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 »

Entries in Advent (18)


like a child

If I am not poor in spirit, Christmas will not come to me. The other morning, I sat reading from my journal of 2011. I felt sad and perplexed that some of my goals had not been realized. I asked Jesus what is up with that. He answered me in my Advent readings with a quote from Oscar Romero. The poem is below:

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even for God - for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

Christmas is a time of giving. We like to think of ourselves as givers. I have been motoring about buying presents, flying through cyberspace bargain hunting. But have I thought of myself as a receiver? 

In Sam’s oral presentation about Christmas for kindergarten, he gushed about how opening presents is our favorite Holiday tradition. He has no misguided self-concept of being a giver. This boy knows how to receive. Tear open the package and dig in. 

As I have grown up, I have forgotten what it is like to receive. If I want Christmas to come, I must open my arms wide to receive the bounty that Christ brings. I must empty myself of all my vein notions and haughty thoughts that I am generous. The truth is that I am needy, broken, destitute. I need grace. 

I want to recover the child-like joy of receiving the Present this Christmas.


holy & human

The Divine wrapped on flesh and entered our world. We celebrate this mammoth event with Christmas. We acknowledge the waiting with Advent. 

I’ve been musing the incarnation. 

As I talked about it with friends, I realized that even the term “incarnation” should be reserved for the event when the seed of God entered a woman and produced Jesus. It is holy. That holy. But what’s got me going is that God’s spirit dwells in me... a sort of little “i” incarnation. Or, let’s don’t call it that, it’s something else. What do we call it? 

In the timeline, after Jesus ministered here on earth, he ascended into Heaven. He said he would not leave us as orphans and he sent the Holy Spirit a little while later. That Holy Spirit indwells me. That’s what it is... an indwelling.

His Spirit communes with my spirit. The spark of life. The holy in the human. 

This morning before dawn, I lit the Winter Forrest candle and turned on the Christmas tree lights. My hands smelled like OxyClean from the t-shirts I soaked in the sink just before I sat down with my Advent book. And I began to read about Zechariah, a herald of Advent. 

The laughter bubbled up from deep within me as I pictured him gesturing wildly to the breathless audience outside the Holy of Holies. You know he went in there at risk to his own life. They put a bell on his robe and a rope around his leg so they could pull him out if he keeled over. He must have jumped so at the sight of Gabriel there by the alter that he almost burned his robe with the incense. Gabriel announced that old man Zechariah would have a son, John the Baptist. Ole Zech didn’t believe. He said, “How can I know this is true?” Gabriel struck him mute because he did not believe. And out Zech goes to try to tell the audience why he can’t speak and why he is wild with anticipation and why his robe is smoldering.

I’m so thankful Zechariah is included in this story and his unbelief is no stumbling block for the gospel. Zechariah is a herald of Advent to us. And if Advent is nothing else, it is the celebration of the collision of the holy and the human.


broken angel

Things break.

Here on earth, everything breaks, wears out, corrodes. This morning I found this favored angel from the nativity scene with his wings discarded nearby. Sam owned up to wrestling with Gabriel. A new Christmas scene is written in the McMurray house. 

Last month goes down in history as one of the most horrible in my life. My mother landed in the hospital with a life-threatening MRSA infection. A situation with a family member sat in my gut and my mind constantly replayed the scene. What if I had said that? What if I had pointed out this? Friends in crisis. Conflicts. Disease. Death. Dreary grey weather. November had it all.

Through all of this, God called my heart heavenward. Confident of his presence with me, I breathed prayers like the Jesus one. Inhale and say, “Jesus Christ, son of God.” Exhale and say,  “have mercy on me a sinner.” One day as I ran to my car late to meet someone, a rainbow appeared through the gray dreary clouds. I gasped aloud. Awe. 

On the same day, I drove down a gorgeous Tennessee back road and something at the tree-line caught my eye. A horse? No. I saw the antlers. It was the biggest buck I have ever seen majestically ruling ore the plain. I pulled over and watched it from a distance. Awe.

To see something extraordinary and to try to put words around it is to muse.

Awe is the first step to worship. If I understand something, I will never think myself smaller than it. I am learning that life is hard and there is good in the hard and hard in the good. 

The angel proclaimed peace (wholeness) on earth, good news to men. His wings dazzled the shepherds. They fell on their faces in worship. 

Things may break here on earth but there will come a day when it will all be new.


The star

As December goes by in a blur, I'm taking some time to look for the holy. As often happens, the first Sunday of Advent blew past me. I counted Christmas Sunday and therefore miscalculated the first day of the season. My church has chosen not to light the candles on the Advent wreath so I sat through the service none the wiser. It was Wednesday before I picked up my Advent book and realized my error.

In this season, I need a yellow light to slow me down... Even a red light to stop me. A busy, fast life swirled around a cold, damp stable as the King of Wonder entered his human tent. Why should I be surprised if it is the same for me today?

Yesterday Skip, my dog, and I took a hike by the river. Several times I stopped in my tracks as the beauty of heaven and nature singing took my breath away.

NO ROOM, was the Innkeeper's response.

I want to make space for God-child today in my heart.



In a word, life’s purpose is distilled to ONE THING. 

Worship is our wonder-filled response to God’s Essence. 

If wonder is the first step to surrender, surely the second is to drop to our faces. 

Simply put, worship happens when I descend from a higher place to a lower place. Once I have seen the Power and Majesty of God, I cannot help but fall down on my face. Over and over, the Bible says that folks fell down and worshiped. John even says he fell down as a dead man.When we see Him as He really is and we see ourselves, we are undone before Him.

I want to worship God in Spirit and Truth but so often I am bound by the confines of this body. Last week I attended a Christmas concert. The Spirit of God electrified the small venue. My spirit desired to stand with hands toward heaven. But I remained seated obeying social pressures and fear -  polite, conventional, bound. I missed an opportunity to be foolish and undignified before the Lord as my body desired to personify what my spirit felt.

Of course this is a metaphor for my life. I desire to follow Christ but continually choose other gods - little g. 

I believe the path to worshiping in spirit and truth is one of accepting my creature-hood.  Not hiding, dodging or denying it. When I pretend that I don’t have these limits, I puff myself up and God has no dwelling place in my full cup. However, in repentance, my soul is in the proper posture before God. Face down. 

What is His response to this prostration? He reaches out his right hand and lifts me up. 

Even in attempting to name the process, I risk bypassing mystery. Worship is not an empty box on my to-do list that I check off during the day. Often, I find am surprised by worship. Sometimes it’s like invisible fingers wrapping around my heart and opening my eyes to feel the awe and wonder that is God. He is the Great Initiator. His grace fuels even the slightest turn of my soul toward Him.

A few weeks ago, Bill set up two chairs here - the Supposed-To-chair and the Get-To-chair. He explained that we sit in one or the other as we relate to God. I saw the truth about my heart. The shame dissolved in worship as I agreed with God about my sin. In that process, I recognized a spark of desire growing. I want to love the Lord more. I want to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. I want to want to read the Word and treasure it. From that spark, a Living Fire grew in me. I felt God multiply my desire to a great flame. And so goes the cycle... An unraveling and a waiting, a welcoming and a wonder at the re-forming.

To worship God is to ascribe to Him His worth - His place in the world. My life is an offering to Him. He doesn’t need me to worship Him. But I get to.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Revelation 1:17-18