Joy Series Recommended Reading

A Grief Observed, CS Lewis. The book Lewis wrote while grieving the death of his wife. Poignant and joyful.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxas. In the Share the Joy category, this is a very inspiring read about God’s all-sufficiency in times of terrible trials. Metaxas takes us through Bonhoeffer’s life and the decisions he made as Nazism began taking over Germany.

Gentle & Lowly, Dane Ortlund. If the gentle hand of Jesus soothing your soul is not your experience, I suggest this profound devotional about the heart of Jesus toward us.

Martin Luther, Eric Metaxas. Another in the Share the Joy category. I found this biography extremely challenging and encouraging, especially as it pointed out for me some of the theological waves the worldwide church has ridden.

The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van de Kolk. The best book I’ve read about the ongoing, long-term effects of trauma and how we can better understand and support one another in our brokenness.

*As a participant in the Amazon affiliate program, I may receive a small commission when you click on the links above, but it will not affect the price of your purchase.

We Remember.

We’re in the long, narrow concrete backyard “garden” of a large building smack dab in the middle of Taksim, the modern heart of Istanbul. The building is surrounded by both tourists and locals out for a day of shopping on the famous Istiklal Street. They’ve not been stopped by COVID, nor by the record-breaking heat and humidity. As for ourselves, even though we’re not moving much, we’re still sweating from the hour it took to arrive — walk, metro, metro, walk. Thankfully, we meet early enough that the crowds are not yet at their peak, nor is the heat.

In this tiny little bubble of refuge we sit quietly, six-feet apart, masked, small in number. There is no worship team, only a single guitar. There is no children’s church, those of us with small children make due, those without give grace. For the first time in the three weeks we’ve been able to attend, there is a microphone and a speaker pointed our direction, and it is wonderful being able to hear better.

For a 200 year-long previously unbroken line, unfortunately snipped by COVID, a group of Jesus followers had been meeting in a chapel on the grounds of the nearby Dutch Consulate. Today, despite various restrictions still in place, we are finally, again, meeting in person. It’s not the picturesque little chapel with all the history crammed to the gills with worshippers in tightly packed pews, but we’re thrilled to be together.

We sit on small, plastic stools, singing quietly, gratefully drinking in the cool water of a sermon about revival delivered to us by an Indian pastor speaking in our heart language. It certainly makes the water easier to guzzle, not having to struggle to understand! For many here, this is not their heart language, but they are thirsty enough to make the effort. We are about to participate in the covenant, communion, the remembrance of Christ’s death and the quiet group grows quieter.

This is my body, this is my blood. Remember me.

The assistants come forward. They have plastic gloves on, masks and face shields, and as they walk by I notice not one of them is Caucasian. I know from hearing them earlier that neither do any of them speak English with my particular accent.

I’m reminded of the visit we took a few months ago to Demre, a small coastal town in southwestern Turkey famous for being home to the original Saint Nicholas. We entered a church built in the year 520 on the site of an older church where the non-fat, non-jolly man served so well as bishop that a version of him remains well-known to this day. Inside the church is a dome with this fresco…

Can you see what’s happening? People are lining up to take communion from Saint Nicholas. In a church that is more than 1500 years old — people were participating in this covenant in a very similar way to us more than 1500 years ago!

This is my body, this is my blood. Remember me.

I reach for the cup and the bread and I close my eyes and I remember. I remember the actions of Jesus, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude. But I also remember the frescoes in the Hagia Sophia, the church that was the center of the Christian faith for more than 1000 years that sits a couple miles to our left. I remember the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation, all visitable within the borders of Turkey.

I remember the post I saw a couple weeks ago that showed the geographic movement of Christianity over time, which reminds me we are participating this morning with Jesus followers in China, in South America, in Europe, in the Arabian peninsula. We are participating with brothers and sisters who cannot meet in large groups for various reasons, and with those whose gathering is larger and louder than we can imagine. And most amazing of all, we are participating with people with whom we have absolutely nothing in common — other than this faith that makes us family.

This is my body, this is my blood. Remember me.

Who is this Jesus whom we are remembering? Whose body and blood people have been remembering for 2000 years, in a line unbroken even by COVID…or world war…or unimaginable personal or national tragedy…or natural disasters…or even post-modern culture that calls him irrelevant and his rules unsustainable…

For 2000 years people have dismissed him, marginalized him, said he was dead, old-fashioned, too restrictive, too closed-minded. And for 2000 years God has continued introducing new people to him.

What kind of God is this? A God who has proven himself so profoundly to individuals — across time, generation, culture, language, ethnicity, social status, financial level, personality type and any of the other thousand ways we use to divide ourselves — that his name has continued to be praised and worshipped and lifted high and talked about even after all this time.

This is my body, this is my blood. Remember me.

