Author: <span class="vcard">Debby Hudson</span>

The back row in church is where the teenagers want to sit. Once their parents let them sit with their friends they hurry to nab a seat in the back row. I remember sitting there trying to hide the notes we were writing to one another behind the hymnal. Today the kids just put their phones on silence and text.

In our Sunday service with our recovery community, I sit behind the back row. I am there running the media for our worship gathering. Some days, I am joined by a few graduates who come to share in the fellowship of worship. We make a rather interesting back row.
There’s the 40-something man who grew up in church but always felt tormented because he knew he was gay and couldn’t tell anyone. For a time it kept him living a life of lies. Living one lie makes it easier to live other lies and for a long time, he did. He hid his struggle with weight and perfectionism. He hid his drug addiction. He hid is feeling less than. He hid feeling unloved by God.
Our other back row companion is a 30-something man who, at first glance, you might confuse as a skinhead. He is bald with tattoos creeping above the collar of the crisply pressed long-sleeved shirt and tie he always wears to Sunday chapel. He has a gold “grill” on his bottom teeth. He walks to service every week carrying his Bible.
Both of these men completed our residential program. They are employed living on their own. One is as white as white can be and the other African American. Then there’s me.
I round out this unlikely threesome with my blonde hair, Irish complexion and no first-hand experience with the drug culture. We make quite the unexpected trio of friends.
We all have stories. But which ones do we allow to define us?
In an AA meeting, people sharing stand up and say, “Hi, I’m Bill and I’m an alcoholic”. For that purpose they allow their addiction to define them. I’ve come to understand this is good.
But they don’t always introduce themselves that way just like I don’t always introduce myself by saying I’m a Salvation Army officer. It’s part of my story, not all of it.
We let different things define us according to the time and situation. I am Heather and Jonathan’s mom; Henry’s wife; Paul’s sister.
If you write a guest post on someone’s blog they will ask you to write a short bio. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to do! What do I say that doesn’t sound smug, arrogant, prideful or stupid?
Individually and collectively, our lives are a collection of stories.They defy being categorized. They are rich and begging to be shared. It’s why many of us blog.
While my back row friends and I share vastly different stories, we all have a chapter that is similar. We were changed by God’s grace. That is what defines us today. It’s why we can sit together as friends looking past our differences. It’s how God teaches us about his Kingdom.
God continues to change stories of people. Even stories that have been marked with horror he can write an ending that says…”happily ever after”.
How has God changed your life’s story?

faith grace hope

Like attracts like and birds of a feather flock together. We can agree on the truths in those statements. I doubt you’ll find many who don’t care to read in a book club. Why would someone who only eats what they grow care about the latest restaurant opening?

We gather in these clubs and groups to enjoy our common love of that thing – gardening, quilting, music, politics, etc. We know we will find agreement here. We even choose a church based on our common likes.

Finding a place of comfort and agreement is good but not often the place where we’ll have the most growth.

I want the preacher to say something I question. I want him or her to preach on subjects I’m uncomfortable with. Not every week but a lot. I want my thinking and beliefs to be challenged. It’s where growth happens.

Jesus said some uncomfortable things. When he said ‘Let the dead bury the dead’, he sounded uncaring. The Beatitudes still confuse me. Why couldn’t He have been more clear with his stories and words?

Times of uncertainty and disagreement are opportunities to dig deeper and grow more in knowledge. They aren’t meant for us to fold our arms and plant our feet like a stubborn toddler not wanting to be challenged. Although, this is sometimes the pose I strike.

When I was reading the book about a woman choosing to live a year without the internet I kept asking why? In the beginning, I got it. But when that extended to not using a cell phone and complicating life for others around here I disagreed. Yet, I respect her decision. It made me think more about something I wouldn’t have.

I’m opinionated. I’ll often give mine without being asked. But if we don’t agree I won’t be hurt or insulted. Give me a good argument and we’ll both be the better for it. And if you’re right, I’ll get over it 😉

I join with a few weekly link-up’s listed in the sidebar.

faith Five-Minute Friday

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 NIV

From my earliest memory of reading those words, they have been some of my favorite. I didn’t understand them. They were confusing and hopeful at the same time. 
When the King James version was the only Bible translation available I understood even less. I memorized the verses in Sunday School and learned the stories. I sang the choruses about Peter, James, and John in a sailboat and only the little boy David. Music helped the stories of the old book come alive.
I got my first modern translation of the Bible when I was a teenager. When my family fell apart I tucked it in my bag and carried it to school with me. It was my lunchtime companion.
The Living Bible gave new understanding to the verse in John though no less confusing.
“Before anything else existed,[a] there was Christ,* with God. He has always been alive and is himself, God.
But faith is believing things you don’t clearly understand and these words continued to hold great hope for me.
Then Eugene Peterson gave us his paraphrase in The Message and the ancient words became poetry. They became art.

