And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17

There are a lot of things in my life that I want to accomplish, especially where my writing is concerned. Some days, I look at all of the story ideas I have collected and I wonder where to begin. They all sound so promising to me. Oh, I am sure they are not all going to turn out to be best sellers (wouldn’t that be nice?) Many of them might not even make it off of the idea board. But there is so much material there, I just don’t know what to start with. What do I want to work on first?

And I think that is where my problem comes in. I get so focused on what I want to do that I lose sight of the real reason for my writing. It’s not to get my name on any Best Seller list or to pad my bank account or to bring any kind of honor to myself. Writing is a gift God. Using it to bring glory and honor to the Lord is my gift back to Him.

I know I’ve said it before, and I will likely say it again. This “writing thing” is not about me at all. It is all about HIM, about my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Without Him, I am nothing.

I lose sight of that every now and then. My dreams and desires come into play, and I forget that the focus needs to be on Him. I find myself needing the reminder that it’s not about me. It’s not about who I am, but what He’s done. It’s not about what I’ve done, but who He is.

So today, I am thanking God for the gifts he has given me. I am making a pledge to put Him first today, to think first about what He might want and pray for guidance before I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard!) As much as I want to write, it won’t matter without His blessing.

Lord, be with me today. Guide my thoughts and my hands. Keep me focused on You, so that my desires can match Yours. I love you and I thank for…well, for everything.

New Year, New Heart


Create in me a clean hear, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

It’s a new year.  Resolutions are flying all over, with people taking this opportunity to try to better themselves. 

I’ve made resolutions in the past.  I’ve not been good at keeping them.  Usually by the middle of January the good intentions of my resolution have flown out the window.  I think the longest I’ve ever stuck with one is through my birthday, in mid-February. 

That is why I have decided to not start of 2014 with a resolution.  I want a better life.  I want to be thinner, to make better choices, to be calmer, to be healthier, to be more content than I was in 2013.  But resolving to be isn’t going to helping.  Even taking action toward those things won’t change them.  Not unless I understand the motivations behind them.  So I have decided to start of this beautiful New Year with a prayer.

My prayer for this year comes right from the Bible, from the heart of King David.  Funny how a man who lived thousands of years ago could write the words that so accurately describe my heart today….  The words are recorded in Psalm chapter 51.

Verse 3: “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.”  I am far from perfect.  I make mistakes on a daily basis, mistakes I cannot hide from.  Mistakes I no longer want to hide from.  Lord, I know my anger and my attitudes are wrong.  I see it, and I give it to You.  Take this from me and turn it into something You can use for Your good.

Verse 10-12: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free spirit.”  Cleanse my heart, Lord.  I want it to be filled only with love—love for You and for all of the wonderful things You have created.  I know I have messed up, but please don’t give up on me.  Don’t push me away.  I ask Your forgiveness for the times I have pushed You away.  Being with You is the sweetest joy, and I want more of that joy in my life.  I can feel You here now, in this moment.  I pray that I feel this sweetness and joy every moment, only a little stronger each day.

I love You, Lord.  I love You so much that the thought of hurting You, of disappointing You saddens me.  This New Year, 2014, Lord, I am dedicating it to YOU.  Everything I do is for You, for Your glory. 

Sin and Leadership

Late last week, I read an article about a woman in the United Methodist Church who had applied as a candidate for a clergy position. (Please forgive me if I get some of the details wrong. I am not a member of this church, I am not familiar with their doctrine, and I do not know all the “rules” about leadership within the church. And as I am writing this from family camp, where internet service is sketchy, I am not able to look up all the details at the moment. I just want to write it out while I am thinking about it.) The way I understood it, she was approved as a ministerial candidate in Florida a few years back, before she came out as gay, even before she admitted to herself that she was gay. She now lives in Texas and is in a committed relationship with a woman. The district of the church that she now belongs to is attempting to block her entry into the ministry, saying that a practicing homosexual should not be in leadership position within the church.

