But By His Grace: Let Love Be Heard

The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.
— J. R. R. Tolkien from The Fellowship of the Ring

Worldwide. a tsunami of tears overflows in households and communities as COVID-19 wreaks physical and economic havoc in hundreds of thousands of lives. We experience deep sadness and grief when older folks with health conditions are taken by a virulent pneumonia within a matter of days, often dying without a familiar face nearby. And there is no end to our distress when up to 40% of hospitalizations are for younger victims of the virus, most of whom survive, but too many don’t and won’t.

Our sorrow fills a chasm so deep and dark that it is a fearsome thing to even peer from the edge, as so many of us do, praying for far-flung family and friends to remain healthy and unable to be of any direct assistance even if they become ill.  We join the helplessness of countless people in human history who have lived through times that seem unendurable.

We don’t understand why inexplicable tragedy befalls good and gracious people, taking them when they are not yet finished with their work on earth.  From quakes that topple buildings burying people, to waves that wipe out whole cities and sweep away thousands of people, to a pathogen too swift and powerful for all the weapons of modern medicine,  we are reminded every day – we live on perilous ground and our time here has always been finite. We don’t have control over the amount of time, but we do have control over how our love is heard and spread.

There is assurance in knowing we do not weep alone; Our Lord is acquainted with grief.  Our grieving is so familiar to a suffering God who too wept at the death of a beloved friend, and who cried out when He was tasked with enduring the unendurable.

There is comfort in knowing He too peered into the chasm of darkness;
He willingly entered its depths to come to our rescue with His incomparable capacity for Light and Love.

This year’s Lenten theme for Barnstorming:

God sees us as we are,
loves us as we are,
and accepts us as we are.
But by His grace,
He does not leave us where we are.
~Tim Keller

Angels, where you soar
Up to God’s own light
Take my own lost bird
On your hearts tonight;
And as grief once more
Mounts to heaven and sings
Let my love be heard
Whispering in your wings
~Alfred Noyes

A Last Great Splash of Light

The sun came up chased by dogs
Across a field of snow.
As they passed the pile of broken logs
Frost fluttered in the air
Between the birch trees
Standing in that spot exactly
Where the ridge becomes a hill.

The sun goes in animal delight
Over the farthest edge of earth
Not far ahead of night
And jumps into the dark pool
With a last great splash of light.
~Tom Hennen from “Winter, Thirty Below with Sundogs” from Darkness Sticks to Everything. 

Winter reduces me to my elements:
light/dark
chilled/warm
hungry/sated
empty/filled
sleep/awake
gray/gray.

It is a holding pattern of endurance, awaiting a sun that will linger longer, arrive earlier, and actually be felt, not just apparent in the distance.

I pray for a dawn or twilight splashed with color.
Lord, any imaginable splash of color will do.

Fading Away

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photo by Kate Steensma

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Through the ample open door of the peaceful country barn,
A sun-lit pasture field, with cattle and horses feeding;
And haze, and vista, and the far horizon, fading away.
~Walt Whitman “A Farm-Picture”

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When the light rises on the hills,
slowly fading the haze of a late summer morning,
I feel the veil lift enough
that I am able to see
far beyond my reach or grasp.
The horizon extends on and on forever
and I will endure another descent into winter.

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Called to Advent–enduring


We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it, when we are slandered, we answer kindly.
1 Corinthians 4:12

I wear several different types of gloves in my personal and professional life. At home, every day, as I prepare for barn chores I pull on old work gloves with holes and rips that still manage to protect my hands from blisters and briers as I shovel manure and lift hay bales. During the cold winters, I wear soft mittens when I venture outside. During gardening season, gloves keep my hands and fingernails from getting so grimy that I can’t scrub them clean afterward. During blackberry picking season, I wear protective gloves to help reduce the scratches and pokes from the thorny vines. At work, I don disposable plastic gloves many times a day as I palpate rash lesions, open up abscesses, sew up lacerations, probe orifices. Gloves protect me but also protect my patients.

There are times I wish I could pull a glove over all of me when it is a struggle to endure what life dishes out, when I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, or stretched by responsibility, or worn thin by worry. I know in my heart there is no glove that can buffer me more effectively than His Word. The knowledge of His faithfulness is protection enough to help me endure the hard times.

Then what I put on is holy, but unlike my old well-worn work gloves, this holiness inspires my work to change the world, one shovelful, one trench, one basket of fruit, or one hurting patient at a time.

You can endure change by pondering His permanence.
Max Lucado


Christians are supposed not merely to endure change, nor even to profit by it, but to cause it.

Harry Emerson Fosdick