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A few months ago I had a conversation with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about her upcoming marriage to Robert Wolgemuth, their joy in one another and the Lord was palpable. Nancy has faithfully served the Lord for over fifty years of singleness, teaching women to love and study the word, and reflect their maker in wholeness. I’ve benefited from her ministry, but mainly I’ve benefited from her example. Here was a woman who served the Lord in her singleness for a very long time. While there was an overarching confidence in her call to singleness, though, fifty years of life in this world can threaten our confidence in a great many things.

Robert and Nancy have now married and their wedding video is here. I urge you to take fifteen minutes when you can find them and watch it. Even if you do not feel the call to singleness, or even if you are already married, what is most present and beautiful in their story is not the theme of marriage or singleness, but of trusting God in all kinds of circumstances.

One of the things Nancy talks about is how she has always taught the gospel as the love story it is: a Groom coming to make his bride beautiful and bring her to himself, but how now she would learn to bring glory to God in the telling of that same story as a married woman. I agree and have said for years the church understands singleness better than any other entity on earth because we intrinsically know what it means to long for what we do not have in fullness.

But what happens when you get married and the longing dissipates or distills or even disappears? What happens when you wake up next to a man who does fill so many of your longings? What happens when you live within the walls of a home you’ve desired for 35 years? What happens when your message of longing feels a bit less present and a bit more satiated?

This morning I read the preface to John Piper’s Advent readings, The Coming of Indestructible Joy. He writes, “Peter [in II Peter 1:13, 3:1] assumes that his Christian readers need to wakened. I know I continually need awaking. Especially when Christmas approaches.”

Especially when Christmas approaches.

I have still been thinking about Philippians 2:12 this week, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” These words in particular: “much more in my absence.” Another way of saying this is, “especially in my absence.”

One look around my world these days and I have it all: a husband who loves me, a beautiful home of our own, a good job, a home bursting with friends this weekend. But one thing I do not have is Christ in His fullness—and I need every reminder possible of his absence. Nothing magical happens when you get married, but something is risked: the constant, pressing, angst of desire. Not for an earthly spouse, but for the heavenly one.

Whoever you are, and wherever you are today, a few days before the eve of Advent, remember the longing especially in his absence. Remember the people who waited decades and centuries for the coming of Christ. Remember “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:2). Perhaps your longing is pressing and present, perhaps it is dormant and dulled, but it is there, somewhere. Find it. Empty your world this season of things and distractions, or instead keep them, and make them serve as reminders of the shadows they are.

We walk in darkness, partial blindness. We see, like the blind man at Bethsaida, “men as trees walking.” We see partially, not fully. We long for wholeness and live in shadows. We have and do not have. We exist in the already and the not yet. Let’s press apart the closed over pieces of our hearts, the pieces that have forgotten to long, or the pieces that only know longing for earthly things.

This Advent season, let’s especially long especially in our groom’s absence.


Perhaps you’ve already seen this around, but in case you haven’t, spend some time looking at it today.

The shame in Eve’s face, the peace in Mary’s.

The fruit clutched to Eve’s chest, the protective hand on Mary’s womb.

The serpent wrapped and imprisoning Eve, the heel of Mary crushing his head.

The nakedness of Eve, the clothing of strength and beauty on Mary.

The gulf between the women, and the hands and womb closing it.

This is the gospel for all of us.

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Like the amputee who still feels pain in his phantom limb, I feel the trepidation of misdirection and mis-decision. I made so many poor decisions in the past year and a half that the choice-making part of my brain feels incapable of going straight in any direction.

On January 1st I will sit with my journal and Bible and ask myself the list of questions I ask every January 1st. I will take stock and inventory of 2014 and look toward 2015 with a hope-filled eye. (God, make it so.)

A friend sat across from me the other day and asked why I can’t just get excited about this new season. Life is about to grow crammed with a new job and classes, plus the things already cramming it full and brimming it over. Yet I feel the phantom pains of the missing limbs: the marriage that didn’t happen, the move that didn’t happen, the date that didn’t happen, the conversation that didn’t happen. I have no regrets and I know the gangrene growing on those limbs would have eaten the whole of my body alive. But I feel the loss of them still.

