Step Out



Dear Friends,

This may be a record, even for me, sixteen weeks without a word. I apologize. My commitment to this space is waning, has been waning for a year now. I have no vision for it, and without a vision, I find it very difficult to keep walking the road. I see glimmers of… something… along the horizon, but they’re faint, and I can’t quite make them out yet. I’ve been standing still for a long time, squinting into the darkness and hoping to see more clearly. It’s not working. I think this way is made by walking. Dang it.

For those of you who have been faithfully hanging out here and reading my words for lo these many years, I once again say thank you. Thank you for reading what I write, for encouraging me, for sticking around even when I don’t, and for giving me a reason to keep coming back.

Though I have been silent here, I have been writing elsewhere, and I wanted to pop in and let you know. That feels presumptuous. But I am setting aside my fear of presumption (I’m working on setting aside fear entirely, but God has a lot more work to do in that department!) and letting you know anyway:

First, an essay about Ordinary Time for Velvet Ashes. It’s a celebration of small victories…though I begin to glimpse that no true victory is small.

Second, a revised version of my essay “The Stories Are True” has been published at The Cultivating Project. I have wrestled with this essay for three years, and I am still not happy with it; it does not crackle with the life and light that infused the experience about which I write. After so much rewriting and revising, I am afraid I may have leached out what life was in it, but I let it go imperfectly into the interwebs and pray for the grace to become a better writer.

Third, a sermon I preached back in July on the parables of the treasure and the pearl, which talks about anxiety and small (and not so small) victories (along with a few other things).

But if I were you, I’d skip that sermon, and listen instead to “Go,” the sermon that Jeff VanDuzer preached the week after I did. I’ve been listening to his sermons for 24 years now, and they never fail to point me to God and exhort me to action. This particular sermon resonated with me on so many levels, starting with the one-word title right through to the promise from Revelation with which it ends. Especially if you’re feeling stuck or discouraged, please listen to it.

In closing, I want to share one of my favorite quotes ever, from Lilias Trotter, who gave up a promising artistic career in the late 1800’s to become a missionary to Algeria (if you’ve not read her story, you really should). It’s been a touchstone for me for the past two years, and it fits perfectly with Jeff’s sermon (which you really need to listen to!):

When it comes to prayer for the personal needs of our souls, we do not come again and again to wring an unwilling answer out of our Father but to search in His Word till He gives a promise which meets our case and then to step out on it in the bare faith which believes that it receives.

My friends, on this late summer day, may the sun warm you and breezes cool you and God be always in your heart and mind. And may we all step out on God’s promises in the bare faith that believes that it receives.

With gratitude,


Three Things

Dear Friends,

When it rains it pours! After a month of not much activity on the publishing front, I have an essay and an interview out today, and a podcast interview last week.

First, the essay: Love and Adore is a reflection on Psalm 131, about living deeply rooted in the circle of God’s love, and how that leads us to adoration. Most of us need to remember again and again to remain like that weaned child on her mother’s breast, safe in the circle of the everlasting arms. That’s a lifetime’s lesson.

Second, the interview: Lancia Smith of The Cultivating Project asked me to be her featured writer for May. I was honored and flattered and, truth be told, puzzled. Why me? I still don’t know why she asked me, but I do know this: Lancia has a gift. Forget Barbara Walters. Lancia Smith knows how to interview people in such a way that they shine. When I read the interview, I hardly recognized myself. She made me look good, better than good, certainly better than I actually am. If you know me in real life, maybe don’t read this. You’ll think I’ve been holding out on you.

Third, the podcast interview: my dear friend Emily Allen launched a website in March and a podcast in May. She also has six children. Whom she homeschools. I’ll spare you all the other amazing things she does. If I didn’t love her so much, I’d be green with envy over her initiative, stamina, godliness, wisdom, and just general awesomeness. Her heart is full of love for others, and seems to be endless in capacity. I count myself blessed to call her friend and be enfolded in the circle of her capacious blessing. For her podcast, Emily and I talked about the out-of-doors life with children.

As always, friends, thank you for subscribing to my website. If you read the interview with Lancia, you will know how important you are to me. Even if you don’t, I want you to know that your faithfulness in reading is a large part of the reason I am still writing. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

May you know today how high and wide and long and deep is Christ’s love for you.

With warmest gratitude,

April in Books


Dear friends,

Heading into Lent, I had grand plans of launching a newsletter, of starting a Facebook group, of creating a Movement. I was going to call it Read Upstream, a gathering of people who like old books and treasure the wisdom they contain. Over the course of Lent, those plans got dismantled. I’d like to say it was God who dismantled them, but it might have been me. Either way, I’m not terribly disappointed. I’m not sure I’m Founder-of-a-Movement material anyway. I lack confidence and that je ne sais quoi we call charisma.

