One Weary Accord

A certain carol lyric sang in my heart one day as I drove to work underneath a magical pink sunrise. Still several weeks before Thanksgiving, I wasn’t trying to meditate on Christmas, but I felt I had stumbled on something deeply meaningful for the coming season. Something to be shared.

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”

It turns out I wasn’t unique to claim this theme.

I bumped into these words in a number of Christmas missionary letters I’ve edited this year. The same phrase is fastened on my boss’s cubicle wall. Perhaps you’ve seen them too, in a friend’s Instagram post or felt new meaning when hearing this song on the radio.

There’s a reason we’re lingering on the theme of rejoicing a little extra this year.

With every Christmas card we write, every strand of lights we string, every gift we buy — hope is stirring for those who know Christ. We crave hope and light as we wrap up this historic year, and we’re thrilled to focus on the source.

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, then He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Just this past weekend we visited KC and were reminded of both error and worth. We rejoiced in my husband’s graduation with his Master of Divinity. We smiled to learn friends were dating each other. We sat shocked over breakfast menus to hear of a fellow seminary grad friend who had gone back home but split paths with God. We listened to loads of (welcome!) advice about diaper brands and sleep schedules for our new baby. But also heard of health struggles of other infants. My husband shared the gospel with someone on the plane next to us on the way home. Due to all the ups and downs of our trip, we fell into bed exhausted but grateful because of all the hope we have in Christ’s appearance in the flesh.

Passages buried in the Old Testament remind us we–in our weariness–have ever so much to rejoice in. And I’m happy to sing what might be cliché in Christmas 2020. Like Israel on that holy night, we can celebrate Immanuel!

Many feel that the New Year ball will drop (or in my Idaho’s case, a potato?!) and hope will land with it. That’s a familiar lie we’ve all faced before. “Things will get better if we can just get through this week, clock out for the weekend, go on vacation, free up my schedule, get over this head cold . . .” We wait and pine for the next thing, perhaps with a thrill of false hope.

The fact is our futures could be as terrifying as Charles Dicken’s ghost of Christmas yet to come. I’m an extremely optimistic person, but I have to admit no guarantees exist for 2021. But even if they did, our spirits can not be lifted simply by a change in circumstances or the passing of a crumby year.

What we need is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. A ruler who reigns in understanding of our weakness. A song of rejoicing in the midst of any oppression.

Behold the One who meets this need:  

“The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.”

Apart from Him we won’t find worth — He is the One our souls greatly anticipate. Our earthly voices may be weary indeed. But they are grateful. Let us join the chorus with one accord and fall on our knees to worship our KING of kings, who will return in a second advent (coming). His power and glory evermore!

Merry Christmas and thank you so much for following my blog this year!

*Song “O Holy Night” Adolphe Adam, Placide Cappeau

Thankful for Books!

I’m so thankful for books and literacy. I recently read in a missionary prayer letter about how we’ve had approximately 130 million books published in English since the beginning of the printing press. On our shelves alone, we have a plethora of cookbooks, novels, commentaries, study Bibles and textbooks. But there’s an isolated tribe in Papua called the Turu who don’t even have a written language yet. So not a single book! Praise God, He is on the move to provide a written language for the Turu so they can know the hope of the Gospel. How often have I taken for granted the accessibility and appetite that I have for the Word of God?

I’d love to share a few of the titles (and articles) that have made me thankful for books and literacy this past season.

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew — This encourages me to treasure Scripture. Brother Andrew has a fascinating testimony of how he was converted simply by reading the Bible. Then, with what he would call a “thimbleful of willingness,” he smuggled countless copies of the Bible behind the Iron Curtain. Only God could have made “seeing eyes blind” so these precious copies could slip behind Soviet borders. An adventure story that would make a great family read-aloud.

“‘Why are we worried!’ Rolf said suddenly. ‘This is God’s work! He’ll make a way for us.’ And as if to prove his conviction, he started to sing.” 

Brother Andrew, God’s Smuggler

Gentle and Lowly by Dane C. Ortlund — In need of some simple, clear encouragement for sinners? This book helped me to more understand the heart of our Savior. He is gentle and lowly, and this is where His actions and works spur from. Definitely recommend! The book is rich with language describing God’s pure love.

“You don’t need to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come. No payment is required; he says, ‘I will give you rest.’ His rest is gift, not transaction. Whether you are actively working hard to crowbar your life into smoothness (‘labor’) or passively finding yourself weighed down by something outside your control (‘heavy laden’), Jesus Christ’s desire that you find rest, that you come in out of the storm, outstrips even your own.” 

