New: When God Seems Silent




 I have not lost hope though I have lost the ability to hear God. Whether God is silent, which I doubt, or whether the pain throbs too loudly in my heart’s chamber to hear, I don’t know.

What my family is experiencing is not suffering. Life is hard and this distinction is important to me. There is true suffering going on in the world.  This is not that.


There are people who I like to call Shiny Happy Christians. I don’t understand them in any way, except to say they must not have not experienced real pain. Not yet. I’m uncomfortable around them, but I don’t blame them. Pain and suffering in this life is random I believe.

The randomness of pain is poignant when you are the one experiencing its sting.


Life is misery, life is joy.

For much of my life I thought: “If I was better child. If I were pure of heart” then my father would be less angry and controlling. And my mother would come alive again. And perhaps I would feel less of the constant melancholy that clouded my days. But my actions, my heart, my prayers, my understanding of the Bible seemed to change nothing in my mother or father and the melancholy hovered, always.

My faith became ritual. I began to doubt God. I never thought, in my teen years, WHY was our family so sad, and angry, and afraid, and dangerous? Rather, I supposed that I must deserve this pain somehow.

Oddly, this ache drew me to God, the “Man of Sorrows,” hoping surely God would take my hand and lead me through the darkest valleys of my melancholy heart.

In college my depression worsened to the point of hardly holding on to learning. My father’s disappointment in me increased. The panic and dread I experienced when I was with him made me constantly sick to my stomach.

He took control of my life, as he had each step of it, including attending college. It was not that I didn’t want to learn but the cloud that had hung over me for most of my life was bleak and heavy.  It made college nearly impossible.

My father had always controlled my outcomes. I wasn’t in control and by the looks of it neither was God. All those year, my Dad didn’t change from the raging and controlling man he was at home. No matter how often I prayed.


From Tim Keller, I see with total clarity that the Bible, which I have always loved and studied, has suffering as a main theme. I hadn’t seen this though in certain books I have found solace. The Psalms has offered prayers when I had no words.  Ecclesiastes is empathetic.  Job holds truth.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalms. 34:18

 The great truth which I am clinging to today is that even in Job, his sufferings were not punitive.  As Keller wrote the purpose of Job’s suffering is an “enlarged life with God.”

Though God is silent these days, I find it is more important than ever to read the people of God who lead us into greater understanding in our faith, Keller being one.  Beyond that, I sit in silence no matter how uncomfortable.

I have found fifteen minutes breathing in and out, and in and out, again.  This supports a quieting of my mind.  Perhaps you like me have thoughts  that clutter up your head and worries push their way in. Allowing yourself just fifteen minutes of quiet is a stunning exercise.

In the in breath ask God to SPEAK.  In the out breath, release your doubts and fears. Let yourself be there.

To me this is prayer.   This is clinging.  This is dependence.  This is hope.

Even when God seems silent.


My Psychiatrist and I have cut my antidepressant dose in half. It has taken about a two weeks and I already feel emotions. Although they are not all positive emotions, at least they are feelings. And I can focus enough to read!  I am reading Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller. I’ll be writing my way through the personal insights I gain from this book in the next few weeks.

{Stretching the Canvas of our Imagination}


I’ve tried to sit down and read all day.

Instead I’ve placed phone calls to doctors, waited impatiently for return calls from nurses about supplements and medication’s interactions, and run twice to pharmacy and grocery store.  And, on it goes. One child threw up this morning. Another is dealing with headaches of the magnitude that you or I would be in bed – a 9 on a scale of 1 -10.  Children should not have to suffer so and as I deal with the litany of doctors, I am trying to be the advocate for the whole person who is my child. And be gracious.

I ate my third meal in as many days and just for a minute sipped ginger ale and will write this, Though I’m not technically sick (Moms don’t do that) I am unwell.  The headaches and body aches with this particular virus are awful.  Eating feels like an X sport.

I’ve been trying to read all day and life keeps getting in the way.

As the holidays come rushing, with the “extra” everything on the calendar, this small task will only become more difficult – there will be concerts, school projects, plays, shopping, and parties,there will be more of everything.

And I’ve tried to slow down and read because I know its important to make IT stop. 

It’s essential, I think, to get up even earlier or stay up little later, just to BE. 

