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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, June 16, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 84           

How lovely is your dwelling place,
   O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
   for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
   to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
   and the swallow a nest for herself,
   where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
   my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
   ever singing your praise.

Happy are those whose strength is in you,
   in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca
   they make it a place of springs;
  the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
   the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
   give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God;
   look on the face of your anointed.

For a day in your courts is better
   than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
   than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
   he bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
   from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
   happy is everyone who trusts in you. (NRSV)

When have you gone through the valley of Baca and made it “a place of springs?” For me it happened in the spring of 1985. I was graduating from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music with my bachelor’s degree and had nowhere to go next. I had made the mistake of only applying to one graduate school, Eastman, and had not been accepted. So as everyone else was moving on to graduate school or gainful employment, I had neither. All I had was a couple of part-time jobs that were putting me through college and no good options ahead. It felt really awful, even humiliating; I was looking at the “valley of Baca.”

It forced me into a time of discernment, seeking what really mattered in my life. I had thought I wanted to be a concert organist, but with God’s help I realized my true calling was to be a pastoral musician and work primarily in the church. So when it came time to audition for graduate schools again, I applied to programs that had a strong emphasis on music in the church. In the second round I was accepted to the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and was never so fulfilled and happy. The whole experience completely changed the course of my life for the better.

We all face a valley of Baca at some point, somewhere in our lives. Maybe it is with the loss of a job, a relationship, or the death of a loved one. When we encounter that valley we need to journey through it, set aside time to listen for God, and trust that God will bring new life out of any challenge. If we listen for the word of the Lord, be open to where the Spirit is leading, and then actively go where the Spirit is leading, that valley of Baca in our lives can lead to renewed life, fresh awareness, and dancing with joy.

Lord, when I see nothing but the valley of Baca, help me listen for your voice. Help me walk through that valley so I may see how truly lovely your dwelling place is, O Lord of hosts. Amen.

Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music

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