Dane C. Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers

Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery — A cute story (with hardish, sad parts) about a young writer. I think I could tell from a mile away who wrote this book as there are so many Anne-of-Green-Gables feels.

Welcome Home by Myquillyn Smith — This author has shaped the way I decorate and view hospitality. I really appreciate her theme of being a creator rather than a consumer when it comes to holiday decorating. I haven’t finished reading this yet since I’m reading the chapter that corresponds with the season (i. e. I just read the winter section). I love her honesty and humor when it comes to decking those halls.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen — Every time I read this charming story, I’m impressed with Austen’s irony and wit. The layers to the characters and plot are what make this one of my all-time favorites.

Dear Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster — This is an endearing rags-to-riches series of letters where a young girl writes to her anonymous benefactor. It’s beautiful to see her life and vocabulary transform as she works hard through her studies and social endeavors. One of my favorites!

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis — “But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” (C. S. Lewis) That’s how I felt when I was caught up in the wonderment of Narnia again! This book is powerful, heart-warming and just magically delightful. I hope you’ve had a chance to jump into the Wardrobe recently.

Blogging for God’s Glory in A Clickbait World by Vrbicek and Beeson — As a writer, I have been swamped with information both on the tech side and the writing side. I enjoyed the book Blogging for God’s Glory in a Clickbait World because it was like having a candid conversation with the authors about both strategy and purpose in blogging.I always prefer to ask questions to a friend rather than resort to a google search, and this book was that opportunity. What a blessing to have a like-minded approach to blogging from the counter-cultural perspective of writing first and foremost for the Lord. I benefited from the authors’ transparency of their ins and outs of their own blogging experiences. I finished reading, not with a vision to get-rich-quick, but inspired to pick up the pen to help saturate the world with God’s glory!

Note: I’m doing a GIVEAWAY for this book on my Facebook page (A Time 2 Write)! Head over there to enter. I’ll announce the winner Sunday 11/29th.

After you’ve entered, come back and enjoy a few of my favorite articles from this season that I’ve collected below. Happy Thanksgiving!

LITERATURE

Love, According to E. B. White by Brianna Lambert — I enjoyed this peek into the value contained in fiction like E B. White’s work.

You Don’t Really Want Mr. Knightley by Madelyn Canada — Madelyn summed up my own reasons for appreciating Austen’s portrayal of Mr. Knightley, and in her blog post, she draws attention to the fact we all need a Mr. Knightley, and we need to be one.

THANKSGIVING

A Fractured Thanksgiving by Lainee Oliver — “Do you have to feel thankful to give thanks?”

We Will Gather Together by Madelyn Canada — Love this zoom-in on the old song and its backstory, as well as the reminder of our future fellowship.

FAITHFULNESS

Two Days, One Word by Glenna Marshall — Ever wonder how one day you can have an amazing time with God, and the next it feels lifeless? God loves us on both those days.

The Good, The Hard, and the In-Between by Shelli Rehmert — My mother-in-law pulls out the reality of just life and what we can know no matter what.

Let’s Have Some Good News

I need some good news.

Tidings of comfort and joy. Peace on earth and goodwill to men. Joy to the world.

Soon we’ll enjoy the season just around the corner where we’ll spend time and parties singing and soaking in these themes of the Coming of Immanuel, God with us. I’ve never been so tempted to pull out the tree and fill the corners of our house with extra light. I may be secretly singing carols when I drive places alone.

But first . . . I feel I haven’t conjured up enough gratitude out of this autumn. Do you ever grasp at the passing season, hoping to squeeze out the last of the nostalgia before it moves on?

In September I eagerly gathered fall foliage, put together an autumn playlist, and made plans to write things I’m thankful for on 3×5 cards each day. It’s been a beautiful season, with many more reasons to rejoice than to despair.

Determined to feel thankful vibes, I’ve made pumpkin chocolate chip bread and pulled out my book about pilgrims and made new traditions. Sweet nods to the season, but what I most needed was the power that real heart-rooted thanksgiving to God brings.

This week I sat in the waiting room for an appointment. Over an hour crept by as people more sick than me shuffled in and out, but I felt the full soak of the inconvenience of waiting — er dreading — the extra time before my name was finally called.

My wait turned out purposeful. Ashamed of my impatience, I remembered and prayed for my brave brother-in-law and sister-in-law who have practically been living at their hospital with their baby, watching him experience layers of suffering. They’re sustained by the Lord.

Back at home, I wished to complain in my raspy sick voice (that sounds like pathetic whining practically no matter what I say) about the discomforts of pregnancy. Then I remembered how many would love to feel a little baby pressed up against their ribs. Precious, precious gifts.

