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.

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