Category Archives: Truth

Would You Go to Jail for Jesus?


“So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.”

Hebrews 6:1, NLT

That’s our guiding scripture this series, sisters, and it’s a good one!

Here it is in The Message:

Hebrews 6-1

I love that!  Let’s grow ourselves up a bit in how well we know our Savior, sisters.

Why?  Because many of us believe in God but don’t live in a way that clearly bears fruit, or shows, that we honestly know Him.

In the book, The Christian Atheist,   Craig Groschel states that 94% of the American Christians claim to believe in and follow a God that is good, loving, and benevolent.  But he goes on to surmise that 94% of American Christians aren’t living in a way that would show others they hold that belief.  He begins his book with this:  “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  In other words, do you know Christ so well that your outward behavior conveys that you know Him.

Take a sec and ask yourself that question. And then take a sec to consider the disciple, Peter.  When the going got tough, he wouldn’t admit to even knowing Jesus, let alone let himself get convicted for it.  And if Peter could do that, the “rock the church was built upon” Peter?  Um, well then, you better believe you and I are capable of that same level of denial in both word and deed.

“People claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live.”

Titus 1:16, NLT

In our time here on Earth, I doubt many/any of us will actually be placed on trial for being a Christian, so we may never actually have to utter the words that we do not “know Him”. But we do deny Him when we live in ways that don’t mimic or reflect His heart.  Why do we do that?

Maybe it’s because we haven’t spent enough time with Him to really know Him.

THIS is why we are back at Bible study this fall: to get to know Him so well that our lives reflect Him in all we do.

We cannot know Him personally unless we spend time with Him. Bottom line.  And that means spending time with Him in more than just a mass or church service here, or a Bible study meeting there.  Girls, we need to be looking for Him.

You’ll be able to find him if you’re serious, looking for him with your whole heart and soul.

Deuteronomy 4:29-31, MSG

I love this quote by a 17th century French archbishop (Francois Fenelon):  “There is only one way to follow God:  to not take a single step without Him, and to follow with a brave heart wherever He leads.”

These spiritual disciplines we are about the begin studying together are ancient practices, or ways, in which we can seek that voice of God so that we can achieve that goal of not taking a single step without Him and following bravely and in faith where He leads.

“What God wants is reverential intimacy. He wants us close enough to Him that we know His heart – close enough to hear His heartbeat.  He wants to look in our eyes, and He wants us to look into His.  He wants us to hear His voice above all other voices we entertain.”  David Benne, Surrender to Love.

Girls, in order to know Him, we need to hear Him.

Did you know that the word obey comes from the Latin word audire, which mean to listen, or to hear.  And so, in order to know Jesus, we need to hear.  We need to be “all ears”.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey [hear] his commandments.

1 John 2:3-6, NLT

Every single spiritual discipline we will study, practice, and try together this fall has a common thread – we are learning to listen for His voice.

I love when I can bring things full circle. Last fall, we completed Margaret Feinberg’s study, Wonderstruck.   A few years before writing Wonderstruck, she wrote a very cool book about understanding scripture from the viewpoint of shepherds, farmers, and bee keepers.  It’s called Scouting the Divine.  I’ll park myself right here for a minute while you click this link to read something from that book that just might just blow your mind about the importance of getting to know His voice.

john 10 27, 29

Is  that perfect or what? He promises that we can hear His voice, and that when we follow Him: He. Will. Not. Let. Us. Go.

Amen to that. Jesus is not content to just sit around waiting for us.  He’s pulling up the chair, calling your name, cupping your face in His hands, and saying, “Come closer.”

What will you do? Because you do have a choice.  As for me,  I choose to scooch my chair right up next to His to hear Him speak to my heart. I will rest my head in His Holy hands. I will let Him disciple me (which is the root word in discipline, derived from a Greek word that simply means “gentle tutoring” – how awesome is that?) so that I can get “convicted” in the courts of heaven for being a follower of Christ.

Such good stuff, right? If you are interested in following along with us here online, click here to find out more about our study, Come Closer!  If you are in our physical studies OR following along online with the Enjoying Jesus book, please read Chapter 2, Days 1 and 2 (on prayer) for next week!

Are you rocking our playlist? Click here to hear the first song on our list: Testify by NEEDTOBREATHE

Each week, we will end  with a short phrase based on scripture that we can call to mind throughout the week, that helps us to set the tone each morning and throughout the day and helps remind us that we are seeking to infuse every moment of every day, not just Bible study morning and Sunday at church, with a deepening of our spiritual relationship with God.

This week, let’s recall that scripture from John 10:27: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.”  Our intention phrase/mantra this week is:  “Jesus, help me hear you today.”  Maybe you pray it before your feet hit the ground in the morning.  Maybe you say it several times during the day to remind yourself He promised you’d know His voice.  Maybe you use that short prayer in difficult moments or in simple celebrations of joys.  Maybe you turn it into a prayer of gratitude as your head hits the pillows at night:  “Jesus, thank you for speaking to me today.”  Use the comments section below to let us know how YOU hear and experience Him this week!

I pray blessings and love over each of you this week. Can’t wait to meet you back here next week for some thoughts on coming closer to God through prayer!

Peace, love and joy,





I’m Stuffocating. (a First Tuesday* post!)


I used to love email.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Those days when you’d open your inbox and it would have super fun and entertaining notes from people you actually knew

These days, though, opening my inbox feels a lot like going to the real, physical mailbox at the end of my driveway:  just one more “box” filled with junk.  Advertisements, bills, political circulars, coupons, and catalogs from stores I’ve never heard of clutter to the point of “stuff-o-cation”.  I almost hate to open it!  Ninety percent of the messages in that box are from people/companies I don’t even know.  Sometimes I delete 100 emails a day.  It all just feels so…impersonal.


