God walks the dark hills

When I was a child, my mother shared about her experience on a mission trip to Mexico. During that trip, years before I was born, she accompanied the pastor and a few others from her church. As they walked a steep hill, heading toward a distant village, they seemed to feel the burden of great spiritual oppression. The pastor enjoined them to sing “God walks the dark hills”.

My mother occasionally sang this song in the church we attended when I was a child. She was the song leader for many years. When I recall this memory, I can see her face and hear her voice. She sang as one with experience. She sang as one who knew God. She knew him imperfectly, but she recognized the appearance of his character in the Scriptures and in the lives of disciples of Christ.

A few days before she died, I told my mother how I cherished the memory of her telling me about singing in Mexico. She gave a weak smile. As we planned her funeral, she asked that we include this song. As the service began, the congregation heard the classic recording of Vestal Goodman singing “God walks the dark hills”.

Sometimes the hills are awfully dark. It especially seemed that way when my mother died: a great light was taken from my life. The pain of sin brings scars. The separation of death, the stench of decay, the sting of every failure: all these are signs of mankind’s waywardness from God. Yet, those who have been redeemed by the Lamb have hope beyond the toil of this life. We mourn not as those without hope. We rejoice that all shall be well in the kingdom of God.

God walks the dark hills. Christ shows us the way.

What’s your plan, pastor?

What’s your plan, pastor?

As some of the COVID restrictions fall away, what’s your plan for ministering to your flock? Have you learned some things about ministry over the past year? Have you been reminded of important things you had been overlooking?

Did you have a sudden realization that there are aged, infirm, and other homebound people among your flock? Did you notice that the usual methods of communication weren’t reaching all of your people?

Perhaps you received a wake-up call. Maybe some problem was amplified in a way that you finally had to deal with it—or at least recognize its existence.

What’s your plan, pastor?

Will you fall into your old habits? If those are good spiritual practices, that’s great! But will you find new ways (or renew the older ways) of staying in touch with the people of your congregation? Will you reach out to those who are alone and can’t attend your services?

Are you ready to pastor a congregation with fewer people, giving fewer dollars, attending fewer activities? Are you ready to engage in Biblical preaching, sound teaching, and meaningful pastoral care in a greater degree than ever before?

What will be different in a good way? What will be different that will be hard to accept?

What’s your plan, pastor?

This article is part 2 of 2 in the series Small Church Ministry.

My battle scars

The scars I bear from battle didn’t come from explosives or being shot. They come from the pain of loss.

My scars come from the aching loss my soldiers endured when their buddies were killed. Seeing them—feeling them—with the weight of that loss was—is—a burden for me.

Some wanted a prayer; some did not. Some wanted a word of comfort; some wanted a hand on the shoulder, a caring presence.

I still grieve the losses I suffered, losses that came when my friends died in combat. My grief is compounded by knowing the grief of those I care about. This is my burden as their chaplain.