a letter to hurt

To me:

Remember how you used to paint your face five different colors, trying to look like an Indian out of Peter Pan or a howling Pict who battled the Roman legions, and how you would work with the camera for an hour to get the right shot?

Remember how you woke up at five in the morning and it was pouring rain, and you put on an old t-shirt and went out into it, giddy? You were soaked in seconds.

Remember how you would tramp through all the melting snow and cross busy roads to get to the yarn store, and the woman at the counter would go crazy by how long it took you to choose your yarn? (You were enamoured by all the colors.)

If there is no God, why is there so much good?

To hurt: you will not have the last word.

“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” The Psalmist writes these words and knows that God is one-hundred-percent faithful.

The LORD made a covenant with Israel in the very-beginning of the Bible, and declared it to be everlasting.

Everlasting means that it will last forever – for all eternity, with no expiration date.

No matter what history might tell you – Israel’s failure to obey, centuries of maligned prophets and wicked kings, and the ensuing four hundred years of captivity, destruction of the temple, Inquisition, and Holocaust – God has not given up on His nation. He never will.

If the Jewish people cannot believe His promises to them, how can we believe His promises to us?

His words in the Old Testament are still just as alive as if He had spoken them yesterday.

He knows the pain I feel. He’s with me when I’m stretched out on the floor, weeping. He is the reason my Bible seems to always fall open to something about steadfast love. Psalm 13, Psalm 146, Psalm 109, Psalm 115, Psalm 144 – and so many more.

He says, “Is it so hard to forgive?” And so as soon as my eyes open in the morning, I pray a prayer of forgiveness. I don’t want to become bitter. (Didn’t Jesus pray for forgiveness for his enemies as he hung on the cross, dying?)

There are good things in the world; I write them down every day.

He listens to us and will answer us for His name’s sake, and because of His steadfast love.

To hurt: sure, you exist.

But with all this steadfast love and goodness filling up everywhere, there isn’t any room for you.

Doors will close and we’ll be left standing in an empty hallway – but His promises are hope and there are windows opening all around.

& we’ll all laugh in the joy of the Lord.




I walked out into the woods the other day, when the weather was having a hard time deciding if it wanted to remain winter or rush right into spring. It was dusk, the horizon rosy pink and fading to grey.

A possum came trotting ’round the pond, bold as can be.


I won’t try to write up nature like Sigurd F. Olson or a John Foster novel – but there are some days when everything is especially alive.

A friend spoke a few nights ago about the dilemma of how to reconcile disappointment with the knowledge that God is good. These last few months of my life have been full of disappointment, and I haven’t seen His goodness. I’m looking back, trying to find it – I know it was there – but I don’t see it anywhere.

I’m a thinker, not a feeler – but this last part of my life feels like a never-ending winter.

I love winter – I love to bundle up and stay warm, and go skiing, and dig tunnels, and tramp through waist-high snowdrifts.

But I haven’t seen His goodness anywhere in this. I’ve embraced this season and the transformation that comes with it, but there hasn’t been any joy whatsoever.

I’m pushing on through the snow, hoping that it will melt sometime soon and I’ll have a spring-time.

Psalm 27:13 – I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

“The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty;
    the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Your throne is established from of old;
    you are from everlasting.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
    the floods have lifted up their voice;
    the floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
    mightier than the waves of the sea,
    the Lord on high is mighty!

Your decrees are very trustworthy;
    holiness befits your house,
    Lord, forevermore.”

Pslam 93

Your Name is Hope

His grace is greater than we know.

His word is truer than we understand.

He is who He says He is, all the way down into the valley.

Jesus had given His disciples the Sign of Jonah: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:20)

But when He died and was buried, it still came as a shock. They had wanted a conqueror, a king who would take back their land. They hadn’t gotten that.

“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last… And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.”

“Now there was a man named Joseph…[who] asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb…”

Luke 23: 46, 49, 53

Sometimes you have to bury your hope.

The smallest seed is put into a hole in the ground. Dirt is heaped upon it, water from the sky floods the soil, the sun bakes the earth – and it remains. The seed begins to crack, and a green shoot pushes its tender head up from the ground.

This is how He redeems the locust-eaten years: we have a shoot.

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse… the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:1, 10)

When you can’t see hope – ?