Letters, postcards, and once treasured emails from my beloveds have been replaced by text messages and snapchats and social media posts that can be seen by hundreds (if not thousands) of others. Don’t get me wrong, I love scrolling through Facebook and Instagram as much as the average person, but my heart aches a bit for that special feeling I used to get when a letter or email would arrive JUST for me.  That excitement of knowing someone intentionally wanted to get MY attention and share a little love with me made my heart super happy. It was personal, in a good way.

Lately, I’ve been learning a lot about Jesus and the way He communicates. I’m learning that He personally seeks us out and actually cherishes time spent in our presence.  Interestingly (and quite counter-culturally), He’s not in the business of mass mailing His agenda and platform out to the myriad of mailboxes (and inboxes) around the globe, and He isn’t sitting at His laptop waiting for Likes and Loves on social media, YouTube, and blogs.  He’s in the business of dwelling with His people.

pitch that tent

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

John 1:14

I absolutely love the usage here of that word: dwell.  Translated from its original language, it means “pitches a tent”.  Can you even imagine?! JESUS came to camp out with us.

YOU and ME.

Camp out! As in, “Let’s do this together – in person. Face to face.  Life on life.  I’m intentionally pitching my tent with yours.  You’re that special to me.”

We don’t need a mailbox, an inbox, a social media account, or television to connect with Him. But what we DO need is space for His tent and His Word in our heart so we can DO life alongside Him.

“Watch how I do it and learn my methods (…because you seem to make it all so complicated when you try to do it on your own).”  Matthew 11:29 (my personal interpretation in parentheses!)

His Word is alive and well and begging for us to watch how He did it so we can replicate that love, that grace, that MERCY all around us. The problem comes when we stop looking to Him and instead clutter things up with all our own stuff.

This spring, in order to get serious about pursuing an intentional life of dwelling and camping out with Jesus, I’ve made it my mission to quiet down a bit and start the process of decluttering my own “space”, physically, mentally, and spiritually. It’s an ongoing process, sister friends, and often feels a bit slow-going!  But one thing God has got very serious with me on is the fact that I have become laden down with “stuff”.  On every level.  And in order for Jesus to comfortably pitch that tent with mine, I need to clear Him room.

Maybe you do, too?

create space for Jesus

Take a minute and answer this question for yourself: what’s stuff-o-cating you?  Is it physical clutter that needs clearing?  A preoccupation with emails and social media accounts that needs to be curbed? A habit or way of doing things that just doesn’t serve you anymore?  Is it a relationship that drains you more than energizes? Your physical being that could use to be cleaned up and cleared out a bit?  Start with one thing, just one thing, that you can begin to clear a little space within to make Him a little more room.  If there’s one thing you can be certain of, His deepest desire is to hang out with you.

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’”  John 14:23

Home sweet (uncluttered) home.  Doesn’t that sound awesome?

Practical Application:

  • Pick one area (body, physical space, mind, spirit) where you feel stuff-o-cated right now.
  • Pray this prayer (or one of your own): “Lord, I want nothing more than for you to come and pitch your tent next to mine! Right now, though, I’m feeling really overwhelmed and cluttered in the area of _________. I want to relinquish control of this area in my life to you. I want to clear it in such a way that makes more room for YOU! Jesus, help me to clean it up and let go of what doesn’t need to be there. Help me to use what You intended me to have in this area in the ways in which You have always planned. Show me Your way because I know it is better than mine. Forgive me for letting things get out of Your control. Thank you that You love me so much that You get personal! Help me not to feel guilt or condemnation over this clearing out, but instead to deeply know Your delight in my obedience to listening to this call from You. Lord, I am so looking forward to all our camp outs to come! In Your mighty name, Amen!”
  • Get quiet and let God guide your next step. Accept that it’s always one step at a time, girls. And remember that sometimes things gets messy before they can be completely cleaned up. 😉
  • Consider these scriptures as you start to “un-stuff yo-self” (pray them out loud, write them down, read them when you get up and before you go to sleep) to keep your mind focused: John 1:14; Luke 12:16-19; Luke 12:29-31; John 14:23.

Happy De-Stuffocation, sweet friends! I’m praying for you!!!

Peace, love, and JOY!


*PS – Today is the launch of a series I’m calling “First Tuesday”! It’s my intention to post here on the FIRST TUESDAY of each month with a fresh look at scripture alongside some practical life applications to make it relevant to YOUR life!  The First Tuesday of the month is a special day around here because our local “emergency sirens” are tested at 10am!  Our Tuesday Bible Babes have come to LOVE those sirens because whenever we are in session, we stop what we are doing and offer prayers of gratitude to God for the privilege and freedom to be worshipping together!  It’s become our habit that (even when we aren’t in Bible study session) as soon as we hear those First Tuesday sirens, we drop to our knees and pray for one another! Check back here on Tuesday, June 6th for a lively post about How to Have a Good Summer, Spiritually Speaking!  You won’t want to miss it!  😉

The WONDER of Forgiveness…


This past summer, I learned an interesting tidbit of American history this about dams. Now, dams themselves have been around for as long civilization.  Dams are structures that help control the flow of water for irrigation, prevent flooding, create reservoirs for times of drought, etc.  But it has only been really within the last century or so that technology and structural engineering techniques have made it possible to create dams powerful enough to generate massive amounts of electricity .  But in order to do so, they change the landscape of the land surrounding them by actually flooding over entire valleys and the towns in them.  The result?  Hundreds of towns across the country have been strategically and intentionally flooded and are underwater.