But comparison and optimism alone aren’t what bring year-long worship that will spill into Advent season. No amount of white pumpkins or orange-hued branches will replace the worship prompted by gazing at Him.

An old, old friend — Philippians chapter four — gave me hope today:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Thanks to the grace of the Spirit for spurring me to place my supplications, bathed in thanks, in God’s hands, all with a promise of a powerful, unexplainable peace in Christ. This is the good news.

I hope this peace can settle in our hearts even if our Thanksgiving gathering isn’t everything it always used to be. If it’s robbed of health or laced with heartbreak, our minds and hearts are safe, guarded with peace on earth sent from God.

Do not be anxious and neglect the great peace available to us. Here with us is our Immanuel. The PRINCE of Peace, yes, even far as the curse is found. He receives all the supplications and praise our holiday tables can give Him. And our ordinary tables.

Our hearts will respond in thanks when we simply gaze on Him in truth and holiness. Please, remind me of this good news in the days to come.

Photo by Cole Keister

The Blessed and The Besieged

This week I’m sharing a short story I wrote as a writing assignment. The goal was to capture an attribute of God. I hope you enjoy! Have a beautiful fall Tuesday.

The Blessed and the Besieged

“I’m home–if anyone cares!”  

No answer, but a wave of butterscotch oatmeal greeted me as I slung my keys onto the hook.

    A pile of warm cookies and a hot pot of coffee on the counter was all the apology I needed for the absent welcome from my family. I left my jacket on as I surveyed the empty patio out back. With use of every limb and a shoulder, I gathered my Bible, journal, coffee mug, and a sweaterish blanket and stumbled through the backdoor. 

    My coffee steamed as I arranged myself on the patio chair. Tufts of raked leaves meant my brothers were somewhere nearby, but for now I breathed the bright, crisp stillness. 

    I thumbed through my “thankful journal,” thick with lists of God’s faithfulness of the past few months. Good grades on the midterms. A way to serve my church at the upcoming harvest party. Family who followed the Lord. Forgiveness.  

    Today I added butterscotch and bowling parties, the book of Psalms and piano music. I closed my eyes and fully felt the warmth of the sun. God, you are so good. 

    The door burst open. “Kate? There you are.” 

    My brother Tobias waved my phone. “You’re getting a bunch of calls in a row.”

    “Oh, I hope I don’t have to go back into work for some reason.”

    “It’s Lindsay.” Tobias tossed me the phone.  

    I snatched it and re-dialed. 

    “Kate?” my best friend sounded desperate. “Can you come pick me up? I was in a wreck and my car . . . was damaged.”

    My heartbeat quickened. “Are you ok? Tell me where you are. Ok, I’m on my way.” Almost tripping on the creamy sweater blanket, I wadded up all my books and the blanket and thrust them into Tobias’ arms. “Tell Mom I’m going to pick up Lindsay.”

    The orange-gold branches waved at me from the sides of the road just like before, but they seemed to lose their magic as I made my way to the intersection. 

    It was a mess. Where to park? Police lights, ambulances, traffic directors. The peace I had felt moments before seemed wadded up with the blanket I had left behind. Finally I spotted a turquoise hoodie I knew well. 

    The tow truck loaded Lindsay’s new-to-her buick. The side looked like a chewed-up caramel.

    “Oh Lindsay! Are you free to go? Are you ok?”

    “I’m ok. Everyone’s ok. But let’s get out of here!”

    Questions nagged me, but every time I tried to voice them, my words failed. I drove through a nearby coffeehouse and ordered a double cappuccino with whipped cream.

    Tears broke through my friend’s stunned frozen expression.  

    I didn’t blamer her. This was a financial hit on top of an emotional mountain. Lindsay was on the heels of a painful breakup and her mom’s mysterious health issues worsened by the day. Her boss recently cut her hours and no one had heard from her dad in six weeks now.  

    I handed Lindsay the coffee, scanning her face for signs she was ready to verbally process. “Thanks, Kate.” She sighed. “I thought God was loving.” 

    My eyebrows shot up. “But you know He is.” Surely a bent-up buick wouldn’t be the breaking point for one of my strongest friends. I fumbled as I put my change back in my purse.  

    “Then why does my life play out like this? All the time. Seems like He’s kind one day, and then He’s forgotten me the next.” 

    I swallowed and fixed my eyes on the road. “God is good all the time…He isn’t a mood ring. He’s all of His attributes all of the time.” 

    “You remember when we used to play dollhouse? We’d use the cushions and the bookshelves to make mansions and pool houses. Their lives were perfect.”

    I smiled. “Yes, of course. Not to mention the horse barns and boats galore.”

    “I feel like your life is like that. Mine just isn’t.” 