Gladys Aylward was refused by her missions board to be sent – based on their belief that “my qualifications were too slight, my education too limited to warrant my acceptance. The Chinese language, they decided, would be far too difficult for me to learn.” She took up a position as a parlormaid and waited on the Lord. “[B]ut still the thought of China tormented me. Always it was China! I could not rid myself of the idea that God wanted me there.”¹

Amy Carmichael packed up everything she had in “two airtight tin trunks” and prepared to leave for China. But – “[t]he mission doctor refused to give approval for Amy to go to China, so back she went… But one thought never left her: ‘This is not your rest.’ Doctor’s verdicts notwithstanding, she knew she had to go.”²

Brother Andrew was departing for missions training school when he received a telegram: “‘Regret to inform you expected vacancy has not materialized. Request for admission denied…’ And yet unmistakable inside me, sublimely indifferent to every human and logical objection, was a little voice that seemed to say, ‘Go.'”³

They were left the task of waiting. As it was for the disciples hiding behind locked doors, hope was still buried. Nothing had materialized yet – no shoot.

Maybe it takes longer than three days, sometimes. Maybe it will take three months, or three years, or three decades. The years of locusts will drag on drearily, the fields will turn to dust, the rain will never come.

But our Hope rose indeed after three days, and He stands as a banner for the peoples.

As soldiers in battle look to the standard for hope – and when the standard is lost, all hope of victory is lost –, so we look to Jesus, our banner – and He has already won.

Look to me and be saved!” He says.

Hope in Him does not disappoint. (Romans 5:5)

¹ The Little Woman, Gladys Aylward

² A Chance to Die, Elisabeth Elliot

³ God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew

Second Try

(I tried to write a post last night.

It took me about four hours, and when I finally hit “Publish,” I realized that what I’d been writing was hugely depressing.

& so I asked myself, “Since when has writing been a kind of therapy, in which I sort through all my thoughts and spiritualize them?”

Anyways. Not doing that anymore.)

Here are some glories:

We went outside last week at nightfall, and the sky was brilliantly blue – ranging from deep indigo in the west to a soft golden in the east, bluish but not quite blue. Overhead, the expanse was bright cerulean. In a properly earthly sense, the whole thing was unearthly. Is it odd that I wanted to fly up into it? I did want to. It’s what C. S. Lewis wrote about in The Weight of Glory, 

For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators… The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, become highly relevant to our deep desire… The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.

I’ve been longing for real things, to be caught up into real things.

But God, and He alone, is the Realest-of-all-real things. He isn’t finite. He can’t be put into words, the way I try to describe what I’m searching for.

All my searching brings me back to God, always.

Tozer offers an answer to the human search for re-acquaintance with divine glory:

“What can we plain Christians do to bring back the departed glory?… I appeal to no hidden law of the unconscious, no occult knowledge meant only for the few. The secret is an open one which the wayfaring man may read. It is simply the old and ever-new counsel: Acquaint thyself with God.

little celebrations

I made chocolate cookies this evening, because I thought a celebration was due. I managed to not eat half the dough – progress! – and to only eat half the batch – also progress!

I went to bed early last night, and probably got ten-something hours of sleep.

I read over all the gifts I’d counted in 2015, all the thank-yous. I didn’t count nearly as many in 2015 as I had in 2014, only a couple hundred – I wasn’t trying to reach one thousand, so – but there were still quite a few. Each one brings me back to some happy moment.

#1142 – lunch at Mickey’s

#1186 – a “yes”

#1193 – wool socks

#1228 – dry grass to sit on

#1248 – Michael Jackson records

#1272 – mud and boots for it

#1299 – dear sweet Gambi’s life

#1305 – an empty chapel

I was reading lots of progress reports yesterday from a variety of individuals, about the countries they’ve visited and books they’ve published and sweaters they’ve knitted this year, and the comparison bug bit me.

(Thinking about this a little… I did visit one new country in 2015 – ooh, progress!)

This has been quoted excessively, but it’s still true:

(From The Weight of Glory), 

…Our Lord finds our desire not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

I’ve been praying through the Psalms, trusting God for yeses, and –

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)

when you need something more than a sanity manifesto

I’ve got this paper taped up on the inside of the bookshelf, so when I take my Bible out in the morning, I see it – ten habits to remember, and ten Bible verses. (Maybe if I learn these I’ll stay sane, is the concept.)

I’m so afraid of letting go of these that I repeat them over and over again – and it’s not what they call the Sanctity of the Relaxed Grasp.

