Making Sense of Darkness

Today as we add filters of the French flag to our Facebook profile pictures, we read with horror all of the emerging details of the horrific  attacks in Paris yesterday.  We struggle to make sense of it all, and as humans we sometimes begin to question where was God?  How could he let this happen?  The simplest answer to this question is we just don’t know.

This made me recall a poem written by Grandpa Eber that I included in a post  called It Is Good – Eber’s Legacy back in August of 2014.  As we continue to pray for the people of Paris and all of the families affected and in need of healing, take a moment to glean some comfort from the word of this dear departed gentleman in the following excerpt from that post :

It Is Good…..God Called It So

How could God be so remiss

To put us in a world like this?

This world is evil, of little worth,

We’ve heard this said about the earth.

Why put us in this evil place,

Did this show lack of grace?

This we endure, it is our curse,

We think that nothing could be worse.

Are His motives then suspect?

Such thoughts we quickly should reject

If we remember as we should.

He formed the world, then called it good.

Goodness we should contemplate,

It shows His care and love so great;

Sunrise and sunset, sky so bright,

He gives us light, for he is Light.

He gives us such joys to bless our days,

We should respond with love and praise;

Created things we now applaud

And worship the Creator God.

When time shall end, He’ll show us more,

Still greater things He holds in store;

Then we will finally understand

This is what he always planned.

How did Eber know the world would look so hopeless just three short years after his death?  Christians are being exterminated in Iraq and other places, children are being gunned down in schools, women are being forced into sex trafficking, millions are being displaced or fleeing the violence in their homelands, and the threats of terror and violence are making people afraid to go about their daily lives.  It is probably human nature to question the why of it all and want God to explain and answer why he would allow such atrocities to happen.  We must put the blame for it all on SOMEONE.

It occurs to me that my generation is probably not the first generation to say the world has become a cold and hopeless place, how will humanity survive,  what possible future can my child have in a world like this?  We are seeing a lot of evil right now all around, but the generation before us dealt with the Cold War, Vietnam and segregation, and the one before that with World War II, and the one before that with the Great Depression, and the one before that with World War I, and the one before that with the Spanish-American War, and the one before that with the Reformation period and the one before that the Civil War — I could keep listing, going on and on, backward over the decades to list the tragedies and travesties that have been plaguing humanity since time began, not just here in the United States but across the globe.

These words of Eber’s followed by my thoughts from over a year ago strike me as being relevant today.  May we continue to try to be people of peace and light in a world that is struggling and dark.  As long as we have faith, hope, and love we can each in our own ways make this world a better place.  Our God sits on the throne, and he will conquer all evil.  The battles are being waged, but the war is already won.

Dear brothers and sisters in Paris, may the God of Light fill you with comfort and wrap each of you in his loving arms.  In the days and weeks to come may you begin to feel his healing balm in your lives.  As the apostle Paul said in Ephesians, Stand firm!  We must stand firm in our faith and stand firm in the promises of God.  Horrible things happen at the hands of other men, but God is the great Physician. Turn to him, let his healing begin to wash over the streets of Paris tonight.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and you healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. – Isaiah 58:8 (NSRV)

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Talking To Myself – Remembering Grandpa Eber

eber and cakeAugust 29, 1918 is a day that doesn’t have a holiday marked on it.  No historical feats are rememberd on that day.  The calendar by all accounts reflects this as just another day.  Our household, however, holds that date near and dear to our hearts.  Today marks the 97th anniversary of Grandpa Eber’s birthday.

It seems like only yesterday we were sitting next to him in our family pew at Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana, OH.  The dear gentleman attended this church almost his entire life.  The days have been quickly passing by and it doesn’t seem possible that he has been eternally home with his Lord and Savior for almost four years now.

Many things have changed in our lives since he went home.  This past month was an especially crazy one for our household filled with the busyness that comes when you move house.  This new homecoming has been especially sweet as we are just down the road from the house Grandpa Eber grew up in.  In a way, the prodigal son’s grandson has returned.  Home here just feels right knowing we are walking and driving the same roads he once knew so well.

We also cherish the memories of his hearty chuckle and the teasing twinkle he would get in his eyes.  Treasured moments we think back on and we recall many holiday meals spent in his company.  I will forever be grateful for his wise counsel that he gave on many occasions when we were riding in the car.

In reflecting upon this gentle giant of a man this evening I found among his poems a fitting piece to share with you as we honor his memory and celebrate his life story today:

Talking To Myself

You may listen in, but I’m talking to me, I marvel at all the things I see; beauty that meets the eye,  I prize, may soon be gone, I realize.

