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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 suffering (4)


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


wrecks, rainbows & reality


v. ex·pect·ed, ex·pect·ing, ex·pects

1. a. To look forward to the probable occurrence or appearance of:     
expecting a telephone call; expects rain on Sunday.
b. To consider likely or certain: expect to see them soon. 

2. To consider reasonable or due: We expect an apology.

3. To consider obligatory; require: The school expects its pupils to be on time.

4. Informal To presume; suppose.


1. To look forward to the birth of one's child. Used in progressive tenses: His sister is expecting in May.

2. To be pregnant. Used in progressive tenses: My wife is expecting again.


“This is not what I expected.”

How many times have we uttered those words? Or how many times have they remained inside and lodged in our throats sitting heavy above our hearts?

It doesn’t take long to mentally walk through our circles of friends and find many levels of unmet expectations.

I thought I’d finish college sooner. I thought I’d get married and wait several years to have kids. I thought I’d live longer. I thought my kids would grow up and be mentally healthy. I thought he’d be faithful. I thought they would be fair.

I expected them to come home for Thanksgiving. I expected to see them at the wedding. I expected my cholesterol to go down. I expected to be able to buy my kids’ Christmas presents.

Our expectations stack several inches or feet or millimeters above reality. And the gap between them - expectations and reality - is disappointment. And sometimes life feels like one long series of disappointments. 

And when we feel like we are being hit by one after the other with no time for recovery, finding gratitude can be very challenging. Or impossible. 

Yesterday I picked up my new glasses. They are progressive lens. My vision had changed, and my life at 2 feet around me was blurry. The optometrist put these new lenses on my nose and made the necessary adjustments. Voila! I could see. I could read the close up and see the computer screen and then look around and see the shoppers lumbering through Costco. 

My spiritual eyes need adjusting sometimes. 

Henry Nouwan offers just such an adjustment in The Prodigal Son. 

 I am challenged to let go of all the voices of doom and damnation that drag me into depression and allow the “small” joys to reveal the truth about the world I live in. When Jesus speaks about the world, He is very realistic. He speaks about wars and revolution, earthquakes, plagues and famines, persecution and imprisonment, betrayal, hatred and assassinations. There is no suggestion at all that these signs of the world’s darkness will ever be absent. But still God’s joy can be ours in the midst of it all. It is the joy of belonging to the household of God whose love is stronger than death and who empowers us to be in the world while already belonging to the kingdom of joy.

I drew the above illustration in my journal in 2009. It was a season of feeling the waves of disappointment - one after another. I kept expecting the rainbows and flowers and the bombs and wrecks kept coming. I wrote, “I live in the ‘not yet’ looking for signs of God’s grace. Yes. He shooed us from the garden, but He has not left us as orphans.”

I still need to be reminded that this world is not our home, that disasters and disappointment are part of life, and that in those joy is not absent.

Tell fearful souls, "Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on his way to put things right And redress all wrongs. He's on his way! He'll save you!" Isaiah 34: 5


genuine: 40 words in 40 days

Two times this week I’ve had the pleasure of sitting with new-ish friends and telling my story. I am reminded of the power of our testimony! The Word says that we will overcome our Enemy by the power of the blood and the word of our testimony. 

My story involves a rupturing of a false identity that I pieced together. I learned about Jesus and His Power of Forgiveness when I was ten years old. Then in college, some kind and devoted young women taught me what it meant to walk out life with Christ. 

I began to read the Word and hunger for it. Fruit showed up in my life. And I began to hide. In my pride, I patched together an external version of what I thought it looked like to be a Christian. I adorned myself with fig leaves. 

My God would not allow me to stay covered in ridiculous leaves when a robe of righteousness awaited. In an amazing show of grace, he outed me in my early twenties. I took off the mask and began to walk in brokenness. 

From time to time, I try to hide again. In performance or in self-righteousness, but God is gently forming me inside out. He is teaching what it means to take up the cross and follow Him. 

He is refining my faith to be genuine.

Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. 1 Peter 1:7


to hope takes guts

This is Junior. Now 8. He lives with wonderful foster parents in Honduras. He is a delight. And I miss him times one hundred million.


Not everyone understands how you can spin two lassos at the same time, one of hope and one of grief. Jodi Picoult, Vanishing Acts

To hope takes guts. 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. When we hope, we risk heart sickness. The vultures of disappointment surely have eaten more than once of our flesh. 

My family had hoped…

To remain in Honduras to love the children at Rancho Ebenezer

To build an addition to the school there

To be there until Edgar graduated high school

To hope is to join Adam and Eve again in the garden. A desire fulfilled is a tree of life. The phrase “tree of life” takes us back to Eden. The tree was in the middle of the garden. Next to it grew the other tree. The forbidden tree. We ate. We died. And we have struggled with hope ever since. 

But it also calls us to remember the end. We, as overcomers, will feast on the tree of life in the paradise of God (Rev. 2:7). The leaves of the tree will be for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

On the wall in our den in Honduras, I painted a tree. To me the tree represented life. The reality is that often our hearts are sickened here on the other side of the Garden.

Every day people make brutal choices. I know what it is like when the rubble of life overwhelms and you have to make a devastating choice.. A day came when we had to walk away. We placed our precious Honduran children back in the arms of the Shepherd who loved them before we had even seen their smiles. 

The grief that followed threatened to take my very breath away. 

My grief is not over. Grief doesn’t end because it honors the loss as precious. It evolves and blends and changes. It changes you. The things I grieve are far too precious for the grief to one day be “done.” Gradually, I am trusting God with my pain and my sons in Honduras. Over time, He is showing me that He is the Defender of the Weak. And He shows me that the Weak is mainly me. I can trust Him with the Weak – my Honduran sons – more when I can trust Him with the weak in me.

Faith has grown in my heart where I have allowed the Father to hold me in the pain. 

Today I am buoyed by hope. The path of suffering has sewn a few things into my soul. Hope. Faith. Perseverance. Strength. The end result is that I know my Savior better. I trust Him more. These things would not be there had not the VineDresser pruned me back to a nub. 

This week God has given me the chance to talk with a grieving mother. I listened as she gave voice to her pain. I shared with her my Hope and Strength birthed through suffering. When two believers can share their stories and burdens, the Holy Spirit consoles both of them.

 It is right to grieve. It is right to hope.

When a desire is fulfilled, it is the hors d’oeuvre for the feast of heaven. 

Until then, we have hope.

We must so hunger for a different tomorrow that we risk losing today to gain it. Dan Allender