The Word was first,

the Word present to God,

    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.
A fellow artist and blogger posed the question how does my faith influence my art. I’m not sure I see them as one but I don’t see them separate either.
Like my contact lenses, I must wear to see clearly, I hope I view everything through the lens of faith.
In Heather Caliri’s new book, Word Made Art: Lent, she uses art to get deeper into the life of ancient words. Her book is a guide designed to take us through the season of Lent. In it, Heather gives instructions for simple art journaling projects designed to amplify the words of suggested scripture readings. She includes sensitive counsel when things may feel overwhelming.
Some may find it difficult drawing on the pages of a bible. Here, Caliri shares her personal journey with this revered book. Page after page in this guide, she offers grace.
I’ve followed Heather’s blog a couple of years. That has built a trust with her and may have helped me be more open and receptive to her work. I am a skeptic by nature but also a seeker when it comes to finding new connections to the scripture.
She says, “This book is for us: the cynics, the dreamers, the abused and broken….For you, too.”
Each section of personal reflection questions begins with this: What emotions, memories, or observations does this week’s Bible passage bring up? Caliri isn’t fooling around with going deeper in an intimate connection with the Bible. 
She follows up with a couple of questions related to each weeks project. The questions for group discussion draw on reflections from the weekly scripture readings and projects.
As part of the launch team, I receive an advance PDF copy of the book. It didn’t take me long to know we’d be using this guide with a small group of men in our residential rehab program. If you’re like me, reading words flat on a page is one thing, but putting hand to pen or glue to provide a visual makes the words more lasting. Just like music makes words more memorable, so does any form of art. 
I’ve had about the same amount of success following a lenten practice of giving up something as I have with New Year’s resolutions. This book isn’t about giving up or memorization or a new practice. It’s about bringing the words to life through art. It’s digging deeper and allowing our great Creator to meet us through messy fingers and a beat up book. He rescues us as we rescue this word made art.


We are moving toward one of the biggest changes in our lives: retirement. Mental and tangible lists are being made of more and more to-dos. Seventeen months seems a long time but we know the closer it gets the faster it will seem to fly.

Because we’ve lived in a furnished parsonage for 25 years there isn’t a lot of big stuff to consider. But it’s always the little things, isn’t it?

There’s the box of Granny’s dishes that have been in a few garages over the years. Next to those are boxes of our son’s trophies and childhood things. How long do I hold on to things in a box? Things we open with every move and close again knowing we can decide later.

Later is now.

There will be things to let go but I’m starting to see some I’ll have to surrender.

We will not have employees who look to us for leadership. We won’t have men looking to us for hope. There won’t be the endless hugs and hands offering to help before I can ask.

There will be a kind of status and even power that will be given up. The word surrender seems fitting as we’re giving up with an ache in our hearts.

It’s a word that conjures up pictures of a white flag. It’s what you do when you’re defeated when your brother gets you in an arm lock not letting go until you say “I give”. Typically, surrender implies your whole heart isn’t in the letting go. It signals defeat.

Even as we head toward a time we look forward to, there is that piece that clings. Sadly, we often do the same with things we must let go. We cling to the old habits that are killing us: smoking, gossip, pride….. When Jesus is calling us to lay them down. Wave the white flag, open your heart and surrender them all to Him.

This is the only surrender where we win.

A friend penned these words in a short song that is what we are pressing toward. May this song bring comfort and blessing to you.

Liking up with Five-Minute Friday.

faith Five-Minute Friday

The week brought us another relapse. We’ve watched the struggle for years and were trying to be hopeful this time was the time he’d make it. But he didn’t it. He’s alive but so are his demons.