Because of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “[Y]ou are not your own; you have been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” I ought to hold loosely.

Oswald Chambers writes,

The first thing God does with us is to get us based on rugged Reality until we do not care what becomes of us individually as long as He gets His way for the purpose of His Redemption. Why shouldn’t we go through heartbreaks? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son. Most of us fall and collapse at the first grip of pain; we sit down on the threshold of God’s purpose and die away of self-pity, and all so-called Christian sympathy will aid us to our death bed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, and says — ‘Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine.'” (Utmost, Nov. 1)

It’s where I end that Christ begins.

I want to let Him in more, More! I’ve had enough of Me. 

My Old Testament professor laughed when he told the crazy story of Joseph, how everything was exactly Romans-Eight-Twenty-eight, Category M: for Miraculous.

I need a God who is Miraculous. 

I need a God who is El-Shaddai, God Almighty, who turns the ocean into dry land, who takes the form of fire.

I need Mary’s God – “… for the Mighty One has done great things in me; holy is His name!” – who shows His strength by lifting up the humble and remembering His mercy.

“We are not sanctified for ourselves,” writes Chambers. (Thank goodness!)

I don’t need a sanity manifesto, listing off ways to stay sane.

I need a sanctity manifesto, listing just one Name – because it’s only for Him that I’m being sanctified.

Elisabeth Elliot writes of Amy Carmichael,

“‘We are not asked to SEE,” said Amy. “Why need we when we KNOW?” We know–not the answer to the inevitable Why, but the incontestable fact that it is for the best. ‘It is an irreparable loss, but is it faith at all if it is ‘hard to trust’ when things are entirely bewildering?'”

Yet He asks us to exchange our choke-hold on life not for nothing at all, but for “the grip of the pierced hand of His Son.”


There’s a story told of Mother Teresa, that a man once asked her to pray that he would have clarity – that he would see God’s will plainly. And she shook her head, no, she wouldn’t.

“I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust,” she said. “So I will pray that you trust God.”

Most of the time I think that’s just plain crazy.

If you give God that much, you won’t have anything left. You take one, two steps back, and you’re out on the edge of the cliff. Essentially, you’re going out on a limb for God.

But there’s no such thing as going out on a limb for Him, because He stretched both His arms out on a limb and died for me.

Back in Africa, nearly four years ago, I told God straight up that I wasn’t choosing Him; it was too risky. I’d rather have my little house in Scotland and my ten children and a garden and all that than walk blindly, by faith, and not know where I would end up.

Some days I still say that to God. I’m ashamed of it.

When He tells me to not reply to an email, and it sits there smoldering in the inbox, waiting to be replied to – I think He’s crazy. In my head, I’ve written and sent it already, and it addresses the issue poignantly and resolves it and why doesn’t He want me to write it?

When He tells me to open up a door I’d closed all on my own, and it’s going to tear down everything I’ve got and take all my strength to boot, I think He’s crazy – because I close doors where I know I’ll be tempted to do the wrong thing, and I only did it to protect myself. I plead with Him: “Lord, if I have to live with this, my identity is at risk, my reputation is at risk, my wise decision-making goes out the window… I can’t.”

And then I have to go and surrender all the deep parts of me to Him, because when I haven’t got any more walls to keep me safe, He’s the only thing left that will.

Half an hour later, standing in the snowy street, I’m still not sure – and I cup my mittened hands in front of me, trying to catch all the strength He’s giving me, and only catching wet snowflakes.

I don’t know what He’s doing when He makes me give up all the little things to Him. I’m sick of waking up in the morning already exhausted, knowing the battle I’ll have to fight with my flesh in order to surrender.

The books pile up, and the homework assignments are overdue, and still I fight. I’m waiting for some peace, eventually, maybe. I’m sick of fighting, I’m tired of fighting, it’s all my own fault –

– and you know, he doesn’t care whose fault it is. He just wants me.

I open up my Bible this morning, and it’s the story of Abraham and Isaac, the sacrifice on Mount Moriah. And Abraham named that place the Lord will provide.

His very presence shows that He is active. He is providing.

“Worry is belief gone wrong,” writes Ann Voskamp. “Because you don’t believe that God will get it right.

“Peace is belief that exhales. Because you believe that God’s provision is everywhere – like air.”

“And your God reaches out: I will provide Me.”

quotes taken from The Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp; Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 2013.