To say those words, right out loud, feels shameful and sinful.

The things for which I am grateful are overwhelming, but they all came at great cost this year. This is perhaps the first time I can look systematically at good and see how it was brought about by death first.

. . .

This morning I read in Isaiah 11, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse.” Tears fill my eyes and I can’t keep reading because I see the stump legs and stump arms protruding from my person. All I see is cut off limbs, life interrupted, and it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

From that stump, though, comes a shoot. And from that shoot comes fruit.

All week I have been meditating on what it means to be cut from and pruned. I have done the work of pruning before, cutting branches that do not bear fruit so they will bear more and better fruit. I know the difficult work of taking what is live and making it live better. But I cannot bring life from a stump, I cannot make a dead and severed thing live again. This is the work of the Spirit alone.

On that fruit the Spirit of the Lord will rest,

The fruit that is borne in me through Him will be wholly His, not mine.

the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

He has ultimate wisdom for every path in my life, and full understanding of the details.

the Spirit of counsel and might,

He is the one with words of comfort and strength. His advice directs me, and his power carries me.

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

He knows all and is King over all.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see

He will not fret on January 1st at the year to come.

or decide disputes by what his ears hear.

He does not hold the past year against me. He keeps no record of my wrongs.

. . .

I once had a dream in which I arrived at Heaven with no arms and legs. When Christ asked me, “Child, what made you like this?” I answered, “You said, ‘If our hand offends you, cut it off.’ Every time I looked at my arms and legs, all I could think of was the harm they’ve done to myself and others, so I either cut them off or served with them until they fell off.” I do not know what Christ looks like, but I will never forget the care I saw in his eyes in that dream. It was perhaps the first time I felt the love of a Father. He touched the stumps of my arms and legs and gave to me new ones, but they were not mine and this was clear to me. They were wholly un-of me and wholly of Him.

This is the shoot that comes forth from death. Christ.

God, make it so.

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I’ve been in Israel for the past ten days with hardly even a moment to jot down notes about my time there. In the meantime, all sorts of people were publishing words and phrases I put together anyway. The show runs fine without me. What a relief, right?

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If you’re a Christianity Today subscriber, you can read my short piece from the magazine online:

For most of us today, the endgame is simply to survive. Survive the family dynamics, the financial constraints, the season, and then sweep up the wads of wrapping paper, tear down the tree, and sit down with a glass of wine and declare Christmas “Finished!”

I was interviewed by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood on singleness in the church:

It isn’t that he’s given the gift of marriage to others, and I’m the giftless kid in the corner. Today my gift is singleness. There’s a rhetoric in Church culture that assumes every single is waiting to be married, which may be true in some respects, but it doesn’t help us to treasure these days as the gift they are. In order for us to know these days are a gift, though, we have to see singles being utilized as they are, not waiting for a future version of them to materialize through marriage.

The Gospel Coalition reprinted this on ways to encourage your pastors (and families):

Not only will you never hear me say anything bad about one of my pastors (a single honor), I labor to speak well of them and to them every chance I get (a double honor). I want them to know I appreciate their investment in me, our church, the Word, and gospel initiatives.

. . .

Hope something from one of them encourages you. After this week I plan to land at home for the foreseeable future (this fall has had me gone more than I’ve been home), and hopefully that means I’ll be writing with more regularity (or at least better quality…).


I drive home tonight with the snow coming full at me, like swimming in the solar system. You know it if you’ve driven in it, coming down fast, coming down full, laying thick. It’s so beautiful it takes my breath away, I get dizzy at its beauty. But the road is ahead and it slinks long and dark and the snow lays thicker and my tires take me home to the stone house over the bridge on the hill by the river.

I grew up driving on these roads.

Not really. I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania. That’s where first steps and lost teeth and history tests and high school graduation happened. But it was on these roads that I grew up, that I came into my adulthood, that I lost faith in everyone and God, Him too. And it is these roads that I find myself back on, so at home, so full of faith in God and still not in everyone, or anyone.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A friend and I drove on these roads for so many hours today. Heated seats in a snow ready Suburu made the drive more than bearable, almost enjoyable. We talked about the kingdom and the gospel and faith and planting churches and love and life and hard conversations and good ones. He dropped me off at my car in Potsdam tonight and hugged me tight and I nearly cried and I’m nearly crying now.