So there are actual man-made lakes around the world that look beautiful and tranquil on the surface, yet lurking just below the surface (in some cases as little a 5-10 feet below the surface). Lovely to look at, but a little suspect for swimming!


One of the things we know is important to Jesus is that we are women of integrity. Believers whose outside appearance authentically represent the state of our insides.

How do I know? Well, many of you will recall this verse from our study of the Beatitudes:

 You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. Matthew 5:8, MSG

When we, as believers in Christ, refuse to forgive someone, we become like those flooded lakes. We may look good on the surface, but anyone digging any deeper into our spirits better watch out for some jagged wreckage in there.

We block God’s mercy – we dam up grace – when we refuse to forgive.  We gotta learn to let that forgiveness FLOW.


But how? Especially when the issue seems so unforgiveable to us.  But this is where the supernatural power of true reconciliation, when we actually take our unforgiving hearts to God, gets going.  Because for the big stuff, we cannot do it by ourselves.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Mathew 19:26, NLT

When Jesus says everything is possible, he means everything. So how do we do it?  Girls, this has been a bit life altering for me and I’m just getting used to it, but listen to this for a sec:

1 Peter 5:5-7New English Translation (NET Bible)

…all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.


That’s where we begin.

Cast your cares, cast your cares, cast your cares! Your cares include issues surrounding forgiveness, girls.  So, in all humility, on your face, cast your cares.  You say to him, “Lord, this issue with forgiveness about __________ is about to crush my spirit.  This is beyond painful and it is splitting me in two.  This is compromising my soul integrity. I cannot do this alone and I need you.  So I’m giving it to you because only YOU can do something positive with it.”

And so the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit within us begins. And then we change our mindset. We move our minds up and out of the mucky mire of unforgiveness with purpose and intent, because we KNOW we have a faithful God and we let Him know we fully expect Him to work this out.

Of course, all of that along with the humility of saying we know He will work it out in His time and within His will for it. We know He wants us to live with forgiving, merciful, grace-filled hearts.  That’s how we know we can expect a victory here.

I get it. I’ve lived with stuff that I find it almost impossible to think God could forgive someone for so how in the world am I supposed to do that?  Nowhere is it written that it’s going to be easy.  But because scripture says ALL things are possible with God, I’m going to try.  Regardless of/with whom it is I need to reconcile and regardless the issue – myself, someone else, or even God.  I’m going to try.

Following along with our series, Wonder-FULL?!  This is our LAST week of wonders!  Finish up reading the main book, Wonderstuck, and complete week 6 in your participant guide!  Meet us back here next week for a wrap up of the series and a special announcement of what we’re up to in 2017!

Peace, love, and WONDER!!!



The ONE Thing You Need to Know About Living “Easy”



It’s a Sanskrit word with origins in India and is a key concept in several religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism. And according to these wisdom traditions, you can acquire good karma, or bad karma.

Basically, good karma refers to the belief that good intentions and good deeds lead to a good future coming your way. Conversely, bad intentions and bad deeds will attract bad karma and bad things in your future.

In other words, what goes around, comes around.

NTW Week 8

Jesus gives us that very same advice in this week’s final scripture selection of our summer series, easy 2016.  And I think he perfectly sums up all our series’ mantras in this one, matter-of-fact verse.

Think about it. When you’re open and loving and compassionate and generous and kind and accepting of people AND in life and it’s circumstances, don’t you find yourself (for the most part) receiving the same in return?  And when you approach people and life and situations with judgement and pessimism and skepticism and haughtiness, you find yourself most often inundated with anxiety, anger, misfortune, disappointment and paranoia.  And that is certainly NOT the abundant life Jesus wants us to live.

Jesus reminds us today that the best way to live an “easy life” is to approach every day with good intentions and lovingkindness to everyone and everything…including ourselves. Approach life with the intent to encourage people, not knock them down.  Make a conscious effort (and I KNOW it will sometimes feel like EFFORT…) to build people up, notice their positive qualities, and focus on their gifts.  The energy you release into the world when you do this is supernaturally and exponentially multiplied.

Couldn’t we all use a little good karma these days? Yeah, I think so, too.

So here’s the scoop. As we wind down this series (and I pray for each of you that God has ministered to you in new and fresh ways this summer), why not spend the next few weeks cultivating good intentions? Why not CHOOSE to see the good in people instead of ruminating on the bad?  Why not CHOOSE to be an encourager instead of a critic?  For some of us, it may be a challenge to change the way we see this world and how we react to it.  But scripture assures us in that doing so will change our lives, and the lives of our people, for the better.

It’s a simple mantra: “Today, I will encourage my people”. Say it to yourself when you get up.  Say it to yourself at breakfast, at the grocery store, at lunch, and in traffic.  Say it in those witching hours of 4pm to 6pm when things start to fall apart (especially if you have kids under 6…).  Say it as your grace-prayer before dinner.  And say it at bedtime before you drift off to sleep.  See what that might do to change the energy around you and in your people.  And then sit back and enjoy it as it comes back around to you.

little more easy

It’s been such a great pleasure to “surf” through these last eight, easy weeks with you.  I hope you’ve found a little wisdom, a great new recipe or two, and some good books and music to enjoy.  As always, I get just a smidge of melancholy as we end a series.  But even more than that, I get SUPER excited to get going on the next study God has inspired us to choose!  (More on that in the coming weeks, but for now, simply mark your calendars for a mid-September start date!  It’s a great one and you won’t want to miss it!)

