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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
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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 Fear (8)


wait and hope

This morning, Monday, I got up and prepared for work. Scrubs on and ready to walk out the door, I received a text that my first patient had cancelled. Now I am waiting. Swim practice is cancelled for Joshua and Samuel. Our family has a tinge of cabin-fever. We have exhausted our inside activities. Boys are loud and boisterous. The picture above shows our favorite indoor activity. We are stuck inside. Again.

Wait is a four-letter word. Waiting more than any other activity shatters my illusion of control. Perhaps that is why fast-food, drive-throughs, mail-order and many other hyphenated nouns developed. We hate to wait. I hate to wait. We are parked in a holding pattern as Matt is considering a career change.

At church we are going through a series on wisdom. Yesterday we listened to Psalm 119 being read aloud by 22 different recorded voices for each of the stanzas. When Bill Wellons first mentioned his plan to have this psalm (the longest chapter in the Bible) read aloud and that it would take 15 minutes, I admit to wiggling in my chair and planning a bathroom break. But once the voices started reading, I felt riveted to my chair. They began in the soft speak of children and ended with the wisdom of older voices. I had to resist the distraction of figuring out whose voice it was on the audible. In the end, I am reminded of the water of God’s word slaking the thirst of those panting for Him.

"Wait" is used 6 times in Psalm 119. One phrase captured my curiosity: Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget Your statutes (verse 83). What? 

With just  a little googling, I came to understand that phrase better. A wineskin was the skin of an animal, maybe the actual stomach, used to store wine. Gross, right? But they didn’t have the glass or Tupperware we have today and the skins worked dandily. 

If a skin was left in smoke too long, it became covered in soot, dried and shriveled. It lost its elasticity. The tents they lived in and cooked in often were filled up with smoke. To a Hebrew this made instant sense. 

David, the alleged author of this Psalm, is describing the struggle with waiting on God. The verb “to wait” is the same as “to hope” in Hebrew and in other languages like Spanish. This psalm uses both to wait and to hope in English. But in Hebrew it is the same word. Hope and wait are used almost interchangeably.

Waiting makes me feel useless, dried up, shriveled. I lose my flexability the longer I wait. Yeah. Kind of like a wineskin in smoke. 

Today I realize that waiting is more terrifying than anything. I am more afraid of waiting than I am of preparing to live in a third world country or of actually living in a third world country. I had a mission. I had instructions. I was buoyed by the illusion of feeling important. 

In waiting, I come face to face with my creaturehood. And in waiting, I am forced to decide my source of hope. 


anxiety vs peace

Anxiety is a black cloud that hovers and blinds. A vague feeling of dread hangs over the victim's head. Fear courses through the body without knowledge of the exact identity of the feared object. By it's very nature, anxiety is the fear of something. Problem is we don't know what it is we fear.
In the full throes of anxiety, the hands feel clammy with sweat and the chest feels like an elephant is lounging there. Blood is shunted away from the pre-frontal cortex (higher reasoning brain) to allow the body to perform more basic survivor functions. People often believe they are having a heart attack and run for the nearest ER to hear "anxiety attack." The fact is, an anxiety attack feels a lot like a heart attack.
In this anxiety ridden state, connecting with God is nearly impossible. Not impossible, you see, but it is difficult. Calling for help is a wise move.
Yesterday I entered my quiet time in just such a state. I opened Jesus Calling and read: Take a moment and sit with me. Let My Love surround you and fill you. I replied, "Uhhm. Having some difficulty with that one." I knew God was near. I wanted to feel it. Yet I had great difficulty feeling His Presence given my level of anxiety.
I opened the Word to Psalm 73.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
As I read these awe-inspiring words, God's Spirit excavated a song from somewhere deep in my soul. I learned the tune when I was eight years old. Every line of it came back to life in the black and white pages of my Bible.
The last line: The nearness of God is my good.
"When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood," says verse 16.
I didn't need to understand anymore because the Spirit of God communed with my spirit and peace flooded in.
Peace, the opposite of anxiety.


game plan

I posted this on my front door today. Romans 13:1Joshua dribbled the soccer ball toward mid-field, but his lackadaisical gait grabbed my attention. And like any good soccer-mom, I yelled out to him from my lawn chair: “Joshua! Hustle!” 

Only problem with this scenario: the ball wasn’t live. The other team had just scored. Joshua dribbled the ball to mid-field for the kick-off (is that the correct term?). Matt swiftly brought me up to date. I dug a small hole on the sideline and spent the rest of the game in it. Well, I wish I could have. 

I know very little about soccer as demonstrated in the story above, a story that will live in the annals of McMurray history for eternity. My ignorance, unfortunately, did not stop me from commenting. I learned from that experience to keep a lid on my mouth until I could comment with a little education. I’m still learning about soccer. The lid goes on and off according to my self-control. 

On this election day, Matt and I began our day in prayer before we got out of bed. We serve a Sovereign God. He will choose our president today. In fact, He’s chosen him. I pondered what it will be like at the end of the day today. How will I behave in front of my children? Will I communicate to them that I trust God? 

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staff or snake

Moses is having a conversation with a burning bush. God spoke to Moses, or more accurately, “the angel of the LORD.” From what I understand this refers to a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. 

Exodus 3 says that Moses was out tending the sheep of Jethro his father-in-law. He saw a bush on fire but never burning up. Curiosity got the best of him and he went over to check it out. Verse 4 says “When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’”

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fear factors

Fear is a funny thing. 

We are winding up the celebration of Sam’s birthday. He turns seven today. He entered this world on Halloween, a holiday known to be scary. I say he came that day precisely for the fear factor. 

He’s a miracle many times over. I went into early labor when I was pregnant with him at 26 weeks. We lived one hour outside the city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Matt drove me in to the hospital at 2 a.m. in the largest vehicle we had at the Ranch. The eroded road made this very painful and difficult. As the nurses wheeled me to the room, I assessed the situation. No IV pole, no fetal monitor, no isolette (bed) for a neonate. The staff used an IV drug that has not been used for over 25 years in the States. My labor stopped. 


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