Holy Week


“It’s not a tattoo; it’s just marker,” I told the friend who asked at lunch.

If I got a tattoo of a cross somewhere I could see it, I’d probably eventually get used to it, and it would lose its significance as a reminder. But I don’t think that will happen in just seven days and I so desperately want to spend this week remembering, so during our pastor’s Palm Sunday sermon, I took my brown felt-tipped pen and inked a little t shape on the inside of my left wrist.

I used to have mixed feelings about Palm Sunday.

None of the crowds shouting “hosanna” on Sunday stood by Jesus on Friday when He turned out to be a very different kind of savior than they expected. It seemed, to me, like a celebration of fair-weather Christianity.

But this year, as I’ve observed Lent in a very traditional way–a way that sees each Sunday as a mini-easter and a respite from the discipline of fasting–it’s heightened my sense of expectation for the coming resurrection. And when I got up yesterday morning, just one Sunday away from Easter, I couldn’t get these words out of my mind: “…Jesus set out resolutely for Jerusalem.”

The crowds lining the streets from the Mount of Olives to the temple may not have known what awaited Jesus in Jerusalem, but He did.

And He came anyway.

For you.

For me.

The New American Standard Bible says “he was determined” to come. He wouldn’t give up on our salvation, even when that road led to His very own cross.

So as we draw ever closer to observing the worst, best Friday in all of history,  I’m lifting up my voice this week and shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”


Coming Soon: Faith Starts at Home

To my faithful readers:

Thanks so much for sticking with me the last several years as I’ve poured out my thoughts and shared my life here. You’ve been so supportive, and because of that, I wanted to share something with you here before it was public news.

Over the last several months, the Lord has been leading me to focus my writing on one of the things I’m most passionate about: resourcing families to disciple their children and live out their faith in their daily lives. So beginning next week, I’ll be sharing tips, encouragement, strategies, and resources for building a godly family at my brand-new website. I’ve been working on moving some of the content from here over there and revamping it so that there will be tons of great stuff for your family right from day one.

I may still share on here occasionally, but for them most part, you’ll find me at Faith Starts at Home.

I would be honored if you’d join me there. If you want to stay up-to-date on everything I’m doing with my new site, you can sign up for my email newsletter, like Faith Starts at Home on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram.

Big love to you all!


A Prayer for Inauguration Day

Father God, I look to you on this day, when power over earthly kingdoms is transferred from one man to another.

May your sovereign will be done on earth as is it in heaven, today, and always.

I lift up Donald Trump to you, just as you commanded me  to do (1 Timothy 2:1-2). May I live a “peaceful and quiet [life] in all goodness and holiness” during Trump’s presidency, and may it lead many to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

May I rightly understand the role that earthly authority plays in the life of a Christian. Help me not fall into the idolatry of worshiping my leaders as the ones who save. But also protect me from thinking I can call them my enemies and get out of loving them.

I am humbled by your unmerited favor towards me on this day, God. Your mercies are new every morning. Why me, God? Why was I not born in an impoverished African village or a war-torn Middle Eastern country? Why now? Why wasn’t I born in the middle ages or in the 1930s?

Help me to discern my right now purpose, in this nation, in this time in history.

Bless my president, Lord Jesus. Bless him with your wisdom and grace.

And may our hope ever rest in you, our steadfast, unchanging God.

Books & Reading

My Reading Piles: The When & How

I’ve been sharing on Instagram lately, every week or two, the stack of books I’m planning to read. I’ve been getting lots of questions about them, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to share about my reading habits, for those of you who were wondering.


1. Do you really read all those books?

Yes and no.

I’ve been including four books in every picture, because I like the consistency and it’s a manageable size: not overwhelming, but enough to show variety. But because of the way I read, no, I do not always read those exact four books from start to finish that same week.

I’m always reading several books at once, and at several different paces. I may devour two whole novels over a weekend, and take months to get through another book I want to really process as I read. (For example, I am still slowly plodding through Jane Eyre and Emily Dickenson’s poems from the picture above.) So when I post a picture of a book, I may have started it earlier, and am still working on it, I may plan to start it later, I may be planning to finish it that day. I’m a little all over the place.

However, I do strive for the pictures to be as honest as possible: I won’t include a book if I don’t at least plan to pick it up at some point during the week. And though I don’t post pictures every single week, it’s not completely unusual for me to finish three or four books in a week. I do occasionally abandon titles once I’ve started them, but this doesn’t happen often. So in that sense the answer is yes. If I post a book on Instagram, it’s pretty safe to assume that I’m going to read the whole thing at some point.


2. How do you have time to read so much?

This is probably the question I get the most. There are a few things I do to fit in so much reading. First, reading is my very favorite hobby. I like to bake and I like to sew, but neither of those is nearly so delightful to me as curling up with a good book. It’s my go-to free time activity.

