Goodreads to Muse

Click to read my reviews

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 »

do not cling

Lately I have been aware of places in my soul in deep need of grace. I shared some of those places and thoughts with some friends the other night. One precious new friend beseeched me to be gentle and find grace for myself. She said she would pray for me to find that grace. 

It has not even been 24 hours since then and already Jesus is answering. 

This harshness arises from the inner Pharisee (or critic) who stands in judgment of me. Her god is perfection. And when I don’t measure up, she swiftly pounds the gavel. She has relied on performance and approval to get by and to survive. She is hungry for grace but doesn’t know it all that well. 

For some time, in fact for seven years, I have judged our time in Honduras as a failure. Failure is a harsh word. The posture of the critic is even harsher. My eyes are coming unveiled to see what a tragedy it is to view it that way. It arises from an arrogant idea that I know what is best and God does not. I have judged His plan, doubted His care for orphans, and floundered under comparison of our journey with others. 

In reality, I am clinging to an idea of how I wanted things to work. I wanted to stay with those children and see them through graduation from high school. I hoped to never inflict upon them pain and loss. I wanted to keep living the dream of caring for them and fulfilling our calling as I understood it.  

After Jesus had died and was buried, the disciples stood around in the garden for a while. Then they went home. All but Mary. She cried as she stood there, and then went over and peeked in the tomb. She found it empty. She thought she saw the gardener and through teary eyes begged him to tell her where they had put Jesus’ body. When Jesus said her name, “Mary!” her eyes opened and she saw Jesus standing before her. ALIVE! 

He said to her, “Do not cling to me. Go to the brothers and tell them I have ascended to the Father.”

In that moment she transformed from a clingy, fearful, grieving woman to the first apostle to carry the good news on this earth. She let go of the reality she had wanted. Jesus is back. He is alive. Things can go back to the way they were. She grabbed hold of the future as Jesus set forth. “Go!” 

My hands are open. My arms are wide for the Pharisee to come in and receive warmth and grace. My eyes are on the horizon to see the path open wide before me.




stress and prayer

Today Sam grinned his half-snaggle-toothed smile at me and asked me: “Are you coming to the bus stop with me?” Typical of me, I was running late. But I did not hesitate to nod in the affirmative.

The walk to our bus stop includes wet grass. Matt has started a habit of giving him a back ride across the grassy sea. My heart fills up when I watch the two of them gallop off in the mornings. But today I was up to be the horsey.

So I grabbed my rain boots and hitched Sam up. About three-quarters of the way over the sea, Sam yells out, “My helmet!” 

The horse stops. What helmet?! He had packed in a small lego super hero to take to school. The helmet came off in the grassy sea. A moment of panic threatened us as we realized the small lego helmet is out in this grassy sea. I prayed aloud, “Jesus, help us find the helmet” because I am trying to remember to invite Him into my stress and anxiety. 

Stress threatens not only our peace but does a number on our bodies as well. I am learning about the neurotransmitters in the body. When we perceive a threat, the amygdala (a walnut-sized part of the brain) sends out a virtual army of helpers. These neuro-messengers allow us to run fast, see in the dark and have a load of glucose dumped in our blood for quick energy. 

Problem is that even if the threat is small (like a lost lego helmet), our bodies do the job with precision and consistency. Over time our adrenal glands wear out. The adrenals sit like little helmets themselves atop each of our kidneys. They manufacture some of these stress hormones. When they tire, the picture is not pretty. We fatigue. We keep asking our bodies for energy, but none is there. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. The message goes out but nobody is responding. 

My adrenals are worn out. Thus the need to invite Jesus. I am reminded of my creature-hood. I can ask for help. My frontal cortex (the part of the brain reserved for higher reasoning just behind the forehead) says to my amygdala and adrenals, “Hey, it’s a helmet. And the Lord is with us even in the small details. Relax.”

