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

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.