Dusty wind bent the tired old trees,
Their few remaining leaves turned upside down;
The air smelled of heat and pain.
Long winding river beds slept;
Deep wells drew empty buckets,
While brown grass held tight to cracked soil.

Dark shadows raced to beat the sun,
Churning and rising in power,
Their anger provoked by the dead.
The heavens grew in sorrow,
As thunder boomed from a great distance,
Fuming at the condition below.

The heartland was lost and decimated,
So desperate for living water
It no longer remembered the taste.
The ground shook; the Iight flashed;
The cursed sun swallowed up in wrath,
And the clouds wept.

Behind the lines

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:37-38).


mourning-360500_1920It was hard to leave you this way,
I’d lost all feeling and didn’t know what to say,
They lowered you and filled in the dirt.
Conversations are harder now,
I can hear your voice, but my words won’t come out,
So I lay down by you on the ground.

Another person called,
They said they would pray,
I’m not as numb, but miss you each day,
I’m still learning who I am.

I found some things to give away,
You wore this black dress when we had special dates,
So I held you one more time and danced.
One mile beyond your grave,
I realized I drove your way,
So I held tight to memories.

They lowered me right beside you,
I reached for your hand just like I used to do,
I tried to cry, but had no more tears.

Behind the lines

I shed a lot of tears thinking and writing about the topic of losing a spouse because I’m very close to my own. My wife and I will be celebrating our 17th anniversary March 16th and I’m thankful for her and the growing love we share.

The grief that comes from losing a spouse (or family member) is hard to capture in words. I wrote the above before finding this R.C. Sproul, Jr. post describing what he has learned one year after his wife passed away. I’ve included the link because I think it adds context to the sadness and thoughts I’ve expressed. Here’s a second link to a post he wrote soon after she died.

Though great grief and emotion may overtake us, those in Christ do not grieve as if there is no hope. There is hope in Him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Jesus wept (John 11:35) because of the grief death brings and the Bible tells us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). When someone is grieving the best we can do is pray for them, love on them, cry with them, and point them to where our only Hope is found.

Where is your hope found?

If you are grieving may the Lord Jesus Christ draw you near.


stations-of-the-cross-712001_1920Where is God in suffering?
Should I have joy through this pain?
Will my heart fail in Your hand?
In Your hand…

If I pray for healing now,
And death still comes, will I doubt?
Will I turn and fall away?
Fall away…

Reveal the cross and what it cost,
The Suffering Son,
Your only Son,
Remind me of the greatest love,
The Suffering Son,
Your only Son.

Am I forsaken like Christ?
Can I demand a painless life?
Father, where are You?
Where are You…

Does this anguish have an end?
Will the Son come back again?
Does joy spring from suffering?

Remedy for sin,
The only Hope for man,
Broken by Your hand,
By Your hand…

Behind the Lines

Does joy spring from suffering?

Repentant believers find great joy in the cross and resurrection (where Christ suffered and atoned for undeserving sinners and then conquered death and sin). So, yes, our joy comes through His suffering by the grace of God.

But what about our own sufferings? Are we to rejoice through our struggles and trials? What does scripture say?

Let’s look at three passages (as pointed out in Tim Chester’s book You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions):

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV)

Chester writes: “What is striking about these passages is the way they all begin with a call to rejoice. We can rejoice in suffering when (when) we make the connection between suffering and growth.”

He makes two points about our struggles (and suffering):

1. “God uses our struggles” (for our good and to conform us to Christ).

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29 ESV)

2. “God not only uses our struggles, he promises to bring them to an end.”

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4 ESV)

If we are angry at God for our suffering where shall we go?

Shall we abandon Him for something less, something artificial, something we think we can control? Shall we curse God and die? Or, do we find answers through the lens of the cross, the lens of scripture, and the lens of our future hope in the resurrection?

Joy in the midst of suffering is only possible through Christ and the Holy Spirit within us.  For our Joy is not dependent on our circumstances. If we are in Christ, we can rejoice and say with Paul:

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 ESV)”

Is this true of your life?

The Long Night

stations-of-the-cross-712001_1920The sky bled like the Holy One,
“It is finished,” the day was done,
The Mourning Light had gone away.

The dew sat down for a long cry,
An evening song of woe arrived,
The sounds of His death were replayed.

Evil whispers deceived the wind,
The darkness howled, “This is the end,”
The long night had covered the Day.

That evening with tears in the dark,
They prepared Him with broken hearts,
The horrors of the cross still weighed.

They laid Him on the stony ground,
Tears and spices and linen bound,
They said, “Good-bye” and walked away.

The dew sat down for a long cry,
An evening song of woe arrived,
The sounds of His death were replayed.

Evil whispers deceived the wind,
The darkness howled, “This is the end,”
The long night had covered the Day.

A new sky would arise,
The dew’s tears soon would dry,
A new sky would arise…
Rise like the Son,
Rise like the Son.

