Introducing a Fellow Writer . . .
by Barbara Smith
Barbara Black is a poet who has written 217 poems; twelve are gestating. Their birth will be a wonder-full event, for their author is unable to hold a pen or tap a keyboard. Barbara began writing as a young teen, shortly before a numbness in her feet distressed her. The doctors who assured her the sensation was "just in her head," missed the opportunity to diagnose the Multiple Sclerosis that has weakened her hands and body. Eventually, when she was twenty-nine, the doctors correctly diagnosed her.
Before MS bound Barbara to her bed, she traveled across America from Hawaii and California to Vermont and Washington, D.C. Though she attended Occidental College for two years, Barbara is "self-educated." She says she is "bookish," not "college-ish." She worked as a secretary, beginning as temporary office help, but became the correspondence manager for a US Congressman before MS forced her retirement. She was married to an artist, but her marriage ended in divorce.
Barbara became a Christian when she was four or five years old. Her mother, who died recently, led her to the Lord Jesus. Though she has stopped writing because she can no longer command a pen or keyboard, Barbara has not stopped praying for God's people. By His grace she remains on duty as God enables, praying for those she loves.
When asked recently about the source of her joy, Barbara described the joy of her life, which is her strength.
Joy is a decision.
Joy is from Jesus.
I have a choice in every situation I face: Will I choose joy or will I panic?
Is my habit to talk to Jesus about it — beseeching Him for help in the crises, and if I am happy to share that with Him?
Do I trust Him to be loving me even in the nightmare?
Personally, I am going through a nightmare at this point in my life. My MS has advanced to the point where about 90% of my days I am so helpless that I cannot even make the words to let people know what I need. This means I cannot even turn over in bed without help.
Where is Jesus?
That's something I ask Him a lot.
Then I laugh when I realize that I am in His arms asking Him where He is! I got hysterical laughing one day when I realized this and forgot what I was complaining about.
So, here's what happens.
I am in the middle of something and I can't get out. My tape recorder is playing too loud and my nerves are tortured by the noise, but I can't move my arm to get my hand where it needs to be to turn the button off. Or my fingers aren't strong enough to press the button, once I get there — if I get there.
So, I yell, "Jesus Help Me" and then I apologize to Him for He is right here and can hear a whisper. And so we get it straight that I am yelling because I am upset and not because I don't trust Him. And I take a deep breath and I am quiet for a minute and then I run away because I don't want to cry — because I have the feeling that if I started I would never stop.
Sometimes when I cry I choose to distract myself by doing something. If I can't move, I'll do something like practicing memory work, hymns, or verses or poems. If I am stronger, several little projects are available.
Somewhere in this process, everything rights itself and I am sane again.
And so we go on.
I don't very often feel that my life is pleasant or even reasonable. To combat this I have a mental exercise. I think of all the things I am thankful for. I begin with ceilings and walls and windows. I am thankful to be in America and not in India.
There is a row of beautiful trees outside my window and a patch of sky that has an infinite range of shades of gray and blue and is generally beautiful.
I thank Him for His flowers and His world and wish that I could have the words to give Him a fuller praise than I do for the variety and beauty of His creation.
I thank Him for our relationship.
This time that is so repulsive to me has brought me face to face with Him and made me aware of Him in new ways. I know, for instance, that He can give me ideas when I don't know what to do about something.
I always thought that you weren't supposed to expect instant answers to your prayers, but when I need strength, sanity, or an idea, right then He is gracious and grants then to me.
My days become a running dialogue with Him and my conscious effort is to let Him say more than I do.
We're still working on that.
But I love Him more than ever. And praise Him and thank Him for what He gives me through this.
I am so glad that He's a good god and not a tyrant.
Have you ever thought what our lives would be if He were petty or vindictive?
So I know that underneath what seems an impervious mountain of volcanic rock, He is the fire of life. And I begin to realize that He's in charge of the smallest detail of my life.
There's nothing that He's not foreseen and prepared me for even though I sometimes feel totally inadequate and helpless. And from all of it, He will bring glory — and He will accomplish His will in my life.
This is a promise from Scripture and this is my JOY.
The Lord is Sovereign; this means that HE wins all the battles — He has won, is winning, shall win. This means, by the way, that He is bigger than anything we face.
Following are three poems Barbara has written. They are selections from a soon-to-be published volume of her reflections and meditations.
Can the Maker of all heaven's stars not determine
the scope of thy life?
The provisioner of oceans has too small a store for
The One who rules all history has not wit for the
map of thy life?
The lavisher of all earth's seeds cannot search out thy
The glory that lights all eternity is not lamp bright
enough for thy path?
He who provides the fox its den the
leaping hind its grace
Who knows each star by name and the
atoms' electric dance
Who understands the spider's tangled web ordaining
earth's delicate intricacies
Who lights the blindness of our souls, makes
flesh our stony hearts
This one cannot keep all thy moments in His care.
Copyright 1992 Barbara Elizabeth Black
A King Is Here
Sitting in my little room
not the center of the earth
no mountain height, no landscaped dell
some tiny corner of His realm
all nondescript, yet known to Him
from atom out
and all of time.
I shut the door and close my eyes;
a King is here.
I cannot see His jeweled robes
or hear His singing voice
or feel the touch of His strong hands
but does my heart not burn?
I am not talking to the air.
I know a royal visitor has come --
a sudden gasp of thought -
Almighty bends His gaze to me!
My dingy soul-house fills with light and dreams
and bone-deep all-is-well.
His might, His tenderness, His touch
stretch aching limits of my heart.
My stress-beleaguered sparrow-self
takes shelter in His circling arms.
This unforeseen incredible still happens every day
and even when I don't perceive, He's here:
all Heaven's might, creation's tenderness,
unseen and hardly known,
yet He in me and I in Him reside,
Who lifts to royal residence this low-born child.
Copyright Barbara Elizabeth Black 1991
What can solve the heartbreak
what can ease the pain
What can mend Creation
Make me glad again?
Where did all the dreams go
citadels of joy
Humble little hope-lets
now my shattered toys?
Who will bear my sorrows
who knows grief's dead weight
Who will stand beside me
wash away my hate?
Where is God's great promise
where is light of call?
Did this broken spirit
ever give its all?
Does a better dream call?
Does pale sunlight gleam?
Does a tender Whisper
make these fountains stream?
My eyes are continually toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net. Psalm 25:15
Copyright Barbara Black 1991
If you are interested in corresponding with Barbara Black, please contact BWSmith at email@example.com.
© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.
Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012
We hope our thoughts encourage you in the Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined -- please let us know what YOU think. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please don't forget to include your e-mail address with in the body of the message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient e-mail addresses.)