Kiss the Wave: embracing God in your trials (Furman, 2018, Crossway)

I was given this as a free review copy by the Evangelical Bookshop Belfast. You can buy it from them here, with free UK postage. (Postage to Ireland is normally cheaper than Amazon too.) This in no way meant I had to give a positive review of the book.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been using this lockdown period to explore more why as a western individual, I struggle so much with suffering in my worldview. Despite following a suffering Saviour for years, every time I experience suffering or talk to those who suffer, I feel not only the fact that this suffering ought not to be in general, but I feel grieved that this has happened to me personally. I deserve better! (Or so I think.) The response of my fellow believers in Africa stuns me. And teaches me a lot.

Dave Furman is a church planter in Dubai (United Arab Emirates). And although his story (see the video above) appears at several key points in the book, it does not dominate the book. This book is centrally focused on helping us grapple with the God of the gospel more, so that Dave’s story, can be our story – of being sustained and even finding deep-rooted joy in the midst of horrific pain, that never seems to cease, and which leads to emotional and relational distress. In fact, I nearly at times lost sight of Dave while reading the book, which in my eyes, was not actually the most helpful. None-the-less, the book is an absolute delight, refreshing, simple and a treasure to ponder, even for someone who reads an awful lot.

We came to the village intending to change the world for Jesus, but I couldn’t even change my jeans without help.”

Dave’s writing feels like a powerful collection of quotations of many ‘greats’ of recent Christian writing, combined with huge chunks of Biblical wisdom and comfort and finely honed into a soothing package of goodness. It is easy to pick up and read in one go, or perhaps better, taken chapter by chapter and processed over two weeks of devotions.

Quoting Keller in the introduction, it is for everyone, because even if you’re not suffering right now:

“No matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable, with friends and family, and successful with our career — inevitably something will ruin it.”

Keller, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

Each chapter starts with a short story from someone Dave knows who has deeply suffered, followed by a connected meditation on some of the most beautiful and encouraging truths of scripture. Because of Dave’s own story, you know these are not just glib comforts trying to stick a plaster over a gaping wound, but treasures that will help sustain you and shape your perspective even in the darkest of times.

One quotation from the book which particularly resonated with me as I work in a graduate context and with many Irish students who’ve considered going or have gone to Dubai:

“I often tell those in our church’s membership class my prayer for each of them. I don’t pray that they would ultimately get promotions, make more money, and be successful in the marketplace (though those aren’t necessarily bad things). I pray they would love Jesus more when they leave Dubai (nonce of us is allowed to retire here, so we all must leave at some point) than they do at that moment. I pray the same for all of us in our trials.”

But putting aside Dubai, I think of my prayers during Coronavirus season. Simplified, they could perhaps be summarised often as:

“God bless me. May I not suffer. May no-one I know suffer. May everyone have their jobs. Would you make clear the future?”

Reading this book, I am forced to abandon the centrality of myself and my will in my prayer life, and replace it with something oh-so-much better.

Camping in the Sahara!

One final glimpse from the book that I enjoyed but found utterly frustrating as someone who loves to go camping! I must disagree with him plenty here, but love his comparison, speaking about 2 Corinthians 5:1-5!

“It’s not surprising that Paul, a tentmaker by trade, compares our earthly bodies to tents. I don’t own a tent, but I used one on a couple of camping trips as a child. I think the worst thing about camping may be the tent itself. I easily get claustrophobic. When the rain falls, you can hear it hitting the tent just inches from your face. And the worst thing is the buzzing of the buzzing of mosquitoes next to your face, making you feel like they are feasting on your flesh all night long. That’s because they probably are! As you can see, sleeping on a hard floor inside a shabby tent isn’t too compelling for me. A tent is a temporary dwelling place, not a permanent residence. In 2 Corinthians Paul paints a picture of the better, more glorious body as a house in comparison to a tent. Today, Paul says we live in a tent, but a day is coming when our bodies will be more like a house. Tents break and often need to be replaced. They hardly protect you from high and low temperatures or from precipitation. … In this life, our bodies face disease and decay. Paul says, “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our Heavenly dwelling” (2 Cor 5:2)”.

As someone who laughs at such shoddy dismissals of camping, and who perhaps rather longs to decrease the emphasis in my life on materialistic dwellings, it took me a little minute to get over it in order to appreciate the Biblical truth behind the passage he was speaking on.

