Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Not far from us, those stars

A voice and a song from long ago, from our dear Amy Carmichael.
Gold by Moonlight, 112-113, 156

But continually we look at things about us without seeing more than a very little of what is there.
We look up into the sky at noon and know that familiar constellations are passing over us, but we do not see them. Empty blue, or grey, or masses of cloud—that is all we see.

We look at a pool or any little runlet of softly flowing water; we are looking into fairyland; but we do not catch even a flutter of a fairy scarf. Water and the reflections and colours on its surface—that is all we see.

We know that we see in part where the material world is concerned. Why should we not be comforted where the spiritual is in question by remembering that there also we only see in part?

We dwell perpetually in the presence of far more than we can see. Our feelings say, "How can this good thing be?" but if God declares it is, that is enough.

Make me Thy labourer,
Let me not dream of ever looking back,
Let not my knees be feeble, hands be slack.
O make me strong to labour, strong to bear,
From the rising of the morning till the stars appear.

Make me Thy warrior,
On whom Thou canst depend to stand the brunt
Of any perilous charge on any front.
Give me skill to handle sword and spear,
From the rising of the morning till the stars appear.

Not far from us, those stars—
Unseen as angels and yet looking through
The quiet air, the days' transparent blue.
What shall we know, and feel, and see, and hear
When the sunset colours kindle and the stars appear?

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a sketch in her journal


Love, traveling in the greatness of His strength,
Found me alone,
Footsore and tired by the journey's length,
Though I had known
All the long way many a kindly air,
And flowers had blossomed for me everywhere.

And yet Love found me needing Him. He stayed;
Love stayed by me.
"Let not thy heart be troubled or dismayed,
My child," said He.
Slipped from me then, all troubles, all alarms,
For Love had gathered me into His arms.

 Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hold me fast by Thee

Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a sketch in her journal

Lover of all, I hold me fast by Thee,
Ruler of time, King of eternity.
There is no great with Thee, there is no small,
For Thou art all, and fillest all in all.

The new-born world swings forth at Thy command,
The falling dew-drop falls into Thy hand.
God of the firmament's mysterious powers,
I see Thee thread the minutes of my hours.

I see Thee guide the frail, the fading moon
That walks alone through empty skies at noon.
Was ever wayworn, lonely traveler
But had Thee by him, blessed Comforter?

Out of my vision swims the untracked star,
Thy counsels too are high and very far,
Only I know, God of the nebulae,
It is enough to hold me fast by Thee.

 Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Make me thy fuel, flame of God

Hear us, Father, we are weary.
Help us, Spirit, with our tasks unfinished.
Feed us, Yeshua, with yourself — bread and water, living and broken.

Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), an unfinished sketch in her journal

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,)
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

 Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thy love will not let me go

Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a sketch in her journal

Lord, I thank Thee
that Thy love constraineth me.

I thank Thee
that, in the great labyrinth of life,
Thou waitest not for my consent to lead me.

I thank Thee
that Thou leadest me by a way which I know not,
by a way which is above the level of my poor understanding.

I thank Thee
that Thou art not repelled by my bitterness,
that Thou art not turned aside by the heat of my spirit.
There is no force in this universe
so glorious as the force of Thy love;
it compels me to come in.

O divine servitude,
O slavery that makes me free,
O love that imprisons me only to set my feet in a larger room,
enclose me more and more within Thy folds.

Protect me from the impetuous desires of my nature
—desires as short-lived as they are impetuous.

Ask me not where I would like to go;
tell me where to go;
lead me in Thine own way;
hold me in Thine own light—Amen.

George Matheson (1842-1906)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Love knocked on my door

Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a sketch in her journal

Love knocked on my door, yet my soul drew back,
guilty of dust and sin.
"Please," I said, "don't come in."
Love knocked again, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
"I am unkind, ungrateful," I answered,
"Please don't look on me. I cannot look on thee."
"Who made the eyes but I?"
"Truth, Lord, but I have marred them;
leave me in my darkness and shame."
"And know you not," said Love,
"who bore the blame?"
"My Lord," I opened the door,
"then I will serve."
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
"You must sit down, and taste my meat."
So, I did sit and eat.

Adapted from George Herbert (1593-1633), Love (III).

Friday, May 6, 2016

She waited

My mother went out to sow. And as she sowed, some seeds fell along the path. The birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground. They sprang up but the sun scorched them and they withered away. Other seeds fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.