Here’s the link to our very last week of easy goodies (mantra/scripture card, and a recipe for chicken and waffles!!!)

And here’s the link to our last song for the summer series!  It’s a great way to end, sweet friends:  Matt Maher’s “All the People Said Amen”!  LOVE it!

AND…get excited to read our August book by the incredible Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect!  I AM SO EXCITED TO BE GOING TO HER BOOK RELEASE PARTY TOMORROW NIGHT!!!  EEEEEEEEKKKKKK!!!!! I’ll blog about it next week! I encourage you to order it now – it comes out August 9th!

AND, if you’re local, don’t forget to RSVP for our end of series wrap up party!  We’ll post pictures and a recap from it on August 11th!

Thank you so much for joining us this summer! I pray the rest of your summer is fantastic and that God keeps your precious self in the palm of His precious hand until we meet back here again.

Much love,


PS – Be sure to check back here at the toward the end of August for our REVEAL of our Fall 2016 Series!  It’s wonderful… 😉

Why a Broken Heart is a Good Thing


I’ve had my fair share of broken hearts and, if  I’m honest, probably been the cause of one or two along the way.  But the only GOOD broken heart I’ve ever experienced came from the most unexpected source – GOD.

I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and  replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed.

Ezekiel 36:26, MSG


(art and photo credit:  Tammy Miller, 2016)

Without a broken heart  (or maybe a better way to put it would be a “softened heart”) it’s impossible to let God’s word penetrate the calloused layers that often protect it.

How do those callouses get there in the first place, what happens?  We weren’t born with them.  It’s just that life happens.

“The soul is covered by a thousand veils.” Inayat Khan

In other words, layer upon layer, our true purpose get covered up by the circumstances and situations and experiences of life.  Disappointments hit, layers get added.  Slighted by someone we trust, more layers.  Fearful moments, hard fought – but lost – arguments, hurtful comments, scary circumstances.  Layer.  Layer. Layer.  And we eventually begin to wonder if we’ve honestly been put here for a reason.

The obvious question we begin to ask is something like, “If God put me here for a purpose, why didn’t He clue me in on it?”   The answer is, He did.  Scripture tells us that He ordained it even before we were conceived and that He places that purpose deep in our hearts from the moment of our conception.

We come into this world knowing our purpose, even if it’s at an infantile or immature level.

Think about your kiddos and the first time you start asking them what they want to be in life.  Have you ever stopped to think they know what they are here for, but may not be able to articulate it fully?  If you ask kids what they want to be and why, they are pretty darn insightful.  So, I thought it’d be interesting to take a little survey with some of the children I know.  I used the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, and followed up with, “Why do you want to do that?”.

I LOVE the answers I got…

Five year old:  “I want to be a doctor so I can make people better on the insides.” (Translation – I am here to heal people.)

Six year old:  “I want to be president because I know important things that people should hear.” (Translation – I am here to lead people in the way they should go.)

Eight year old – “I want to be a teacher because I am smart and other kids like me so they would listen to me.” (Translation – I am here to share wisdom and show others how God wants us to live.)

Nine year old:  “I want to be a model because I’m pretty.”  (Translation – I am here to share the beauty of God’s creation! Ahem… 😉 ).

Twelve year old:  “I want to be an actor because I’m funny and make people laugh.” (Translation – I am here to boost the spirits and heart of people when they are down.)

Fifteen year old:  “I want to be a therapist because I’ve experienced that life can be really hard and I know how to get through it.” (Translation – I am here to use my experiences to show people the way out of the dark and into Light.)

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(Good Lord, I love this kid…)


Twenty-One Year old (this one is priceless!):  “Anything I want to be.” (Translation – I’m a cocky college senior.)  😉

I realize I might be taking a bit of poetic license here, but I bet I’m not too far off the translation.

But now listen to these:

Thirty year old:  “I have no idea. Ask me when my youngest turns 10!” (Translation – I’ve lost touch with what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m too turned around to see it right now – no worries, I figure out later.)

Forty year old: “I need to get back to that, but I’m too busy volunteering.” (Translation – I’m sure it’s important but I can’t take the time right now to figure it out because helping people is taking up too much of my time.)

Fifty year old: “I’m a little freaked out about that right now! What in the world AM I here for?”  (Translation – I need a purpose, I’m sure I had a purpose, but has it passed me by?)

Elizabeth Lesser, who is sort of a new age thinker with a Christian bent says that “True , honest, spiritual work is about uncovering your soul and peeling back all those veils. And, prayer”, she says, “is a tremendous veil buster.”

I agree with that 100%. The only way we are going to remove all those layers of veils keeping us from returning to a place where we can begin to remember God’s call on our life is to talk directly to Him.

Prayer. The first step in this process of remembering why on Earth we are here is to return to the Source – to GOD – and ask Him to remind us.  To help us break the layers that keep it hidden and enlighten us once again.

I recently heard a story about an old rabbi who ended every sermon with this affirmation, “…now let the words of God rest upon your heart.” One day, a member of the congregation asked him, “Rabbi, why don’t you ask us to take those words INTO our hearts.  Wouldn’t that be more beneficial?  Better for our hearts to absorb the words than to merely have them sit on top of it.”  The rabbi replied, “Only those who have allowed their hearts to be broken can let His words IN.  Most of us refuse to let that happen because we fear it might hurt. But for those who dare to try, their hearts are reborn and soften enough to grace them with the humility to become what they were always meant to be.”

“Your heart will continue to break until it finally opens.” Rumi

This journey we are taking together right now is a chance for us to throw off any veils that have been tossed on top of our souls. It’s an opportunity to let our life-hardened hearts break just enough to let a little light shine through.  It’s a time of possibility in meeting God in sincere prayer to glimpse even a sliver of what He has planned for us here, this side of heaven.