Second, reading isn’t something I only do by myself. I get to read tons of books that I enjoy because I read them aloud to my children (or listen to the audiobooks with them in the car!). Homeschooling has given us even more time for this, of course, but it’s something I made time for before we were a homeschool family.

Last year, we read Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Little House in the Big Woods, just to name a few. Those are all books I would have loved to read all by myself anyway, and enjoying them with my family made them that much better. If you need encouragement and suggestions for reading aloud, this podcast is one of my very favorites.

Third, I carve out time for little snippets of reading that add up over time. For example, I am almost always working my way through some sort of devotional or Christian living book in conjunction with my devotional time of a morning. It takes maybe five or ten minutes a day. I don’t read through these books very quickly, but I probably get in an extra ten or twelve books a year that I wouldn’t get to read otherwise by doing this. If you had a book you read consistently in the pick up line at school, in the bathroom, or during your break at work, you’d probably be amazed at how many more books you could read, too.


3. How do you decide what to read?

This is actually evolving for me, and I’m planning to share soon about how homsechooling is changing the way I read, even for fun. But as far as finding good things to read, I’m never without ideas. I keep a pretty extensive list of what I want to read at Goodreads, and add to it as I get recommendations from people I trust.

For family reading, the Read-Aloud Revival is my go-to resource, but I recently discovered Brightly, and really like it, too. There are also several fantastic books that are full of lists of good kids’ books. A few of my recent favorites are Honey for a Child’s Heart, Give Your Child the World, and Read for the Heart.

For myself, when I was still working at the library, I read reviews of new books in Publisher’s Weekly almost every week. Now that I’m not there anymore, I get my information about new books from Book Riot, Goodreads, and Modern Mrs. Darcy.

If you’re looking for your next book, any of these would be fantastic places to look. Or ask me – I love recommending books to people! (And please note: the book stack pictures on are not meant to be recommendations. I can’t vouch for these books personally until I’ve read them, and some of the books I share in those photos turn out to be duds.)


4. Where do you get all your books?

I get almost everything I read at the library. I make liberal use of our inter-library loan programs, and have found, at least for our library, that there are very few titles I can’t get that way if it’s something our library doesn’t carry.

I do buy books occasionally, when it’s something I want to mark up or think I will read over and over again. I like to buy used when I can, and am always on the lookout for favorite titles when I’m at garage sales or thrift stores. But when I want a specific title, my default is Amzaon. We’re Prime members, and I can wait two days for almost anything if it means I don’t have to leave the house.

Do you have more questions about my reading habits? Or suggestions of books I should read? Share them in the comments!

Church · Heart

Hatch or Go Bad: What It Means to Give Everything To Jesus

One of my very favorite websites is Babylon Bee.

I don’t know who is behind it, but they write the absolute funniest satire pieces about Evangelical Christianity in America.

A while back, I came across this post about adoption. I thought it was funny, but there was also enough truth in it to make me angry. 

Then, a few weeks later, I was in a service recently where they gave an altar call for salvation, and they quoted the verse that is often used in that context, Romans 10:9.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

“All you have to do is believe,” the speaker said.

And I got angry all over again. 

The more I started thinking about why these two things upset me, the more I saw the same issue manifesting itself over and over again. It popped up in things I was reading, and in conversations I was having. And even as it was stirring in my heart, Jason was led to preach about it at the church we’ve been attending.

I couldn’t run away from this problem.

Church, I’m angry. And I’m heartbroken. Why? Because we have really not surrendered to the lordship of Jesus.

You see, that verse the speaker quoted? She left part of its instructions out during her altar call. Romans 10:9 says that we have to both believe what the gospel says about Jesus and declare him as Lord over our lives. If we only believe in God, we are no better than demons, according the James. But there is teaching out there, lots of it, that subtly or overtly contradicts the idea that Jesus has absolute authority over our lives.

That Babylon Bee article has a ring of truth to it, because we are content, as a church, to let other people do hard things for Jesus and think that we don’t have to.

Some friends of ours who are missionaries in the Czech Republic were at our church last summer, and shared the story of how God called them out of their very normal lives and asked them to give up all of it and go to Europe to reach the lost. They told how when God called, they had no choice but to respond in obedience. But after the service, one of the ladies in the congregation told them she couldn’t believe they said yes to missions; that  she would never be able to do the same if God asked her.

This is why I’m concerned.

We live in a world where even the church is surprised by obedience to God. Let me be very clear: if you truly follow Jesus, the issue of obedience should already be settled in your heart. Yet for many who call themselves Christians, it is not.

It terrifies me that there is a whole generation of people who think they claim the name of Christ while telling Him all the things they will categorically not do.