I can only imagine the uproar this controversy has caused. I can imagine the reactions of my readers right now. Some of you are in agreement with the church. Some of you think the church is wrong. All of you are wondering which side I am on in this. (OK, so maybe not all of you are wondering. Some may have even stopped reading by now. But it’s fun to dream sometimes….)

My opinion may not mater, but I am going to share it anyway. I think the district is right in trying to block this woman from the ministry.

Nothing against her personally. I don’t know the woman. I know that her name is Mary Ann, and that she has served the United Methodist Church for a few years now. I am sure she is a good, kind woman with a heart full of love. I am not even going to suggest that she hasn’t been called into the ministry or question her relationship with God. Those are things that she and God will have to work out. It’s not a conversation I need to be a part of.

What I take issue with is anyone—man, woman, gay, straight, whatever—who is actively engaging in sinful behavior serving in a leadership position within the church.

Nearly ten years ago, a woman I know who has a wonderful relationship with God began dating a man that perhaps wasn’t the best choice. The relationship became physical and she became pregnant. They did not marry (which was probably a good idea, but that’s another story.) At the time, she was on the church board and she served as part of the worship team. She gave up both positions, because she knew she had done something against the church’s teachings and she needed to get her heart and her life right with God before she could lead the church in any way. Not sure if I ever told her, but I really admired her decision. I know there were some hurt feelings at the time, mainly because of the way that some members of the church treated her because of her pregnancy (Christians stumble too, you know) but she handled it. She didn’t let the bitterness eat her up inside, and she has grown into an even closer relationship with God than she had then.

There are people—many, from the Tweets I’ve seen—that think it is wrong for the United Methodist Church to block Mary Ann from completing her study to be in the ministry. They are calling it discrimination against her because she is a lesbian. It is discrimination, but not because of her orientation. It is discrimination against sin. Which is what the church is supposed to do.

Don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin? Read I Timothy 1:8-11. The New Living Version says, “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for the lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”

I won’t get into the whole “she didn’t choose to be gay, God made her that way” debate. It’s not one that is going to get anyone anywhere. But I’d like to drawn attention to the words in bold above, for those practicing homosexuality. This verse makes it very clear that practicing homosexuality is a sin. And is it right to have someone who is sinning, who is consistently living a life that goes against Biblical teaching and has no intention of ending that sin, in a leadership position within the church?

If Mary Ann was married to a man and actively cheating on him, would she be considered for a ministerial position? If she had children and was abusing them, would she be considered for a ministerial position? If she was a murderer, would she be considered for a mistrial position? If the answer is no to any of those questions, why should it be different for practicing homosexuality? If the Bible says all of these things are wrong, why should someone doing any of them be in a leadership position in the church?

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As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

I Corinthian 4:3-4, NLT

How often do I worry about what others think of me, especially where my writing is concerned? I am not perfect and I know I am not perfect. Paul said, “My conscience is clear,” but I can’t say that. There are issues that I have to work on every day. I have this fear that someone will latch onto one of those issues, one of those “faults” and decide that I am not living out the Christian life will enough to qualify me to write Christian books.

Could that fear be part of what is getting in my way, part of why I can’t seem to finish anything that I have started lately?

Am I letting that fear of not being good enough keep me from being the me God wants me to be?

I am depressed. For years—even before the miscarriage, though that really brought things into a greater focus—I have battles against clinical depression. Even at times when I seem “normal” and the medication is working, the depression is there. IT’s like a big scary beast, waiting in the shadows for a chance to take over. I’ve come to accept that the depression is the results of a chemical imbalance in my brain, an illness just like diabetes or high blood pressure. It’s not something I should be ashamed of. Yet I still am at times. I still remember words, spoken years ago in a Sunday School class, about depression that hurt, confused, and even angered me. This woman sat in class there and said that if your relationship with God is where it should be, you wouldn’t be depressed.

How many others feel the same way? How many potential readers could I lose if they find out about my depression and assume that my relationship with Christ isn’t where it should be?

Maybe it would help if I make an admission here—my relationship with Christ is not what it should be. And it is far from what it could be. It changes every day. I don’t think it will ever be perfect, and honestly I hope it never is perfect. I don’t want to get to a place where it stops growing, where I close off my heart and decide I know all I need to know about God.

But I will leave that all up to God to determine. All I can do is follow Him to the best of my ability and leave the rest up to Him.

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My Take on 26 Acts of Kindness

By now, I am sure you have heard about Ann Curry’s call on Twitter for everyone to do 20 acts of kindness to honor the children who died in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 14.  That call has expanded to 26 acts of kindness, one act for each person who was killed in that horrible attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It’s a good idea, and I know people who have benefited from those acts of kindness (a friend even posted on Facebook that someone at the Starbucks she frequents paid for drinks for himself and the next 26 people in line; my friend happened to be number 26.)  But I am going to admit something right now that is not likely to be nearly as popular as Ann Curry’s original statement.

I think that this whole 26 acts of kindness thing has gotten out of hand.

See?  Told you it would not be a very popular statement.

It’s not that I think being kind to others is a bad thing.  And I don’t think that it is wrong to intentionally look for ways to show kindness to strangers.  The problem I have with this 26 acts of kindness thing is the publicity it is getting.  Oh, not that the event itself is being talked about.  I think that having news anchors talk about it encourages others to at least think of what they can do to show kindness to those around them.  It’s when I see a video of a woman talking about the quilts she made and donated or a group of kids talking about the crafts they made to give away that I don’t like.  That makes it seem like it is not concern for those in need of help that motivates the kindness; rather it makes it sound like the act of kindness was done in order to “look good” in the eyes of others.

Now, I am not saying that personal publicity is the reason behind anyone’s act of kindness.  There is no way I can know what is in the hearts of those who are on the nightly news, talking about what kind act they performed that day.  But hearing them talk about it just sounds like it is more about the giver and less about the gift.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:3-4, NIV

Giving to others, showing kindness to others, should be done just because you want to help that other person.  Talking about it, at least in my opinion, takes away from the kindness.  It makes it more about YOU, and what YOU can get out of doing good.

If the news programs are going to talk about these 26 acts of kindness, I think they should talk to the ones who benefited from the kindness.  I know that is what was done here in my hometown.  We have a local toy store that offers layaway for Christmas. A “Secret Santa” came in and randomly paid off the layaway accounts of different people.  There was a woman who came in to cancel her layaway because her financial situation had changed and she was not going to be able to finish paying.  Only when the employee looked up her account, she found that her layaway had been completely paid for.  She didn’t know who had paid it, but the local media reported her surprise and happiness over the event.  That small act of kindness made her day and it made it possible for her children to enjoy opening gifts on Christmas morning.

That is where the focus should be—on the ones who benefit from the kindness.  Focusing on the ones being kind just makes us look like a selfish society.

And I don’t think that helping the needy should ever be viewed as a selfish act at all.

Embracing Issues

Something occurred to me this morning.  While I was sitting here writing, I began to feel like satan is really trying to attack me.

Back in December, I had back surgery.  There are issues from the back problem that necessitated the surgery that have not gone away yet.  Some days, these issues are a bigger problem than on other days.  Today is one of the days when the issues seem huge.  They almost seem big enough that there is not much point in fighting them.  A part of me just wants to curl up in bed, hide under my covers, and just hide from everything.  Let the problems take over or fade away, whatever.  I’m sick of dealing with them and I don’t want to deal anymore.

I took a mini break in my writing to refill my drink bottle.  That’s when it hit me—the issues that bother me are more of a problem when I am working on my relationship with Christ!

They were a huge deal at family camp in July, when I looked forward to sitting in chapel services every day.  They were a huge deal in the days after camp, when I could still feel God right beside me, flowing through me, and working in my life.  And they have been a huge deal today as I have been working on a preteen devotional book that I feel God is really pushing me to write.

I wrote two devotional pieces, and while I wrote them the issue grew to the point that I had to walk away from the computer to deal with it.  Twice it happened.  The last week, when I was working on other projects, the issue didn’t act up like this.  But today, when I have praise music playing and I am focusing on what God is leading me to do, the issue pops up in a glaring, jarring fashion.

Once I realized the connection between my writing and the issue, I wasn’t quite as annoyed with it.  In fact, I felt almost proud of it.  I must be doing something right.  Otherwise, satan wouldn’t be trying so hard to discourage me and stop what I am doing.

But guess what, satan?  YOU DON’T WIN!!!!  I’ve read the end of The Book.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt what is going to happen.  No matter what you throw at me, your future is written.  And it’s not a future I want to be a part of!!

So I am giving myself over to God today.  My life and my writing are in His hands.  That matters more to me than any health issue that might stand in my way.  My God is bigger than all that!!  I am so grateful to be in His care.

Fears and Faith

Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Colossians 4:4, NIV

When Paul wrote these words, he was in prison.  He’d been jailed for preaching about Christ.  Still, he was asking other Christians to pray for him, to pray not only that he would be released from prison, but that he would be released from prison in order to continue preaching the gospel.

Wow.  How many of us would do that?

In all honesty, I don’t know if I would.  I’d love to say yes.  I’d love to say that it doesn’t matter what satan throws my way, I will not be silent.  I will share the love of Christ in face of any and all adversity, even from a prison cell.

But does the life I have lived up to this point prove that?

For years, I kept silent when I knew that I was being called to write.  Even now, when my fingers itch to type out stories of God’s love—both true stories from my life and imagined stories from the lives of characters I’ve created—my mind shuts down.  I don’t know that “shuts down” is really the right way to describe it.  There are so many ideas floating around in my head that I don’t know how I will ever get them all down on paper.  Oh how I would love to spend a day doing nothing but getting these ideas out of my head!  Then I could start crafting them into something meaningful, something that just might be useful to someone.  But the fear….  That fear is always there, holding me back, keeping me from doing what I want to do, what I am convinced that Christ wants me to do.

I am not sure that it really a fear of failure.  That doesn’t seem to really capture it.  It’s a fear of being judged.  I am scared that I will write something only to hear, “What do you know about it?  You’ve never lived that life.”

I’m scared that people will see the words I’ve written and see the life I’ve lived and realize that the two do not always mesh.

I’m not perfect.  I know I am not.  There are a lot of things in my life that need help.  Luckily God is in my life to give me the help I need.  I know He loves me and that He is guiding me.  Still, though, I have the fear that I am not good enough.  It scares me to think that my faith in God may not be enough, not when someone looks at how I live my life.

Does that make any sense at all?  In my head it did, but once I see it on the screen in front of me, it seems a bit odd!!  I am so glad that God knows my heart.

This morning, I’d like to ask you to please pray for me.  Pray that I can stay focused on God and silence the fear within me.  Pray that I can use the words God has given me for His glory, to clearly proclaim His love of me and His love of others in every sentence I write.


You know who is reading this post today.  Each person is in a different position to serve You and show Your love today.  Please give each one the strength, courage, and faith to share You clearly—whether in words or in actions—with everyone they meet today.  Help us to claim a little piece of our world for You.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Respect Dare

   So again I say each man must love his wife the way he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33.

Interesting how that was written by a man- Paul- who was never married. Normally, I would not take this kind of advice. What can someone who has not been there possibly know about having a strong, healthy, happy marriage? But since it is in the Bible, I suppose it is advice worth taking.

Bit it leads to a question- just what does it mean to be a husband?

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines respect as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”

That fits how I feel about my husband. He has some pretty awesome qualities that I admire. But how do I show him that?

I really want to have a strong marriage one that’s based on Biblical principles. As part of that, I wont to learn how to show my husband the respect the Bible says he deserves. I found a book that I really hope will help me to do that.

The book is called “Respect Dare.” It is very similar to “The Love Dare” that was used in the movie Fireproof. There are 40 “dares” that was used in the book, 40 exercise’s to help a wife put into practice the teachings in the book. Each dare it leads to a deeper meaning of respect.

