Obedience in a near-empty parking lot


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I sat in my car in the near-empty parking lot. “God, are You sure this is where I’m supposed to be?” The answer came quickly. “Yes. There’s something I want you to see.”

I had heard Him say that earlier in the week, and later in the week, and just this morning as I continued to check with Him about where He wanted me to worship. It’s a conversation He and I have had every week since I lost my job and my church. I ask Him where I should go to worship, and He always answers. Sometimes it’s a new church. Sometimes it’s a church I’ve visited before. And sometimes, it’s my couch, just to sit quietly with Him and rest. But there has not been a single Sunday since I lost my job in November that I haven’t had a great morning worshipping my God.

Well, there was one. One church I visited I’d written off before I’d even gotten home that day. It’s a small church, I didn’t get a lot out of the message, and about nine other reasons it wasn’t the church for me.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I asked God this week where He wanted me to worship and the name of that church came to mind. Most weeks, God and I have this conversation on Saturday. This week, for some reason, the conversation started all the way back on Monday. For a week, I kept asking God if I had heard Him right. “That church? Are you sure?” “Yes. There’s something I want you to see.”

By Saturday night, I was actually pretty excited to go to church. God had something He wanted me to see, and I couldn’t wait to see it! So when I pulled in about two minutes before the service was supposed to start and mine was one of four cars in the lot, I was a little confused, and, a little disappointed.

What you need to understand is this: the thing I hate the most about being single – more than not having a date to weddings and New Year’s parties, more than not having someone to help around the house and open stuck jars, more than not having anyone to talk to at the end of the day – is visiting churches. Visiting churches isn’t really fun for most people, but for a single introvert? It’s about as close to hell as I can come. Just about every visit is either full of awkward conversations that end when the other person runs out of things to ask me after I answer “no” to “Are you married?” and “Do you have kids?”, or complete isolation as I sit alone without being acknowledged by another person in any way, shape, or form. It’s awful and I hate it.

Pulling into a near-empty parking lot is crisis-worthy for me. The smaller the church, the higher the probability it will be an uncomfortable visit. This is math. It cannot be disputed.

So there I sat in my car, waiting, wondering, debating. Did they change the service time? Are they not actually meeting this week? God, is this really where I’m supposed to be?

“Yes. There’s something I want you to see.”

I knew the only right decision was getting out of the car, walking into the church, and seeing what happened next. So after about ten minutes of debating, reaching for the door handle, stopping, debating some more, reaching for the door handle again, and watching a cat in a neighboring yard stalk an unsuspecting bird, I took a deep breath, grabbed my bag, and got out of the car. (Don’t worry, the cat, it turns out, is a terrible hunter. The bird got away and then sat in a tree and mocked it.)

My fear of awkwardness found a surprising comrade as soon as I walked in the door: The pastor. He greeted me with a warm smile and a bulletin, but I could tell he was uncomfortable. The worship team was already on stage, leading all of five people (including the pastor) in song.

For some reason, the minutes we spent singing and praying were some of the most precious moments with God I’ve had in a church in weeks. Our few voices sang out together about the joy of being in God’s presence, about His love and care for us, and about His holiness, filling the room in a way that made absolutely no sense. I found myself singing out louder than I had the previous week when I’d been in a church with about 1,000 other people.

God, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now, isn’t it? “Yes. There’s something I want you to see.”

My suspicions that this was not a normal Sunday were confirmed when the pastor took the stage to preach. He joked about the low numbers, about the rest of the regulars who were probably somewhere enjoying tacos in the sunshine (sorry, Northern friends!), and about how he hoped for rain next week so he could make fun of them for skipping out.

The message he preached to the nine of us (another family had arrived after me and doubled our number!) was full of answers to questions I hadn’t even realized I’d been asking. Questions about spiritual slavery. Questions about freedom. Questions about how God teaches us to listen and obey. Questions I had asked just minutes earlier as I sat in my car in a near-empty parking lot. Questions I’ll need to wrestle with as I work on the book I’m writing about Exodus.

God wanted me to see these questions, and their answers.

The service ended and the woman I’d been sitting next to immediately started asking me questions. We got into a conversation about my recent past, and about her husband who refuses to darken the door of the church. This stranger and I committed to pray for each other this week.

God wanted me to see her.

As we chatted, the pastor came over and sat next to us. He apologized to me for the small crowd, and said, “You walked in and I thought, ‘what a bad week for a visitor!’.”

God wanted me to see that it’s not the size of the church, it’s the heart of the worshipper.

As I sit and eat my pancakes with mixed berries, sausage, and a good cup of coffee (yay Sunday food!!), I feel a holy stillness deep in my soul. I barely want to breathe for fear it will go away. It’s there, welling up in my chest, bringing a smile to my face, and tears to my eyes. A holy stillness. The peace that can only be found in obedience.

God wanted me to see the blessing of obedience. Again.

