Category: grace

“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

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

“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

I was on my own when navigating what being a teenager in the 70s looked like. Well, not exactly on my own. I had Seventeen magazine to guide me. It was my primer for hairstyles, makeup, and teenage fashion. I didn’t have an older sister to teach me how to fix my hair or apply mascara.

The ‘70s was the generation of cool. Cool was defined in television shows like the Monkees and The Partridge Family, and in the pages of the few teen magazines available. In those early days of adolescence, being a cool teenage girl meant wearing skirts a few inches above the knee, bell bottom jeans, and platform shoes. Cool was anything denim. It was the natural look with long hair, brown shades of eyeshadow, and a few sweeps of mascara.

What we didn’t want was to look like our parents. Moms wore knee-length dresses, low heeled pumps, and a scant amount of makeup. Not cool.

My mama’s style was never going to be mine. She chose comfort over fashion where I tried to combine the two—and still do. She had baby fine hair that barely sustained her weekly set from the beauty salon. My hair was thick and coarse and defied her ability to control it. Noxzema kept her skin clear and smooth but did nothing to help my oily complexion. I never saw Mama wear earrings or makeup; everything about her look was minimal. We were alike in spirit but nothing was the same about our preferences in fashion and beauty.

Change brought new styles of fashion and beauty, and the magazines were there to continue guiding my way. When I outgrew Seventeen magazine, Glamour took over with its hair and makeup tips and my favorite “Do’s & Don’ts” column. We had Farrah Fawcett bangs and “feathers” in the ‘70s; Dorothy Hamill’s bob in the ‘80s; and Jennifer Anniston’s haircut from “Friends” in the ‘90s.

I modeled my outward appearance on these go-to guides from my teen years through the early years of motherhood. My jeans were always the right wash, and my skirts were the right length.

What I couldn’t find was the confidence in which to wear me. I could wear the right clothes; my hair could be a fashionable cut. And sometimes that was enough to be the armor needed to cover my insecurities and fears.

Even today, I measure my insufficiencies rather than honoring who God made me. The sag at my jawline bothers me, and perhaps I wouldn’t be opposed to a little “tucking” if I had the resources.

Today’s cover models fool me with their natural looks. I’ve been tricked into patterning myself after them only to discover the moisturizer the ads tout aren’t miracle creams.

I’ve found a better pattern from which to cut my own cloth.

To continue reading, please hop over to The Perennial Gen. Thank you!



family grace

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

The week between Christmas and New Year’s day is a sort of pause. Sometimes we fill it with more shopping and parties and travel and more, more, more.


As a child, we left our Christmas tree up through New Years. The last few years I’ve had it all put away before New Year’s day anxious to start fresh without this chore lingering.
Growing up in (and now serving in) The Salvation Army, this in-between week was a mixture of work and rest. Rest from the long season of serving others and work to put away the kettles and bells. Work to clean up the borrowed warehouse that was filled with toys only days ago. Satisfying work, but work.
When do we pause? When do we exhale the busy and breathe in rest?
We have a Watchnight service to prepare. Our tradition is to gather on New Year’s Eve in worship and celebration, which shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Another thing on our to-do list during this in-between week.
We’re a bit weary but we’ll find time to pause because stopping for a moment is the only way to continue.
We have done our best to hit the pause button this week. While our body clocks awakened us at nearly the same early hour, we stayed in bed enjoying the soft sheets and no morning schedule.
There were things on a to-do list but everything was in pencil giving ourselves permission to do or not do. I’m not a stay in my pajamas kind of girl but there were two days I didn’t even put on mascara.
I thought I would read more and write more but I’ve puttered around getting things back in order and playing mahjong on my iPad. It’s been pure luxury that I struggle with laziness. It can be a fine line.
I have thought about my word for 2018. Last year I chose peace and managed to remember and reflect on it for the whole year. I considered new words for the coming new year. Words like hope, contentment, and capacity were on my mental list. That is until I read Holley Gerth’s post in which she said she was staying with the same word for another year. She says:
“I’m keeping “content” as my word for the year in 2018 too. I feel like I’ve just begun to understand its layers, the true meaning of it. I need more time and practice and leaning into the Love that makes contentment possible. I’m not done with the lesson yet. And I don’t think it’s done with me.”
I’ve barely scratched the surface with this word, peace. Yes, I’ve recognized it doesn’t mean calm and quiet that it goes deeper. But as Holley says, I’m not done with the lesson and it’s not done with me. There are layers I need to explore. 
I guess you could say I’m in between with this small word with enormous implications. 
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT


faith grace Salvation Army

We lit the second candle of Advent and we called it love.

We didn’t have a time of sharing in our service this week. It’s busy with the extra bits put in for the season. Richard came to me after church, excited to tell me about another message he’d heard the night before. He was all smiles as he said it was the same thing. It was about love too.

During that service, they’d invited people to write a word on stones and he’d written Love. That was his word for this year. I remember him telling me that but it seems like a hundred years ago, not eleven months. I remember Richard saying he chose that word because he needs to learn to love himself.