Hard decisions had to be made. Decisions that can make you feel uncaring and mean.
“The only way I can deal with this is by numbing,” I said out loud. I can’t leave myself unguarded. No one chooses the ride the roller coaster of emotions. I’ve been on it enough and this week I wasn’t going to go through the dips and dives. I can continue to smile and hug while I shut down inside.
This isn’t the way to live. It’s the opposite of how we counsel the men. Numbing is what leads many to drugs. Brene Brown reminds us that we can’t selectivity numb. When we numb the bad we also numb the good.
But sometimes caring betrays you. The children you raised creating a good foundation make destructive choices. The spouse you thought would always be there is taken by cancer. You wonder how much a heart can bear. Not feeling seems a way out or at least a way to get through.
I saw Adrian holding his sign on the bridge. I thought it was him but he gets so thin when he’s out there ‘ripping and running’. He had a softness to his face, not the frenetic, cold eyes I’ve seen in others. I rolled the window down, holding a dollar in my closed hand. He came closer and smiled bigger as he recognized me. I asked the silliest question ever, “How are you doing?” Did I just say that? He’s on a bridge holding a sign and I asked how he’s doing as if he’s just walked in from work.
He gave me a kind smile and we both spoke at the same time…well, not too good.
“You know where to go”, I said. Our facility, the one he’s been in two or three times was one block away.
“I know. But you have to be tired.” 
His truth was hard to hear but it broke through the numbing of my heart.
I wanted to get out of my car and hug Adrian at that moment. I wanted to wrap my arms around his dirty exterior. All I could say was God bless you.
I was on my way to our Sunday chapel service. In our time of sharing, words of gratitude from broken men continued working in my heart. Reed lost his mother and sister in a 4 month period and then got a diagnosis of throat cancer. But he stood to thank God for this community and bringing him through this dark time.
Charlie gave thanks for his son being with him. His son who chose to fly down from Atlanta to celebrate his 25th birthday with his dad who is living in our residential facility.
Others continued and with each one, I felt the numbness fade and compassion warm my heart.
The answer to hurt isn’t numbing. It isn’t turning inward and withdrawing. It’s taking the risk to care more. To invest in hope. To see the flicker of light and know darkness will not overtake it. It’s feeling the pain and loving anyway.

faith hope recovery Salvation Army

I need directions, a list, a pattern a plan. I need to know where I’m going and how to get there. I don’t like starting a day aimlessly. Some days my intention is simple: show up. Even with that comes preparation.

I don’t start an art project without a plan. I can’t sew without a pattern and it’s taken me years of making the same dish to finally stop looking at the recipe.

There is comfort in having a map not only for travel directions but for life.

It’s taken me years, but I’m getting to a point where I am finding a freedom to wonder. Not far and not without intention but allowing myself to give free form to more of life.

A free form design

Being flexible is becoming more purposeful and more comfortable. There is a new inner peace in trusting myself to ‘color outside the lines‘. For me, this is only possible because of a solid foundation of faith.

The closer I get to trusting God’s love for me (meaning to actually believe it through my actions) the more my fears of creativity are released. It’s a slow growth for me. I want things to look right – whatever that is. I want plans to work – the first time.

I still need a plan. I still need the travel apps on my smart phone. I have to start with a pattern. But what’s a plan without the follow-through?…..(A wish)

Linking up with Five-Minute Friday


faith Five-Minute Friday

I finally had some modicum of success with my one little word. The first couple of years I tried using one word as a focus for the year, it drifted from thought as quickly as my notions to get up early to work out.

The illusion of its simplicity drew me in. It turns out whether it’s one word or one action it takes intentional follow through.

The word I chose last year was peace. Maybe it took hold because the world seemed to be growing less and less peaceful. The political climate had been the most contentious I could recall. The rate of fatal overdoses was rising in our recovery community. Unrest over situations beyond our control was creating tension in family and friends. Peace was a word I needed to cling to.

As 2017 was ending I wrote about my need to go deeper into this little word. I’d not spent enough time letting it work deeper in me. I’d looked at its surface and not what lay below.


The new year has begun with busy hands. I determined to do my best to not add more and part of that meant working through some of the hundreds of ideas I saved on Pinterest.

Do you have that board, or 10, where you’ve saved hundreds of beautiful photos of things you’d like to make or recipes you want to try? If you’re like me, they’ve stayed there on your computer screen looking as pretty as the day you pinned them.

Enough looking. I was going to start doing. And I have.

I chose my Have a Heart board, pulled out my fabric stash, grabbed my sewing basket with the basics and drew, cut and stitched hearts. I put buttons on some and stitched little x’s on others.

It didn’t stop there. I dug to the bottom of my fabric basket and found something I started last year determined to finish it. Done!

Evenings and weekends my table has been cluttered with felt and fabric, cotton and buttons and more….oh my!

If my finger isn’t sporting a thimble it’s pressing the shutter button of my Nikon. The former scraps are now hearts filling a wooden bowl taking center stage in my photography.

