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 »

empty baskets

I keep thinking about those empty baskets the crowd had with them in John chapter 6. The hungry crowd had gathered on a hill to listen to Jesus. Jesus asked his disciples to feed them. After pointing out they had no food and no money, Jesus divided 5 loaves and 2 fishes to feed thousands. We know the disciples collected 12 large baskets of leftovers. So I am assuming there were a lot more baskets that had held the food Jesus “made” to feed the crowd. All ate until they were full. 

I know this: an empty basket is all I need. 

Time after time in Honduras I learned this lesson: when I showed up empty, God did amazing things. I hated showing up empty. I liked things planned and running according to schedule, carefully controlled. If I showed up harried, raw and real, God fed the people by the thousands. 

The miracle of the feeding of the thousands is almost dwarfed by the events that follow. Jesus tells the crowd that He is the bread. He says His body is the blood. Even while their stomachs gurgled and growled digesting the food they just ate, they quarreled and bickered and picked apart Jesus’ story. When we are full, we are arrogant and puffed up. So often we can’t see God working until we are empty and needy. 

Yesterday at Bible study Paige Benton Brown said, "All you need to come to Jesus is nothing, and most people don't have it."

Today I bring my empty basket for Jesus to fill with His bread and His blood. 


come hungry

Admitting I am hungry is not that hard. Seeing my gaping spiritual need for Jesus can be a lot harder.

In John chapter 6, Jesus feeds over 5,000 hungry people who have been following him. He sees the crowd and asks Philip where they could buy some bread for them. Philip is from the area and Jesus asked him this to “stretch his faith.” Philip points out feeding this crowd would cost eight months’ wages.Andrew notices a boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish. But says, “That’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”

Gaping need. Empty stomachs. Empty baskets. Empty pockets.

You know the story. Jesus has the crowd sit. He takes the loaves and the fish and blesses them. The disciples hand out enough food to fill the stomachs of the crowd, about 5,000 men and the women and children with them. The disciples gathered 12 baskets of leftovers. 

The crowd then kind of stalks Jesus. He slips them a few times. Things heat up when he calls them out saying they only follow because he filled them up with food and for free. He tells them about spiritual food. His body, he says, is the real bread; his blood, the real drink. 

The Jews grow more and more restless as he builds his explanation. They argue. They bicker among themselves. They fight. Many leave Jesus. 

Even the disciples say, “this is a tough teaching, too tough to swallow.” Many disciples leave and never return. 

The people and even the disciples could admit their physical hunger, but the spiritual hunger they could not acknowledge. They resorted to poking all kinds of holes in Jesus’ story. “Isn’t this the son of Joseph? How can he say he came down from Heaven and expect anyone to believe him? How can this man serve up his flesh for a meal?”

They argued, they bickered, they fought, they fled. 

This is my story. I argue. I bicker. I fight, and I flee. 

I frequently try to assuage my spiritual hunger with things like perfectionism and performance, relationships and food, rescuing and numbing. Every day I have an appetite. What will I choose to fill me? I use things to fill my appetite so I won’t have to see the gaping need, the empty soul-stomach or the empty baskets and pockets. In reality, nothing will fill me but the Body and the Blood. 

Like the disciples, I look for physical resources when only spiritual resources will satisfy my hunger. God wants our physical and material needs to invite us to see soul needs. “The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen.” 

Recently I found myself numb at church. I realized I had been stuffing the wrong things into my soul. With a few words of confession, I asked for the Spirit to fill me. I admitted my spiritual hunger and how many times I turn to other things. 

I felt my appetite return for the things that truly fill and satisfy. “The one who brings a hardy appetite to this eating and drinking will be fit and ready for the Final Day.”

And I opened my hands to receive.

All Scripture is from John 6, The Message.



finding my voice

I quit blogging.

Because I got into a cat fight on Twitter with another blogger.

Because the vitriol and hatred in the blogosphere suffocated me and paralyzed me and sucked the words right out of my heart.

Because I lost my voice in the vortex of it all.

