Tuesday, May 30, 2023

On Waking After a Storm {A Poem}

We are fine. There have been a few severe storms in our area and more elsewhere in America’s Tornado Alley. Our property has not been damaged so far this year, but we have experienced that in the past. This poem came from memory and empathy. I didn’t want kind Crumbles to worry needlessly  ❤️‍🩹


The morning after the tempest

Reminds me of waking from surgery.

Do the trees still have all their limbs?

Are they stable on their feet

Or do they need a caution-tape bracelet

Warning, “Fall risk?”

Are the eyes of our home intact or shattered?

Is its crown shingled or scalped?

Are the neurons of the power grid still firing,

Or has a lightning stroke cut off

Extremities of neighborhoods from the power station,

Impairing communication and mobility,

Disabling normal work?

Is the lifeblood of clean water still pumping

Through PVC arteries and cast-iron veins

Into capillaries of household fixtures?

The morning after storms,

The numbness of adrenaline anesthetic subsides,

Pins and needles of anxiety pricking the edges of my thoughts,

Or pain roaring back, seizing minds in its grip.

We assess the damage,

Bandage wounded homes,

Prepare dead trees for the fire,

Set about the hard work of recovery and repair,

Grief and lamentation, tallying losses, claiming insurance,

Learning what normal looks like now.


Sunday, May 21, 2023

Steadfast {The Other Beatitudes}

“Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭12‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Joan of Arc cast in bronze, seated on a bench with her sword in her hands. Trees and garden foliage are blurred in background.


About suffering—

Which saint said, purportedly,

If this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few?


If this is how You bless Your friends, Lord,

With trials and testings, hard-pressed to within an inch of life,

No wonder You have so few.


All one must do—so simple, really—is stay beneath the trial,

Not cry, “Uncle,” not tap out, not forfeit,

Just stay under the load, abide in the wrestle, not let go until He blesses.


Yet in the weight of distresses and difficulties,

When the furnace burns with sevenfold heat, there is no “just” about remaining.

Steadfastness takes supernatural strength when (almost) every cell cries out for relief.

Feats of Hercules bear no comparison with the courage required to stay under

Bone-crushing, breath-stealing, relentless load,

Knocked to knees, knocked to all fours, knocked prostrate in the dust,

Buried beneath the rubble of earthly hope

But not surrendering faith in God who raises the dead.


In the weary groaning of the waiting world,

We remember for each other, midwives of hope,

Reminding of promises that coming joy is worth the current pain,

For we know we cannot always remember for ourselves.

We spur one another on, crying out encouragement when

The thin veil parts enough to glimpse our Brother under the load alongside—

I see Him with you! I see Him in you!

His strength keeps from us one gram more suffering than needed

For our good and for His glory.

His Spirit in us intercedes—

Hold on—just one more moment—

And faith will be sight.

Stand firm to the end.

Finish well,



We need not burst across a finish line, break the tape.

Just stay. Stay in trust; stay under test.

The happy man keeps faith to final heartbeat,

Outlasting affliction in love for Him who outlasted death itself,

Who loved us first, loves us still, loves us through.

The crown of life will glow with bone-rejoicing, breath-stealing pearls

Produced by the rubble of our buried hopes.


He who loved us first will love us to the end,

Adorning those who love Him back with life and love eternal,

And the agony of decades will seem as heavy and prolonged as a single snowflake

Alongside the glory Christ has won for, with, and in us.


Blessed be Christ, the steadfast under trial,

Who completes His suffering by suffering in ours,

Who transforms our suffering by suffering with us,

Who sanctifies our suffering by His presence,

Who sustains our suffering with His promises.

How happy the person who stays beneath the load appointed

Because Christ abides there too.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Sonnet from the Shadowlands

The sun declines in western sky. Withdrawn

Are clarity of light and hue; brought on,

Long shadows, foggy veils, the sacred hush

Of darkling valley, far from pastures lush.

The golden hour rays play hide and seek,

Illuminate her face with glorious peek

Of unveiled radiance. Then it flies away;

The light of smiling eyes fades, vesperal gray.

Sundowning steals her stories; details dim,

Degrade and recombine in moment’s whim.

The twilight of unknowing steals the one

Who knew me knit together, blood and bone.

In Shadowlands, I clasp my hands round hers,

Here, side by side, as gathering dusk sight blurs.

A poem in honor of dementia patients and those who love them ❤️‍🩹

Sunday, May 7, 2023

For the Wailing Women: A Lament

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them. Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids.”

Jeremiah 9:17-18 NIV

Bronze sculpture of Mother Teresa, from Dallas Blooms 2023


Where are the wailing women?

The sackcloth saints weeping with Rachel for her children,

The children bereft of childhoods, futures, parents, life?