We need it. To read that something, or to pray a little, or to write a poem or whatever we do “to stretch the canvas of our imagination”. We need to listen to meaningful music or place a phone call to an important friend or stop and say I love you. To write that letter of appreciation to someone that you perhaps wanted to do at Thanksgiving but didn’t get around to. It’s important to do those things in a whirlwind life full of obligations and duty, or service to others, or personal illness, or whatever our life entails.

It’s essential to make it all stop, especially during December to slow, and celebrate. Advent is about waiting – anticipating, leaning in, listening, and keening toward the Holy One.  This takes intention.

All day, I’ve been trying to start a small little book by Enuma OkoroSilence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent.   And finally, I have begun.  In the introduction she reminds us what it means to cultivate patience. We walk along side Zechariah and Elizabeth and learn from them.

In Silence, she says: “The hard work of Advent reflection and waiting is mingled with the gift of time and space to dream new dreams, to bathe in pools of hope, and to stretch the canvas of our imagination wide enough for God to paint God’s own visions for our lives.”

What one thing are you trying to do this holiday season to slow yourself down, reflect and do the holy work of waiting?  How will you wait?

Will you allow the Holy One to paint a new vision for your life?


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{Enough, Continued …}

Part One of processing the book Enough is here.

I read the book “Enough” by Will Davis Jr and wrote my review.  I kinda thought that would be the end of it.  Lesson learned – my More Than Enough, my Plenty, my Abundance can be or IS someone else’s Enough. Such a neat  idea in theory, but what that means in a daily way didn’t fully sink in – not at all.

That book is messing with me!

I read in Enough” that we are to be giving our ten percent to the church, but in reality for us we’re giving about five percent to our church and about one percent to other organizations.

I cannot stop thinking about that principle that is all over scripture.  What will it mean this month to give ten percent off the top, at the beginning before we pay our bills, and sort out how to live afterwards? These are things that we don’t really want to think about or do.

I woke up this morning thinking about this again, that we’re instructed in scripture to give ten percent and we’re to trust God to provide for our daily manna.

That means honestly taking a look at how we spend our money, where does it all go in a month? Many times for us it is frittered away on more video games, and frozen yoghurt, and iced coffees for the kids; on the conveniences of modern life, like dry cleaning and lawn care and mobile phones and eating out a few times.  For me, on buying books and not requesting them from the library.

What does it mean to take a cold hard look at our monthly spending and at the beginning give to God off of the top and then sort out the rest?

The first thing I remember from the book is that Davis suggested we look about our home for all the things we haven’t used or worn in the last year.  That job, to clear our home of these things so that they might possible become someone else’s Enough, is the task for this week. (Even though, I REALLY DON’T WANT TO DO IT! I’m so lazy.)  We’re going to photograph all the things we don’t need and use, things that are just taking up space in our basement and garage, and give them away.  The task just as it stands is a daunting one and today with the sun shining and a long  empty day looming ahead, what I really want to do is hang out by the lake or something, anything but go through our stuff.  But I think this act of obedience is the thing that needs to be accomplished, today.

Davis spoke of slowing down, listening and being open to God speaking

Yesterday, I found out someone I know is sending their kid to a Shakespeare away camp.  (It feels like everyone sends their kids to summer camp away, except us.) And another person is sending their kids to Grandma and Grandpa for the duration of the summer.  When I heard that I felt envy and anger that we haven’t take our kids on a vacation in several years; although it is out of an act of obedience, where we decided we would never again live on credit.  That was a baby step of financially growing up, that we took a few years ago.  This means we don’t travel if we don’t have the cash the bank.  Yes, I wish to be able to take the kids to visit Grandma and Grandpa, that but for now this is not possible.  We have a child in college and we have many other obligations.

As I woke this morning I was angry and to be honest kind of thought I was mad at God.  Then I realized that we’re just being smart.  We save for retirement, we live within our means, we give (like I said not ten percent yet) and we try to respond to needs as they come before us.  Right now there is no margin for vacations.

It’s not God that is to blame for an unsustainable American Dream.

And if I feel angry that we don’t have Enough to go on a vacation with our kids this summer, I should focus that emotion toward clearing out of the house our More Than Enough so that others can be blessed.


A part of the Patheos Book Club on the book “ENOUGH: Finding More By Living with Less” by Will Davis Jr.

{I am a Hoarder: A Confession}

I clutch at my stuff, even my money, as if it were mine. I live as if I cannot imagine losing it and yet fearful that I will.  