This place is so known to me and I am so known here. I know its cracks and crevices, its hills and valleys, real and metaphorical. I know its roads and turns and I anticipate them by rote. The anatomy of here is home and my anatomy is home here.

I am not homesick for here anymore than I am homesick right now for my very own bed or home in Texas, or anymore than I am homesick for heaven, really. Heaven is just the place where we are surrounded by those who love most—and it is not us that they love most, but this is why it is the safest place of all. That kind of love transcends this horizontal home.

But I leave my friend and weep on the way home, diving headfirst into the Milky Way of snow, gulping up the north country air that smells of woodsmoke and cold and snow—which is a scent I cannot describe even if I try. I weep because coming here reminds me to set my sights on something better than the flurries in front of me, but on the long road before me.

It is a long way home and we are all so far away still.


The groaning of earth is heavy this Advent season. I drove yesterday weeping while All Things Considered played the solemn ringing of bells that sung for 26 lost lives a week ago. Washington DC was a deep bellowing bell and Hampstead like the sound of silverware in a wooden drawer, Lansing was mournful and Sandy Hook was musical.

I wonder about the bell maker from that church in Sandy Hook—did he know that a hundred years after he cast those molds his bells would ring out the memory of six year olds?


I am grateful for the Mayans and not their strange magic or numbering systems, but their calendar and their prediction of the end of the world so nestled between the tragedies of 26 families and the jubilant Christmas morning of a million other families. I needed all this talk about the end of the world, not because I believed a word of it, but because I need the weight of the second coming heavy on me. I needed it to bring order to my misplaced priorities and misappropriated mourning.

Some say that the joy of Christmas is in the youngest faces, in their expectation that what they asked for is under the tree, wrapped in paper and bows. Some say one cannot fully appreciate the season until you have children and sometimes I believe them. But not always. Because the longer I live, without children, without distraction, the depth of Christmas makes room for the truest expectation to be present. I have not prepared room in my heart on purpose, but it is there, in the void of so many other things, there is room in my heart for heaven and nature to sing. For heaven to call and earth to groan back: Come, Jesus, Come.


Last night in an old warehouse in Dallas, amidst pine trees, white lights, and a room packed full of so many favorite faces, we closed an evening of song with a Come Thou Long Expected Jesus/Joy to the World medley and I stood there in the back row and closed my eyes, breathing deep the scent of wood, fir and firelight, the stuff of earth, ready, waiting, groaning.

Let earth receive her King.


It’s hard to know that it’s Christmastime here in Texas. The cold is gentle, the rain soft, the ground bare, and I have not set anything under the tree. There are gifts to be sure, but they’ll be dispersed through the year. The candlelight service at church helps; we hear about the Advent Past Advent Future, a thousand candles are lit and our faces glow. It feels like Christmas then, for three songs and ten minutes.

A friend and I sat across from one another for a few hours after church. We are not the hiding sort and we both confess first thing that Christmas is hard when you are 31 and single. I don’t mean to ask for pity here, Christmas is hard for any number of reasons for some of you and Christmas is everything wonderful for the rest of you. I just mean, at this juncture in our lives, Christmas is hard to bear. We talk about the already and the not yet, we talk about the incarnation, God in flesh coming down to us, we talk about the holy, the hush, the goodness of God and how difficult we make things for ourselves.

There has been one song on repeat for me this week because it is about uncertainty, even amongst certainty.

There is a tension we live in that reckons us broken over and over again because we know the end of the story, but we’re still living out the story and it is the living that is hard.

Tonight my campus pastor taught about how the first Advent, the coming of God incarnate was only half the story, but how we often times live as though it is the whole story. We forget the second Advent. We long for it, but forget that it’s coming.

We forget that what we do in the hush of today is holy in heaven because of what He has done and what He will do.

I come home and light a fire, some candles, put my song on repeat.