Who will lament with our brothers and sisters half-dead, beaten, lying in the road,

Robbed of health, love, livelihood, hope?


We have left undone the good we ought

And done instead what we should not;

There is no health in us.

We have forsaken Your ways

And followed the stubbornness of our own hearts:

Lovers of self, lovers of money,

Lovers of power and riches,

Lovers of influence and fame,

Lovers of self, not lovers of God or neighbor.

We have averted our gaze from suffering

And passed by on the other side of the road.


Where are the ash-crowned mourners

Lamenting the loss of life

And lack of love for least of these?

The voice of Abel’s blood cries out to God Almighty

From the dust to which he has returned.

We are indeed our brother’s keeper,

And keep him we have not.


Revive us, O Lord. Give us Your eyes to perceive

The brokenness our dull hearts can’t feel or blind eyes see.

You hear the cries of the destitute and bind up broken hearts.

In all our afflictions You were afflicted.

You carried our griefs and sorrows, not only sin.

Who will weep with you at the tomb of Lazarus?

Who will be Your hands and feet among a shattered, starving generation?

Give us Your courage, love, and grace

To crawl under the overwhelming burdens,

Shoulder to shoulder with suffering,

To love the sick, sorrowful, and imprisoned

In body or spirit, in illness or addiction,

In poverty, loneliness, or despair—

And so lavish love on You.


Raise up the wailing women, the sackcloth saints, the ash-crowned mourners

With your tender mercies overflowing broken hearts.

Raise up ash-crowned mourners,

And use their tearful prayers, through Your Spirit,

For the healing of the nations.

-crlm, 4 May 3023, National Day of Prayer

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Under His Providence

Moose Tracks practicing "paws up" with me
We love it when his ear flips back.

The Heidelberg Catechism was one early (sixteenth-century) Reformed Protestant set of questions and answers for instructing believers in sound doctrine. The Westminster Shorter Catechism is the more famous such discipleship tool in English, but there are some beautiful, consoling gems in the Heidelberg one as well. The following pair of questions on God's providence comforts me and stabilizes me in the ongoing storms my family faces. What a foundation of faith it must have been for the children who learned these truths from their earliest memories.

27. Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
    A. God's providence is
    his almighty and ever present power, 1
    whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds
    heaven and earth and all creatures, 2
    and so governs them that
    leaf and blade,
    rain and drought,
    fruitful and barren years,
    food and drink,
    health and sickness,
    riches and poverty, 3
    indeed, all things,
    come to us not by chance 
    but by his fatherly hand. 5
    1.Jer 23:23, 24; Acts 17:24-28.
    2.Heb 1:3.
    3.Jer 5:24; Acts 14:15-17; Jn 9:3; Prov 22:2.
    4.Prov 16:33.
    5.Mt 10:29.

28. Q. What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?
    A. We can be patient in adversity, 1
    thankful in prosperity, 2
    and with a view to the future
    we can have a firm confidence
    in our faithful God and Father
    that no creature shall separate us
    from his love; 3
    for all creatures are so completely in his hand
    that without his will
    they cannot so much as move. 4
    1.Job 1:21, 22; Ps 39:10; Jas 1:3.
    2.Deut 8:10; 1 Thess 5:18.
    3.Ps 55:22; Rom 5:3-5; 8:38, 39.
    4.Job 1:12; 2:6; Prov 21:1; Acts 17:24-28.

"Indeed, all things come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand."

The Lord God Almighty is powerful and sovereign, with no detail of our circumstances beyond His ability to transform and redeem. Nothing is too hard for Him.

At the same time, He is "our faithful God and Father" from whom those who trust Christ can never be separated.

He is strong, and He is loving. He has the power to do what is best for us and the love that makes Him willing to do what is best for us, even though this often shows up in surprising ways that may not seem best to our limited perspective.

He is not safe, but He is good. Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

On Getting Out of Bed, by Alan Noble {book review}

“What’s the bravest thing you ever did? 
“Getting up this morning.”

“Your life is a good gift from a loving God, even when subjectively it doesn’t feel good or like a gift, and even when you doubt that God is loving. Please get out of bed anyway” (Alan Noble, On Getting Out of Bed, Kindle location 40).

Book cover: An old-fashioned alarm clock fills the image. Red poppies bloom out of its midst. Black text on parchment background reads, “Alan Noble, On Getting Out of Bed, The Burden and Gift of Living.”


In the new book On Getting Out of Bed: The Burden & Gift of Living, Alan Noble addresses the universal problem of mental suffering with compassion born of experience and perspective born of bearing witness to many others’ experiences. This is not a memoir or a self-help book. Its discussion is not limited to officially diagnosed mental illness; Noble pans out to consider mental suffering in all its intensities and hues. Somehow, it comes across as both literary and comfortably readable; Noble is an English professor, after all, and that shows. His main idea is that in this earthly life, suffering is the norm and ease the exception, and at the same time our pain-marked lives are ultimately good, marked by God’s grace and love, and worth fighting for. And sometimes that fight starts with the courage to get out of bed.

