Harbors

The Lord is a harbor
A refuge for me
A corner of safety
In tumultuous seas

Before I met Jesus
Gentle Mother was there
Shielding from danger
With her tender care

The Lord used my Mama
To gather me in
She was the gateway
To comfort with Him

When I was rejected
Devalued and scorned
A shelter she offered
In her caring arms

The Lord is a harbor
My mother is, too
Together their kindness
Has carried me through

Upheavals and hardships
Raging waves of the sea
My days are not lacking
Pain and difficulty

In the midst of the heartache
What solace I’ve known
My Lord and my mother
Both calling me home

Gifts from the Father
Each thoughtful deed
Love in abundance
Lavished on me

I’ll ever be thankful
For compassion so sweet
The Lord and my mother
My shelters of peace

God is Smiling

God is smiling
As he stoops
To raise up
Those in need

With clear eyes
His focus fixed
Shining down
Joyfully

No cruel grudge
Will he bear
For the weak
Who cry out

Only mercy
Offers he
For their healing
And their doubt

Save us, Lord
People called
To King Jesus
As he passed

Bending down
Love he offered
As he took them
By the hand

Your belief
It has healed you
Enjoy my gift
Go in peace

My good pleasure
Is to bless you
Warms my heart
To set you free

Face of God
Ever cheerful
As he washes
Dirty feet

The Good Shepherd
Going after
Every wandering
Straying sheep

His merry heart
Happy bearing
Every pain
We endure

Arms of goodness
Gently holding
Little lambs
That we are

God is smiling
As he bends
His heart open
As we cry

Jesus waiting
Ever longing
To draw close
His precious bride

Solid Ground in Troubled Times

“On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”

These words arose in my heart this morning as I was praying and pondering the condition of our country. A global pandemic, civil unrest, violent political division, and economic uncertainty swirled around in my mind.

Our nation has wound itself up into chaos. On the heels of those thoughts emerged the confidence that even though sometimes the world appears ready to spin us right off into space, there is solid ground in Jesus.

The words I recalled are from the hymn, My Hope is Built. It was written nearly two hundred years ago, in 1834, by a man named Edward Mote when he was 37. He had already endured significant personal difficulties and national upheaval in his life.

Born in poverty to parents that were struggling pub owners, he was neglected and left to roam the streets of London.

His family rejected religion, but Edward became a Christian at 15 when he heard a preacher for the first time. Before that he said he was so ignorant that he did not even know that there was a God.

During his early years, he had witnessed the rise and fall of the Emperor Napoleon in neighboring France and England’s war with the newly formed American colonies.

Locally, there was civil unrest over unfair labor practices, and the mass exodus of citizens from the crowded English cities into rural areas, changing the British economy significantly.

As an adult, Edward made his living by cabinet making until he was 55. At that point, he was offered a position as a minister which he gladly accepted, leaving his successful cabinet business.

He became a beloved pastor who never missed a Sunday in 21 years, finally resigning from the church in 1873 due to failing health. He died a year later at the age of 77.

His headstone at the church where he served reads, “In loving memory of Mr. Edward Mote … the beloved pastor of this church, preaching Christ and Him crucified, as all the sinner can need, and all the saint desire.”

Supported in the Flood

“On Christ the solid rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.”

As I sang these words this morning, the first two verses bubble up into my mind. Then, wanting to sing the entire song, I looked up all the verses:

My Hope is Built

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
my anchor holds within the veil

His oath, His covenant, His blood
support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

I often wonder what event, joy or heartache inspires people to write songs. As I continued exploring the history around Edward Mote’s lifetime, I discovered something surprising. Something that we can relate to as we battle the ravaging COVID-19 worldwide pandemic.

When Edward wrote The My Hope is Built in 1834, the world was in the throes of a global cholera pandemic. It was the second such outbreak, the first episode beginning in 1817 and ending in 1824. The initial occurrence did not reach England, staying mostly in Asia, but the second one did.

The second bout began in 1826 and by the time it ended, it had taken hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide, hitting hard in Edward’s neck of the woods.

Between 1831 and 1834, cholera killed over sixty thousand in England where the population was fourteen million. Three subsequent outbreaks in Edward’s lifetime took the lives of hundreds of thousands more.

How Hope is Built

When uncontrollable events occur, such as a pandemic, hurricane, the unexpected death of a loved one, or the loss of a job, it feels like we are losing our footing. It seems like we are at the mercy of whatever is coming against us to devastate us. And in a way, we are.

God sometimes allows us to experience the true instability of the world and its systems. He will expose human frailty and limitations.

Traumatic and destabilizing incidents show us that the only eternally solid place on which to build our lives is Jesus and his teachings. Our only security in pandemics, poverty, unstable relationships, traumatic loss, or ungodly governments is in him.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Matthew 7:24-27

Who would have thought that in 2020, scientists and medical professionals would not be able to stop a disease from ravaging every continent?

To date, this novel coronavirus has killed almost 100,000,000 people worldwide. That is a difficult number to even begin to comprehend and the future consequences from those deaths are yet unknown.

The Solid Rock

What a gift Edward Mote gave the world during another devastating pandemic in 1834.

My Hope is Built tells the story of the formidable love of God through Jesus that carries us to safety.  It recalls for us the assurance and comfort we have through his protection, not only in the storms of this life, but forever.

We cannot put our faith in “progress”, doctors, vaccines, governments, social systems, or in ourselves. But there is hope! Lasting confidence, joyful anticipation of good, and profound comfort are found only in the person of Jesus and in building our lives on his words.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts…

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Darkness, Our Friend

In 2004 I walked through what some people might call a dark night of the soul.

