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?

revivial. a poem.

overhead i hear it

Branta canadensis

your true name

escapes even the wind

an autumn throbbing and flowing

past unfurled wings

seeking streams of air


unaware of the sun above

the only force


us north or south

east or west

the whole formation


wider and farther

even as we


the same direction

* V *

Branta hutchinsii

brothers and sisters

squalling over



unpalling forgotten love




the gaggle to return



“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
 I will build you up again,
and you. . . will be rebuilt . . .

. . . See, I will bring them from the land of the north
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame,
expectant mothers and women in labor;
a great throng will return.
They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble . . . “

~Jeremiah 31:8-9~