Month: May 2014

Hear That Huge Sucking Sound?

Is that the sound of the life being sucked out of you? Whether it’s a relationship, job, organization or church, if it’s sucking the life out of you, it’s time to take inventory.

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We’ve all experienced situations that leave us lacking in enthusiasm and energy. No matter how much of ourselves we pour into it, we leave feeling deflated and less than. Sometimes we believe the notion that if we keep trying, keep giving, keep sacrificing to this thing, whatever it is, eventually it will turn around and become something else.

If you find yourself in a situation like the one I am describing, either you are going at this thing the wrong way, or it’s time to move on from it.

If I am describing a relationship you are in, that can be a bit complicated. If it’s your marriage, well, that ups the ante even more. Sometimes you cannot, and should not, walk away from a relationship. (Especially a covenant relationship like marriage.)

If your marriage is sucking the life out of you, your approach is off. Nothing is going to change there, if you don’t change your approach. Stop doing what you’ve always done. Look at ways to invest differently in the relationship to move it into a more life giving experience. Stop trying to change them. No one ever changed another person. You can only change yourself. Only the Holy Spirit can change a heart… and sister, you’re not Him.

If the relationship is not a covenant relationship, sometimes you just have to let it go. If you’ve tried pumping life into another person, only to have them suck every ounce of life you have, maybe it’s time to realize you are not the help they need.

This is hard. People matter the most. Time and again you think you’ve made headway with that person, only to find you have not. It’s hard to move on from those relationships, but the truth is, perhaps someone else can come along and do what you cannot. Sometimes you have to step aside to facilitate that.


Maybe it’s your job that’s sucking the life out of you. Once upon a time you woke up every morning, bounded out of bed, and looked forward to the day ahead. (This has never happened to me, by the way, I am not a morning person. I would like to think I will bound joyfully out of bed on the day of Jesus’ return, but I’m not sure. Maybe if he comes after about 9:30.)

Once upon a time your job gave you purpose, and joy. But now you drag out of bed as though there are weights tied to your toes. You begin dreading the workday ahead the evening before. Your boss is a tyrant, or your coworkers are not team players. You work long, hard hours, for little reward. You give, give, give, sacrificing family and your very life, and at the end of the day you are spent with nothing left to give to your family. And yet you stay.

Maybe it’s your church. Did you know that the one place on earth that should be life giving is so often the one place that often sucks the most of it out of you? Do more, give more, be more… more, more, more. So many churches exist for their own existence. If your pastor, or your lay leaders have to beg you for money for this, that, or the other thing, it’s not a life giving church. People give to what gives them life. If church leaders have to beg people to serve, serve, serve because if you don’t do it, it just won’t get done, then it’s not a life giving church. When people are allowed to serve within their God given purpose, then it’s not drudgery. They’ll do it and they’ll do it longer, better, and without prompting because it feeds their very souls. Maybe it’s time to approach church differently, or find a different church.

Most people hate change. It’s true that most of us will stay in an impossible situation because we hate change that much. The thought of something new and different is worse than the thought of staying in a familiar bad situation. We are nuts. We really are.

Jesus came to offer us eternal life, but he also came to offer us a life of abundance in the here and now. (John 10:10)


Sometimes our path takes us through some rough patches to teach us some important lessons, but sometimes we skip down those paths because we are unwilling to choose the path He marked out for us, or we go down them and set up shop rather than making our way through to the other side. Meanwhile, God is standing over on a different path waving a flag, jumping up and down saying, “Here is the way, walk in it!”, (Isaiah 30:21) and we just… won’t.

We are full of excuses. I have to do this first. I need to wait until this person does this thing. I can’t go now, I have made this commitment. But what God hears, is, “I know what’s best for me. I can’t do what you want me to do right now.”

We know what’s best. We are willing to put off for another day the life-giving journey he has marked out for us. He says, “Come now” (Check out Luke Chapter 14) but we hesitate. We tell him we just can’t. But the truth is, we can. Sometimes we have to step out in faith, not knowing what the future holds, but here’s the key. He knows… and he’s the line leader. Trade in your tired, unfulfilling life-sucking life, and enjoy the abundant life he has for you.

