Book Review: The End of the Island

IMG_9952In a chaplain’s world, theodicy is that delicate and difficult balance of the gut-wrenching work of understanding why the Divine allows evil and human suffering. Human as we are, there is such a temptation to distill the work of theodicy into neat little pieces. As if pain, suffering, loss and grief would EVER be done “neatly.”

Many books attempt to express this through allegory or rigid theological systems. Instead of a systematic expression, however, Tucker places his allegory in a kind of contextual theology. Thus I approached this book with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Jeffrey Tucker takes as his muse “The Happy Prince,” a children’s short story written by Oscar Wilde. (You can read it on-line here…)  In the postscript of his book he delves into some of the influences of that story in his work as a chaplain. It’s worth reading first before you delve into the topics his work contains. I would have liked him to develop his own perspective on why he thinks he might be the Prince. It would have given his story a better foundation, for this reader, anyway.

The book is organized around the narrative of an old man traveling “to the end of the island” – a journey he feels he must make as his “time is short.” The “journey” is expressed via short vignettes, spread out over several chapters, each addressing a different question as it relates to human suffering. The questions include:

  • Where is my Suffering?
  • Where am I in my Suffering?
  • Where is the Divine in my Suffering?
  • Where is my Human Support?
  • Where are my Hope and my Deliverance?
  • Re-Defining Forward Movement
  • Finding the End of the Island

On the journey, the old man meets several individuals who help him re-examine what he is experiencing, where he is going, what he hopes to find, and what other lessons might be part of his journey. I particularly liked the author’s reflections in chapter 4 on “Where is the Divine in my Suffering?” His analogy of God being in both the tidal wave and the tidal marsh were poignant and personally meaningful to me.

At first, this structure is somewhat confusing and disjointed. (Perhaps a better “How to Use This Book” section is needed?) However, because of the nature of the questions which Tucker addresses, having “space” in between the sections of the old man’s story is helpful for allowing the reader to engage and reflect. This is not a book to read at one sitting. In fact, if you rush through it, you will miss the beauty of the struggle in this journey we are all on – of life and death, of hope and discouragement, of suffering and release.

Tucker’s premise is that our life’s journeys are not about “solving” the problem of pain. It is not meant to provide simple strategies or pointers. There aren’t Bible verses to read and write down your reflections with Jesus as your Best Friend in suffering and God always bringing healing and relief. (In fairness, there were many places where I found it was easy enough to be drawn back into Scripture and journal. It just was more raw than pretty, honest than victorious.)

This book is also going to make the more conservative readers among us a tad uncomfortable, for the author invites us to dwell with the wider views of spirituality, and to engage in mindfulness practices around the journey we are all struggling through. However, you will be invited to explore fresh and new ways of walking through your own personal, painful, rough patches. And that, in itself, is enough. For God is enough.

As the author says, “The totality of all our questions will never be resolved completely. For remember, I am talking here about movement – not a neat, linear journey.”

Here’s to the messiness and the reality that God is there in the mix. Always.


The End of the Island by Jeffrey C. Tucker. © 2016 Eugene, OR. Resource Publications (Wipf and Stock): Paperback, 156 pages.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Hogtied. And it sucks.

I’m struggling with how to write (and what to write).  Recently the agency I worked for had another “advisory” against posting ANYTHING on social media that might contain PHI (Personal Health Information).

I don’t think I’ve ever crossed the line. But now I’m anxious.

If I describe a situation, or a person’s funny reaction to something I said, or reference a place where I visit patients… it could be a HIPAA violation. If I share a story that creates a pattern/suggestion of a person’s story, it’s not allowed. We were told: “If it could be read by the patient and/or the family member and recognized as being THEIR situation, it’s a violation.”

Well now…

So what do I write about? Some generically-edited, sanitized version of my work? What I ate for dinner? My spiritual journey is intimately tied to my Calling. My writing is meshed with my spirituality and faith.

I don’t want to write always looking over my shoulder. So, until I figure out how to dot all the HIPAA “i’s” AND be authentic, my blogging will be even less frequent.

