Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Forced Abortion and Scientology

Last night, I went live on Facebook for the first time and it wasn’t pretty, as in I was an emotional mess with smeared end of the day makeup etc, so I didn't give it permission to replay. While I didn’t want that emotional video left out there for the world to see, I do believe the heart of the message is crucial to share.  

I had an abortion at 18, if you have known me any length of time, you know that I don’t keep that fact a secret.  It is an area of my life that is very public for the purpose of helping others.  I was not forced to have an abortion, though at the time I felt I had no other choice, despite my moral and emotional objections to the act of abortion both as a platform and personally.  

Honestly, what I wanted was a time machine but that wasn’t an option.  Abortion was an immediate regret that carried with it lasting emotional baggage.  Through a series of trainings and my own personal healing journey, I have spent years listening to men and women share their stories.  Because I know the pain of that choice, I want to be there for others and also be damn sure it is a choice someone wants before they make it because there is no going back. 

I have been weighted down by the percentage of women who have told me the story of their FORCED ABORTION.  Only a few stories involved guns, but still they were forced, with threats of divorce or homelessness or shunning.  I have heard more pain over a conversation and coffee than anyone should have to hear, yet I am glad to be able to listen.  Each story is important and needs to be told.   I can't imagine going through abortion and feeling powerless to stop it because you were forced. 

Regardless of where you stand at the fence of life/choice arguments, can we all agree that forced abortions are wrong?  Its an area of common ground that I believe we should be talking more about and dealing with as a society.  I believe both sides of the fence should be able to come together to fight against someone being forced into a choice against their will.   We need to be a safe haven for women who do not want to have an abortion.  

With all that said, the latest episode of Leah Remini’s documentary about Scientology on A&E dealt with this very subject and found myself in my very own puddle.  This series has really been impactful for me.  I have studied and taken classes on World religions.  I thought I was pretty familiar with the belief systems of most popular religions.  This series has blown me out of the water with the depths of deception and abuse that people have faced at the hands of Scientology.   

This week’s episode revealed another dark side to this religion.  Apparently, it is common practice for women in the SEA Org (a training and career sector of Scientology) to be forced to have an abortion when they discover they are pregnant, because children would be a distraction from their mission.  I listened in as a former member and high-ranking employee, who had to escape for her life like someone escaping Nazi Germany, share her pain of being forced to abort her first child after getting married.  My heart broke as I was then exposed to other women who have lived this same reality.   What kind of religion forces their women to abort?!

I’m already past my desired word count, but I can’t end this post without saying again, forced abortion is wrong and denies choice.  Religion should never FORCE you to do anything.  If you are having to cut off from your family or abort your child, then do yourself a favor and run the other direction.  God is LOVE and that is NOT God!!! Thank you, Leah Remini and all others who are putting their safety on the line to expose this cult for all it truly is.  We cannot keep quiet about such heinous acts of abuse against people in the name of religion.  I am so glad I serve a God who uses love as his avenue to change the world instead of intimidation and abuse.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Value of Something Lost

Do you know the story of the lost coin in the Bible (Luke 15:8-10)?  A woman has ten silver coins and loses one.  She does all she can to search the house until its found.  Then she calls everyone to celebrate with her because she has found it.  Then this story is compared to how God celebrates when one of his children who has lost their way has been found.  

My dad is a pastor and has often preached on this parable, and others like it, as it demonstrates how God loves all people.  Just as the coin had the same value when in the woman’s pocket as it did when it was lost, so our value is constant.  It isn’t determined by any defining characteristics or any life choice but by who we are as a creation and child of God.  Humans have designated value based on appearance or achievement, not God.  This value goes beyond the bullying we perpetuate in everyday life to those who are living their lives to perpetuate evil into the world.  

This truth hit home for me this weekend as I lost my wedding rings.  I cannot find them.  I have looked constantly everywhere throughout my house and have yet to find them.  They cannot be replaced even if I had the money to do so because those were the rings given to me by my husband in our engagement and on our wedding day.  They are more than just the gold and diamonds that comprise them.  I have become distracted from all else as I seek to find them. 

God is allowing my own challenge to illuminate a very important issue.  As I see what is happening in Aleppo and all over Syria, my heart breaks.  I live a charmed life and have no clue what it must be like to live in a constant state of threat and fear.  I have been in some scary situations in my life but nothing even close to reality, today in Syria.  It hit me, even though there are billions of people on planet earth, God loves each of us so much that none of us can be replaced.  We see a sea of people and designate value based on how they compare to our lives, but God created each one with purpose and value and seeks their best regardless of the circumstances.  He is heartsick over his people who are wayward or mistreated.

God made those people and loves them as much as he loves me.  He loves those who are creating hell and those who are living in it.  We were all made by him.  We may not be killers, but in our country we are guilty if we live our lives focused on us and forget what others are facing.  We have responsibility for helping our neighbor.  

We need to pray and fight for our friends and family, we need to be inconvenienced enough to step in to help the helpless.  We need to have a passion for others equal to my passion to find my rings.  