And do it today.

Are You Stuck?

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. ~Ps 40:1-3

Have you ever been stuck? I was stuck once. I had driven my car to Panama City Beach and had decided while cruising up and down the strip, that I would pull over and turn around. What I failed to realize was that the place I had chosen to do that was not solid ground. It was deep with shells. Very quickly, I was stuck. I could not move forward, nor back. The more I tried, the deeper I was wedged in.

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Being stuck is bad. The feelings you have when you are stuck are not great either. Immediately, upon realization of our stuckness, we thrash around, trying and yet failing to get ourselves out. We need a rescue.

Here’s a truth about stuck. Most of the time, we are stuck because we went somewhere we should not have gone, or did something we should not have done. We allowed a situation to come into our lives that we should have avoided, or we avoided a situation that we should have headed straight for.

The people of God, the Hebrews, were stuck. For four hundred years. They were slaves to the Egyptians. They had been stuck for so long, they had forgotten what it was like to be unstuck. But they were stuck in the first place, because they had chosen to go their own way, instead of the way God had tried to lead them. They stepped right into the middle of a mess of muck.

The rich young ruler, spoken of in Luke Chapter 18, was stuck, too. All of his life he had followed the commandments given to Moses. But Jesus knew he was still stuck. He knew the young man was holding on too tightly to the things of this world. When given the option for freedom, the young man turned away. He had grown too used to being stuck, he couldn’t accept the offer of freedom Jesus was giving him. He doubted that what Jesus was offering him was truly better than the security he felt in his own self imposed security prison.

Sometimes we are stuck because we choose to veer from the path God has marked out for us. Sometime we are stuck because we choose to be stuck. Sometimes we have been stuck for so long, we have forgotten what freedom feels like.


It’s hard to imagine that anyone would choose to remain stuck when freedom is within reach. When Moses approached his people and offered them the freedom God was planning for them, they hesitated. They had been slaves for so long, none of them fully understood what freedom could bring them. When Jesus offered the rich, young ruler freedom, he couldn’t take it. The Bible says he went away sad. Still stuck.

Jesus wants us to be free. We, as followers of Christ, have been set free from the law of sin and death, but how many times have you seen a believer still stuck? They are still behaving as though they are bound. They accept their eternal freedom, but Jesus came to offer us freedom in the here and now as well. He offers us life, abundant life! But we look around at the chains we allow to remain attached to us, and say, “No thanks. I appreciate the eternity thing, but I’m just going to sit here, stuck in this muck, until then. Thanks, though. I’m fine. Really.”

I can’t imagine the disappointment Jesus must have felt to have been standing right in front of that young ruler, offering him freedom, only to have him say, “No. Can’t do it. I can’t trust you that much, Jesus. I’m not sure you are that trustworthy.”

But we can justify for that young man that he had no way of knowing for sure who Jesus really was. Jesus hadn’t died yet. Jesus hadn’t conquered sin and death yet, so how could he have known that Jesus really could make good on his promises? That all the things he said were really true? The rich, young ruler couldn’t have known, could he?

So what is our excuse? Why can’t we trust him? We have the benefit of knowing that Jesus made good on his promise. We know Jesus died for us and conquered sin. And yet we still have trust issues. There is something seriously wrong with us.

Getting unstuck is possible. The first thing we do is cry out. The Bible says that when we cry out, God hears our pleas. And at the right moment, he lifts us out of the pit where we are stuck, and sets us high and on solid ground. The key is our desire to be lifted. Can you imagine people who would rather be stuck than set high? He doesn’t just drag us to the edge of the muck, he sets us high. He gives us a firm place to stand.

Decide that today is the day you cry out. Then get ready to move. I know how it feels to be stuck. I know how entrenched I can get. I know that I can begin to think there are no alternatives and that I just need to make my current situation, my current prison, as palatable as possible. But no amount of decorating will change the fact that I am stuck. A pretty prison, is still a prison. Let it go. Walk in the freedom Jesus can bring. Let him set you up high, and then drink in the freedom. It tastes so good!