Yep, I’m hogtied. It. Sucks.


Tuesday we took The Johnnie back to campus. It was a busy summer, full of travels and memories, family dinners and challenges. Now it’s time for studies to take over her calendar.  She’s ready. I’m delighted for her!!

But it’s the QUIET. So very quiet.

The last week or so there were errands and to-do lists. Evenings and the last few weekends flew by. Church events. Day trips. Driving lessons. Shopping. Gourmet meals in my kitchen (not by me!) All have vanished from my calendar. 

The silence is punctuated by two cats who are confused as to their best human sitter’s disappearance. We are attempting to be acceptable cat servants, but the bar is set pretty high. 

The seasons are on the razor’s edge between summer and fall. It’s a reminder of how short life is, and how precious life and loves really are. 

If you’ve got ’em, hug ’em! Hold them close! 

It’s a Wrap.

THE CUISINE! Clockwise from left: Nutella peanut butter banana shake; lunch quartet (applesauce, rhubarb and pudding); milk toast; scrambled eggs; mashed potatoes.

It’s a wrap. Not my first choice, but a necessity. My wisdom teeth are gone, and my mouth is beginning to forgive me. At least I can eat real food now! Carefully, mind you. And nothing too chewy.

I realized mid-week that there were some lessons in this for me. I work with critically ill and imminently dying patients every day. What could I learn as I coped with recuperation, physical discomfort, instructions and medications from my dentist, and patience with the healing process? Where did I gain some insight into my work as a chaplain?

Here’s what I learned about myself as a patient:

  • I really don’t like being sick. (I’ve had patients who seem to glory in being ill.)
  • I appreciate help, but not smothering. Two thumbs up to my family.😉
  • I have a limit on how much soft stuff I can eat. Texture, smell, CRUNCH are important aspects of my diet. I have a much greater empathy for patients on restricted diets!!
  • Prayers and reassurance make all the difference. I am so grateful for my family, friends, and church family.
  • I’m looking forward to fresh vegetables, salads and chewing!
  • I am fortunate to have health insurance and sick days.
  • I don’t want to take my health for granted. Ever.

Here’s to learning in every situation… and being grateful.

P.S. In case you wondered: The chaplain is a chicken. I had all kinds of dread and angst. I am SOOOOO glad it’s almost over!


Book Review: “Ruined” by Ruth Everhart

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape; sexual assault.


As a mother, I’ve had more than enough good advice to pour into my daughters’ ears.  (I’m sure, in fact, I’ve said TOO much!) Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to say, “here is my story… learn from it!” But Ruth Everhart’s memoir is one of courage, honesty and integrity.

The setting of her memoir could be near any of a number of college campuses. It was a Sunday evening, after church. A houseful of Christian college women were forcibly held and raped at gunpoint… and lived through the experience. Ruth and her friends survived a night of chaos, distress and violation.

It’s a club no one wants to join, this sisterhood. It’s a story no one wants to hear. To live through. To have to testify about to a room full of strangers. To somehow pull the shards of your life back together and try to finish college, go to graduate school, get married, have children…

To compound her recovery, Ruth had to navigate the restoration of her sense of safety and worth. She had to redefine what it meant to be a single woman in a purity culture of high moral expectations. And, somehow, she had to find a way to experience wholeness and forgiveness… despite the label she felt she would wear forever… RUINED. Or, as the judge called the victims at the sentencing of one of the perpetrators, “marred and scarred.”

Ruth’s greater story is the one of how she recovers her understanding and perceptions of God. For how could she hold to the tenets of a faith that allowed this horrible event to occur? Where was God when she was raped with a gun to her head?

As she wrote:

It had been more than a year and I still couldn’t live with the implication of what I’d always believed: that everything happens according to the will of God. The God I loved simply wasn’t that monstrous…”

In the process, Ruth found ways to overcome being a prisoner of her past. She fought her way past the most visceral of reactions to claim her healing. She shares the process of moving from victim to survivor to overcomer. It wasn’t a straight line, for like all of us in the healing process, there are zigs and zags in the road to wholeness. She discovered a way to take the hard parts of her life and allow God to not only release her from them, but to become a woman God would use, as she says, “not in spite of them, but because of them.”