For the wandering Cain, for Abraham (and descendants), for those in the dessert in Numbers, for exiled Israel, for Christ with no place to lay his head, for persecuted ‘strangers and exiles’ across the Greco-Roman world and beyond – temporary dwellings were things very real. Other dwellings were longed for. Camping was not the ultimate reality. These bodies are not our homes. And like Christ, raised in a physical body, so shall we look forward to the day our tents will be replaced, in earthy new ones. What a glorious new reality awaits!

To finish, I must say that although I come from the author’s theological perspective (a reformed one), I am very glad that he (perhaps unlike some reformed authors) at the end does acknowledge that amidst his ultimate trust that God is sovereign over all suffering and uses it for His glory and our good, that it is the devil who is responsible for such evil, which is a glimpse of hell-ish things to come. Those words in the final chapter were very necessary ones, which make it easier for us to approach this God, knowing He is not going to cruelly delight in suffering, pain and endless tears.

This book has helped turned my eyes from thinking I ought not suffer, and praying for my own comfort, to refocusing my heart and mind of the good God of the gospel. I pray it will do like-wise for many.

You can find out more about the Furman’s life in the video below. But before you do, consider buying the book (cheapest here – only the price of two coffees or your work commute for 2 days!), and reading it in lockdown – you won’t be disappointed!

Microadventure day 2: sleeping outside

This post is part of the 30 Micro-adventures in 30 days of lockdown series. You can find all our microadventures so far, on that page.

Sleeping outside divides the population. Some think there is nothing better than every hour spent in the comfort of our own bed, snuggling up and keeping warm. The alarm is our enemy. On holidays we tolerate other beds. Comfort rules the roost.

But for others, comfort is nothing compared to the freedom of the outdoors! For the feeling of being close to nature. For the thrill of falling asleep looking up at the stars. To slow down the rhythms of life, and forget the hum-drum of life and the rush that we seem to have got our minds into.

What do I mean by sleeping outside?

Well although I have occasionally slept outside with nothing but my clothes on (most occasions this was not an intentional choice I made hours before – I just happened to fall asleep and stay there all night – I’ll keep those stories for later), I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, 2 main ideas come in to my mind:

  1. Camping in a tent
    This is probably the one that appears the most expensive option, but one that over time, is actually far cheaper than hostels, Airbnbs, or wherever else you or your family like to stay. I’d recommend you still have a roll-mat for
  2. Sleeping outside in a Bivvy bag
    Sleeping under the stars in a waterproof layer (as well as a sleeping bag) may sound ludicrous in countries like Ireland where it always seems to rain as soon as you consider such ideas. But there’s more opportunity for this than you might think, and it’s cheaper, more flexible and more inconspicuous too, away from the public eye. If being up close to nature and the stars is a big seller for you, yet you’re still in a rainy country, then you might consider adding on a Basha to your kit to keep the rain off.

For me last night, I was a little too scared of the overcast skies to go for a Bivvy bag idea, but a little too bored by a tent to simply go for that. So I went for a third option: the pop-up festival tent!

Bought from a mainline supermarket in Ireland for a little over €20, transporting this tent to other countries has cost us more than the actual tent cost! As festival tents often don’t have the two layers of material, to protect you from the rain (touch the material in a festival tent, and you’ll often get soaked, if its wet), I’ve rarely used it in anything apart from hot countries like Tunisia! But tonight, with only light April showers forecast, I thought I would get it out and see if it still was surviving!

Although I camped in my garden of the house I’m renting, you wouldn’t need grassy gardens necessarily for such things. I’ve tried front pathways to houses, balconies of apartments or even when I was really stuck – a hammock inside a city house (ok, I may as well have taken the sofa!)!

The advantage of starting in your garden is that it is most likely private, and if anything disasterous happens, you can quickly bolt back to your warm comforts inside the house. It’s a great place to introduce kids to camping, and during a time like this, one or two families I know have even exchanged their real holiday they’d booked (before Covid19) for a “camping holiday” in their back garden, just to give themselves a change from normal life, and a bit of an adventure!

My sleep was a little shortened at the start of the evening by a call to join a “Houseparty” app conversation with friends involving a glass of wine (or two), but after that, and a short time reading some more of old Irish adventurer Dervla Murphy, the stillness of the night ensued, causing me to rest from my frantic thought patterns, and sleep soundly through the showers, til 6am. When, unbeknownst to me, at this hour each morning, our heating boiler machine starts making a racket in the back garden, along with the more pleasant twittering of the birdsong as they sense dawn coming. There are some disadvantages of the garden!