As human beings, we seem genetically programmed to divide ourselves over and over, moving predictably and inevitably from arguments to fist fights to world wars, but this God continues to consistently and reliably pull together people of diverse backgrounds and bring us into the unity of his Kingdom.

What a privilege to know and be known by the only God who has managed to enter and bring peace and community into almost every people group, almost every language, almost every culture throughout history and throughout time. And as soon as it moves from almost to every, the curtain will fall.

What a mighty, amazing, wonderful, powerful, awe-inspiring, unifying, patient, loving God we serve.

This is my body, this is my blood. Remember me.

We are still here, Jesus. We carry different passports, we read your life-giving words in different languages, and we express our worship of you in vastly different ways, but we are part of your one, single, unified body.

We have sinned in word and deed, in the things we have done and left undone, in the ways we have treated the foreigner and the family member, but we are washed in your blood.

We are living in a time of division and uncertainty unlike anything most of us have ever seen, but we humble ourselves before the Creator of the universe as we remember both your power and your track record.

We bow our heads in this moment of refuge while the chaos swirls outside, and we both accept and praise you for the small place you have chosen for us in this grand sovereign story you are telling, and there is much thankfulness in our hearts.

Together, today, we remember you.

Originally published in the Come & See newsletter, August 10, 2021. If you want to, you can click here to hand over your email address, which I will never do anything with but send you occasional newsletters. 🙂


I did the research and talked to everyone I knew. I read reviews and window shopped for a long time, then I got the very best harness money can buy. And put it in my closet. I pulled it out from time to time and thought about its qualities, how beautiful, how well-constructed. Every time I heard someone tell a story about using theirs, I would take it out and admire it again. And then I’d put it back in the closet. For years. I never really knew it’s value until today. I didn’t understand.

Today I’m hanging off the side of a mountain, beaten and battered from the fall. I attempted a grueling ascent, and it was strenuous and gorgeous and far beyond my ability level, and right in the middle of admiring a view so wide and piercing I had to close my eyes, my hand slipped and I fell and bashed against the mountain. Blood runs down my face and drips off my chin, and I watch it fall past fingers unnaturally bent. It trickles down the mountain until the supply of red gives out. I swing here, stunned, aching, but alive. I am Alive. And this harness has never been more beautiful.

The Fleas of Disappointment.

“We should thank God for these fleas,” said Betsie ten Boom to her sister Corrie, as they walked into the concentration camp barracks to which they’d been assigned and discovered the building was not only severely overcrowded, but also overrun with fleas. Corrie said no way.

I just finished re-reading The Hiding Place, the story of how Corrie and her family helped hide Jews during World War II. As she detailed their eventual capture and imprisonment, I appreciated very much her honesty. While her sainted sister Betsie thanked God for fleas and prayed for the guards and wept over the guilt a man who’d betrayed them must be feeling, Corrie battled anger and disappointment and at one point went after a guard with a shovel.

I like Corrie. I can relate to Corrie. Betsie, not so much.

How is it that we can be standing beside someone, in the same circumstances, and react in a totally different way? Is it that some of us are more spiritual, more holy, standing somehow a millimeter closer to God … or is it something else?

My husband and I recently experienced a crushing disappointment, and while we’re about as spiritual and holy as your average pet rock, this is not our first rodeo. After a time of shock and grief, we began to thank God for this thing we would not have chosen. Given the choice, in fact, I’m sure we would both have preferred fleas.

But the truth is, in the center of my frequently faithless heart, I think almost everything in life comes down to whether or not you believe in the goodness of God. And I do. I really do.

If you believe He is good, it doesn’t matter what comes. Not that it won’t be hard, or excruciating, or even maybe feel as if your very skin is melting off in the fire He’s stoked for you — but if He is good, then He is trustworthy, and if He is trustworthy, we can cling to Him, and if we cling to Him, we’ll find He is strong enough to help us survive anything.

That reminds me of a verse I should probably look up, but instead I’ll just badly quote it to you from memory — it’s something about suffering and perseverance and character and hope that does not disappoint. I think in modern parlance we might call it resilience.

God wants to create resilience in us so that we can not only survive the storms, but eventually thrive in them — maybe even singing praise songs at the top of our lungs while we’re being half-drowned by wind and waves — but that kind of divine lunacy resilience requires training, sometimes brutal training.

When we know God is good, we can trust His plan, no matter how daunting it looks. He is the master architect, after all, and He’s building things in us, good things that grow upon one another. And the best thing about His training plan is that, even when our shaky muscles betray us and our hearts act faithlessly and we show ourselves to be pretty much unreliable in most circumstances, what He’s building is founded upon the Solid Rock, and that is something that does not crumble. He will never crumble.

Storms come and go, but I think the fleas are always with us. Fleas of disappointment that juke and jive around our ankles and generally annoy the crap out of us, always trying to drag our attention down. After all, we all know in our hearts that this world is not as it was meant to be. There is no escaping the cloud of fleas, the daily disappointments that pile up.

