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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 Samuel (22)


silent night?

Christmas 2005 with the Elrods All is calm. All is bright.
‘Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant so, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Bright, we got that covered. Calm, well not so much. 

Last night we read our Advent devotional book, and the shenanigans that surrounded the reading could have reached the heights of the angels rousing the shepherds in the meadows on the night of Christ’s birth. Matt and I were not as entertained, however, as the shepherds. 

“Stop it!”

“Don’t hit your brother.” 

“Move to the other chair, now!”

Maybe tonight we should begin with a few laps around the cul de sac before reading. 

I’m wondering if maybe it wasn’t so calm on the night of Christ’s birth. A lot was going on and I’m guessing some panic may have been charging the air. 

What! No room! 

A manger, really, Joseph?!

Please move the ox over so I can put the baby down!

And yet, PEACE must have flooded in with the entrance of the Prince of Peace. And so all the buzzing about focussed on this baby. A swaddling of vulnerability sent to change the world. 

And so we re-direct. Can I tell you the story of how God killed the first animal in Genesis so that Adam and Eve could have clothing? Did you know the shepherds were the poorest of the poor? The wise men followed this star all the way to Bethlehem... What do you think it smelled like in the cave where he was born? 

My mother tells the story of singing Silent Night growing up in Sunflower Methodist Church. She would sing, “Round John Bert, mother and child.” Her only context for that line was her neighbor John Bert. She didn’t know what a virgin was. Nor did she care that John Bert could not have been there at the birth some 2,000 years ago. She sang the song that made sense to her.

And so we go on filling in the gaps... sharing the story... giving context. This baby, well, He really did change the world.


Final Word

When your parenting spans 22 years, you learn to cherish things like basketballs sitting atop the kitchen island and stinky socks in the corner. You stop getting ruffled by armpit odors that will not come clean and 30 minute showers that drain hot water heaters. You take a deep breath when the Wii has been roaring for several hours. You treasure and ponder in your heart the way they grow and how the years feel like minutes. 

Saturday we decorated for Christmas. I tried to shake the feeling of being rushed since I had not even digested the turkey from Thanksgiving. Joy cannot be brokered but mine took a dip when I had to string the lights on the tree twice. As we listened to Sara Groves sing Angels We Have Heard on High, Sam’s expression turned pensive.

“Why,” he asked with his head slightly tilted, “is she singing Oreo over and over?” 

Gloria and Oreo sound distinctly alike and I am certain if the angels had ever tasted double-stuffed they may have considered singing Oreo. But, dear child, they are sounding the praises of their Christ, the Messiah. The story unfolded of shepherds in a field and the nearby birth of the Savior of the World. 

Not too  much later as I stood stringing lights in the den (my position for most of Saturday and Sunday), the boys were watching Avatar, a cartoon favorite. This amazing story spans several 100s of episodes. But I “happened to be” there as the Avatar was coaching Kora (the next leader). And I swear to you what he said was exactly what I had been hearing the Lord say to me in the quiet space of our times in recent mornings. 

When I heard this with the clarity of a soul-ear attuned to the Shepherd’s voice, I laughed out loud sort of like Sara did. Gladness filled my spirit and the pricks on my hands from the tree stung less. 

He will speak. And sometimes we hear Oreo when it is Gloria. He has spoken through asses (by that I mean donkeys and sometimes foolish people) and he has spoken through cartoons. 

This Advent, I honor the Final Word. Jesus. I pray to use my mouth to utter the story, the good news. No doubt I will complain about traffic and prickly trees and God-forsaken lights. But above it all, I pray my tongue will shout to the top of my lungs: GLORIA!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. John 1:1


stress and prayer

Today Sam grinned his half-snaggle-toothed smile at me and asked me: “Are you coming to the bus stop with me?” Typical of me, I was running late. But I did not hesitate to nod in the affirmative.

The walk to our bus stop includes wet grass. Matt has started a habit of giving him a back ride across the grassy sea. My heart fills up when I watch the two of them gallop off in the mornings. But today I was up to be the horsey.

So I grabbed my rain boots and hitched Sam up. About three-quarters of the way over the sea, Sam yells out, “My helmet!” 

The horse stops. What helmet?! He had packed in a small lego super hero to take to school. The helmet came off in the grassy sea. A moment of panic threatened us as we realized the small lego helmet is out in this grassy sea. I prayed aloud, “Jesus, help us find the helmet” because I am trying to remember to invite Him into my stress and anxiety. 

