By Charlie Johnston
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 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.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
I am suddenly inundated with messages asking me whether it is safe to travel to such and such a place at such and such a time. My counsel on this has remained consistent since I started this site: use normal prudence, live your life, and trust God.
I have said that the primary reason we got to this situation is because we think we are sufficient to ourselves. It is a contradiction to decide you are going to use spiritual information to devise a temporal plan to escape the consequences we all face. I understand the instinct, for I often did it when I was scared enough. And with all the information I have been given, every time I used this sort of information to try to protect myself, the Lord sharply rebuked me. I learned. The last time I failed in this was in 1996.
There was a time a decade ago when both my son and a brother of mine were in what I knew would be site of a disaster. Every nerve in my body wanted to warn them to get out, but I did not, for I knew to give them special warning might get them injured or killed. I trusted God. The trust was well placed.
If you are frantically trying to come up with a plan to protect yourself beyond normal prudence, you do not trust enough yet…and God will have to give you special attention. Use normal prudence, live your life, and trust God. He knows where you are and what you need.
My travel arrangements have not changed. I will keep doing what I am doing until I can’t any more – and then will do whatever comes next. God knows where I will be, what I will need, and what He will want of me. I will figure it out when I get there.
The only safe way to traverse the valley of death is to walk with confidence straight down the middle, trusting that the Lord really is your shepherd.
When I was in Las Vegas, I asked my host to drive me down the strip just once. I figured since I was there, I ought to see it that once. Also, I never really know how I am going to react to a city until I am there, regardless of what I have read about it.
I was largely indifferent…neither repulsed nor enthused…though I did feel a strange feeling of sadness. I had to ponder about what it was that made me so. After a bit, I realized that it all felt impoverished to me, which was a strange reaction. I pondered that for a while and, suddenly, it came clear. Las Vegas is all gilding and no lily. It IS impoverished – and it is a standing metaphor for what our culture has become: all gilding and no lily. There is a replica of the pyramids there, but it is not a pyramid. There is a replica of the Eiffel Tower, but it is not the Eiffel Tower. There are all sorts of replicas that seek to imitate triumphs elsewhere with added glitz. All gilding, no lily. People yearn for the lily.
In early August, I will attend the St. Thomas Aquinas Society’s annual conference in Colorado Springs. This year’s theme is “Jesus, King of All Nations.” It runs from August 4-7. I will not be speaking there, but I have become friends with the woman who puts it on every year, Therese Lorentz. There is no charge for the conference – and they always have over a thousand there. She raises the money for it throughout the year. She runs a huge silent auction which helps fund the conference.
It is a marvelous conference. I will be in and out that weekend, but I will be hanging around. Hope to see you there.