Light Up the Night

  “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love

and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24 

Children, dressed in pajamas and gowns walk quickly down a long white corridor to a welcoming room awash with light and chairs and tables.  Elation bubbles as each child that is able mounts the chairs to sit on the tables and face the wall of windows.  They can see out beyond the hospital grounds, the traffic moving on the busy highway.  It’s Wednesday and One Magic Minute is about to begin.  At 8:30PM, the attendants clad in scrubs shut off the lights signaling an even greater welling of excitement as the children busily work to get their flashlights turned on and pointed toward the windows.  Eyes sparkle with building anticipation when suddenly just beyond the highway a long line of lights burst into life in response- cars and police cruisers with rotating emergency lights.  Beyond the cars and cruisers, businesses in the city blink their lights off and on in a magical spectacle.  Neighbors in Providence, Rhode Island are telling the children in the cancer ward “Good Night”.

 The minute to three minute long “Good Night” passes quickly with the children turning their flashlights on and off as excited laughter and sharing fills the room, letting out the day’s frustrations of sometimes painful medical treatments and care.  Flashlights and vehicle lights go dark when the overhead lights come on.  One Magic Minute, also called “Good Night Lights” has successfully raised everyone’s spirits and brought a community together to express the love that is an important part of the healing for their community children.

Here is a report written about this community event:   

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — For one sparkling minute each night, skyscrapers, tugboats, hotels, a yacht club and police cruisers send a blinking goodnight message to sick kids inside a children’s hospital. A gesture that began with a single light six years ago has become a nightly display along the Providence River — and a highly anticipated ritual — inside Hasbro Children’s Hospital. ’It’s special to know that people I don’t even know will take the time  to flash the lights’, said 13-year-old Olivia Stephenson, who has been admitted to the hospital three times since June, most recently last week. To thank the invisible strangers shining their lights at her and fellow patients, she blinks her own flashlight back toward the downtown skyline, using a two-flash response that means ‘thank you’. ‘They don’t know me; they could skip the step of flicking the lights, but they do it anyway,’ she said after seeing the Good Night Lights display for the first time in late August. ‘I hope they saw the thank you’. Some of Providence’s bigger hotels have installed permanent signals that automatically turn on flashy messages at 8:30 p.m., to the delight of giddy toddlers and older children who can spot them from their windows. But most of the lights are hand-held. One volunteer group gathers near the top of a 28-story office building to flash their lights. The farthest signal comes from a church group blinking from a dark shoreline 2 miles downriver in East Providence. The idea began with the hospital’s resident cartoonist, Steve Brosnihan, who has spent 26 years regaling sick kids with on-the-spot drawings and word games. Brosnihan, who gets to the hospital by bike or bus, noticed one day in 2010 that he could see his route home from inside the six-story hospital. Using his bike light and flashlights, he began sending simple messages tailored to individual kids. Late last year, he appealed to local businesses to send a joint message: Goodnight, Hasbro, using four flashes to represent each syllable.

The first business to participate was The Hot Club, a waterfront nightclub and restaurant. Along with flashing its large neon sign, patrons gather on the deck each night, even in cold weather, to wave their flashlights and cellphones. Following the nightclub were the tugboats of the Providence Steamboat Company. They shine their powerful searchlights at the hospital and occasionally blow their horns. A yacht club, restaurants and police officers have also joined in. About two dozen kids who can range in age from 2 to 20 are in the hospital on any given night. . . The anonymity of the exchange is what Brosnihan finds most beautiful. ‘No one knows who’s on the other side of the gesture,’ Brosnihan said. ‘People often say, I get goosebumps hearing about this.’ Brosnihan said he dreams of what he calls the “minute of magic” catching on in other cities with children’s hospitals. But he also notes that Providence’s pediatric hospital is peculiarly suited to the phenomenon because it has an open view of a harbor and the city’s downtown skyline.

  

In the Providence Journal we find this statement by Richard Salit a staff writer published 12-23-16: 

“About a half-dozen senior residents of Tockwotten on the Waterfront in East Providence gather with flashlights in a darkened room one night a week. ‘It connects generations,’ says activities director Timothy Anderson. ‘It’s a way residents can feel that they are contributing and making someone’s life better.”                   Richard Salit, Providence Journal.

This story was recently reported on the national news in September, 2017 so it must still be taking place.  It’s such a simple idea that started with one person flashing his flashlight so the children could look for it in the dark and be distracted for a few moments to tell them loud and clear, “You are loved!” 