For many years I have wrestled with God’s promises about money, wishing to be more faithful but living as if I must take care of myself. I realized these things reading the book “Enough” by Will Davis Jr. over the fourth of July week.  And that I have an easy life, even what some would call a life of abundance not because I am overly spiritual, devoted or even worthy of this wealth, rather that I was born into a white, middle class family, in the United States of America. (I wrote about that in A 4th of July Ode to Power & Privilege.)

This begs the question of what I do with all that I have?  And pushing that self-knowledge further, how do I trust God to provide if I think that all that I have has been acquired by my privilege and is preserved by my hoarding?  And most importantly, can I continue to live in this way?

I suppose a part of accepting the idea of ENOUGH is acknowledging that I am a spiritual hoarder.  It’s an attitude, a heart issue, and a matter of trusting God (or not.)

The American Dream is the antitheses of ENOUGH.

The idea of having enough is unsatisfactory, perceived as weak and yet that is the challenge of this simple little book.  It asks, as followers of Christ how do we live counter to the American dream of providing “the very best of everything” for our children — home, education, trips, clothes, electronics, all this is striving after something empty.   And if we do continue to live in this way aren’t we living just like everyone else?  What is distinctive about being a follower of Christ, what should be, when it comes to our possessions and money?

Jesus promises that if we live to bless others we will find joy and hope. Davis suggests that our money isn’t ours, we’re entrusted to manage it, and if we look at our abundance as enough then we can be generous with our excess. Jesus taught, as does all of scripture, that we are to help the poor, widows and orphans. Why do my eyes glaze over when I read these words found hundreds of times in scripture?  I live like I believe that I don’t have enough to be more generous than I already am.

Reality check.

It seems to me, no matter how much money we make, we never have enough by the end of the month.  The more we make the more we spend.  The more we spend the less we have.  We’re caught in this trap of the deceitfulness of wealth, the idea that we always need more and the lie that we’d give more away if we only made more!  Although we pay our debts and other obligations, we save for retirement, we provide for our children, we give to the church and to missions, at the end of the month I am always left worrying about the next month’s debts, obligations,  and needs, … it is an endless cycle of stress and lack of trusting God. 

I wonder why Jesus prayed “give us this day our daily bread?” And why the Israelites only received Manna for the day with no left overs, no saving, no hoarding, why? And John said in 1 John 2:15-17 that “you cannot love the world and God at the same time.”

This book, Enough, poked holes in any fragile peace I have made with our money.  It shone the light of Jesus’ words through all my fragile lies, saying what you have is actually enough.  And if you trust God for today, you will find you have excess.

Your excess is a possible solution to someone else problem.  

My more than enough just might be someone else’s enough?! 

And living with more than enough, makes me believe that somehow that I acquired it, that I’m entitled to it, gives me a false sense of security in it, it distracts me, makes me hungry for more (Ecclesiastes 5:10), and makes me unappreciative of what I already have.  Somehow I did something to get all this.

Davis challenges us to see that if we see that we have enough, even more than enough, then we can ask how we can bless others.  This requires acknowledgment first, then slowing down, listening to God, asking what to do with all this abundance, praying for courage and wisdom and trusting that God is good.  God will always give us enough.

Jesus talked about the perils of wealth, not that it is wicked to be wealthy but that it is dangerous and difficult to sustain our faith and devotion.  Davis argues that we develop a false sense of security and entitlement, a stinginess, even a busyness with maintaining our stuff, which is alluring but dangerous.

As I read the words of scripture with new eyes, asking “what is enough?” I realized that not only do I have more than enough, but I am a hoarder in my heart of hearts.

This hit home the other day in a simple way.  I saw our neighbor’s daughter out on my trampoline, on the 107 degree day, with a friend. They had dragged a sprinkler over and were enjoying jumping in the cool air and water and I was angry.  I wanted her off my trampoline! As I examined my silly response, with this new lens of enough, I realized with a start that I was hoarding.  I cannot express exactly why it bothered me so much, because we’ve told her she’s welcome to use it.  I had this visceral MINE response and I realized in that moment that this is how I look at all my stuff. Protect at all costs as if it belongs to me.

