Sharing Life with Mom

Each day comes
With thoughts and news
Little things
To bring to you

Like gathering flowers
Picked as I go
I gathered them up
Waiting to show you

Funny or sad
Mundane or rare
Our daily existence
Always shared

Hearts intertwined
An unparalleled linked
Your fabric is mine
What I feel and think

A part of each other
Mother and child
Deepest connection
Melded for life

Agony now
Torn and raw
But enemy death
You are horribly wrong

This sacred love
It cannot die
It lives despite you
Separation’s a lie

Eternally bonded
My mother and me
Soon back together
You wait and see

I’ll be there with her
In paradise, home
Life everlasting
I’ll know and be known

Closer than ever
Death just a door
Into a new realm
More than before

Nearness unshackled
By sin and shame
Two souls communing
My loss is my gain

Only a breath
Between here and there
Until then collecting
Flowers to share

I’m gathering up, Mom
What I know you would like
How my family’s doing
What I’ve done with my life

You told me to write
To enjoy each new day
Good things are coming
You always would say

Grandchildren will bless you
Retirement, too
You and Daryl will prosper
You’ll see it’s true

Mama, I’ll cherish
Your words and your heart
Our special connection
Will carry me far

You’re now there waiting
To share with me
Your daily existence
In a land that is free

Unfettered devotion
Unexplainable love
You long to tell me
What it’s like up above

How Jesus has loved you
Just like I said
How every heartache
Every pain, every dread

Was gone in an instant
When you saw His face
Entering heaven
A miraculous place

I’ll be there shortly
My mother, dear friend
We’ll be together
Sharing life once again

June 20, 2021

The Enemy

Death is an enemy
With a dark, evil face
A crusty old demon
With insatiable taste

For blood and gore
And fear and pain
He strikes fatal blows
Then laughs in disdain

Death is the enemy
Evil his tool
Suffering his pleasure
By it he rules

Over all men and beasts
Over all living things
He crushes and jabs
Pierces and stings

But death fools himself
He does not know
His sinister plans
Have nowhere to go

He afflicts for a while
He sneers and scoffs
But his wicked schemes
Will soon be cut off

Flailing and grasping
Doing his best
To bring us to hell
Along with the rest

Of frail humankind
Caught up in the fray
Of selfish pleasures
And hedonist ways

Try as he will
For ultimate gain
There is another
With opposite aims

Jesus is life
Joy, hope and peace
He brought it all
To give us release

From death and his minions
From pain, fear and dread
He won the battle
Death is now dead

Glorious parade
Of final victory
Exposing the enemy’s
Blatant defeat

Death had been routed
His plans are displayed
As impotent failures
Temporary graves

God in the heavens
Now laughs at death’s tries
To steal his beloved
From under His eyes

No one can snatch them
Not even death
God has the last word
He holds every breath

He fashioned each life
His heart sets the time
Of our departure
From under these skies

His children can trust him
With each new day
He calls the shots
He has the last say

Into the heavens
Paradise home
We’re going soon
But not alone

Beloved companions
Family and friends
Waiting to meet us
When this era ends

God, our dear father
Jesus, his Son
Will run to embrace us
When our lives are done

Death is a demon
That thinks it has won
Ugly and sneering
Its time will come

Into the pit
Of stench and fire
Deserved retribution
For all his ire

Against all the chosen
But we are immune
From death’s devices
He’ll find out soon

We’ll be in heaven
He’ll be in hell
Goodness will rule
And all will be well

Her Light

When she died I died. Not literally, but in many ways.

The light went out. The light that had kept me warm.

Night and day that light was there to shine on me, bringing love and joy and encouragement.

And now it’s gone dark. But not literally.

In reality, her light is shining brighter than ever in a place where there is no night.

No shadow. No darkness at all.

Just light.

Where her light is subsumed in that greater light.

Of God.

Of love.

For a time I can no longer feel its warmth. That light that was with me all my life.

But it still glows. Ever brighter and clearer and fuller.

Just not here.

With me.

Which is all I can see.

So darkness hovers.

Just there.

Haunting.

Taunting.

Tempting to despair.

Her light would show me a better way. Even now.

Look up.

Can you glimpse her light there?

Somewhere?

Just out of reach.