This whole thing about “figuring out our purpose” is just another way of saying “figuring out how to return to God”.

So let me leave you with one more – “What do you want to be when you grow up and why?” example.  I asked a dear, 80-something year old woman those questions, and just listen what she said:

“I’m here to bring glory to God by sharing the love of Christ with everyone I meet, and to enjoy every moment He gives.”

Yeah.  I want what she’s got.  Amen?

I’m excited to do this with you. To unveil our souls, to soften our hearts, to hear God speak over us and to us!  So if you are following along with our study, read Days 8-14 in our main book, A Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren.  Complete Week 2 in your Inspiration Book.  (Our scripture for the week is that one waaaaaay up there at the top of this post from Ezekiel 36:26!).  Our Inspiration Quote for the week comes from Charles Spurgeon:

a bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn't Charles Spurgeon

” A Bible that is falling apart probably belongs to someone who isn’t.”  Charles Spurgeon

And, finally,  check out this awesome song by  Natalie Grant, “Be One”!

Peace, love, and JOY!


Up Next Week:  “Delightful!” – and why it’s one of my favorite words (thanks, Mom!  😉 )

The Legend of Uncle Harold (…what you REALLY need this Christmas)


the legend of uncle harold

I was shopping for last minute Christmas gifts a number of years ago and I spied the most gorgeous brown scarf with green fringe and little flowers appliquéd on it in the shape of a peace sign.  And if you know me at all, you know I am in LOVE with the word “peace”…so I bought it for myself for Christmas.

Having said that, please know that I don’t NORMALLY buy myself Christmas gifts, but there were only two in the store and I didn’t want to go thru the rig-a-ma-roll of sending Tim in to get it for me and chancing that it would be gone.  Sooooo…I grabbed one off the display case and asked the woman who rang me up to box and wrap it for me.  She started to giggle and said, “I’ll put a card on the top that says, “From Uncle Harold”.

As she saw my questioning look, she smiled and proceeded to tell me the “Legend of Uncle Harold”!  For the first few years of this woman’s marriage, her husband would receive some really awesome Christmas gifts each year from his Uncle Harold.  Every year, on the last working day before Christmas, he would arrive home from a day at the office and say, “Good old Uncle Harold stopped by the office today and dropped off my presents!”  He would pop these gifts under the tree with a big smile on his face!

Mind you, Harold never brought her any gifts – just her husband.  That didn’t really seem too odd to her, however, since she had never met Uncle Harold before.  Regardless, each Christmas morning her husband would open the “Uncle Harold” gifts and marvel at how well the presents suited him and would say that no one knew him better!

Christmas ornament deal

After several years passed, this woman happened to mention the name “Uncle Harold” one year at a family Thanksgiving dinner.  It seemed everyone she asked about Uncle Harold denied any knowledge of such a relative.  Confused and perplexed, she asked her husband, “Why doesn’t anyone know your Uncle Harold?”

Sheepishly, he had to then admit, that as much as he loved his dear wife, she was not the best gift giver.  She’d give things like hankies or toothpicks.  Or maybe vacuum bags or a can opener. (Very practical, this woman!)

He, on the other hand, was an extravagant gift giver!  He had the knack of being able to find the perfect thing for each person on his list.  And, he also could find the perfect thing for himself (then again, can’t we all…!).  So, in order to make Christmas “merry” for himself too, he decided that he would become his own “Uncle” so he could be assured of getting what he wanted under the tree!  Luckily, his wife had a good sense of humor and thought this was a clever and silly deception.  And they keep up this “tradition” even today – 20 some years later…

I think back on this story every year around this time.  On the surface, it’s funny!  It’s cute!  It’s even sort of endearing!  And walking the dogs one morning, it hit me:  YES!  I want us all to have an Uncle Harold Christmas;  I want us to have the best gifts that we have ever received under the tree this year.

Alright.  I was wrong.  I realized about a minute later that I don’t honestly want that.  True – if we could buy and wrap our own presents and pop them under our trees, we’d have one fine Christmas morning, indeed.   But you know what would be missing?

  • Memory making (years from now, looking back at those handmade crafts that we don’t have a clue what to do with – or even what they ARE!);
  • private giggles with our spouses over the coupon books our children make;
  • tears of joy at the look of pride and excitement on the faces of the ones giving us the gifts;
  • even BIGGER tears as we see the joy that the gifts WE gave have created; and,
  • quiet moments of reflection and gratitude for the thoughts put into the giving after the gifts are open.

And that’s when it finally settled in, and I mean INUncle Harold has nothing lasting to offer.  Uncle Harold gifts won’t sustain us in hard times or grant us peace in the storms we all will have to endure.  Uncle Harold can’t even enjoy the element of joyful surprise or the gauche of cheeky silliness.

Let me ask you something.  How would you feel if you spent infinite time, care, and love wrapping something incredibly special for someone you loved and when Christmas morning came, that person passed over your simply wrapped present for those that looked a bit brighter, maybe a little flashier?  Would it grieve your heart to think what you created for that someone would change his/her life for the forever better but they chose not to open it and accept it? I wonder if that’s what God feels like when we choose to fill our lives with things that have no lasting impact – things Uncle Harold can deliver, but don’t make any difference to our lives in the long run.

christmas candles

So I no longer wish you an Uncle Harold Christmas, my sisters!  Instead, I wish you an Authentic Christmas, stuffed full of surprises (like the birth of a baby who became the Savior of the world), loaded with spontaneity (like finding a place where that baby would lay His holy head); and unexpected, simple gifts (like shepherds giving the only thing they could – keeping watch).  And that, my sweet sister friends, is an authentic Christmas.  Jesus.  The gift of Jesus is a game changer – a LIFE changer, sisters.  He is the energizer bunny of gifts – the gift that keeps on eternally giving  (no batteries required)!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, my friends, filled with love, laughter, peace, and Jesus.

