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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 grace (39)



I stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom pulling my hair back into a pony tail. With my arms in the air and no sleeves, I saw my arms. This thought split my brain in two like a strike of lightning. “Fat arms.” 

And as insanity would have it, I answered myself. With sadness. Appropriate sadness. I thought, “These arms have held your babies. These arms have given love to your husband. These arms have baked when friends are hurting. These arms have fought for truth, wholeness, healing. These arms have raised up to heaven and not remained slack for lack of praise.”

I inherited these arms from my mother and grandmother. Their arms have been shelter for me. I have never, never thought of their arms as “fat.” In fact, we frequently heard from my mother, “come get under my wing.” She would put her arms around us and shelter us albeit temporarily from the world.


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have mercy

I am 46 hours late for the Mercy Monday post over at Jenn Lebow’s Mercy Mondays. She mercifully allowed me to still post. I mostly am late because I still don’t really know what mercy is. I’m asking. God is slow and painstakingly clear in His telling.

Ever since Jenn visited me in early August and we sat on my swing until late in the night, I’ve mused mercy. Like Jenn, I studied James in the spring and truly sang hallelujah as I read that mercy triumphs (James 2:13). Nothing like the book of James to rouse up a good case of mercy-itis - only cured by mercy. 

We talked about our good ole Campus Crusade definitions. Mercy means the withholding of a judgement deserved. Grace is unmerited favor. These two are so close that you cannot differentiate the very arteries and veins suppling their lifeblood.

This week in preparation for a post on “mercy as pardon,” I pulled out some 10 or so 10 pound books. I’ve looked at the Old Testament Word Book, The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, Addiction and Grace by Gerald May, in addition to various online sources. One phrase has captured my attention... “this is the exact place where God met with humans.”

The wings of two cherubim shadowed the mercy seat. Once a year the Hebrew priests sprinkled blood on that exact spot - the mercy seat - as an atonement for sin. Atonement means something that makes the offended party glad again. It means to be in harmony with one another. Literally to be AT ONE. 


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mercy isn't...

Joshua enjoying the first s'more of fall.

The hot wind of a late summer Tennessee afternoon blew through the car as we rode home from cross country practice. Joshua said he had a good day but that the math test  proved difficult. As soon as Jacob got out of the car and we were alone, he said, “but that wasn’t the worse thing about the day.”

“Well,” I asked, “what was?”

Silence. Tears. Face contorting.

“Honey, I won’t be mad. Just tell me,” I said.

Five long minutes of silence marked our passage from Jacob’s house to ours. Finally, he reached into his backpack and pulled out his new iTouch. New equals not yet two weeks old. I glanced over to see the shattered screen.

My stomach lurched. It seemed to be somewhere in my toes. I waited for it to come back. I think I groaned out a prayer similar to “Oh God.” 

Tennessee has a new initiative called BYOT. Catchy and expensive. Parents are encouraged to send “technology” to school with your child.  We had decided to wait it out and make some decisions by Christmas. After Open House at Grassland, we changed our minds. The teachers lit up when describing how they would use it to teach. We got so excited that we took Joshua to Apple and bought him the iTouch the next day. 

The cases at Apple run expensive. Is that redundant? Apple and expensive? So I told Joshua I would buy the case at Best Buy or TJ Max. 

A few minutes after we arrived home with the shattered iTouch, Matt and I sat with Joshua. Very few things make a 12-year-old boy cry, but tears streamed down his face. He told us the story. In math class, he got up to turn in the dreaded test. When he sat back down in his desk, the iTouch fell and shattered. 

Matt and I owned part of the disaster. We had not purchased a case. I had not purchased a case. I call that a “stupid tax.” Shouda. Coulda. Woulda. 

Next day we headed over to Apple. Guess what? $99 later he had a new iTouch. They did not care that the iTouch was 9 days old. They did not care that the screen is a tad too fragile for middle-schoolers and tile floors. They took the old, war-riddled iTouch and our $99 and handed us a new one.

Where is mercy in this story? Is mercy based on contract or character? Kindness or cold hard facts? Co-dependence or generosity? 

Since Jenn LeBow visited me in early August, I have mused mercy. We sat in the swing in my backyard late into the night and talked about the very concept that allowed us to breathe. She shared with me her idea of Mercy Mondays.