But she kept sowing.

My mother is the sower and we are her field, her four daughters. I am rocky and thorny and generally unhelpful with the birds.

She sowed in stories and songs, good food and clean laundry and kisses. She pulled weeds. She chased the birds away. She sowed in laughter; she sowed in tears. She sowed in prayers through the years. Every hour we were together, with every touch, she sowed lifelifelifelife.

A few seeds fell on good soil. The black dirt swallowed her seeds, and her words were buried in the ground. There, in the dark, they stayed hidden for a long, long time.

She waited. Until one day

Lilias Trotter, 9 July 1907.

Father, hear us, we are praying,
Hear the words our hearts are saying,
We are praying for our children. 
Keep them from the powers of evil,
From the secret, hidden peril,
From the whirlpool that would suck them,
From the treacherous quicksand sand pluck them. 
From the worlding’s hollow gladness,
From the sting of faithless sadness,
Holy Father, save our children. 
Through life’s troubled waters steer them,
Through life’s bitter battle cheer them,
Father, Father, be Thou near them. 
Read the language of our longing,
Read the wordless pleadings thronging,
Holy Father, for our children 
And wherever they may bide,
Lead them Home at eventide.

Amy Carmichael, Toward Jerusalem (1936).

Monday, April 25, 2016


A flower that stops short at its flowering misses its purpose. We were created for more than our own spiritual development; reproduction, not mere development, is the goal of matured beingreproduction in other lives.

This dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals and has reached its crowning stage of dyingthe delicate seed-globe must break up nowit gives and gives till it has nothing left... There is no sense of wrenching: it stands ready, holding up its little life, not knowing when or where or how the wind that bloweth where listeth may carry it away. It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be given: a breath does the rest.

Lilias Trotter, Parable of the Cross 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nothing to keep

Excerpts from Parables of the Cross by Lilias Trotter.

Look at this buttercup as it begins to learn its new lesson. The little hands of the calyx clasp tightly in the bud  round the beautiful petals; in the young flower their grasp grows more elasticloosening somewhat in the daytime, but keeping the power of contracting, able to close in again during a rainstorm, or when night comes on. But see the central flower, which has reached its maturity. The calyx hands have unclasped utterly nowthey have folded themselves back, past all power of closing again upon the petals, leaving the golden crown free to float away when God's time comes. 
Have we learned the buttercup's lesson yet? Are our hands off the very blossom of our life? Are all thingseven the treasures that He has sanctifiedheld loosely, ready to be parted with, without a struggle, when He asks for them?

Lilias Trotter, Lesson of the Buttercup

And a like independence is the characteristic of the new flood of resurrection life that comes to our souls as we learn this fresh lesson of dyinga grand independence of any earthly thing to satisfy our soul. The liberty of those who have nothing to lose because they have nothing to keep. We can do without anything while we have God.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Resting in deep waters

Lilias Trotter, a journal entry, 20 December 1927.

"I am come into deep waters" took on a new meaning this morning. It started with perplexing matters concerning the future. Then it dawned that shallow waters were a place where you can neither sink nor swim, but in deep waters it is one or the other: "waters to swim in"not to float in. Swimming is the intense, most strenuous form of motionall of you is involved in itand every inch of you is in abandonment of rest upon the water that bears you up.
"We rest in Thee, and in Thy name we go." 

Monday, April 11, 2016

How to help God

Lilias Trotter, The Miracle of Cana (13 February 1910)

The prayer of a lump of clay.

But thou art making me, I thank thee, sire.
What thou hast done and doest thou know'st well,
And I will help thee: gently in thy fire
I will lie burning; on thy potter's wheel
I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel;
Thy grace shall be enough the grief to quell,
And growing strength perfect through weakness dire.

George MacDonald, The Diary of an Old Soul (1880).

Friday, April 8, 2016

Thy clear air

Lilias Trotter, Wings of the Morning (2 May, 1914).

The pen on the desk is kept clean and filled with ink. The pencil is kept pointed. Both are ready, both are at hand; sometime one is used, sometimes the other; if only the work be done, what does it matter which does it? There can be a subtle selfishness, a kind of covetousness which is idolatry (of self) in the perpetual cry, Use me.