“The first time a kid sees this, when it happens, they’re like, ‘Are you kidding? That’s for me?’ There’s a joyful surprise in it.” Steven Brosnihan

Lighting up someone’s night is within all of us.  That is one of the most telling connection to God’s image we have.  Jesus used stories of good will to teach us about caring for one another. One of the most familiar stories was a parable he chose when his listeners were trying to trap Him in some kind of mind game. It was the story of the Good Samaritan.  The Samaritans were former Jews who had married outside of the Jewish culture and contact with them was considered taboo.  Some of Jesus’ best experiences were with the Samaritans. He exposed the divisions we create through prejudice and religious precepts and the way they destroy our civilization with just a “for instance” story about a man who came down from Jerusalem to Jericho. 

“25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 ‘What is written in the Law?’ He replied. ‘How do you read it?’ 27 He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

28 ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30 In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ 37 The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” Luke 10:25-37NIV

 

 

The following is written by Edward Markquart:

It happened on the Jericho Road.  It always happens on the Jericho Road.  The Jericho Road is the seventeen mile road that connects Jerusalem to Jericho.  That road drops 3600 feet in those seventeen miles.  It is a steep, winding, descending, remote road that for centuries has been a place of robberies. 

The Jericho Road.  It always happens on the Jericho Road.  It is the seventeen miles of violence and oppression.  It is the strip of suffering.  The Jericho Road?  It’s a symbol.  It’s a symbol of suffering in the world.  The Jericho Road is the seventeen rooms of the corridor of the nursing home where Myrtle lives who has Alzheimer’s disease . . . The Jericho Road?  It is a seventeen floor tenement building that I used to visit when I was a child in Chicago; it was a frightening place with great family violence.  ….  The Jericho Road?  It is the seventeen blocks on First Avenue South in downtown Seattle, where many people live who are mentally handicapped or teenagers on the run.  …. The Jericho Road?  It is the seventeen mile border between warring nations, e.g. recently, between Nicaragua and El Salvador, Namibia and Angola, or Israel and Palestine, where thousands upon thousands of people have been killed. … The Jericho Road?   It is the seventeen miles that goes right through the heart of Calcutta.  …  The Jericho Road?  It is the seventeen years that my Aunt Billie took care of my Uncle Johnnie with his chronic heart disease. … You see, the Jericho Road is any place where there is violence; it is any place where there is oppression; it is any place where people are robbed of their dignity and robbed of their love and robbed of their food and robbed of their freedom.  The Jericho Road is always with us.  The Jericho Road.

Edward Markquart shares his own version of The Good Samaritan:  “A parable about a parable.  One day a priest went to visit the Jericho Road.  He was a very religious man, and he saw somebody who had been hurt on the Jericho Road, and he was mortified.  He came and gave that person the last rites, and he quickly ran back to his parish as fast as he could.  The following Sunday, he gave a sterling sermon about the Jericho Road, and he felt so much better.  … Then there was a pastor who went down to the Jericho Road and he was appalled by what he saw.  It was awful on the Jericho Road, and so he came back to his church, and do you know what he did?  He taught a course called, ‘The Biblical Understanding and Perspective of Poverty.’ They showed films of people who were being beaten up on the Jericho Road, and everybody felt rotten, but they all felt so good that they had finally done something for the people on the Jericho Road.  …  There was still another person.  He was a revivalist.  Now, he didn’t go to the Jericho Road, but he saw it on television.  He then gathered 65,000 people together in the Jerusalem Dome, and they sang songs about the Jericho Road. You should have seen them, with their microphones and all the spotlights.  How they sang and prayed so beautifully about the Jericho Road.  … While the priest and the pastor and the revivalist . . . were all busy, the man on the Jericho Road died.  The Jericho Road is always with us.  The Jericho Road is any place where people are robbed; where people are robbed of their dignity, robbed of their love, robbed of their food and clothing, robbed of their value as human beings.  It is any place where there is suffering and oppression. . . The first lesson that is to be learned from this parable of Jesus is that it is an attack on non-involvement towards people in need . . .   You see, this parable is essentially a parable about people not wanting to get involved with people who are suffering because of safety, because of money, because of time, because of inconvenience, because of busyness with churchy activities.  I don’t have time to be involved with people on the Jericho Road because I am so busy at church.  Jesus condemned that attitude.  Jesus expects that all Christians are good Samaritans. You cannot be a Christian and not be involved with people on the Jericho Road.  In fact, Christians are people who are always cruising on the Jericho Road. . .This parable is an invitation for us to have a heart that overflows with love and mercy for those who are hurting.  This parable is an invitation for us to love our enemies.  One day, a lawyer came up to Jesus and asked, ‘What can I do, Jesus, so that I can inherit eternal life?’  And Jesus, being a good counselor, said,  ‘What do you think?’ The lawyer answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself.’   Jesus said:  ‘You do this, and you shall live.’  The lawyer became defensive and said, ‘Who is my neighbor?  How would you define the word, neighbor?’  Jesus said, ‘There once was a man who was walking down…the Jericho Road.’  Christians are always walking and loving and caring for people on the Jericho Road.  Amen.” Jericho Road, Sermons from Seattle, Edward Markquart

Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”  Titus 3:14 NIV


 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:8-19 NIV

Just recently in our area, a youth was killed, mutilated and then burned.  This heinous act was done by teens and young adults and happened in a rural county where tradition and rural values are embraced as sacred.  We all share the responsibility of seeing to it that this never happens again.  This case is not being handled as a hate crime even though the youth claimed to be trans-gender and used not only a male but a female name.  We cannot judge what we don’t understand.  We especially cannot hate what we don’t understand.  God is the final judge.  We are called to love one another and to leave the things we don’t understand to him.

I believe the Scriptures were never meant to be used for us to pass judgment on one another and to act upon those judgments with hateful words and actions but to give guidance to the individual as to God’s will.  The rest is between God and that individual.  I’m so grateful that we can give to God what we don’t understand and what we are commanded not to judge because we have not walked in that person’s shoes, so that way we can love unconditionally and extend hope and God’s love to everyone we meet equally.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” 3 John 1:11 NIV

 

Pray for the youth who committed this crime.  The report came out that they expressed no remorse in court for this act, but suppose they thought they were acting out of a belief they had been taught that valued their actions.  They probably wouldn’t feel any remorse.

“A hungry person needs a meal, not a menu.  A starving person needs rice, not a recipe.  A sick person needs medicine, not a lecture on medicine.  Too many sermons are menus, recipes, and lectures.”  Soren Kierkegaard.

“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst, But I the Lord will answer them;  I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.”  Isaiah 41:17 NIV

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:17 NIV 

The night in people’s lives may be more about the night that is in our own life. We can be that one person at a time – that one light at a time who lights up the night by displaying the shining love of God that is within us.

“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:4-5

“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.”  I John 1:5

 

 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Matthew 6:22-23

 

 ” In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”  II Corinthinians  4:4

 

 ” But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.”  I John 2:11

 

 “The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.”

Romans 13:12

 

 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.”  Isaiah 9:2-3

“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,  so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14

 

Jesus’ followers are to be the light. Light is what distinguishes a follower of Jesus Christ.

 

John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 Ephesians 5:8-9  “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”

1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 “But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.”

 

We all walk the Jericho Road at some point and we make decisions to help or just not be involved that determine the outcome for others.  I was in a circle of women at the jail one Thursday afternoon.  We were discussing the Scriptures and how the Holy Spirit works in our life, when I felt led to tell them about a sermon I had given at church the Sunday before.  It was taken from Exodus 33 when Moses had boldly petitioned God that he needed to continue with them to the Promised Land. “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people, but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.  You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ ‘If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.  Remember that this nation is your people.’” Exodus 33:12-13   God didn’t respond with drastic outrage at Moses’ plea, he comforted him with a Parent’s reassurance: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest”.  Then God said: “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name”. This meant that “I know everything about you, your every fear, every doubt, every vulnerability” – making a statement about the relationship he has with Moses.  Then Moses asked to visibly see God.  God’s response was “But you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” 

God then comforted Moses with this amazing experience:  “While my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of a rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back.”  There is always a message for us today from the encounters that happened with God and his people in the distant past.  The message is that we may not have assurances from God that he is with us during the hard times but because of the ways he has blessed us before, we will hang on safely in the cleft in the rock where he has put us to keep us safe and continue in faith trusting that when he takes his heavenly hand away from our eyes, we will see that he has been present during it all, directing the right outcome – we will see his back.    One of the women in the circle had been softly crying during this and then shared with everyone that she had laid awake during the night and kept hearing this song running through her mind: “Meet With Me”-   I’m here to meet with you, Come and meet with me.  I’m here to find you, Reveal yourself to me. As I wait, you make me strong; As I long, draw me to your arms; As I stand and sing your praise; You come, you come and you fill this place; Won’t you come, Won’t you come and fill this place.”  (lyrics by Lamont Heibert, Universal Publishing Group)

What I had just presented had been an affirmation to her that God was with her and she was in the right place- in the cleft of the rock being protected from herself and the addictions that plagued her and were destroying her life. I’m glad that in that moment I responded to the Spirit to light up her night with hope and affirmation.  

 

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.  Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.  The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.  He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with  fire.  He says, ‘Be still, and  know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  Psalm 46

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