But as I stumbled into the house for a final couple of hours sleep before work, I was already thoroughly happy and had a deep sense of peace at having slept an evening part-way into nature, re-finding my place in the world and enjoying re-living the memories that have come from that small, orange tent across the world. And for the rest of the day, I’d a feeling that I’d made more of the last 24 hours than I ever do waking up on a normal morning.

The 6am view, slightly disrupted by our garden light.

If I wanted to learn a moral lesson too, I might think of all those in the world who sleep in far worse conditions each night, in other lands, or even on our own streets as the southern housing crisis continues for many. Shaping our perspective of the world by sitting with others who have less materially than we do, round the world, can indeed be done in our back gardens (though perhaps not escaping indoors part way through!). Waking to a new day, I sense a small piece of why such people who have materially less than I do, still may wake each morning far happier than me. My comfort, I have tragically elevated to immovable status – might a night camping helping with this?

A prayer:

We thank you for the world you made – awesome, diverse, fun;
And ask your forgiveness when we isolate ourselves from elements of it in bubbles of comfort, in western spheres;
And look to you to shape our perspective, to help us explore and enjoy;
And to lay down our heads, knowing that you are in control, even as we sleep.
In Jesus name,


A pursuing gunman and wild donkeys: a tabletop experience

It’s a tabletop experience.  Quite literally.  And until a few moments later, a highlight of our Tunisian travels.  We’d arrived at the car hire place in Tunis to the amazement of the hirers.

“Where is your tour group from your hotel?”

“Um, we don’t have a tour group.  We’re alone.”

“But where are you staying?”

“Wherever we find a place to put up our tent?  We have some money for hotels too, just in case”

“Oh.  You are crazy.  No-one does this.  Why do you want to travel like this?”

“Well, because we think your country is beautiful and worth exploring”

And so our journey round Tunisia had begun after a short but pleasant stay in the capital.  Little did we know that a few days later we’d be up a plateau with a gunman standing behind us, blocking our exit to the only way down the mountain.  Welcome to Tunisia!


Jugurtha’s Table, on the Tunisian border with Algeria

I mean, we had been warned that the Algerian border territory was rebel territory where anything goes.  But driving through it on a nice summer day seemed so normal.  The music beating, and the craic still flowing from when I’d tried to ask for directions in French out of the last town we were in, from women who clearly only spoke Arabic and thought we were the biggest amusements to walk into their shop in a long while.  Either I wasn’t on form understanding Arabic sign language, or they were enjoying clueless westerners, but we went round that town several more times before managing to find an exit on something that might have been considered a road in west Cork a few decades ago.

It was 6pm already when we managed to pull up to the Guard Station in the next village a few miles from Jugurtha’s table.  Officially we needed to register that we were going up this mountain, so they knew whether we were ok or not.  I did wonder what they would do if we got confronted by Algerian rebels up there.  I mean, we were miles from this small Guard outpost.  But that was assuming that we’d even get registered at this hour.  After wandering up and down the street a few times to find the Guard on duty, and searching for a passport in the boot of our car (we hadn’t been asked for that in a while!), we finally registered and set off….under armed escort!

A fairly hilarious scene.dsc_0699

A bright red Kia Picanto with two lads messing around, with a Guard truck in front and another armed car behind.

At the road towards the foot of the mountain, one of the cars pulled off and signalled we were to go on.  The other followed.  Reaching the closest thing that resembled a car park that we ever saw in Tunisia, we parked and got out.  The other car wished us well, and suggested we take their local guide to escort us up safely.  We looked at each other.  Neither of us particularly wanted our hike to be spoiled by a random old man who barely spoke any French and seemed incapable of helping us fight off any Algerian rebels who were rumoured to be around.  We shrugged – what harm could it be?  Easier keeping him than trying to explain that we didn’t want him.  After all, what could he do to us when we went to sleep if we didn’t let him escort us?  Tell the rebels where we were?

And so we headed up.  Reaching the top a while later, we explored the kilometre of plateau, put up our tent, raked around with a ball (and with Dan jumping insane gaps over cliff edges, that I had far too many fears to navigate!) and then sat down to dinner and sunset.


It was then we noticed we weren’t alone.  And it wasn’t our guide, who was now nowhere to be seen.  “I’ll see you in the morning” being his last words about 40 minutes ago.  The one way up the plateau was steep and out of sight, and no approach could have been seen by us.  Maybe we’d been too cocky after all.