Shedding Christian Labels (Or, It’s all Just Foo Foo Anyway)

I’m not much on labels. I’m really not much on labels in the church. Most of the labels in the church are man imposed anyway. Believe me, I’m married to a man in full time church work. I’ve heard them all. I’d list them all out here for you, but you’d lose interest and stop reading because the list is so long and boring. The sad thing is that most “serious” Christians can’t seem to get away from the labels.

I’m not much on serious Christians, either.

I grew up with a label. I was a “Methodist”. Immediately, when I told someone I was “Methodist”, an opinion was forming in their minds. “She’s a liberal. She must be rich. She was sprinkled, not immersed. She was baptized as a baby, so that doesn’t count.” (Who immerses babies?) I didn’t mind the label early on. I was a good Methodist, and so I was proud of the label. But then I grew up, and I realized that being a Christian meant more than being Methodist. Much more. I wanted to shed the label.

I did. I married a “Baptist”. So I didn’t shed a label exactly. I traded it for another one. Now people had a whole different impression of me. Same girl. Different label. “She’s a Bible thumping Republican fundamentalist. She’s a spiritual snob. She doesn’t think my sprinkle baptism counts.” More discomfort for me. And it just so happened that my husband was a “Baptist Minister”. So I got yet another label. “Baptist Minister’s Wife”. More opinions. “She should be Cory Ten Boom and Martha Stewart rolled into one.” Good grief.

After several years of wearing both of those labels, we traded again. This time we put on the “Presbyterian” label. Immediately, new impressions were formed of me based solely on my newest label. “She must be a lush, they all drink, you know. Do you know she doesn’t even witness because of that whole predestination thing? They baptize babies by immersion.”

I was growing weary of all the labels. By this time we had a few kids. They had label questions. Sometimes the kids would come home and want to know what brand of Christian we were. It was hard enough for me to keep up, let alone explain it to my small kids. So I just told them we didn’t wear labels anymore. We were just plain old Christians.

As if that wasn’t a label, too.

The problem with calling oneself “Christian” is that it’s hard to nail down just what that means. It could mean any number of things that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ. In fact, the very word began as a derogatory term. Early Christians didn’t call themselves Christians. They were called that by others who looked down upon them, or worse, persecuted them. Christian means, “Little Christ”.

It’s hard to escape labels. We yearn for them. Remember back in high school? You had the jocks, the nerds, the preps, the heads, and all that. We all want folks to wear a label. It’s just neater that way.

But we follow someone who doesn’t fit into a category. Jesus is one of a kind. No other religious head was born of a virgin or lived a sinless life. No other religious head sacrificed his own life, and then came back to life to save us. He’s the only one.

Jesus wasn’t much on labels either. He decidedly abolished many of the religious labels of his day. There was one label with which he was pretty smitten. He liked the label, Disciple. Where Christian is a little harder to define, Disciple is much easier to grasp. There is no ambiguity there. We don’t divide ourselves down denominational or lofty theological lines there. There is nothing divisive about being a disciple of Christ. It simply means to live as he lived. Do what Jesus did. Follow in his ways. Another way of saying disciple is “follower”. Just follow Jesus. Pretend he’s the line leader and go where he goes. Do what he does.

Sure, there are times for healthy theological debate, iron sharpens iron, and all that, but I think the reason Jesus didn’t just go ahead and divide us up into those groups while he was here, was because he knew what a huge wad of muck that would become.

Jesus simply said, “Follow me.” To his disciples.

He didn’t say, “All of you who think it’s best to be baptized with as little water as possible stand over here, while those who prefer a good dunking can stand over here. Now as often as you gather together, argue about that.”

No. He said, “Remember me.”

What would happen if we laid aside our petty differences? What if we shed our Christian labels? Is it more important to be right, or is it more important that we teach people how to follow Jesus? Do we want to be right, or do we want to introduce people to our line leader? When someone is drowning, they don’t need a sermon on the five points of Calvinism, or the tenets of the Methodist Book of Discipline, or the Baptist Faith and Message. They need a lifesaver.

They need to just follow Jesus.