  • A person that knows she has more than enough of everything would have been delighted that her trampoline was being enjoyed and her lawn watered at the same time.
  • A person that knows she has enough doesn’t need to buy things for entertainment or security or out of boredom.
  • A person that knows she has enough gives ten percent to the church at the beginning of the month and trusts, then lives carefully, even frugally knowing that all she has isn’t hers at all.
  • She looks for ways to be generous with her things, time and energy.
  • A person that knows she has more than enough trusts that is she has enough for today, to eat and wear, and that God will give for tomorrow.

This he has promised. This is the life of one who has enough, even more than enough, and knows it!

I challenge you to read this book with open hands and heart.  Be ready for many simple, practical ideas and scriptural proofs that all of us have more than enough.  The question is how will we respond?  Do we trust God to give us enough?  Do we hoard our things and our money as if we have to take care of ourselves?   Or can we accept that we have MORE THAN ENOUGH for the very reason that we might be someone else’s ENOUGH?

This little book is a fast read but if you take it in, if you scour scripture for the truth it contains, you will find that your heart is struck with its conviction.  I pray it is so.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ 

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

A part of the Patheos Book Club on the book “ENOUGH: Finding More By Living with Less” by Will Davis Jr.

It doesn’t end there.  Enough, Continued.

EATING ANIMALS by Jonathan Safran Foer

For the last two weeks I have been enjoying life meat free.  I never thought that was possible.  Here’s why I no longer eat animals from America’s factory farms.

This review originally appeared on The Englewood Review of Books website.


“99% of the meat sold in the United States today comes from a factory farm.”

In the 1970s, my missionary parents uprooted us from the barefoot paradise of Papua New Guinea and planted us in Southern California.  My mother, suffering a bizarre set of health issues, began looking for answers in healthy eating practices.  While other kids ate Twinkies and Ding Dongs, Mother read Adelle Davis books on nutrition and force-fed us cod liver oil.

Perhaps because of this, my need to fit in urged me to become a steak-loving “normal” person. Food, for me, was always more than mere sustenance; it was a visceral, beautiful, even creative thing. But as far being a political statement or a critical health issue, well that was strictly for the weirdoes.

Reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals was the first time that I seriously considered that the Chicken Parmesan in front of me or the meat neatly stacked in my refrigerator was once a living thing.  And confronted by the horrors of modern animal farming, as recounted in shocking detail by Foer, I had to face certain facts: factory farms are disgusting and dangerous for our health.

Foer made a three-year investigation into the sickening story that is American meat, describing with ghastly precision the disease, deformity and eventual mutilation of animals that defines factory farming today. I was filled with revulsion as Foer chronicled his grisly experience and quickly came to understand why Ellen DeGeneres has called Eating Animals “one of the most important books [she’s] ever read.”

The story is heart-wrenching, repulsive and barbaric.  One learns that the idyllic family farms we picture in our minds (think Charlotte‘s Web) have been transformed into secretive, highly secured factories lined with rows of “confinement pens” where animals languish, never seeing real daylight.  Foer admits to clandestinely breaking into a turkey farm to discover locked pen doors, gas masks on the walls, chicks with blackened beaks, and both dead and living birds matted with blood and covered in sores.  He details dozens of eerily similar stories indicting the farming of pigs, chickens, cows and even fish:

“The power brokers of factory farming know that their business model depends on consumers not being able to see (or hear about) what they do.”

In a riveting (if also occasionally, rambling) narrative, Foer contends the meat industry is corrupt, with structures supporting the consumer-driven “need” for cheap meat.  Foer notes that prices haven’t substantially increased since the mid-fifties, and that the “efficiencies” of the factory system are the source of this “benefit.”  I was stunned to learn that only 1% of the meat we consume comes from family-run old-fashioned farms.  The rest is from factories where biodiversity is replaced by genetic uniformity, and the antibiotic-laced animals may be contributing to strange flu like symptoms ravaging millions of Americans.

With gritty specifics, allowing for many perspectives, Foer draws personal conclusions, while making it clear that our collective actions can change these practices.  But only by agreeing individually to stop purchasing factory farmed meat.

In this philosophical horror story, I was confronted with my “need” and realized I can no longer be a part of supporting this corrupt system.  A “normal” evangelical Mom, I am choosing to no longer eat animals unless they come locally and humanely from a farm.

We the collective consumer must make conscious choices, even sacrifices.   Foer says it well, “We are defined not just by what we do. We are defined by what we are willing to do without.”  We need to put meat in the middle of the plate of our public discourse.