Guess what! We found that pea-sized helmet. “It’s a miracle!” I yelled! Sam danced. I thanked Jesus who is involved in the details. Yes, He is.


trusting God with my children

The crisp air of dusk fell over me like a blanket as I walked toward the parking lot of the campground at The Great Stone Door campground. I found Matt talking with a tall muscular man. The sun had begun to set and all around us creation invited us to rest and play. Matt and the stranger spoke as if they had known one another for years in the unhurried cadence of a campground. Brent, I came to know, is a fireman for Davidson County.

"He's invited us to go rappelling tomorrow with him," the corners of Matt's mouth turned upwards as he spoke to me. 

Rapelling. Hmmmm. I learned that Brent is an instructor in rescue using rappelling. He literally teaches other firemen how to rappel and how to save lives. He brought a few families with him, and he said they would all be rappelling the next day. All three of his kids were going, ages 15, 13 and 10.  

I spent the night excited and worried. Rappelling. 172 feet of sheer bluff. Only strapped in by a rope. A thin rope. Ok and a metal figure eight thingy and a harness. 

My boys, Sam (7) and Josh (13), wanted to do it. They lit up around their eyes when we mentioned it. Of course, Sam said first, "What's rappelling?" 

The next morning we ambled over to the site our slow pace belying what we felt inside: raw fear and excited energy. The ropes lay about us like so many snakes. People ran to and fro. Brent took charge like the President in the war room. Children ages 6 to 16 strutted about in harnesses. And the ledge loomed before me sapping strength from my knees.

The McMurrays are keenly familiar with this spot. Stone Door is one of our places. For the past 16 years, our family has explored, adored, and held as sacred this amazing state park. The story goes that Indians used it as passage to travel from the valleys up to the Cumberland Plateau. Stone cliffs overlook ravines vast and dotted with colorful trees. This spot only two hours from our home offers us perspective. We are reminded our place in God's story and in His creation. 

Eventually we made our way to the bottom of the ravine and watched the drama from below. "Well, boys, do you want to do it?" Matt asked with the same twinkle in his eye from the night before?

"YES!!!" they shouted in stereo.

They do not take after their mother. 

I reclined on a large boulder without budging and held tight to Skip, our dog. 

Joshua lead the way for the McMurrays. He backed over the ledge like a Navy Seal. As soon as he unhooked he wanted to go again. Samuel went next. I looked up to see him coming down using his right hand. My crackley weak voice called out, "Oh, he is a lefty!"  It was too late. He was over the edge. You wouldn't have known the way he handled that rope.

I am afraid I cannot explain to you how I felt sitting there 172 feet below them watching them go over the edge of a cliff. My thirteen-year-old hopped out on a ledge under the instruction of a stranger. My seven-year-old boy dangled above me, and I was helpless and powerless. 

I began to question my trust of the muscular stranger in the parking lot. We didn't check his ID. We didn't ask for a certificate. We didn't even ask him to demonstrate once we got to the site. 

I thought about how I have a hard time trusting God with the stories of my children. I compared that to the way I somewhat blindly trusted this man. My Heavenly Father has shown me time and time again His faithfulness to me. He has proven Himself over generations. And yet at the first sign of pain or difficulty, I tend to cop a stance and start with the questions.

This unveils my arrogance. Surely I know what is best for my, MY children. 

Each boy rappelled twice. Matt even went once. My clothing was just inappropriate for a rappel - saved by the Nike running shorts! Rappelling ended up on the "high" list of our fall break. And the deeper message about how I trust God or more accurately, how I often don't, will linger a while longer. 


blessing of God

The words of the Aaronic blessing offer us a powerful glimpse into the heart of our God and our own desire. All of us at our core wish to have God’s blessing upon our lives. We all wish to see God face to face and feel His love and acceptance of us. 

As I have been musing God’s gaze upon my life, I encountered these words in Numbers 6. The blessing goes like this:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

God gave these words to Moses to give to Aaron (the first high priest) and his sons to give to the Israelites. They were embarking on their journey through the desert. This is the first time the Israelites were “numbered.” They were numbered some 40 years later when they finally did go in and claim the land.

This speaks to me because God knew they would fail. Even with these powerful words of blessing upon them, they chose their own way and chose not to trust their God. God disciplined them for 40 years. 40 years. All the time with his face shining upon them.