God bless you.

(Hope you enjoyed this fun, Christmas story, posted in its original form on 12/23/13!)

Peace, love, and JOY!


Why PeaceMAKING is a Better Choice than Peacekeeping


Are you the peacekeeper in your world? Always trying to make sure the feathers don’t get ruffled, keeping people in respective corners, helping to avoid awkward conversations and situations?

Yeah. Me, too.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

Peacemakers.  Not just peacekeepers. Jesus goes for a far more active descriptor and says we are blessed to be MAKERS of peace!  In order to be a peacemaker, we must preserve peace where it already is while ALSO actively work to restore it where it is not!

Olive Branch

In the 3,400 years of recorded world history, there have only been 268 recorded without a war. Clearly, we need peacemakers.

But remember, the Beatitudes are not necessarily referring to physical states of being. Instead, the Beatitudes are more concerned with the state of our heart, spiritually speaking.

Jesus wasn’t referring to making peace among nations here (although one can argue that would be a natural and positive consequence to making spiritual peace). Instead, Jesus is talking about making peace between God and man.  After all, that is precisely what He came here to do:

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost. Luke 19:10, NLT

On a spiritual level, discord between man and God began in the Garden in Genesis 3. Jesus came to restore the peace between God and man.  The fall of mankind divided (or created discord between) man and God.  What was needed was reconciliation.

In scripture, the Greek word used to describe this reconciliation is eiro – which means to actively intervene to bind together those who are divided.  Jesus uses a derivative of this word in this Beatitude, namely eirenopoieo, which signifies a harmonious relationship between two or more parties, and is not merely the absence of war or uneasy truce. It means that the parties who are holding differences of opinion are willing to turn toward each other and embrace one. The Hebrew word that means the same thing is one we are more familiar with: shalom.

In Jesus, we see the perfect shape of a meek (powerfully under obedience and control), pure of heart (filled with Godly integrity) peacemaker; a person with a major bent on repairing relationships between mankind, of course, but most importantly between mankind and His Father. A living manifestation of shalom.

cross in england

Jesus was not a pacifist and is not encouraging us to be ones either here. Making peace doesn’t mean looking the other way when a wrong has been committed in order to keep the peace.

“The blessing is on the peace-makers, not necessarily on the peace-lovers. It very often happens that if a man loves peace in the wrong way, he succeeds in making trouble and not peace. We may, for instance, allow a threatening and dangerous situation to develop, and our defense is that for peace’s sake we do not want to take any action. There is many a person who thinks that he is loving peace, when in fact he is piling up trouble for the future, because he refuses to face the situation and to take the action which the situation demands. The peace which the Bible calls blessed does not come from the evasion of issues; it comes from facing them, dealing with them, and conquering them. What this beatitude demands is not the passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things, and the making of peace, even when the way to peace is through struggle.”  (Barclay’s Commentary on Matthew 5)

The peace Jesus refers to is not peace as the world would describe it – that idea of “an absence of chaos”. Instead, it implies almost an unshakable sense of all being right between you and God so that nothing can knock you off course.

Woven throughout scripture is this vision of God’s kind of peace:

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.                Isaiah 26:3, NIV

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

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7, NIV

That is the kind of peace we are working to make!

In this beatitude, the condition is to be a peacemaker. The blessing part is this: when we strive to be makers of peace, we have the ability to call ourselves children of God. Whoa!


In other words, if we are peacemakers, we are the Children of God.  Please note it’s not the same thing as saying, “…if you are a peacemaker, then you can be called My child and so then I will love you.”  It’s more like Jesus saying, “…when you facilitate peace between others, and most importantly between others and Me, you show this world whose you really are – MINE.”  We become the physical manifestation to others of God’s lovingkindness when we not only preserve peace (keep it) but when we work for reconciliation in order to make peace where it currently does not exist.

Frankly, this can be translated as “we resemble our older brother”! (And what an older brother He is…!) 😉

We are not God, of course, or even God-like. But our resemblance to Him would be visible to others through our humility, reliance on God, our hunger for righteousness, our meekness, our integrity, and our striving to reconcile one another to Him.

So, how can we rewrite this beauty of a beatitude with our newfound knowledge on it? What about something like this:

Blessed are those who actively work to restore God’s perfect peace to troubled and fractured hearts, for they are transforming themselves into the likeness of Christ every time they reach out in His name.

I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather resemble, can you?

Following along with us online?  Click here and scroll down to find Week 8’s homework!  Then click here for a great tune to go along with your work!  It’s Third Day singing “Soul on Fire”!  Enjoy!

Peace, love, and JOY!


Up Next Week: Joyful Persecution (the ultimate oxymoron)

Begging for Mercy (even if you don’t think you need it)



Such a short word for something so incredibly huge.

It’s grace wrapped up in unconditional love.  It’s offering love, forgiveness, and grace when human nature would say what the recipient truly deserves is the exact opposite.


Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.  Matthew 5:7

Let’s dissect this definition of mercy a little more:

Grace: a noun that refers to offering/granting a desired action/item/sentiment that the recipient did not earn.  It doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve it, it simply means there is no reciprocation for the gift, nor has the recipient done anything, or done any work, or contributed in any way to the giver that may have made the giver feel obligated or inclined to give the “gift”.  It is a a gift, in-kind, with no strings attached.

