Christian growth

A Right Response is What We've Got to Give

Last week I arrived at the library with my return books but no wallet. I started to drive back home, but then I remembered that the new and improved library app on my phone had a virtual library card. I picked out four books quickly, took them to the counter, and pulled up the library card on my phone. The librarian looked at me like I was from Mars. She had not seen the new and improved library app. She gave scanning the bar code on my phone a try. Nothing. She consulted the librarian next to her. He belted out the rule of needing either the physical card or photo ID without even looking in our direction.

I could have argued. Mostly because the doe-eyed librarian who was choosing to actually converse with me seemed very kind. I responded, “Hold these for me. I’ll be back.”

I jumped in my car. I thought about how I could stew and steam about the twenty minutes that would be wasted in my day or I could turn on Spotify and listen to that new album I’ve been wanting to play all the way through.

That day I responded well to others and for myself. That isn’t always the case, especially those inward responses.

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I’ve been thinking about why listening to what God says about you and me is important. Why does it matter that he loved us first and we are beloved, that he chose us and we are chosen, that he called us and commissioned us?

I think it matters because we are responders to His moving in our lives. Our whole life as a Child of God is choosing how to respond to Him and others.

When He loves us, will we love back?

When He speaks to our heart, will we take time for silent listening?

When He allows hurt, will we turn to Him for healing?

When He allows hurt in the lives of others, do we sit alongside them in their pain?

When He sets the wind blowing on our physical life, will we focus inward to the spiritual?

When He puts people who bear His image in our life, will we show them grace, mercy, forgiveness, truth, and love?

When He shows us people, who bear His image, that are physically far away from us and suffering, will we take a moment to show love through prayer — even when they might disrupt our physical lives, prosperity, or safety?

When we experience joy, will we praise Him?

When we experience loss, will we praise Him?

It is all a response.

We like to think that we are navigating this life we are living, and we are to an extent. We hate to admit how little control we actually have in our lives.

We have no control over the family, country, or time we were born into. Just this small fact about us determines so much of our possible future.

We have no control over others. This may seem obvious but how easily we can be deceived into thinking we do. We could try to control or manipulate others, but that ruins relationships.

We have no control over circumstances. If we did, our house wouldn’t still be on the market. You probably have a thing in your life you have been actively seeking to change only to see stagnant results.

We have some choices in our lives, but we have many, many more responses in our deck of cards to play.

This lack of control does not mean we are off the hook and we can just sit back and respond. We are to be actively engaging in love toward others, connecting in relationships. We are also called and commissioned. This requires planning, working well with others, following through with commitments, stewarding resources, making decisions, and acting on those decisions.

As we play those cards of choices and actions, we will be interrupted by all the things out of our control. This is where our responses will dictate your spiritual maturity, and your spiritual maturity will dictate your responses.

Will you respond to the world around you by trying to manipulate people and circumstances to give you the best seat possible? Or will you respond with a willing heart that wants to serve and shepherd others with love, no matter the result — personally or spiritually?

Will you respond with trust, even when the circumstances seem bleak?

Will you respond with compassion and empathy when you see others choosing wrong responses?

Will you take two minutes out of the rush of trying to control and quietly listen for the One who actually has control?

We have to accept our hands are empty to respond correctly. We have to accept we are seen, known, beloved, liked, chosen, included, friended, called, commissioned, and kept to believe that we can hope and trust the God who feels all of this for each one of us.

The constant question in your life every day, all day is what is your response to this moment.

Can’t wait to see the ocean later this month.

The Detriment of Shame Because of Anxiety

I believe God likes me. It is good.

To get to this place of excepting God’s acceptance of me, I had to let go of my shame about fear.

Do not be anxious about anything. These words come straight from Jesus’s mouth. I feel shame because I find myself anxious every day.

Emotions are not sin. 

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We have five core emotions: joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. (Anyone seen Inside Out?) Every emotion we have is either a variation of intensity or a mixture of these emotions.

As we accept that Jesus was human, we have to accept that he had these same core emotions too. It isn’t hard to believe because we can see him display all of these emotions at different points in our gospel story. Jesus never let those emotions lead to sin, but in my life that has happened.

We see Jesus joyful often. I imagine Him full of joy on that borrowed donkey entering Jerusalem. We see Him sad often, especially at the news of the death of His friend Lazarus. We see him angry as He turned over tables at the temple. We see Him disgusted when the Pharisees demand a sign. (He had just fed 4,000 people for goodness sake.)

We are slow to admit that Jesus displayed the emotion of fear. Why is that?

Maybe it is because we have watered down God’s Holy Word into platitudes that we can hand each other and convince ourselves that we were helpful with our Christian clichés.

Maybe it is because we’ve heard things from the pulpit that make us believe fear is a sin.

This Scripture is good, but the enemy can manipulate it like he tried to do with Jesus in the desert to make us think our fear is sin.

  • Do not worry about tomorrow.

  • God did not give you a spirit of fear.

  • Perfect love cast out fear.

  • Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.

  • Do not fear. God is with you.

There is an extremely emotional piece of the gospel that I believe shows Jesus experiencing extreme fear.

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ’Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, ’Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.’
— Luke 22:39-46 ESV

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about sweating drops of blood:

Hematidrosis is a condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood, occurring under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress. Severe mental anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system to invoke the stress- Fight-or-flight response to such a degree as to cause hemorrhage of the vessels supplying the sweat glands. It has been suggested that acute fear and extreme stress can cause hematidrosis.

If we believe Jesus sweat drops of blood, He must have been under extreme fear, stress, anxiety, and experiencing fight-or-flight.

Reread this passage in the NIV translation with the emotion of fear in mind. How do you experience fear? What physically happens in your body when the emotion of fear takes control of your mind?

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’
— Luke 22:41-46 NIV

Knowing Jesus experienced this emotion takes away the enemy’s ability to shame me over my own emotion of fear.

