On faith in the hard.

In my newest release, Then Sings My Soul, the main character, Jakob, has lived through 94 years of tumult and suffering. As a young Jewish boy who escaped Russian pogroms of the early 20th century, he witnessed many loved ones die for or because of their faith.

As with many of that generation, Jakob grows up keeping his faith relatively quiet, stuffed within him, covered and safe by shrouds of doubt and anger, shame and fear. 

I can’t give away too much more, so you’ll have to read the book to see how that does or does not change for Jakob as he nears the end of his life.

The idea of steadfast faith in the midst of trials and persecution influenced the main storyline thread in Then Sings My Soul. The book, Mudhouse Sabbath, by Lauren Winner, influenced it as well. A former Orthodox Jew who converted to Christianity, Winner writes that she, “found that her life was indelibly marked by the rich traditions and spiritual practices of Judaism. [In Mudhouse Sabbath, she] presents eleven Jewish practices that can transform the way Christians view the world and God.”

In one scene of Then Sings My Soul, Jakob’s older brother, Peter, tries to encourage him to keep the faith in his head going, even when he doesn’t feel it in his heart. One way the Jewish people have done that is by reciting a sort of liturgy called the Kaddish during seasons of mourning. Here is what Winner says,

“Even in the pit, even in depresssion and loss and nonsense, still we respond to God with praise. This is not to say that the mourner should not feel what he feels–anger, disbelief, hatred. He can feel those things (and shout them out to God; God can take it). You do not have to feel praise in the intense moments of mourning, but the praise is still true, and insisting upon it over and over, twice a day every day, ensures that eventually you will come to remember the truth of those praises.”

Whether at the beginning, middle or end of our lives, there is always a battle going on for our hearts...a battle for truth, a battle for hope, a battle for our loyalty to God. Often, we struggle to understand what in the world about following Jesus Christ is worth it anymore.

Reciting the truth like Jewish mourners do, choosing or even writing out our own psalm of praise, and saying it whether we feel like it or not can work to bring the head and the heart back together in times of uncertainty and persecution.

Dear friends, so much of what we fight in this world is unseen.

In faithfulness we can find joy once again. 

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Why does God seem farthest when we need Him most?



Good question. 

I don’t have a good answer. 

In the throws of depression, grief, tragedy, I’ve often asked for prayers and felt unable to pray for myself.

But…maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Maybe when He feels farthest we need to look closer.

Maybe God is near, but not in the ways we suspect. Not in a loud voice or a burning bush. Not in an earthquake or a storm, but rather…

…in the prayer of a friend who cries out for you.

…in the steady fall of rain on a spring garden.

…in the memory of someone who believed in you years ago.

…in the taste of warm soup on a cold winter day.

…in the curl of a dog’s wagging tail when you get home in the evening.

What about you?

What are some of the still, small ways God is with you that maybe you haven’t looked close enough to see? 

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In my new novel, Then Sings My Soul, the main characters (Jakob and Nel) are asking the same question. What they find  you. Read their story and how they find hope. Available wherever your favorite books are sold.

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When hard is a place you find yourself.

Hard.

It’s not just an adjective anymore.

Hard is a place.

Maybe you know it…icy stone walls shadowed by unsought shame, the front door locked by defeat, windows draped by misunderstanding and hopelessness.

Too many strain in the hard unaware that even a crack of the window lets in light, air, a current of hope. We long for someone to burst through the front door for us, a sword-wielding Savior to cut back the vines and overgrowth surrounding our foundations, a friend who’ll sit with us until the electricity comes on again and the furnace of truth warms our toes.

Hard is a place, yes.

But hard is also a season.

Like winter, we’re forced to hunker down in the silence and be still while the snow falls white and gentle around us.

And soon, like the Morning Sun, a Savior will come.

But He will knock first.

And spring and the loose, cool earth will be fertile once again.

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crushed

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Excerpts from 2 Corinthians 4

“Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods … We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this … For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” … And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”