Where is our passion for people?  Have we lost it in our own complacent living? As long as we have what we need and even want and can be entertained by our distractions of choice, all is well?  This is unacceptable.  I am not against enjoying life but most Americans don’t have balance between caring for others as much as we care for ourselves.  If there were balance, our world would look much different.  

About 7 years ago while in Thailand, my group gave money to our guide to help cover his expenses for the day.  He didn’t have much and needed that money for himself, yet at each stop we made, he would give some of the money we’d given him to someone in a worse situation than himself.  He had a heart for others.  It was beautiful and convicting.   

Is there someone that needs something from you?  Is there a sacrifice you can make?  Is there someone you’ve ascribed value to that is less than what they deserve?  Move toward balance and demonstrate self-less kindness for the betterment of someone else.   

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

It Will Change Your Life

Monday, I went to the Mother’s Club meeting at my son’s school.
  It is always a wonderful monthly event, but being December, they had some fun giveaways planned.  Each of the leadership team picked a product to donate that was one of their favorite things.  It was fun!  As one mom gave away her selected item, she told the recipient, “It will change your life.”  

I began to think about it.  I have nothing but love for those women and can often be found using those same words toward products that have simplified my life, for example, my Instant Pot!!! Love it!!! So please understand, I am not slamming her for saying that sentence, but it did begin to get my thoughts going.  

I thought the most life-changing aspect of my existence isn’t a product or the magic of tidying up, but is in fact, a relationship with Jesus Christ as a Bible-believing Christian.  Yet, I don’t see people (often including myself) speak with the same passion when sharing Christ as we do our latest find in life.  

We have been gifted with the opportunity for my son to attend a Christian school.  It is amazing because I love Jesus and I love that Caleb is learning about the Bible every single day, all day.  The common denominator there is Jesus.  We all love God and want our kids to, as well.  So I don’t think its a lack of love for God in my community that is the reason for this lack of passion. I actually don’t think it is always the passion that is lacking, but instead there is a fear of offending or coming across too pushy.  But why does it bother us so much, when it clearly doesn’t when we offer to lend a friend a great book we just read or share the funny promo video for products we just started using?  

I once watched a video from known Atheist, Penn Jillette, (watch it here) share that if someone truly believes that Jesus is the only way and that if someone doesn’t choose him they are going to hell, “how much do you have to hate someone” not to share it with them?  What an excellent point!  You don’t have to throw it in their face at every encounter but if you have a friend or neighbor or acquaintance that doesn’t know God, I think we should at least put it out there and then love on that person as Christ would.  This looks very different from beating people over the head with our tracks and our rude demonstrations of pushy faith.  But the point made by Penn Jillette is very valid and honestly, if you aren’t experiencing a faith that has changed your life, you are missing something.  

This may also be the reason for lack of passion.  The change that Jesus does in our lives is as evident as a person losing 200lbs.  People will notice.  That kind of change creates passion.  We should be sharing our reactions to the “life-changing magic of the cross” in our lives.   Its a part of us and in sharing ourselves with people we want to know more, it should be a natural aspect to the relationship development.  

So here is my parting question for you:  How has Jesus changed your life?  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Empty Swing

When I saw this photo on, I was filled with a surge of emotion that is inexplicable.  It took my heart to a topic that has found residence in me over the past few years.

Truth be told, until the day I birthed a child, I could have died any day and been fine with it.  I wasn’t suicidal or reckless, but I felt no inhibitions to chase after life.  While I do struggle with anxiety, I had a solid spiritual confidence with no fear of the end of life, and I was ready to meet my Savior if that time ever came.  I still hold that confidence, but when my son was born, I instantaneously felt a tether to this world like never before. 

 I love my step daughters but coming into their lives later in the game, and having been raised by their dad, I didn’t really feel they needed me, at least not like the helpless baby I held in my hands for the first time on January 26, 2011 at 9:02am.  It was a reason to live like nothing I had ever felt.  

Now, after birthing two kids, that calling to be here on earth, to walk the journey with them, is stronger than I have ever felt or imagined.  I am well aware I do not get a choice in the number of days I spend on earth.  That is a God decision and I must trust him no matter what.  But those are weighty words. Its one thing to say them (or write them as the case may be) and another to walk them.  The other side of this coin is the thought of losing one of my children.    

I’ve never held my own child, then felt the loss of that life.  I have experienced loss, in abortion, years of infertility and miscarriage.  Those loses were real and I still walk out some of the grieve of those occurrences today, but I cannot fathom the loss of a child who I have held and raised.  To know someone by name and to watch their personality dance before you each day, then be without them anymore, is something that hurts me in an empathetic place beyond explanation.  As a woman in ministry, I have walked with people who have had to live this tragedy in real life.

It is this emotion that fills my heart when I look at the empty swing.  I see what should have been, what was and is no more.  I see loss and grief staring at me through the absence of a child on the swing. It reminds me to pray for those who have experienced this pain.  It reminds me to treasure what I do have and to see the beauty in each day, even when marriage and motherhood seem tiring and mundane.  We only get one shot at this life and we must cherish it.  We never know what tomorrow holds, we are only given today. '

As I end this post, I wish to write some names that I remember, names of children who left us too early.

