Angels in the Wilderness


…any father, particularly an old father, must finally give his child up to the wilderness and trust to the providence of God.

It seems almost a cruelty for one generation to beget another when parents can secure so little for their children, so little safety, even in the best circumstances. Great faith is required to give the child up, trusting God to honor the parents’ love for him by assuring that there will indeed be angels in that wilderness.
~Marilynne Robinson, Gilead


This is a reassuring truth:  watching our children leave our home to a life of their own, I trusted in God’s providence there would be angels in the wilderness waiting to guide them (and indeed there have been and continue to be).

In turn, every day as I head to work in my clinic, I have opportunity to be an angel in the wilderness for children who have left their parents’ home and are seeking out their own path, sometimes choosing one that is twisting, rocky, full of pitfalls and perilous. 

Despite my own weariness, holding this perspective helps me greet each new face with a mother’s embrace.



Turn Aside and Look: In the Wilderness Time



This is the wilderness time,
when every path is obscure
and thorns have grown around the words of hope.

This is the time of stone, not bread,
when even the sunrise feels uncertain
and everything tastes of bitterness.

This is the time of ashes and dust,
when darkness clothes our dreams
and no star shines a guiding light.

This is the time of treading life,
waiting for the swells to subside and for the chaos to clear.

Be the wings of our strength, O God,
in this time of wilderness waiting.
– Keri Wehlander from “600 Blessings and Prayers from around the world” compiled by Geoffrey Duncan


He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Psalm 91:4


To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness , is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness- especially in the wilderness – you shall love him.   
~Frederick Buechner

The wilderness can be a distant peak far removed from anything or anyone.  The wilderness can also be found in an isolated corner of the human heart kept far away from anything and anyone.   From my window on a clear day, I am fortunate to see the first if the cloud cover moves away.  From my perch on a round stool at work,  I am sometimes given access to the other many times every day.

There are times in one’s life when loving God as commanded seems impossible.  We are too broken, too frightened, too wary to trust God with our love and devotion.  Recognizing a diagnosis of wilderness of the heart is straight forward:  despair, discouragement, disappointment, lack of gratitude, lack of hope.  The treatment is to tame the wilderness with a covenantal obedience that reaches so deep there is no corner left untouched.   We must do as we are asked, even when it seems impossible, when it hurts, and when it means we may become even more profoundly isolated.

To be asked by God to turn aside from our worries and face Him is the invitation we were created for.   To be loved by Him is our rescue from the wilderness of the most distant peak, as well as from the most bitter and broken heart that beats within.


In the beginning, you hovered over the water
You broke an unbroken silence
You spoke light into darkness
And there was light

In the beginning, we were made in your image
And we were naked without shame
Till we fell for the darkness
And there was night

Chorus: Your mercies are new
Your mercies are new
New every morning
Your mercies are new
Your mercies are new
New every morning

In the beginning, there was the Word and he was God
And the Word was with God
And he dwelt among us
And there was life

Oh, in the beginning, the Lamb of God was broken
And his blood was poured out
For the sins of the world
And there was life


At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw your light
At the cross, at the cross
I received my sight
At the cross, at the cross
Where you laid down your life


~Audrey Assad -“New Every Morning”

Turn Aside and Look: What Shall I Cry?


“I alternate between thinking of the planet as home
– dear and familiar stone hearth and garden –
and as a hard land of exile in which we are all sojourners.”
~Annie Dillard from Teaching a Stone To Talk


A voice says, “Cry out.”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.”
~Isaiah 40:6-8


And what shall I cry?

I find it very difficult to admit I am as temporary as a rain drop a flower, a mere mirrored reflection of this incredible place where I dwell.  I want so badly for it to last, I want it etched in stone, I want to be remembered beyond the next generation, I want not to be lost to the ether.

Yet I, like everyone, am sojourner only, not settled and certainly not lasting.   As a garden flourishes and then dies back, so will I.  This is exile in the wilderness until I am led back home.

Home.  Really home. No longer fading and withering.

Forever etched on His heart, held fast in His Hand,
His Word enduring far beyond my flesh.




All flesh is like the grass
The grass withers and fades away.
All flesh is like the grass
The grass withers and fades away.
The glory of man like a flower
That shrivels in the sun and falls.
The glory of man like a flower
That shrivels in the sun and falls.
But the Word of the Lord
Endures forever.
~Fernando Ortega

The World Once Bereft




What would the world be,  once bereft
Of wet and of wildness?  Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Inversnaid”



In our anguish at the chaos that appears to rule the world,
let us remember,
when we look closely,
through the fog,
even the weeds,
we unruly unholy weeds,
are connected
in this wilderness.

There is order here
even if we can’t feel it.
Let us be left.
We are meant to be.






Between Midnight and Dawn: The World Bereft



All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
    my sighing is not hidden from you.
 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
    even the light has gone from my eyes.

For I am about to fall,
    and my pain is ever with me.
 I confess my iniquity;
    I am troubled by my sin.
 Many have become my enemies without cause;
    those who hate me without reason are numerous.
 Those who repay my good with evil
    lodge accusations against me,
    though I seek only to do what is good.

 Lord, do not forsake me;
    do not be far from me, my God.
 Come quickly to help me,
    my Lord and my Savior.
from Psalm 38


The darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.
Degged with dew, dappled with dew,
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins “Inversnaid” 



There is despair in the wilderness of untamed hearts.
Such wildness lies just beneath the surface;
it rounds and rounds, almost out of reach. 
How are we spared drowning in its pitchblack pool?
How can we thrill to the beauty rather than be sucked into the darkness?

He came not to destroy the world’s wildness,
but to pull us, gasping,
from its unforgiving clutches as we sink in ever deeper.
As weeds surviving in the wilderness,
we must grow, flourish, and witness to a wild world bereft.

O let us be left.
Let us be left.




During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn

The Wild Lands

Mt. Shuksan yesterday, photo by Emily Gibson
                                                  Mt. Shuksan yesterday, photo by Emily Gibson


He found himself wondering at times,
especially in the autumn,
about the wild lands,
and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.
~J.R.R. Tolkien Fellowship of the Rings


Mt. Baker from the north yesterday
                                                            Mt. Baker from Artist Point yesterday


Thank God who seasons thus the year,
And sometimes kindly slants his rays;
For in his winter he’s most near
And plainest seen upon the shortest days.

I scent my med’cine from afar,
Where the rude simpler of the year
October leads the rustling war,
And strews his honors on the summer’s bier.

The evening of the year draws on,
The fields a later aspect wear;
Since Summer’s garishness is gone,
Some grains of night tincture the noontide air.
~Henry David Thoreau, selected stanzas from “The Fall of the Leaf”

octobertwinlakes11Twin Lakes Mt. Baker National Forest

Wandering in a wild land of beauty,
especially in the coolness of autumn,
with the dry hot melting “garishness” of summer past,
God is most plain in these places,
His slanting rays touching
everything and all.

shuksan6Mt. Shuksan yesterday, from Artist Point