I’m still working on the newsletter (technical difficulties abound!), so for now I’m posting some of what would go in said newsletter here on my blog. To wit, a list of books I finished in April (some of which took me many months to read) that I think others–you!–may enjoy or benefit from (both, I hope!).

So here is my April in books:


City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge (1936)

I discovered Elizabeth Goudge four or so years ago, and I’m slowly reading through her body of work because I love her books so much that I want there always to be another one.

City of Bells is one of her mid-career novels. It’s good, but not as good as her later books (which is exactly as it should be). As with all Goudge novels, the city is as much a character as the people (though the sense of place is not as rich and developed as in her later books), and her sympathetic portraits of the people of Torminster are engaging and delightful. Her prose is delicious, and her insight into human personality is as helpful as it is profound. For those of us who are introverts, nine-year-old Henrietta is a wise role model.


George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans by Geoff and Janet Benge (1999)

The Benges have written several series of middle grade biographies. This is from their Christian Heroes series. The writing is…not excellent. But the content more than makes up for paucity of style. This book is a quick read, but I found myself stopping periodically in wonder at the faith of George Muller and praying that God would increase my own faith. For that alone I think it’s worth reading!


The Winter Seeking by Vinita Hampton Wright (2003)

I picked up this book at the library because I will be speaking at a writing retreat next March where the author is keynoting. I figured I ought to be familiar with her work. This novel is set in December and is ostensibly a Christmas book, but it’s fine to read in April.

It was particularly helpful for me, as I begin to explore again my desire to write novels (one of the things that came up during Lent that led to the dismantling of my Movement). It is a simple story about a young woman in a difficult time who meets Mary and through her, Jesus. It helped me see that a book can be good even if it’s not Great Literature. It helped me see that even a simple story is worth writing. And it is helping me listen to the characters that have been making cameo appearances in my head for the past eight years, with the intention of finally writing down what they say and do.


Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1932)

I read this aloud to my kids for our winter literature selection. It’s a re-read for Jack and Jane, but so good it’s worth reading again and again. Wilder’s re-creation of her childhood in the Big Woods of Wisconsin delights me every time I read it. It delights my kids, too. An added bonus: there’s a fabulous story about the importance of obedience (without being preachy) that serves as a great springboard for discussion, even with six-year-olds.


Julius Caesar by Plutarch (c. 100)

For this I give myself the Championship Reading Award. Plutarch is difficult, to say the least. But Charlotte Mason insisted upon him for all children over ten, so I read this with my two oldest, two or three pages a week for 20-some weeks, and we finished it. Woot! Woot! But it wasn’t just that we finished it; it was that we met and got to know Caesar, one of the most famous of all Roman leaders, and the mixed bag of motives that he was. We had great discussions over those 20-some weeks about nobility, motivation, means, and ends…which is probably why Mason included Plutarch in her curriculum. This story just begged to be talked about and pondered.


Paradise Lost by John Milton (1674)

My friend Lisa and I started reading Paradise Lost in September. We’d read two of its 12 books every month or so and then meet at a local coffee house/bookstore to discuss it. We finished reading it and discussed the last two books–about Messiah’s reversal of the Fall through His death and resurrection–during Holy Week. How very apropos. This is easily my favorite literary adventure of the past decade. Milton’s poetry staggers, his vision of God boggles the mind, and his portrait of Satan was painfully apt, containing as it did so much of human self-importance and self-will.

I highly recommend finding a friend who’s game and reading this book together. It’s amazing. Rich in image, idea, and allusion–so much to talk about!


A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St Paul’s Religion by James S. Stewart (1935)

I read this book slowly and savored it. Stewart was a scholar as well as a pastor, and though his writing is accessible as only the clearest thinking can be, it is not easy. Sometimes he includes the Greek and doesn’t translate it, assuming that I as the reader know Greek. Right. But apart from that (even including that!), this book shimmers. Multiple times I was moved to tears. (When was the last time a book of scholarly exegesis did that to you?) Even more times I was moved to pray.

This book awoke in me a deep sense of gratitude and awe for all Christ has done for me, which was (says Stewart) the driving force of Paul’s life. Stewart does a remarkable job not simply of capturing the love and awe behind the apostle’s life of abandonment to his Lord but of casting that vision forward, too, into my life. This is one of those soul-shifting books; after reading it, I am a different person than I was before.


Not that I need more books on my To Read list, which is already a half-mile long. Still, I’d love to hear what you’ve read recently that sparked your plug.

For the joy of good old books,




Photo by Beth Jusino, Creative Commons via Flickr.

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