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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 strength (10)



Appoint means to assign, to determine to decide on. Have you ever considered that the trials in your life were pre-determined by our God? 

I started this post several days ago. Since then several things have happened that made me approach this subject with trepidation. A friend was diagnosed with cancer. I had to tell a patient at the clinic she probably had cancer. A friend’s father died. After these things happened, I sat down to write and thought to myself: I don’t have a thing to say about this subject.

Given some time, I want to attempt to share about it. During a troubling time in my past, the notion that God had ordained the days was one thing that continued to bring me comfort. Yes, I believe our God orchestrates our days and sometimes directly leads us into pain, trials, hardship even heartbreak. 

Consider Jonah. The New American Standard Bible says that God appointed a whale. Then he appointed a plant, a worm and finally a wind. Only one of these things comforted Jonah. The plant gave him shade and comfort and he was happy about it. I suppose the whale saved his life, but spending three days in the belly of a whale probably was not on his life plan. Surely the worm and the wind taught him lessons. 

The knowledge that God appoints events, people, births and deaths, storms and shade gives me comfort. I can trust He is working for my good even when all around me life is crumbling. While we sit in ruins trusting God can seem impossible. We have to lean on people who have walked through darkness and come out on the other side with strength and hope. 

My experience with trusting God even in the appointed heartbreaks of life builds my trust. I can lend that faith to others in times of uncertainty and doubt. Thus I am comforted while see those around me suffering. God is at work. He is good. 

He appoints my days.


anxiety vs peace

Anxiety is a black cloud that hovers and blinds. A vague feeling of dread hangs over the victim's head. Fear courses through the body without knowledge of the exact identity of the feared object. By it's very nature, anxiety is the fear of something. Problem is we don't know what it is we fear.
In the full throes of anxiety, the hands feel clammy with sweat and the chest feels like an elephant is lounging there. Blood is shunted away from the pre-frontal cortex (higher reasoning brain) to allow the body to perform more basic survivor functions. People often believe they are having a heart attack and run for the nearest ER to hear "anxiety attack." The fact is, an anxiety attack feels a lot like a heart attack.
In this anxiety ridden state, connecting with God is nearly impossible. Not impossible, you see, but it is difficult. Calling for help is a wise move.
Yesterday I entered my quiet time in just such a state. I opened Jesus Calling and read: Take a moment and sit with me. Let My Love surround you and fill you. I replied, "Uhhm. Having some difficulty with that one." I knew God was near. I wanted to feel it. Yet I had great difficulty feeling His Presence given my level of anxiety.
I opened the Word to Psalm 73.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
As I read these awe-inspiring words, God's Spirit excavated a song from somewhere deep in my soul. I learned the tune when I was eight years old. Every line of it came back to life in the black and white pages of my Bible.
The last line: The nearness of God is my good.
"When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood," says verse 16.
I didn't need to understand anymore because the Spirit of God communed with my spirit and peace flooded in.
Peace, the opposite of anxiety.



Large hazel eyes searched anxiously our faces, the faces she had birthed. 

“Has she talked to y’all yet?” she asked as she grabbed hold of the rail on the hospital bed. 

“Mama, the computer froze. We don’t have the answers.” I stammered through quivering lips.

Jodi, my youngest sister, and I had waited for hours  while the doctor used Star Trek technology to get a look at the nodule growing in Mama’s lung. Today, we thought, we will have answers. Drama unfolded all around us. People waiting. Nurses calling families back and giving them their futures in less than eight words. 

When the doctor came back for us, she walked quickly with a white face. I judged her body language and facial expressions and braced for the worst. When she explained that the computer had failed her while Mama waited under anesthesia, my body relaxed in relief. Not good news. But not the worst news either. It was an odd and visceral reaction. Then, I realized we would have to tell Mama that the entire procedure had been in vein.

We learned later that 5.5 cm separated the tube with the ultrasound camera from the mass. 5.5 cm is the length of my pinky finger.

I told Jodi: Sometimes I am flabbergasted at the lengths the Lord goes to in order to show me my lack of control. 

But this is about more than a lesson in powerlessness. In the midst of putting one foot in front of the other and leaning on each other for strength, we look to Him. Our hands are empty. We depend on Him. We have a lot of questions and few answers.

We wait.

I am reminded that we don’t just wait on the bronchoscope computer to be repaired. We wait on the Lord. Who likes to wait?

The Hebrew word for wait is qavah. It has both a figurative meaning and a literal. Literally, qavah means to bind together as in forming a rope from smaller strings. This picture reminds me that we can be strengthened as we wait. 

