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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)



I’m writing this post with a precious 7-year-old head resting on my shoulder. We are lounging on the couch. Sam’s body is covered by a UT snuggie. (Side Note: two things I would never have dreamed could be in my life: UT orange and a snuggie.) Cartoon Network blares in the background. A softer sound emits from my iPhone: the sound of hold music from Apple. My iPhone 5 is smarter than I am. I need help conquering it. 

Every now and then Sam fires a toy gun with an annoying electrical bullet sound. He could be a Storm Trooper. It also has a sound for cocking as well as firing.

Occasionally my phone gets a text. Mama had surgery yesterday. I am staying connected to her by some thin phone wires and cyber stuff that I cannot understand.

So much stimuli. 

Sam has a stomach virus, hopefully the 24-hour variety. Yesterday he swam his first ever IM in the swim meet. The IM is the Iron Man but it actually stands for Individual Medley and consists of all four strokes. It is a rite of passage and I’ve seen many young swimmers exit the pool in tears from exertion and exhaustion. He won’t let me out of his sight.

Here I sit tethered by a computer cord and an invisible but just as real umbilical cord. Mothers sit by their sick children with bowls and cold wet rags. We mop foreheads and kiss fearlessly praying that we won’t get the bug.

This morning as I sat on my patio and watched the sun rise along with the temperature, I read familiar words. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. II Corinthians 4:18

My reading this morning shifted my focus from the seen to the unseen. The seen, it says, is temporary. The unseen is eternal. Why do we do this? Verse 16 says it: so that we do not lose heart. 

I read that and in about 10 seconds my focus is right back on the now and the things jangling for my attention. I need to come back to it again and again throughout a day. What is unseen?

Our souls, our spirits. Relationships. The forces in spiritual realms. As we live like this, grace reaches more and more people. Thanksgiving overflows. And we start all over agin. Unseen. Grace. I’m not losing heart. I see it. Unseen. Thanksgiving. Grace.


ordinary days

What if our days are strung together by memories hanging side by side to make a life?

This past weekend we traveled to Knoxville for a soccer tournament for Joshua. His good buddy F traveled with us. This could have been just another weekend of soccer away from home. 

Matthew lives there and attends University of Tennessee. He is finishing up his junior year. My garage is full of coffee tables and dishes he will need soon enough. This average weekend brightened considerably by his presence with us.

On Sunday after both Joshua’s and F’s teams lost, we veered off our path to show F Neyland Stadium in the heart of UT’s campus. In the south football is a religion. Neyland is the third largest stadium in the country. Now F is a die-hard Tarheels fan. We secretly committed to changing his loyalty. Who could resist this kind of devotion to football?

As we neared the stadium, we realized the gates were not locked. Quickly we ducked in. The sun shone brightly from a bluebird sky and warmed us as we sat in awe. Tennessee weather could not decide if spring or winter ruled the day. We reminisced football games of the past and how the McMurrays have already left a mark on Neyland Stadium.

At the top, we peered over the orange (what other color is there?) bars to see the ground far below. Joshua commented how easy it would be to climb those orange bars and take out on the larger steel beams. If I was Catholic, I would have crossed myself at the thought. 

“Please!” I begged, “y’all don’t ever do that.” 

They looked at me like I was crazy. I reminded them that just last summer one of them had gotten out on a roof and jumped from balcony to window. Raising boys is not for the faint of heart. 

Someone lamented that if we only had some paper we could fly paper airplanes off the top. Another spotted orange flyers from the Orange and White game of the day before. We grabbed up eight or so pages and went to folding. 

Matthew’s design - simple yet sophisticated - won the best air time. The jets dove straight down for the concrete sidewalk. One stealth design flew all the way over to the parallel roof. 

As I reflected on the weekend, this moment stood out for me. Releasing those paper flying machines off Neyland held hope and play. It was an unexpected adventure built by togetherness and creativity. 

I think it is a moment we will store in the scrapbook of our hearts. A moment strung next to the others making life.


transparent: 40 words in 40 days

Living a transparent life can be a juggle. 

I firmly believe that to live a life in Christ and to mature, one must be transparent. At the same time, revealing the deep places of the soul to a fool can prove to be unwise. Maturity looks like learning to discern those who are safe and trustworthy to bear the burdens of our soul.

We all approach life with a grid. And usually our responses are more about the grid than the things or circumstances causing our reactions. That means that we may react in a way incongruent with reality. We may misjudge people. We may judge circumstances incorrectly. 

Here is a real-life example. Recently as Sam (1st grade) walked out the door, I said, “We forgot to study your 5s!” He is learning to add. He was somewhat stuck on the 5 cards. He responded that his test would be that day. 

At that moment, he had to walk out the door to make the bus. We could not study. He failed that test, by the way. But when he walked out, Matt and I began a discussion that escalated us to “Sam may have to go to summer school.” That actually came out of one of our mouths. Names will not be mentioned to protect the innocent or crazy. The other one said, “He’s in first grade.” Oh, back to reality.

Our context escalated us and we had to work together to land back on terra firma. 

As we strive to live transparently with one another, we confessed areas where our grid had gotten warped. I talked to a few friends that day about it. And we scheduled a conference with Sam’s teacher for a reality check. 

Sam has since moved on to the 6s. And we are still checking in with our grid. We desire to live congruent lives that are transparent. 


be: 40 words in 40 days

“Be still and know that I am God.”- Psalm 46:10

“Be.” What does that mean? The focus is not on doing. It is on who I am inside. Who am I? The scary thing about being is that you have to face the question, “who am I?” In “doing”, we are satisfied with being defined by what we do. Sometimes we use the things we do to avoid the question of who we are. “Who am I” looks beyond the tasks, the image, the roles and gets at the very soul. 

When we cease to be defined by what we do, we have to face the darkness of our own souls – the insecurities, the sin, the addictions, the compulsions. 

Our identity in Christ is the key to our conundrum. In Beloved, Henri Nouwen writes

 “Being the Beloved is the origin and the fulfillment of the life of the Spirit. Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say or do. As long as ‘being the Beloved’ is little more than a beautiful thought or a lofty idea that hangs above my life to keep me from becoming depressed, nothing really changes. What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life. Becoming the Beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am.”

I want to wrap up who I am - my “be”- in belovedness.


clean: 40 words in 40 days

This morning I unfurled clean, white sheets across our bed. The smell of laundry detergent mixed with slightly musty wafted up to my nostrils. The nearly wrinkle-free, spotless sheet reminded me of what it means to be forgiven.

On this day I’ve mused clean. What does it look like for God to pour His infinite love into a finite vessel. He removes my sin as far as the east is from the west. What if I loved that way? Lived that way?

A clean start. A clean bill of health. A clean slate. I am given these and more. 

For now a sleepy seven-year-old boy sleeps in that white haven. Tomorrow I will start over. Clean.