I experience fear. That fear keeps me alive. That fear is a core emotion that I cannot dispose of.

Our goal cannot be to rid our lives of fear.

Here’s a better goal: know that God accepts you in your fear.

Our fear does not surprise Him or alarm Him. He created us with emotions, and He experiences emotions.

It is easy to think we can just turn to God whenever we have fear, but if we are so ashamed of our fear that we want to hide away from God, how can we seek His help?

I rid myself of the shame of my fear, and I am eager to allow God to help me work through my fear and anxiety.

We don’t cut fear out of our life. We experience that fear and work through those emotions with a God that knows what fear feels like.

Anxiety is such a big part of my life right now, I don’t think I could accept that God likes me if I didn’t realize that God understood my anxiety or that I didn’t need to feel shame about my anxiety.

To ignore, repress, or dismiss our feelings is to fail to listen to the stirrings of the Spirit within our emotional life. Jesus listened. In John’s Gospel we are told that Jesus was moved with the deepest emotions (11:33)... The gospel portrait of the beloved Child of Abba is that of a man exquisitely attuned to His emotions and uninhibited in expressing them. The Son of Man did not scorn of reject feelings as fickle and unreliable. They were sensitive antennae to which He listened carefully and through which He perceived the will of His Father for congruent speech and action.
— Brennan Manning, Abba's Child

If you experience shame over your fear, I encourage you to go back over those verses that can either be a cliché or a balm to your soul. Look at the verse with new eyes. See the words coming from a God who knows fear and never wants to shame you.

His Word actually gives us an antidote to shame. That antidote is an emotion. God actually commands us to have an emotion to counteract the negative effects of shame. We are told to have confidence in John’s first letter to God’s children.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
— 1 John 2:28 ESV

He goes on to say:

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
— 1 John 3:19-21 ESV

Have confidence before God. Allow your heart, mind, soul, and body to feel that you can trust and rely on God. Have confidence that God likes you.

God likes you, even when you are fearful because you’re never going to be without fear.

Here’s a song because music is good and wearing the struggle is honest.

Fall Lessons

The week before Thanksgiving, I went to a week-long ministry retreat with my husband. It was amazing to get away from day-to-day life for that long. The only time my husband and I have been away from home that long is on short-term mission trips. Being away to rest and renew in the mountains was a completely new experience.

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You may never have an opportunity to have that experience so I want to share some things I learned. (The retreat was called SonScape. If you're interested, email me and I'll give you more details.) 

Here are five things I learned in my week of retreat:

1. I learned that I'm better at knowing other people than I am at knowing myself.

I learned about Myers-Briggs personality types, and I learned that I am an INFJ. That means I am: introverted (I prefer to focus on my inner world), iNtuitive (I focus first on the big picture), feeler (I think about people and feelings over logic), Judging (I get satisfaction from completing tasks and long for closure to all problems.)  Because I am an intuitive feeler, that means I have deep thoughts and deep feelings.

It was much easier to spot how other people in my life might fit into one of the sixteen personality types than it was to know that my personality type fits me. I am also actually less introverted than I thought I was. I am only slightly-introverted. I enjoy being around people more than I thought I did. I am just picky about who I want to spend time with because I am such a deep feeler, I don't want to spend time with people who can't go deep with me or I don't feel they are safe to share my deep feelings with. The problem with this is that my personality type is the rarest, meaning there aren't a lot of people who like to go deep like I do. INFJ is only 1% of the population. That means I would have to meet 100 people before I would find another INFJ. My husband has a more frequent personality type. He could meet 11 people, and chances are one of those people would be the same personality type that he is. We even have more than one of his personality types in our immediate families. So I'm on a mission to find another INFJ to be friends with. If you are reading this and you are an INFJ, let me know!


2. Play is part of Sabbath

Sabbath was made for us. We need it. God does not need Sabbath. (Mark 2:27) The purpose of Sabbath is not a religious testing to see if we can sit still for 24 hours. It is a time of putting down our work. That's really the only requirement, we are to not work. (Exodus 20:8-11)

In God's Word, we are never called the adults of God. We are children of God, and just like play is an integral part of child development, playing is necessary for children of God too. Beautiful times of pure worship can happen in the middle of play.


3. An awesome definition of fear

Our retreat leaders suggested we listen to a Brennan Manning sermon that was on an iPod in our cabin. The sermon was so wonderful. One of my favorite parts of the sermon was Brennan's definition of fear:

Fear - silent wonder, radical amazement, and affectionate awe at the infinite goodness of God.
— Brennan Manning

So often we associate having fear of God with the idea that God is dangerous, likely to cause us pain or that God is a threat, but this isn't the emotion of fear that God demands from us. Brennan's definition of fear is a relief for an anxious person such as me. 

4. Emotional health affects our spiritual health

Much of my quiet times at the retreat was focused on the work I've been doing in therapy. Getting my head and heart to a healthy place is very important to ministry and my Spirit, my relationship with God.

Getting healthy will require us to pull back the veneer. It won’t happen until we’re serious enough to get honest, own our stuff, and take responsibility for our soul care. We’ll need to go to some of the most private corners of our soul... dark places where personal ambition, insecurity, fear, and brokeness reside. These and other lurking soul predators would love to devour you, those you live and your ministry.
— Lance Witt, Replentish

Emotional health pursuits like therapy, journaling, meditating, breathing, reading self-help books, creating quiet, leaving margin, and having boundaries might sound like it has nothing to do with your spiritual life, but it is crucial to your relationship with God. You are a whole person, and God has called you to love him with your whole self (mind, body, and spirit.)

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5. We need all need healthy, weekly rhythms of rest and quiet.

Our retreat journal said this, "It is not the people around us that are holding us back from a life of deep intimacy with Jesus. It is not the people around us who are keeping us addicted to busyness and noise. It is ourselves." 

