It’s Not Up to You

It was my first real, paid, speaking engagement. A church halfway across the country had invited me, Jennifer Slattery, Midwestern mom of one, to be their keynote speaker. I was more than intimidated. I was terrified, to the point my stomach felt as if army ants, butterflies, and nasty spiders had declared war within me. Not wanting to reveal the extent of my ignorance and ineptitude, I spent hours crafting and rehearsing my speech and fine-tuning my Power Point. Then the day came. I’d spent so much time preparing and rehearsing I could give my speech backwards. In my sleep. I’d become so confident in my abilities, in fact… God needed to do some confidence-stripping. It started with a casual conversation between me and the educational minister. “What do you plan to talk about?” This struck me as odd, for I’d already sent him my outline. But perhaps he’d forgotten, so I shared my main points, certain he’d be pleased. Turns out, he had a different vision for the presentation entirely. This meant I needed to prepare a completely different speech, and quickly. Those warring critters returned with a vengeance, and cold sweat broke out on my face. On my entire body, actually, only it wasn’t cold. It was insanely hot as we were in Texas at the peak of summer. Except I had little time for a shower. Twenty minutes later, with new Power Point slides and graphics in place, stopwatch in hand, I prepared to spend the next two hours practicing until I’d cemented each word permanently in my brain. Once again, God had other plans. “Come...

When Your Deepest Pain and Purpose Collide

We want to change the world and do something big. We want to know our lives, pain, and tears on this earth matter. Searching for our purpose, we read books, say thousands of prayers, and beg God to answer the question: “What in the world are we here for?” We get glimpses, but it still looks hazy. We see other people doing great things and wonder if they have some secret hotline to heaven we know nothing about. I read this scripture a few weeks ago and I’m still digging for all the treasures found here. Psalms 126:5-6  They who sow in tears shall reap with joyful singing. He goes back and forth weeping, carrying his bag of seed {for planting}, will indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing sheaves with him. Oh friend, we have made this way more difficult than it needed to be. And way bigger in our minds than it needed to be. Our culture tells us that our purpose has to be this “big thing” we must strive for, when God is saying, “It’s right in front of you. Look at those around you who are in need.”  What I’ve discovered about people who have done great things is that it always started with small things done with great love. (Mother Teresa). There is a quote that says, “Show me a man’s wounds and I’ll show you his purpose.”  Think of your deepest pain: the things in your life which have hurt you and cut you so deeply that they just about did you in. Now, ask yourself these questions: Who is out...

Once Unruly Moods, Now Fearless Choices

(Circa 2000) My unruly mood. That small 4-letter word whose power— depending on the day— was either a game changer or a potential hazard to the smallest of audiences. A female, I received the time-honored “gift” of emotions. This distinctive DNA, once erupted, usually caused a volcano of words to descend on helpless victims in my path. As a young mother in a new city, emotions carved themselves into the #1 spot on my list of causes for regrettable behavior. My moods were more of a liability than an asset in early 2000, and if left unchecked they could alter the happiness of my relationships into deep sorrow. And yet, God’s word said: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14) Often scratching my head, I would re-read that verse. Fearfully and wonderfully made…hmm I wondered to myself if fearful was understood as another’s experience of my moods? And wonderful? Did that word fit in the world of hormones? On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? (Romans 9:20) I understood the omniscient God did not make mistakes. He knew exactly what kind of deep feelings he put in the hearts he created. Daily, I reminded myself of these unshakable truths before setting my heart to confession. (Fast forward, 2017) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his...

