Last month we celebrated our son’s engagement at a brewery in the Alger Heights neighborhood of Grand Rapids. Under the laughter and my lavender-infused cocktail I noticed a flier with the weekend specials. One side featured a beautiful poem that captures the essence of hope. This event occurred the same weekend that we had the special privilege of watching the baby birds which we had observed on our deck over the summer from egg to maturity, fly away from the nest.
A brood of Eastern Phoebe was raised high up in the corner of our deck. We watched over the course of a month as these brown-and-white songbirds outgrew the nest.
Songs for the People
- Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Let me make the songs for the people,
Songs for the old and young;
Songs to stir like a battle-cry
Wherever they are sung.
Not for the clashing of sabres,
For carnage nor for strife;
But songs to thrill the hearts of men
With more abundant life.
Let me make the songs for the weary,
Amid life’s fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
And careworn brows forget.
Let me sing for little children,
Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
To float o’er life’s highway.
I would sing for the poor and aged,
When shadows dim their sight;
Of the bright and restful mansions,
Where there shall be no night.
Our world, so worn and weary,
Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.
Music to soothe all its sorrow,
Till war and crime shall cease;
And the hearts of men grown tender
Girdle the world with peace.
A prolific writer, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper published many collections of poetry. Born in Baltimore in 1825, the only child of free African American parents, she was orphaned at age three and raised by her uncle. She grew to become a respected teacher, journalist and activist.
As a young woman, she embarked on a career as a traveling speaker on the abolitionist circuit. She helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad and wrote frequently for anti-slavery newspapers, earning her a reputation as the mother of African American journalism.
Engraved portrait of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper from The Underground Railroad by William Still. (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
I was not familiar with her until finding Songs for the People at our Brass Ring Brewing table. Subsequently, I found Watkins Harper's works on slavery very moving. When I read Bible Defense of Slavery, The Slave Auction and The Slave Mother I can’t help but mentally substitute Abortion into each of those titles, seeing the unborn children targeted for abortion as the subject.
From the Library of Congress, Sacred Land Regained: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and The Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth A Lost Poem by Donald Yacovone of The Massachusetts Historical Society:
“Her poetry [also] appeared in the antislavery press and was sung as hymns at abolitionist meetings and conventions. The following antislavery hymn, Freedom's Battle, a-version of Be Active (1856), has never been reprinted and is not discussed in the growing body of Harper scholarship. The poem's strength rests on its appeal to conscience and the Christian imagery that would have spoken with equal force to blacks and whites.
Onward, ye Sons of Freedom In the great and glorious strife; You’ve a high and holy mission
On the battle-fields of life.
See Oppression's heel of iron Grinds a brother to the ground, And from bleeding heart and bosom Gapeth many a fearful wound.
On my blighted people's bosom Mountain loads of sorrow lay; Stop not, then, to ask the question, Who shall roll the stone away?
O be faithful, 0 be valiant, Trusting not in human might, Know that in the darkest conflict God is on the side of right.”
Room to smite the earth with cursing, Room to scatter, rend and slay, From the trembling mother’s bosom Room to tear her child away; - Lines by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
The nest, early summer (left) and late summer.
On Friday we moved our youngest child into her college dorm. It was a beautiful day full of energy and anticipation. Before arriving, her father and I both had our moments, overwhelmed by emotion as this day had finally arrived.
Six days before she embarked on this new adventure, Bella made a public profession of her Christian faith at the congregation where she and her siblings attended. It was such a joy to see her and two young men from her congregation be baptized.
What a beautiful beginning to a wonderful week! Bella, we’re so grateful for your decision to commit your life to the LORD and be immersed in front of your local body of Messiah (full service below).
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’ No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:31-39
We love to spend as much time as we can outside. Here are some favorite photographs I took in the past month of God's awesome creation. When I think of the beauty and complexity of the universe and everything it it, I am reminded of the apostle Paul's words to the Athenians in the first century:
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. - Romans 1:20
WHAT IS THE JOHN 10:10 PROJECT?
Contrary to wishful thinking, the Christian life isn’t a free pass to Disneyland. In reality, it can often seem more like a minefield laced with fear, disappointment, anxiety and doubt. Yet, in John 10:10 Jesus promised anyone who follows him the opportunity to know an “abundant” (i.e. blessed, satisfying, meaningful) life.
Now, he didn’t say this abundant life would be circumstantially easy (check out the apostles in the book of Acts: tortured, imprisoned, crucified). But Jesus did offer us genuine hope, joy, purpose and inner peace that surpasses all understanding – even when our roof leaks like a sieve or one of our friends battles cancer.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. - John 10:10
So, how do we experience this abundant life when everyday life is often so difficult? Many ideas have been proposed and the best seem to share a similar conclusion: the better we know Jesus, the more we’ll trust him. Trust leads to faith, and faith leads to a life empowered and enriched by the Holy Spirit. The films that comprise THE JOHN 10:10 PROJECT were produced to help nurture a deeper understanding of God. Each 4-10 minute video explores a facet of the Lord’s character, promises and power. Think of them as small stepping stones on your pathway to a more abundant Christian life. Each film in this collection is structured for use in personal devotions, Bible studies, outreach and corporate worship.
Check out The John10:10 Project HERE