Particularly when we saw the athletic build of a man who was walking over the rocks to us holding a gun.  He was in plain clothes.  There was nowhere to hide.  Thoughts rushed through my head: we were nobodies….who would ever want anything to do with us?  Just simply two lads having fun travelling.  Though we did rather hope that he (or should I say “they”) hadn’t already “looked after” our car, sitting as the only brightly coloured object for miles in a barren landscape.

“‘Salaam!” came the voice, towering over us.  We scrambled to our feet to at least meet this man on a similar level.  His calm Arabic words that followed were not ones that I chose to remember in my state of panic, from my few Arabic classes I’d had one summer a while ago.  Obviously my face showed that.  Phew.  French now.

“What are you lads doing up here?”

“We are camping.  We’re travelling round Tunisia”

“Is that your car below?  I’ll take your passports”

I mean, I don’t know who he thought the car might belong to.  “No, I think bright red Kia Picantos must be how the Algerian rebels get around these days”.  Or at least that’s what I might have said if I hadn’t been panicking and actually sure that he wasn’t himself an Algerian rebel.  The hire company had obviously thought that giving us the only bright red car in the whole of the country was a fun joke to play, as we hadn’t seen one for most of our trip.  Supposedly black was the only colour for fast cars to be that year in Tunisia.

Similarly, there didn’t seem much choice as to whether to give him our Irish passports.  It was in these moments that I was grateful that I’d two passports, at least leaving me with an escape option, should the worst come to the worst.  And with British records of colonialism and war, there was no doubt that it was my Irish one that would be shown.




Our hearts were drums amidst an otherwise silent dusk.  Did he understand the English on the passports?

We didn’t care to ask.  And the next few words (still in French) were not said with a smile from his lips.

“Very dangerous.  Very, very dangerous up here”

“Um…sorry Sir, but why is it dangerous?” we hesitated to ask, unsure of whether the gun butt would move closer to our questioning lips as a reward for our answering back.

“Very Dangerous.  You have two choices.  You can escape the danger and I will take you down the mountain.  Or you can stay up here and risk everything.”  Or at least that’s what I got of his thick Tunisian French.

Dan and I glanced at each other.  If we were to leave, we at least wanted to know what we were leaving because of.  So we nervously tried again: “what is the risk?”

“There are many wild animals here.  Wild goats.  Wild birds.  Wild creatures.  And “des anes sauvages”.”

Well I didn’t know what “des anes” were, but I tried hard not to splutter into laughter at the animal list that we were supposedly to be scared of!  Wild goats and birds?  There wasn’t a moving thing in sight!  And even so, I doubted any would merit the “very dangerous” telling off that we were about to receive.  Was my French really correct?  Dan clearly hadn’t followed.  It was my basic French that would be the deciding factor to whether we stayed or went.

We stood at a standoff.  He still had our passports and clearly wasn’t impressed that we didn’t respond more to his stern words.  He asked again, hoping to add weight to his confrontation.

But we continued to stand.  Slowly giving us our passports back whilst not taking his eyes off our eyes, he gave us the kind of look that I’d get from my parents when they clearly disapproved of everything I’d done, but wanted me to learn the hard way.

And as quickly as he’d been there, he walked away to leave us alone again with a stunning sunset, miles of North African landscape, and fears that I should have paid more attention in French class.  After watching him leave in silence, we whispered: did he really just warn us about wild animals?  The doubts were nagging.  But we hadn’t travelled all this way for nothing.  This was stunning.  And not to be missed.  And besides, the Plateau even had a mention in the Lonely Planet Guide (albeit with a caution), so it couldn’t be that dangerous!

And so the craic soon flowed again.  The sunset one of my most memorable.  And our sleep much needed, even if nervous.  And waking to this over Algeria made it all worth it:


Our guide appeared out of nowhere, as if by magic, just as we were thinking of leaving in the morning.  He laughed when we told him about the armed man and our conversation the night before.  We laughed with him.  Until he declared:

“I laugh because you do not need to worry when I am here.  I protected you all night”

Ah yes…of course.  An old villager who could barely fight off wild goats was secretly watching over us all night.  How very noble.

And so we gave him a suitable generous donation for his “work” and protection services and made our way back to our bright red rebel vehicle.  Happily sitting in the sun, our adventure continued….for now.