I don’t want to think about what today would have been like if I had left that near-empty parking lot and gone to get tacos instead of going to church, but I also know, that’s not something I would have done. No, I’ve walked with God long enough to know that when I sense Him telling me to do something – especially something I’m scared or confused about – the only thing I want to do is obey. Obedience leads to freedom. Obedience leads to adventure. Obedience leads to holy stillness. Obedience lets me see things God wants me to see.

And today obedience has taught me to trust God more quickly the next time I’m sitting in a near-empty parking lot.

What did God want me to see? I think it was simply this: In the midst of my season of waiting, trusting, wondering, and more waiting, God wanted me to see Him.




Of Manna and wet rocks


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In the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, there were fine flakes on the desert surface, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they asked one another, “What is it?” because they didn’t know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.” ~ Exodus 16:13b-15a

The Lord answered Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the staff you struck the Nile with in your hand and go. I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. ~ Exodus 17:5-6

Sometimes the answer to our prayers is a bit convoluted, but God is always, always faithful! The Israelites learned this lesson first-hand just weeks after God rescued them from the cruel hand of Pharaoh.

Exhausted. Shell-shocked. Confused. But safe. This was the nation of Israel after God split the Red Sea for them, but threw it over Pharaoh’s army, burying them in a watery grave. One minute God’s chosen people were running for their lives. The next, they were safe, standing on dry land, staring into the water that had just wiped out their pursuers.

Moses leads them away from the sea, and as the reality of their situation starts to dawn on them, they quickly find themselves wondering where their next meal would come from. Suddenly, Egypt looked like Paradise. It had all this great food, it had actual houses, and wells, and shops, and… It’s a bit of a strange story on first reading, but the parallels between the Israelites’ hearts and our own quickly become painfully obvious. Yes, we too forget God’s faithfulness as we move from crisis to crisis. It’s the legacy of humanity.

The Israelites turn their wrath and fear on the closest thing they see: Moses. They blame him for the fact that they don’t have food and water. So, Moses asks God for a little bit of help. And God provides, because He’s God and that’s how He chooses to operate. Do you have a need? God will meet it.

But here’s where things get a little weird. God didn’t provide food in a normal way. Not at all. Plants didn’t suddenly spring up out of the desert ground. A stream didn’t suddenly come into view as the people wandered around complaining and crying out in fear.

No, rather than giving them what they knew, God answers them by giving them something they had never seen before: Manna. And the people were confused. The word Manna means something like, “What is it?” What was it, indeed? Psalm 78:25 tells us it was “the bread of angels”. Human beings ate food that had its origins in the heavens. Unexpected. Unprecedented. Hasn’t happened since.

And the water they so desperately needed? It came out of a rock. Have you ever gotten water to come out of a rock? It doesn’t happen. But God…

When we ask God for what we need, there are two things of which we can be 100% sure:

  1. He hears us.
  2. He will always provide what we need.

But there’s something really important we need to see in this story: The Israelites asked for meat, for garlic, for leeks, for the food they ate in Egypt. They asked for what they wanted. God gave them what they needed. This is critical information for us to understand if we’re going to learn to recognize God’s provision and His answers to our prayers.

God will answer our prayers. But more often than not, the answer will look nothing like what we imagined. Why? Because God is all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, and He is beyond all we can imagine. God is not us. We are not God. That should go without saying, but sometimes, we just need the reminder.

God will always answer our cries for help. Always. But if we’re too busy looking at His hands, we will miss or misunderstand His answer. If we look, instead, at His face, we’ll see His love, compassion, care, and yes, His creativity. And only then will we see the answer He provides the way He does: It will be the absolute best for us in our situation. It will be the perfect answer to our imperfect prayers.

The bread of angels. A water-spewing rock. Sometimes the answer to our prayers is a bit convoluted, but God is always, always faithful!

What are you asking God to do for you today? How can you adjust your gaze from His hands to His face as you wait for His answer? 

Learning to tie our shoes


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When children are small and it’s time to leave the house, parents ask them to put on their shoes. For most parents I know, this request is made approximately 30 minutes and 63 times before any actual leaving occurs, and usually ends with someone in tears. Once shoes and feet have finally met, parents either plop their offspring in their lap, or kneel down in front of them to tie their tiny shoes.

When those children enter preschool, their constant shoe-related refrain is, “Mama, will you help me?” and thousands of times a year, Mama helps.

Now imagine for a moment, that this same child is now 16 years old and still saying, “Mama, will you help me tie my shoes?” Unless there are significant extenuating circumstances, one would agree, there’s a problem here. If an able-bodied 16 year old is still asking for help tying shoes, something has gone badly amiss.

At some point in a child’s life, Mom or Dad sits the child down and teaches him or her how to tie shoes. Sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes it takes a few weeks, but eventually, children learn how to tie their own shoes, and while it may still take 30 minutes and 63 asks to get them to do it before leaving the house, there comes a day when a parent no longer needs to take a knee before leaving the house.

