Moonlight Limitations

Moonlight Limitations

“The Bible without the Holy Spirit is a sundial by moonlight.”

—Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899)

In the summer of 1991, Duncan and I travelled to Cody Wyoming to look at a piece of land down the south fork of the Shoshone River. At the time, we considered buying 13 acres that included a small house to help Young Life start a backpack program. Two YL staffers drove up from Colorado Springs to meet us and see the lay of the land. It is a stunning area, similar to Yellowstone Park.

As we stood on the lot, I thought about our own backpack trip in 1978. photo 1

The trailhead was just down the road. We had hiked from there over the mountains into the Greybull headwaters to fly-fish.

It was thick grizzly country, and I had a tiny can of mace.

It was also our honeymoon—and you guessed it—my husband picked the trip!



The Bible says, “Who is this coming up from the wilderness
 leaning on her beloved?”           (Song of Solomon 8:5)

photo 4

That would be me—sleep deprived and weary. How does one slumber with the thought of bears lurking? I also grew some whopping blisters on my heels the size of sand dollars. At certain points near the end of the trip, I did more than lean. My husband actually carried me across places in the river to keep my feet dry. Very kind.

Hypothetically speaking, if he had taken Song of Solomon 8:5 as a confirmation for an idyllic backpack honeymoon, he would’ve been reading by moonlight! 

A wilderness to him was a pristine area. To me, it was a desert experience. The same word can mean very different things.

I survived the honeymoon. photo 2

He didn’t mean to cause any trouble or hardship. He just wanted to fish!

Footprints in Sand

Next time we’d go here…


Back to the lot in Wyoming:  The current resident in the little house on 13 acres was an outfitter. He guided trips for people to hunt and fish in the backcountry. When we arrived, he was busy packing a string of horses with gear, food, tents and other provisions to set up a fishing camp. But it was late in the day.

The outfitter said he preferred to travel at night. “You can see quite a lot under a full moon.” He wouldn’t run into any other pack trains or have to back up on a narrow trail. I think he was a loner at heart.

“What about bears?” I asked, remembering my nights hunkered in the tent, with mace in hand. Bears were always a risk, he said. They tended to be more active when the hot sun went down. Still, he left anyway.

I pictured him and all the horses making their way through the dark forest by moonlight. I thought him very brave.

Historically, much of humankind has navigated spiritually by moonlight, so to speak. The Old Testament was written over centuries and there were prophets, but the average person didn’t have access to the Bible. Then came the silent 400-year period between the Old and New Testaments. Scripture passed through the ages by oral tradition and sacred scrolls.

Jesus entered the scene, and the New Testament was added. But Scripture was not broadly available until the 1450s when the Gutenberg Bible was printed. And even then, language barriers kept people from understanding the written Word.

Now Bibles come in all shapes and sizes, digital and printed, in many translations and countless languages. But we also have the Holy Spirit to help us understand Scripture. We are privileged beyond belief when you consider people of old!

Yet many of God’s own people don’t understand the important connection between the Word and the Spirit—the written Word and the fresh words of God. While it’s good to be grounded in Scripture, it’s not enough. We are in danger of our own mindsets without the creative guiding power of the Spirit.

Pastor Bill Johnson likes to say that God will not contradict His written Word. But He might contradict our understanding of it.

The Pharisees rigorously studied the Bible. They tithed religiously—even down to their spices. But their hearts were far from God, because they overlooked the heart and spirit of the words they read. They missed the significance of who Jesus really was, even as He stood before them.

Think of it this way. The letter of the law is foundational, but the spirit of the law determines the right application. In the same way, we need both the Bible and the Holy Spirit to understand God’s words to us.

The best part is how the Spirit makes the Word come alive. He can take an ancient passage and speak its truth and promises right into our present circumstances. And then you know an interaction with the living God has taken place.

Can you share a Scripture that the Holy Spirit made profoundly personal to you?


  1. One of my favs is psalm 41. God gave it to me before I went in to an operation that could have taken me out. Every thing in it was true, My family wanted me to die, I had small hope and was far from God, really. But in an audible voice, he told me I was ill but was not going to die, and then he gave me that. And just because He is who he is, he brought me thro it. He has done that at various crisis of my life-there have been many.

    Another is Joshua 1v5, a personal promise to me-me who am full of fear. He knows and he understands, but getting rid of it is so hard. Its so very hard. I appreciate prayers to help me in that. It must go, but its part of my DNA so its going to take a miracle.

    I know its not a bible quote, but I love the adage of the footprints, but a little different, the foot prints were where I walked with you- the long groove is where I dragged you for a while! Yep, most of my Christian journey He has dragged me thro it, and I am so grateful.

  2. The one in Proverbs about seeking refuge in a high tower. i was painfully hurt by my husband at the time– infidelity (“the toddler” in my book, that guy) and didn’t think i could handle the torment of ache. then god actually lifted me up in the spirit to that tower and i could see the situation from there, and was completely free of emotional pain. i watched and was detached and received holy medicine to enable me to come back down and stay removed, not take it personally, you know?
    suzee B

    • Dear Suzee…Yes, I do know what you are talking about. Seems like only God can supernaturally lift that kind of pain and betrayal. Thanks for sharing this… S

  3. I remember during my 6 years of infertility being full of pain and sorrow and one more time crying out to the Lord. I flipped open my Bible and said, “Please Lord speak to me.” And He did. My eyes landed on the verse: Psalm 113:9 which says “He will establish the barren woman in her home as the happy mother of children!” Now, 20 years later, I have four adopted children and praise my Lord for His faithfulness!!!

  4. I am going to try to find suzee B’s scripture about the high tower in Proverbs… I was also struggling with similar pain. I went to my front porch to watch the sunset, hoping for some relief. The sun was so bright I could not look toward it and finally went inside to my scriptures. Every page I turned to mentioned the sun. I eventually settled on the scripture that spoke to my heart, Isaiah 60v20… and I have discovered other verses of solace in Isaiah 60 since that day.

    • Thanks for sharing your verses, Renon. The sun could be symbolic of a new day that God has for you. I had to print the verse you settled on because it is truly amazing. Isaiah 60:20

      “Your sun will no longer set, nor will your moon wane for you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be over.”

  5. Those pictures are beautiful. Love them! 🙂