In fact, Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait (qavah) upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind.”

I can tell you this: While I waited on that doctor and that stupid and frail bronchoscope computer, I was drained of energy. All of us were. 

Today I am reminded that my hope is in the Lord. I wait for Him, the one who gathered (qavah) the heavens in one place on the third day (Genesis 1:9).

Mama is heading home to Mississippi even as I write this. She is feeling better and still has no symptoms. She will surely get some TLC from Fred, my stepfather, her extended family there, and treasured friends. She will build some strength and stamina back. When they call us and say the computer is repaired, we will do it all over again.

Meanwhile, we wait (qavah). 


well hello cynic

In digging around for gratitude, I have been introduced to the cynic within. 

After the first dramatic entry in my gratitude journal, I had a hard time finding the second entry. 

Something surprising showed up. The cynic. Now few people would label me a cynic including myself. So this shocked me. And instructed me. 

Insomnia heralded the cynic. After an hour in the bed checking the clock at 4 minute intervals, I finally gave up and got up. It was 2:30 a.m. I wrote the post about 1000 gifts #1 being underwear, folded clothes, read some blogs. At 4:00 a.m. the birds started singing. Normally this would indicate the dawn of a new day and new mercies but to the red-eyed and bedraggled, the birds spotlighted the fact that sleep had eluded me.

I uttered: #2. the birds singing at 4:00 a.m. I suppose it was the sarcastic tone that gave up the cynic, undetectable in these black and white words. Nonetheless, gratitude did not live in the text. 

The cynic looks like Randall from Monster’s Inc. A chameleon, he shows up dressed in camouflage wherever hope may flicker. He’s a fast-talker, sell you some dirt in the Mississippi Delta-type. He’s a survivor. We all have a little cynic in us. It’s one way we make life work apart from a grace banquet.

Cynicism works on hope much like the fly zapper. Like the fly, hope meets a quick and certain death. Gruesome even. The electric current of the cynic nukes hope before it has a chance to bloom. Why? Because hope is a scary thing to the cynic. Hope has often been met by disappointment. The cynic chooses to remain safe and lifeless instead of reaching for hope.

When several other “entries” showed up in this sarcastic cynical voice, I started to pay attention. The grateful words did not drip from my pen like I thought they would. I honestly searched for my own voice and not Vosskamp’s sometimes syrupy “bands of garnet, cobalt, flowing luminous” aka a soap bubble. 

And so it is with honesty that I will proceed in the hunt for 1000 gifts. And with courage that I will tame and parent the cynic.

9. Sam’s indomitable smirk after he zapped a fly at 6:55 a.m.

(Note: Vosskamp identifies her own “Pollyanna” language and takes us deeper into her heart. Her journey inspires mine.)




One morning last week as I walked on the beach, I kept finding the most beautiful pieces of shells and sand-dollars. I thought, “Imagine how gorgeous that one was when it was whole!” In my mind’s eye, I filled in the gaps and missing spaces. Some of the shells looked lacy where time had worn through the hardness. Some looked beaten and weathered.

I can relate.

Life comes at you fast to quote an advertisement on tv. Seldom do we feel ready. Rarely do we feel whole. 

My small group of women decided to study James. I really like these ladies a lot so I went along. Well, ok, I voted to study James too. So I asked for it. James keeps the barrage of commands coming like the waves of a rough surf. He talks a lot about perfection. And as a recovering perfectionist, this makes me shudder.

I’ve learned that the word for “perfect” that James uses means mature or complete. Whole. When God looks at me, He says, “Imagine how beautiful she is! She is whole!” Of course, He saw me in my mother’s womb. Before I was formed, He knew me. His eyes saw my unformed body. 

I will not know a day on this earth free from sin. It boggles my mind that my Father sees me as perfect through the lens of His Son’s Blood. The work for my salvation is complete. Jesus finished it on the cross some 2,000 years ago. 

I’m growing up. James calls me to. Wholeness does not mean external perfection. It has a lot more to do with internal completion. When I was 10 and asked Christ into my heart, I was completed at that moment. Perfect. But not mature. That takes place over time. 

Even the gaps and spaces are beautiful. Time wears us down and certainly our bodies are degenerating. But our souls are growing toward wholeness. The souls that are weathered by trials are gorgeous and unique. 

I dare say the reflection of our Father is clearest in the souls most pocked by trials. As hardships erode away our external facade, the soul’s gleaming light of rest in the work of the cross shines brightest.