I have no idea what made me think of this, but as I mulled this all over, I realized something: At some point in my spiritual growing up, I need to learn how to tie my own shoes.

I see this in prayer journals where, for most of my life, my prayers have been “Father, help me ____”. Help me be better with my money. Help me be more humble. Help me control my tongue. And while God is happy to answer those prayers, I have to wonder if there comes a time when He, like our earthly parents decides it’s time to stop helping, and time to start teaching.

In asking God to help me be more patient, what I’m really saying is “give me more patience”. In asking God to help me be diligent in my work, what I’m really saying is, “give me the will to do well”. In asking God to help, what I’m really doing is putting the responsibility for my behavior on God, and that’s not where it’s meant to be.

Throughout Scripture we see instructions to “practice” godliness, holiness, patience, and love, among other things. In other words, these are not attributes we can just expect God to miraculously give us without us having to put in any effort. Rather, they are calls to a higher way of living that we are expected to actively pursue as we grow in our faith. Yes, we do all things through the strength we find in Christ (Philippians 4:13), but again, it’s not His responsibility to make us kinder – it’s our responsibility to practice kindness because He has been kind to us and we want to live like He did.

So back to my prayers for help… As I thought about all of this, I realized that it’s time for me to make a subtle, but important shift in my prayers. Rather than asking God to help me obey, I will ask Him to teach me to obey. “Help me to humble myself” is a good prayer, especially for a newer Christian. But “teach me to humble myself” is an indication we’re ready to grow up and to start taking responsibility for our actions and attitudes.

Asking God to teach us rather than help us means we’re ready to learn how to obey Him at a higher level – not in our own power, but in a way that indicates we’re becoming spiritual adults. Asking God to teach us rather than help us means we’re ready to make a greater commitment to studying His Word, to praying deeper, more fervent prayers, and we’re ready for Him to allow our faith to be stretched in new, scary, exciting ways.

And just like a parent teaching a child to tie her shoes, God takes us in His lap so that we share His perspective, and He gently guides us through the process of learning. He patiently explains things a few times, and He lets us try it on our own, all while He sits with us, encouraging us, and cheering us on.

God longs to see us grow into mature spiritual adults (see Ephesians 4) and like any good parent, He loves to hear us ask Him to teach us new things. And when we do, He is faithful, kind, and gentle. Brothers and sisters, is it time for you to learn how to tie your shoes?

Is there something you’ve been asking God to help you with for a while? How might your character or situation change if you asked Him to teach you instead?

The B-I-B-L-E: Why is that the book for me?


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I have sought You with my whole heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands!

Psalm 119:10

A quick survey of the “Bible studies” offered in many churches, especially for women, reveals a scary trend: Most studies are topical, rather than studies of the Bible itself. This may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but consider this: How can someone who doesn’t know what the Bible says (or how to correctly interpret what it says) know that what they are learning in a topical study is true?

There is definitely a place for topical studies, but it’s not the correct place to begin. All believers need to know how to study the Bible for themselves. Every believer needs to develop some basic skills before she or he is ready for topical studies, or even to read the books that line the shelves of Christian bookstores:

  • How to choose a faithful translation of the Bible
  • How to identify the genre of a specific passage or book so that they read it the way it was intended to be read
  • How to understand the context of a verse within its paragraph, chapter, book, and the entirety of Scripture, as well as the cultural and historical context of the author and the original audience
  • How to use the tools available to us including a Bible dictionary, commentaries, and how to look up the meanings of words in the languages in which they were originally written
  • How to compare Scripture to Scripture to better understand difficult or confusing passages, and passages that are commonly misinterpreted

While there are many reasons to learn how to study the Bible, these are three of the most important:

The Bible is the only way we know God. How would we know to pray if we didn’t have the Bible teaching us through the prayers of our forerunners? How would we know to worship if not for songs of praise, lament, adoration, and surrender spread throughout the sacred pages? How would we know of God’s unfailing love for us if not for the stories of those who experienced it long ago? How would we know sin and salvation, grace and the Gospel, the Law and Love personified if not for the gift of God’s Word? The Bible is our first taste of the Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, Provider, and Healer to whom we pray and who our souls long to know.

The Bible is the standard by which everything is to be judged. In His prayer for us the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17, ESV). The Bible stands in direct opposition to a world that teaches that there is no absolute truth. There is, and it is God’s Word. While Scripture doesn’t directly address every possible situation in which we may find ourselves, there are principles within its pages that we can and should apply. When we know how to study the Bible and apply what we learn, our jobs, relationships, and finances will benefit in ways no topical Bible study could ever bring about.

We are responsible for what we do, not what we hear. While our pastors and Bible teachers are responsible to handle the Word and teach it correctly (see 2 Timothy 2:15), we are responsible for our actions in response to what we hear (see James 1:22-25). This means that we’re responsible for making sure what we’ve heard is biblically accurate and true, which we can only do if we know how to check. Acts 17:11 tells us that the believers in Berea listened to what Paul and Silas taught, and then, they searched the Scriptures for themselves to make sure what they had been told was actually true. Luke praises them as “being more noble than those in Thessalonica” because of their diligence.