We have to take responsibility for our choices. We need to make decisions that will plan times during our week that allow us to get quiet and ask these questions: 1. Who is God? 2. Who did God make me to be? 3. What is God doing in my world? 4. How can I be a part of what God is doing?

Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
— Matthew 6:6 The Message
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I learned so much more than these five things, but these were my favorite new lessons I couldn't wait to share with you. It would be impossible to fit all seven days into these few words. If you are in ministry (whether you are feeling burnout or not at that point yet) I know a SonScape Retreat will impact your ministry life for the better.

If you want to share what you've learned this fall, check out Emily P. Freeman's What We Learned Link-up.

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Table of Contents:

Day 1:  Intro (below the photo links for the other days)

Please click a photo for each day to read more. 

Day 1: Intro

This Write 31 Days series I’m going to share with you about my dysfunctional relationship I had with God, and how I’m trying to grow into a better one.  I’ve discovered that after about 27 years of being a Christian, I had some bad theology I was living out.  This past year, I learned some things about my God and about myself the hard way, by falling on my face, completely failing, coming to the end of myself.

Here was my number one problem.  I thought I could impress God by being good and doing good.

Turns out, that idea doesn’t line up with scripture.  In fact, scripture tells us that trying to be good enough for God to be impressed is impossible and counterproductive.

This isn’t the message I got as a young person trying to live a Christian life.  I was told over and over how important reigning in my behavior was.  I was told over and over that I should let go of trying to please people and instead care only about what God thinks of me, which I subconscious interpreted as I had to earn my acceptance by God.

I have been working my head off serving in ministry, and I felt like God would be disappointed in me if I didn't do well.  And I am pretty sure that I thought God would be impressed with all I was doing for Him.

Even as I write out these statements, all of these ideas feel so very unsettled in my mind and heart.  When I lined out what I am going to write about for the next 31 days, most of my outline consisted of questions.

I’m going to attempt to write through these questions, and maybe by the end of these 31 days, our journey will take us to a much clearer place, a truer understanding of the God who created and loves us, a sounder theology, a humbler position, no longer driven to earn God’s approval or love, and no longer driven to impress God.

The message version says that when we are intimidated into observing traditions instead of realizing that we are heirs and children of Christ, we are subjecting ourselves to fearing paper tigers.

By the end of this series, I hope we will be fearlessly secure in our identity in Christ.

But now that you know the real God—or rather since God knows you—how can you possibly subject yourselves again to those paper tigers?
— Galatians 4:9 The Message

***Special thank you to my awesome son Andrew for making the origami for me.


I like to share a song on each of my blog posts because music makes life more fun.

Review of A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker

I love to read.  I’ve set my goal high this year, one a book a week, and I’m on track to meet that goal.  I almost always enjoy the book I’ve read (I did pick it, why wouldn’t I.)  But rarely do I not only love the book, but also feel jealous that I didn’t get to write the book I’m reading.  That is how I felt about Brandon Hatmaker’s new book that released this past Tuesday, A Mile Wide:  Trading A Shallow Religion For a Deeper Faith.  I wish I had wrote it.  It is just so good.  God forgive me of my covetousness.

The book is divided into two parts: The Gospel In Us and The Gospel Through Us.  Brandon encourages us to take our small view of the gospel and make it bigger.  As we grow our view of Christian life we can take that gospel and pour it out with a truer mission, seeking justice for our communities, full of grace and truth.

There is an idea in Brandon’s new book that I’ve been discussing with anyone who will verbally process with me, and that is the idea that discipleship happens during outreach.  (I even wrote a whole blog series on it called #servetogrow over the summer.)  Brandon illustrates this idea beautifully.

My favorite part of the whole book is in the chapter discussing discipleship called A Deeper Discipleship.  Brandon tells about an experience he had volunteering one Tuesday night with an organization called Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) with his friend Alan Graham.  After spending the evening handing out groceries, blankets, and clothing to homeless and working poor families, Alan fills Brandon in on his mission at MLF.

‘I’m making disciples,” he [Alan] said. ‘You see, we’re doing a lot of good here. But my job, and yours as a church leader, is to make disciples. My job is to get as many people out of the pews and onto the streets of our city as I can, because I know it’ll change them.’

This was paradigm-shifting for me. I’d served people before. I’d been on multiple mission trips and served in different environments. But this was different. This was in my hometown on a Tuesday night. It was something profound wrapped in something seemingly simple. Somehow what we had just done shifted my thinking from handing out a sandwich to learning a name, hearing a story, and connecting at the soul level.

And I heard the Spirit whisper, Remember what you’re experiencing. Capture how this feels, and help others feel the same. This is going to change you. It’ll change them too.

I’ve thought about that night a thousand times since then. It’s the moment when I realized for the first time that something was happening all around me that wasn’t about me but was changing my heart. After years of checking boxes and hoping for transformation, I could physically feel my heart being reshaped.

Everyday experiences become discipleship experience when we have the right attitude and perspective.
— Brandon Hatmaker, A Mile Wide

I’ve only given you a piece of the story.  You absolutely have to get this book and hear more.

There are other stories that are very touching.  When I first picked up the book to read, I found myself quickly in chapter two blinded by tears.  Brandon tells a poignant story of his encounter with an Ethiopian woman on his very first flight to Ethiopia.  I won’t retell it here, but I will tell you that you will be shocked at the reason for that this woman on Brandon’s flight spontaneously praises the Lord on that airplane.

All of these stories are so stirring to me and you as a reader because it is so evident on the page that these stories are not just cute antidotes to Brandon.  You can feel how life-changing these moments were in the writer’s sensitive-to-the-Spirit heart.

This book isn’t just about moving stories.  One of the things I love about A Mile Wide is how well thought out it is.  Every point has been considered and tested.  Every chapter has lists of helpful ways to proceed or recommendations for moving forward.  This isn’t a book that ends in head scratching and warm feelings.  This is a book that ends with action.  Each subject covered has so many layers for every Christian.