• for mother’s everywhere •

I struggle with Mother’s Day. I just do. I’ve been accused of being a “bleeding heart,” but every year at this time, I find myself reflecting on Mother’s Day and what it means to those who, in a very imperfect and fallen world, try to navigate the day, when this day, any day, can be so difficult. In a perfect world, Mother’s Day would look like one of those sentimental greeting cards and life would be uninterrupted and simple. But life as we know it is not always that way. As I have become immersed in urban ministry, my heart breaks even more…for the mother who finds herself grieved after having lost a child to gun violence. The real and the raw stories of mothers on the front lines have shattered my already fragile heart. This Mother’s Day, I’m praying – warrior prayers for the weary mothers fighting all kinds of battles; the prayers we utter may have different content but they are the cries of women interceding for their children and those they love as if they were their own. If your Mother’s Day is uncomplicated and beautiful, I urge you to pause today, and amidst giving thanks, PRAY for those mothers, near and far, whose perspective looks very different today. Imagine if we women, mothers, grandmothers, friends, neighbors, spiritual moms, thought of ALL THE mothers and children today who have hurting hearts and actually PRAYED for them. FOR MOTHERS EVERYWHERE… •There are mothers whose children have been victims of gun violence…We MUST pray for them. •There are mothers whose children are battling mental health issues…We MUST join...

•remembering mothers everywhere •

I struggle with Mother’s Day. I just do. I’ve been accused of being a “bleeding heart,” but every year at this time, I find myself reflecting on Mother’s Day and what it means to those who, in a very imperfect and fallen world, try to navigate the day, when this day, any day, can be so difficult. In a perfect world, Mother’s Day would look like one of those sentimental greeting cards and life would be uninterrupted and simple. But life as we know it is not always that way. As I have become immersed in urban ministry, my heart breaks even more…for the mother who finds herself grieved after having lost a child to gun violence. The real and the raw stories of mothers on the front lines have shattered my already fragile heart. This Mother’s Day, I’m praying – warrior prayers for the weary mothers fighting all kinds of battles; the prayers we utter may have different content but they are the cries of women interceding for their children and those they love as if they were their own. If your Mother’s Day is uncomplicated and beautiful, I urge you to pause today, and amidst giving thanks, PRAY for those mothers, near and far, whose perspective looks very different today. Imagine if we women, mothers, grandmothers, friends, neighbors, spiritual moms, thought of ALL THE mothers and children today who have hurting hearts and actually PRAYED for them. FOR MOTHERS EVERYWHERE… •There are mothers whose children have been victims of gun violence…We MUST pray for them. •There are mothers whose children are battling mental health issues…We MUST join...

Under Attack?

This week, I have been thinking a lot about “The Battle.” I’m not sure that Christians take Satan’s attack on us seriously. The Bible refers to him as a prowling lion, looking for someone to devour. I recently discovered some interesting things about how lions hunt. Today, I want to share something that especially caught my attention, perhaps because this is something I can personally identify with…. Antelopes, while physically fast, are mentally not quite so sprightly and pay perhaps too little attention to learning from their mistakes. Sound like anyone you know? Sure does sound like me. In some areas, I am consistently strong and victorious, but in others…not so much. I read about a group of Thomson’s gazelles crossing a patch of thick bush in order to drink. That particular patch of bush was bristling with lions who instantly grabbed and ate one of the gazelles. The rest of the gazelles scattered to safety, but over the next few hours the same group of gazelles, having apparently forgotten the recent murder of one of their companions, tried not once, but twice, more to get to the water using the SAME route…with predictable results. Oh my goodness! How many times do I walk right into Satan’s traps? Much like those poor gazelles, I forget all too quickly that my enemy is lying in wait. Scripture warns us, even commands us, what to avoid. We all have that one sin that we love: that one thing that we don’t want to let go of. If we let our guard down, Satan doesn’t have to put forth much effort to ensnare us … he simply lures...

It’s Time to Move On

Sometimes we think we’re done. It’s time to move on, or so we believe. We’re ready to be done with a season because we’re exhausted or we see a better offer. Things aren’t going well, or things are going exceptionally well. For whatever reason, we assess (or rationalize) that God is prompting us to take a step away from where we are and move on to something else. Especially if it takes time for us to adjust to the idea of moving on, it’s hard when God says, “Wait just a minute.” Jesus did it to Simon in Luke 5. Simon and other fishermen had been trying to catch fish all night. They were done. In fact, they were washing their nets, which wasn’t a simple task. They definitely did not want to dirty them again and restart the clean-up process. It’s like having everything wrapped up for the day, all accounts reconciled, notes written, reports submitted, electronics shut down, doors locked, then someone asking you to open up and get everything started again. Only Jesus didn’t ask. He stepped into the boat, began teaching, and told Simon to fish. Simon felt the need to report to Jesus what a waste of time fishing would be based on what was going on. I can hear our similar responses: “But God, these people just don’t respect me any longer. In fact, I’m not sure if they ever liked me. Don’t ask me to stay. It’s just not going to work.” “I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do. I finally find myself wrapping everything up. It seems like it’s time...