I don’t want to be another voice in the matrix plugging my little corner of theology or morals or even truth. 

So I had to ask myself: What do you want?

I know that words live in my bones and clamor to come out. 

I know that I will not win any battles with words shaped like swords hanging over the heads of my supposed “enemies.” Who is my enemy? Those who believe differently than I do? I don’t think so.

I know that I have a voice, and I was created to put thoughts into words and share them.

I know that I write to shape myself and perhaps others. And that when I don’t write, I don’t grow. 

I wrote these words weeks ago but haven't had the courage to post them. This morning I uttered a prayer before I had my coffee asking the Lord to help me find my voice, my prayer wordless and more like a groan. Then I made my way upstairs, coffee in hand, for some quiet time aka water for a dry soul. A random book  (Bird by Bird) came into my view, and I plucked it from the shelf and read the answer to my prayer.

We write to expose the unexposed. You can’t do this without discovering your own true voice. Truth seems to want expression. Unacknowledged truth saps your energy.  - Anne Lamott

I paused because I didn’t want my voice to be bended and sound like all the others. I paused because I needed to heal. I am writing because I breathe and I have to. The experience held up a mirror and I saw jealousy and narrow-mindedness. I saw pettiness and the desire to be right over love for people. Now I sense it is time to write again.

I recently stumbled upon Glennon Doyle Melton is a voice of encouragement amongst the many caustic voices. I am reading her book - Carry On, Warrior. She writes, “If anywhere in your soul, you feel the desire to write, please write. Write as a gift to yourself and others. Everyone has a story to tell. Writing is not about creating tidy paragraphs that sound lovely or choosing the ‘right’ words. It’s just about noticing who you are and noticing life and sharing what you notice. When you share your truth, it is a love offering to the world because it helps us feel braver and less alone.”

I am thankful for space and time and a loving God to help heal my soul. I am thankful for you who read and let me know you are encouraged or touched in some way. May this offering of love warm you and encourage you to write or dance or sing the story God has given you.

let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't... Romans 12:6 The MSG



pain, the professor

Pain is the great professor.

After I fell skiing, my knee pain hurt like nothing I have ever experienced. From the time my ski went wonky and I fell, the pain shoved out everything else from my mind. By the time I hobbled into our condo, the pain had escalated to unbearable. The next morning I quickly asked to go to the ER. What did I want? Relief!

This journey began five weeks ago. Pain has been my companion off and on. Now the discomfort of being on crutches and limiting activities teach me more than pain. I am not a patient patient.

No doubt looking back over my life, the common denominator in growth is pain. My favorite passage in the New Testament is Hebrews 12. Verse 7 says to endure hardship as discipline. It encourages us saying that all God's children are disciplined. It promises a harvest of peace and righteousness.

I don't like to be in pain. I don't even like to be uncomfortable. And yet, I want to grow.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May Your unfailing love be my comfort according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. Psalm 119: 67, 71, 75-77.

These verses instruct me. When I am in pain, I don't usually reach for my Bible first. I think of all the other things that could bring comfort first. David knew that the only comfort in his suffering would be God's law. He states that he delights in it and looks to it to bring him life.

Today my pastor asked me (all of the congregation) how much did I crave God's word. I have not thought about my appetite for the Word in a while. I am thankful to be reminded of the only source of true comfort in the Universe.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. Psalm 119:92


cannot miss

I got a text from a friend this morning. She said she woke up praying for me. She prayed Psalm 139 over me. I felt thankful for her words.

Then in the shower I tweaked my back. One side of my body is doing all the work. That side revolted today.

I had no idea how much I needed her words today, her prayers, the encouragement. How encouraging that these were provided before my need hit, before my back went out. She said to me, "You cannot miss what God has for you in this." What a relief! My sheep brain is very apt to miss something. But not what God wants me to see. I cannot miss it.

Today I am weak. I have fallen in the pit several times. Today I needed to hear that God has me. He holds me. In fact, I cannot flee from His Presence.

And He provided just that. Today.