November 26, 2016

Dirge at Dawn

Posted in death, Eastertide, Grief, Hope, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering at 6:20 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

I must sit beside the road a while and rest
For I am wearied by this constant fray.
Our warriors are on all sides sorely pressed,
And darkness threatens to devour the day.
Today’s news from the front has torn my heart:
Our leader has succumbed to wounds sustained
By every soldier when the Opposer’s art
Brought down the curse of death and God ordained
We would in enmity live out our days.
Yet from a distant shore a shout resounds
As our courageous leader joins the praise
Echoing in a mighty chorus that now drowns
The noise of battle and the cries of woe.
So I will rise betimes and fight anew
Since Christ has dealt to death a deadly blow
And will restore all things when time is due.

Copyright © 2016 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This poem is fondly dedicated to the memory of The Most Reverend Royal U. Grote, Jr., a faithful shepherd of the flock who went home from the war on Thanksgiving Day. I have no doubt he heard the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

October 11, 2016

For Susan

Posted in Eastertide, Grief at 8:05 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

O Death, you coward cur, so brave you were
To crush a lovely bloom and try to seal her doom,
To break a porcelain doll and still her hands so small.
Her bright smile you eclipsed; you silenced gentle lips.
Frail creature she, but strong immeasurably
In joy and grace and peace, virtues that shall not cease;
In family and friends, in love that never ends.
Your meddling only served to grant the rest deserved
By one who labored long to make God’s Kingdom strong.
Her legacy outlasts your raging noisome blasts.
O Death, have you not learned you have been overturned?
The Savior’s majesty has set your captives free.
To Easter hope they cling, trusting their risen King
Whose victory is sure, whose promise is secure.

Copyright © 2016 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


 

Today I am in shock at the passing of a third dear friend this year, a dear Christian lady, wife of an Anglican priest, mother of seven, beloved child of a sovereign God. We attended church together for many years, raised our children together, swapped recipes, and encouraged each other in the faith. May our Lord comfort her family until they see her again.

October 6, 2015

Thy Son Liveth

Posted in Atonement, Bread of Life, Faith, Family, Grief, Hope, Redeemer, Resurrection, Suffering, Suffering Servant, The Church, The Eucharist, Water of Life tagged , at 11:30 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Hot breath of famine dried the brook
That once had quenched Elijah’s thirst,
And so God sent him on to look
For one whose fate seemed doubly cursed.

A widow and her one beloved son,
With oil and meal barely enough for two,
Faced certain death, for hope and bread were gone.
One final supper ere they bid the world adieu.

But when the prophet came, the widow fed
Him with the first fruits of her scant repast.
And from that day, she never lacked of bread;
Her faith was blessed with food enough to last.

So when her child fell ill and met his doom,
She felt betrayed by all the prophet said
Until Elijah took him to an upper room,
Entreating God, who raised him from the dead.

Outside the gates of Nain a widow walked
In sad procession with her only son.
Her hopes lay dead, her footsteps balked,
To stay the moment when goodbyes were done.

Another widow’s Son noticed her there,
And in compassion bade her weeping cease,
He raised her son and lifted all her care,
Restored her child to live in perfect peace.

But soon this Son would in procession go
Outside the gate to die as though a thief.
This perfect Son offered Himself to bear our woe,
Dying and rising, He would end our grief.

Though evil may beset our souls with strife,
Though brooks dry up, and meal and oil decay,
Treasures of Living Water, Bread of Life,
Are spread for us in His new Eden day by day.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Scriptural context:

Luke 7:11-17

I Kings 17

Isaiah 53

John 19


This poem does not need explanation, but at the risk of stating the obvious, I would point out that it begins in the wilderness and ends up in the new Eden. The lectionary reading about the widow of Nain has always spoken to my heart, but much more so since I lost my son James.


February 28, 2015

A Sonnet of Tearful Hope

Posted in Faith, Family, Grief, Hope, Incarnation, Kingdom, Love, Resurrection, Suffering, Thankfulness, The Eucharist tagged at 4:50 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

When we must leave, we grieve to say goodbye,
Or when we part with others who must go,
If tears flow not, we heave a weighty sigh
To think the miles between us now must grow.
But time and space and every vale or hill
That separates sincere companion souls
Cannot erode the love that binds them still
Nor take the hope that constantly consoles.
Yet hope would be in vain, except for trust
In Him whose tender love surrounds us all.
His life ennobles feeble forms of dust
And reunites them in his banquet hall
In Heaven, where there is an end to grieving;
For it is the place from whence there is no leaving.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This poem is dedicated to Bill and Kathy, and to all who have suffered great loss and yet cling to an even greater hope.

April 19, 2014

Saturday’s Sorrow

Posted in Atonement, Cain, Darkness, Good Friday, Grief, Holy Saturday, Holy Week, Hope, Judas, Redeemer, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant at 2:53 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The room was silent, save for somber weeping
And weary feet that found no purpose now.
The faithful few their watch were keeping;
They could not bear their Lord to disavow.

But He was dead, and they began to wonder
If they had spent the past three years in vain,
For they had seen the blood and heard the thunder
Of “Crucify Him!” and “Release the son of Cain!”

To trade the Perfect Man for vile Barabbas
Confounded justice to its very core.
What evil had He done that He should die thus?
What were His deeds that we should so abhor?

Yet worse by far was Judas’ treason
For with the Lord his life was intertwined.
He walked with them but for a season
Till envious greed consumed his peace of mind.

In shock, the twelve were left to wait and ponder
The path that led them to this woeful night.
Was there a reason or did they just wander?
As darkness fell, they longed for morning’s light.

