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?

God is in Control…?

Imagine the following scene:

An author sits down at his desk to write a story. It’s a story he’s been thinking about and planning for a long time. In his imagination, he’s carefully chosen the main character and knows everything about her – where and when she lives, what she looks like, what she does for a living, what her family is like, what she enjoys doing, and what she hates. The author knows all of the periphery characters as well, and has in mind how all of these characters will interact throughout the story, and what effect they’ll have on each other.

The author knows the story itself too. How it starts, the climax of it, and how it will end. He knows these things because he’s been thinking about this for so long. All that’s left to do is to sit down and write it.

He pulls out some paper and a pen (he’s old school), and he starts to craft an amazing tale of joy, heartbreak, sin, and redemption (fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, mon…Oh, sorry, I got a little carried away there). It’s setting up to be an epic adventure. But then, all of a sudden, his main character starts to rebel. He writes a line, and finds her arguing with him about what he’s written. He writes another line, and watches as it gets erased right before his eyes.

“Look,” he says to his character, “I know what I’m doing. I know this story, just trust me.” The character apologizes, promises to cooperate, and hands back the pen. But as he continues to write, from time to time, his character again tries to take matters into her own hands, rewriting parts, erasing other parts, and adding things that make absolutely no sense in the broader arc of the story.

How do you imagine this story will finish? Probably in complete chaos!

That, in short, is Israel’s story. God blessed the nation of Israel with His very presence, He guided them, cared for them, and provide for them, but time and time again, they rebelled and did whatever they wanted. The book of Judges sums this up really well with its last verse:

In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. ~ Judges 21:25

I can’t speak for you, but I can say this: It’s my story too. I’ve spent my entire life trying to control whatever I could, including God and everyone around me. From time to time, I’ve come to the realization I’m doing that, either because someone points it out, or, much more frequently, because things start to dissolve into chaos.

Whenever this happens, I get angry and find someone else to blame, never owning up to the fact that the only common denominator in these patterns is me. Eventually, I get so tired or things just get so bad that I confess my sin to God, ask Him to forgive me, and ask Him to take back the control of my life. But in time, the cycle starts all over again.

The book of Judges is a series of stories about how Israel kept taking back control of the pen, trying to write their own story, only to find themselves living in a chaotic world where “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. When they realized what they’d done, they would cry out to God and God, in His great mercy and unfailing love would send a rescuer – a judge – to deliver them out of their enemies’ hands. The judge then led the nation in a battle of some sort against whoever the oppressor du jour happened to be, Israel won, and “there was peace in the land for ___ years” while said judge lived.

But shortly after God gave the Israelites victory, they started doing their own thing again, and the cycle continued (often with really gruesome consequences…the Bible is NOT Rated PG!!).

The people of Israel knew the pattern they were in. They had books written about it and orators telling the stories of the past to current generations. They knew, but they kept thinking that somehow, this time would be different. It wasn’t for them, and it isn’t for us.

Whenever we think we know better than God and we grab the pen out of His hand to try to write our own story, we’re just repeating history.

But God wants so much more for us than control. He longs to give us a life of abundance, of peace, of joy, of adventure. He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows the story He wants to write on your life. And He knows that if we’ll just keep our hand off the pen, it’s going to be so good!

So how do we stop grabbing the pen? It’s simple: We trust God.

[Hahahahahaha!!! I’m hilarious! Ok. Sorry. I’m fine now.]

While that’s true, it’s nowhere near simple. If it were, we wouldn’t keep finding ourselves with ink all over our hands.

We all know we’re supposed to trust God, but some of us, myself included, have a really hard time doing that. We have things in our past that God allowed that we can’t understand because we don’t yet know the end of the story.

The Bible tells us that God is good, kind, overflowing with love for us, and that He does everything He does for our good and for His glory. But if you’re anything like me, these are facts stored away in your mind that you pull out whenever a friend is going through a hard time. But they’re not true to you because they haven’t made the trip from your head to your heart.

