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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 unraveling (9)


empty baskets

I keep thinking about those empty baskets the crowd had with them in John chapter 6. The hungry crowd had gathered on a hill to listen to Jesus. Jesus asked his disciples to feed them. After pointing out they had no food and no money, Jesus divided 5 loaves and 2 fishes to feed thousands. We know the disciples collected 12 large baskets of leftovers. So I am assuming there were a lot more baskets that had held the food Jesus “made” to feed the crowd. All ate until they were full. 

I know this: an empty basket is all I need. 

Time after time in Honduras I learned this lesson: when I showed up empty, God did amazing things. I hated showing up empty. I liked things planned and running according to schedule, carefully controlled. If I showed up harried, raw and real, God fed the people by the thousands. 

The miracle of the feeding of the thousands is almost dwarfed by the events that follow. Jesus tells the crowd that He is the bread. He says His body is the blood. Even while their stomachs gurgled and growled digesting the food they just ate, they quarreled and bickered and picked apart Jesus’ story. When we are full, we are arrogant and puffed up. So often we can’t see God working until we are empty and needy. 

Yesterday at Bible study Paige Benton Brown said, "All you need to come to Jesus is nothing, and most people don't have it."

Today I bring my empty basket for Jesus to fill with His bread and His blood. 



Holy & Precious Lord, You are my strength & my song... my salvation... I look to You & You alone for healing. I trust that You use hurts & pains, ruins & trials to bring about Your will for Your children.My finger traced the smooth wooden grooves. With my eyes closed, my soul lead the way. One way. To the center of the circle. I did not worry over which way to go. Peace invaded my anxious body. 

Tranquility is the gift of the labyrinth.

Later on Joshua, 11, asked me about this strange-looking wooden disk. “It’s a labyrinth,” I said. “Trace it with your finger with your eyes closed.”

He smiled, closed his eyes and began the journey. 

“What are you feeling?” I asked.

“Peace.” His smile expanded.

A few mornings later as my eyes opened to the sunlight streaming through the curtains nearby, I became aware of how the bed held me up. This mattress, I thought, holds me up and I don’t have to do anything. Just relax my body and let it hold me. Then this thought careened through long-crusty neuropathways: What if I am exactly where I should be right now?

I worry. Am I in the right place? Is this where God wants me? Did I do the right thing?

When tragedy has visited my life, I clung to some control by making it about my choices. If I had listened... If I hadn’t made that turn... If I had only... 

Reality implores me to drop the myth that I am sovereign. Only One is Sovereign. 

The wonder of life with God is that He can even use my bad choices to bring glory to Himself.

“Everything in her life that was happening was exactly what was supposed to be happening and it was all opportunity for her healing,” writes Kitty Crenshaw and Catherine Snapp. Betty Skinner lived a hidden life which is now exposed in the book The Hidden Life. Betty mentored the authors, and they captured her thoughts and journal entries in this book. 

Labyrinth lends me the understanding that this path leads to the center and God is there. When I am walking this path, tuning my ears to hear His Voice, telling the truth about the present;  I will find Him. My experience speaks of times when I have listened poorly or rebelliously gone my own way, even then He has found me. 

I am exactly where I am supposed to be. He has given me everything I need for this moment. Even when my story folds back on itself with pain and tragedy, He is orchestrating my healing. 


“The chaos around us never changes. What changes is that we begin to view the world and ourselves differently. When we are finally able to live from a place of hope moment by moment, we don’t see the chaos as frightening anymore - it becomes an opportunity to offer love, presence and compassion in the midst of it.” The Hidden Life, p. 120




joy & pain

In August I visited my friend Val and her mother, Cheryl. This post is dedicated to them.The thing about joy is that it is compatible with pain. 

This past Thursday, the earthly army of believers lost a valiant warrior. Cheryl Mong, mother of my dear friend Val Schubert, went home to the arms of her Savior. She battled fiercely for the Kingdom, for her family, and finally against breast cancer. We surely feel the loss. I would like to dedicate this post to her. She lived a life worthy of the gospel. Her life testified to the fact that pain and joy can reside in the same tabernacle. 

