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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 sword (3)


new beginnings, new grace

“…there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf!” Genesis 8:11

I am attempting to read the Bible through this year using Meet the Bible by Philip Yancey and Brenda Quinn. Today I read a familiar story of the flood and when I got to this verse something washed over me: gratitude and gladness. After devastation, the dove returns with an olive leaf. I have seen this in my own life. 

Noah had labored and built an ark. And if I understand it correctly, he waited with his family and the animals inside for 7 days before it rained. It had never rained. Then the deluge and horror of losing humanity and all the other animals and the places he must have loved. Then the waiting, sending out the raven then the dove. I cannot imagine standing out on the deck of the ark watching the horizon for the dove. What could he have felt seeing something green in its beak?

Have you ever experienced devastation? Has God ever took a wrecking ball to your life? Have you ever been harmed or watched someone you love be harmed? Have you ever looked out over ruins and wondered if God cared or if He was real? 

God painted something in the sky for Noah, a rainbow. And He wrote a poem:

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.

The rainbow is the first recorded covenant by God. God chose beauty to remind us of grace.

The representation of the shower of His grace looks like a rainbow. And when I see it, I have to fall to my knees and receive. I open my hands and let the abundance weight them down.

Today I am thankful for new life, new beginnings, new stories, new adventures. And grace. Yes, I am thankful for grace.


his right hand

Sometimes a word comes in chaos.

The day begins with a last minute decision to paint the foyer. Did I say last minute? We have been back from Honduras almost 6 years. The foyer needed painting before we left. We rented the house while we were gone. Upon our return we bumped up the roofline, doubled the size of the house by finishing the upstairs, renovated the kitchen and put down new hardwood floors.

“We” means Matt. 

But did we paint the foyer? “We” did not. Pencil scribbling, handprints, bumps and cracks line the walls that say welcome to our home. Welcome to our beautiful mess!

Today is the day. I want a deep and edgy blue to welcome folks into our home. Matt said, “too much.” He’d rather use a paint color we have to save bucks. More on Dave Ramsey’s influence in our marriage later. 

We end up concocting a color from near-empty paint cans in the garage. And all my decorator friends are shrieking as they read that sentence. Yes, I texted you for help but, alas, you were not available on a dime - referring to time and money in this instance. 

As I am telling Matthew, our oldest, where the drop cloths are; I am texting my Mom. She is getting a medical test and I am worried about it.

Children are running in and out of the house. Sam is asking me to play the Honey-Bee Game. I’m tripping over the paint tray. Matt is the foreman and teaching in a loud voice about paint etiquette. Paint etiquette? 

We return from swim practice with ribbons. I’m applauding Joshua and Sam for their times when I notice Joshua’s eyebrows are scowling. What’s up? I ask. 

We banter back and forth. He’s got several ribbons and earned points for his team. But not a blue ribbon is in the bunch. Every time I say a positive, he counters with a negative and minimizes his accomplishment. He wanted blue. He is a competitor. I’m a mom. I sense something deeper at work. I don’t want to rob him of his gut-response or his emotions. And I want to teach him self acceptance. He’s pretty hard on himself usually. 

I end up asking him to read Psalm 139. The first time he read it, he says he really didn’t learn anything new. He says, “You want me to read it again?” 

I nod and ask him to ask God what He wants him to know. I’m sitting at the computer doing what I tell my patients not to do. I’m googling associated conditions of this medical test. My anxiety is growing like yeast bread rising inside my chest. 

Joshua comes back to me in a few minutes. His face is soft, countenance changed. "I think it’s right here," he says and with a finger he points to verse 10. “Your right hand shall hold me.” 

Even there Your hand shall lead me. And Your right hand shall hold me.

And the Word goes in and like hands it kneads my heart. I feel the lump of anxiety deflate like so much puffed up dough. Even there. Yes, even there.

I say, “How does that make you feel?”

“Pretty good,” he says. “Like if I’m good enough to sit there in His right hand, well, I’m pretty good.”

Happiness leaks from my eyes. I hold this moment - this moment when God speaks to me from the mouth of a babe. He comes and scoops up my child and holds him. Holds her. Holds me.


sword drills

Matt and I on our wedding day, January 5, 1991. Anger invaded my body and pushed aside good sense. 

I risk nausea to read in silence Safe Haven Marriage, a book assigned for the marriage group we are about to attend. We are late. And I am bringing the refreshments. Joshua and Sam chirp in the backseat as Matt navigates our van toward church. 

Matt and I had argued only an hour before and I had not recovered. Given a choice, a root canal would have been more appealing than a marriage class at that point. I couldn’t even look at or speak to my spouse, how am I going to absorb any information about loving him?

I read... “Contempt blah blah blah predictor of divorce. Criticism blah blah blah predictor of divorce.” Great, I am thinking but still not speaking. Matt drops me off first with the snack and drives around to take Joshua and Sam to childcare. 

Larry Kayser greets me as I plop down the chocolate chip cake on the table. “Wow! You look so tan! Have you been in the sun?” I want to tell him it is the glow of anger but blame the soccer field instead. 

Somehow I make it through half the group with this strategy: Say as little as possible. 

An hour in, I pray to Jesus. Help me. I don’t want to be robbed of this time. 

And I speak a few sentences because it is hard for me to be quiet. I steal a little look at Matt.

Then in closing, Larry opens his Bible and reads:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

And I feel it. The sword. I give myself over to it. Like a pin poking a balloon, the sword deflates my swollen ego. Divides bone and marrow. Rage and blame. Fear and loathing. I feel something soften deep with me like a moisture infiltrating a dry shell. Living Water rushes in and my heart is clay again. 

Later that night I sit with an open journal. I ask for honesty and humility and grace. I write these words: He bore it in His body so I don’t have to bear it in mine. Once again the Water in the form of tears softens my hardened heart. 

Then I take that much softer heart to Matt and we begin again. The anger is important identifying markers in my soul... things Matt, my soul-mate, needs to know to know me. Intimacy. 

It is a remarkable moment birthed in hope and promise.

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it - no matter what.

Hebrews 4:7-14