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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)


unexpected: 40 words in 40 days

We sat around a bouquet of tulips each plate adorned with hearts. Matthew returned home for the night to get his car tags renewed. Rarely are we together, all five of us, around the table.

Someone suggested we make a video like the ones we had been watching on YouTube. The song Harlem Shake has become a video viral craze. All kinds of folks claim 30 second stardom by uploading their version. The template 15 seconds of calm followed by 15 seconds of bedlam.

How would we film it? What would we wear? How would we dance? All these and more became the topic of our Valentine’s dinner. Our family is not prone to performance - at least not on camera. And so it began and grew in momentum - this crazy idea to do something we have never done before.

We sketched out a rough picture board. Everyone found costumes. Sam found a fake cigar. And we were up and running. Twenty minutes later our debut is posted on Facebook. I dug out my YouTube passwords. Voila! We are on the air.

What makes this so amusing is the level of surprise. Never in 22 years of marriage have I seen Matt McMurray dance on camera. Never. He has danced - just plain danced - maybe 20 times. Why did he acquiesce to this strange phenomena? I have no idea.

Control freaks everywhere shriek at the mention of “unexpected.” Yet we humans crave it. This blows my mind about God: you can never predict what He’s going to do. Unless He’s promised it in His Word, you cannot know what He will do. Now if He has promised it, it’s as good as done.

Delight flows from the unexpected. What will God do next that will blow my mind? What areas in your life need His touch of the unexpected?


The Voice

This week a precious four year old came to my clinic, eyes and nose gushing water. Fever. Body aching. As I stood before him to get a nasopharyngeal swab for a flu test, he hauled off and kicked me like a bucking bronco. That wasn’t the worst part. He coughed effusively in my face. I wandered away with the swab thanking Jehovah I had a flu shot this year. 

Last night I felt the first effects of the love he had shared. Pins and needles inhabited the back of my throat. This morning I lay in bed like a sack of lead. Sam and I decided to watch church from home on live streaming. With a little IT help from J Mac Brown, I got her up and running. 

Sam pointed to Bill Wellons on the computer monitor and said, “I remember when he wore his jeans inside out.” What would Bill have for us this morning from the Word? We have been snailing our way through Luke’s gospel. Chapter 23 finds us back with Pilate. And true to form, Bill had a basin set up and kept washing his hands like he suffered from OCD. 

As he dried his hands, he uttered the point that kind of stuck in my heart. What we do reveals who we listen to. Voices swirl in my head. Just this morning, I had spun out down a bunny trail of blogs on the “purity culture” in the evangelical church. Powerful words cracked open the elephant in the living room. 80% of us enter marriage as non-virgins. I must have had 5 or 6 tabs open reading through the stories. Despair threatened to grab my eyes from behind and pull me down. Even in the raw-honesty and self-disclosure fit for priests and not blogs, I could hear the contempt. One side pointed fingers as they labeled “unrepentant.” The other cast the villain as patriarchal shamers intent on seeing women in burkas before the end of the year. 

So many voices calling for attention and change. So many voices claiming to be right. I felt sad that we have shamed women who haven’t kept themselves pure for their marriage bed. I felt fear that some of the stories of these courageous women would blur the idea of chastity. 

I literally bounced from tab to tab to read as I watched Bill preach. Finally, The Voice called to me. Be still. Sam came over and climbed up in my lap. We snuggled below a furry soft blanket. And as Bill closed, he asked, “What is The Voice saying to you?” We ended by singing In Christ Alone. I raised my hand in worship. Sam emulated. I realized Sam had given me the perfect vision of what The Voice says to me. He lay back on my shoulder little arm raised to the sky. Peaceful. At Rest. Worshipful.

You are loved.


spiritual fit

Sam sat still in the backseat eyes creased in mock concentration, bottom lip barely protruding. Usually he talks incessantly on the way to church asking questions and fighting with his brother. A long weekend of spelling review had sucked the energy from my fun-loving seven-year-old boy. 

You see Sam had bombed his spelling test. Sam’s teacher sent me an e-mail about it. Could we work on them over the weekend, she asked. She would re-test on Monday. 

Work we did. Several times a day we went through the nine words that gave Sam fits. More than one time-out kept us somewhat civil. Time-outs work for parents too. 

As I sat in church that morning, I knew I was in for some correction when Dr. Easley started off with this question: When did it become so easy to sin? The following 29 minutes exhorted me to repentance. Supernaturally, my spirit began to see how I had been throwing my own version of a fit not unlike Sam’s. 

What is the answer to a fit? To petulance? Rebellion? Is it to soften to the Good Hands attempting to mold you? I could see clearly that Sam’s resistance to review with me kept him from learning. I could not see as easily how my own rigidity and pride kept me from learning what God kept patiently putting before me. 

Sam aced his test on Monday. As I have slumped into the Everlasting Arms, God has mercifully received my spirit. The Potter’s Hands are always molding for my good, and they feel a lot more friendly when I soften to His love. 


fear factors

Fear is a funny thing. 

We are winding up the celebration of Sam’s birthday. He turns seven today. He entered this world on Halloween, a holiday known to be scary. I say he came that day precisely for the fear factor. 

He’s a miracle many times over. I went into early labor when I was pregnant with him at 26 weeks. We lived one hour outside the city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Matt drove me in to the hospital at 2 a.m. in the largest vehicle we had at the Ranch. The eroded road made this very painful and difficult. As the nurses wheeled me to the room, I assessed the situation. No IV pole, no fetal monitor, no isolette (bed) for a neonate. The staff used an IV drug that has not been used for over 25 years in the States. My labor stopped. 


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have mercy

I am 46 hours late for the Mercy Monday post over at Jenn Lebow’s Mercy Mondays. She mercifully allowed me to still post. I mostly am late because I still don’t really know what mercy is. I’m asking. God is slow and painstakingly clear in His telling.

Ever since Jenn visited me in early August and we sat on my swing until late in the night, I’ve mused mercy. Like Jenn, I studied James in the spring and truly sang hallelujah as I read that mercy triumphs (James 2:13). Nothing like the book of James to rouse up a good case of mercy-itis - only cured by mercy. 

We talked about our good ole Campus Crusade definitions. Mercy means the withholding of a judgement deserved. Grace is unmerited favor. These two are so close that you cannot differentiate the very arteries and veins suppling their lifeblood.

This week in preparation for a post on “mercy as pardon,” I pulled out some 10 or so 10 pound books. I’ve looked at the Old Testament Word Book, The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, Addiction and Grace by Gerald May, in addition to various online sources. One phrase has captured my attention... “this is the exact place where God met with humans.”

The wings of two cherubim shadowed the mercy seat. Once a year the Hebrew priests sprinkled blood on that exact spot - the mercy seat - as an atonement for sin. Atonement means something that makes the offended party glad again. It means to be in harmony with one another. Literally to be AT ONE. 


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