“So where did the name ‘Lower Lights’ come from?” This fairly common question was asked recently during a “Meet the Cast” session after the showing of our recent documentary "The Relationship Effect". It had been awhile since someone asked and it was good to be reminded of the story.
Our name originated from the old hymn “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning” written by Philip Bliss in 1871. The hymn was inspired by a sermon delivered by the great evangelist DL Moody. A lower light or a leading light is a nautical term. These oil powered guiding lights are located away from the main lighthouse along the shoreline in a harbor area with the purpose of maneuvering ships safely through narrow channels at night around the rocks and other dangerous but unseen obstacles. In his sermon, Moody shared about a ship that was sailing into a Cleveland harbor on a dark and stormy night. The captain of the vessel called out to the pilot that he could only make out one light from the mainlight but asked “where are the lower lights?” that would help guide through the rocky channel and into the harbor. The pilot responded, “they have gone out.” The captain asked if they could make it anyway. They tried, but their ship crashed into the rocks and all perished. Moody concluded his sermon by saying, “The Master (Jesus) will take care of the great lighthouse, but it is up to us to keep the lower lights burning.”
There have been many times throughout the months following March where the lights seemed to flicker as we have made plans, only to have them postponed or cancelled. Over the last 8 months in our neighborhoods, we have watched the overdose death and homicide rates dangerously escalate. In the last month, several of our residents and staff have contracted COVID and are recovering, but anxious about the long term effects. Trying to navigate a family, church congregation, employees, students, or housing program residents through the rocky channels and choppy waters of a global pandemic, in a deeply divided country, in the midst of a civil rights movement and a vitriolic election year has been challenging and quite frankly, exhausting. We are fatigued from having to constantly pivot and maneuver through when the “what if” scenarios become a reality; tired of having to make hard decisions of whether or not to attend an event such as a funeral, to keep a learning enrichment center open for elementary students who are struggling academically, or temporarily halt our housing residents’ weekend home visits with their kids in order to reduce the risk of virus exposure in the communal living houses where our residents reside.
Throughout this unprecedented year, one thing has remained constant. The oil in the lamps has never run dry. If there is one word that gets us through uncertainty, it is hope. At times, it gets hard holding on to hope without swerving and loosening grip. But the call to persevere and remain faithful to Christ - not to our work, not to the pressing needs around us, or even to the people for whom we are called to minister - for our hope is in the One who is always faithful and true to his promises of being with us and not abandoning us. The lights may flicker through the battering winds of doubt, exhaustion, and worry. But, the lower lights are still burning.
Thank you, friend, for sharing your oil with us this year. Because of your faithfulness, together, we have been able to stand with those whose lamps are flickering and to offer hope. Let us not grow weary in doing good, for the harvest will be so worth it if we do not give up.
-Emmalyn, Rachel's House Director