Examples: Bringing a meal to your friend and her family when she is going through chemo.   Offering rides to neighborhood kids – just because!  A foot rub for your spouse at the end of the day.  A bouquet of flowers for your daughter’s room to brighten it up.  A conversation over a cup of tea with an old friend even though your schedule is jammed.  Many times, we are also graced in return for these efforts.  But we don’t do it for repayment or anything like that.

Grace is something we do well, at least for the most part. Grace is the “good girl’s” middle name, isn’t it?! 😉


Mercy: a noun that refers to offering/granting something the recipient did not earn…AND ACTUALLY DESERVES THE OPPOSITE.

Examples: Offering rides to the neighborhood kids – right after they egged your house.  A foot rub for your spouse after he criticizes the messiness of the house and the subpar dinner he believes you just served.  A bouquet of flowers for your daughter’s room even when she screamed “I HATE YOU” at the top of her lungs as she left for school this morning.  It’s forgiving a devastating betrayal – as in really forgiving it…and forgetting it, too.


Now, when things are going well for us, it is possible to dispense a little mercy on others, isn’t it (especially if we love them)?  We take our little mercy-filled eye dropper and start doling it out – sometimes just a drop, but other times (if we are in a really good place…!) we can send it out in a nice, steady stream until the dropper has emptied.

But what about when the mercy we need to offer comes with the price tag of forgiveness? When someone has done you such a wrong that instead of love and mercy, you feel resentment?  Instead of drippy tears of sweet mercy falling from your dropper, it’s suddenly filled with thoughts of revenge, anger, and incredulous indignation at the thought of granting grace, let alone mercy?  Can you EVEN imagine?!

Not so easy, is it.

I read something interesting recently by Brene Brown, author of Rising Strong. She says, “In order for forgiveness to really happen, something else has to die.”

In other words, deeply embedded into the concept of mercy is grief. In order to be merciful, you will need to let go – or grieve – your own ideas, expectations, thoughts, JUDGEMENT, etc. on how things should be.  You have to say goodbye to your will and once again return to a posture and attitude of meekness (remember, that means eyes on God – focusing on His will – see Matthew 5:5 lesson).

The ultimate act of mercy was God offering His only son as the means by which we are saved.  Can you even imagine the grief of that sacrifice?

It won’t be easy on this side of heaven to accomplish it. But at least with this Beatitude, we are reminded to try.  We’re becoming more and more like Christ with each attempt at mercy.

Jesus demonstrated pure mercy throughout His ministry and continues to dole it out like a fire hydrant that has been unplugged, spraying the water out in seemingly never-ending streams.

So how can we rewrite Matthew 5:7?  How about like this:


Blessed are those who let loose the hydrant valves of mercy and douse ALL who need it, for they will be soaked through by it as well.

According to the Vatican’s website, the jubilee year (beginning on December 8th – the Year of Mercy) has its roots in the Monastic law when every fiftieth year was made holy for the Jewish people. Debts were canceled, slaves were freed, and lands were restored to their “original owners.”

Pope Frances cites the scriptural focus for the jubilee year will be Christ’s command from Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Which, if you’re keeping notes here, is tucked inside Luke’s version of Matthew 5 – only he calls it the Sermon on the Plain!)

When Pope Francis was interviewed on his reasons and thoughts in calling for this to be The Year of Mercy, beginning in December, he said this: Mercy is not “a prize for the perfect but powerful medicine and nourishment for everyone…”  Ooooh, that’s good.

Everyone gets mercy from Jesus. No one gets carded at the door.  No one.

Can I get an AMEN?!

Following along with us online?  Click here for this week’s homework! Need some tunes to keep you busy while you work?!  Click here for this week’s song, Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle.

Enjoy your week, sweet friends.

Peace, love, and JOY!


Up Next Week:  Are you pure (in heart)?

Be Blessed


This summer, I attended a funeral for the mother of a good friend of mine. It was a Catholic funeral, full of all the traditional rites, sounds, and readings that offer a huge dose of comfort and healing to the mourning. As I was kneeling during communion, I was acutely aware of God’s presence in the room. There was a holy stillness, a moment of peace that transcended the lack of noise and chaos. As we all knelt with silent mouths and prayers uttered from honest hearts, I found myself in the midst of the Kingdom of God – no doubt about it. Nothing looked different or sounded different or anything like that. But I could feel it on a soul-filled, spiritual level. And it was beautiful.

White Snow Flowers Up Close

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-2, NIV

What if the kingdom of God isn’t just somewhere up “there”? What if what Jesus is really saying is that it’s also right here, right now? What if we’re already in it – already woven into His presence, day in and day out? What if we could stop worrying about missing God in everyday moments because we begin to see we’re already in His company? What if we began to see the human condition, as flawed and sinful as it can be, as a blessing instead of a curse?

Trees and Sky Elle

The Beatitudes:  the very beginning of the famous “Sermon on the Mount” found in the Gospel book of Matthew  that many believe was His first public message of His earthly ministry. Eight short, but powerful, verses in which Jesus takes a few private moments with his beloved disciples in order to share His vision of the transformation of the human heart into something that looks a bit more like His.

Yes. Jesus sits on Heaven’s throne at God’s right hand. But He also made a home in your heart the moment you believed in Him. He sits at your table, rides in your car, laughs at your jokes, counts your tears and knows the number of times you toss and turn at night. He never leaves you alone and is most concerned about the condition of your spirit. He is relentless in pursuing you and walks with you through the good times and the bad. He wants you. He loves you. And He blesses you in ways you haven’t even considered yet.

