Category: faith

photo by dhudson_creative on Unsplash

On one of our cross-country road trips, we ended up on a red dirt road in nowhere Arizona without a sign in sight. Why would there be a road sign when what we were driving on barely qualified as a road?

Our children were young. It was long before GPS or cell-phones. As we drove slowly on this very rocky road, hoping to see some sign of civilization my mind was going through possibilities. Since our trip was taking us from South Florida to Washington State we’d taken a large cooler to economize on snacks and stops. The thing that kept me from panic mode was the thought that if we had to spend the night in our minivan in this deserted place we would have water. If we had water, we’d be okay.
Most of us have been on this kind of road in a figurative sense. Life brings unexpected detours. The signposts seem to have disappeared. It’s a dry and lonely place.  On the outside, things appear normal. We keep showing up and going through the motions while inside we’re blinking back tears and looking for a flicker of hope. This isn’t where we want to be. We’re screaming for a way out and out now!
He prepares a table for me in the midst of the wilderness.
I’d written these words down without a reference. I thought it was a Message paraphrase from the Psalms but all my searching with BibleGateway and Google yielded nothing from the Bible. It could easily be a reference to God’s provision to the Israelites when they were in the desert. Faced with a long, hard journey, with nothing but the unknown, God met their needs. He met them in the wilderness with food, a table right there in the midst of the wilderness.
Nothing feels as if it’s enough when you’re hurting. You ask for prayers and do your best to believe in its power but how long, o Lord, how long must I plead with you? Don’t you hear me? Are you listening? We know the aches of the heart. We know the soft places where hard words have struck.
In the midst of this wilderness, He prepares a table. A table of friends….a table of grace. It’s not the answer we want but somewhere we have to trust He is giving us what we need today. Tomorrow he will provide for us again. And the next day and the next. It often won’t feel like enough but don’t give up hope. Gather up your friends, keep moving forward and know that God cares.
On that Arizona road, the only way out was to keep driving. We’d gone too far to turn back. We had to keep going forward so we continued on this rocky road with hope it would lead us out of the wilderness and back to life. We made it because we weren’t alone. Even in silence, our hope was greater when shared together.

faith hope

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
C.S. Lewis
photo by debbyHudson, creative
Behind my loud laugh and strong demeanor, there is a quiet voice inside of me. It has been there since I was a child and it whispers these words:
     “You’re not quite enough.”
It manifested itself in contradictory ways. I wasn’t afraid to run for class office in 6th grade but instead, I ran for secretary because class president sounded too big.
I gladly accepted the task of drawing large posters for a regional youth retreat but had trouble accepting compliments because the drawings weren’t my original ideas.
As an adult, it shows up in my internal dialogue that sounds like this:
     You take good photographs but you’re not as good as _____ or ________. 
     You’re not a writer/artist because you write/paint/draw. You’re only a writer/artist if you’re recognized as one. And the opinions of friends and family don’t count.
I’ve always been able to point to others who do something better as if life is a competition.
Humility was taught as thinking less of yourself not of yourself less as C.S. Lewis said. In our family, praise was earned and doled out carefully.
It’s not all bad, right? Doesn’t the bible tell us to put others first? Isn’t sacrifice and being a servant the Christian way? And women…..we’ve gotten an extra dose of that message, right?
There is something inside of me that wants to be let out. I want to find a way to release myself from the chains that keep me from becoming more. I am fearful of failing and equally fearful of success. What if I discover my best is mediocre? What if I excel and pride takes over?
Those are the wrong questions.
Instead, we should ask. ‘What if I never try’? Who decides what’s enough? Who determines my value?’
I’m working to get past the approval I think is needed to affirm my ability. It’s not easy. I still hear that voice telling me I don’t measure up. But that’s not the voice of the One who made me.
God decided we are enough when he called us His children. Jesus tells us He cares more about us than the nature he created. God didn’t give us gifts to be measured but to be used to honor him.
So write your poems and songs. Cook a fabulous meal for friends and family. Or burn the french toast but determine to try again. Delete 15 of the 16 photos you took because you’re developing your eye for composition. Discover you aren’t the lead singer but bust out in song on karaoke night.
Dance as if your only audience is God because he’s the only audience who matters.



faith grace

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For the last 25 years where we live hasn’t been our decision. Our denomination transfers its clergy. They decide when and where. The moving usually takes place in June but which June? This year or next? How long we stay is never a guarantee, never known.

We gave this over to faith that even though the decisions of man are imperfect, God will use it for His good.

We are in our last appointment. Our next move is into retirement. The location has been decided by us, our retirement home purchased and occupied by renters.

I am living in the in-between stages of what is and what is to come. We’re looking at boxes of stuff we’ve moved too many times. We’re remembering people and places, happy and sad. I am trying to choose wisely where I will live mentally and emotionally from now until then.

One place I’ve chosen not to live is in regret. I have plenty. If asked if I’d change anything in my life I’d say yes. There are decisions I’ve made I would readily change if I could. I could use a few “do-overs”. What I can do is decide not to allow space for regret in my life.