I want to live in the tension, but I want to live in today too. I want to know that it’s His love for my today that brought the first Advent and it’s His same love for my tomorrow that brings the second. But I want to know that even though it does not feel like Christmastime, it is today and today is enough.

Tonight the earth stands still, all over it, there are families stopping and gathering and celebrating something.

Tonight I’m celebrating that I do not know what tonight will bring, but I know it is full of promise because He kept the first Advent and I eagerly wait for the second.

I wake this morning to the sound of rain pounding on our back porch. I lay still and listen. I guess it’s fitting that the weather would be inclement today. It’s probably snowing at home. And I’m sure it’s icing in more places. Inconvenient to the holiday travelers.

This week I think about inconvenience.

Not the stuck in traffic or the grocery store is out of your cereal kind of inconvenience. The dramatic kind, the sort that interrupts your day or your life with news you never expected or always dreaded. The “Mary, virgin, you’re going to have a baby” sort of inconvenience.

So many times I wonder, checking the tenderness of my heart, “God, do you mean this for me? Now? This thing for this moment? Couldn’t it be later? Better? More? Less? Anything but?” Even joy feels inconvenient sometimes. I want to hang on to the apathy or fear because it feels more comfortable there, more fitting for a kid as disappointing as I am.

I think about this all week: why is virginity so important for the mother of Jesus to possess? I think all my life I have assumed that the reason for her virginity was because only purity can beget purity and this might be my Catholic heritage hanging on a bit. December 8th, my birthday, falls on the Day of Immaculate Conception I’ve always been told–perhaps I am destined to think about such things. To me, this woman in white and blue is the epitome of purity, the only picture of what God requires from those he can use.

I realize recently how contrary to the gospel that thinking is.

And I may speak heresy here, forgive me, I’m still stumbling around these truths.

I think God could have used, just as easily, a stained and worn woman, a broken and cast aside girl, someone with a story of sins a mile high, and he did. They are written there in the lineage of Jesus—Rahab and Tamar, near Leah and Bathsheba, women who strung the threads of sin into their story, who bought their impurity at the hands of deceived men.

This morning I land on this: it was not her virginity that prized Mary above them all, she who was not sinless, who had committed sins of fear and envy, disobedience and untruth. She was not holy and this was not her reward, this Inconvenient Conception. It might have been any girl in that lineage, at any time. Her child was not the reward of her purity, He was the result of the miraculous.

And this is the only reason why an impossible conception was hers.

I think about that this morning. I think about the inconvenient things, the broken things, the difficult things, the ways I have worked for honesty and purity and faith and sometimes seen no reward. I think about how God does miracles in the middle of impossible situations and surprises the world with his methods. Not as rewards (His grace is more beautiful than a system of that caliber), but as proof of His goodness.

I weep on that. As this year closes out, as I think about how faithlessly I have been and how brokenly I have lived. I think past regrettable ways I have acted and unfortunate things I have said. I process the reward I have now, this almost inconvenient peace (or at the very least, unmerited peace).

I think to myself: Thank you Father, that you do not always save the best things for the best behaved, thank you that sometimes you choose us on the merit of the miracle alone.

I collect favorites.

This morning, while we’re all still disheveled and waking, one of my roommates stands in front of me and demands to know what to get for Christmas for the girl who doesn’t keep anything. Before I can say anything, there is a chorus of “…and hugs don’t count!”

So I say time, but I am vetoed. I say a Starbucks gift card since it seems the only charges on my account are from there, they say that’s like giving me money and I don’t need that. Finally we settle on trying to find a cheap armchair from a thrift store. I have an empty corner in my room next to the window and I want to sit there in the morning, with coffee and quiet.

The only things I keep are my favorites. Mostly art, some books. And people. People are my favorite. You are probably one of my favorites. I’ve probably said that to your face and you laughed at me because you heard me say it to another face moments before. I love you. Don’t you get that? You are my favorite. I collect my favorites and I keep them. Forever.

My favorite line in a song of all time is this: His law is love and His gospel is peace. I have never known why I love it so much. Maybe the cadence? Maybe the alliteration (alliteration is my favorite)? Maybe the tremor in our voices when we sing that line? I don’t know.

I sat across from a friend the other day and she wept, the gospel is so hard, so demanding, unrelenting, it makes us change and it’s hard, I’m finished. I’m done.

I know, I said. And that’s okay.

I was not agreeing with her, that the gospel is hard, demanding, unrelenting. I was just saying, “I know how you feel.” And I do. There have been times when the law has felt like chains and the angst of the gospel has demanded more of me than I have ever had to give. But the truth is that his law is only love and his gospel is only peace, and it’s my feelings that are wrong.

This year when I sing this hymn, though, I am thinking of how only the confidence of truth sets us free. Because we can know something and not really know it. We can believe something and still struggle to believe it. We can feel the heavy weight of something and not feel the freedom of the weight.

God incarnate came and taught us to love. He came to break chains of oppression, to set slaves free. And these people around us, these brothers and sisters, they’re slaves. We feel like slaves sometimes too. But we who are children of God, we know that that law is only there to show us our need and that the gospel is only there because we couldn’t do it on our own.

The law is love.
The gospel is peace.

It is my confidence in the truth of God’s character that makes me trust Him. I trust that He loves me because I trust that God is love, not because I feel loved. I trust that He has peace for me, not because I feel peace, but because I know that He is the Prince of Peace.

That alone is worth the praise of His holy name.

That is my real and truest favorite.

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!
My wall of some favorite art

I thought I’d finished my post on the last verse of the hymn earlier today, but reason won out and I deleted it. You might have been one of the few who got to read a bit of that blather in the ten minutes it was up and I’m sorry if you did.

A friend asked me last week if I had any regrets and I answered truthfully when I said I did not.

The truth is that so much of life is lived wrought with difficulty, but regret is a backward motion and living can only be done forward. Every experience in my life has led me toward a deeper truth of God character and more transparency in my own. If we try to play chess with life, there is an almost certainty we will be the checkmated.

I believe that God is sovereign and also that He is good, and that He is so good that He has ordained a path for us that brings us the most joy and Him the most glory. I would stake my life on that belief. I would die on that belief. And not because I have any illusions that the most joy to be had will be had on earth. I’m confident that my most blissful earthly moment will not be a fraction of the joy I’ll experience on the threshold of eternity.

So sometimes the paths during life feel miserable. The paths of the past few weeks have felt crushing. I am feeling that familiar December angst pushing me in, and my soul is asking questions that are probably better left unasked. I feel unsafe–there is nowhere to go where there is complete trust, complete faith, complete love.

And then I come home, put on my smart wool socks and sweat pants, take out my contacts, curl up with a good book. In a few hours Season comes in with chili and cornbread and we sit side by side on my down comforter and eat chili out of holiday mugs. Another hour later she brings in spiced apple cider and we talk. She leaves and soon Jenna comes in, sprawls across my bed, and tells me how the gospel was made real to her today. I put five versions of O Come, O Come Emmanuel on my playlist and begin to write the final verse of the hymn. This, what you’re reading now.

The truth is that life is lived forward and there are moments of misery, hopelessness, but there are glimpses of heaven, hope, and unconditional love. He is making safe the way to heaven. He closes the paths on misery. But it is all done forwardly, intentionally, and in certainty of the end of the story.

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

It’s one of those days, weeks even, that just starts by tumbling over itself. It’s busy. It’s wrought with commitments and deadlines. It’s subject to the direction of others and not myself. It’s a week where I begin with a sucker punch to the soul. And then I end it with one too.

It’s been that sort of month actually.

Today didn’t escape it.

One thing after another just sticks in, twists, gives another jab, for emphasis and pulls out, leaving a gaping hole.

Okay. Maybe that’s melodramatic. I told Season that today, after we ordered at Twisted Root and the name they gave us for our order was Amanda Hugandkiss (think about it for a second…). Oh, the irony. Season took the name-card quickly, before I could dissolve in a puddle of tears at the counter. Never does singleness feel more acute than December.

Everyone wants to know if I’m going home for Christmas. How do you explain to people that there is no home to go to? That every place I’ve lived has been home and yet is still so much not home? That my family is states and continents away and wouldn’t be all in the same room if we all lived in the same town anyway. How do you say all that to someone? Here, there you go? Whaddya wanna do with that now?