    Defense rose in my chest, and I gripped the steering wheel tighter. But it wasn’t the time to point out how we didn’t have a pool or horse barn or to say how I sprained my ankle recently, or that our wifi was terrible or my dog died earlier this year. She was right. The pain wasn’t comparable. I thought of my thankful journal, creased and crinkled. My parents were strong Christians, and I didn’t have to worry about chronic back pain that had kept Lindsay from sports in her senior year. 

    “Everything is going to be ok…” I knew this was the wrong approach but I had to say something. “Just take a moment to rest. It will all look better in the morning.” We were now in her driveway. Her eyes were dry now but the frown assured me I hadn’t persuaded her. 

    “I’ll see you at the Harvest Party.” She shot out of the seat. “Thanks for the coffee.” 

           


  

    My thoughts, cinnamon sticks, and orange slices bobbed as I scooped cupfuls of cider to different church members. As I handed them away, I thought about each of their circumstances. An older widow who was losing her eyesight and thus her driver’s license. A man whose wife left him years ago. A toddler who already had undergone several heart surgeries. 

    Nothing seemed fair or just. No one tasted the same cup of suffering. 

    I smiled at each of them and tried not to mind the hot drops of liquid spilling over the ladle. I hoped Lindsay would join me soon, but she seemed occupied at the kettle corn booth. What would I say to her when she did come? She thought I had a perfect dollhouse life.  

    “And teach me humbly to receive the sun and rain of Your sovereignty.”

    Was it just this morning in church that we sang The Perfect Wisdom of Our God? My eyes found the turquoise sweater again then dropped to my boots. Leaves bigger than my head pasted to the damp ground. Yes, there was a lot of sun in my life when it came to tangible blessings. 

    And yet, did this give me a silencer — a reason I couldn’t speak into my friend’s trials? Should I be afraid that my turn was coming? 

    Corrie Ten Boom, a Papuan believer in the jungle, my pastor’s wife. Believers from shades of history who, though they had different earthly gifts, still had access to God’s person and character.

    God is all of His attributes all of the time regardless of our situations. 

    The joy spilling around the Harvest Party, the strength of the Ten Booms, the promises of trials but also shared holiness — all of it the evidence of everlasting lovingkindness.

How could I remind Lindsay?  

   


   

Praise and smoke drew upwards, the bonfire concluding our time together after sunset. 

    I joined with my cider as our pastor said, “Please share a testimony of what God’s done for you!”

    I sat next to Lindsay and tugged my beanie closer around my face. “Hi,” I whispered. She halfway smiled.

    Testimonies brimmed between songs. All the same people I had served cider to hours ago, were now giving thanks for the blessings truly tasted in the contrast of pain. It gave great hope for me . . . and for my friend. Trials now and unknown would receive His same sovereignty and grace. 

    Lindsay pushed away a tear, I hoped borne from a softening heart. After a rousing round of Come Ye Sinners, the pastor again called for our testimonies. The silence tugged on me. I had so much to share. But I didn’t want to seem like I was boasting and insensitive when I knew about Lindsay’s doubts. 

    That’s not a good reason to withhold praise! I can’t be afraid. 

    I stood. “God has been encouraging me through a thankful journal I’ve started.” I glanced around at the fire-lit faces. “Every day it seems I use a different pen and have different circumstances, but His attributes stay the same. I’ve been reading a lot about His lovingkindness. The Bible says it’s better than life…my life is very sweet. But I’m finally realizing it’s because His love is larger and longer than life. It will outlast and outshine both the good and the hard of right now. Sin and death will end. No matter what trial He sends, we can humbly receive it with this perspective. So…yeah. That’s all.”

    I thudded back down on the bench. My eyes stung for a moment because of the smoke and because I was checking to see if Lindsay was mad.

    “Thanks for sharing,” Lindsay whispered. “You are one way God’s shown His love to me. And that’s an encouragement.” 

    I gave her a hug. I didn’t want to be the extent of anyone’s experience of God’s love, but I knew He would be faithful to her. He would show her the depths and heights. If I was a start of her remembrance of His love, there would be no end to the marvels she would discover. And God will wipe away every tear one day.     

“Blessed be the Lord, 

for He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me 

in a besieged city.” 

(Psalm 31:21) 

A November Prayer

Hallowed be Your name, oh Lord. Let Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

We’re on the brink of a loaded November, and only You know what will come.

I know it will cause us all to need You just as much as we always have. Please bring us humility from Your heart and wisdom from Your storehouses.

We ask You, like the psalmist did, “Do not grant, Lord, the desires of the wicked; Do not bring about his evil planning, so that they are not exalted.” (Psalm 140:8)

Continue reading “A November Prayer”