Regret is a thief. It steals joy and peace. It hangs heavy like steel gray clouds rumbling full of thunder. When I see storm warnings, I can shift my thoughts to the assurances of God’s grace and forgiveness. I choose to walk in hope.

Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always! Psalm 131:3


Writing on the word prompt: regret with Five-Minute Friday.


faith Five-Minute Friday hope Salvation Army

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“If being ordained meant being set apart from them, then I did not want to be ordained anymore. I wanted to be human. I wanted to spit food and let snot run down my chin. I wanted to confess being as lost and found as anyone else without caring that my underwear showed through my wet clothes.”  

Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith


There are things most church folks keep hidden. We pretend our marriages are healthy, our children are making the right choices and that we have quiet time with God every day. We pretend to be part of the right political party for our denomination, to read the right books and know the right bands.


Growing up in the church I have pretended a lot. When my husband and I became ordained and entered full-time ministry I kept pretending. I didn’t talk with church members about the books I read, movies we went to or music I liked. When one talked about their favorite praise and worship band, I didn’t reveal that I don’t like the sameness of Christian music.


There’s nothing wrong the fiction books I read or the movies we see and music I listen to. But I was sure some members of our congregation wouldn’t approve so I kept the charade of piety.


My family is loud with stories and opinions but quiet about things that matter.


When my parents’ marriage was falling apart no one told us. At Christmas break they moved us to a new town, leaving the only life we’d known, not telling us why or what was next. They were experts at hiding what we needed most.


When you’re loud and talkative and laugh a lot, people can be easily fooled into thinking you’re an open book. Loudness is the best thing to hide behind.

The words of Barbara Brown Taylor stopped me cold. I read them again and then one more time. Although she was writing about leaving her calling as an Episcopal priest, I know those words because I live them too.


Even when you show parts of yourself, people think the title, pastor, minister, reverend, etc. takes away marital strife, depression, anxiety, or problems of any kind. Conversely, they think you are a biblical encyclopedia and have deep unwavering faith.


We decide a lot about a person based on their title or outward personality. Dr. gives an elevated status of education. Clerk marks them as ordinary. An introvert can seem awkward but behind the titles and outward signs are stories left untold.


Age is bringing an unwrapping for me. An acknowledgment of who I am without apologies. I don’t need to defend my reading choices or taste in music. Like Taylor, “I want to be human”. I want to be seen as the flawed, searching woman I am, clinging to God’s grace every day.


Perhaps more than an unwrapping it’s bringing an understanding and acceptance. I am Gods beloved. Every piece I think I’ve hidden is known to him and still, his love chases after me all the days of my life.



faith grace

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash
I put a baggie of dirt on the table in front of us as I tell them we’re going to put dirt on one of the pages in the bible. “Is anyone uncomfortable with this? I won’t require you to do something you’re not comfortable with.” One asks the reason and nods his assent.
I’m sitting with a small group of men who are part of a larger community of men in residential recovery. We are beginning a Lenten journey together. I’ve collected softcover bibles for them to use in our 6-week pilgrimage. We read aloud the scripture passages for the week. They share openly their reflections on the words. One asks if it’s okay to question God. Another asks if this portion was chosen with him in mind.
We talk about ashes being symbolic with grief. A few of them remember ashes being placed on their forehead by Priests. We talk about people in the Old Testament covering themselves with ashes in their time of mourning. The dirt is symbolizing ashes.
One man says the pages are made of trees and trees grow in dirt. He makes this connection easily. Another notices how the dirt isn’t sticking to the pages but is still covering his hands.
These aren’t any of the things I was going to bring up. They are far ahead of me in deeper understanding and seeing analogies literally in the palm of their hand.
We wander off topic a little but is anything off topic when you’re talking about the grace of God?
Pete confesses how confusing Catechism was for him and how can he know God’s will? I said I can tell you God’s will for you. It was bold, I know. But it was such a revelation for me at one time. His blue eyes focused on mine as he said, “You can?”
I recited Micah 6:8 and said God’s will for all of us is to live this way. With integrity, loving him above all else and loving others.
Is it that simple?” Pete asked? Yes, only the words are easier than living it out.
We have spent an hour discovering beauty under the dirt. One has noticed they all opened their Bibles to different places. A few felt the pages they opened to were just for them. One pronounces Psalms with a P but he had no hesitation to read God’s word.
We have felt the dirt and like ashes, they smudge our hands with the darkness of the earth. Then we rejoice in God’s cleansing grace.




an indoor bathroom

not one but two

hot water at the turn of the tap



grocery shelves lined with 6 kinds of bread

3 kinds of pears

5 kinds of apples

bagged to fill our pantry

our bellies



to choose







Privilege to fail

to disagree

to vote

to win and to lose


Privilege to forgive and be forgiven

Privilege to be loved unconditionally

by a Savior who gave up his


on a cross

for us

All of us

Privileged to be part of his Kingdom.


faith Five-Minute Friday

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