I hope I have convinced you how well your time would be spent on reading A Mile Wide.  I don’t over exaggerate when I say that you will be affected by this book.  Grab a copy and let Brandon lead you deeper into a faith that not only changes you, but leads you to change others.

What about God’s Word?

#servetogrow part 7

When I started this #servetogrow series, I began to make a case that discipleship didn’t just involve studying God’s Word.  I proposed a theory that serving others brings spiritual growth in our lives.  As I wrap up this series today, I’d like to revisit that theory and see if our perspective has changed over these last six blog posts.

The most popular definition of discipleship involves sitting down in groups and studying the Bible.  That is what we picture when we hear the word discipleship.  If we look up the definition of (lower case) disciple, it is defined as “any follower of Christ.”

Discipleship is learning how to follow Christ.  

I want to point out what an active verb that “follow” is.  When we picture the word “follow” in our minds, we don’t see someone sitting at a desk or sitting with a book, do we?

Let me be clear that the Bible is the clearest way we can know the character and commands of Christ.  It is our training book for being right with God.  It is infallible.  It is our teacher.  It is what equips us for every good work.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
— 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

Studying God’s word is clearly necessary to learn how to follow Christ, but I believe it is just a piece of discipleship.

There are so many active things that we can do to actually be a disciple, and we don’t just immediately know how to do these things once we’ve prayed to receive Christ.  Sharing your faith, sharing your testimony, leading a friend to know Christ, serving the orphan or widow, feeding His sheep, and doing justice work are all pieces of being a disciple, and those actions take practice There is a learning curve to both studying God’s Word and putting action to God’s Word.

As you attempt to do the things disciples do, you will naturally rely on God’s Word for help, encouragement, instruction, and support.  As we feel ill-equipped to live out our call as a disciple, we will naturally lean into His Word.

The biggest encouragement to becoming a self-feeder with a good grasp on scripture is heart-felt need in your daily life as a disciple.  We all start out as a spiritual newborn, but as we serve, learn, and grow, our hope is to move forward from milk to solid, self-fed food.

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation
— 1 Peter 2:2 ESV

If we agree that being a disciple involves more than just studying the Bible, we should agree that discipleship should involve more than just studying the Bible.

But where do we start?

If we go to God’s Word, we can find plenty of commands for disciples who are following Christ.

We can look to the Great Commission and know every disciple should be going into the world to make other disciples.  We can look to commands about justice and spend time feeding the poor, caring for the fatherless, serving the widows.  We can look to examples of actions of His sheep in Matthew 25 and feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and visit the imprisoned.

The key to this is to do it together with other disciples.  As you serve together, the more mature Christians will be put into a natural position to mentor and disciple the less mature Christians.  Together they become The Church practicing being disciples.

Most local churches offer discipleship weekends that have sessions of teaching.  Wouldn’t it be crazy to offer a discipleship weekend that involved feeding the poor, clothing refugees, visiting a prison, praying with the sick, or just fishing for men?  The benefit would not just be for those served, but also for those serving.  The act of serving will lead to learning more about following Jesus.

I cannot miss this opportunity to point out how important the Great Commission is in our walk following Jesus.  We are all commanded to make disciples, and when we lead someone to make the decision to follow Christ, we have made a disciple.

It is only God who saves, but He allows us to be a part of this process of making disciples because He cares about our obedience.

There is nothing on this Earth that makes me feel like the least-equipped, least-knowledgable Christian ever than talking to another person about salvation.  As we do this uncomfortable, challenging work of sharing the path to salvation with others, we will never feel more lead to dive into studying and know God’s Word.

Discipleship involves both studying and doing the Word.

Doing the Word will drive you to study the Word, and studying the Word should drive you to doing the Word.

Let’s change our view of discipleship and begin serving to grow!


I like to share a song with every blog post.  I love how deep & full of truth Christian rap is.  It is comforting to me on days when my heart is so heavy for my city.

  "Lord give me an explanation for your grace
So I can have an answer when they're starring in my face
Not an answer for the question but answer for the cancer
Like why me and my darkest thoughts are always so romantic? Huh?
Why do I love what you hate?
Why does my obedience come and go?
I need the combination to the safe
Lord I pray you show yourself to the lost
And give the streets a revelation of the cross"

Growing Testimony

#servetogrow Part 4

We all think of our testimony as how we came to know Jesus, and it is that.  It is the answer to the question, “What made you hungry for a relationship with God?”  It is the story of how you realized you needed the grace and forgiveness that Jesus made possible.  The testimony of that moment when you accepted the gift of Jesus and you were born again, that is the beginning chapter of a testimony that will grow as your life continues, as you grow in faith and knowledge of our King.

If God is working in your life, you are adding to your testimony.

If you’d say that God isn’t working in your life, find where God is working, and join Him.  God is always at work.

A growing Christian has a growing testimony.  God never stops working.

At some point for everyone, life gets tough.  Storms come, as we have trials and suffer loss.  In those times, we lean into our God who has anchored us to the shore.  As we see God remain faithful, our faith becomes stronger, more concrete.  God can use our loss to allow us to comfort those who have suffered loss.  God can use the ugly, hurtful things this world opposes upon us to make us driven to protect others, restore others, to seek justice.

Sometimes we mess up.  We blow it.  It happens.  God can use our mistakes to help others.  When we realize our failings, we are so tenderhearted.  We are humbled.  We have compassion for others that have blown it.  We know how it feels to fail our Father.  We confess.  We find loving, free forgiveness.  He redeems.  God has been in the business of redemption since Eve picked up that fruit.  Redemption is possible for Him.  When you bring repentance to the table, He brings a new start.  Doing the hard work of asking forgiveness from people you might have hurt gives them the chance to add a story of forgiveness to their testimony.

God does not waste anything.