Noble begins by normalizing and destigmatizing mental suffering. So much stigma and shame still surround anxiety and depression, though some progress has been made. The loneliness of that shameful silence compounds the suffering of the initial anxiety or depression. Noble comes alongside the suffering person and those who love him or her in empathetic recognition of how hard, how very hard, life in this broken world is. The tone of this book is that of a kind hand on the shoulder, a face inclining to make contact between his wet eyes and the sufferer’s, a gentle voice saying, “I’m so sorry. It will be okay. Hold on.”

Phone lock screen image: black text on light green text box reads, “I’m sorry. It’s okay. Hold on, from Alan Noble’s book On Getting Out of Bed.” Background consists of multicolored flower drawings on a cream field.

Suffering and the Culture of Technique

Noble recognizes that in times of mental anguish, simply getting out of bed is a monumental act of worship and testifies to God’s goodness. As he contemplates the divergent choices of two characters in Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road, he asserts:

To choose to go on is to proclaim with your life, and at the risk of tremendous suffering, that it is good. Even when it is hard, it is good. Even when you don't feel that it is good, even when that goodness is unimaginable, it is good. When we act on that goodness by rising out of bed, when we take that step to the block in radical defiance of suffering and our own anxiety and depression and hopelessness, with our heads held high, we honor God and His creation, and we testify to our family, to our neighbors, and to our friends of His goodness. This act is worship (Kindle location 352).

And again,

While it is terrible (and occasionally horrifying) to be under a cloud of depression or anxiety, you also have the chance to testify to God's goodness. By watching you endure, others will know that it is possible to keep going. (Kindle location 722).

I found many of his thoughts, especially in the section on our contemporary culture of technique, applied to my physical suffering due to chronic illness and breast cancer also. In brief, the concept of a “culture of technique” implies that suffering is the exception rather than the rule. If one finds the right technique of diet/exercise/money management/supplements/productivity, suffering is avoidable or at least fixable. This feels true because it is so pervasive in our culture, but it does not align with the Bible’s teaching or millennia of human experience.

The fallout from that myth is the insinuation that suffering people are at fault to some degree for their affliction and can get out of it through their own efforts if they just ___________. This adds to the shame of physical and emotional suffering and contributes to the felt need to keep one’s suffering invisible. This harms rather than helps. In reality, much suffering occurs independent of the hurting person’s choices and techniques. (See the book of Job.) The Bible affirms throughout that life is hard, and life is good, and God’s grace is bigger than our suffering.

The Myth of Utilitarianism and the Grace of God

Another section encouraged me with its particular relevance to my story as an immunocompromised cancer survivor at this point in the pandemic. Mental struggles common to chronic illness include the grief of lost capacity and activities and the depressing weight of feeling useless and burdensome. Given the stories I’m hearing from people with chronic illness, parents of high-risk children, and sufferers with Long COVID, the current season of marginalization and loneliness is making this much worse. Whether implied or stated outright, the message many of us are receiving from society is that we are expendable because we are not useful or productive.

Mental suffering also depletes productivity, slowing down and distracting mind and body, sometimes causing physical pain. A lie all too easy to believe in that space is that one’s life is a burden to others, that one is useless, that there is no point to keeping on keeping on. (Noble is forthright about encouraging sufferers to seek professional mental health assistance. Please call for emergency help if you are trapped in believing these thoughts. If you are in the US, please call 988 and tell a friend.)

Into that burdensome loneliness, Dr. Noble points readers back to the chief end of man, the only goal in life that is always attainable and will never fade away: the glory of God. He pushes back on the lie of utilitarianism with words like these:

the only reason to keep living is if you live before God for His glory. If His Word is true, then we were divinely created to glorify Him and enjoy Him always. And our creation was a fundamentally good act—good and prodigal. Neither earned nor necessary but a gracious gift. And when we live in gratitude, recognizing and delighting in this life, we honor God (Kindle location 864, emphasis mine).

The only other reasons to live are for the World, the Flesh, or the Devil, and they only care about you so long as you are useful to them (867).

Usefulness is the sole criterion for the World, the Flesh, or the Devil. But you have no use value to God. You can't. There is nothing He needs. You can't cease being useful to God because you were never useful to begin with. That's not why He created you, and it's not why He continues to sustain your existence in the world. His creation of you was gratuitous, prodigal. He made you just because He loves you and for His own good pleasure. Every other reason to live demands that you remain useful, and one day your use will run out (885, emphasis mine).

Even when you can't feel it or rationally understand it, life remains good. And while suffering is a normal part of fallen human life, it is not the essence of life. At the center of existence is not suffering but grace—the grace of Christ. The grace that created you, that cleanses you from all unrighteousness and provides all the blessings of this life (Kindle location 883).

The same God who sent His Son to die for you sustains your existence and created you—you—miraculous you, because He loves you. Whether you believe it or not. At the heart of being is grace, not suffering. ‘For nothing is real save his grace.’ We will forget this fact many times throughout our lives. The task before us is to hold each other up, to remind one another of the truth that is truer than our deepest misery, to attend to the gift God has given us, and to accept that our lives are good even when we do not feel that goodness at all (Kindle location 895).

Dear suffering saint, you are a miracle. God made you because He loves you. Your life is a gift. Suffering may be the loudest part of your present experience, but it is not the defining essence of your life. That is grace. Your life is good and precious even when you feel the opposite. Courage, dear heart. 

Do the Next Thing

Noble returns often to the concept, “Do the next thing.” Readers of this blog or of the writings of Elisabeth Elliot have heard that not infrequently. Sometimes we spin out trying to answer the Big Questions of life while ignoring the God-given task right in front of us. When enduring mental suffering, it is all too easy to turn all one’s attention inward, where the pain is. To become trapped in our own thoughts. One needful and helpful counsel in that season is to turn one’s gaze outward to the material world and the people the Lord has placed in our lives. Look around, and do the next thing. Do it slowly; do it crying; do it when you feel like it and when you don’t. Get out of bed. Smooth the covers. Make tea or toast. If able, walk into the backyard with the dog or children. Help fold laundry. Sit next to a family member watching their favorite show. Take your medicine. Drink your water. Rest if that’s the next thing. “It is never a good time to sacrifice for others, but it’s always the right time to sacrifice for others.”

“It is never a good time to sacrifice for others, but it’s always the right time to sacrifice for others.” From On Getting Out of Bed by Alan Noble; white text on wood background with old-fashioned alarm clock to right of image.

“Don’t do the next thing just so that you can keep doing the next thing. Do the next thing because it honors God and testifies of his goodness and the goodness of your life to your neighbor.”

“God asks only that we serve Him now. Choose you this second who you will serve, and then serve Him by doing the next thing.”

This section of Noble’s argument reminded me of Elisabeth Elliot’s life, not only her words, and of my first experience of brokenness and depression. Mom and I have been watching Elisabeth’s messages on YouTube during our Wednesday visits. More than once Elisabeth has said that obedience and “doing the next thing” got her through the grief of widowhood twice over. She had a baby she had to feed, wash, and dress; food to prepare; a house to clean; Bible lessons to prepare; translation work to carry on. In the third part of a series on loneliness, she said, “The most wonderful therapy in my deepest grief was obedience. There is no consolation like obedience. That’s where I found the transformation of my suffering.”

In my own young adult life, in a season when future plans and present community had been shattered and I was in the Slough of Despond, two of God’s instruments in bringing me back into the light were a puppy I adopted and the infant in my care in a job as nanny. The physicality and frequency of their needs, as well as the life-affirming knowledge that they were depending on me for the sustenance of their own lives, disrupted my melancholy rumination. The close personal contact with other living creatures helped too.

“Doing the next thing” is not a cure-all technique. It may not be enough to carry you out of your mental suffering, and that is no reflection on you. Even if it is not enough by itself, it is something, and it is an act of worship and love.

Your task is to be faithful: to do the next thing. And when you cannot get up on your own, let someone carry you, knowing that in due time you will be called on to do the same for others. And when you are blessed with the responsibility of carrying someone else, then your own experience with suffering, your own experience of depending on others, will give you the wisdom and empathy you need to love them well. Christ's body here on Earth is one of His greatest mercies to us. It's the only way we make it through (Kindle location 927).

Summing Up

Dr. Alan Noble’s new book On Getting Out of Bed offers compassionate, fortifying encouragement to those suffering mental distress, whether clinically diagnosed or not. The author affirms the goodness and value of life as a gift from a good God, even when we can’t see or feel that goodness. He affirms that life is worth living, even when it hurts. A lot. If the bravest thing you can do is get out of bed, then, please, get out of bed.

White text: “I’m so sorry. It will be okay. Hold on.” Wood-look background with an old-fashioned alarm clock to right of image.

“I'm so sorry. It will be okay. Hold on” (Kindle location 753).

A Trinity Forum virtual conversation with Dr. Noble is available to view on YouTube:

Note: I received a galley copy of this book for review purposes. Links are affiliate links which pay me a small commission at no cost to you. As always, my aim is to provide a true, kind, and helpful discussion of this book and my experience with it.