Embracing a Concrete Desert

A spiritual journey towards wholeness

Lynne E. Chandler

Currently out of print £5.99

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.
Philip Yancey, author of What's So Amazing about Grace?


'I wish I could say that I have arrived and will never have to stare into the darkness 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...'

An account of God's grace and ever-faithful presence in the ups and downs of life...

This is the story of an unfinished journey - a journey that finds a path through pain leading to healing and celebration. It is the story of one woman choosing to seek wholeness despite heartache, serenity in the midst of struggling to adapt to a very different life, and discovering how in the driest of desert places God can reveal fresh water springs for the soul. It is a story shared through lyrical reflections and poems sparked by the ups and downs of life in a teeming Middle Eastern metropolis.

Endorsements for this title come from Philip Yancey and Eugene Peterson

Listen to Lynne Chandler talking about Embracing a Concrete Desert


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.
Philip Yancey, author of What's So Amazing about Grace?

Lynne Chandler's account of and reflections on 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.
Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message

Author info

Lynne Chandler was born in Muslim West Africa and spent her childhood in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States. After 9/11 she moved with her family to Cairo, home to over 20 million people, to serve as the music director in the Anglican/Episcopal international church that her husband pastors.


From The Good Bookstall - May 2010

This is a raw, truthful, gritty little book than significantly out-punches its size! This is a very compelling journey into the ongoing story of a woman living in a foreign land. There are incredible flavours resident on each page.

The teeming pressures of a middle eastern lifestyle are vividly communicated amidst this lyrical journey of reflections and poetry. It fosters an intimacy that calls us to holiness; to more than we know in this moment. This is encouraging reading for all who travel widely in our world, and even more for those who travel deep within...

Reviewed by Johnny Douglas

From The Church Times - July 2010

This paperback is a series of reflections and poems about a struggle to come to terms with suddenly living in stifling and noisy Cairo rather than green America. Lynne E. Chandler's base is never named, although it is easily identifiable as the Anglican St John the Baptist Church, where her husband is the chaplain.

The author locates herself in Maadi, which means 'crossing', and is so named because the Holy Family crossed the Nile here. She suggests that Jesus must have been riding on his donkey near the ever present pyramids when she was battling with what she calls the "sandstorm" of life. She writes metaphorically, using camels and palms in her prose and poetry, as she seeks sense in her new life.

In many ways it is a description of being a clergy wife with the clergy hardly mentioned. Although her own role as director of music sometimes features, the focus is on living with Egyptians in the shifting rhythm of the Muslim year rather than with expatriate Americans and British keeping the Christian calendar.

The main church service is on Friday morning, to fit with the local way of life. Lynne must use the women's entrance when shopping at Carrefour. In a life of paradoxes, Mokkattam, or the 'village of garbage', is 'physically filthy but spiritually beautiful'. The BMW must give way to the donkey car.

'I am home or am I?' she reflects during the summer break in the cool United States. She finds firsthand friendship has gone beyond just religious tolerance.

Reviewed by Leigh Hatts

Naomi Starkey, BRF's commissioning editor, writes about the experiences of a reading group at St Mark's Church, Kennington, who read Embracing a Concrete Desert together:

St Mark's Kennington reading group liked Embracing a Concrete Desert by Lynne Chandler. We particularly appreciated:

  • The author's honesty and vulnerability about living in a challenging environment, and admitting how it's often the apparently small annoyances that prove the biggest challenges (such as coping with the dust!).
  • The book's conversational style. We felt we shared a journey with the author and wanted to know what happened next, especially any further reflections she had on being a mother and family life!
  • The message about avoiding getting caught in a spiral of negativity and that we can choose to view life positively and enjoy the present moment, even if circumstances have not changed.
  • We particularly liked how she used the image of surviving a sandstorm to talk about how it feel to endure hard times; we liked the idea of enjoying 'people flowers', when there are no other kind of flowers around; we also liked the concept of 'High Maintenance People' to whom we sometimes need to say 'no'.
  • The book vividly evoked the experience of following God's call, even when life feels very tough as a result - but also shows that God is faithful and will bring us to a place of peace and joy, if we trust him.

Book details

  • ISBN: 9781841016863
  • Published: 22 January 2010
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 112
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