In any circumstance, God can use it for His good, to change lives, to change your story.

We see this idea played out most clearly in the life of Joseph.

Trial after trail came, but the same God who gave young Joseph a dream, fulfilled those dreams.  The nation of Israel was spared from famine because of Joseph’s life of faithfulness to God and God’s faithfulness to Joseph.

His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
— Genesis 50:18-21 ESV

As we grow spiritually, our testimony grows and grows.  We serve others when we share our testimony.

Anyone you encounter could be at that point of hungering for God, seeking His love and forgiveness.  You could be the one who gives them the first chapter of their testimony.

Share your story.  Serve that person in front of you who needs to hear it.  If the Holy Spirit is involved, you will both grow spiritually because of that conversation.



I love to include a song with every post.  My mission trip leader texted me this song this morning, how perfect is that?

Get out of the classroom

#servetogrow part 2

How did Jesus teach His disciples?  He didn’t put his carpentry skills to work and a bust out a dozen desks.  Instead, He said, “Let’s go.”

I believe the Lord still teaches OTF.  OTF, that’s “on the fly.”

If this is the case, why does 90% of our discipleship as a local church involve sitting down and taking notes?  Could we missing out on a big component of discipleship?  

I feel like I’m saying something a little bit controversial here.  If you have felt any hesitancy to accept #servetogrow, it might be because so few local churches are doing discipleship outside of a classroom.  Please set what usual churches do aside.  

Or your hesitancy might be because you interpret my #servetogrow idea as “works” based teaching.  I don’t intend to suggest that any works would save us.  I believe fully in the grace that God offers all of us, and I know that there is not a single physical ministry anyone could do that would make them worthy of His Throne.

But aren’t studying, reading, and praying verbs that could be considered works too?  Those church activities should set off your “works” based teaching red-flags as well.

I want to be clear that reading The Word is as necessary as eating and prayer is as necessary as breathing.  As Christians, we should be filling ourselves with His Word and His Spirit.  Without this preparation, no ministry is possible.

If you read through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you begin to see a pattern to Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus traveled from town to town, doing things.  He healed men, women and children.  He raised people from the dead.  He fed huge crowds of people.  He taught in stories called parables.  He preached the sermon on the Mount.  He welcomed the children to Himself.  He calms storms.  He gets alone to pray to His Father.  He dines with tax collectors and sinners.  

As Jesus was performing these miracles and acts of mercy, the disciples tagged along asking questions.  Sometimes they also got a little side lessons the Bible calls “being rebuked.”

A few times Jesus sends the disciples out on their own.  He gives them His authority to proclaim His kingdom and heal sickness.  Whenever He did this, He would send them empty handed, going out in complete faith.

Can you even image a bigger opportunity to learn lessons about God?

As His disciples, we can still go out empty handed to serve the lost, sick, and lonely.  Wouldn’t we learn from such an experience?

Last week, when I introduced #servetogrow, I said it was a theory that we grow spiritually by serving others.  I’ve been witness to something at my church, Citychurch, for a few summers now that I want to share with you.

Our ministry at Citychurch is seasonal.  We have different outreaches during different times of the school year.  We have spurts of meeting physical needs during the school year when children have holidays and school breaks, but the majority of our ministry is old-fashioned Bible teaching.  We have youth and pre-teen services, elementary aged Bible clubs, a preschool, and Sunday school.  You would think that during these times of the year, as a teacher in these programs, I would observe a lot of spiritual growth in our children and youth’s lives.  That isn’t what I’ve observed.  I’ve actually seen more spiritual growth during the summer months.  In the summer, our church is action-packed and busy with outreach.  Many of our pre-teens and youth are very active in these outreaches.  They help pack lunches, deliver on vans and bicycles, and assist with programs in the park for children.  It is during these times of outreach when our youth seem to make leaps and bounds in their ability to bear fruit.

During these times of service, the young people in our church are being mentored by the staff and volunteers.  They are putting their faith into action.  They learn OTF, and the lessons stick.

What about you?  Have you ever come back from a short-term mission trip, and said these words, “That trip changed my life?”  Have you ever learned something about the Lord as you were teaching others?  Have you served your community out of His grace, and realized you had been receiving His grace through that service?

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing some active commands the scripture gives us.  I believe that completing these actions is a huge part of your discipleship and how you should be discipling others.



I like sharing music, and I'm still on a Santigold kick.  Her new album, tho.  This song is a hilarious comment on the state of American culture.  My friends who've been to Ethiopia will recognize the influence of Ethiopian music, especially in the intro of the song.  I don't know about myself, but I can't get enough of this song.


How do we grow spiritually?

Just answer that question in you mind for a minute or two.  Really think about it.  Think about how you have grown spiritually over the course of your life.  Has growth come during times of study, times of trials, times of prayer, times of listening, times of reading, times of working in ministry, times of serving the poor, times of serving your family, and/or times of teaching?  If you are like me, you would probably say yes to all of those times that have offered the opportunity to learn more about the God’s love for us.

I would like to propose a theory that, as I looked back and took survey of my spiritual life, I found that the most growth happened in either times of trial or times of serving others.  I learn things studying God’s Word, I definitely do.  I not negating the importance of His Word in any way, shape, or form.

So if this might be true, that trials and service bring fruitful times of growth, why wouldn’t we embrace those times.  We cannot and should not bring trials into our life.  God is in charge of that, and let’s keep it that way.  But we can take a proactive role in making service a big part of our lives.

I want to focus more of my writing about this idea.  Writing about it will help me as a writer try to find what is true.  As I do, I will be using the hashtag #servetogrow.  Please join in.  I need your help as a reader.  I need your feedback.  If you are instagraming pictures of your Kingdom work or sharing a post on Facebook or Twitter about you experience serving others, use the hashtag #servetogrow.  If you do that, I can find your posts.  I want to test my theory out.  I want to see God use your gifts in service and see your spiritual growth happen.

