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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 Present to the Moment (22)


his right hand

Sometimes a word comes in chaos.

The day begins with a last minute decision to paint the foyer. Did I say last minute? We have been back from Honduras almost 6 years. The foyer needed painting before we left. We rented the house while we were gone. Upon our return we bumped up the roofline, doubled the size of the house by finishing the upstairs, renovated the kitchen and put down new hardwood floors.

“We” means Matt. 

But did we paint the foyer? “We” did not. Pencil scribbling, handprints, bumps and cracks line the walls that say welcome to our home. Welcome to our beautiful mess!

Today is the day. I want a deep and edgy blue to welcome folks into our home. Matt said, “too much.” He’d rather use a paint color we have to save bucks. More on Dave Ramsey’s influence in our marriage later. 

We end up concocting a color from near-empty paint cans in the garage. And all my decorator friends are shrieking as they read that sentence. Yes, I texted you for help but, alas, you were not available on a dime - referring to time and money in this instance. 

As I am telling Matthew, our oldest, where the drop cloths are; I am texting my Mom. She is getting a medical test and I am worried about it.

Children are running in and out of the house. Sam is asking me to play the Honey-Bee Game. I’m tripping over the paint tray. Matt is the foreman and teaching in a loud voice about paint etiquette. Paint etiquette? 

We return from swim practice with ribbons. I’m applauding Joshua and Sam for their times when I notice Joshua’s eyebrows are scowling. What’s up? I ask. 

We banter back and forth. He’s got several ribbons and earned points for his team. But not a blue ribbon is in the bunch. Every time I say a positive, he counters with a negative and minimizes his accomplishment. He wanted blue. He is a competitor. I’m a mom. I sense something deeper at work. I don’t want to rob him of his gut-response or his emotions. And I want to teach him self acceptance. He’s pretty hard on himself usually. 

I end up asking him to read Psalm 139. The first time he read it, he says he really didn’t learn anything new. He says, “You want me to read it again?” 

I nod and ask him to ask God what He wants him to know. I’m sitting at the computer doing what I tell my patients not to do. I’m googling associated conditions of this medical test. My anxiety is growing like yeast bread rising inside my chest. 

Joshua comes back to me in a few minutes. His face is soft, countenance changed. "I think it’s right here," he says and with a finger he points to verse 10. “Your right hand shall hold me.” 

Even there Your hand shall lead me. And Your right hand shall hold me.

And the Word goes in and like hands it kneads my heart. I feel the lump of anxiety deflate like so much puffed up dough. Even there. Yes, even there.

I say, “How does that make you feel?”

“Pretty good,” he says. “Like if I’m good enough to sit there in His right hand, well, I’m pretty good.”

Happiness leaks from my eyes. I hold this moment - this moment when God speaks to me from the mouth of a babe. He comes and scoops up my child and holds him. Holds her. Holds me.



Holy & Precious Lord, You are my strength & my song... my salvation... I look to You & You alone for healing. I trust that You use hurts & pains, ruins & trials to bring about Your will for Your children.My finger traced the smooth wooden grooves. With my eyes closed, my soul lead the way. One way. To the center of the circle. I did not worry over which way to go. Peace invaded my anxious body. 

Tranquility is the gift of the labyrinth.

Later on Joshua, 11, asked me about this strange-looking wooden disk. “It’s a labyrinth,” I said. “Trace it with your finger with your eyes closed.”

He smiled, closed his eyes and began the journey. 

“What are you feeling?” I asked.

“Peace.” His smile expanded.

A few mornings later as my eyes opened to the sunlight streaming through the curtains nearby, I became aware of how the bed held me up. This mattress, I thought, holds me up and I don’t have to do anything. Just relax my body and let it hold me. Then this thought careened through long-crusty neuropathways: What if I am exactly where I should be right now?

I worry. Am I in the right place? Is this where God wants me? Did I do the right thing?

When tragedy has visited my life, I clung to some control by making it about my choices. If I had listened... If I hadn’t made that turn... If I had only... 

Reality implores me to drop the myth that I am sovereign. Only One is Sovereign. 

The wonder of life with God is that He can even use my bad choices to bring glory to Himself.

“Everything in her life that was happening was exactly what was supposed to be happening and it was all opportunity for her healing,” writes Kitty Crenshaw and Catherine Snapp. Betty Skinner lived a hidden life which is now exposed in the book The Hidden Life. Betty mentored the authors, and they captured her thoughts and journal entries in this book. 

Labyrinth lends me the understanding that this path leads to the center and God is there. When I am walking this path, tuning my ears to hear His Voice, telling the truth about the present;  I will find Him. My experience speaks of times when I have listened poorly or rebelliously gone my own way, even then He has found me. 