I am aware that a great many in the body are hurting, suffering. I have to suppress a cringe when I hear some good-natured Christian exclaim “it was so God!” when something turned out exactly right for her. Haven’t we all had seasons where things didn’t “work out” as we had planned? And can’t we say that God’s grace was upon us during it?

I went through just such a season of unraveling after our return from Honduras.

Often I felt that my brokenness was not welcome in church. In all fairness, our pastors teach correctly on brokenness and pain. We do not hear a prosperity gospel. Nonetheless, I perceived that “there was no room in the Inn” for my suffering and pain. I watched video stories touting larger than life images of lives given away, healed from bondage, stretched and molded.  God had come through for them.

Yet I could not reconcile that with my experience of giving my life away and finding myself beaten up and mauled. Nobody wanted to see my story on the 40x40 video screen. I know other stories of heartbreak. I will share a few. A young man goes to Mexico to be a missionary and becomes so distraught with the suffering of children that he begins to starve himself to death surviving on one tomato a day. He loses his faith and to this day is an atheist. A missionary couple leaves medical practices and head to South America. They decide to return home because their children are not doing well. Thirty days later he walks away from his family and his faith. Another couple prays for years about adoption and decides God has called them to it. They invest over $25,000 to rescue a baby from an overseas orphanage. The government shuts down the adoption program for no good reason. They never see their money again or the baby God seemingly had called them to. It happens. People walk into situations/ministries that they believe God has called them into and the house falls in around them. Marriages over. Friendships destroyed. Children abused or abandoned. Ministries lost. Lives changed often appearing to be ruined.

Lest we feel like square pegs in round holes, look at Hebrews.  Our forefathers “were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:35-38.

Lewis Smedes said something like this: The true test of joy’s integrity is this: is it compatible with pain? Only the heart that hurts has a right to joy. 

Sometimes pain invades our lives and takes our breath away. We don’t often talk about it at church, that life often doesn’t work out as planned - the elephant in the sanctuary. There are times when this Christian life does not look so great. In fact, life sucks. This colloquialism is biblically accurate. 

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33. 

I just want to admit that often my life does not follow the four point plan I had. Whose does? Babies die. Father’s get colon cancer. Marriages fail. Children are sexually abused. Tribulation. Hell yeah, and how. When he says, “take heart!” It’s not take two verses and call me in the morning. It is this: take courage, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. He has won! 

My cheer comes from knowing that one day - like Cheryl - I will see Him face to face. He is far, far angrier about evil than I am. He will end it one day in a lake of burning sulfur.  He will wipe every one of my tears away! He is my shield and my very great reward. 


And yet it may happen in these the most desperate trials of our human existence that beyond any rational explanation, we may feel a nail-scarred hand clutching ours. The tragedy radically alters the direction of our lives, but in our vulnerability and defenselessness we experience the power of Jesus in His present risenness. 

Apart from the risen Christ we live in a world without meaning, a world of shifting phenomena, a world of death, danger, and darkness. A world of inexplicable futility. Nothing is interconnected. Nothing is worth doing for nothing endures. It is all sound and fury with no ultimate significance.

The dark riddle of life is illuminated in Jesus; the meaning, purpose, and goal of everything that happens to us, and the way to make it all count can be learned only from the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

Living in the awareness of the risen Christ is not a trivial pursuit for the bored and lonely or a defense mechanism enabling us to cope with the stress and sorrow of life. It is the key that unlocks the door to grasping the meaning of existence. All day and every day we are being reshaped into the image of Christ. Everything that happens to us is designed to this end.  - Brennan Manning


faith is...

Can you see the discussion? Here the questions? Should we JUMP?

Today Matt and I will board an airplane and fly across the Atlantic Ocean to Rome, Italy in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary. All the jitters of a new bride have been at work in me these past weeks in preparation. 