It’s easier, I tell a friend this morning, to just hermit myself, cloister in, bed down, hibernate until this month is over.

I still haven’t decided whether or not I’ll make good on that threat (or promise).

I’m ready for heaven. More and more I’m ready for heaven. I’m ready for wide paths, paths that don’t require me to do or say or be hard things. I’m ready for constant joy and the end of brokenness and disappointment. I’m ready for the key of all joy to be put in my hand, for the door to open wide to all things redeemed and all hurt finished. I’m ready to feel safe instead of scared.

I’m ready to walk forward, look behind me and see a closed door to every broken thing, and a heavenly home stretching on in front of me.

O Come. Oh COME.

Come Emmanuel.

Come and be with us. We know you are with us. But be with us here, in person. Tangible. Touchable. Reachable. Known.

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

I’ve been waiting a long time.

This week I turn 31. There is a period of life when you want to be older than you are, where you add “and half” or “almost” before or after your stated age. I have passed that period. Now I just state it plainly: 30. This week 31. There are many things in my life I wanted to accomplish by age 30 and never even considered that they wouldn’t be accomplished by 31. But, here we are, with only four days left to complete that bucket list.

I think I’ll still be waiting after this week. Age, to God is a small thing. He chose kings at eight years old and gave babies to 100 year olds. He is not surprised by the script of my life, nor the trajectory of my timeline. One day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as one day.

But every December I grow pregnant with wait.

While children are baited with wrapped boxes under Douglas firs and Honeys are held in suspense over whether they’ll get what they’ve hoped for all year, I am grown heavy with wait.

Perhaps it is because my birthday is so close to Christmas, I don’t know. The passing of time feels heavier the older I get. I feel that ache, that expectation, that hope for something more so acutely. I even dare ask for it, scrawling my Christmas List to God with paltry prayers and asks. I want to be the child who asks for what I need and what I want, but I’ll be honest–31 years of waiting for some things feels overwhelmingly impossible.

Ruth, she knew the waiting. She laid her waiting at the feet of her kinsman redeemer. A shocking act of obedience.

Jesse, her grandson, he knew the wait. The Messiah would come through him. But surely not through the youngest? The dirty shepherd?

David, his son, he knew the wait: 13 years of waiting between his anointing and his throne sitting.

And still no Messiah.

I feel that sometimes. I feel that hopelessness of putting my expectation in what was said and not Who God Is.

We hear “Rod of Jesse’s Stem” and we think, surely here is the Messiah, from Jesse? But no, Messiah doesn’t come for hundreds of years and when He comes, He comes in quiet, in brokendown places, to brokendown impossibilities. Surely the answer of mankind is not this?

This Christmas, this birthday, I am learning this: my expectation cannot be in a name or a plan, a list or an ask. It cannot be in a deadline or in a certainty of timeline. It is in a Person.

Last night at my church we learned that the door to hope is hopelessness and that hope has a name, Jesus Christ. And I wake this morning, stretching my legs, stretching my heart, asking: be here, Hope. Be my confidence, Hope. Be my joy, Hope. Be my trust, Hope. Be all that I need, Hope.

Take as long as you need, Hope, because I trust that what You say will be accomplished and Your mighty power will bring salvation and victory, but it will also bring the small things, the small joys, the small answers. Hope, You are trustworthy because You have a name and You are not just the expectation of what a box contains or what a list asked for. You are a person and You have come and will come.

And You are worth all of my hope in the meantime.

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse’s stem,
From every foe deliver them
That trust your mighty power to save;
Bring them in victory through the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Two of my younger brothers are in the military. One was supposed to be home from Afghanistan by Christmas. On Monday, while the office was a flurry of Christmas cheer, he called me and I dissolved in tears because the truth is that he still doesn’t know when exactly he’ll be home.

This is a miracle.