These guys are good. They listen to the messages poured into them here. Messages from counselors helping them learn new ways. Even messages from me at times, reminding them that God makes them enough.

Terrace danced to words that sang about God loving us in our good and bad. It’s something Terrance has had to work on too – accepting God’s love.

Love is one of those things we’re better at giving than receiving. We allow ourselves to believe we have to earn love. We’re always trying to get ourselves right, to clean up our mess but we have it backward. Jesus sets us right. His grace makes us clean.

Last week we celebrated the hope found in Jesus. Next week we will proclaim his joy. All of this in the motion of lighting candles. Small flames will flicker great promises in their light.

The old song chimed ‘what the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing there’s just too little of’. Real love came down in the form of a baby. We remember it in the glow of a small flame. Maybe, just maybe, I can carry a spark in me. A love that is freely given, not earned. Love that wants to shine like a city on a hill for all to see.

Enjoy this video of Terrance and his offering of his talent to our Savior who came to be love.




faith grace hope Music Salvation Army

Ten years ago, our firstborn daughter snuggled her newborn into that warm crook between her shoulder and neck, tilting her head toward the baby’s crown. She gently patted her daughter’s back and whispered, “One day we’ll be best friends but for now I’m your mama.”

This wise, grown woman was now bending her heart into mothering her own child. Meanwhile, as she’s transitioned into motherhood, my daughter and I are transitioning to a new relationship – that of a friend.

How do we navigate the journey from parent to friend? We’ll always be a parent, but in adulthood, we can become friends. What is that status called? Are we priends? Frarents?

People will tell a new mom how awful teething is but will say, “Just wait until they become teenagers”. For me, the most challenging phase has been parenting adult children and learning to be friends.

We don’t live in the same town with our grown children but we are connected by text, FaceTime, and email. We may not connect every week but those quick communications are made easier by technology and living in the same time zone.

Our children don’t need our advice or financial support. They have married good people and love each other and their families well. I’m proud of them, but also had to deal with the feeling that a part of my mission has been completed. Of course, that’s not the case. We’re a family, and they’ve faced challenges, just as my husband I did as we were raising them. An injury keeps one out of work for weeks, or a job change comes with a move farther away from home. Uncertainty looms for a spouse as her company reorganizes and another meets a disappointment with unexpected change at her job. As I follow the ups and downs in my adult children’s lives, I have struggled with feeling helpless. When they were younger, I could comfort them after a lost volleyball game or help with a last-minute science project. But there’s nothing I can do to help them when they face grown-up trials.

We went through a particularly difficult time after our younger one graduated high school. I remember standing in the aisle at the Christian bookstore scanning the shelves in the “Family” section looking for guidance. I felt like screaming, “I’ve read all these damn books and it didn’t help!” In spite of the challenges and tough decisions, our love for him was clear. He saw our love was unconditional. We continued to believe in him. Our faith fueled our hope and saw us through. Today he’s the one who most enjoys times we can all be together.

whole puzzle

Today, I revel in the friendship I share with our adult children. Conversations on topics where we share similar interests in music or share memories of family times are easy and comfortable between us. We laugh and genuinely enjoy being together.

But these new relationships are not friction-free. There are times when I squirm a bit inside at the some of the adult decisions they make that seem foreign to how we raised them. Even though I treasure our friendship, inside, I am still a parent. I worry. I remind myself our friendship is more important. I have to refuse to give in to fear.

Our first-born daughter is in the midst of parenting her now-ten year old. As I listened to her weighing the options of deciding whether she wants to push her daughter to put on a sweater on a chilly day, or choosing to skip this particular battle so they can get out the door in time, I remembered my own years filled with everyday parenting decisions. I pray that her long-ago words will be true in her relationship with her little girl – she’s a parent now, but will one day be her daughter’s friend as well. The process of becoming learning to be friends with my adult children has taught me to be more observer and supporter. I’m no longer responsible for making the plans and scheduling their lives.

As we learn to adapt to this new season in our lives as a family, we are seizing the moments together to focus on strengthening our friendship. I’m loving this part of the journey.

This post first appeared on Perennial Gen blog.

Linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for Your Heart.





family grace

 He sat quietly trying not to be seen but he had to come back. He had to try again to get this thing called recovery. He had a piece of it but it’s hard outside our walls.
It’s hard to work your job, go to school, attend recovery meetings and meet with your sponsor – the things that keep you sober. So you miss an AA meeting because your job has left you worn. One becomes five when no one is requiring a signed slip like when you were in the ARC. You don’t have a required group to attend where the tools of recovery will be reinforced. You aren’t surrounded by 99 other men, many supporting and pulling for you. You’re out there. On your own. And sometimes it’s too much.

“Welcome back”, I said as I saw him sitting in the chair outside the Intake office. He’s always been a soft-spoken man and this day perhaps softer as he said, “thanks for having me back.”