Biblical literacy and regular study (not just reading – intentional study) are critical, especially for anyone God has called and gifted to teach, preach, and lead in His Church. We have been set apart by God in truth to teach and care for His people. God’s Word is truth.

How has studying the Bible changed your life?

Pastors, how have you equipped and encouraged the people in your church to study the Bible?

Don’t know where to start? I highly recommend Howard Hendricks’ “Living By the Book“.

Rejoice always (But grieve first)


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I don’t know what to say right now. I’m raw and bleeding, afraid and angry, hopeful and encouraged, trusting and believing. It’s a really messy combination.

This morning, I got to sit with a friend who is feeling exactly the same things because of circumstances God has allowed to touch her life. It was a beautiful conversation in which we gave each other permission to not be ok, to be honest about what’s going on and how we feel about it.

Sometimes, that’s what a hurting friend needs: permission to feel crappy, to say out loud that something is unfair, or painful, or just flat out stinks. There’s a strong temptation in the Church to put on “I’m rejoicing always” masks. We are told to rejoice in every situation (1 Thessalonians 5:16), and there are good reasons for this. But there are moments in life when what we really need to do is sit and grieve and talk honestly about the pain.

There’s a danger in immediately moving into “rejoicing” territory when we’re broken. Open honesty about how we’re feeling is an important component of healthy grieving, but I think it does something else for us. Being open and honest about our grief gets it out and makes room in our hearts and minds for rejoicing. Think about it this way: How can our rejoicing be genuine if our grief isn’t? How can we learn to trust in the midst of the storm if we’re busy acting like it’s a warm, sunny day?

We’re not called to live in a state of denial. In fact, to live in a state of denial about our circumstances is to lie, and as we all know, lying is against the Ten Commandments! So how do we obey the command to “rejoice always” when the rug has just been pulled out from under us and our nose is bleeding from hitting the floor so hard?

I don’t generally make it a habit to teach on just one verse, but there is a verse in Psalm 55 that has stopped me in my tracks every time I’ve run across it, because it’s such a complete picture of healthy grieving in just a few words:

Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and He hears my voice. ~ Psalm 55:17 (ESV)

This one verse is a perfect summation and example of healthy grieving:

  • It’s honest: “God, I have a complaint”
  • It’s raw: “God, my soul is moaning in pain”
  • It’s not time-limited: “Evening and morning and at noon, God, I’m going to keep bringing this to Your attention”
  • It’s hopeful: “God, I know You hear me”

If we do look at the immediate context of this one verse, we see that it is bookended with words of great faith: “The Lord will save me” (v. 16), and “He redeems my soul” (v. 18). In David’s suffering, he knew the truth, but – and here’s the key for us – he stopped and allowed himself to feel all of the negative feelings that came with his situation. David was trying to process deep betrayal as he ran for his life from King Saul. And he didn’t hold back in talking about how he was feeling about his circumstances.

Many of us have been taught and conditioned that our “bad” feelings (sadness, anger, despair, etc.) should be ignored or pushed aside, not trusted, or that they’re somehow sinful. But that’s not biblical. Our emotions are part of who God created us to be (and remember, we were made in His image). Our feelings in and of themselves are not sinful. And they are not to be ignored or discounted. They are part of who we are and they serve an important purpose as we navigate life. Yes, they need to be brought into obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), but again, in and of themselves, they’re not “bad”.

Even Jesus expressed His “bad” feelings at times. We see Him angry in the Temple (Matthew 21:12), grieving at His friend’s grave (John 11:33-35), and in complete despair in the garden (Luke 22:41-44). In none of these stories do we see Jesus trying to cover up negative emotions, or even downplay or gloss over them. No, in these situations, Jesus’ emotions were on full display, and He made no excuses for them. And, in none of these stories do we see Jesus immediately jump to “rejoicing always”. No, He sat with His pain, and He brought it to God with the same kind of raw honesty we see throughout the Psalms.

David and Jesus didn’t disguise their “bad” feelings. And they didn’t brush past them so they could get to the rejoicing part. Did they rejoice eventually? Of course, and we need to as well. But first, we need to face our reality and deal honestly with how we feel about it.

So now that we’ve established how important it is to grieve honestly and to allow space for our friends to do the same, how do we move into the obedience of rejoicing?

As my friend and I listened to each other’s stories, we gave each other permission to grieve honestly, but we did something else equally important: We spoke a lot of biblical truth to each other. We didn’t hit each other over the head with verses, or discount how we were feeling in any way. We just gently reminded each other of the Truth so that in our processing and grieving, we can keep our eyes and hearts on our Healer, Redeemer, and Provider.

Before issuing the command to rejoice always, Paul says that we don’t grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Our hope is, always has been, and always will be Jesus, and our job as brothers and sisters in Christ is to gently and with genuine love point each other right at Him. With our eyes focused on Him, then, and only then, can we really rejoice. And once we’re able to do that, we can work to stop the bleeding, put ice on the bruises, and start on the path toward healing.