Stress threatens not only our peace but does a number on our bodies as well. I am learning about the neurotransmitters in the body. When we perceive a threat, the amygdala (a walnut-sized part of the brain) sends out a virtual army of helpers. These neuro-messengers allow us to run fast, see in the dark and have a load of glucose dumped in our blood for quick energy. 

Problem is that even if the threat is small (like a lost lego helmet), our bodies do the job with precision and consistency. Over time our adrenal glands wear out. The adrenals sit like little helmets themselves atop each of our kidneys. They manufacture some of these stress hormones. When they tire, the picture is not pretty. We fatigue. We keep asking our bodies for energy, but none is there. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. The message goes out but nobody is responding. 

My adrenals are worn out. Thus the need to invite Jesus. I am reminded of my creature-hood. I can ask for help. My frontal cortex (the part of the brain reserved for higher reasoning just behind the forehead) says to my amygdala and adrenals, “Hey, it’s a helmet. And the Lord is with us even in the small details. Relax.”

Guess what! We found that pea-sized helmet. “It’s a miracle!” I yelled! Sam danced. I thanked Jesus who is involved in the details. Yes, He is.


full heart

They grow up fast. 

This may be the understatement of all understatements. For the first time in weeks, I have all my boys under the same roof. Since they are spread out from ages 22 (Matthew) to 13 (Joshua) to 7 (Sam), we get to see our parenting change. We get evaluations from time to time from Matthew. Last night at dinner, we had an opportunity for feedback. 

Matt grilled salmon. I had agreed to cook pasta for Sam since he is not a salmon fan. We tried to convince him since it is so close to his name: Sam-man. Nonetheless, he broke down like a kid exhausted from the first week of school. 

I said, “Tell him, Matthew, what would have happened to you if you had refused to eat what we cooked.”

“Well,” he began in the seasoned voice of a story-teller, “I would have been told to eat the fish or go to bed hungry.” This did not comfort Sam at all. Still hiccupping tears, he softened his daddy. Matt agreed to cook the pasta but said it would take 15 minutes. Matthew’s brows furrowed. 

Joshua said, “Just try it, Sam. It’s been a while. You haven’t tried Dad’s grilled salmon.” 

Sam cut the tiniest piece and plopped it in his mouth unbelieving. “Bad,” he spit. 

Undaunted, Joshua said, “That piece was tiny! You need to try a bigger piece to get the taste!” 

Sam didn’ t argue but quickly scooped up the rest of the fish on his plate. Joshua screamed, “You like it!” A big grin stole Sam’s face. He could not resist the delicious fish even at the expense of his pride. 

“I knew it! You didn’t argue about eating a second bite!” Joshua said. 

We laughed exhaling relieved by a resolution to the dinner drama. I felt spared of a failing parent grade. And I relished this moment like Mary treasuring it in my heart.

Later several of Matthew’s buds came over to play a board game and then hit Nashville. I hadn’t seen these young men in some months. They kept us up with their loud hoots and occasional music streaming through the open doors when someone sneaked downstairs for one more helping of blueberry crumble. 

This morning at the busstop Sam found a leaf bug. He named it Cornbread Maxwell. Sam is the Finder at our house. If something is lost, this kid can round it up.  For the next 20 minutes the bug delighted all the kids at our busstop climbing over Sam then fluttering off to someone’s backpack. Once the bug flew over to a bike tire and nearly met an early death. Sam rescued it and held on to it for dear life. 

Guess who had to take the bug when the bus came? I happened to have chosen a green coffee mug that morning. Cornbread rode home in the mug.

Then I carefully staged a home for him in an old salsa jar. Finding the right size shell for water and putting some leaves in for food enchanged my inner child.


  This afternoon we will likely let Cornbread loose. But the beauty of the moment will live in our hearts. Is that too lofty a purpose for Cornbread? For a bite of salmon? For laughter of 20-somethings? I don’t think so. 

We are told, after all, to consider the lillies

Beauty is all around me. If I don’t open my eyes to His Presence in the Moment, I am likely to miss it. I have to open my soul to find the beauty sometimes.

Don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more. Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can't even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don't fuss with their appearance - but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? "What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don't be afraid of missing out. You're my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. Luke 12: 22-32


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.