Goodreads to Muse

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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

Gigi's favorite books »

Entries in Wonder (6)


unexpected: 40 words in 40 days

We sat around a bouquet of tulips each plate adorned with hearts. Matthew returned home for the night to get his car tags renewed. Rarely are we together, all five of us, around the table.

Someone suggested we make a video like the ones we had been watching on YouTube. The song Harlem Shake has become a video viral craze. All kinds of folks claim 30 second stardom by uploading their version. The template 15 seconds of calm followed by 15 seconds of bedlam.

How would we film it? What would we wear? How would we dance? All these and more became the topic of our Valentine’s dinner. Our family is not prone to performance - at least not on camera. And so it began and grew in momentum - this crazy idea to do something we have never done before.

We sketched out a rough picture board. Everyone found costumes. Sam found a fake cigar. And we were up and running. Twenty minutes later our debut is posted on Facebook. I dug out my YouTube passwords. Voila! We are on the air.

What makes this so amusing is the level of surprise. Never in 22 years of marriage have I seen Matt McMurray dance on camera. Never. He has danced - just plain danced - maybe 20 times. Why did he acquiesce to this strange phenomena? I have no idea.

Control freaks everywhere shriek at the mention of “unexpected.” Yet we humans crave it. This blows my mind about God: you can never predict what He’s going to do. Unless He’s promised it in His Word, you cannot know what He will do. Now if He has promised it, it’s as good as done.

Delight flows from the unexpected. What will God do next that will blow my mind? What areas in your life need His touch of the unexpected?


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.



Unbelieving mute Zechariah was a herald of Advent. In fact, he was the first one to be told of the imminent birth of the Messiah. He went into the Holy of Holies one of 20,000 some-odd priests, sonless, old, perhaps cynical. He came out with knowledge of the spiritual importance of his day but without words. 

In the past few days, I have felt the muteness of Zechariah. His unbelief rendered him mute. And I suppose my unbelief stopped my words for a while. My only policy regarding blogging is that I only write when I feel like I have something to say. When days go by or weeks, you can assume that I have nothing.

Who could add any words to the events in Connecticut? Now is a good time to be mute.

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Few parents would argue that raising kids changes your life. 

I am student to each one of my sons. The lessons continue unfolding daily. But today I am thinking of Joshua. He is seen pictured above eating breakfast on his 12th birthday. Yes, it's birthday cake.

As I muse what Joshua is teaching me, I can sum it up in one word. 


It’s a $50 word that simply means the ability to endure even thrive. Academics in social work and psychology write 5,000 word papers describing and dissecting what makes one child survive while others seem to whither in the face of hardship. 

At 45 with peri-menopause, joint pain and faltering memory already pressing in on all sides, I don’t feel so resilient. Yet, as I study the topic, I am reminded of how God has used trials to mold me, shape me and change me. 

I learned to believe that because I desire it so earnestly for my children. I am desperate to believe the trials they face will be used for good by God. If I don’t believe that for myself, I cannot truly believe it for them. 

Often it is our hopes for our children that force us to look at our own crushed dreams. And as we give space to grieving those dreams, God moves in and re-frames our traumas. Our children more than any others usher us into the throne room. There we are invited to worship in God’s Presence. It is impossible to remain unaffected. 

“Resilient people do have emotional and psychological scars that they carry from their experience. They indeed struggle, but they keep going, staying engaged with life and continue to function as a part of the world. Resilience is not the ability to escape unharmed. It is the ability to thrive in spite of the odds” Tian Dayton, Ph.D. in Emotional Sobriety

33. 12 years of Joshua

broken angel

Things break.

Here on earth, everything breaks, wears out, corrodes. This morning I found this favored angel from the nativity scene with his wings discarded nearby. Sam owned up to wrestling with Gabriel. A new Christmas scene is written in the McMurray house. 

Last month goes down in history as one of the most horrible in my life. My mother landed in the hospital with a life-threatening MRSA infection. A situation with a family member sat in my gut and my mind constantly replayed the scene. What if I had said that? What if I had pointed out this? Friends in crisis. Conflicts. Disease. Death. Dreary grey weather. November had it all.

Through all of this, God called my heart heavenward. Confident of his presence with me, I breathed prayers like the Jesus one. Inhale and say, “Jesus Christ, son of God.” Exhale and say,  “have mercy on me a sinner.” One day as I ran to my car late to meet someone, a rainbow appeared through the gray dreary clouds. I gasped aloud. Awe. 

On the same day, I drove down a gorgeous Tennessee back road and something at the tree-line caught my eye. A horse? No. I saw the antlers. It was the biggest buck I have ever seen majestically ruling ore the plain. I pulled over and watched it from a distance. Awe.

To see something extraordinary and to try to put words around it is to muse.

Awe is the first step to worship. If I understand something, I will never think myself smaller than it. I am learning that life is hard and there is good in the hard and hard in the good. 

The angel proclaimed peace (wholeness) on earth, good news to men. His wings dazzled the shepherds. They fell on their faces in worship. 

Things may break here on earth but there will come a day when it will all be new.