Our family of four returned to California from crushing disappointment in Michigan after a failed business attempt. I struggled to understand.

Was it a mistake? We were sure that God sent us there to embark on new adventure for our family and with Christian friends.

A song by Jeremy Camp came out around that time. The chorus was,

 

I still believe in your holiness. I still believe in your truth. I still believe in your holy Word. Even when don’t see. I still believe.

 

I remember cry-singing these words to God as I lay face down on the cold tile floor in my bathroom. I spoke the words, but my heart felt like the tile under face where my tears gathered.

That failure and discouragement shook my lifelong paradigm that A + B = C. We follow God’s leading he is supposed to prosper us. If we obey, he blesses. That is what the Bible says, isn’t it?

When we returned to the safety of our home state of California, I could not wait to escape that cold, dark place my soul had become. I clamored for the security that is found in the light.

I ran to the safety of what one of my favorite authors, Barbara Brown Taylor calls “solar Christianity”. It is the relentless effort to brighten every dark and scary part of our existence, not permitting any dank corner of doubt or confusion to remain.

The church we ended up in had clearly designated lines of demarcation between light and dark. We implemented formulas that we were told were based on biblical truth. Do “this” and “that” will happen. Believe and speak the truth and all will be well. Tell the devil to flee and he will.

It was just what I craved in those murky days. But in hindsight, I’m not sure it was what I really needed.

When Darkness Remains

Doesn’t biblical truth include not knowing why things happen the way they do? Is there room for confusion and doubt to linger in our hearts instead of rushing them out the door? Does darkness have something to teach us if we would just let it sit and stay for a while?

The disciples that followed and loved Jesus could not comprehend that the ministry of their Teacher included the darkest day in history, where he was violently beaten and then crucified. They believed he came to save the world, but they were unable to see how the night of his death could be a part of that plan of salvation.

The glory of light is only appreciated after the darkness of night. Even as morning dawned on Resurrection Sunday to find Jesus had conquered the darkness of Good Friday, some of the nighttime remained. His closest friends saw him and touched him, but still did not comprehend his purpose.

Jesus chose not to speed them through their confusion and disappointment just because they were uncomfortable. But when the time was right many weeks later in that upper room in Jerusalem, the first of countless hearts were illuminated by the Holy Spirit who Jesus promised would guide his followers into the truth and reveal God’s mysteries.

We think of night and darkness as sinister and creepy. We fear what can happen in places where we have no idea what is around the next corner or even hiding right beside us. When we find ourselves in those places, we eagerly, sometimes frantically, plead for dawn or strain to see the light at the end of the tunnel so that we can escape.

But darkness existed before light did. Not only that, God chose not to eliminate the darkness altogether when he created the world. All he did was separated it from the light. (Genesis 1:2-5)

Why is that? Could it be that the dark periods in our lives, the times of confusion and disappointment, are just as necessary for our growth and eternal well-being as the times when all is bright? Isn’t it in the darkness that our senses are heightened and more attuned?

Seeing the Unseen

I rise early every morning, around five o’clock most days. I hear Georgia the cat meowing at my door hoping I will play fetch with her. It is dark at that hour no matter the season, but it is my favorite time of day.

Getting out of bed I do not turn on the light. I sit up, feel for my glasses and my phone on the side table. I reach out for my glass of water, hoping not to knock it over. That kind of fumble would force me to switch on the lamp to assess the damage and clean up, effectively ending my husband’s peaceful rest.

My sense of touch, hearing and even sight are leveraged as I strain to see what I cannot see, listen for signs of undisturbed sleep from my husband as I feel my way to the door.

If we are wise, we will similarly engage our spiritual senses during times in our lives when we do not understand what in the world God is doing. Normally, we turn on the light as soon as we can find it. But if we will allow the darkness to stay a while, we might find just what we need, even if it is not what we expect.

God does not promise that we will find the answers we seek while we are enveloped by the night seasons in our lives. We will bump into things and cause spills that need to be sopped up. But he tells us that we can find something much more satisfying. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most comforting scriptures in the Bible.

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Two verses later in Jeremiah 29:13 we read,

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

If we will pray and seek him In the dark times of our lives, we will not necessarily find straightforward answers, but we will find him. And when we find him, the longing for answers fades as we are enveloped in the light of the presence of him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The Promise of Everlasting Light

That’s what happened to the disciples. As they waited and prayed through their spiritual darkness, they were visited by tongues of fire resting on each of them. (Acts 2:1- 3) The Spirit of Light came to live in and with them, illuminating what was most important, transforming them into light bearers for our spiritually darkened world.

They finally had clarity about what God’s plan was, even if they did not have answers to every question and solutions to every problem.

The Lord did not eliminate all darkness from believers at Pentecost and he leaves us marinating in ours sometimes as well. He finds our uncertainty, and even our suffering, useful for reasons we may never fully understand.

But he promises that one day, when he has completed all he has planned for the earth, he will eradicate the night, and everything will be illuminated. He will be our Light and the only one we need.

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever”.

Revelation 22:5

Until that day, there are lessons to be learned as we grope and stumble in the night hours of our pilgrimage on earth.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me” – even the darkness is not dark to You, but the night shines like the day, for darkness is as light to You.

Psalm 139:11-12

So, we can walk on, even in the dark night of the soul, seeking to find and to know our loving God more deeply. To him our night is as bright as the day and he will guide us home.

 

Love

Love is longsuffering and kind

It does not envy or brag

Love is not arrogant or inelegant

It does not look out for number one

Love does not get exasperated easily

Nor keep a list of wrongs it suffers

Love is not happy with evil but

It rejoices when truth prevails

Love covers and protects

It believes the best

Love anticipates good

And always perseveres

Love never ends