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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 Honduras (13)


empty baskets

I keep thinking about those empty baskets the crowd had with them in John chapter 6. The hungry crowd had gathered on a hill to listen to Jesus. Jesus asked his disciples to feed them. After pointing out they had no food and no money, Jesus divided 5 loaves and 2 fishes to feed thousands. We know the disciples collected 12 large baskets of leftovers. So I am assuming there were a lot more baskets that had held the food Jesus “made” to feed the crowd. All ate until they were full. 

I know this: an empty basket is all I need. 

Time after time in Honduras I learned this lesson: when I showed up empty, God did amazing things. I hated showing up empty. I liked things planned and running according to schedule, carefully controlled. If I showed up harried, raw and real, God fed the people by the thousands. 

The miracle of the feeding of the thousands is almost dwarfed by the events that follow. Jesus tells the crowd that He is the bread. He says His body is the blood. Even while their stomachs gurgled and growled digesting the food they just ate, they quarreled and bickered and picked apart Jesus’ story. When we are full, we are arrogant and puffed up. So often we can’t see God working until we are empty and needy. 

Yesterday at Bible study Paige Benton Brown said, "All you need to come to Jesus is nothing, and most people don't have it."

Today I bring my empty basket for Jesus to fill with His bread and His blood. 


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.




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. 


content: 40 words in 40 days



I’m not content. 

I feel it in the knots in the muscles in my upper back. Within those knots stress lives. Stress tells me I am not doing enough. If I don’t get the laundry done, the world will end. Or if I don’t pack, we won’t go to Washington DC. 

If I’ve learned anything about being content, I learned it from the Honduran people. I’m certain their contentment wooed me there. My first trip there in 2001 I saw it in their faces. It was like a treasure map with the X marking gold. Those faces smudged with dirt and smoke from the fires where they cooked tortillas beckoned me there. Treasure like I had never seen or smelled or touched: it was contentment amidst hunger and poverty.

Jesus spoke of it when he said: “Blessed are the meek.” The Message says, “You are blessed when you’re content with just who you are - no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” Matthew 5:5.

At the heart of it is trust. Contentment means to trust God with all of His dealings with you. Believe that they are good. He is good. Don’t resist or dispute. That’s what I saw there.

And in confessing a malcontent soul, in trusting that the blood forgives and the Spirit redeems; I find the treasure.



This black turkey appears ruined. We cooked it in a smoker Jason made from an old oil drum. Though we may have subtracted years from our lives, we enjoyed that turkey. Inside it was moist and delicious. Thanksgiving 2003. Tela, HondurasWhen Isaiah saw the Lord in the temple, he responded with an accurate assessment of who he was. Ruined. A man of unclean lips. A dead man. 

Then he transformed before us in the passage. As he lay on the temple floor in the posture of one dead, an angel flew over and touched his lips with a live coal from the altar. The angel said, “your sin is atoned for.” 

The voice of the Lord boomed, “Whom shall I send?”

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