The miracle is not that he is in Afghanistan or that the military, for all it’s pomp, circumstance, and bureaucratic red tape, is one of the most inefficient machines I’ve ever encountered. The miracle is not that he doesn’t know when he’ll be home or that he is calm, collected about that. It’s not even a miracle that he calls once a month (I’ve learned to answer those ‘unknown’ numbers that are 98% telemarketers and 2% brothers calling from war-torn countries.).

The miracle is that when I hear his voice, I weep.

Second-borns are notoriously passive-aggressive and third-borns are notorious instigators and we two did not escape the notority. Suffice it to say that our entire childhood was marked by infractions and arguments. There were never two of us who had to be more separated by our parents than we two.

The only time in my life that I can remember a palpable anger in my heart was in 2000, against him. We were both grieving the loss of Drew, sure, but his sharp tongue and my flailing hand met each other and I have never forgotten what divisions that moment exposed.

So that we love one another, this is a miracle.

But that we are friends, this is the work of peace.

I pray for peace in the middle east and the world, and I’ll admit, though my feet have been on much foreign soil, it was not until I had uniform wearing, gun wielding brothers, that I prayed as earnestly and desperately for it as I do now.

There is deep in me, a confidence: the Prince of Peace has not abdicated and my prayers are there mainly to realign my confidence in His sovereignty and goodness.

There are wars and rumors of wars, and there is brokenness between siblings and parents, and there is strife between political parties and even among parties themselves. There is fear in the hearts of military parents and spouses and children, and there is arrogance in the hearts of leaders and insurgents. 

Here, in Advent season, we want to set things right, we want to be peace, and extend peace, and experience peace. Somewhere, deep inside every one of us, we want to see resolution, a rightness of the wrong, a oneness. And so we busy ourselves sweeping up streets and feeding the poor, rescuing broken people and trying desperately to put things right. Making peace our object and end goal.

But peace can’t be the object because He is the object.

And He has set peace on our hearts because He has set eternity on the hearts of every one of us.

It’s a miracle, while things are broken all around us, to see wrong things put right. To love my brother as fiercely as I do, to weep freely on the phone with him, to need him, to love him. This is the miracle of King of Peace–not of peace itself.

It’s a miracle, while things are broken all around us that every good thing is there to point us to redemption, the plan, a reminder: this isn’t home, but here’s a glimpse of home. A piece of the Real Prince of Peace.

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

A few weeks ago, around a campfire and laughter, someone asked the question: What is your irrational fear? The myriad of fears present were surprising, and some of them somewhat laughable.


A car accident.

My roommates try to logic me out of this on a regular basis, but whenever possible, I pass the car keys to someone else. Their logic is that wherever I am sitting in a car, if there is an accident, I will still be in it. But it isn’t the fear of being hit or even dying. The fear is that I will cause the accident.

A friend asked me why last night, after I passed him my keys. Why the fear? I suppose the accidental death of one brother and the near death of my Mom in a separate incident leaves me somewhat shaky, but really, I’m a safe driver with only one ticket under my belt (for an expired inspection) nothing else to show for my fear. It’s irrational, I know.

It’s a shadow of a fear, a fear of something that has cast a long shadow in my direction.

It’s death’s dark shadow.

And yet, it’s not death I fear. It’s that hulking, overwhelming, aching isness of death. Death is not anything, it is a void, but that void is more present than any tangible thing I know. I feel it close this advent season. Cancer. Dialysis. Miscarriage. Suicide. Wherever it can, life steals itself from us, slinking into the long, dark night like the cloaked bandit it is.

That ache sits heavy. That shadow casts long.

There is nothing, nothing, that can fix that and the more I live, the more death comes knocking, the more I know that there is no cheer on earth to be found when we sit shell-shocked holding a sobbing friend. We are indignant for moments: so young! So good! So much life to be lived still! We are quietly broken, we are resolute, beating this thing. But at the end, when there is nowhere else to go, when cheer is far, far from us, we can know only this:

He has come. And He is coming.

He has come with that broken new cry, the cheer of birth, even a lowly one.

And He is coming with that final and perfect cheer. That last hurrah. That final trumpet.

Bringing a light so encompassing and infiltrating that no shadow will remain, no darkness will linger, and no death forevermore.

Oh come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Thy people with Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!