I’m eager to muse mercy with Jenn and all her friends in the blog-world. Mercy Mondays is a place where we can share our thoughts on mercy and learn and wrestle and grow. Join us.

Lamentations says that God’s mercies are new every morning. I need them. All of them.



Lately I’ve been searching for grace. The Word of God speaks of showering grace upon us. Why is it that I act as if grace is scant?

I was on my knees in our bedroom in Honduras using my hands to gather up the fluid on the white tile floor. I spilled this “anti-aging serum” as I unpacked our bags from a trip back to the States. The magic fluid is not available for purchase in Honduras. Scant and rare, indeed, it promises a fountain of youth. And I needed it. 

This image comes to mind often when I think of my view of grace as scant. Scant is a verb. I scant grace.

I dole it out more like 5 mL of Benadryl before bed. 

Ephesians 2:7-10 says that God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

Nothing scant about that. Nope. Plentiful. Abundant. Overflowing in the form of a shower.

So as I have noticed this scanting of grace with others, I realize that I skimp on grace to myself. If I shower in grace, I am more likely to lavish grace on others. That’s what I want to do.

God chose beauty to remind us of grace.

Early in the history of the world after the flood, God placed a bow of colors in the sky to remind Himself of His covenant with earth. A covenant to choose grace. He will never destroy earth again by means of a flood. Instead, He will flood grace.

The rainbow appears in Scripture several more times. Ezekiel struggles to find words to describe his vision of Heaven and God on the throne. He says, “Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown.” Ezekiel 1:28

The radiance of God is like a rainbow. 

The representation of the shower of His grace looks like a rainbow. And when I see it, I have to fall to my knees and receive. I open my hands and let the abundance weight them down.

18. rainbow of grace

Grace is a woman with tender touch and strong, sinewy arms. She is a warrior for righteousness. Grace is not lithe and fragile, nor is she abrupt or crude, and at the moment of reception, her presence is fiercely kind. She receives us, but without negotiation and with no inclination to put us on comfortable footing. Instead, she takes utter charge of our being by throwing her arms around us in delight at our homecoming. Dan Allender


my mamaw

Mamaw hand needle-pointed the pillow I am holding... Sunflowers.Today I told someone this of my grandmothers and my childhood: “They were like two pillars on either side of us... holding us up.” 

One the town side: Momice. She had CIA instincts. The first sniff of trouble, she appeared at our door. 

On the country side about a mile and a half down the road: Mamaw. Preaching the Word to us.

I have written a tribute to Momice aka Zelda Bernice Williams Morgan. Read it as posted on 4/8/10 and tagged under “heroes.”

Mamaw holds a power over our lives. Growing up at times I felt like her presence could hold my world together. And on a number of occasions, it did. 

The Sunflower River bordered her back yard. An azure pool separated her house from the river and entrapped all the water moccasins. I remember the snow-ball bushes, aka hydrangeas, lining the back of her house. A lover of roses, she grows a garden of them wherever she lives. She seems to carry a bunch with her whenever they are in bloom.

As an adult, I’ve sometimes thought that I possessed a similar power. Like a quintessential jewish matriarch, I have hoped that I possessed some mo-jo that could ward off evil. If I took communion, confessed sin, read (even memorized) the Bible; wouldn’t that protect me from evil? 

That is not the way of Calvary.

God dunks me headfirst into the world, at times being laid waste by the effects of the fall. For a believer, the power of the cross means that God uses even evil to polish our souls so that we can reflect more accurately the image of our nail-scarred Savior. Broken and healed. Resurrected on our behalf.

We show our Father’s power, His omnipotence, when we walk in our broken places willing to be known. We resemble Jesus more and more as our brokenness is healed in His presence.

We walk with scars. We walk with glory radiating from our faces. Jesus bore our shame in His Body. Our abuse. Our perpetrations. Our sorrows. He bore them, so we don’t have to.

Momice is in Heaven with Jesus. Singing in the choir like she used to belt out praises from the back row. I’ve never felt safer than right under her wing in that back pew. I know for a fact that she is up to a lot more than that, though. Her mischievousness must be a delight to Jesus. 

Mamaw, still with us, is recovering from a fall. She still holds a mysterious power over her family although not in the way I thought of as a child. She is a beloved woman and those she loves are blessed.

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