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Embracing a Concrete Desert


From Philip Yancey, author of What’s So Amazing About Grace?

“I have visited the Chandlers in their “concrete desert” and have first
hand appreciation for Lynne’s extraordinary journey.  She expresses it
with artful honesty.”

From Eugene Peterson, Translator of The Message and Professor Emeritus of

Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

“Lynne Chandler’s account and reflections of life and work in Cairo is a plunge into stories and pain, prayer and poems, that creates in us an intimacy that is something more like embracing holiness.”


Embracing a Concrete Desert is a book of reflections on inner themes of spirituality.  It is a step into the Middle East through a western woman’s eyes and heart.  Metaphors of desert wilderness, camel caravans and fresh water springs mingle with big city concrete, smog and poverty.  Biblical images come to life on Moses’ shores of the Nile and the sheltering of Jesus’ family as refugees.

Woven throughout its pages are poems, “formed in concrete,” musing and celebrating the Creator and creation.  It is a journey of depth, despair, survival and acceptance of living in the present moment, some days soaring and others plummeting, yet all a part of the gift of life.

When the author joined her family on a post 9/11 Cairo adventure to fill the call of Music Director at the Episcopal/Anglican international church her husband was to pastor, she was not expecting to spend her first several years grieving the loss of nature, fighting pollution induced asthma, and battling fierce sandstorms in her soul.  As she stumbles along one lurch forward and two steps backward she eventually learns to navigate within.  One day she discovers “people flowers” and her city garden has 22 million.

Enjoying smoggy sunsets, adopting a city, stumbling upon “burning bushes” and bonding with poverty-stricken garbage collectors all make an appearance.  The holy mundane of Cairo grocery shopping, bombings, and clandestine trash bin files: all gifts for her journey, emerge through tears, laughter and raw honesty.  This is an account of God’s grace and ever-faithful presence.  An old Middle Eastern pilgrimage in a modern day person celebrates the bridging of spirits across creeds and cultures.


"I wish I could say that I have arrived and will never have to stare into the darkness of my own pyramid sarcophagus chamber again, but I know that isn’t so. I do know, though, that I have to embrace the present moment and celebrate life, whatever that may involve today. My Creator is alive within and throughout this amazing world, and has never failed through thick and thin, to wrap me in wings of protection and comfort. There are many layers of negativity to be peeled back so that a glimpse of God’s image can show through. Just as one layer is lifting, another appears to take its place. That’s where grace comes in. In desperate times, God dishes it out lavishly, like my grandma’s generous servings of homemade strawberry shortcake…."

Embracing a Concrete Desert is available for purchase on

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