Our God, an Artist, delivered this blessing in an artful poetic form to his children. The structure in Hebrew is important. Line one has 15 letters forming three words, line two 20 letters for five words, line three has 25 letters for seven words. The language builds in emphasis. 

And so God’s kids started out a journey doomed to “failure” with a poem. In my mind’s eye I see haggard and bedraggled old Israelites wandering the desert. Their shoes in tact but what of their souls? They must have wanted to give something to their kids, the next generation. Something different. I picture them kissing their children goodnight and uttering these words over them willing them to believe. I conjure up visions of them struggling through heat, snake attacks, human-eating earthquakes, plagues and clinging to this poem at the very center of their being. 

I imagine their last breaths surrounded by this next generation of warriors uttering the words of faithfulness. He is faithful when we are not. 

This poem held them together at their center. This poem grew around it another generation of believers who were courageous, obedient, conquerers. 

I wrestle with my flesh and the principalities and powers to accept these words. I desire to know deep down in my center that God loves me and his face is turned toward me. He is brimming with love perfected by the death and resurrection of his Son. I am becoming more and more aware of the places that don’t believe. I offer those parts a seat at the table of grace. Pass the poem. Munch on these words. Let them become a part of you. Believe. Pass it on.

And I say to my sons, He is faithful when we are not.


gaze of God

At the heart of the Universe, God wears a smile. 

For weeks now, I have mused the gaze of God upon my life. It all started when we studied the life of Peter in my small group. I came to believe that Peter’s life pivoted when Jesus gazed at him after his third denial. Jesus looked at him and knew him and loved him. There in the mess of Peter’s greatest failure, Jesus met him. He did not look away. He did not shrink from Peter. He did not even give Peter up as a fraud. 

I remember a time when this shift began in me. While on the mission field in Honduras, I began to understand that God loved me even in my greatest failures. I think the change in God’s expression - more accurately the change in my perception of God’s expression - marked me. And since then, I have come to believe that God uses my brokeness more powerfully than anything else.

I’ll never forget the day Donnie came to our clinic in Honduras. His mother and grandmother brought him wrapped snugly in a blanket smelling of smoke. The people of the mountain where we lived,  Rincon de Delores (corner of pain), had no electricity. Often they did not even have running water. Donnie was the fifth child of his family, and he had cleft lip and palate. At first I could not discern which woman was his mother. One held him and did all the talking. She clearly loved him and meticulously fed him with the tiny bottle they brought. She often asked questions of the other woman, the one with her head down in shame. This one would not meet my eyes. She seemed to want to run. She hovered near the door. 

I took Donnie in my arms and began to examine him. His thin arms and legs told a story of the difficult time he was having. He was close to being dehydrated despite being fed. His lungs rattled with fluid. He did not have fever. As I asked questions about how they cared for him, I discovered they fed him while he was lying down. Bottles are rare in Honduras. The women did not know that Donnie was likely aspirating the milk. I taught them how to feed Donnie correctly. 

As I examined him, I talked to Donnie and told them how wonderfully made he was. I praised him for his strength and his courage to fight for his life so far. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mother (the shame-filled one) soften. The corners of her mouth began to turn up just a tick. She could not take her eyes off her baby. 

She returned to see me over the years never with the other woman. Donnie grew and thrived. He eventually had surgery and all that was left of his wound was a small hairline scar. 

This interaction marked me. For the first time, I saw my lack of gentleness in myself toward myself. I would never have told this mother - just let Donnie tough it out. As I modeled kindness, she shifted and the love she felt for Donnie conquered her shame. 

I began to embrace the broken and crusty parts of myself. I asked Jesus for grace to wrap my arms around the entirity of my life. I began to see His grace equally in joy and in pain. And I invited the weaker, frightening, frailer parts of myself to the banquet of grace. 

As I muse the life of Peter, as I muse the interaction with precious Donnie; I see God’s gaze toward me. His loving gaze changes me. It changes my face. As my face looks to Him, it is radiant and will never be covered in shame. 

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 34 Next 5 Entries »