What has helped you move from grief to rejoicing so that you could heal more fully?




Let’s Talk About #Depression


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This entry is Part 3 of a series on mental health and #metoo. Last week I told a little bit of my story, and invited you to tell yours. Then, because of the response to that post, I wrote about Anxiety and how we as followers of Christ can live in triumph over it (or at least fight it off better than we sometimes do). If you haven’t at least read the post on Anxiety, go back and read it, as the principles in that post apply to this one as well.

Peanut butter & jelly. Kittens & puppies. Salt & pepper. Socks & shoes. Bread & wine.

So many of the things we enjoy in life or use every day come in pairs. Sure, you can have one without the other, and at times, that’s appropriate, but more often than not, there’s a good reason two things are rarely thought of without the other.

Unfortunately for many people – myself included – there is another pair in our lives, but this pair we would be better off without…

I think I’ve been struggling with depression since I was between 5 and 7 years old. The first time I remember thinking I’d be better off dead, I was still in elementary school. The first time I made a half-hearted attempt to end my life, I was a freshman in high school. In my case, the anxiety came later, but for you, it may have been the other way around. Regardless, depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand so often, that pharmaceutical companies have developed single drugs that fight both illnesses, in spite of the fact that they occur and manifest themselves in nearly opposite ways.

Depression brings with it a heavy darkness like no other, suffocating us with the weight of sadness, hopelessness, and, after a while, helplessness. Where anxiety is passively active, depression is actively passive. Anxiety sits below the surface, that constant gnawing in the stomach and irrational fear of the what if, urging us ever on toward action, even when we don’t know what action to take.

Depression, on the other hand, just sits there, pushing in against our lungs, keeping us in bed, on the couch, staring but not seeing, preventing us from enjoying anything at all. And like anxiety, depression has its own script. Rather than plaguing us with “what ifs” and “you should bes”, depression’s script is filled with “why bothers” and “who careses”.

But depression is not of God. You already know that. While it may lead you at times to blame God for any number of things you think are causing you to be depressed, deep down, you already know where depression comes from: Hell.

Remember, Jesus said that Satan came to “steal, kill, and destroy” (see John 10:10). That sounds like a pretty good description of depression to me! So if depression isn’t from God, and is from our enemy, what are some ways we can combat it and live into the abundant life Jesus came to give us? In addition to what we talked about when we addressed anxiety, give these a try:


Change Your Focus: So often, we fall into those paralyzing states of depression because we’ve allowed our minds to focus on wrong things for too long, leaving them unchecked and free to destroy any glimmer of hope we may have mustered recently. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul gives some advice that is endlessly helpful for us whose brains tend to work against us and wear us down: Think positive thoughts.

Ok, I know that sounds awfully trite and a lot like what you’ve heard over and over again. But God, through Paul, is calling us to a higher level of thought: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy – dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, CSV)

Think about some of the most common thoughts you have either daily, or especially when you’re in the midst of a depressed episode. Are your common thoughts filled with the truth as revealed in God’s Word? Are those thoughts pure or lovely or praiseworthy? I’d be willing to bet they’re not because those aren’t the kinds of thoughts that come naturally, and they’re certainly not the kinds of thoughts your enemy wants you to think!

This takes practice. This takes intentionality. But if you lean on the Holy Spirit living in you, take your thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ (see 2 Corinthians 10:5), and choose to actively and regularly focus your thoughts on those things that are from God, you really will begin to notice a change in your thought patterns which can pull your heart and mind out of the pit more quickly each time!


Stick to a Schedule: With the exception of the rare (and these need to be rare!!) Mental Health Day, one of the most helpful ways to combat depression is to create a daily routine and stick to it!