I will walk in and sit down on thousands of pounds of fiberglass, metal and who knows what else. Then that large craft will climb thousands of feet in the air. Do I understand how? No! Will that lack of understanding stop me from “trusting” it enough to get on board? No!

I am not missing the analogy of this and faith. Now, I can study aerodynamics and the physics of flying and perhaps understand why the airplane stays in the sky. The analogy breaks down because I will NEVER study enough and understand how God works. 

A friend was telling me about her recent struggles yesterday. Literally the chaos of life this side of the garden is threatening to take her down. Well, really, it has taken her down. She is floundering. With tears in her eyes, she said, “I cannot find the logic.” In other words, “Why, God?!”

I get that. I have uttered those words. I have pounded my fist. I am lucky she did not hit me because I said, “You will never find logic. And you will drive yourself crazy looking.”

We spoke of how God engineers our stories so that we circle back around on ourselves and the pains we have buried are resurrected. This is our chance to bring them back to Our Father. And if we don’t believe in His healing for ourselves, we cannot with authenticity believe it for our children.

I don’t want to circumvent the process of asking WHY! These little and big why question marks are the very breadcrumbs that lead us home. We must pick up each and every breadcrumb and own the question. God already knows they reside in our souls. And they take us to surrender, home. 

Even though I don’t understand and, frankly, will never understand, why God does what He does; I will get on the plane and in faith believe that He is taking me somewhere. And that it is GOOD. And that is the strength and hope I share.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1



Wait is a four letter word. Our culture has taught us to abhor waiting. My flesh wants what it wants NOW!

This morning I drove to work in a van that smells like vomit. It smells like vomit because two weeks ago my son puked in it. Then my husband “cleaned” it up. So it still smells like vomit. I am WAITING for the smell to go away. As I wait, I am reminded of the stench of sin. Ever since the fall, the stench of sin has flooded the earth and tainted our experience as humans. Every day, every moment, we deal with the consequences of our choices to look to other gods and NOT the True God. 

We deal with Adam and Eve’s choices. We deal with our father’s, our mother’s choices. We deal with a virus that causes a child to vomit and then produces the vile odor that leads to a woman being very angry at a man for not cleaning a van well enough. We deal with the stench of sin.

Since the beginning of time, humans have waited on God. We either choose to wait on God or we make our own way. I am faced with the choice every moment to wait on God to save me or to make my own life work apart from Him. 

Today as I suffered in the stench of puke, I used a tiny dropper and spread a little fragrant peppercorn oil over the air vents. For a few moments, the van smelled of Christmas. Eventually, the puke overwhelmed the peppercorns and I sat again in the funk. 

I cannot sweeten the stench of sin.

To wait requires that I remain in the present - open and empty handed. To wait demands that I trust, that I hope in the only One who can save. But in fear; I numb, escape, deodorize and deaden parts of my soul to make waiting more palatable. These fixes are but temporary. 

Sometimes in the waiting, God unravels us. He unstacks the layers of bricks we have deposited to cope with life by hiding. The purpose of unraveling is always freedom. He desires to unbind us from these idols, addictions and so-called coping mechanisms.

The Hebrew word for “to wait” - qavah -  literally means to bind together like a cord. It implies twisting strings and weaving them together to form a rope - the more strands, the greater the strength. As I am unbound from my idols, He weaves me back together when I wait on Him.

In many languages and in Hebrew, the verb “to wait” is the same as “to hope.” The way to hope is to simplify: to believe that actually only ONE thing will save me and that is my HOPE in Jesus Christ. When I live for ONE man, my noisy heart and nervous spirit settle. Jesus paid a one-time sacrifice. He set me right before God for all eternity. I still wait on Him to come again and set things right on earth and in Heaven. Until then, I sit in the stench and wait. I struggle with sin and hope.

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, 

And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning ;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD ;
For with the LORD there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.

Psalm 130:5-7