What a miracle is sight; the sunrise, and the sunset bright; and what we do between these two is surely up to me and you.

But I could shut the beauty out if I live my life with fear, and doubt.  Whatever the future I may face, may I live my life with faith and grace.

How marvelous the sounds I hear; great music that I hold so dear.  The sound of love from a friendly voice, life is so good, so I rejoice.

Is a little silent gloating allowed?  Of my family I am very proud; whatever their work, where-err their place, each one lives with style and grace.

Here I have been talking to me, I marvel at the things I hear and see; and in my life may I applaud the greatness of our loving God.

Don’t forget, I’m talking to myself, obsessed by beauty, not by wealth.  “Self” I say, “how can it be such good things are happening to me?”

-Eber S. Martin

eber birthdayA man who found great joy in the beauty of God’s creation all around him, Grandpa Eber was always filled with praise and thanksgiving.  If we could all see that same beauty that he saw in every thing and everybody, how blessed would our existence be?

Thank you Grandpa, for your constant encouragement.  Thank you for sharing your deep faith with me when mine was floundering.  We will always have you close to us in our hearts and memories, and look forward to the day when we can here you say, “Weellll then, who goes there? Is it you?  I hope it is you because it isn’t me!”, once more .

If We But Open Our Eyes To See

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O most high; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.  For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;  at the works of your hands I sing for joy.  (Psalm 92:1-4, NRSV)

Tonight my husband and I said goodbye to another dear face who has gone on to take up residence with his Lord and Savior.  A face I will greatly miss  that belonged to a sweet gentleman who enjoyed life here on this earth for  a little over 90 years and always added a bright light to my day when ever I had the pleasure of seeing him.  That seems like a long time in our human time reference frame, but to the heavenly realms it is really just the blink of an eye.

As children we spend our days wishing they would go faster so that we could be “old enough” for whatever our hearts desire was.  Old enough to go to school, old enough to sit in the front seat, old enough to drive, old enough to graduate.  These milestones seem to take an eternity to get to us and we wish that we could push a button that would speed time up.

Before we know it though, we are graduated from our childhoods and beginning the adult phase of our lives.  Managing careers, starting and raising families, and taking care of our homes become the focus of our days.  We get caught up in the rush of busy schedules and juggling finances trying to provide as best we can for the loved ones in our lives.  The days start to fly by in a frenzied blur making it hard to catch a breath as we careen down the road our life journey is traveling.  That is the stage that I am currently in.  As the days whirl by faster and faster I wish there was a button I could hit to slow time down.

I have been told by many that I need to treasure these crazy days because they will be passed before I know it and I will miss them.  Things like empty nests, retirement options, and end of life care decisions will need to be made.  Sweet memories of earlier times will provide warmth and comfort in our twilight years and are the blessed remains of our existence that help keep us warm as we reflect over the trials and tribulations we have experienced all the years of our lives.

Through all these stages of life, we have a willing constant companion who gives us unconditional love, unconditional guidance, and the promise of life to come.  We have access to all of this  if we choose to have a relationship with our creator and to be saved by accepting his son, Jesus, who was the ultimate sacrifice, into our hearts and lives.  We need to always remember that our loving God created us to live with joy and he wants us to take the time to savor and enjoy  all of his wonderful creations.

In the busyness of life, the mundane of everyday, we need to make sure we find the time to nurture this precious relationship with our Father above.   It is important to slow down and treasure all that we have been blessed with.  We need to give God thanksgiving and praise for all that he has done in our lives and in the world around us.  It is never too late to start!

How bright the light that brightens up our days!

We revel in such beauty, and give praise

To him who caused these wondrous things to be,

If we but open up our eyes to see.

The sunset comes with all its majesty

And may we in holy reverence be free

To see the darkness come, and without fear

As we lay down the things we held so dear.

And so, before the dawn we must have night

As we look forward to the wondrous sight.

By faith we go on in our trusting way,

And so we enter our eternal day.

– Eber S. Martin

It is Good – Eber’s Legacy

Today marks what would have been the ninety-sixth birthday of Eber S. Martin.  He is one of the sweetest and wisest men to have ever lived, in my humble opinion.  Eber lived life well, always saw the good (especially in people), and had an incredibly witty and punny sense of humor.  He was  an honest, God-loving man of integrity with a deep faith and a love of classical music.  In his later life he faced blindness caused by macular degeneration with great courage never allowing it to dampen his spirits or change his positive outlook on life.  I had the privilege and honor of calling him Grandpa because I married Eber’s oldest grandson.