  • Get up around the same time every morning. (That means wake up well before noon, just in case you were wondering.)
  • Take a shower. Brush your teeth. If your children will allow it, put on makeup from time to time.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Spend time with Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you, guide you, and challenge you as you spend time in God’s Word and in prayer. Pray for others, express gratitude and praise. Even in your prayers, focus your mind on what is true, what is honorable, etc. Here’s something really important I’ve learned: A good sign your depression has turned into an idol is if it monopolizes most of your prayers. So change the focus of your prayers to worship, thanks, and intercession for others. God knows what you need, and when the time is right, He will provide and heal.
  • Go to work or school, take the kids to the park, or find somewhere to volunteer. In other words, get out of the house for a bit!
  • Exercise, even if it’s just going for a walk or doing some Pilates.
  • Eat a healthy lunch.
  • Make intentional contact with another (adult) human being. If you’re at work or school, ask someone you see how they are, and then listen. Don’t let them off with “fine” – really ask, and don’t interrupt with your own thoughts and stories. If you’re at home, call a friend, especially if you really, really, don’t want to. Engage the cashier at Target in conversation, and if you’re brave enough, ask how you can pray for them. (And then do it!)
  • Limit your Social Media time. Social media is one of the quickest ways to move from having a good day to being depressed. Everyone’s life will look better than yours in the pictures and posts you see and those thoughts will consume you. (Remember thinking about what’s true? Here’s a great place to practice that one…) Get off your phone or your computer and go read a book or blow bubbles with your kids or something. Or, get your work done. Something, anything, other than looking at the polished exteriors of other people’s inwardly messy lives.
  • Eat a healthy dinner. (Are you detecting a pattern here? Good, because the food we eat can absolutely affect our mood!)
  • Take some time at the end of the day to review: What good things happened? In what ways did you succeed? What are 5 things you can be thankful for? Write these things down. A day will come when you’ll need the review. (Another option is to regularly practice the spiritual discipline of Examen.
  • Do something you enjoy. Have a scoop of ice cream. (Note: An entire carton is not “a scoop”. You know that.) Watch a movie with a friend or loved one. Take a hot bath or shower. Snuggle up in a blanket with a good book.
  • Go to bed on time. It will make following your schedule that much easier tomorrow.


Depression can feel unbeatable sometimes.

It’s not.

It can feel like it’s suffocating you.

It’s not.

It can tempt you to end your life because nothing is worth the pain you’re feeling.

It’s wrong.

Remember, at the cross of Jesus Christ, depression lost its grip on you. When Jesus burst out of that grave, sin, death, and every other evil thing shattered, and we are no longer bound by these things. We are free to live lives of abundant joy, of hope, of excitement because those are the lives God created us to live. We are no longer slaves to sin, sickness, and death. We live in the victory Jesus has won for us! 


What has helped you overcome or at least fight off your depression and suicidal thoughts?

Let’s Talk About #Anxiety


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Yesterday, I told a little bit of my #MeToo story, and from the reactions to that post, and from an experience I had this morning, I think we need to talk about a couple of the most common consequences of sexual abuse: Anxiety and Depression

I felt it coming on. It started with a tingling in my legs. Then the sweating started, and that unmistakeable feeling in my stomach. I was heading into a panic attack.

Although I haven’t had a panic attack in about a year, I still recognized it when it started. But unlike every other time, I saw right through it and was able to stop it in its tracks. Previous attacks have prompted me to try to figure out what was causing them. This is a great place to start sometimes. But this one was different, and I recognized immediately that this one was nothing more than a direct attempt by my enemy to throw me into chaos and take my eyes off of God.

God has been doing some unbelievable things in and through me this week as He is working out some final details of our new plan. So it makes perfect sense that my enemy want to try to thwart that. So I told on him, did some controlled breathing, and in no time, he was forced to retreat.

It doesn’t always work like this, I know. In fact, this is the exception to the rule. I know the pain and helplessness that comes from suffering from panic attacks, and I know that often, there’s no easy or quick solution. I’ve been there. I understand.

So what do we do when Anxiety is our proverbial thorn? Here are 3 ways I’ve learned to overcome anxiety:

Take Your Medicine: if you’ve been battling with any kind of mental illness for a while, believe it or not, your brain has probably changed, and not for the better, as I’m sure you can imagine. Long-term anxiety (as well as other illnesses like depression and bi-polar) changes the way your brain cells function, and the way chemicals in your brain such as dopamine and serotonin are generated and passed back and forth. Medication helps remedy this problem, and in some cases, can even reverse it.

If you grew up in a more conservative or fundamental denomination like I did, you may have been taught that any kind of mental illness is the result of sin and a lack of faith, and that taking medication is the manifestation of those two evils. Listen to me very carefully: THIS IS A LIE straight from the pit of hell, devised only to keep you in bondage and to destroy you. I cannot stress this enough.

If you need medication to reverse the long-term affects of mental illness (your doctor can help you determine this), take it! God works just as powerfully through medicine as He does through prayer. He invented the technology to fix what’s broken in us. It’s just as ok to take medicine for mental illness as it is to undergo chemo treatments for cancer.

Also, go to a counselor!!! There’s no shame in getting help and everyone around you will be happy you did! Trust me, I know.


Tell Dad: This is exactly what I did this morning. I felt the panic attack coming on and I knew that it was nothing more than my enemy trying to derail me from everything God is doing in and through me right now. So I told on him to my Father, and He put a quick end to this one. Sometimes, the best thing to do when anxiety creeps up (or just flat-out attacks you) – especially if you know that you’re in the center of God’s will and He’s doing great things in you and through you – is to just tell God about it, and ask Him to pour out His peace and grace on you in that moment.


Ask Why: Sometimes, a panic attack requires some work on our part before it can be overcome. There are times when we need to talk to God about the attack itself and work out with Him what else is causing it. David (see Psalm 42) and Paul (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) both took this approach, taking the time to examine the whys behind anxiety. Are there thoughts you need to stop thinking? Are there fears and doubts you need to confess and repent of? Have you been skimping on your time in God’s Word and sitting with Him in prayer? Do you need to intentionally put on your armor every day (see Ephesians 6:10-18)? Ask that all important “why”, and then act on whatever God reveals to you as the source of your anxiety, and what you might be able to do about it.