But there is nothing of that in the prayer, Cleanse me, O Lord, and keep me clean; make me sensitive to the approach of sin. Make me quick to hear Thy question, "Whom shall I send?" and quick to answer, "Here am I," quick also to be glad if another be preferred before me. Nor is there anything selfish in such a prayer as this,
Love through me, Love of God,
Make me like Thy clear air
That Thou dost pour Thy colours through,
As though it were not there.
Amy Carmichael, Gold by Moonlight (1935).

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Weak with him

Dear friends, our family is learning to swim in strange waters. And the learning consumes all of our effort and limbs and souls. Our people have surrounded us with their arms of love, and food.

Familiar aromas wafted softly into our kitchen, like chicken soup, along with some new flavors like the picadillo that Chanelle made last Sunday. I love how their dishes bear tiny whiffs of their souls, and what they love. Berni brought us a roast chicken, along with a bouquet of roses and daisies and lilies, and creamy popsicles.

They gave me an idea of what to put on this empty table. You are kind to still drop by. Though I am not able to serve you and fill the table with the fruit of my own hands, I thought I would share some words and paintings that have been feeding my soul.

Lilias Trotter, 1888, age 35

Lilias Trotter was a penfriend of Amy Carmichael, who was a spiritual mother to Elisabeth Elliot. Lilias Trotter was casting the light of the Gospel in the deserts of Algeria, while Amy Carmichael was clipping thousands of toenails and turning orphans into daughters in India. Through the span of years and lands and oceans, they wrote letters to each other. When Lilias Trotter laid on her death bed, she dictated letters to her friend. Perhaps these three mothers of mine are sipping tea by the crystal sea.

I will tell you the story of Lilias Trotter little by little. She was an artist. She painted with words and colors. I love seeing the world through her eyes.

Here are a few casual strokes she made in her journal entry, of a mother cradling her child. She painted this in the closet of her soul, for the eyes of her God. I can almost smell the sweet baby's breath, and feel the warmth of the mother's lap.

27 October, 1924

Two glad Services are ours,
Both the Master loves to bless:
First we serve with all our powers
Then with all our helplessness.
Those lines of Charles Fox have rung in my head this last fortnightand they link on with the wonderful words "weak with Him." For the world's salvation was not wrought out by the three years in which He went about doing good, but in the three hours of darkness in which He hung, stripped and nailed, in uttermost exhaustion of spirit, soul, and bodytill His heart broke.

So little wonder for us if the price of power is weakness.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I am His

I recently realized that the first letters of Hans' name and my name make a sweet word. H and I make "hi." I don't know why it took me ten years to see this. Is it too late to re-make our wedding invitations? Oh well.

Also, Hans' last name begins with the letter "S". Together, we are H.I.S.
"His" would have gone nicely on our wedding feast menu. "His feast." Oh well.

My orchid plant had five buds this winter. Only two of them survived and bloomed. I was a little sad at first, but I love watching these two waiting for winter to end, side by side.

I cannot wait to greet my Beloved on the other shore. We will walk side by side. We will enter His Feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Useless, yet wanted

A few months ago, my tooth broke. Eight years of pregnancies and nursing can do that, apparently. Being awful at taking (postpartum) vitamins did not help, I'm sure.

For weeks, I preserved that piece of broken tooth like a priceless treasure. I painstakingly made sure I would not lose it before the dentist appointment. That thing had been attached to me for nearly three decades. It was a part of me. I'm sure the dentist would find some use it, somehow.

The appointment day arrived. I carefully presented the tooth to my dentist. She did not take her eyes off me as I jiggled the tiny zip-lock bag in front of her. Don't you want to see this important specimen? She continued listing my options, and none of them included using my tooth.

I hate useless things. And I am sad that my tooth is now useless.

My tooth in a zip-lock bag.

All of us want to be used by God. We want our lives to mean something. We don't want to miss out on God's purposes for us. So, we ask, what is God's will for my life?

To be used by God, however, is not that special. The Lord can use anything, anyone. In fact, he uses everything for his glory. He used the hard heart of the pharaoh and the betrayal of Judas for his purposes. He can speak through anyone; he spoke through a donkey. So, it is not a special thing to be used by God.

Mark, though he wrote the shortest of the four gospels, he often embedded details within his stories that other writers did not. For example, it is Mark who tells us that Jesus not only called the rich man to sell all his possessions, but Jesus loved him. It is also Mark who tells us that Jesus not only called his disciples to him, but he desired them. Jesus, the Maker of Stars, wanted them.

