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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

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Entries in Advent (18)



To know wonder is to tangle with terror. I lived just such a moment when we we hiked behind Pulapanzak, a waterfall in Honduras. Understand that safety and often good sense do not abound in public parks in a third world country. No fences, boundaries or safety walls exist. A random “guide” ambled up to us on this day and asked if we wanted to hike behind the waterfall. Ignorantly, we followed the stranger toward a cliff. 

My friend Val nearly fell to her death as we navigated the path down to the bottom of the Fall. In a motion undetectable to the human eye, the guide grabbed her placing her back on the narrow path. As we blindly moved toward this fixed hurricane, I lost grip on my son Matthew’s hand. The guide held onto me. I was unable to talk and insist that he help Matthew who was 11 instead of me.  At one point, I could not breath. It was like having a fire hose stuck down your throat on full throttle. My Teva’s found one slick rock after another as we bouldered toward the monsoon. I lost sight of Matthew and only prayed that he was not being blasted down stream. The guide held an iron grip on my arm. I mustered up the courage to break free to turn back and at that exact moment the wall of water disappeared into a small cave. My lungs clamored for oxygen. My right eye was blurry and for a split second I thought I had lost my eye-ball. The deluge had blown one contact out of my eye. With my good eye, I focussed in on Matthew safe and smiling. Words cannot contain the elation I felt at the confines of that small cave. 

A different person emerged from that waterfall. On the way out, we hiked downstream and jumped off some giant rocks into turbulent water. My soul opened to something bigger than me. I mean, I still struggle with control, but my vision is changing. I am beginning to see that my demand to “understand” is an impediment to embracing the mystery of Christ.

To wonder is to encounter majesty and terror in the same moment and to never get over it. Unless I acknowledge a God whose power blows away my elementary understanding, I will have no need to adhere to his commands.  In the face of Sovereign Power, my puny facade of control evaporates like little droplets of water. Unraveled, we are pushed to admit that a larger story holds us. When our hearts are full of wonder and awe, all that we can do is lift our hands in surrender. And so begins the journey into the arms of our Loving Father. 



To welcome is to give space to someone. As I wait, I welcome Jesus to my life, to my reality, to the chaos, to this moment.

The King of the Universe, the One Who spoke stars and planets into existence entered our world as an infant - a dependent and vulnerable baby. Is there any greater paradox? If so, I don’t know it. This King doesn’t need my welcome, mind you. But in another paradox, He waits for me to welcome Him. 

Given my pace of life and the intensity, one could assume that the point of Christmas is lost on me. The lists, the menu, the coupons, the sales; all add up to the notion that if I don’t to it, Christmas won’t happen. 

I may welcome Christ into the first 20 minutes of my day. Often, sadly, I have the attitude: Use this 20 minutes, Lord, because I am busy later. 

But do I welcome Him when I realize that I have put 3 tablespoons of baking powder in the rolls instead of 3 teaspoons? What is the posture of my heart when I am negotiating with my brother-in-law who will spend Christmas where? 

Usually I quickly calculate how I will get it done. What will be required? How long will it take? How many other people will I have to involve? Rarely do I stop and say, “I am the Lord’s handmaiden. May it be as you have said.”

This Christmas, as I shop, as I bake, as I love my family well; I want most of all to welcome Christ into my space - to be a womb for the Son of God to dwell. 

Mary’s response to the angel changed her life to be sure. Her “yes” grew from a microscopic zygote to a man who won forever the war on sin and evil. His life, death and resurrection changed the world. May I have the courage, May you have the courage to say “YES” and create a space for God to come and dwell. Our hearts are enlarged in the waiting, in the welcoming.

 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells - even though you still experience all the limitations of sin - you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!

Romans 8:9-11




Wait is a four letter word. Our culture has taught us to abhor waiting. My flesh wants what it wants NOW!

This morning I drove to work in a van that smells like vomit. It smells like vomit because two weeks ago my son puked in it. Then my husband “cleaned” it up. So it still smells like vomit. I am WAITING for the smell to go away. As I wait, I am reminded of the stench of sin. Ever since the fall, the stench of sin has flooded the earth and tainted our experience as humans. Every day, every moment, we deal with the consequences of our choices to look to other gods and NOT the True God. 

We deal with Adam and Eve’s choices. We deal with our father’s, our mother’s choices. We deal with a virus that causes a child to vomit and then produces the vile odor that leads to a woman being very angry at a man for not cleaning a van well enough. We deal with the stench of sin.

Since the beginning of time, humans have waited on God. We either choose to wait on God or we make our own way. I am faced with the choice every moment to wait on God to save me or to make my own life work apart from Him. 

Today as I suffered in the stench of puke, I used a tiny dropper and spread a little fragrant peppercorn oil over the air vents. For a few moments, the van smelled of Christmas. Eventually, the puke overwhelmed the peppercorns and I sat again in the funk. 

I cannot sweeten the stench of sin.

To wait requires that I remain in the present - open and empty handed. To wait demands that I trust, that I hope in the only One who can save. But in fear; I numb, escape, deodorize and deaden parts of my soul to make waiting more palatable. These fixes are but temporary. 

Sometimes in the waiting, God unravels us. He unstacks the layers of bricks we have deposited to cope with life by hiding. The purpose of unraveling is always freedom. He desires to unbind us from these idols, addictions and so-called coping mechanisms.

The Hebrew word for “to wait” - qavah -  literally means to bind together like a cord. It implies twisting strings and weaving them together to form a rope - the more strands, the greater the strength. As I am unbound from my idols, He weaves me back together when I wait on Him.

In many languages and in Hebrew, the verb “to wait” is the same as “to hope.” The way to hope is to simplify: to believe that actually only ONE thing will save me and that is my HOPE in Jesus Christ. When I live for ONE man, my noisy heart and nervous spirit settle. Jesus paid a one-time sacrifice. He set me right before God for all eternity. I still wait on Him to come again and set things right on earth and in Heaven. Until then, I sit in the stench and wait. I struggle with sin and hope.

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, 

And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning ;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD ;
For with the LORD there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.

Psalm 130:5-7


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