Except maybe to look beyond the fleas, which is I think what Betsie was always doing. In fact I’m sure that’s what she was doing because I just remembered another scene that Corrie related, when Betsie was whipped by a guard for working too slow. That was what inspired Corrie to pick up her shovel and charge the guard, but Betsie grabbed her and said look past this, past this sister you love and this blood and these awful circumstances, and see Jesus.

Look through me and see Jesus.

Only then can we survive the fleas. The pain. The blood. The sorrow. The compounding grief and impotence. When we focus our gaze not on the mist of today, but on the beauty of Jesus behind the mist. His goodness. His love. His grace. His mercy. His faithfulness. His strength. His creativity.

I’m telling you, once you start listing off His good attributes, it’s hard to stop.

After the ten Booms had been in the concentration camp for awhile, Betsie came running up to Corrie and explained that the guards weren’t coming into the barracks because of the fleas, and that’s why they’d had so much freedom to share with the other women the reason for the hope that they had. You see, she’d said, I told you we should thank God for those fleas!

What a kindness that God showed them the reason for their fleas. I don’t think He always does that. He shows us His mercy and gives us the strength to face the day, but He doesn’t always answer the why. We’re left with the daily choice to trust the goodness of the One who provided the fleas, or we can get angry all over again.

I don’t know what fleas of disappointment are buzzing around you today, but I hope you’re able to spend some time doing what I’m about to do — I’m going to sign off, go have a cup of coffee, and focus my gaze through the mist.

C&S: Jabba the Hutt Recommendations

* Richard Jewell. I’ve had this movie on my list for awhile and finally got around to watching it. I’ve got a character falling under suspicion for something he didn’t do and I wanted a little color. 😁 I found the movie extremely interesting. Lots of food for thought about the power we have given media to pass quick judgement and ruin lives.

* An Impossible Marriage. I’m halfway through this and finding it fairly amazing. A mixed-orientation marriage is how the authors describe themselves, both the husband and wife attracted to women, but both desperately in love with and committed to Jesus. It’s challenged me personally and I recommend it!

* Get to the Publishing Punchline. And of course I have to recommend this to anyone who is interested in writing their own book. It was recently published by my friend and fellow expat, literary agent Joy Eggerichs Reed. She took myself and four other aspiring authors through the process outlined in the book and it was amazing.

* The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. As a fan of the Hunger Games books, I was thrilled to stumble across this prequel and it did not disappoint. As a fiction author, I was amazed at the world building Suzanne Collins was able to do in reverse. Wonderful storytelling.

  • Required Disclaimer: Please be advised, we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. That means if you click on one of our links we’ll earn a few extra pennies. 😉

There Is Victory If You’ll Grasp It.

he looks from every angle
and he pokes around each turn
with eager expectation
of each weakness, he will learn

he is snooping and he’s starving
just one more luscious little bite
of your flesh and bone and soul
each time he leads you from the light

you may think that he’s your friend
because he offers so much fun
but each morning’s dawn is darker
and my advice to you is run

if you don’t, it’s shame and awful
and whatever would they think?
in the dark and so alone
he’ll rub your face in all that stink

but the light is antiseptic
and the power of truth is sure
don’t believe those lies he’s spoken
or even touch his offered “cure”

keep your guard up now, be quick
call to your friend and hit the floor
lock your heart up, guard your exits
he’s right here crouching at your door

no, he’s not playing any game
he knows the evil that you crave
and he’ll escort you right on down to hell
right to that dirty grave

so guard your ears and guard your eyes
and if you have to, chop your hand
because the battle is no joke
he longs to take back all your land

though he’s losing ground each day
already lost the largest fight
he screams in anger, violent, restless
fighting still with all his might

he’s a loser, and a mean one
he’ll rip your every cell in two
put on that armor, call for help
and trust the One who pulls you through

the One who guards your mouth if you but ask
blocks you from those wicked deeds
stops your tongue from tasting evil
things your heart says that it needs

there is victory if you’ll grasp it
you need not lay there in your shame
trust the One who is victorious
with all your might cling to His Name

You Wrap Me in Your Favor.

You wrap me in Your favor
and You pour on me Your grace
You fill me with Your presence
and You turn to me Your face

who am I, clearly unworthy
yet You’ve called me as Your own
not by any single thing I’ve done
You brought me to Your throne

You placed me smack dab in Your kingdom
and You gave to me Your hand
You changed my chaos for Your peace
and gave to me this fulsome land

who am I, I am your child
and Your servant and Your friend
of Your faithfulness and mercy
I have never met the end

You are strong and ever mighty
You are the root of all that’s true
Yours is the victory of all victories
the fount of mercies ever new

thank You for this day You’ve given
thank You for the grace to stand
and when the strength is all but gone
the grace to fall upon Your hand