I am exactly where I am supposed to be. He has given me everything I need for this moment. Even when my story folds back on itself with pain and tragedy, He is orchestrating my healing. 


“The chaos around us never changes. What changes is that we begin to view the world and ourselves differently. When we are finally able to live from a place of hope moment by moment, we don’t see the chaos as frightening anymore - it becomes an opportunity to offer love, presence and compassion in the midst of it.” The Hidden Life, p. 120




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.



When a newborn enters the world, the first milestone is that first breath. It’s as if all movement in the room stops and waits... is he going to breathe? 

Imagine going from a warm, dark environment where sound is muted and movement buffered by amniotic fluid to this world. The bright lights of a delivery room must be traumatic and that baby must feel frigid. And then he has to breathe on his own. Oxygen is no longer delivered via a nice placental tube. No, no, buddy. Breathe! On your own!

Breathing is our first response to our first trauma.

How is it, then, when I feel stress, I forget to breathe? Recently a dear friend reminded me to breathe. When you exhale, she said, you surrender. Upon inhalation, receive. I’ve been practicing this using that handy but often forgotten and under-rated muscle: the diaphragm. 

When you inhale, the diaphragm should push out and your belly looks full and round like a pregnant lady. When you use the muscle to exhale properly, all the air is pushed out of the bottom of the lungs. Frequently when we are stressed, we breathe out of the top portion of our lungs. 

All this musing of breaths and breathing landed me in Genesis 2:7. 

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. 

So getting back to the basics of breathing sets us up to remember that we are creatures. God breathed us into life. His breath became our souls. We are spiritual beings with our spirits given from the Creator of the Universe.  

My breathing is primal and it reminds me of that first breath when God placed his lips upon mine and delivered life into me. 


become small

D sat before me an incredibly beautiful 40 something year old woman with track marks littering her arms. She had come into the clinic to be followed for a hepatitis C infection she contracted while shooting up heroin. She said she knew something was wrong because she no longer felt the effects of her pain meds. See, she has chronic pain. The damage to her liver prevented her pain killers from having an effect anymore. She said to me, “Have you ever known something in your gut yet you didn’t want to know the truth?” Her eyes, dim and tired, bore straight through me. “Yes,” I answered. Yes I have.

On Sunday we (at Fellowship Bible Church) looked at a beautiful passage of Scripture, Luke 9:37-50. This tale takes us from the Transfiguration where Jesus is seen by James, John and Peter chatting it up with Moses and Elijah and spits us out at an argument among the disciples about who is the greatest. In the middle of this saga, Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to be betrayed. They don’t want to know the truth. They can’t handle the truth as Jack Nickolson so eloquently shouted in the courtroom during the movie A Few Good Men.

One of the ways the disciples avoid the truth is by comparing and arguing about who is the greatest. Wow. Toddler-like. And yet, I am like Peter. I just want to build a shelter on the mountain and stay there. But we must come down to the reality of this fallen world. This is where it gets hard. Can I stay present? 

I would judge D with her scarred and hardened veins except for the fact that I get what she has done. In fact, I have done it myself. I have not shot up heroin. But I have used the Word of God - I have used religion - as so much heroin. I have split theological hairs to avoid the darkness of my own heart. I have spouted verses like quick fixes. I have used the Bible as a self-help manual instead of a collection of stories to lead me into the Throne Room of the Present.

How does Jesus handle his disciples, his friends? How does He handle D with her broken liver? How does He handle me with my “big religion?” By bringing a child to His side and saying, “Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me. And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.” (Luke 9:48)

See, he knew the disciples puffed up because they were feeling rather small and afraid. And he wanted them to know that it’s ok to feel small, vulnerable. In fact, that is where life is at: remaining vulnerable and undefended in this present fallen world and letting God take up our defense. He hung out with drunks, prostitutes and gluttons because they knew they were broken. The Pharisees hid their brokenness. He called them “white-washed tombs.” 

I don’t have to assert myself and become puffed up and big because the Greatest Man in the Universe became small and died so that I might live. Jesus says, “Become more by becoming less. Accept the least of these and accept Me.”

I only have access to the Spirit in This Present Moment. Can I be aware instead of asserting myself? Can I accept the least of these? Can I understand that the least of these lives in me? When I accept her, I can give grace more freely and genuinely to others.

Recently I have had to look at an argumentative side of me. I had to accept that I still carry around quite a bit of guilt. As I lay the guilt down and acknowledge my powerlessness, God’s Spirit rests on my spirit. I can accept my smallness and know that He is Big Enough. I can be generous in spirit. 

I don’t have to assert, just accept.

I’m so grateful the Word of God includes stories of confused and hardened men who brushed shoulders with Jesus and had their shells blown off. I can hardly follow this story with all its twists and turns! But this I can get...

Treasure and ponder these words! (Luke 9:44)

I will treasure them. I will muse.