Behind the veil.

Of tears.

And time.

This life of mine.

Treading on in spite of the absence of that light.

That love.

It’s left me.

But above it shines. So bright.

And one day that light will shine on me again.

When God Comes Near

When God comes near
He wounds you
You don’t get what
You expect

Ease and strength
Are absent
Disappointment
In their stead

Confused you ask
The question
Why does this
Hurt so much?

You went to Him
For comfort
But left wounded
By His touch

Jacob asked for blessing
But pain was the result
He wanted God to help him
But it ended in assault

Jesus asked for blessing
Remove this cup from me
The father denied his pleading
And hung him from a tree

When God comes near he wounds you
Ignores cries for relief
But in the end the blessing
Beyond what you can see

Jacob’s sons God honored
Forever to be seen
No way to know Jacob’s wounding
Would lead to prosperity

Jesus scorned and beaten
Undeservedly
But he knew what was coming
Life for you and me

When God comes near
He wounds you
When God comes near
There’s pain

But if you accept
The suffering and death
Your loss will be
Great gain

Grief

Grief invades

And overtakes

Barreling into

Each moment awake



Grief demands

Attention here

Plummets me

Into despair



Grief the bully

Reminding me

Of the one I’ve been

The ones I’ve known



What if I stood

Up from the earth

To which I’m bent

And searched



Is there something

In grief’s end

That can become

A friend?



A teacher?

A guide?

Leading me to

What’s deeper inside



Exquisite pain

Of all things lost

Jesus hanging

On the cross



Bowed there

For a time

In agony and grief

That was mine



Only to see

Grief ends

For you

For me



Grief now tender

As made new

It renders

Hope

This Little Light of Mine

Last night my Torbie cat, Georgia, attacked our sliding glass door. It’s not something she does a lot, but on occasion we have a visiting feline that she takes issue with.

When that intruder appears on the other side of the glass, she goes after it, however unsuccessfully.

But last night when I heard her scratch at the glass pane, I didn’t see the offending cat. Yet Georgia kept peering outside. I knew she saw something out there.

I got down on my hands and knees near where Georgia had stationed herself, trying to make out in the dim light what was under our patio furniture keeping her rapt attention.

Then I spied a furry lump in the darkness under a patio chair. I could tell it was breathing since the fur was moving up and down. That was no cat.

I called my husband to take a look. He opened the bright flashlight feature on his phone and that little creature scurried away like a shot.

In a split second I reacted and flew outside to follow it. It was nowhere to be seen. I halted and began to move stealthily from a chair to the ottoman to the other chair to the sofa.

Nothing.

We have covers on our outdoor furniture since it’s not quite warm enough to take them off, so I decided to chance it and shake the covers to see if anything would pop out.

That did the trick.

Out from under a chair hurried a large, gray thick-tailed, bug-eyed rat. It rushed across the patio and I screamed. It ran into the corner and up the fence.

I approached it and made some strange sounds. I thought I might make it leave our yard and head back into the forest, or from wherever it came.

But nope.

It scratched it’s way down the fence post and ran across the path right in front of me. I screamed again. It skittered across the rocks, under our rosemary bush and out of sight.

Loving the Light

Rats love the darkness and fear the exposure that the brightness of light brings. It can be the same with people.

Jesus said,

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.

John 3:19-21

The Light of the World came to dwell in us. To make our darkness light.  To shine out from within us to a hurting world.

John the Baptist was a burning, shining lamp that shone on the path leading to Jesus. (John 1:6-8; 5:35)

Jesus said that we, too, are lights that shine for him if we believe.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Gifts in the Light

My close encounter with the rat last night reminded me that we have nothing to fear from the light.

That little creature reacted by instinct. It assumed that exposure meant danger.

It had no way of knowing that I would not have harmed it.

Thankfully, the Bible never compares us to rats. But we sometimes act like they do, running from light that would help us, not harm us.

Forfeiting the joy and freedom of exchanging or darkness for light.

Ignoring the opportunity to be a shining, burning lamp that brings glory to God and pleasure from him.

Dear Jesus, give us the grace to come to you into the light. Shine your beams of love into our darkest places. Cleanse us and make our hearts into lamps that burn brightly for you. For your glory and for our good. Amen.

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