Today I also want to share a story with you that is a perfect example of growing closer to the Lord during service.

My friend Cassie Haney and her family are just beginning a journey as missionaries to Mexico.  When they gave this testimony at church, it brought tears to my eyes.  I know it will bless you heart as well.  Click over and read this.


Beautiful time of prayer as they prepare to leave on mission to Guadalajara. I got a little choked up, as a daughter of a daddy, when this sweet daddy was giving his blessing to his daughter, son-in-law, and 5 grandchildren to move 1,200 miles away to share God's Love with a whole new community of people. Pray for the Haney family in the coming weeks. What an adventure!

Beautiful time of prayer as they prepare to leave on mission to Guadalajara. I got a little choked up, as a daughter of a daddy, when this sweet daddy was giving his blessing to his daughter, son-in-law, and 5 grandchildren to move 1,200 miles away to share God's Love with a whole new community of people. Pray for the Haney family in the coming weeks. What an adventure!

The Haney family were so full of the Joy of the Lord because they were serving Him.  The woman spotted that and received joy also by giving to their family’s mission.

You don’t have to move to a different country to serve Him.  When you are intentional about seeking to serve, God will use your willingness where ever you are.

When God’s grace places us into the position of serving Him, we can give, receive, and truly experience the Joy of the Lord.


"And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful." - Titus 3:14 ESV


Each post I like to share a song I'm enjoying.  I love this new album by Santigold, and I love this song.  It's the bomb.

Cynicism is not a Spiritual Gift: How I shocked a 24 year old

Looking across the dinner table, 24 year old eyes the diameter of tea cups were staring back at me.  It was at that moment, I realized what I was saying was shocking.  I hadn’t thought it as unbelievable.

We were a table of five IF:Lead2015 women discussing life topics including everything from YouTube videos to politics, and we had even talked about having the sex conversation with your kids.  So how was I to know that books would be the topic that evoked that outlandish look of from someone 14 years my junior?

When I tell you what I said, considering a Christian book review was my last blog post and the fact that this actually is a Christian blog, you might be surprised too.


Almost all 26 years of my Christian life, I’ve been cynical about Christian produced writing.  I read almost no Christian books between high school and 2010.

I’m just getting home from a IF:Leadership Conference, and five years ago, I couldn’t have named one single Christian author I would have wanted to listen to, much less read a book by.

This is more shocking knowing that my husband and I have been in ministry for 19 years.  I helped start a church, taught countless Sunday school classes, brainstormed hundreds of crazy ministry ideas with my family, participated in lots of those crazy ideas, led lots of people to Jesus, had amazing church attendance, home schooled my kids, and lived a lifestyle LifeWay would have put a stamp of approval on.  God did all of this in my life.  Glory to God, not me!

You are probably asking, “You’re a Christian, and you’re definitely Beth Moore’s demographic.  Why wouldn’t you read Christian book?”

Well.  I didn’t think there was a Christian author that would “get me” or would be authentic enough to let me “get them.”

I valued action not words.  I wanted someone to put “the rubber to the road” for Christ, and couldn’t imagine someone actually being honest about the world we live in and living for Jesus beyond a “preaching/teaching people who are already Christians” sort of way.

I’d like to say I was one of those “all we need is the Bible” types.  Gosh.  That would actually make sense.

I was wrong.

When is cynicism ever right?

So what changed?

Two things.

One, I lost my little brother in 2010.  That probably made my heart a little softer.

Two, God shoved a book in my face.

Friends kept asking me if I had heard of Jen Hatmaker.  They said, “Her story in interrupted reminds me of the story of your church.”  I filed those references under “yeah, whatever.”

The “yeah, whatever file” also had the book name Radical filed in it.  (I know.  I know.  Forgive me.)  Let me just tell you.  When you are on a bicycle delivering lunches to inner-city children and telling them about Jesus, and some middle-aged white guy leans over and asks you if you’ve read Radical, thoughts go like this:  I helped think of this ministry.  I’m on my bike doing this.  This is my life.  It’s pretty radical.  I don’t need to read the book.  But to the man you just politely say, “No.  I haven’t” because that’s WJWD.


So back to the second thing that changed my reading habits.  My husband came home from a Christian conference with a free book for me.  I asked, “Is it Jen Hatmaker?”

Guess what?  It was.  What are the chances?

God obviously wanted me to read this book.  The book was Seven, and I read it.

Jen Hatmaker changed my mind about Christian authors.  Then she lead me to IF.

Because I’m radical, (Can I call myself that?  If I ever meet David Platt, I’ll ask him.) I hosted a IF:Local Gathering in my church in 2014 without knowing what it was or who anyone was.

There I was with my friends watching the IF live feed.  Everyone kept asking me, “Who is that?”  My answer, every time.  “I don’t know.”

I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t Jen Hatmaker.

I didn’t know who Ann Voskamp was.  Let that sink in.

(Other than Jen’s book) I hadn’t read any of their books.

Was this good?



Because the Bible says this:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 ESV

I was judging Christian community and quenching the Spirit.  I wasn’t testing anything.  How could I hold fast to what was good when I wasn’t letting anything in.

What about you?  Are you in the place I was, where I didn’t see a need for Christian input, cynical about what they could offer?  Are you at the opposite end of the spectrum, where you are reading every Christian book you can get your hands on, but you are not putting your faith into action. (James 2:17 says faith without works is dead.)

Let me encourage you to find your place in Christian community.  Allow input, test everything, and hold fast to what is good.  Allow those good things to give you strength as you venture out into the world and turn your strengthened faith into work.

I love music, and I like to share a song at the end of my blog posts.  This song was playing at the IF:Leadership Conference this week, so it has been stuck in my head.  Also, it starts out, "My cold hearted child."  I feel like that was what my heart was like when I wasn't open to what others had to share about Christ.