This was exactly my problem, I (very) recently (re)discovered. So I’m going on a search… I want to KNOW God, not just know a whole bunch of facts about Him. I want to be in relationship with Him, to take my place as His beloved daughter. I want to know Him so well that I have no problem letting Him write my story. So because I’ve been stuck in that maddening cycle for so long, I need to do some things I’ve never done before. And maybe you do too…

So, let’s help each other out:

How have you successfully moved knowledge about God from your head to believing God is who He says He is in your heart?

Bad theology vs. God’s goodness


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You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes. ~Psalm 119:68

In the last week, I overheard two different conversations that went something like this:

“[Insert bad thing here] looked like it was going to happen, but I prayed and [insert bad thing here] didn’t happen. God is so good!”

Then there was this gem:

I don’t even know where to begin, but what these conversations, and this truly horrifying if real (and pretty hilarious if not) post have in common is this: Really, really, bad theology.

A quick Google search on “verses about God’s goodness” returns about 670,000 results, and the first return lists 61 verses that mention God’s goodness. A quick search of these verses reveals not a single verse that says God is only good when He saves us from a near miss, heals us the way we expect, or blesses us with a new car. No, God’s goodness doesn’t always manifest itself in these ways, but so often, the good times are the times we remember to praise Him for being good.

Last weekend, I flew to Pittsburgh and back to visit a friend. My flight out of San Antonio was delayed so badly by storms in New Orleans that I missed my connection and got to spend a fun-filled night in Chicago’s lovely Midway Airport. (In case you’re wondering, 9 hours of no sleep and hearing “Caution, the moving walkway is ending” over and over and over again is enough to make a girl lose her mind!)

On the way home, I flew through Nashville, and again, was waylaid by storms. But when we finally took off and got up to our cruising altitude, I got to witness the intense beauty of of a line of thunderstorms from high above. I watched for nearly an hour as lightning lit up the clouds, forking back and forth as tiny towns below felt the full brunt of a line of severe storms. (I took the video below – trust me, it doesn’t do it justice!)

As I watched, I imagined families huddled in basements and closets, parents comforting scared little ones as storms raged around homes for hundreds of miles. But from 30,000 feet and 60 miles away, it was incredibly beautiful!

Then, something else caught my eye. I looked up above the clouds and was met with an inky black sky dotted with millions of stars!

From my viewpoint, they were shining brightly, but the people under the storms couldn’t see the stars. All they could see was the lightning, the rain and hail, and the heavy winds. For them, the world was swimming in chaos. But just above the chaos was a calm, dark sky, full of millions of points of light.

Just a few days ago, a church van carrying 14 senior adults returning from a retreat was hit head-on by another car, and 13 of those church members died.

When I heard the news, it all came back to mind – the conversations I’d overheard, the storm I watched from high above, and that sky filled with stars. 10 miles up the road from me, a church family is hurting as badly as a family can and this week, they will bury 13 of their own. A church family.

Isn’t God supposed to be good? Doesn’t God’s goodness mean this kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen, especially to Christians?

But the God of the Bible isn’t conditionally good the way our limited minds want Him to be. In spite of the bad theology floating around out there, God is good

  • when the accident happens
  • when the baby is born with a birth defect
  • when the cancer wins
  • when house burns down

Even when we’re hurting, even when we suffer, God is still good.

Our circumstances don’t change God’s goodness, but God’s goodness can change how we react to our circumstances. Our reaction to the hard things in life can make or break our faith, and our reactions to the hard things in life will always reveal our theology – good or bad.

The danger of bad theology is that when the bad thing does happen, our faith can’t stand up against the doubt, the fear, the anger, and the grief that is sure to come. Bad theology puts our faith at risk, because bad theology makes us question God’s character.

Here is the truth we absolutely must cling to if we’re going to maintain a right view of God, fully trust Him in every situation, and develop a strong, firm faith:

Even when…God is still good.

Bad theology can break our faith. Good theology that believes in an unconditionally good God results in a faith strong enough to stand against whatever life throws at us. Even [insert bad thing here].

Where have you seen God’s goodness in the middle of the storm?