Copyright © 2014 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Holy Saturday is a time of waiting, a time of reflection upon the sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. Lent has brought us to this climax of horror at our sin, of sorrow that death is its reward, and of recognition that we were Cain and Barabbas but yet the perfect Son of God was the One who died.

If this poem feels disjointed and incomplete to you, then it has done its job. Anyone who has endured a major loss will understand those early responses in which deep pain circles back on numbness, in which the mind runs rampant with memories but cannot produce coherent a single coherent thought. This is where the disciples were on that Saturday that followed Good Friday.

But the last two words pull the poem up before it crashes completely. For no matter how dark the night, we have every reason to hope, just as the disciples did. The hope may be as dim as the promise of morning’s light, but it is real nonetheless.

February 1, 2012

Until Hope Ends

Posted in Eastertide, Faith, Grief, Hope at 11:13 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The ground lies stark as winter holds its breath.
Bare branches point accusingly at steely skies
That swallow up the days in sunless death.
And now with crops all gleaned, a lonely raven cries.
The only surfeit, dearth; the world in want is rife.
But buried in the bleak and frigid ground
Are sleeping seeds that cradle steadfast life.
Soon promises of green will burst from twigs of brown,
And crops again will grace the ordered field
With grape and grain for sacrament.
In blessed beauty all the earth is healed
When spring releases earth from discontent.
There is no need for hope once all is saved.
Till then, hope clings to me like petals from your grave,
Like petals from the flowers on your grave.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


The Bible is filled with passages that tell us we have every reason to hope in the goodness of God, no matter how bad our circumstances may be, and many of those are illustrated by situations we find in the created order. According to Job 14:7, “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.” One of the greatest promises of all, that God would never again destroy the earth by water, is accompanied by a promise that “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). If you ever need cheering up, read Romans 8, which talks extensively about hope; this chapter provided several of the concepts for the poem, especially Romans 8:24, “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”

Have you ever realized that one day God’s children will lose their need for hope? It will, not coincidentally, be the same day on which all tears are dried from their eyes. The winter, the night, the cold will be over forever, and there will be only eternal harvest. Blessed be God who gives us every reason to hope until then:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (I Peter 1:3)


This is a new piece, written mostly today. The last line was part of a thought that developed on Saturday (January 29) when my daughter and son-in-law took me to put flowers on James’ grave.


January 30, 2012

At Frodo’s Parting

Posted in Grief at 6:26 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

There is no way of going back,
For time divides just there,
At “with you” and “without you.”
And without you, days are black
With grief, bowed down with care,
Our tears too many, joys too few.

We rest in hope, for your most grievous wound
Has now been healed; you’ve been restored
To walk in light and never lose the day.
The Witch-King’s blade intended doom
But only freed you from the horde
That pressed you sorely on the way.

We struggle on here in the shire
To tend our gardens and to live
In light of the example that you set
Of sacrificial love and purpose higher
Than this vain world can ever give,
Of kindness shown to all you met.

So go in peace, dear Frodo,
And your smile will light our path
Until our journey ends with you.
Then on, rejoicing, we will go,
Set free from Mordor’s cruel wrath,
To dwell where all things are made new.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


God’s peace to all who grieve the loss of someone dear. The treasure we’ve been given in these frail earthen vessels will endure the ravages of sin and death, but only because the Son has come to die and rise again. Glory be to Him for making all things new.

Written 28 February 2008.

November 24, 2011

Eucharist

Posted in Grief, Suffering, Thankfulness, The Eucharist at 8:15 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

With open hands I will abide
Ready to take what You provide
Or to release what You require,
Following You through flood or fire.
For Your kind mercies heal my soul
When pain and sorrow take their toll.
Your brightest blessings bring delight
Even when terrors pierce the night.

Though cruel is the curse of sin,
You send Your peace to reign within.
And therefore will I thankful be
For all You give or take from me.
Your mercies are forever new;
My weary heart finds rest in You.
With open hands I’ll trust You, Lord,
Praising You now and evermore.

Copyright © 2011 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This is one of those poems that doesn’t emanate from a specific passage but draws together various threads throughout the Scriptures. My purpose was to define the nature of the Christian life as essentially one of thanksgiving. (The word in Greek that means “thanksgiving” is the one from which we derive the word “Eucharist.”) In Christ, our lives are to be filled with such deep faith in the goodness of God that we remain grateful and content in our circumstances, no matter how dark they may seem (Philippians 4:11; II Timothy 6:6-8). This was the faith of Joseph, who understood that all his trials were designed not to break him but to sanctify him. This was the faith of Paul, whose writings are filled with the message of faith that is not merely an abstract belief in the facts of salvation in Christ but in a living, breathing trust that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” (if I may borrow from St. Julian of Norwich).

Each of us carries a weight of one kind or another. It is either the weight of sin, made heavy by doubt, fear, and separation from the God in whose image we were created, or it is the blissful weight of glory, which enables us to be pressed on every side but somehow never crushed (II Corinthians 4:8). The weight of sin will eventually break and undo us. The weight of glory will make us what we were always supposed to be. How can we not be grateful for that?

As we live with open hands, trusting that God will give us exactly what we need and will not take away anything that is necessary for our life in Him, we find contentment in the midst of great trials, and we show forth the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

(Posted on Thanksgiving Day, 2011)


The original version of this poem was written February 6, 2008, one short week after my son died. No matter how much time passes, I will always miss him. But I will also always trust that God was working for him and for me exactly what each of us needed.

%d bloggers like this: