Goodreads to Muse

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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

Gigi's favorite books »

through the waters

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.” 

Isaiah 43:1-2


An apt passage for this day. 

God reminds us that he is our Creator. The Hebrew word for creator is bara, and it means that He made something out of nothing. The same word is used in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the Heavens.” This kind of creating cannot be done by human hands. 

Next he reminds us that he formed us. This word is yatsar and is most often used in reference to a potter. The idea is being squeezed into shape connoting a narrow place or a distressing situation. To be sure when God is forming us, it feels narrow and constricting.


As I sit here this morning, a soft rain falls on the roof outside - the remnants of Harvey. This week has been hell for many as the torrential rains of Harvey have left a path of devastation and death. The faces of those displaced and barely alive have burned into my soul. The kindness of strangers and the teamwork in rescues have brought me to tears. Prayers for these folks are on my lips all day. I am not one to step in with a Bible verse like “take 2 and call me in the morning.” When this degree of devastation occurs, we have to sit in the ashes before reaching for the cure. It feels like now we don't have the luxury of sitting. That will come later. Now is the time for us to bring diapers and clean underwear. To send money to those on the ground in Houston. To pray all day and all night. To house refugees if possible. To hold people while they cry and turn faces to God who is our Healer. 


Even now as we are about practical things, we can share our own stories of suffering. I have known periods of darkness when the hand of God seemed to be against me. My circumstances shouted that God had forsaken me. His plan seemed to be about destruction of me and my family and not for our good. My path to find the true face of God included those who shared their suffering, heartache and pain. In naming the truth about my circumstances and feelings, I found an empathetic God who did not spare His Son but gave Him freely for our healing.


Many in Nashville are all too close to the scenarios playing out on tv and social media. Our neighborhood flooded in 2010. I’ve heard from more than one friend about heart palpitations and anxiety as they ache for Houston. We in Nashville are quick to understand that the magnitude of this flood is much greater. But the comfort born from empathy is a true balm for the hurting. 


The Isaiah passage speaks of waters and rivers, fire and flames, captivity and displacement. It tells us of a God who is there in it with us. So often in suffering we feel alone. “Faith is putting ourselves quietly into God’s hands for Him to do His work.” Andrew Murray said those words some 175 years ago. 


I think it’s ok to ask “Why God?” or “Where is God?” because it reveals a searching heart. Literally in the next breath, the seeker could be confronted with the very real presence of God. Sometimes it looks like “Where is God?” and then a moment of seeing His presence in the kindness of a stranger or in a photo showing racial unity or in a sunset. 


In suffering we are reminded to live moment by moment. This moment is all we really have. We can tell the truth about where we are… searching or resting or raging. 


Andrew Murray also said, “Surrender yourself this very moment to abide wholly, only, always in Jesus. It is the work of a moment. Remember, Christ’s renewed acceptance of you is also the work of the moment. Be assured that He has you and holds you as his own, and that each new ‘Jesus, I do abide in you,’ meets with an immediate and hearty response from the Unseen One. No act of faith can be in vain. He immediately takes hold of us anew and draws us close to himself. Therefore, as often as the message comes, or the thought of it comes, Jesus says: ‘Abide in Me, do it at once.’ Each moment there is the whisper: ‘Do it now.’”


In any moment, He is ready to accept and receive and comfort. Do it now. 



new beginnings, new grace

“…there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf!” Genesis 8:11

I am attempting to read the Bible through this year using Meet the Bible by Philip Yancey and Brenda Quinn. Today I read a familiar story of the flood and when I got to this verse something washed over me: gratitude and gladness. After devastation, the dove returns with an olive leaf. I have seen this in my own life. 

Noah had labored and built an ark. And if I understand it correctly, he waited with his family and the animals inside for 7 days before it rained. It had never rained. Then the deluge and horror of losing humanity and all the other animals and the places he must have loved. Then the waiting, sending out the raven then the dove. I cannot imagine standing out on the deck of the ark watching the horizon for the dove. What could he have felt seeing something green in its beak?

Have you ever experienced devastation? Has God ever took a wrecking ball to your life? Have you ever been harmed or watched someone you love be harmed? Have you ever looked out over ruins and wondered if God cared or if He was real? 

God painted something in the sky for Noah, a rainbow. And He wrote a poem:

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.

The rainbow is the first recorded covenant by God. God chose beauty to remind us of grace.

The representation of the shower of His grace looks like a rainbow. And when I see it, I have to fall to my knees and receive. I open my hands and let the abundance weight them down.

Today I am thankful for new life, new beginnings, new stories, new adventures. And grace. Yes, I am thankful for grace.


see the unseen

It is quiet here at midday on the first Sunday of Advent. Only the sound of boys chatting and laughing, the sound of Fifa 15 on the Play Station, the sound of the Titans game low in the background break the quiet. My stomach is full of turkey sandwich and the house is littered with Christmas decorations. 