Community & Anxiety

I’ve blogged about this before, but in case you missed it:  I have social anxiety.  I have a hard time being around people.

One of the biggest parts of social anxiety is feeling like everyone else is in a group that I’m not in.  In my head, when I let it go to that place, I decide that everyone likes everyone else, and that everyone else doesn’t like me.

I know it is silly.  Social anxiety doesn’t follow logic or allow logic.

Here’s the problem.  Christians need community.

I’m beginning to realize something.  My social anxiety exists because deep down I am longing for community.  I want to belong.  If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have the anxiety.

Here’s the reason we need community.  Most evangelism and social justice work happens in groups.

As a Christian we are called to do a couple of things.  The first and most important is the great commission.  We are called to make disciples.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

Gathering people to bring them into knowledge of Christ can look a lot of different ways.  Almost all of the opportunities I have to be evangelistic or to disciple young Christians have been in groups: Bible club, Sunday school, mission trips, summer bike lunch delivery, and church outreaches.

The other thing we are called to do as Christians is to job of social justice.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
— Micah 6:8 ESV

This season of my life, God has called me into orphan care ministries, and much of our work at my church, Citychurch, involves fatherless children.

All of this work has been done in community with my church and orphan care groups.  Even our adoption that is still in the waiting stages has involved many other Christians.  So many friends and family have prayed for us and participated in our fundraisers.

When I realize the importance community plays in the work of the Kingdom, no wonder Satan would love for me to be engulfed in anxiety.

The anxiety that I suffer when I interact with other people is a huge attack on The Church, His community.

I am convinced (because I get so much response when I talk about anxiety and because Brene Brown is a best selling author) that so many people suffer the same attacks that I do, causing them to draw away from community.

If you are one of those people, let me encourage you to see those thoughts for what they are, spiritual attacks, and inspire you to realize that doing the hard work of overcoming the anxiety is important to the Church.

It has been hard for me to recognize when thoughts during social anxiety are true or untrue, but learning how to separate those thoughts from truth and thoughts that are from the roaring lion who seeks to devour me is important to overcoming anxiety.

It is not easy, but find some wise council that can help you begin to disprove your anxiety driven thoughts.  Becoming a part of community will encourage your growth as a Christian, increase your dependence on God, and your effectiveness as an active part of the Church.

Remember these words in 1 John because it reminds us of the love God has for us each individually.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
— 1 John 4:16-18a ESV
I love music, so I like to include a song with every blog post.  Here's a beautiful song about a guy that doesn't quite fit in with others.  The thing I love about Andrew Bird is that he likes to make up his own words. Why not?

Growth & Humility Part 2

Two days ago I blogged about what spiritual growth looks like and how it leads to humility in Part 1.  One of the things I said was, “When I think back to the lessons I have learned they seem to fall into two categories: either times when God surpassed my expectations, answering prayers overabundantly, beyond what I asked Him or times when I tried hard and God let my efforts fail.”

On this post I wanted to give you some examples from my life where I have learned lessons and grown spiritually.

A few weeks ago, I was in one of those try hard and fail moments.

Lost and stuck.  That’s where I was.  Not where I was suppose to be and stuck in the mud.  Not alone either.  I had a van full of 5th and 6th grade girls, and where did I lead them?  Lost and stuck in the mud.

How did I get here?

Anxiety was rearing its ugly head that morning.  The reasons are too many to list.  For one, I was starting a new study in my Sunday school class.  I was nervous about it.  I wanted it to go well.

I was feeling all the physical symptoms of anxiety.  I was light headed and my stomach was churning.

Walking into Sunday school, I was asked the question that began my “try hard” journey.

“Could you drive a van?  The other ladies are taking their own cars.”

My thoughts were “I am feeling like the odd woman out.”  And, “I’m not even sure how to get to this camp.”

But instead, my voice said, “Ok.  I’ll do it.”

All during church the physical reactions from anxiety were compounding.  I couldn’t see anyway out of driving.  I jump in and tell myself that all I have to do is follow the person in front of me.  I can do this!

When I lose sight of the person in front of me and accidentally take the wrong highway, I should have called someone, told them to wait for me, but that’s not the move of a girl who can do anything.

I got this.  I’ll use my GPS on my phone.  (“I” is the key word here.)

So an hour and a half later, where am I?  At the exact dot that my flawed GPS tells me the camp is located.

And that silly dot is in the middle of a muddy field.  Maybe it’s time to call someone?  

No.  I still got this.  I’ll just turn around.  With a big 15 passenger van.  On a muddy dirt road.  With a dozen pre-teen girls.  What could go wrong?

Now I’m lost AND stuck.  Maybe it really is time to call someone.

I take out my phone, and after a dozen tries, I finally get a call through.

And here comes a farmer with a shovel to help us out.

I want to say that I was gracious to that farmer, but I honestly am embarrassed to report that I gave him a passive aggressive report on how I shouldn’t be there at all.  I said something about no one waiting for me and no time to look at a map.  And then I gave him a cold shoulder thank you before I drove backwards half the length of the dirt road to a place where it would be safe to turn the van around.

By that point, help was calling trying to give me directions, trying to find us.  I really hope I was grateful and friendly, but I can’t imagine that I was.  I was shame spiraling hard.

After driving another 10 minutes in the wrong direction, (of coarse I would turn the wrong way when I got to the main road), I finally found our help waiting to guide us to camp.

I was so upset, not about the van incident in particular, but with life in general.  Shame spiraling can cause you to look at life in an “all good” or “all crappy,” black & white sort of way.  I used my anxiety induced upset stomach to give myself an excuse to go home and not even help with camp that week.

What did I learn about God?  How did I grow?

I went home and spent some time reflecting on my bad attitude, my shame, and my anxiety.

I journaled, and I listened to audio books.  I kind of had a camp for one.

I did learn some things, but they were mainly about me.