Behind the lines

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him (Matthew 27:57-58 ESV).

Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:39-42 ESV).

Final Plea


Holy, Everlasting Father,
Please hear this final plea,
Through the Living Mediator,
Broken I come to Thee.

Precious Savior, You know my heart,
You know about this pain,
You planned this from eternity,
Long before You were slain.

I may not see the next hour,
For You give ev’ry breath,
I do not know how much longer,
But there is certain death.

So take away this sickness, Lord,
Take away sin’s disease,
And may Your will be done once more,
This is my final plea.

Thank you for giving life to me,
Thank you for daily bread,
But most of all thank you for grace,
And the blood that You shed.

Lord, lay me down in green pastures,
Raise me up on that day,
For I will be healed forever,
Because You once were slain.

Behind the lines

We all face death unless the Lord returns, but we don’t know when either will take place. This hymn is a final plea for a broken and worn out body.  We will succumb to the disease of the fall of man. Suffering and a final breath will come to us, yet there is hope in Christ (the second Adam). Those in Christ will experience a future state of healing, restoration, and joy because of what He has done.

Until that final day and future state of complete healing may we  serve Him faithfully and cling to the promises we have in God’s Word. May we say with the Psalmist:

Let my cry come before you, O LORD;
give me understanding according to your word!

Let my plea come before you;
deliver me according to your word.
(Psalm 119:169-170 ESV)

If you have an opportunity for a final plea what will you pray?

Sad Song of Lament


Tears have been my portion,
Feeding me night and day,
They keep saying, “Where is your God?”
Then their words melt away.

Sighs have kept me breathing,
Filling my lungs with fear,
As they whisper, “Where is your God?”
Yes, why is He not here?

Soul, where is your Hope found?
Oh, why are you cast down?
Why do you wrestle with worry?
Soul, is He not worthy?

Tears taunt me, “Hope is drowned”,
Crushed under their great waves,
God, why have you forgotten me?
Will You not come to save?

Sighs tell me, “keep mourning,”
As I struggle to breathe,
God, why have you forgotten me?
When will all my fears leave?

Soul, where is your Hope found?
Oh, why are you cast down?
Why do you wrestle with worry?
Soul, is He not worthy?

Lord, send Your light of truth,
Lift praises up from me,
Come shout news of exceeding joy,
My only Hope is Thee.

Behind the lines

Based on Psalms 42 & 43, this song reminds us the Christian life is not always happy and joyful with a Sunday best smile. We will have times where we feel distant from God. There will be days of tears, sadness, depression, and grief.

Even when overwhelmed by our circumstances, even when we feel a great distance from God, He is still there. Remember what Christ has done, remember the gospel. Remember Romans 8:28. Remember these Psalms for He is our only Hope. He is our Salvation!

An interesting note:  These two Psalms are actually two halves of a single Psalm and many early manuscripts put them together.  This is evident in the common refrain that unites them (42:5, 11, & 43:5):

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (ESV)

Anne Steele – A Hymn Story

This “Hymn Story” highlights the life and works of Anne Steele (1717-1778). Anne was one of the first significant female hymn writers and she wrote 144 of them. One my favorites is When I Survey Life’s Varied Scene and I’ve included it below.

Enduring much hardship in her life, Anne’s hymns are most known for laments that encourage us to trust God through difficulties. This particular hymn offers hope and brings powerful praise by focusing on His grace in the midst of struggle.

There is controversy surrounding her story, but shouldn’t every good story have a little controversy? Hymnary.org is one source that provides the following details of her life:

“Anne Steele was born at Broughton, Hampshire, in 1717. Her father was a timber merchant, and at the same time officiated as the lay pastor of the Baptist Society at Broughton (England). Her mother died when she was 3. At the age of 19 she became an invalid after injuring her hip. At the age of 21 she was engaged to be married but her fiancé drowned the day of the wedding. On the occasion of his death she wrote the hymn “When I survey life’s varied scene.” After the death of her fiancé she assisted her father with his ministry and remained single.

Despite her sufferings she maintained a cheerful attitude. She published a book of poetry “Poems on subjects chiefly devotional” in 1760 under the pseudonym “Theodosia.” The remaining works were published after her death, they include 144 hymns, 34 metrical psalms, and about 50 poems on metrical subjects.” (Source Link)

However, Kevin Twit of Indelible Grace cites several sources that counter the above in producing this work for an Anne Steele Hymns Seminar:

“She was thrown from a horse and injured when she was 19, but makes no mention of this later in her diary and it is not true (as some have reported) that she was an invalid for life from this injury. It has been widely reported that when she was 21, she was engaged to Robert Elcomb, but that the day before the wedding he was drowned while bathing in a river! However, while he may have been courting her, they were not a day from their wedding when this tragedy occurred. In fact, she had numerous wedding proposals after this (including one from Baptist pastor and
hymnwriter Benjamin Beddome) but she chose a life of singleness.