I remember...


"Lord, teach us to laugh, but don't let us forget we cried." - Bill Wilson

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Best Gift You Can Give!

This morning, I looked down at the counter, which is always a mess!  (I try to keep it cleaned off, but my attempts just don't seem to meet with much success).  There amongst some papers was a notecard.   It was addressed to me so I looked at the return address.  It wasn't an address I recognized.  I curiously opened the envelope and discovered a thank you card.  It was filled with sweet, encouraging words from a woman on staff at my son's school.  A few weeks ago we got to chatting as I was heading out from my monthly recess duty.  She is a delightful woman.  Her words spoke of the encouragement I brought to her, but it was her words that brought something wonderful to my heart this morning.

I have sent several cards out to friends and family on my heart this past month.  You know what I've realized this morning? I need to do it more!

I know you can like a friend's social media posts, you can text a nice meme or comment on their sweet instagram picture, but even with all the ways to connect - there is still something about a handwritten letter in the mail!  

We live in a time saving world with insta-everything.  We get more done and yet time is a wonderful gift.  When we sit down to write a letter, we have to stop and think about what we say.  Sure, we can use white out if we make a mistake, but its harder to do then to delete and re-write on the keyboard.  Its that time and effort that

1. still our hearts to think about someone
2. communicates care.

Don't we need more care?  Look at our world.  Take out all the opinions we fling around like a verbal food fight and look at just the "out of our control" experiences.  This week alone, we see:

* fires raging in Gatlinburg,
* a plane crash with a promising Brazilian soccer team all casualties,
* a car/knife attack on the Ohio State campus

those are just the highlights and its only Wednesday!

We need more encouragement.  We need to know, we are loved, we are in community and its gonna be okay.  We can't look to get those things from our government or even our religious leaders, we need to be a part of the solution and through some encouragement around.

People are going nuts on shopping deals right now, trying to get the latest for their kids or best deals for Christmas gifts so Christmas morning can be magical, and yet sometimes the best gift we can give someone is recognition that they matter.

Challenge:  Write a hand-written note each day during the month of December?  Can you think of thirty-one people who you could encourage or communicate your heart with?  

All you need: Paper, envelopes, pen, addresses and stamps.


Don't know how to write a note?

It doesn't have to be long, just start:

Dear ____________________,

I was thinking of you.  I wanted you to know FILL IN WITH YOUR FEELINGS OR WHAT YOU APPRECIATE.  I am always encouraged by your FILL IN WHAT MAKES THEM SPECIAL.  

Then wish them a Merry Christmas.  You may even let them know you are there if the holidays are hard for them because of a lost loved one.


Your name here


Make it your own, but just start.  It will get easier as the month goes, but take time to send something that isn't fast.  Write out your heart, your thoughts, your thanks or whatever comes to mind.

Let me know if you are gonna do this with me.  I'd love to have a team to help spread the love.

What are you waiting for?  Get writing, December starts tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

5 Tips to Regain Control of Your Life

Life can get going at a rapid pace and we can sometimes feel overwhelmed with the constant demands that nip at our heels each day.  It happens to me more often than I'd like to admit, just read Monday's blog post.  What are we to do to gain control again?  Truthfully, I can't speak to you specifically unless you reach out and give me details on your life, but there are some simple steps that can help you regain control. 

1. Unplug

Think for a minute about all the messages and mediums vying for our attention.  We have text messages, email, television, YouTube, social media private messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Linked In, Instagram, Tumbler, Pinterest etc.  So many ways to get information and that didn't even include the newsfeed built-in to your phone home page or computer web-browser.  Its no wonder we feel stressed out and tired, we are getting too many messages.  If you begin to feel like you are on this treadmill that keeps getting the speed increased, its time to get off the media train and take some time to shut down the many methods of input.  Maybe you can't go without it all for your job, but if you are being honest, you could easily find hours reaching or even exceeding the double digits of unnecessary media time.  That movie or latest episode of your favorite show can wait.  You can take the social media apps off your phone or turn off certain notifications so you aren't clicking to see each like or comment. 

2. Be Silent, Be Still

If you are as old or older than me, you may remember a movie in 1999 called, "She's All That."  There is a scene where during a piece of live art, the actors chants, "Be Silent, be still," repeatedly.  It brings home the point that we need to bring all the noise to a stop.  If the mess of noises listed above weren't bad enough, we have a few more bouncing around our brain.  They can be summed up with one word - expectations.  We allow the voices of others in our lives and even our own self-talk, to bring craziness to our thoughts with an endless supply of limitations and criticisms.  It's time to shut it out and just silently be still.  That may be meditation for you or it may look more like what Craig Groeschel describes in his 5 minutes of quiet each day.  Just take time, even if its 5 minutes to sit quietly.  It may seem awkward at first, but you will grow to appreciate what it offers you. 

