficient in all things, for all things, becoming all things unto me.

Because the table, like the feeder, is nothing.

It is He who sets the table in the valley that is everything.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me…” Psalm 23

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