White Snow Flowers with Greens

THAT is what this Bible study series of ours is about. Understanding our blessed standing with God, regardless of life situations and circumstances. It’s about turning everything we thought we knew about the Beatitudes kind of on its ear and letting Him transform our hearts into a mirror image of His.

For ten weeks (beginning today!), we’ll be diving deep into Matthew 5:1-12 and learning to change our hearts from the inside in order to change what’s on the outside. In other words, the Beatitudes are concerned with our inner attitudes which, as we will see, enable us to reflect “Kingdom characteristics” in the way we live. Beginning next week, we will take one Beatitude and look at it from different angles in order to really understand it.

Each week, you’ll have the opportunity to follow along with those us of doing the physical studies (meaning those of us attending live and in person!) by clicking on the link above called “be blessed”. That link will contain everything you need to do the study with us! Homework can be accessed by clicking the corresponding week’s link and printing it up to complete. Three levels of homework are included in the pdf link, depending on your time and commitment level to the study! Do what blesses, not what burdens – that’s what we like to say! But whatever you do, do it with a willing heart and an honest desire to learn and grow in your relationship with God.

Elle and Yael Converse

“God meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be.” Larry Crabb

One of the things I LOVE most is really good contemporary Christian music, and I like to make a soundtrack for each series we do here at stringing pearls! You can click on the “be blessed” tab above to see the whole song list. This week, I encourage you to watch this amazing video by Hillsong. The song is called “Touch the Sky” and totally reminds me of this idea that we are already walking in His kingdom! Enjoy – see you next week for our first Beatitude!!

Peace, love, and JOY!


Up Next Week: Matthew 5:3 – “blessed are the poor in spirit…”

all photos:  property of Ella Connors, all rights reserved 2015

simpl.if.I: Let Go! (Summer Series Week 7)


“Let Go.”

A simple, two word statement that isn’t always so easy to do.

The first time we encounter those words is in childhood, when we playing tug-of-war over a toy with another child, or when we’ve gotten a hold of something we shouldn’t and someone who knows better is trying to ply it out of our little hands!

As we get a little older and experience times when a friend hurts our feelings or even betrays our trust, those two, small but powerful words are doled out to us by “wise counsel” who encourages us to let go of our hurt because holding on to it just makes us feel worse.

When we have children of our own and they begin to grow up and find their footing and their own way, we’re told by those who’ve been through it before that it’s our job to let them go; that holding on for dear life (even if it’s what our heart is desperate to do) will only delay the inevitable and cause other issues in the process.

When we have painful pasts (or even rocky presents) and when we work through those experiences with people and professionals who help us come to terms with it, we’re counseled to let go of what’s behind us in order to live in here and now.

That’s all good and honest and wonderful advice! But it’s just not always easy, is it?

I think the reason it’s so hard for us to just “let go” is because we don’t know where we’re supposed to “put it”! In other words, if the experience or feeling exists, it’s got to go somewhere, right? You just can’t un-feel it, or undo something that happened. It’s like cleaning out your closet – those clothes that you no longer wear or need don’t simply vanish into thin air just because you are ready to let them go; you need to clear them out and give them to someone else in order to actually be rid of them.

That’s why this week’s mantra and scripture verse are so powerful! As Christians, when we talk about letting go, we’re really talking about the freedom that comes as a result of giving it up to God and trusting that He’s got it for us. We’re not just releasing our stuff out into thin air and hoping it doesn’t come back and settle right back on us. We’re literally giving it to the only One who can take it on without judgement and fight for us through it all.

Let Go Exodus 14-14

Freedom in letting go is possible when we trust God. It’s possible whether you need to grant forgiveness or you need to receive it. It’s possible when you need to let your child navigate the newness of middle school, high school, or even college. It’s possible when the time comes to let go of your past. It’s possible EVEN if you need to release control of a situation that you are desperate to keep your hand on/in when you know it would be better if you didn’t.

At the end of the day, that’s what our soul is desperate for – spirit-cleansing freedom.

I don’t know what you might need to let go of today, but I do know that if you trust it in the hands of Christ, He will take it from you and carry it and replace it with peace in your heart. Let’s pray for each other this week as we trust God to fight for us and let’s celebrate our victory in freedom!

Ruthie Donovan

(photo credit:  Alicia Donovan, photo of her beloved Ruthie running FREE!)

Practical Application: (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take this week to help you LET GO!):

  1. Find/print our mantra and scripture card for this week! Display it somewhere you are sure to see it and read it each time you see it!
  2. Spend time meditating on this powerful verse and share with God the places in your heart that need His healing touch of release and freedom. Journal what you feel He might be saying back to you. Follow through with any Spirit-led actions you feel Him guiding you to.
  3. Go back through all our mantras to date and see if you can’t memorize them! Remember, we started back in the middle of June with Choose God! Click here to re-read any of the blog entries and to print up a new set of cards if you need/want to!
  4. Check out this super awesome video of Rend Collective singing “Finally Free “. I had the GREAT JOY of seeing this crazy cool band live on Friday night! They were so wonderful! If they are ever in your area, you HAVE to go see them!

If you are reading before amen with us, we are reading Chapter Six, “Forgive Me”. The chapter study guide at the back of the book is particularly powerful this week so if you have time, I encourage you to complete that, too! J

We’ll see you back here next week for Week 8 (yes, I said week EIGHT!) of simpl.if.I! As always, thank you so much for taking this journey with us! We are so grateful for you!

Peace, love and JOY!


Up Next Week: simpl.if.I Week 8: Be Nice!