#honorallmoms on Mother’s Day (and a free gift for you)

Years ago, on a Sunday night, I sat in the back row of my church and watched a newly-pregnant woman walk by. Suddenly I knew: I was pregnant again. I wasn’t late. I wasn’t trying to have another baby. I didn’t have morning sickness, I hadn’t gained weight. I had no symptoms. And I’d given away our playpen and stroller. I thought I was done. This was not what I had in mind. But, still, I knew. I herded my 4- and 6-year-old daughters through CVS to buy a pregnancy test, shielding the box from the prying eyes of my avid reader, embarrassed by the imagined judgment of the teen boy working the register. I stuck the girls in front of the TV and locked myself in the bathroom. That stupid little plus sign practically leaped off the stick. Crap. I was pregnant. It didn’t matter that I was 33, happily married, reasonably financially stable. This wasn’t what I had planned for my life. Three kids was too many; I always said no more kids than hands to hold onto them. Being a mother of three didn’t make sense for someone who isn’t naturally nurturing, who doesn’t adore children, for someone who worked all the time, for someone who was educated and smart enough to not have an accident like this happen. I was devastated and not sure how to break the news to my husband when he got home at 2 am from work, but he didn’t even hesitate: “There’s enough love in this house for one more.” Seventeen years later, I see that he was right. I...

Hurricane Season?

Have you ever tried to tame a hurricane? How about just talking into one? Does your voice carry very far? The other night was my turn to teach the kids at church. I love these kids greatly—each and every one of them. But the other night was a test of my love. Their behavior was horrible. They wouldn’t listen for more than five second intervals, and I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time communicating in five second bleeps. By the time I left class, I was exhausted and emotionally drained. I tried complaining to God about it, but He didn’t seem too impressed. I reminded Him of how I had planned for the class, how I had put a lot of thought into the lesson. I was so excited about it because it was such a good lesson—a lesson that could really help them. But they were too busy whispering and talking and wiggling around. They were too busy trying to draw attention to themselves. God’s reply to me seemed to saying, ‘Have you looked at yourself lately?’ What a sucker punch. I may be 30 years older than those kids, but my behavior is just like theirs. I’m too busy whispering and talking and running around to listen to God’s voice. And when I look at what He did to prepare for me–His supreme sacrifice on the cross—I’m ashamed. Ashamed of how little I listen to Him. And yet He still loves me. Sometimes God will use drastic measures to get my attention, like a teacher who suddenly slams a book on the desk...

Oh, what a happy soul am I!

Francis Jane Crosby was the author of over 9,000 hymns. Did you know she wrote so many that she began using pen names so that the hymnals would not be filled with her name alone? Beautiful hymns such as: Blessed Assurance Safe in the Arms of Jesus All the Way My Savior Leads Me Rescue the Perishing Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross Born in New York, Fanny was ill almost from the beginning. Their family’s regular doctor was out of town and another man, who claimed to be a doctor, prescribed hot mustard compresses to her eyes. She got over the sickness but the treatment left her blind. Blindness didn’t deter her from her love of life and her love for the Word of God. She memorized scripture every day, five chapters a week! Fanny loved poetry and wrote her first verse at the age of eight: Oh what a happy soul am I! Although I cannot see. I am resolved that in this world, Contented I will be. How many blessings I enjoy That other people don’t. To weep and sigh because I’m blind? I cannot and I won’t! The Apostle Paul was also one to be acquainted with grief. He had lived through many, many persecutions. Most of them were physical. “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own...