God did not create anxiety. It is a consequence of sin – ours and other people’s against us. But in everything, there is grace. Remember, Jesus conquered sin and death forever when He victoriously came back to life. But we’re living in an already/not yet world, so the effects of sin still touch our lives everyday. We don’t live defeated, though. In Jesus, we are victorious and we have everything we need to overcome. Just like cancer, God may not choose to completely heal you here on earth, but He will provide the tools, the strength, the grace, and the peace you need to live the abundant life Jesus died to give you. Why are you anxious, oh, my soul? Put your hope in God! 


What has helped you get through panic attacks and times of increased stress and anxiety? 

Why I’m Grateful for My #MeToo


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UPDATE: After the overwhelming response to this post, I made it part of a 3-part series designed to address our stories, and the two most common consequences many of us face: Anxiety and Depression.

It was a shocking moment. Probably the most shocking of my life. But there was no denying it. It made absolutely no sense, and yet, it made perfect sense all at the same time.

I was scrolling through Twitter and ran across this conversation between two women I’ve never met in person but have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for. Truth be told, after what I saw her do at the Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum last week, I do, indeed, want to be Beth Moore when I grow up! (More on that in a later post, I promise). Anyway, this:

They were, of course, talking about the topic that has gripped our collective attention: sexual abuse, and the case of this conversation, specifically, sexual abuse in Christ’s Church.

It was Jen’s tweet that caught my attention and held it for a long moment. And then, I realized something earth-shatteringly significant…

I was 5 or 6 the first time someone made a sexual comment about me. It was at church. I was wearing my favorite blue dress, and all I knew was that whatever that man said was bad, and that somehow I had done something wrong. From that day on, I was overly aware of my body and how it compared to every other girl’s body.

As I got older, I developed faster than most of my friends, and I was not ok with that! People continued to make comments in front of me about my body, and I began to hate it more and more.

When I was 12, the unthinkable happened, and the journey that experience sent me on was nothing short of a nightmare that lasted 20+ years. (Not to mention all the other times since then I was touched, leered at, and otherwise was the object of unwanted sexual attention…)

Physical sickness, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and attempts, a long-lasting addiction to pornography, a string of unhealthy relationships, and, I firmly believe, singleness, were the consequences of what that man did to me that Sunday afternoon at his house.

The other day, my mom asked if I thought I was finally healed. I told her, “I think I’m as healed as I can be at this point, but there’s probably more that will come up some day”. If you’ve been on a healing journey before, you likely know what I mean.

I read that exchange again and found myself smiling, giddy even, because in that moment, I realized that what man had meant for harm, God meant for good:

How does that even begin to make sense outside of the Gospel? How is it possible that God allowed that moment that nearly destroyed me all those years ago to give me yet more confirmation that He is calling me to a new season both professionally, and personally with Him? Seriously, what on earth?!?

But it does make sense. It makes sense in the shadow of that cross on which Jesus conquered sin and death forever. It makes sense in front of that empty tomb where Jesus declared eternal victory over evil and pain.

I am here to tell you something very, very important: God is still writing your story. He’s still holding the pen, so cling to Him with everything you’ve got. If you let Him, He will take you on a wild ride. Yes, it will be terrifying at times, and it will hurt so badly at other times, but He is good. He is faithful. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving and everything He allows into your life is ultimately going to make you into who He has created you to be, to do what He has planned for you to do. Trust Him.

Trust Him today. Trust Him tomorrow. Trust Him when your world is falling apart. Trust Him when everything is perfect. Trust Him. Always. He will NEVER, EVER let you down.

Trust me. I know!

Are you in the middle of a healing journey? I would love to pray for you, mourn with you, and encourage you. Email me.

An Open Letter to LifeWay Women

Dear Kelly & Team,

About 24 hours and one year ago, I sat in the second row on the right side of Longhollow Baptist Church’s sanctuary with tears streaming down my face. I was tired, I was broken, I was confused, I was discouraged. I knew God had called me to full time ministry, and I knew He had called me to a church in San Antonio. But nothing looked right, and nothing felt right, and I wanted to quit.

As I sat there, listening to Travis lead us in worship, I wondered why I was crying. I’m not generally a crier, but I am a chronic over-thinker, so when I find myself sobbing, I have to stop and figure out why. Yes, I was all of those things I said above, but there was something else going on.

That morning, for the first time in almost a year, I was finally able to stand, throw my hands up in surrender and really worship. I didn’t care what was going on around me (something I have to be on a normal Sunday morning or the building might burn down or the ushers might not go forward at the right time to receive the offering…). Instead, I felt for the first time in a long time that it was just God and me in that room.