Currently, I wear no labels, except Disciple or Follower. I have shaken off all the others. You won’t hear me preferring one denomination to another. I won’t tell you what I think about the return of Jesus and whether I am Pre-trib, Mid-trib, or Post-trib. I’ll only say that I know he’s coming back soon, and I want everyone possible to be ready for that day, because it was important to Jesus that everyone be told.

I’m happy to attend a church without labels. Oh, unless you label it “Life giving”. That’s the best label any church can have, regardless of denomination.

The only way I want to be judged is by how well I am following Him. In the end, I won’t be asked what denominational label I wore. I’ll be asked what I did with Jesus. Did I turn him into religion, or did I enter into a relationship with him? The rest is all foo foo anyway.

Slaying Giants

I have a confession to make. Most of the time I write these blogs for myself. It’s how I work through things in my heart and mind. It’s sometimes where God meets me and helps me sort things out.

But sometimes I write these for other people.

Today this blog is for some very dear friends of mine who are going through quite a tough time. They are facing a giant. Maybe you are facing a giant, too. If you are, then this one’s for you, too. It’s a bit lengthy, but it’s good stuff, I promise. And a thank you to Pastor Rick Warren for some insights into the scriptures on this one.

The way I see it, there are really just two kinds of giants. The very real tangible giant that stands before us, beating its chest and knocking us down, and then there are the giants we contrive in our minds. Sadly, those giants are just as formidable as the others.

At some point in our lives, we have to face giants. If you are like me, you’d just rather not. I’ll cross the street, take a detour, or hop a plane to avoid facing my giants. Most of the time, all those efforts are in vain. Eventually, we all have to come face to face with our giants.

Everyone’s giant is unique. Maybe yours is an impossible boss, nay saying parent, or other intimidating person in your life. Maybe it’s a challenging circumstance with terrifying potential results. Maybe it’s an addiction or controlling habit. Maybe your giant is known only to you because it lives in your imagination. Maybe you recognize his name. He often goes by the name, Fear.

No matter what name your giant goes by, giants can paralyze us. And when they succeed in accomplishing that, they only grow in stature.

There is a well-known example in scripture about facing giants. Even if you are not a Bible scholar, you have likely heard of David and Goliath. In case you have not heard this account, let me run it down quickly for you. (1Samuel 17)

Back about three thousand years, Israel was facing the Philistine army. The Philistines had decided they wanted to conquer the land held by the Israelites, and so both sides were geared up for battle. But the terrain was such that whoever came out to battle first, would be unprotected and easily defeated, so each army was hold up, staring across a valley at each other. So it was decided that they would settle the matter by single combat. Each army would send a great warrior to battle, and whichever soldier won, their army could claim victory and the losers would serve the winners, end of battle.

It just so happened the Philistines had a ringer. His name was Goliath. Standing anywhere from seven to nine feet tall, he was an impressive specimen. And he was an arrogant, loud, self-assured, bully of a man. Sound like anyone you know? He was so intimidating that no one from God’s army was willing to come out and face him. God has made a deal with Israel a long time before, saying that if Israel would be his people, he would be their God. Israel’s army was God’s army. And yet they shook in fear of the giant standing before them. Sure, God was mighty and powerful, but did you get a gander at Goliath?

So David happens upon the scene to bring his older soldier brothers some food. Their father wanted a report on how his boys were doing in battle. Well, his boys were doing what everyone else was doing. Hiding, and crying like little girls from this big giant who taunted them both morning and night.

David had a hard time understanding the situation. Now this is where we misstep in the story of David and Goliath. We assume that David is the underdog in the situation and that Goliath is the odds on favorite. You see, David was not allowed to go to battle. He was young and small, and his father needed him to tend the sheep back home.

Yet when David finds out what the deal is, and sees the members of God’s army cowering in fear of the giant parading before them, he becomes indignant. He becomes indignant because David is the only one who remembers who God is, and of what God is capable. So when no one else volunteers to face the giant, David does.

He approaches King Saul, and offers himself for battle. When Saul begins to point out David’s obvious shortcomings, David does not point out his own abilities. He reminds Saul of God’s abilities. David had become proficient with a sling, protecting his father’s sheep from bears and lions. Bears. And. Lions. But David recognized that he was only able to defeat those giants with God’s help.