3. Put on your Mask

I don't know who you are or what you do, but I bet involves taking care of others.  That my friends is an amazing part of life, but sometimes we give and give without any balance of caring for ourselves.  Its become cliché, but truly the airlines know what they are speaking to when they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before assisting smaller travelers.  If you put the mask on our child first, you could pass out in the process due to your bodies need for oxygen.  You need to sleep, eat, exercise at minimum.  If you are like me you also need relational time to fill that love tank.  My mom suffers from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and needs to go to certain yoga and water aerobics classes each day to manage the pain levels.  It is a need.  If she ignores it she becomes debilitated by pain.  If I ignore my need for relationships I can become debilitating depressed.  I don't know what that looks like for you but its time to figure it out and schedule it so that you have what it takes to do your life. 

4.  Choose Gratitude

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and honestly its a holiday we have all but forgotten.  Its just become a day off work to stuff our faces (and now start Christmas shopping) instead of a season of gratitude.  Gratitude prepares our hearts and minds to center our souls between reality and desires.  Gratitude allows us the ability to recognize what we have.   Let's face it, if you spent $2.50 today, you are doing better than 50% of the population (I know I've quoted this before) but isn't it something to celebrate?!  Each situation has a positive and negative spin and its your choice to pick a path.  Gratitude quiets the unsettlings inside ourselves. It keeps us rooted in the here and now and keeps us from either living in the past or too focused on what's next.  What are you grateful for in this one moment?  I once sat in the woods for 5 hours and during time made a list of everything I could think of that I was grateful for from birth until that very moment.  It was a humbling and truly rewarding experience.  Its time I do it again.  Focus on what is beautiful in your life.  Sometimes it does take some digging but it can be that one thing in the midst of the storm we face that can bring us comfort.

5. Re-evaluate

Greg McKeown's book "Essentialism: The Discipled Pursuit of Less" or Marie Kondo's books on tidying up both bring to our attention the need for re-evaluation of what we are aiming at in life.  When we hold onto things and develop a hoarding mentality or we overwork ourselves in an effort to do it all, we are creating dysfunctional habits and aren't aiming at anything.  The result isn't satisfaction and success, but instead stress and anxiety within an unsettling reality.  We must pause long enough to look at see what we want from life and if our current daily actions support or fight against our goals.  If this is an area of struggle for you, I suggest you check out one of the resources I listed at the beginning of this paragraph.  Get some tools to working smarter, not harder.

Monday, November 21, 2016

My Momtastrophy Of A Morning

This morning I lost it.
  I mean ugly tears cascading down my face for issues of little consequence, yet in those moments my world was over.  Okay, so my world wasn’t over, but my reaction to issue ratio would warrant that sentence.   It was just a normal day that I turned into my very own momtastrophy.  Thanksgiving is this week and my son’s school is in session for the first two days of the week.  Today, Monday, was a special class treat.  They would have a Thanksgiving Feast and it was going to be epic.  Today they would dress like pilgrims to use their pilgrim hat and tomorrow is Indian day.  Kids were asked if possible to wear black pants and a black or white top.  Simple.  

I turned simple into stressful.  The outfit I had picked, turned out to have a ton of flaws.  The shirt needed to be ironed (I don’t iron, unless absolutely necessary), his jacket had a rip in the sleeve, both shirt and jacket were looking too small and his pants were flooding him as they were too big.  I looked through his closet finding patterns and grays, but no other clothes that fit exact specifications.  Meanwhile, Katie is trying to wrangle LeighAshley who is running all over the house refusing to cooperate with any request given to her.  We were running out of time and were trying to get out to make it to the bus stop in time.  

I tried to steam the shirt with no luck, then quickly stitched the whole in the jacket, but managed to sew the lining in such a way that made it hard to put on so I had to pull out the stitches and go again.  The clock was ticking.  I glanced at the clock and the bus stop option was out.  We now had to race to get to school on time.  I managed to get dressed enough to get out of the house but was trying to get all the school necessities together and do Caleb’s hair.  There was yelling from the other room as Katie was exasperated by LeighAshley and at times my voice joined the “let’s just get out of here” choir.  It was spiraling out of control fast.  I had lost it.  We got in the car and as we drove down the road I heard my little girl ask, “Mommy, ok?” She was responding to my tears.  “Yes, Mommy is ok.”  I told my boy he looked handsome and gave him kisses telling him I’d be there for the fun in a few hours.  As he jumped from the car, I just began to cry even more.  LeighAshley and I repeated our early dialogue many times between the school and home.  I was a wreck and honestly I didn’t know why. 

Fast-forward two hours and I rolled into the school ready to join my son.  I look around at kids in an array of outfits, most of which weren’t the strict guidelines that had taken over in my head.  Lots of jeans with black shirts, oatmeal colored sweaters, one even in a neon sweatsuit and I realized, I had lost my ever loving mind!!! Why? Why had I made something so simple and unimportant the King of my morning.  How had I let this consume me to the level of receiving a First Class trip on the crazy train?  

