“. . . shriveled on their bones.”


“Now they lie unknown in the streets, their faces blackened in death; their skin, dry as wood, has shriveled on their bones.” (Lamentations 4:8)

A few years ago Patti and I were traveling across the country and spent a day in Death Valley, California.  I have never seen or experienced an environment as harsh as Death Valley.  The day we visited the temperature hovered around 112 degrees.  At one point we parked the car and set out hiking through a narrow canyon.  We didn’t get very far before we realized that if we didn’t make it back to the car pretty quickly we’d be in big trouble.  We carried water with us but the heat was so brutal that it felt like the skin was literally shriveling on our bones.  The water was evaporating so fast from our skin that we couldn’t get water in quickly enough to avoid the early signs of sickness.  The scenery in the canyon was beautiful and inviting, but the secret harshness of its heat literally threatened to make us sick and even kill us before we ever knew what was happening.

I thought of that Death Valley experience this week after Patti lost her wallet at a restaurant we were visiting.  She took her wallet out to show her pictures of our new granddaughter and left it lying on the table.  When she got up to leave she unknowingly knocked it off the table and only noticed it was missing the next day.  Fortunately, the restaurant staff found the wallet and had it for us when we called.  I stopped to pick up the wallet and gave the young man who had found it a cash reward.  I complimented him for his honesty and took the wallet home to Patti.  She checked and said all her cards were there ——- but ——- all her cash was missing.  My heart sank, not because of the loss of the cash, but because of the disappointment with the young man I had rewarded.  He is the reason I began to think about my day in Death Valley.

Does he realize that there is a silent killer sucking the very life from him?  Is he still conscious of the unhealthy decisions he’s making or has he repeated his offenses to the point that he has in the words of the old spiritual, “a sin-sick soul”?  I prayed for the young person because if they are still conscious of their sin they must be really hurting after I retrieved the wallet and gave them a cash reward.  I prayed that even though our paths might never cross again, this young person might be called to repentance, healing, and a change of behavior before their brokenness, their sin, has the opportunity to suck the very life out of them.  If they have repeated the offense enough times that they have arrived at the state of a “sin-sick soul” then I pray that something might startle them awake so they might receive the healing grace of Jesus Christ. 

I think secret, hidden sin is the most dangerous because it has the opportunity to steal our lives while we pretend that nothing is wrong.  That’s why Lent is so important.  It provides a time for us to use the courage available through God’s Holy Spirit to be mindful of our sin, and seek healing for our sin.  I pray that God will help me be mindful of my sin and seek healing in Jesus.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Gary Nelson
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

My new book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at and

Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”

~ by revgenelson on March 6, 2013.

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