No one expected him to win, but seeing as there is no other alternative, David was allowed to face Goliath on behalf of Israel. Saul offered David his own armor to wear, but it was too large and cumbersome. David didn’t need Saul’s protection anyway. He needed God’s. David refused the armor, and chose to go with what he knew. He took his shepherd’s staff and his sling, gathered five smooth stones, and approached the giant.

This is the same sling that took out a bear and a lion. This was not a child’s toy. This was a weapon. Slings were commonly used in battle, and the soldiers that wielded them were the sharpshooters of their day. David was a sharpshooter.

When God leads you into battle, he will give you the tools you need to face your giant.

When God leads you into battle, remember how well he has served you in the past.

When God leads you into battle, focus on the end result. 

The end result is victory.

David knew going in to face Goliath, that he would be victorious. Not because he was all that, but because God is all that. David was confident in his abilities, but he was sure of God’s.

If you are facing a giant, whether it is an unsure situation, a formidable person, a controlling addiction, or a fear you have contrived in your mind, remember David.

David picked up five stones. But God only needed one.

God had plans for David from way back. David had been chosen as King over Israel. It is from David’s lineage that Jesus came.

God has plans for you from way back. The Bible says that before you were even born, he had things for you to accomplish. His plans, not yours. Some of us need to check our plans. Sometimes to accomplish even God’s plans, you have to face a giant. But if you are following after God, trusting in his power and his plan, there is no way you won’t defeat your giant.

Sometimes we have to lay aside what we want in order to be victorious. Sometimes what we want for our lives is not the path God has marked out for us. If we are pushing for our own way, we will not defeat our giants. Only the giants God wants defeated will be defeated. God wanted Israel to be victorious. There was no way David wasn’t going to win. David wasn’t the underdog.

And neither are you.


It’s a Mother Thing

I come from a long line of mothers. My mom is a mother. Her mom was a mother and her mom before her. I didn’t know my great grandmother on that side of the family, but I have it on good authority that she was, in fact, a mother. So there is a strong history of mothering in my family. Yours, too? Well, how about that!


Our influence on this earth is limited. I can only go back a couple of generations on either side of my family, and have any real first hand knowledge of those women who led lives that led to me. I didn’t know them, and they didn’t know me. Yet they passed down a legacy anyway that impacts my life today. The choices those women made, the lives they lived, affect me.

It’s hard to think about the fact that the same will be true of the generations that come after me. If I live to be a hundred years old, I would still probably not really know any of my great grandchildren. If I last on this earth until they are born, I’ll likely be a bit nuts by then, which will probably have an adverse effect on any real impact I will have. I say that to say this, we have to make the most of our presence on the earth, while we can, to the people we can, before our brains begin to pickle. And as mothers, our children need to be at the top of that list of people.

Part of the reason I write down these random thoughts I have, is so that after I’m gone, my kids will have a tangible legacy from me. They can go back and read what mom thought about faith, marriage, friendship, football and the like. If they struggle in an area, they can go back and see that mom might have struggled too, and what she did about it. Mostly I hope they go back and read about how much I loved God, their dad, and them.

They won’t find that their mom was perfect or that she had it all together. They already know the truth about that. But I hope they will one day discover that I truly lived what I said I believed, and that it was a life worth living. I hope they will read my words and share those with their kids, and maybe their grandkids, one day.

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The way we mother leaves definite fingerprints on the lives of our children. You know it’s true. Your mother’s fingerprints are all over you, for better or for worse. Don’t you know Freud blamed all that’s wrong with all of us on our mothers? I’m not sure I really believe all that he said, but he was right about one thing, mothers do leave an impression on the lives of their kids.

Mothers are completely different animals from dads. That’s just how it’s supposed to be. I’m not saying it’s better, I’m saying it’s different. Moms tend to look to the heart of their kids. We know what makes them tick. It’s probably because they spent the first nine months inside us. For a while we were connected, literally, and so that connection continues after that physical link is broken.

It’s just a mother thing. Its something we cannot ever take for granted. You have been charged with mothering the children in your care. Remember to make it a priority, no matter how old they are. Your personal influence is fleeting, but your legacy will impact generations. When people see the fingerprints you leave behind, what will they see?