My hope is that working through this book will help me to strengthen my marriage and show my husband just what he means to me. I want to share what I have been learning and how I’m able to apply the dares to my own life. Some I’m sure will be highly personal. I won’t share anything here that will make my husband uncomfortable. That doesn’t seem very respectful! But I will try to share things that I think will benefit others.

Wrong Thing or Nothing At All

Sometimes we are so scared of doing the wrong thing we do nothing.

Pastor Clive said that- or something similar to that- during his message one Sunday morning.

It’s a very accurate description of where I am with my writing right now.

I received an email recently that shook my confidence. The writer questioned my Christian witness and my ability to use words effectively. The words hurt, but I understand that they were spoken in anger. I’m not angry about them- everyone has a right to their opinion, and I’ve accepted that the writer of that email had those opinions at that time.

The problem is that those words have caused me to question myself. I have I have a novel I was hoping to finish the first draft this month.  Since I’ve got that email I’ve not been able to work on it.

I keep wondering if it’s worth it to try. If the words I use and ineffective, should I bother finishing it? Is my relationship with Christ so messed up that I shouldn’t try to share it with others?

I know that has to be the Devil talking. God has great things planned through my writing and Satan will do his best to stop it. Putting those doubts inside my head is one way of doing that.

Trouble is I’m having a hard time shaking off those negative thoughts. What other people say and think shouldn’t matter. But it does. That email I talked about? It was written by someone I always looked up to, someone that I didn’t want to let down. And I feel like I have. It’s hard to move past that.

Rather than risking letting someone else down, I am just doing nothing. Even though that doesn’t quite feel like the right thing to do.


Choose Your Words

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who might listen.

Ephesians 4:29, NIV

I recently did something that many people do–I aired an opinion on Facebook.  At the time, I was highly frustrated about something and posted about it on my timeline.  I didn’t mention any names, just posted what I hoped was general enough to get my opinion across without coming out and condemning anyone.  My goal was to get it off my chest and maybe open up a bit of a dialog, maybe not with the one who I was most frustrated with but others who might hold the same opinion.  I honestly wasn’t trying to start an argument or anything.  I just wanted to get something off my chest.

In response to what I wrote, I received an email that said, among other things, that I had not only acted in a selfish manner by posting my opinion publicly like that but I also acted in an unBiblical manner by doing it.  I was hurt and angry by the things this email said.  In fact, angry doesn’t cut it.  The unBiblical comment made me downright furious.  How dare someone question my motives or my relationship with God like that?  I know my relationship with God isn’t perfect and it has yet to develop to what I know God wants it to be.  But I am constantly growing and changing into the person He wants.  Having someone else point out my shortcomings, especially in a way that is more hurtful than helpful, doesn’t help at all.

As the hurt began to subside, I thought about what was in the email.  How could sharing an opinion be unBiblical?  I didn’t know and didn’t believe I had done anything wrong.  Still, I was willing to admit that I might have acted in a selfish manner.  So I prayed that God would show me.  ”If what I did went against what You would want me to do, Lord, please show me.”

This morning, I read a blog post by Kathi Macias, one of my favorite authors where she was talking about what makes a book a Christian book (you can read her post here, if you are interested.)  She used Ephesians 4:29 to illustrate her point.  The verse made me think.  Though I may have a right to my own opinion on any given matter, I don’t have the right to air my opinion in a way that will tear someone else down.  And that is exactly what I did.  My focus was on getting my frustration off my chest, not on presenting my opinion in a way that could help anyone “see the error of their ways,” so to speak.  I didn’t share my thoughts in an effort to build anyone up or to provide any sort of benefit.

In that way, I did do what I was accused of.  I did act in an unBiblical manner.  For that, I am truly sorry.

I am not going to apologize for what I said that day.  The words I posted on Facebook are true.  They are what I feel, and I do not feel the need to apologize for how I feel.  But I will apologize for the way I went about it.  And I will make a promise to God right now…before I share anything potentially hurtful on Facebook–or anywhere else, for that matter–I will go to Him first.  With His help, I trust that I can choose my words correctly, and get my point across without causing any further hurt feelings.