On the other end of the spectrum there have been times when God blessed times of ministry and times in my life personally so overwhelmingly that I was awed by God’s love for me and for others.

I had a hard time narrowing down which example I wanted to share because there are so many times God has shown Himself to be trustworthy, faithful, and abundant.

Last year when I went on mission trip to Ethiopia, God accomplished so many miracles to provide for the orphans.  I was blown away watching God move to provide for those children.  Not just small things, but also big things like 350 mattresses and a latrine for the government orphanage.  This Christmas when I joined a group of just a few women to raise money for orphans in Uganda, I saw God provide $20,000 to purchase land for the orphanage.  After Christmas I joined another group of ladies to plan an interdenominational gathering for women in our city, I watched God provide every penny we needed to accomplish the event.  He also filled every seat that rented, set up, and prayed to be filled.  At Citychurch, I’ve watched God miraculously provide too many times to count.  I’ve also watched him change hearts and lives of children we minister to.

One of my favorite times God has blessed me was when God provided the money for my husband James and I to go on a vacation to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.

It was the spring of 2012.  James and I had gone through a rough couple of years, losing James’s dad, my mom’s hospitalization, having a newborn baby - i.e. sleep depravation, and losing my brother to suicide.

We were dreaming of getting away by ourselves for our anniversary.  Unexpectedly, God provided the exact amount of money that matched up with the vacation we had priced on Travelocity.

I was floored.

What did I learn from this?  How did I grow spiritually?

I learned that God loves me, and because He loves me, He gives good gifts.  I learned that God treasures marriage.  He cares about my marriage.  He puts value on it.

Just to contrast, when I tried hard and fell on my face, I learned something about me.  When God surpassed my expectations, answering prayers overabundantly, beyond what I asked Him, I learned about God.

Learning about me and my fleshly issues and learning about God and His faithful provision leads me to the same lesson.  That lesson is humility.  My humanity reminds me that I need God, and God’s magnificent graciousness reminds me that I need God.

My efforts are so futile, mind-numbingly futile.  God is awe-inspiring, and I am humbled at the grace His shows me.

Humility.  I’m there now, and I hope to stay.  

          ...And I lost it.  That lasted five seconds.  Oh well, I hope to visit as often as my flesh will allow.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Matthew 11:29-30 NIV
I like to post a song with each blog post because music makes me happy.  Sadly I'm not humble about my good taste in music.  This song by twins sisters who grew up in France and Cuba is from my favorite album released this year (so far.)

Growth & Humility Part 1

A dissection of 1 Corinthians 3

Have you heard of the wordless book?  It is an evangelism tool where the basic story of the gospel is told using colors.  The book is sometimes converted into bracelets with beads for portability and craft-ability.  There is a green bead that represents growth.  If the craft store is out of green, the craft isn’t canceled because the story of salvation can be told without understanding growth.

Is it really important?  What exactly is Christian growth?  What does it look like, and how do we know we are doing it right?

We know where we begin our journey of growth because Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3 that we start out on spiritual milk, not yet ready for solid food.  We live life in the flesh, still behaving badly.  We have jealousy, and we cause strife.

Verse 7 through 9 tell us this, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God's fellow workers.  You are God's field, God's building.”

Only God gives growth.  God plants.  God waters.

Also, Paul is recognizing that growth requires work on our part.  We cannot expect change without engaging in making changes and serving.  We cannot expect to learn without listening, reading, and seeking.

Growth is active.

And it begins with a foundation, a foundation of grace that only Jesus could lay.  He tells us take care how we build upon this foundation.  We are warned to carefully choose our building blocks because they will be tested with fire.

Growth comes from testing.

This has been true in my life.  My biggest periods of spiritual growth have been when life has gotten hard.  Not if, but when life gets hard, we can choose to stop growth or we can dig into God’s truth, lean hard on God’s grace and grow.  To put it another way, we can go on building on our foundation with worldly wisdom or with God’s truth.

Then Paul warns us of the inevitable problem that everyone faces as they grow - pride.  He warns us to not deceive ourselves and think that we are wise.  He reminds us that the thoughts of the wise are futile, and that we have nothing to brag about.

Growth leads to humility.

When I began the journey of spiritual growth as a teenager, I looked forward to the day that I would have answers, knowledge, and wisdom.  But it turns out realizing that I will never have all the answers is the biggest proof that I are becoming spiritually mature.

Humility is the mark of spiritually maturity.  Blessed are the meek indeed.

It’s much easier to get excited about the word on a piece of paper, humility, than to experience it.

Summer time has been a huge time of personal spiritual growth for me in the past few years.  I’ve served in ministries out of my comfort zone, did Bible studies that made me think and learn, and saw God move in amazing ways.

When I think back to the lessons I have learned they seem to fall into two categories: either times when God surpassed my expectations, answering prayers overabundantly, beyond what I asked Him or times when I tried hard and God let my efforts fail.

Honestly, this summer has felt a lot of failed efforts.  Thursday I’ll post Part 2 with some specific examples.

Because I’ve had steady doses of humble pie this summer, I’m taking encouragement from this passage in James.  I am growing.  I’m learning that ever important lesson of humility.  God is showing me that growth doesn’t end.  I’m never going to graduate spiritual growth school, not in this life anyway.

Growth is ongoing.

You have the ability to plateau your spiritual growth at any moment.  Because growth requires action on your part, it is possible to not act.  But you also have the ability to be open to growth by building on your foundation of grace.  But don’t miss this fact - every bit of growth comes from God.

Growth is a gift from God.

And that fact leads us back to humility.  What can I brag about if I cannot achieve any growth on my own?

That green bead is important, not in explaining salvation, but in explaining our life as a Christian.

Growth is important, and here’s the key to knowing you are growing, what it looks like and when it is done right - humility.


I like to post a song with each blog post because it's fun.  This is a near perfect folk song right here.  Enjoy.