Honestly: Getting Real About Jesus and Our Messy Lives


A Book Review



Daniel Fusco’s new book, Honestly, gets straight to the heart of the matter when he writes at the outset, “But life’s messiness isn’t just the negative headlines—it’s everything that keeps us unbalanced. Life is extraordinarily unpredictable. Things happen that we can’t fathom—some of which we choose, and some of which are chosen for us.”


With this premise as a backdrop, Honestly, looks at the book of Ephesians to the rhythm of John Coltrane’s legendary album, “A Love Supreme”.


Daniel Fusco’s musical background as a bass player and lover of all things Coltrane sets the content of the book in the four movements of Coltrane’s album: Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance, and Psalm.


If you are a musician, you’ll love the upbeat language and the structure of each section. Questions at the end of each section of the four parts are labeled “riffing” and each of the parts’ summaries is entitled “coda”.


Even if you have never been a musician or a lover of Coltrane, you will discover a no nonsense journey of walking through the messiness of life with Jesus minus easy religious platitudes as Fusco makes it clear that life will always be messy.


Acknowledgment looks at the need to face the reality of the mess both outside of us and within us. It looks at the straight hard truth that when the messiness of life collides with the God who reigns over the mess, we have questions. The author gives great scriptural examples such as what Mary and Martha experience when Jesus doesn’t show up when their brother, Lazarus, is sick.


“Life is messy, and sometimes it feels like Jesus is the one doing the messing.”


 Fusco doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that the Lord’s purposes and plans sometimes don’t run in the same direction as our desires. He also offers the remedy for such mess as grace and peace from Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:2. I especially loved how he broadened my understanding of the word peace.


Fusco shares that peace is a more complicated than thinking it is just the absence of conflict. He states, “The best way to understand biblical peace is with the Hebrew word shalom, which means both “peace” and “to join.” The implication is that when something is separated, or broken, it needs to be fixed.” So really shalom is putting things back together and isn’t that what we need when we are broken by the messiness of life?


Acknowledgment ends with some of these words by the author:


“So instead of using a magic wand to wave away all our external trouble, God’s after something deeper. It’s something we’re all deeply familiar with: a journey. Journeys have ups and downs, highs and lows. But we take them for a reason: to get somewhere we want to be.”


 Entering Part ll, Resolution, Fusco brings us the good news of the resurrection and the truth that Jesus makes dead people (those lost to sin) alive. He also reminds us that some of the messiness of life is pure evil and that is when Jesus, the warrior, brings all authority in heaven and earth to confront it.


Nevertheless, in this life, the mess will never go away. Life means walking through the mess with Jesus at our side.


 When we arrive at Part lll, Pursuance, Fusco brings us the reminder and hope that Jesus rules over the mess. Jesus also works in and through the mess outside of us as well as within us. As Fusco says,


“We can’t go around the mess because the mess is everywhere: relationships, jobs, hobbies, churches, governments, nature, school”


 Even as Ephesians talks about our walk with the Lord, Fusco uses his musician’s background when he says, “As we walk the bass line of our lives, we either create a context in which others around us can flourish, or we detract from their opportunity to do that.”


 Part IV, Psalm, the author takes us to the foundation of it all: love. Near the end he quotes John Coltrane:


“May we never forget that in the sunshine of our lives, through the storm and after the rain—it is all with God—in all ways and forever.”


This book can appeal to many, but would uniquely speak to musicians!


The author, Daniel Fusco, is lead pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver, Washington.


Tyndale through the BlogNetwork, in exchange for my review, provided this book, published by Navpress.  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.”

The Trees Are Waking Up


Our Dogwood


In “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”, Legolas speaks to Gimli about the trees of Fangorn Forest waking up. How much our family loves this trilogy of movies!


I don’t live in Fangorn Forest and I am fairly certain our trees do not speak to each other, but at long last spring has steadily and slowly arrived and the trees indeed are waking up.


I love the word picture of trees awakening. It can be easy to see the trees as dead after autumn in the Midwest and other parts of the country that enjoy all four seasons. They are not dead at all, but only asleep, in a state of dormancy, conserving their resources. The Lord created them to temporarily stop growth, development, and physical activity to conserve energy. One of the reasons their leaves drop in the fall is so fewer parts of the tree need nourishment.

