Thursday, May 3, 2012

Singing in the Dark....for Ross


 Dawn birds...The very name comes to my ears in a distinct South African accent with its gentleness and beauty. This writing was inspired years ago by the life and pastoral ministry of Rev. Dr. Ross Olivier while he and his wife, Shayne, and two sons lived in Jackson, Mississippi. In fact, Ross inspired much of what I write and who I am becoming. His service here continues to send ripples throughout our lives. Ross came to us from across the miles during a particularly formative time in my life. Fully in adulthood, I was hearing and beginning to answer a call to obedience in expressing matters of faith in writing.

 I repost here as an ebenezer  in memory of Ross who died this week, still beloved pastor and unapologetic prophet. May God grant peace to his family and beloved wife, Shayne.

Dawn Birds: Singing in the Dark

I have learned of some who are facing a painful time, a loving vigil with family members right now. Each of us will be there at some time in our lives, if not now. A cherished image I have held for years may be meaningful to share with others who are in this place.

Our friend, Rev. Dr. Ross Olivier, spoke about the dawn birds of his native South Africa. He told of this tiny bird whose song is the first sound to be heard while it is dark, before the sun lightens the sky. They sing while it is still night because that is what they were made to do!

There is darkness all around us in many ways surrounding death or deep personal loss, yet there is at the same time the song of One who says, "darkness and weeping will not always endure - day is coming." The sun will always break through the night; light will overcome the darkness. Such is the order of nature, and it is the promise of scripture.

I make no claim to know how anyone else feels. I cannot speak from having been in your shoes about the unfathomable despair and fatigue and the inexpressible sense of lost expectations you have in your own situation. Each of us has to walk that path ourselves. But I do speak words of love and assurance that there is a dawn. I join the voices of others through the ages who call out praise to God in spite of circumstances, because - like the dawn birds - that is what believers are made to do. There is something inside that knows this is not the end of Life. Yes - it looks like the end of everything we know, but death is not the final word.

I believe we are not merely physical beings on a spiritual quest; we are also spiritual beings living in a physical world. This world is filled with disease, heartbreak and brokenness all its own. But that is not the extent of our experience of Life. Our minds must expand to grasp the vastness of a reality much larger than what we see and touch - a reality that includes time and space much larger that our small world will allow. Sometimes we call that heaven or eternity. But the promise of scripture is that we were made for something much more than the limited experiences our loved ones now enjoy with their disease progression and disability. Even as the body is deteriorating, we often glimpse a powerful spirit - the individuality of one who fights to live.

It is still the dark night of the soul for you and so many others. Suffering is dark and painfully bleak. I cannot answer the question of why we have such suffering in this world. And to even address it here risks violating a sacred personal space at such an intimate time. What gives hope to one person sounds arrogantly dismissive of the depth of intense suffering another bears.

I have long held a favorite scripture dear to me:
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5
Not merely weeping, but gut-wrenching sobbing endures for many nights! So when does the night end and morning come? Who is to say when it is dawn? Is it when the first light breaks over the horizon, or when sun fills the sky? I don't know. But I believe with all my heart it will come, and it will bring each of us into the presence of God who has been with our loved ones and with you and me all along. We will one day know the power of God's Presence in a way we only see darkly now. But we can experience some measure of God's Peace now.

He will never leave us alone. Never. Among Jesus' parting words were these:
"And I will ask the Father and He will give you another counselor who will be with you forever." John 14:16

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." NIV 2 Corinthians 4:16

"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day." New Living Translation 2 Corinthians 4:16
Thanks be to God for a little creature who sings in the dark. May I carry a song in my heart as fuel for the journey of life.


  1. I find so much comfort in these words as our family is still mourning the loss of Pastor Ross. Thank you for this, Marita.

  2. Ross Olivier literally saved my life while he was serving as pastor at Galloway United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. I had been lost for a long time in a turbulent sea of addiction and depression. I had stopped making music. I had attempted to commit suicide. Ross was the only one who understood. He told me, "Steve, you are a brilliant and gifted artist. You are a brilliant and gifted songwriter. When you re-connect with the artist within you, when you start making music again, you will recover and you will heal." I followed his guidance and I did recover. I did heal. I now own my own music production company with product on the market and selling. It breaks my heart that there was no one to counsel Ross the way he counseled me in his hour of darkness.

    1. I pray you find the grace and strength to keep singing in the dark.....keep making the music. Ross's legacy grows even now in the lives of those he touched. His very real understanding of human frailties--he knew because he also experienced so much himself-- coupled with his genuine conviction of the faith he shared so powerfully make him a memorable mentor for many. He extended a lifeline of sorts to you, it sounds; don't let go. But if you do, there is still truth in his advice: there is a place to go again and again to find strength and help in time of need.