The deliberate search for hope: thoughts on November 9.

I decided early on not to watch the debate last night. I’d had enough of the inescapable spin, watching friends attack friends on social media, and the general, abysmal state of the world.

Rather, I turned to the place where my soul finds rest, to the woods, to deliberately look for hope.

The worry, the emotional fatigue, clung to me for a good while. Voices warning of doomsday loitered like shadowy figures on the street corners of my mind.

I pressed on one step at a time and wondered…

…what will become of us all a month from now?

If all we are as a people is an election, if all we look to, to save us, is a figurehead, then on November 9 half of us will be faced with eternal damnation.


…unless hope can’t be found in a president.

A government cannot dole out salvation like loaves of bread to the starving.

The thorny pain of disappointment, dying dreams, sickness and hate can’t be solved by any administration.

No, our hope doesn’t come from a man or a woman…

…can’t come from a man or a woman.

We are living so small in a world beckoning us to stop and listen, take notice…

…hope is not dead.

Hope is here.

Hope is alive.

Hope is in the haze of the sun settling over drying corn fields, and in the gentle sway of the goldenrod.

Hope is waiting to burst wide open like the gossamer rupture of cat tails, and for you to bend down and notice it in the fragile petals of frost asters.

Even dying things reach heavenward because they know where the hand that made them resides.

Soon the crimson blaze of change will settle and the bare naked arms of the trees will open wide to embrace us, white snow of winter covering us clean.

The stained glass exaltation of nature points us to the One, who alone can save us from our selves.

We are living so small.

But we were made to live bigger than this.

We are cowering in fear and hate.

But the Lord gave us sound minds to live brave and to love.

We act as if we have no hope, when hope is all we have and all we need.


At the sun, the sky, the changing leaves.


To the laughter of your children, the rustle of the wind, the songs of the sparrows.


The strong hand of your spouse, the round smoothness of a newly ripened apple, the crisp, white pages of scripture.

Words and deeds, kings and kingdoms, the days allotted to each of us evanesce like morning frost

But hope.

Hope remains.

Where will you find it today?


“Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭6:11-13‬ ‭MSG‬‬


What will you call Him this year?

I have a friend who’s an amazing poet who says this Advent has felt much more like Lent.

I don’t know about you, but I feel the same way.

I’ve been overwhelmed this season with the number of friends who are suffering…who have lost friends and family…who are struggling with sickness and despair.

I’m overwhelmed when I see the lonely in hospital rooms…the bruised tormented…the broken crying for relief…the voiceless told to hush.

I struggle because I fear I cannot write about joy without writing about pain. I don’t know if I know how to have one without the other…

…but maybe that’s the point.

What is joy except for the release of despair? What is pain but the reaching for hope? What is loneliness but for the cry for embrace?

What is Christmas but at once the spectacular arrival of a promise and the anguished gift of an only son to a dying world, sent to feel our pain, to hear our loneliness, to drink our despair, to embrace us in the exhale of his last breath?

And so on this Christmas Eve I don’t have answers. I only have a question:

What will you dare call Him?

If you’re happy will you call Him Lord?

If you’re lonely will you call Him Emmanuel?

If you’re desperate, will you call Him Savior?

If you’re a child, will you call Him Friend?

If you’re downcast, will you call Him Hope?

If your life is one battle after another, will you call Him Prince of Peace?

If you’re confused, will you call Him Counselor?

If you’re chained, will you call Him Freedom?

If you’re wandering in darkness, will you call Him Light?

If you’re silent, will you call Him a Song?

If you’re weak, will you call Him Mighty?

If you’ve been broken, will you call Him Justice?

If you’re weak, will you call Him Warrior?

If you’re dying, will you call Him Life?

He is all these things and more, dear friend. My gift to you this Christmas is a prayer…I pray that Jesus Christ meets you in the place in your soul that has no name, no words, no hope. I pray you call on Him, whatever you want to call Him most. He is and can be your Everything.

Listen close, past the bells and choirs.

Look far, past the lights and sparkle.

He is here.


God with us.


Merry Christmas, friends.


“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever…The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. You will enlarge the nation of Israel,and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders…For a child is born to us,a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.”
Isaiah 9:1-7 (NLT)


On Abba and fathers and survivors

The first time the name Abba stuck with me is when I read Brennan Manning’s exquisite book, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging. Something about this particular way of referencing God–essentially as “daddy”–made me feel as if I was curled up and safe on His lap.

It’s no accident that most of the time Comfort (one of the two main protagonists in How Sweet the Sound, and the one who was raped and molested) refers to God as Abba.

Comfort argues with Abba.

She laments to Abba.

She weeps with Abba.

She asks Abba why.

Comfort talks with Abba the way He wishes all His children felt free enough to do. But because many abuse survivors are hurt by their fathers, many feel unable to approach God as a Father.

I am so incredibly grateful that I was not abused by my earthly father. In fact, my Dad is the epitomy of kindness, gentleness, and a strong protector.

They were, however, extended family members, and sadly, a few of their friends.

But my abuser was not–praise God–my father.

Trust may be the most difficult and enigmatic aspect of survivor recovery, especially when the people who are supposed to protect you the most violate the deepest, most private parts of you. Because so many have a hard time relating to God as someone who watches out for them, someone who delivers them, and someone in whom they can place their trust–things a father should be relied upon for–I decided to refer primarily to God as Abba in my novel, with the hopes that painful, triggering memories associated with the name “father” diminish for some.

Because whether eartly or eternal–especially eternal–we all need to know we have a Daddy who loves us unconditionally. Who can handle our deepest, darkest questions and secrets. Who binds up our wounds. Who heals us so we can bring hope to others.


“Only reckless confidence in a Source greater than ourselves can empower us to forgive the wounds inflicted by others.”
Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging




“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 NLT


What about you?

Do you have a hard time thinking about God as your father?

Do you think the name Abba helps or hinders faith in Him?