I won’t spoil Ruth’s story for you… because I think as you read her experiences and reflect on her spiritual journey, you will ponder the way of your own. You might also consider the injustice done to women through the patriarchal systems of the “purity culture” of fundamentalist Christians. You will also have to reflect on that notion of God’s grace — how it reaches us and transforms us. And that in itself will be a blessing.


Ruined by Ruth Everhart. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (August 2, 2016).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the author and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Back to my roots


Old Man’s Cave trail, Hocking Hills, Ohio


 A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these, she said, is roots, the other, wings.

Quoted by Hodding Carter in “Where Main Street Meets the River”

We had our annual family reunion last week. It was full of pun-offs, adventures, and close living quarters. We feasted on fresh Carolina peaches, sweet corn and brick oven pizza.

A bodaciously awesome pizza, if I do say so myself!

I realized as I listened to the laughter and conversation swirling around the dinner table that our stories are entwined in so many ways. We share history as well as DNA. We share losses and joys. We fight to the death to keep the essential, clarifying, and off-debated Oxford comma. (See what I did there?)

We shared peaceful views at sunset. Hiking at childhood haunts. Competitive card games. And hugs. Lots of hugs.

Sunset at poolside.

The genealogists in the family (my mom being the most experienced) will share interesting bits of family trivia. Through years of research, Mom, (as well as my Dad and maternal grandmother) have uncovered when a specific ancestor emigrated to the US, what wars  they fought in, how they worshipped, and where they homesteaded. The ancestral “fan chart” is impressive with the names and dates going back to ten generations!

Ancestral Fan-Chart created by my grandmother, Lura Morrow Hickox

For my daughters, I wish for them this same sense of rootedness and belonging. A place to be accepted and encircled with love. A reminder that they are loved and prayed for daily. A retreat from the world when its suckiness seems to out-weigh the promises of the future. A secure take-off. A safe landing zone. And enough love in their buckets to spill out into the world around them.

Our progeny: The Johnnie and The Gardener

It’s something I wish for all…  Not a wall. Not belligerence and hate. Not ridicule and judgmental scorn.

It’s really quite simple:

Roots. Belonging. Acceptance. Love.

The true mark of someone who loves God is one that demonstrates their rootedness in the Divine. And the fruit that grows from it.

Jesus said:

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Matthew 7:16-20 (NLT)

Benediction and Mission

Words of wisdom and challenge…

How can I respond?

How can you?

2012-03-06 17.48.37

From Rev. Jeremy Rutledge, Circular Church, Charleston, SC, this morning’s benediction.

A black man lay
at the side
of the road

and we looked
the other way

passed by
like a priest
with somewhere
else to be

walked on
like a Levite
who had
an appointment
with indifference.

It didn’t
to us
we thought

but someone else
in Ferguson
or Baton Rouge.

A police officer lay
at the side
of the road

and we looked
the other way

passed by
like a priest
callous to
the sacrifice

walked on
like a Levite
with something
else on his mind.

That’s his job
we thought
he knew
the risk.

A gay woman lay
at the side
of the road

and we looked
the other way

passed by
like a priest
walked on
like a Levite

What can we do?
we asked
It couldn’t
have been predicted
we pretend

not in a country
with guns
and anger
deeply dehumanizing
and our worship
of individual
and prejudices.

A child lay
at the side
of the road
a schoolteacher
lay there
a moviegoer
a shopper
a veteran
a retiree
a brother
a sister
a friend
a colleague
lay at the side
of the road

and America
looked the other way
passed by
walked on

failing to imagine
it differently

failing to believe
in something better

failing to revere
the lives
we are given

and the life
of every last
one of us.

we pass them
on the way
to church

where we tell stories
and ask
the question
whose answer
we already know:

but who is
my neighbor

if not every
black man
and police officer
and child
we see?

And what is
my response
if not to stop
the other way.