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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 let the little children (8)


come hungry

Admitting I am hungry is not that hard. Seeing my gaping spiritual need for Jesus can be a lot harder.

In John chapter 6, Jesus feeds over 5,000 hungry people who have been following him. He sees the crowd and asks Philip where they could buy some bread for them. Philip is from the area and Jesus asked him this to “stretch his faith.” Philip points out feeding this crowd would cost eight months’ wages.Andrew notices a boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish. But says, “That’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”

Gaping need. Empty stomachs. Empty baskets. Empty pockets.

You know the story. Jesus has the crowd sit. He takes the loaves and the fish and blesses them. The disciples hand out enough food to fill the stomachs of the crowd, about 5,000 men and the women and children with them. The disciples gathered 12 baskets of leftovers. 

The crowd then kind of stalks Jesus. He slips them a few times. Things heat up when he calls them out saying they only follow because he filled them up with food and for free. He tells them about spiritual food. His body, he says, is the real bread; his blood, the real drink. 

The Jews grow more and more restless as he builds his explanation. They argue. They bicker among themselves. They fight. Many leave Jesus. 

Even the disciples say, “this is a tough teaching, too tough to swallow.” Many disciples leave and never return. 

The people and even the disciples could admit their physical hunger, but the spiritual hunger they could not acknowledge. They resorted to poking all kinds of holes in Jesus’ story. “Isn’t this the son of Joseph? How can he say he came down from Heaven and expect anyone to believe him? How can this man serve up his flesh for a meal?”

They argued, they bickered, they fought, they fled. 

This is my story. I argue. I bicker. I fight, and I flee. 

I frequently try to assuage my spiritual hunger with things like perfectionism and performance, relationships and food, rescuing and numbing. Every day I have an appetite. What will I choose to fill me? I use things to fill my appetite so I won’t have to see the gaping need, the empty soul-stomach or the empty baskets and pockets. In reality, nothing will fill me but the Body and the Blood. 

Like the disciples, I look for physical resources when only spiritual resources will satisfy my hunger. God wants our physical and material needs to invite us to see soul needs. “The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen.” 

Recently I found myself numb at church. I realized I had been stuffing the wrong things into my soul. With a few words of confession, I asked for the Spirit to fill me. I admitted my spiritual hunger and how many times I turn to other things. 

I felt my appetite return for the things that truly fill and satisfy. “The one who brings a hardy appetite to this eating and drinking will be fit and ready for the Final Day.”

And I opened my hands to receive.

All Scripture is from John 6, The Message.



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. 



Unplug means to disconnect. It means to free of an obstruction, unclog.

When things are clogged, pressure builds. Plaque builds up in our arteries and leads to high blood pressure. Our souls get clogged too. We need space to let the stress out. For our family, the mountains provide the perfect playground.

Right now we are headed to the Smoky Mountains for fall break. We are so wedged in the truck we don't even need seat-belts! Notice the items piled around Sam's head in the photo above.

To play requires equipment! To play requires that I not take myself so seriously. To play requires risk.

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zealous play

Celebration is in the air. Graduates are flinging their caps. Schools are shutting their doors. Lifeguards are grabbing their whistles as throngs of kids sprint toward the water.

One moment frozen in time by the above photograph captures my heart. Some dozen boys took the “stage” at the 5th grade picnic and danced with all their might.  One mother approached me and asked how Joshua learned those moves. “He’s outdancing the girls,” she gasped. She pointed out how it would take hours and hours to learn all the steps to Party Rock Anthem. 

Yep. That and YouTube will set you right up.

You also need a little zeal. Little zeal is an oxymoron. These boys had zeal defined as great energy or enthusiasm. Feeding off one another and singing the lyrics (how’d they learn all those words?), they sang and danced with all the vigor of Bieber if not the finesse. 

I watched on the sidelines and listened to the chatter of parents enthralled. We recognized a rare moment caught between childhood and adolescence. A moment unstained by self-consciousness. A moment of children letting all that they are surface and interact with fun and tunes. Unhindered. Transcendent. Inviting.

Something called out to us. Something grabbed at our hearts. Something tugged our inner children to come out and dance and play.

“Play begets greater good. And the fruit of playfulness is always meant to invite others to the generous bounty of the party,” says Dan Allender in How Children Raise Parents.

In our stuffed-shirt, self-important world, we adults forget to play. Thank God our children remind us every so often. My children continue to change me for the better. Perhaps they really are raising me.

“You can’t have children without being transformed. You can’t let them play with your life without becoming an entirely different person, who then proceeds to become another entirely different person as you allow your children to mess with you. Every day that you get up and help your children dress, eat breakfast, and send them off, you enter a realm of prodigal play that is more serious than life itself.” Allender, p. 208.

Later that afternoon as I went about the serious business of exercise, I danced the entire four miles and improved my pace per mile by 1 minute and 30 seconds. My soul stepped on the clouds and my hands would not remain by my sides. Even with cars passing by and lawn-men gawking, my hands lifted skyward in praise of a God so wild as to let children instruct me.


13. Some dozen adolescent boys dancing with all their might and reminding me to play.


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.