Our Apple Tree


God has designed them so incredibly that they actually change their membranes on the surface areas so that water migrates from inside the cells to the spaces between the cells. This makes them more pliable. Then, as the trees convert starches to sugar in the fall, these sugars act in the same capacity as antifreeze, lowering the overall freezing point of the trees.


How marvelous are His works! What a Creator He is!


If He has so carefully designed the mechanisms of the trees to withstand the harsh winds and temperatures of winter, how could we ever be tempted to doubt His provision for us during the harsh seasons of our lives?


Everywhere we look, He reminds us that He has and is providing for us. We can look at the tree as provision for its beauty, its fruit, its shade, or its wood, but it often goes without notice of the provision for the tree in order for it to provide all of those things.

Our Service Berry Tree


There is a truth there. His provision comes layer upon later in intricate detail. That provision may seem scarce or non-existent even as the trees appear dead in winter, but the Lord has not forgotten.


The last few days I have been able to enjoy walks where the Lord has been drawing my eyes to the evidences of His creation being summoned to awaken. The steadily increasing warmth of the days and the lengthening hours of light are nudges to the trees to awaken even though an unseasonable few warm days early can fool the trees.


Light. How key it is to everything!


Trees and plants of all kind need light to be fruitful.


We, too, need light to bring us out of the darkness, to awaken us into life.


We need ongoing light for growth and fruitfulness.


We need the Light of the World!


I can only imagine what it will be like when the Light of the World returns and awakens this world!  Then we will truly behold Him and see the whole of what we cannot see now.


Grapes , Yellowstone
Grapes, Napa Valley



What Do We Do When There Is No Blueprint?




Just about the time I think a plan is coming together and the project goal and completion are set, something unexpected happens to throw a wrench in the mix. It seems like it always happens.


Invariably there is something I didn’t see that puts an obstacle in the plan. Oftentimes it will end up costing more than anticipated and the budget isn’t going to stretch.


It happens to all of us. It isn’t just at work. Actually, such issues at work can be easier sometimes because there is a team involved to help sort it all out and come up with a new plan. In our personal lives, we may not have a big support team.


New plans and projects may have targets and timelines, but they don’t always have blueprints to follow.


Our personal lives might have targets and goals, maybe even timelines for the big things. I remember that was true for us when we were working to put aside money for our children’s college educations. We knew about the amount of money needed, when we would need it, how much we were making, and how long it would take to reach the savings goal each semester or each year. Those helped us and gave us guidance.


What happens when there are no blueprints to follow?


 What do I mean?


Let’s say I am reasonably responsible and operate with a budget. I am pretty diligent to follow it and even have some of those “just in case” categories. I even have a savings plan in the mix. I know I can’t plan for everything, but I am trying to take some of those inevitable unexpected things into account.


I feel like things are on track until one day the company I am working for makes a decision to reduce staff or maybe move out of the area or country. (It happened today when a major company cut 12,000 employees, a whopping 11% of their workforce.)


It’s a rough day even if I had been hearing whispers that something like this might happen. I collect my things and try to sort out if there is a severance package or some level of unemployment benefits. I feel glad I have been working with a budget for a while, but I know there isn’t enough money in the bank to be out of work for a long time.




Let’s say I have a great job with benefits I really appreciate, but then one day on a routine visit to the doctor I find out there is a serious illness developing. Several treatment options are available to me, but I need to check with my insurance company to see which is the one I can get coverage for. Suddenly, I discover the medical issue is considered catastrophic and there is no coverage.


Now what?


Maybe I have been blessed with several great relationships, the kind that start casually and end up as something really solid, rich, and sustaining. These are my “go to” girls and then one day I discover one of them is having an affair with the other one’s husband. I sure didn’t see that coming. It also means those very relationships I had counted on dissolve in a split second.


I could go on, but you get the picture. Life is full of uncertainties and doesn’t stay on a predictable schedule. That would help, but what would really help is a flexible blueprint that would point the way when the unexpected DOES happen.


What do I do when there is no blueprint?