The fun started with cookie decorating then onto games and crafts.  My son sat working on his turkey craft and sang a song about majoring in the minors and my heart sank inside my chest.  I looked at him and said, “Sweetie, that is what mom did this morning, can you forgive me?”  He was quick to hug me and was definitely fine with moving on.  We had a great time, and I have a sweet memory with my son, his class, teachers and other parents from the day.  It was epic. 

There is a lesson here.  I am a prime example of how we as moms can make a mountain out of a mole hill.  Where do the priorities go when our hair is on fire and we are running around in an undefinable stream of insanity?  

What matters most?  I want my kids to feel loved and special.  I want them to know what matters most is who they are and how they treat people, not what outfit they are wearing.  The funny thing was, all that stress, and I had a handful of compliments on his jacket.  You know the one he was growing out of with a hole in the sleeve.  Geez!  Reality check party of one, and yet, I’d venture to say, I am not alone in this boat.  Stop and ask, is what I am freaking out about - inwardly or outwardly - a major or minor issue?  If its minor, let it go, we have far too many major issues to worry about!  Let me be your lesson for the day.  

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What Will You Do With Yours?

I went out today and bought groceries at Costco.  I hate grocery shopping so I try to get as much as I can at the beginning of each pay period.  I spent over $200 on groceries and other household items.  This number echoes in my ears as I learned this weekend that if you spend over $2.50 a day, you are in the top half of the world’s population.  The fact that I own a car, puts me in the top 90%.  I don’t often think of myself in this way as I see many people in my circles making much more money than me.  My husband and I are a middle-class family, but just because the comparisons of wealth in my own backyard are much greater than mine, doesn’t ignore the fact that I am wealthy in comparison with the world.  

I was recently challenged to share my abundance.  I was asked to look at what that might mean for me.  What I have come to recognize, is my abundance goes beyond money.   My husband and I are fairly generous people.  We give to our church each month and share other monies with non-profits locally and abroad, and then of course there are those who come across our path seeking funds for a variety of reasons, that beg for a $5 here or $10 there.  Even with that, I know we could give more.  It might take sacrifice, but sacrifice could do me some good.  

However, as I reflected I realized some of my abundance comes from my heart.  I am someone who naturally has always loved people and sought to hear the heart of a person.  I know I can talk, but I think I can also lovingly listen.  I realize in our world today, showing the world love, one person at a time, can really be utilizing my abundance.  I have an inner strength as a result of my faith and relationship with God.  When others struggle, my abundance might be sending encouraging words, letters or even praying with them or offering a hug.  I can take that gift God has given me for granted, and go about my busy day, but I have an obligation as someone whom has been given much to give even more (Luke 12:48). Which isn't what I always want to hear, especially when I just want to spend time doing what I enjoy and wish for my time and efforts to serve myself.  

Now before you tell me I need to enjoy life too and have some balance, please know that is not what I am speaking to.  If you are tired, get sleep; if you are hungry, eat something.  You do need to pay attention to yourself and know what you need, but more often than not we don't give because we just don't want to,not because we have nothing left to give.  

What areas can you give?  Maybe its giving up a membership you don’t use to spend that money on someone in need.  Maybe its giving away clothes and shoes you don’t wear or don’t fit to someone who can wear them now.  Maybe its taking time out of your life to look to the needs of those around you.  Sometimes lending a listening year is the abundance you have to give.  Sure it means having to give up time you wanted to spend reading, watching tv, enjoying a hobby or just playing a game on your phone, but it can meet someone’s deficit.  

What will you give?  What will you do with your abundance? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why Your Posts Are Part of the Problem

Yesterday, we elected a new President.   It wasn’t the Presidential Candidate I thought would win.  I really thought Clinton had it.  I was not a fan of either so I have no idea exactly how I feel, but I was more saddened (not surprised) when I opened up Facebook this morning.  Why was I saddened?  Because while we all have a right to share our opinion, most of us just shouldn’t!  

Over the past year I have read in a variety of books and articles how our lives online have hurt us.  I have been especially impacted by Craig Groeschel’s book, “#Struggles: Following Jesus in A Selfie-Centered World.” I don’t think social media is bad, I actually love it!  I have lived in 6 states and 2 foreign countries, travelled a lot in my earlier years and I love people, so it is an amazing way for me to be in the lives of so many far and wide.  

But we were never intended to live our lives online.  We were made for relationships.  Real relationships.  That means connecting our soul with others and that rarely happens online.  Online breeds superficial, unfiltered, edited responses to life.  It gives us a false sense of celebrity as we share our every move, thinking the world wants to know.  That may work with a small group of followers or friends but you would NEVER have a good coffee shop conversation with 1,000 people.  It just wouldn’t be productive or beneficial.  

I Corinthians 10:23 says "Everything is permissible," but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible," but not everything is edifying.

We are not famous.  Our platform is faulty if we are assuming it gives us celebrity.  We need to make our voice heard but unfortunately that voice gets lost in over saturated newsfeed.  People cannot take the overwhelming responses good, bad and ugly to the election process and the results we saw unfold into the wee-hours of this morning.  We were not made to effectively process all of that.  The non-stop barrage of in your face responses to the world enforces depressive tendencies and studies are now reflecting this connection with a rise in depression and suicide, I just read a great article in TIME magazine (November 7, 2016) about this very thing.  