I don’t know how many times I have completely missed the first Sunday of Advent. It is easy enough to do, especially when leftovers from Thanksgiving still stock the fridge. I would get so frustrated with myself over forgetting that first Sunday. 

Today, though, we did not forget. Matthew (23) was home from college so we grabbed the chance to decorate the tree together.  I suppose I have a Norman Rockwell image in my mind of how this should go down. The scene includes hot chocolate and carols in front of a warm fire. Everyone is laughing and chatting. Everyone is engaged and eager to help hang those little ornaments on the branches. 

Today the distractions are endless: Nerf guns,  remote control flying helicopters, football on tv, iPhones and iPads. Matt and I goad the kids to help reaching a shrill tone of voice in desperation to get the task done. The lights take two hours and my back aches from holding light balls over my head. They are much more crowded up in one spot near the top of the tree. Charlie Brown may have done a better job! 

But more than anything,  one feeling prevails on this day. 


My eyes are focussed to see the camaraderie of the three brothers. My ears are tuned to hear the laughter and teasing and love. It ends soon enough with Matthew back to Knoxville and Matt to work. 

It is into the everydayness that Christ entered. He stooped down and made Himself a baby so that He could save us. I do not want to miss His incarmational Presence this Christmas. When I see the love of God or when Mystery cracks open my paradigm for life, will I run and hide? Or will I open myself to it? I want to say the same words as Mary. I am the Lord’s handmaiden. May it be as you have said.

Will I give up my notion of Rockwell scenes and perfectionism? Will I embrace the mysterious way the Lord has ordered my life? Will I surrender to Mystery? Will I keep  my eyes open to see the unseen?

For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37


a way out

The Pit is dark and lonely. It is deep. It smells of earth and leaves and mold. The damp makes the cold all the more penetrating. The Pit can envelop you even when you are running errands in Cool Springs on Mallory Lane. It can grab you up in front of the tv when you sit with your boys watching sports. It can put icy fingers around your neck when you lounge with friends over dinner. 

The Pit is familiar. My Pit has furniture like a coffee table with magazines dog-eared and coffee-stained. It says pull up a chair and stay a while.  It is nonetheless dark and lonely. What does your pit look like?

We are in a season of wharp-speed, like many with children or jobs or places to be. Our rhythm has changed in recent months. I don’t like change. The Pit calls my name more often in a season like this. I am likely to fall into the Pit when I am running and have to keep going and don’t have time to stop and be still. 

This morning, however, I stopped. I read about David’s Pit. David says in Psalm 40, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.  Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.”

David knew the Pit. And his story shows how God lifted him out. I know the Pit. And my story this morning tells of a God who gets in the Pit and gives me a leg up to see out. He gives me strength to grab hold of the grass and His Long Arm boosts me up over the edge. 

There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still. - Corrie Ten Boom


grace finds

Fridays are my just-breathe days. I heal and unwind with large chunks of uninterrupted quiet time and space. This morning I rifled through photos and old newsletters of our years in Honduras. I had an ongoing dialogue with the Lord. At some points my gladness erupted in laughter - the loud kind that starts deep in the belly and comes out in wracks and shakes. At other times I found myself arguing with Him about events and how our time there closed. It hurt so much to leave. I even said, “How could you?!” at one point. I asked Him to gently show up for me and heal my pain. 

In the past I have been uncomfortable with actually saying this question out loud. Today is not the first time I have uttered it. Before I did utter it though, the question sat in my heart behind a big fat body guard. The Lord knew the question was there, of course. He waited for me to ask it out loud. As soon as I said it out loud in prayer to Him, the body guard was no longer needed. And the Lord’s response to me at that time: Let’s get to work, Beloved.

I don’t normally find God speaking to me through Facebook, but this morning He did. Anne Lamott had recently posted about her broken toe and an encounter in the ER with her doctor. 

She says, “Grace met us right there. It meets you right where it finds you, but it does not leave you where it found you. It moves you toward breath; moves you towards things being a little bit better: wow. Grace [is] WD-40. Grace is water wings. Grace makes you shake your head with wonder, and laugh and cry.”

I am learning that I cannot put God in a box. I cannot tell Him where to go and where not to go. He does not respond well to body guards although He is courteous. When I asked Jesus to make a home in my heart when I was ten, He came in and all of my life is now His. There is nowhere He won’t go to pursue my whole heart. I cannot cordon off passages and mark them with NO TRESPASSING signs. 

So today His answer to my HOW COULD YOU?! is this: Gigi, I had to get through to you, in that very part of your heart and soul. 

This morning Grace did not leave me where it found me. 

Jesus said, “You‘re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines.” John 9:1-5