I hear some of you saying things like “you need to put your faith in the Lord” or “trust Jesus, He’ll work it out” or “this testing will reap a great harvest in your life”. (Okay, maybe you wouldn’t say that.)


Do I look to the Lord in the unexpected that has turned my world upside down?


YES!!   BUT…that still doesn’t give me a blueprint.


Do I believe He will be with me? Provide for me? Yes, but how and when? He doesn’t operate with that kind of blueprint.


I know that from what I see from Genesis through Revelation. He gives me principles to live by and stories about how He moves in behalf of His children. He gives me tenets of faith to build my life upon and promises to sustain me, but He doesn’t give blueprints.


I look at the life of Jesus and I see He showed His love and power through many healing miracles, but it was never done the same way. There was no formula.


I see He tells Peter he can walk on the water to meet Him when the disciples’ boat is caught in a storm, but He doesn’t tell him how to do it. There are lots of examples in His Word.


What’s the hard part?


Trusting Jesus when we can’t see the end result is the hard part of doing life when the unexpected happens, when life throws us a curve ball we don’t think we can come back from.


The truth is: We know Jesus is absolutely trustworthy and yet totally outside of our control.


 What sustains me then? Holding fast to the certainty of His love for me. Resting in the sure promise He will be with me. All those stories in the Bible show me that time and time again.


Life without blueprints builds trust.


It builds faith.


It builds character.


It is the life of a disciple.












The Whisperers


Blackberry Farm


God gives some a special gift.


This gift allows the one possessing it to tame or train an animal using non-threatening body language and gentle words rather than reliance on physical contact.


Those who possess this gift are known as “whisperers”. Within them lays an intuition and heart that understands at an unusual level.


In 1998, a movie was released that depicts this perfectly. The movie was The Horse Whisperer. In it, a young adolescent girl and her horse are seriously injured in an accident. Both the girl and the horse have been deeply traumatized by their own injuries as well as by the death of the girl’s friend who had been also riding alongside them.


The girl’s physical injuries are significant, but the internal damage to her heart and spirit are even more severe. Her beloved horse has such grave injuries; the veterinarian believes the horse needs to be “put down”. Not only is the horse physically wounded, but also he is like his rider, wounded within his heart and personality.


It becomes clear to the mother of the girl that her healing is tied to that of the horse. This leads her to search for a horse whisperer that can bring healing to both the horse and her daughter.



As the movie unfolds, the gifting of the horse whisperer is tested and fascinating to behold. Little by little he intuitively uses his gifts to begin to bring the horse to a greater level of wholeness, but the girl’s heart takes longer to heal. The trauma shared by the girl and the horse creates a fear that overwhelms each of them in their relationship with each other.


I never fail to be touched by the story as it unfolds on the screen.



When I was still working, I met with a woman whose life had been shattered by a car accident. One of the tools we used to help her face the accident was this movie, shown in very little segments. Not only had her body been traumatized, but also her heart and her spirit.


Many of us may have seen the movie or heard of other whisperers with various animals.


The truth is that many of us, humans, have been wounded and traumatized. What about us? Are we in need of such a whisperer as well to gently tend to our hearts and spirits?


I think so.


Jesus gives us a model of what that might look like. He saw the wound. He heard the words, but He heard beyond what He saw and heard. He looked deeply into the heart and spirit of the person and saw what others missed.


Did Jesus have discernment beyond any we have ever seen? Of course He did, but there was something else perhaps.


Jesus had a God-listening heart!


He was in communion with His Father at a level few of us can imagine. The Father who made each person and knew each one at a depth no one else could know surely spoke to His heart and revealed all to Him.


Because of that, His words were never trite, superficial, filled with religious prattle, or inconsequential.


 The ordinary men He called to be His disciples appeared pale by comparison, especially at the outset. But over time after Jesus’s death, resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we begin to see a change in them. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit begins to train them to see beyond what is clearly in front of them, to have faith for what they could not believe on their own.


Maybe they were developing God-listening hearts. I think the Lord was fine-tuning their listening so they could be more like Him. Perhaps that was central to what His Kingdom was and is to look like while we occupy waiting for Him.