The rest of the week is a little bit of a blur, but I knew that day that I needed to come back to the Women’s Forum again this year. The Forum was the perfect mix of leadership/professional development and time to reset, rest, worship, and get my head on straight.

As I get ready to board a plane (or two, as the case may be) from San Antonio to Nashville, I am a completely different person than I was a year and 24 hours ago. I’m healthy – mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I love my job, my teams, my coworker, and my church. But more than that, I am so in love with Jesus.

Last year was the start of God doing some major work in me, and it all came to a head this past Spring when I ran into Psalm 103 and read about God’s steadfast love for me, that I am completely and forever forgiven, and that I am known. That word, “steadfast” stuck with me, so when I saw the theme for this year’s Forum, God and I had a good laughed together – Of course that’s the theme!

So, all of that is to say this: Thank you to you and your team for all of the hard work that you’ve put into making the Forum happen. There simply aren’t enough words to tell you how much this conference means to me and how excited I am to be coming back, but as I type this last paragraph, those tears are threatening again, but this time, they’re tears of joy and peace.

Our God is steadfast, and thanks to Him (and yes, you and your team), so am I! See you tomorrow!


On coffee and prayer


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Last night, amidst hungry mosquitos, noisy cicadas, and several very loud trains rumbling past just feet away, I got to spend 3 hours over coffee with a new friend. Our friendship, as of right now, is about 6 hours old – all spent over coffee, talking and laughing over the cacophony of passing trains at our favorite coffee shop. Sometimes, God gives us the gift of instant friendship and for me, this is one of those times.

The hours she and I have spent have been filled with the things that make my soul sing: funny stories, sarcastic jokes, and deep theological discussions. Last night’s conversation reached its pinnacle, not in our laughter, but as we sat in awed silence for a few minutes, contemplating a beautiful, mind-blowing truth.

Hebrews 7 is, quite simply, a stunning passage – incredibly rich, deep, and surprising, like a really good cup of coffee. I could spend paragraphs taking it apart, examining it, taking us back to the Old Testament to explore a short, but profound story. But there is one verse that has always stood out to me, and it was this very verse that ushered my new friend and I into a few moments of holy, silent awe:

Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. ~ Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)

That’s right. At this very moment, Jesus Himself is praying for you, and me, and my new friend, and Houston, Beaumont, Rockport, Sierra Leone… Jesus is praying for us!

That’s such an amazing thought, but let’s take it a little further.

How often do we pray for other people? Our friends, our family, our coworkers, and strangers in faraway towns? Most of us pray for others pretty regularly. It’s what those of us who believe in the power of prayer do. We trust that God cares about the intimate details of our lives and the lives of those we love, and so we bring Him our fears, our worries, our pains, and our desires, and we do that for the people we care about. It’s a beautiful system, if you think about it.

But here’s where Hebrews 7:25 blows that all out of the water. When we pray, we are bound by certain limitations – time, understanding, less than full knowledge of a given situation, our own sinful nature and desires, and even by language. BUT, Jesus isn’t bound by any of this. More than that, Jesus transcends all time, all understanding, all knowledge. He has no sin in Him. And He speaks the very language of God because He is God.

Photo by J. Khuansuwan

This means that when He is praying for us, we know that Jesus is praying the most perfect prayer possible. He knows that situation you’re concerned about – beginning, middle, and end – so He knows exactly how to pray and intercede on your behalf in a way no human ever could, no matter how much they love you.

And, the prayers that Jesus prays for us will always be answered in the affirmative. Paul puts it this way: “All the promises of God find their yes in Him” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV).

As if that wasn’t enough, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26, ESV). When we can’t find the words to pray, the Spirit digs in deeper than our words ever could.

I have clung to these promises in the last few weeks, when national and world events have left me without words in my heartbreak. When I have been too weary to pray for my neighbor, the Spirit has brought my intentions to the throne of God. When I’ve not known what to ask God for in my own life concerning my own future, Jesus has asked on my behalf.

What I’m learning (besides that I will never fully grasp how much God really loves me this side of Heaven) is that prayer is not the burden I sometimes feel it is. Rather, like so much else in my walk with Jesus, prayer isn’t about me at all. It has always been, and always will be about Jesus – He paved the way for us to God, He taught us how to pray, and He does the praying for us that we can’t do for ourselves. All we need to do sometimes is just sit quietly, bathing in the knowledge that the God who asks us to bring Him our burdens is already carrying them for us.

So what does this mean for us? When I got home last night, the following quote was all over my Twitter feed, and I think it perfectly captures what I’m trying to say here:

If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. ~ Robert Murray M’Cheyne

The fact that Jesus is praying for you right now means that you have absolutely nothing at all ever to worry about. He knows what you need. He knows what you want. He knows what is the absolute best thing for you. You can rest in that, knowing that when you pray, not only does God hear you, but with His whole being – Father, Son, and Spirit – He is there praying right along with you! How great is this God we serve!

How does understanding that Jesus is constantly praying for you change your outlook on life today?