Her stepsister had a difficult marriage and this may have influenced Anne’s decision, but she also felt that singleness provided her the opportunity to serve the Lord in other ways. Had she chosen to become a busy pastor’s wife she may not have been able to write so many poems and hymns. So, she lived with her father and stepmother, who cared for her health problems, and who fixed her an elegant room with a fireplace to write her poems. She assisted her father in his pastoral labors, although for the last 9 years of her life, she was never able to leave her bed.”

Even if this hymn is not a direct result of her brokenness over her fiance’s death, it still reveals a wounded heart seeking comfort and healing from the Great Physician. It also provides a great reminder for us to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

When I Survey Life’s Varied Scene

When I survey life’s varied scene,
Amid the darkest hours,
Sweet rays of comfort shine between,
And thorns are mixed with flowers.

Lord, teach me to adore Thy hand,
From whence my comforts flow,
And let me in this desert land,
A glimpse of Canaan know.

Is health and ease my happy share?
Oh may I bless my God;
Thy kindness let my songs declare,
And spread Thy praise abroad.

While such delightful gifts as these,
Are kindly dealt to me,
Be all my hours of health and ease,
Devoted Lord to Thee.

In griefs and pains Thy sacred Word,
(Dear solace of my soul!)
Celestial comforts can afford,
And all their power control.

When present sufferings pain my heart,
Or future terrors rise,
And light and hope almost depart,
From these dejected eyes.

Thy powerful Word supports my hope,
Sweet cordial of the mind,
And bears my fainting spirit up,
And bids me wait resigned.

And oh whate’er of earthly bliss,
Thy sovereign hand denies,
Accepted at Thy throne of grace,
Let this petition rise:

“Give me a calm, a thankful heart,
From every murmur free,
The blessings of Thy grace impart,
And let me live to Thee.

Let the sweet hope that Thou art mine,
My path of life attend,
Thy presence through my journey shine,
And bless its happy end.”

If you’re interested in more hymns by Anne Steele you can find some of her works remade by Indelible Grace, Jars of Clay, Sojourn, and others.

Here’s a few I highly recommend. The first is Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul by Indelible Grace (featuring Sandra McCracken – lyrics included) .

Jars of Clay’s version of Jesus, I lift My Eyes

And Sojourn’s version of My Maker and My King.

Nothing takes God by surprise – Tom’s Post # 1

When launching this blog with why I started writing lyrics,” I referenced three CaringBridge posts by Tom Carpenter. Tom wrote them days before he died and below is the first one in its entirety.

I pray that his words will exalt Christ and be an encouragement to you.

“I am so thankful that nothing takes God by surprise.  God knew what was going to happen to me and set in motion all of the components that led me to deliverance from my most recent desperate circumstances.

I found myself in the dark of an early Friday morning crying out to God to help me.  If I said, ‘God help me’ once, I said it a hundred times.  Half of my body was dead weight to me.  I could not drag myself out of bed, and I was much afraid.  I could not bring myself to have the attitude of St. Paul to be ‘thankful in all situations.’  I only knew I needed help and I was alone in the dark.  But, then I realized that I wasn’t truly alone. God was right there with me and knew everything that was going on in my life right then.  My human emotions still overtook me because, regrettably my faith is often weak.

God did help me when friends, who are like family, got me to the hospital.  God helped me when doctors and nurses almost immediately began to minister to my needs, and learning as fast as they could what was wrong with me and how they could cure it.  God helped me when caring, learned physicians quickly realized that surgery was necessary and most imperative.  God helped me by allowing me to be put in the hands of the most skillful and able doctors to perform surgery at the exact moment when my life could be dramatically and irrevocably changed.  If not for the insight and precise abilities of the surgeon I would be a victim of paralysis.  I did not know how truly desperate my circumstances were, but God did.  God heard my cry and He did help me.  There are still struggles ahead for me, and I do not know how I will bear up under them.  I only know that God will be there with me in pain and in pleasure.

God will be with me in spirit and in faithful friends to encourage me, pray for me, and help me along the way, wherever it may lead.  That way, that path, that road, if it leads to eternity with God, no matter how hard or difficult the journey may become, will be worth it if we keep our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith.  I do not present myself as a source of great biblical wisdom, or a practitioner of prodigious faith.  I am, at the heart of it, a wretched sinner saved by grace who is only worthy of God’s great mercy through the willing sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ.  Why God has such great love for us, only He knows.  It is beyond human comprehension.  God is with us in our joy and in our pain, when we rejoice and when we suffer.  It is hard when life goes against us and we cannot see God’s greater purpose in allowing some hardship to come upon us.  But God has not forsaken us, and his greater purpose will always be revealed to His eternal glory.

May I, or none of us who claim the name of Christ, (not) lose sight of or forget that all things work together for the good of those who are in Christ Jesus.  May God be forever praised, amen.”

Have you cried out to God in desperation? If so, how did He strengthen you?

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