Really? As if we wouldn’t or as if we aren’t the ones grateful you chose to come back and regain order and sobriety and peace. Thank you! Thank YOU for knowing this is a safe place.
This story of redemption is one played on repeat. I confess my failures and sins one day and take them up again the next. I fall victim to gossip and pride because it’s hard out there when I stop following the program of following Jesus.

I’m scarcely different from these men who have couch surfed in crack houses or lost their business, their nursing license, their teaching positions, lost it all because of the disease of addiction.

The only difference is that my failures have been kept quiet. It’s like that for most of us. The envy, hate or whatever it is that haunts us makes us no different. Just more presentable. Not to God but to each other.

God stands before us with open arms saying ‘Welcome back’, again and again through his forgiveness and grace.

Thanks for having me back.

faith grace recovery

I was raised in a church where alcohol and tobacco use is not allowed for its pastors and members. We come from a Wesleyan background where this was more commonly adhered to at one time.

This being the only church I’ve known, imagine my surprise when as a child, I saw a priest smoking! I knew with certainty that I’d spied something not meant to be seen by others. Later I learned smoking and drinking were acceptable for Catholic priests and parishioners.


The commercial featured a boy who was a picky eater. A bowl of cereal was put in front of him. His expression of disinterest unchanged as his friend said, “He won’t eat it. Mikey hates everything.” A pause, and then he takes a spoonful while the friend exclaims: “He tried it. He likes it!”

When it comes to alcohol, my stance is if you don’t try it, you don’t have to worry about liking it and the accompanying responsibilities.


I also grew up with stories of drunken uncles whose arguments erupted into brawls. These stories were told as funny with laughter accompanying each one. Why do we laugh at this behavior that leads to anger expressed in physical harm? ‘Oh, they were drunk. Ha ha ha.’

We laugh at drunken behavior but whisper about drug use. No wonder we’re a mess.

photo from Unsplash

The freedom of drinking has become more a part of the lives of younger evangelicals. Bloggers write about that glass of wine. (Does wine sound more acceptable?) The 30-something podcaster mentions it and it seems there is a whole generation of young evangelicals who have found the freedom to enjoy alcohol as if putting an exclamation point on grace.

Which also means, there is a whole new generation of young evangelicals where one out of 10 will become an alcoholic. It doesn’t happen quickly. It can take ten years or more for it to become an obsessive addiction. You’ll barely notice the slippery slope of this disease.

I’m not against the use of alcohol. I don’t believe drinking is a sin or that you’ll go to hell if you do. I do believe, for many, they’ve opened something they never had to find out. Like Mikey, they’ve tried it and they like it. Only, they really, really like it and then they need it.

The next few days we’ll look more closely at alcohol and addiction within the church. Redemption isn’t reserved for a group of men in a residential rehab program. As we say in Celebrate Recovery: it’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups and we all have them. Whether it’s a substance, a habit, or hurt, we need the redemption of Jesus.

grace The Church

“It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.” Understanding drug use and addiction

We are not a treatment center.

Our sign says Adult Rehabilitation Center.


Our goal is to provide this rehabilitation through addressing their problems which more often than not, include addiction.

While we differentiate between treatment and rehabilitation we do identify addiction as a disease. This can be hard for many of us to wrap our heads around. The common thought is, just stop. Stop drinking so much. Stop taking all your prescribed meds for the month in two days. Just stop it!

I don’t have the scientific knowledge or words to explain this. I can’t find the exact analogy that would make this more relatable. I only know that addicts aren’t this way by their own choosing. No one thinks they’re going to be an addict or alcoholics. There isn’t even a clear predictor of the cause of this disease. Yes, it seems to run in families but no family is immune.

David grew up in the church. His father is a pastor with regional oversight for his denomination.
Sue’s dad was a lawyer.
Arnie’s family all held white-collar professional jobs.
Sam’s brother was a neurosurgeon.

Some are the only ones in their family with this disease. Or maybe the only ones addicted to the “wrong” things. There are acceptable addictions like workaholism and smoking. We applaud one and frown on the other.

Sue was college educated and taught school. She never drank before college but once she started, she couldn’t stop. She ended up in jail in a DUI charge. Her family wouldn’t bail her out. She eventually lost her job. It took this well-educated, bright woman 11 attempts at sobriety before something clicked. Twenty-five years later she can’t tell you why it finally did. She is only grateful it did.

None of these people wanted to be who they became. All of them are thankful for who they are now. They are part of the redeemed.

I haven’t struggled with addiction. But I wasn’t who I wanted to be. Something was missing in my life. I knew it. I also knew the answer. It’s the same answer we offer them: redemption through Jesus. For some, he has miraculously removed the desire to use drugs. For most, he uses people, programs, and groups, to help in the ongoing battle.

It is the same with sin. There are temptations all around. They are not eliminated from our lives. God works through a myriad of ways to walk with us in our daily journey as redeemed. For all of us, life is lived one day at a time.

There has to be a willingness to change. There is healing. There is grace. One day. Every day.

faith grace recovery Salvation Army