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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 struggle (5)


pain, the professor

Pain is the great professor.

After I fell skiing, my knee pain hurt like nothing I have ever experienced. From the time my ski went wonky and I fell, the pain shoved out everything else from my mind. By the time I hobbled into our condo, the pain had escalated to unbearable. The next morning I quickly asked to go to the ER. What did I want? Relief!

This journey began five weeks ago. Pain has been my companion off and on. Now the discomfort of being on crutches and limiting activities teach me more than pain. I am not a patient patient.

No doubt looking back over my life, the common denominator in growth is pain. My favorite passage in the New Testament is Hebrews 12. Verse 7 says to endure hardship as discipline. It encourages us saying that all God's children are disciplined. It promises a harvest of peace and righteousness.

I don't like to be in pain. I don't even like to be uncomfortable. And yet, I want to grow.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May Your unfailing love be my comfort according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. Psalm 119: 67, 71, 75-77.

These verses instruct me. When I am in pain, I don't usually reach for my Bible first. I think of all the other things that could bring comfort first. David knew that the only comfort in his suffering would be God's law. He states that he delights in it and looks to it to bring him life.

Today my pastor asked me (all of the congregation) how much did I crave God's word. I have not thought about my appetite for the Word in a while. I am thankful to be reminded of the only source of true comfort in the Universe.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. Psalm 119:92


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.


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.



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.


adversity: 40 words in 40 days

I often forget how adversity strengthens the spirit and stretches the soul. I don't like adversity or conflict or disharmony. In the midst of them, I feel like death hovers near. Perhaps it does, and the very act of overcoming it strengthens us.

Part of our family is in Washington DC this week for Spring Break. My oldest son chose the beach with friends. The rest of us are staying with my friend Jennifer LeBow and her family. I have never before been to our nation's capital.

The first day we walked among the monuments - giants chiseled in stone, words weighing more than the marble and granite. The adversity of my nation glared at me. At times the issues have polarized us and driven us to war. At times poverty has threatened to destroy our children. Each time, so far, we have risen to the challenge.

Middle age brings with it a somewhat cynical viewpoint of politics. I have considered that perhaps it is a mid-life developmental milestone to doubt your political leaders and wonder if your nation can survive. As I literally strolled through our history, the hope of our past clunked down in front of me.

What we face now is really not as colossal as the things we have overcome in the past. Adversity has done its work in us. We are strong even if we sleep sometimes through days requiring more awareness.

As cheesy as it may sound, we need leaders from my generation to rise up and give voice to a path for the future. We don't need more Monday morning quarterbacks. We need men and women of valor and honor and integrity.

At times I think we are more divided than we have ever been, but I walked through Arlington. I am praying that God would provide leaders who would do more than point fingers. We need men and women to stir up courage and not fear.

I am praying for our country. I have found great hope in a strange place - in the monuments of the past.