When I was living in London for a semester during college, I got to experience the term stimulus overload.  Living by the hospital meant I heard sirens non-stop.  It was hard to sleep or focus as first, but by the time I came back to the States, I didn’t even notice the sound.  My brain couldn’t take it so it made the proper adjustments and filtered out the sound so I could function.  I see this same phenomenon happening online.  The very tool that once gave us a voice is now silencing it because its just too much! 

Face to face communication involves non-verbal communication that get lost in our social media posts, not to mention unscripted conversations include more than 140 characters.  You may drop a controversial bomb in the midst of a two-hour lunch with your bestie, but the take away is tons of other topics and perspectives.  It adds to the dimensions of the conversation and the relationship even if its disagreement, but social media is relational-free opinions and its only creating a divide between us and anyone who disagrees.  

Get offline, get out with friends, or upgrade an acquaintance to a friend by hanging out and having shared experiences.  Share those opinions over coffee and allow the opinion to do more than scroll across someone’s face in between classes, meetings or lines during errands.  Get used to not using the delete button when giving your two cents.  Take the chance to say it wrong and hear how you could have rephrased it.  You maybe be surprised how much better life is offline! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

4 Things To Do Before You Speak

Recently, while driving I heard a radio DJ speak some truth that resonated with me.  I am not sure the topic they were discussing as I had just gotten back in the car, but Zach, said something to the effect that many people think that if something is true that is enough for them to speak it to others, but context and timing have a huge impact on when and how we should speak it.  I couldn’t agree more!  Speaking truth in the wrong time or with the wrong motives is in fact, wrong.  

Sometimes the best thing we can do is be quiet.  This week in my Bible reading, I was working through one of my favorite books, James.   In James, we are told to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1: 19-21).  I know more than anyone that my mouth can be my greatest asset and quickest downfall.  

We think we always have the best thing to say and we are usually dying to get it out.  We are often so quick to speak that we fail to hear the person to which we are talking and in life words aren’t the only solution resource we have to offer.  So what else can we do besides run our mouth?  Well, its pretty simple!

1. Pray

We aren’t God and prayer often reminds us of that.  We are called to walk by the Spirit of God but how can we do that when we are walking by the spirit of self.  Its not a part of the Holy Trinity its just a human perspective and not the only one.   Prayer connects us with people through God who knows the other person greater than we do. 

 2. Be -

In an online world, we have lost some offline tools.  The best relationships are found in human, face-to-face, contact.  Quiet is awkward but often necessary.  I recall a story by pastor and author Craig Groeschel where he went to be with a family who had lost a child.  He felt he floundered in his condolences but later found his quiet presence with them in their home was exactly what they needed.  We need to not only be still in our time with God, but also in our relationships with each other.  Just being in the presence of our family and friends without outside distractions can be a powerful force that forges the relationship and holds our souls together.

3. Touch -

I recently ran into a woman I know in public.  She happens to be someone I hold a  great affection for and unfortunately don’t see often.  As our paths crossed, she shared some new bad news she received from her doctor.  In that very public place I grabbed her and hugged her.  That hug did more for both of us than any words I could utter in that moment.  During my years in college, I heard the statistic that as humans we need 20 hugs a day to feel secure.  I don’t know if the number is accurate, but I do know the concept is true.  We need physical touch.  Touch is very powerful with friends and family.  When my friend, who is not a touchy-feely kind of person, lost his wife, he was welcoming of a hug.  It was comforting in a very tenderly hearted moment.

4. Listen

We learn the most by listening not by talking.  When I say listen, I mean actively receiving and processing what the other person has to say without any thought to a rebuttal.  Sometimes the best way to make headway with someone in a debate or growing a relationship is by lending a listening ear.  Whether or not you understand or agree, can you become empathic or hear the heart behind the words?  

Not only do we not need to have all the answers in every situation, we likely do not have them anyway.  Too many debates are happening on social media and they are tearing up relationships because there is no relational foundation for the weight of the words we are using.  We think we know the words to say to change someone’s mind on a hot topic or to salve the soul of someone walking a hard road, and even if we do, I suggest you first pause before you speak.  Ask yourself, “Even if this is true, is this the best time and medium in which I can say it?”   Maybe its your turn to speak truth, but taking a second to evaluate can save a lot of heartache if its not.  Remember, you have other tools at your discretion, use them!  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

That One Thing That Could Help Your Day Go Way Better

If you don't know, I am a youth pastor.  I have been at the same church for almost 14 years and have worked with teenagers over 15 years.  (By the way, teenagers ROCK)!  Right now we are working through a book by Craig Groeschel called "#Struggles: Following Jesus In A Selfie-Centered World."  This book is truly insightful and relevant to some of our greatest needs in our current culture. 

This week we looked at a topic that I think all of us could use more of!  That is the topic of...