In this world of self-centeredness, frenetic activity, and quick fix solutions, what could serve as a more phenomenal witness of Christ within us than to be one with a God-listening heart?


 I think a God-listening heart hears differently because it hears not only what is spoken by the person or seen in the person, but also what is left unsaid or only touched upon.


To respond to that which the God-listening heart reveals is perhaps the greatest love gift any of us can receive. And such love transforms and heals, comforts and grants courage in the face of trials.


 Do I have a God-listening heart?


Do you?


Jesus is not physically here, but He is inside of us. I think He is calling us to have such a heart as His. Such a heart hears the checkout clerk at the grocery store differently, hears the seemingly casual conversation with the neighbor more astutely, and hears the heart of a friend when few words were spoken.


Are you a whisperer?


Let Jesus develop a God-listening heart within you and watch how He loves through you!









We Are the Thirteenth Disciple


The Jordan River


The idea of being “the thirteenth disciple” that Suzanne Eller suggests in her final chapter of Come with Me has been stirring in my mind and heart since I finished reading her book.


Why had I never considered that reality before now?


As I consider the life of the original twelve disciples and where they walked with Him, how they fellowshipped with Him, what they witnessed, and what they suffered, I am always impacted. The photographs of those very places stir my vision further.


What I have been confronted with is that the story does not end after the gospels. We see disciples being added in the book of Acts even though their names are not as familiar perhaps as the original twelve except maybe Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, and Timothy.


It can be far too easy to hold the Bible in our hands and read it as we would a history book. It does indeed tell us a grand history rich with stories, poems, battles, adventures, and prophecies that paint pictures of places, creatures, and happenings beyond our imagination.


But it is more than that…


The Bible is a living, breathing document of God’s creation and interaction with His creation. It doesn’t end when we finish reading the last chapter even though the last chapter signifies the end of what is considered “the inspired Word of God”. It goes on reaching out to new disciples, transforming hearts, and lives.


New stories are being added to His glory and for His honor.


 They are our stories, our pieces of His story. They too are leaving a legacy, an imprint for those who come after us to follow.


If I, if we, are the thirteenth disciple and believe it, how will that influence the story? How will it influence how I spend my time, my gifts, and my resources?


I am not suggesting my story is on a par with those of the apostles, Paul, or the other early disciples we read about. You might feel yours is not that significant or special either, but those I speak of and we revere were really not men anyone would have written about or considered to be important until they had walked with Jesus and He transformed their lives.


He entrusted the whole of His ministry on this earth to a ragtag group of men without degrees, status, position, or power. He wanted them to “pass it on” through what they experienced “with” Him with the Holy Spirit He had promised would come to help them.


Isn’t He, aren’t they, entrusting each one of us in the same way? He’s entrusted it to us as well.


You may well say you are not teaching and preaching, but if you are reading a Bible story to your child or a group of children in a Sunday School class are you not spreading the gospel? If you are praying for the sick, are you not living out His example?


If you are daily seeking the Lord and desiring to be used by Him, is not your life demonstrating a witness that says you are different in some way from others who have not been transformed?


We may not even say a great deal and yet those whose lives interact with us are looking at a living, breathing disciple and our lives are being read daily by family, friends, neighbors, and others.


When I pause to consider such things, I am sobered.


What does my walk look like?


Am I listening as He did?


Am I noticing “the least of these” as He did?


Am I loving without distinction as He did?


In truth, if I am grading myself, I am not persuaded that I am being as much like Him as I would wish or as much as He wants me to be.


Looking at the disciples who came before me points to how I can improve.


Being a disciple means spending time with Jesus, walking and talking with Him, observing what He is up to, gleaning truth from what He has said and is saying. It means being strengthened in the community of other like-minded believers/disciples, but not spending all my time focusing on meeting with them. It means not just listening to others talk about Him, but knowing Him for myself, leaning against Him, becoming familiar with His voice.


Light shines brightest in dark places.


I think if I am to keep in mind that I am the thirteenth disciple, I start with listening for His words to me each day to hear where “come with me” takes me.


Each of our paths will be different.


Where is He taking yours?


The Sea of Galilee