And in it all I find peace. There is peace when my hands are making and my mind is free of stuff. I am focused on whether I should add a button or not; this fabric or that.

Making is one of the few things where my mind finds peace from the world. It’s not a temporary peace or the peace that means quiet. It’s an internal feeling of rest. It’s a peace in the soul. Perhaps it is God reminding me of his gift of creation and creating. In a real way, it is communion with God. And that is always peace.

“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive…Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living.” Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith and Art

faith photography

Photo by Anne Preble on Unsplash

Three remote controls rest on our coffee table. One controls the basic operations, another controls enhanced sound and yet another will engage streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix.

I’ve tried throwing them but that doesn’t seem to help my confusion.

At the grocery store, the bread aisle that once offered whole wheat or white is now filled with so many choices you can spend 5 minutes in an internal debate over which to buy.

I remember a time that seemed simpler. When there was one remote control and streaming was something that might be coming from your child’s diaper.

You can’t even find simple instructions for cold medications without wading through the extensive list of side-effects and ingredients. Just tell me how much to take, how often!

I do like simple.

We live in a country of abundance. It’s a blessing, mostly. Right?

Sometimes it’s not much better in church. So many messages, so many views, more and more Bible translations and paraphrases that it’s hard to hear the clear and simple call of Jesus.

When it’s all too much and I want to silence the noise I remind myself of all that really matters. Two simple commands Jesus reminds us of: love God and love others.

That’s it. That’s what all the voices and words and stories and parables boil down to. In the simplest form, we are to above all, love God and then love others. Not some god but the God. Not some others but all others.

We complicate. God makes it simply clear.

Linking up for Five-Minute Friday, a free-writing word prompt hosted by Kate Motaung


faith Five-Minute Friday

To be fair, I need to tell you Henry first told me he felt God’s calling to full-time ministry when I was pregnant with our second child.

We were sitting across the table from each other at a diner. It was 1980. Our daughter was 15 months old and our second child was due in 4 months.

I looked across the table and told him I didn’t think I could do that at this time in our lives. I didn’t want our children in daycare hours on end while we were at the mercy of someone else’s schedule, first through two years of seminary and then in full-time ministry. I had wonderful, godly in-laws. Henry talked to his mom who told him she agreed with me about the timing.

Henry and I met and married in South Florida in the late 70’s. We had two children in quick succession and planted ourselves deeply into the community. Henry was self-employed and worked hard to allow me to be home with the children. We were faithful to church activities and found a wonderful peer group there. Life was very good.

As our children got older, a few people began to joke with Henry about going into the ministry. I guess he would have been voted “most likely to…” I began to ask him if I was holding him back. He always said no. Until the spring of ’93.

He came home from a men’s retreat and told me he felt God calling him again. For something I can only assume was the Holy Spirit, my response wasn’t fearful or objectionable. It wasn’t so much a calling to ministry I felt, but a calling as a wife. Not one in a complementarian way but as ministers in The Salvation Army, husband and wife are both ordained. I felt a strong leading from God to accept Henry’s call as a call on our life together.

To read the rest of my story hop over to The Perennial Gen. My thanks to Michelle and Amanda for allowing me to share my story. 



faith family Salvation Army

Photo by on Unsplash

I burrowed deeper into the warm covers unstirred by the word prompt: motivate. It didn’t; motivate me that is.

Motivation and inspiration have been elusive. I’ve wanted to fell their push and pull but it’s not there.

Get up a little earlier to show my body proper care by exercising? See warm covers as mentioned above.

Discipline to journal daily, step away from the sweets and be more attentive to others have been waning as I wait for some external motivation. Basically, I want to feel like it.

There is the faint whisper of words from a friend: You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.

It’s not so much about liking it as it is feeling the magical inspiration. That thing I want to bubble up from within that has me eagerly doing lunges and crunches. The endless creativity to stage still life photographs or tapping out brilliant essays on my laptop.

Isn’t that the way it works for everyone else?

Of course, it isn’t. But if we convince ourselves of that we’ll never start. Because the truth is inspiration isn’t something that magically appears but something we create.

If I sit at my keyboard and tap out word after word whether I feel like it or not, inspiration will come. That inspiration will spur me to continue this practice.

It reminds me of a quote by Thomas Edison who said:

Opportunity is missed because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.

The same can be said of motivation and inspiration. They aren’t mystical but rather made from discipline, and looks like work. Ugh!

Or, as Nike says, “Just do it!” It promises much satisfaction.

Five-Minute Friday