I don't need to regurgitate back to you what Craig had to share, because if that is what you wanted, you could read the book.  As an activity to do in connection with this chapter, I took the 5x7 index cards and wrote each person's name in the group at the top.  Then we passed the cards around.  We were to write something encouraging to the person whose name was listed at the top, and by the end everyone would have a card with encouragements from each other. 

The funny thing was, it was like Christmas morning.  Everyone was eager to get their cards and then the gushing started as everyone ohh'ed and ahh'ed over the comments they had received.  I was actually surprised at my own reaction to my card.  It was amazing!  In that exercise, I realized, we all need more of that.   Instead of just using Facebook to take a million selfies and post your breakfast, take some time to write encouraging posts on your friends' walls. 

Let's be honest, this world beats us down!!! If we aren't hearing personal criticisms, we are seeing the depressing news feed filled with a constant stream of political slams, criminal happenings and overall human cruelty.  While the occasional animal video is fun and happy, its really not enough to overcome the constant crap that clutters up my feed! (Can I get an AMEN?!)  I need more!  So how can we be encouraged? Here are

3 Ways to Infuse Your Life With Encouragement:

1. Read the Bible - Spending time in God's word encourages me.  I am reminded of a God who created me and loves me.  The Psalms can be especially wonderful in this department, but it is not the only book.  If you aren't used to reading the Bible, I suggest you download the YouVersion Bible App, its free!  You can discover plans that fit you and each day there is a reading for you to follow.  Its easy and it works! 

2.  Look in the Mirror - This isn't to do your make-up, shave your beard or fix your hair, but to see yourself and while you are taking a gander, say 3 things that you love about who you are.  I don't just mean your best body parts either.  What do you like about your character or personality?  If you don't know yourself well enough to do so, then take a personality test and find out more about who you are. 

3. Be An Encourager - There is this amazing boomerang effect to our words.  What we put out there, comes back to us!  And let's face it, life is not all about us, but others.  When we put our focus on the gems of friends and family we have, we can begin to realize the beauty in our lives that we never knew was there.  We also make an impact in other's lives, which is amazing!!!  When we practice encouragement, we will be happier people and will probably hear encouragement back.  I did the card exercise for my teens, but I was also greatly impacted. 

Let me just close this by saying, I don't necessarily know you, but I'm sure if you are reading this, you are trying in life.  There is something to be said for effort.  You, no doubt, have many amazing qualities whether you see them or not. 

Go out today and BE ENCOURAGED!!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Thing You Should Just Quit Doing

The past two weeks, I have written about making your life count and doing what God has called you to as a Christian, and what I am about to share might sound like a contradiction.  I promise, it is not!  Think of these posts as pieces of a puzzle.  They make the most sense when they are pieced together.  So stick with me and see that the pieces go together even if they seem not to on their own.  You just have to fit them together.  

Being a Christian is NOT about doing more or even being more, because...


Its what separates us from many off-shoots, like Mormonism for example.  What do I mean by "works based?"  Simply put: There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation.  If it were possible, then Jesus would be pointless.  Jesus was not just one of the prophets, but the chosen Messiah, Savior to the world.  His act of love by dying for us would be nice, but unnecessary, if you and I could do something to get to heaven.  His sinless, earthly existence was vital to any hope we have at an eternity in heaven. 

As beautiful as each of us are, we are merely human.  A fact, as a perfectionist, I often forget.  I try to do a better job, and I can give what I have but like the fish and bread, it only feeds the five thousand with the miracle of Jesus, otherwise its just one boy’s lunch and thousands will go hungry.  Our best does the job with the power of Jesus.  You see, the reason Christianity works is because of one fact: 


Technically it is a religion, but that is not its point.  Christianity at the core, is a relationship with our Creator.  Relationships change people don't they?  If that weren't true, parents wouldn't care who their kids hung out with throughout childhood and adolescence.  The people we spend time with begin to shape our character and personality.  The Bible says in I Corinthians 15:33 (NIV) - 

"Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'."

Our world is experiencing another issue in regards to the lack of relationships.  People have forsaken hanging out with other people all together and now just living off of superficial relationships online.  We are seeing the increased depression as a result.  We were created to be in relationship.  The best relationship with can have is with our Creator.  That relationship inspires other relationships and true connection.  Something we need to thrive in life.  We become people who change the world for the better when spend time with Jesus.  

Galatians 5 gives us the fruit of the Spirit.  What does that mean?  Well if we were a tree, then fruit would grow from us, but our tree is rooted in God so the fruit that grows comes from the Holy Spirit, which is a part of God that is given to us when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  The time reading God's word, memorizing it, meditating and praying, help God grow in us and it produces fruit.  Note: We cannot produce it on our own.  Trying to do better on our own doesn't produce the fruit, just frustration.  

Galatians 5: 22-23 (NIV)
 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no Law.

We want to be people with these fruits, but it doesn't come from working harder at it, it comes from spending time with God.  As we do that, we are compelled to live out our purpose and to be people with intentional living.  It just a natural extension of the time with God.  So we really should just quit trying harder and allow God to transform us. 