Being wanted by God far surpasses being used by God.

Jesus did not call his disciples to use them. He did not need them. He called them to follow him, to be with him, because he loved them and he wanted them. Some followed Jesus not for his sake, but for their own ambitions. Jesus wanted Judas, but Judas wanted other things.

The reality is that we are dust. Like my broken tooth, we are useless to him. Yet, he wants us. He makes us his. He died so we can be with him, to be a part of him.

In the scope of eternity, it would not matter that I had lived. No matter what I achieve in this life, even if it was for "the glory of God," it would not matter that I existed. My footprints will not stay on the sand. I matter only because I am wanted and loved by the Maker of Stars.

When Elisabeth Elliot turned 65, she said, one of the splendors of being old is the heightened perspective on all of life. The higher she went, the more she could see. The things of the earth became strangely small. "There is only one thing in the whole universe that matters," she said, and that is to know God.

Betty Scott Stam was a missionary to China. In December 1934, Betty and her husband John were captured by the Communists, and paraded through the streets in their undergarments. They were then beheaded.

Betty wrote this prayer when she was eighteen:
I give up all my own plans and purposes,
All my own desires and hopes,
And accept Thy will for my life.
I give myself, my life, my all,
Utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever.
Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit.
Use me as Thou will,
Send me where Thou will,
And work out Thy whole will in my life,
At any cost, now and forever.
Elisabeth read this prayer and then copied it into her Bible when she was twelve. These women gave up their own plans and purposes, all of their desires and hopes. They gave themselves to him, to be his forever. And they accepted God's will for their lives.

God's will for them, and for us, is to know him. God's purpose for us is to conform us into the image of his Son. God is calling us to follow him, and to obey him in small, ordinary things.

Take me, Lord, I am yours.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

His face on us

I didn't want to turn 34 because I didn't want to be older than Jesus. Hans reminded me that Jesus rose from the dead. So, strictly speaking, he is much older now.

I was being ridiculous, I know.

Yet, God met me, as he often does, in my ridiculousness. On the day before my birthday, we walked into my most favorite garden in the world. There, waiting for us, was a rainbow hovering over the face of the waters.

Nature holds for me the signs of my living God. The Lord paints and pours out his quiet explosions of grace so generouslyover the face of the waters, and onto my kitchen floor. They are visible signs of my invisible God.

Years ago, my friend Beng Cher gave me a book, The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason. She told me it gave her great encouragement. I read it, but I found it difficult to understand. Recently, I heard Elisabeth Elliot recommending this very book in one of her lectures about marriage.

I am now turning the pages as though for the very first time. When I first read the book, I had just been married for a few months. Nine years later, the words that once seemed so dark and vague, now glow with meaning.

This line smote me at my core: "to be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity in the world is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset." To my sunset-obsessed, starry-sky-loving heart, this was absurd.

I used to climb Mount Kinabalu for the sole purpose of seeing the world from the top. We would begin the second day of climbing at 2 a.m. under the dome of stars. At 6 a.m., we would watch the sunrise from the peak of Borneo. Above the clouds and looking over the mountains, I felt God's existence, his mystery, his power.

I do not feel this way when I look at people.

Yet, if every person "really is fashioned, more than anything else, in the image of God, then clearly it follows that there is nothing on earth so near to God as a human being." Therefore, we are to love God and love our neighbors. These are the first two commandments. Two sides of the same coin. The words and the tune of the same song. Love God, love neighbors. Not the sunset or the sunrise or the starry sky. 

Jesus says, "As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."

It is difficult for me to imagine that when I am wiping the drool off my baby's chin or when I am pouring out cups of orange juice, I am nearer to God than when I am watching the most gorgeous sunsetby myself. As I wash the dishes and fold the laundry, I am washing the dishes and folding the laundryfor Jesus. When I (learn to) serve my husband and (learn to) think about his interests before my own, I am submitting my life "as to the Lord."

For my birthday, the Lord sent two of his image bearers to stay with us. Esther flew in from New York City and Joshua, her brother, flew in from Seattle. They entered our door with the reality of God himself. Visible faces of my invisible God.

To be nearer to people is to be nearer to my Lord.
To love people is to love my Lord.
"I have set my bow in the clouds," declares the Lord.
But he sets his face on us.

*Both quotes are taken from Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage, 46.