Happy Mother’s Day, friends! 























































































































































































Happy Mothers Day, friends!

Bring Back Our Daughters

I read an article this morning… and another, and then another. I wanted to get the full story on the issue, at least what there is out there right now. I wanted to be informed. So here’s the deal.

On April 14, 2014 more than 200 teenaged girls were abducted from a girl’s school in Chibok, Nigeria. I’m going to guess you don’t know where that is. Neither do I.


They were taken by a group of Islamists called, Boko Haram. I’m guessing you, like me, have never heard of this group of men. Loosely translated, Boko Haram means “Western education is a sin.” Not a very catchy name, but at least you know what they are against. They are against education of women, apparently. They are also against human decency, respect, and freedom. These men are the lowest of the low. The distaste I have in my mouth for these animals is sour.

These young women, innocents, were taken to be sold as child brides for the slime that makes up Boko Haram. I suppose if you are human slime, as these guys are, it’s hard to get a date with a willing person. I mean, how do you introduce yourself?

“Hello, I’m a member of a horrific band of militants who despises the fact that you are trying to educate yourself, and lift up your community and make a better life for yourself and your family. I don’t even know where my family is. In all likelihood, I was taken from my mother at the young age of ten and forced to become the animal that stands before you now. Want to get dinner sometime?”

I suppose if you are Boko Haram slime, stealing, or buying a stolen woman is about your only hope.

I find it disturbing that this happened almost two weeks ago, and yet I am only hearing of it today. Roughly the same number of people were lost on the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that was discovered missing on March 8, and we are still hearing daily reports and spending countless dollars in the search. Just two days after the Nigerian girls were taken, a South Korean ferry sank with 242 people aboard. The stories continue to flood in about that tragedy.

Yet there is hardly a word about the more than 200 young women taken in the early morning hours from their school.


Awakened as they slept by scary men with guns who herded them onto trucks and sped away in the night, these girls have not been heard from again. Can you imagine their fright? Reports say that they were taken to nearby countries and sold for about twelve bucks apiece. There are rumors of mass weddings. Stolen innocence.

I struggle with this story. I am a mother. My daughter is sixteen. In my mind’s eye I wrestle to imagine what I would do if it were my own daughter; if my Laura were to be taken in that manner and for that purpose. There are reports of fathers, uncles, and brothers pooling their very limited resources to buy gasoline to fuel whatever they can find to ride into the Sambisa forest and find their daughters. These men are unarmed. How can they hope to succeed in their quest? So far, they have been unable to find anyone. It’s just as well. If they did find those militants, they would surely be killed. Mothers are forming protests to try to force the government to do something, anything, to bring their daughters back.


I want to do something. But how can I? I don’t even know where Chibok is. I can’t very well go over there and find those girls myself. But I want someone, somewhere, to do SOMETHING.

As I sat in church this morning, I realized I could do something. I could do a couple of somethings. First, I could tell you. All of you. And you can tell your friends. Share this blog, talk about what’s happened to the people you know. I didn’t used to think that was much count. Talking. What did talking ever do to help anything of this magnitude? But in this day and time, in this age of social media, it can make a difference.

The second something we can do is pray. I’m not talking about wimpy prayers either. God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or think, so the Bible tells us in Ephesians 3:20. So we need to be praying some BIG prayers for these young women, and we need to trust in our BIG God for some really BIG results.

I’m praying for their safe return, of course. But in the meantime, I am praying that every hand that touches any of those precious girls belongs to a man who feels ill with his every desire to abuse her in any way.

Physically ill.

Incapacitatingly ill.

Violently ill.

Get the picture? I pray that every time he begins to speak to her, that his words of hate and abuse are tangled and his speech is lost to him. I pray that these horrible men, whose minds belong to the enemy himself, begin to see the truth. I pray that the lies of the enemy that have caught them captive begin to shine with the falsehoods upon which they are based. These girls are prisoners, but so are the men who took them. They all need freedom.

I can’t go get those girls back, but I can do something. And so can you. Let your heart break for those things that break the heart of God. Let the volume and frequency of your prayers move Him to act. As Christians, we are the hope of the world, even half a world away.