Did you hear me?  JUST QUIT!  Dedicate yourself to God and allow Him to grow in you and grow you into the person He designed you to be.  Put your efforts into building the relationships that we were created to foster and thrive through and put away all the religion, do it yourself, nonsense.  It isn’t working, its just creating frustration and anxiety and who needs that?!  God’s got this.  Let him take the lead.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Are You Really Doing Your Job?

Sixteen years ago, I remember going to see Erin Brockovich when it came out in theaters.  It was not just a great movie, but a great message and the fact that it was a true story, made it even better.   There is one scene that came to mind this morning in our church staff meeting that just resonated with me in the topic of our Christian walk. 

You see Erin Brockovich was tasked at her job in a law office to look through some old files.  In her time on the job she discovered a case that needed to be unearthed.  That led her to go out and find some more information.  The problem was her boss thought she wasn’t showing up to work.  He almost fired her when she was able to reveal what she found.   They thought because she wasn’t in the office, she wasn’t working, but the truth is she was out there actually doing what the job required of her, and honestly, even more. 

Too often, as Christians in America, we add church to our weekly calendar and continue on with life as if showing up to a church building on a Sunday is our job.  Some go further by becoming a volunteer or by tithing and others may even attend a weekly small group or Bible Study.  We get seen, get the God part of our life in and go about our daily checklist.   It isn’t wrong to go to church and do all the things I listed in the sentences above, but is that really doing our job? 

Matthew 28:18-20 - Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The church and more specifically, the building we meet in, does serve a purpose.  If life were a football game, then getting together would be our time for practice and right before the game, a pep rally.  But, the rally isn’t the game!  More is expected of us.  Some of us need to get in the game.  We need to be more like Erin Brockovich.  We need to be out there amongst the people if we ever want to do any Godly good.  How are we to bring people to Christ if we aren’t actually spending time with people who don’t know God?  Maybe we won’t be seen as much in “the office,” but if we are doing the job, isn’t that what matters?  I’m not saying we should stop going to church, instead I am saying that one act shouldn’t define our religious experience.  It shouldn’t just be about the act of going but the act of living like Christ in our daily lives.  

I’m not a tract hander outer, and while that works for some, the best way we can show God to people is by being with them and loving them the way God would.   That takes intentional living, not just going through the motions of the day to day but allowing God to lead you into the lives of people who are searching for a Savior. 

Action Point: Are you really doing what God has asked you or have you become a cultural Christian?  Take some time and seek God and discover what purposes He has for your life.  What He is asking of you? 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Most Important Thing You Do Everyday

Do you spend time with God everyday? If so, what does that look like? If not, why not? Yes, life is busy and we have a lot on our “to-do” list, but how far in that list would you get if you gave up sleep and food because you were just too busy?

Being a Christian is more than a title, its a way of life. Its like paying for a gym membership, never going, yet expecting to be fit. Time with God is our oxygen for life. For me, I admit, I don’t always have that quiet time everyday. Some days its letting my phone read me by daily passages while I run around town, but that can’t sustain me on a daily basis! I need quiet, quality time with God.

Whether you are talking about God or people, you can’t trade quality time for quick sound bites here and there or on social media and expect the relationship to deepen or grow. Quality beats quantity every time.

This year, I am reading the Bible chronologically. There are definitely benefits to mixing up my Bible plan each year. Maybe you don’t read the Bible in a year, but its a great goal to work towards. Daily time with God is very crucial to our walk as a believers and if you aren’t used to it, starting small is beneficial. Eventually you need more. Brad Edgar hits the nail on the head when he says, “You can’t be a good egg your whole life. You either need to hatch or you will rot.” Simple daily devotionals are great, but they aren’t all we need. We need time in God’s word. Those devotionals stay pretty superficial.

We weren’t created for the superficial. We were made to grow in our relationships, with God, with others and with ourselves. It takes vulnerability to do that, and we are losing our ability to connect in this fast-paced, social media-driven society. A lot of us out there are rotting eggs. If this is you, its not too late to start over.  God says when its over (sorry fat opera lady), and as long as you are here on this earth, you have a chance at a new start with God. Knowing God means knowing his Word and allowing that word to permeate your life.

Monday, I took my daughters’ two hour nap time slot and just delved into God. I was about 3 days behind in my reading and I am at the beginning of the New Testament. Sometimes, reading chronologically can be monotonous when you reach a story told in several places and you have this major deja vu experience. Monday, I found it refreshing. Each gospel writer told a story slightly different and I felt the entirety of their shared experience gave me more understanding in what was happening and why. When Matthew’s account left me with questions about some of the reasons for why something happened, I found Luke or Mark would give more information to answer my question.

I had been struggling with some blog topics and how to even handle certain situations in my life and as I read, God just spoke to me. It was as if he said, "this is all you need to get the jobs in life done."  I now have pages of ideas and quotes and answers to questions. They aren’t all answered, but God gives us our daily bread. So my questions will get answered as I need them as long as I continue to spend quality time with God.