Eber lead a relatively normal life similar to those of his generation.  He grew up in a loving Christian home, married a wonderful and spunky woman and raised a family with her, and in his twilight years retired to travel with her.  He expected to have a quiet, uneventful life in his golden years, but God works in mysterious ways.  God wasn’t done with him yet.  In his later years, Eber was inspired to write volumes and volumes of poetry.  Some are humorous, others pay tribute to people he knew or life events, still more show how he bravely accepted his diagnosis of macular degeneration as well as the inevitability of aging, but a great number of his poems are praise and thanksgiving to the loving God he served.  Eber’s poetry is filled with timeless truth and wisdom that is as relevant today as when he wrote the vast majority starting around the year of 1995.  Below is just one of many of the wonderful things he composed:

It Is Good…..God Called It So

How could God be so remiss

To put us in a world like this?

This world is evil, of little worth,

We’ve heard this said about the earth.

Why put us in this evil place,

Did this show lack of grace?

This we endure, it is our curse,

We think that nothing could be worse.

Are His motives then suspect?

Such thoughts we quickly should reject

If we remember as we should.

He formed the world, then called it good.

Goodness we should contemplate,

It shows His care and love so great;

Sunrise and sunset, sky so bright,

He gives us light, for he is Light.

He gives us such joys to bless our days,

We should respond with love and praise;

Created things we now applaud

And worship the Creator God.

When time shall end, He’ll show us more,

Still greater things He holds in store;

Then we will finally understand

This is what he always planned.

How did Eber know the world would look so hopeless just three short years after his death?  Christians are being exterminated in Iraq and other places, children are being gunned down in schools, women are being forced into sex trafficking, millions are being displaced or fleeing the violence in their homelands, and the threats of terror and violence are making people afraid to go about their daily lives.  It is probably human nature to question the why of it all and want God to explain and answer why he would allow such atrocities to happen.  We must put the blame for it all on SOMEONE.

It occurs to me that my generation is probably not the first generation to say the world has become a cold and hopeless place, how will humanity survive,  what possible future can my child have in a world like this?  We are seeing a lot of evil right now all around, but the generation before us dealt with the Cold War, Vietnam and segregation, and the one before that with World War II, and the one before that with the Great Depression, and the one before that with World War I, and the one before that with the Spanish-American War, and the one before that with the Reformation period and the one before that the Civil War — I could keep listing, going on and on, backward over the decades to list the tragedies and travesties that have been plaguing humanity since time began, not just here in the United States but across the globe.

Eber’s message here is so very vital and important!  God created good and isn’t responsible for the horrors we are seeing in the world.  The Evil one and the fallen race of man are the perpetrators, but God the Creator gives us daily reminders of hope and showers us with blessings to help us to live with joy.   We must choose to see and remember the good and trust our heavenly father.  There is an old hymn that Eber may have been thinking about when he wrote the poem above that says we will understand it better by and by, meaning that someday we will meet our Father in Heaven, and he will help us to see the why’s we are wondering about in the here and now.

On the beautiful fall day of September 20, 2011 we received a call, and with a very sad and heavy heart I made this post on Facebook:

today we lost a gentle soul who always had a kind word to say to everyone he met. he lived a simple life, happy in the knowledge that he had raised his family well, which was all the success he needed. a gentleman who aged with dignity and grace. even when his sight and hearing failed him almost completely he faced it bravely and put on a cheerful face. he has gone home to be with the lord and rejoined the love of his life. he will be greatly missed by all. we love you grandpa eber!

There is a very special place in my heart where Eber’s memory lives on.  He welcomed me into his family with open arms, accepted me as I am, helped me to become more comfortable in my own skin, and helped me find my way to Midway where I have been blessed with a wonderful and supportive church family.  He listened to my doubts and troubles and answered my questions about what being a Mennonite meant and what they believed.  Our family was blessed to be able to attend church and worship with him for the last years of his life.  Eber was present when my husband and I were baptised together and was the first one to stand to affirm us as members of the church, despite the fact that he was wheel chair bound (many thanks to the thoughtful person that was sitting next to him during the baptism that helped him stay steady on his feet).  I will never again in this life hear his wonderful deep chuckle, or hear him tell stories that begin with “Weeeelllllll” or tell about how he “ooched” too far, or that he spent the afternoon “sunning and making an ash out of himself”, but I know we will see him again someday.

Until then, I will continue to treasure the legacy he left us — his wonderful and  insightful poetry.

Eber