And the things we refuse to do for Christ can take on many different faces: fasting, going to Africa, homeschooling, adopting a child, walking away from that unhealthy relationship, giving generously or sacrificially in the offering at church, serving in the nursery, praying for someone in public… I could just keep going and going.

Some of these things are probably no big deal to you. Others may hit closer to home. But I have heard people, Christian people, say that they could not, would not, do each of these things, even though in many cases, that was exactly the thing that God was asking them to do.

The reason we think it’s okay to say “no thanks” to God because we have not understood the magnitude of what it means to call Jesus our Lord.

“Jesus is Lord” is not just a cute thing we say. Lord is much more than just a church word that is a synonym for God. Think back to what you learned in school about the feudal system. Lord referred to the master or owner of a certain parcel of property. The lord had subjects, and whatever the lord said was the law.

This is hard to understand because we have nothing like a lordship relationship today in America. God is not our employer. We cannot negotiate for better benefits, or angle for a promotion. We cannot move on to a different job when the demands are too high.

The only appropriate response to a lord is to obey everything he tells you to do.

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

The relationship Jesus has invited us into is one where we die, and he is resurrected in us. Everything about our old life – our hopes, dreams, desires, wealth, ambition, habits, hobbies, diet, family, friends, possessions, home, physical safety, even our lives themselves—are surrendered to him. We leave nothing off the table. He is allowed to add, remove, and change as he sees fit.

C. S. Lewis describes it this way:

 “What we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be good. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way–centered on money or pleasure or ambition–and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly, And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do….He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When he said, ‘Be perfect,’ He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are hankering after is harder–in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being an ordinary decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” (Mere Christianity, pp. 198-199)

Lewis penned these words more than sixty years ago, church, but not much has changed.

And nothing much will, unless we get on our faces before the Lord and repent our love affair with the world and with our own comfort, and ask him to come and crucify our flesh. We must commit anew to following him with our entire lives–whatever that means for us, whatever we have to lay on the altar. If we want to call Jesus our Lord, it’s all-or-nothing.

This is what is missing from our lives.

This is what is missing from our churches.

And this is what is missing from our witness.

When we do not understand that Christ has asked us to surrender everything, we cannot effectively ask others to do the same. We have no authority to assure them that surrendering all to Jesus is worth it. If we have not also given everything to follow Jesus, how can we ask someone else to walk away from that lifestyle that they’ve claimed as their identity? To go through with that pregnancy? To abandon their false gods, and in the process, lose their families and their familiar culture?

When we are not completely surrendered to Christ, we fall into error in our gospel witness. We either sit in hypocritical judgment of people who are enslaved to sin, pointing fingers and acting like it is easy to surrender everything because we haven’t actually surrendered anything. Or, we try to soften the demands of the gospel, saying they can love Jesus and keep their sin, which is dangerous, because as Rosaria Butterfield puts it, “We are acting as though we think ourselves more merciful than God is.”

If we want to be a bold and effective witness to the world around us, we need to be able to look our unbelieving friends in the eye and truthfully say to them, “You are going to have to give up everything to find life in Jesus. You will have to give up everything, just like I have. But it will be worth it.”

So what will it be church? Will we surrender everything to Jesus and embrace the call to make him Lord? Will we be hatched? Or will we go bad?




How to Vote With Your Wallet

I made scones this morning for breakfast.

I love scones so much. My family is not as jazzed about them as a general rule, but there is one scone recipe I stumbled across a few years ago that we all absolutely love.

I don’t make them very often, though, because they have chocolate in them.

Don’t get me wrong — I love chocolate as much as the next person, but several years ago, I read a lot about how the major chocolate companies exploit people, especially children, and I decided in my heart that if I can’t afford to buy fair-trade certified chocolate, then I can’t afford to buy chocolate at all.

I love that I have the ability to do that as a consumer. The money I make belongs to me, and I get to decide how to spend it. Do you remember when the whole fiasco with Target bathrooms was what everyone was talking about on Facebook? There was a lot of talk then about how we can affect even big companies like Target by choosing to not spend our money there.

(For the record, I haven’t shopped at Target since then, not because I’m formally boycotting them, but because I was plagued with indecision. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about their bathroom policy, and I’d rather not shop there until I’m sure I feel good about it, than continue to spend money there when I think it might be wrong.)

I know it doesn’t seem like much, choosing this store over that one, one brand instead of another. It probably feels like it doesn’t matter if you don’t buy something, because there are so many other people who will. You’re wrong, though. That is the same kind of reasoning that keeps so many people away from the polls on election day. I know you are just one person. But your one vote matters.

Those votes add up over time — Walmart, one of the biggest companies in the United States, listened to their customers and stopped getting their store brand milk from  cows treated with growth hormones. Also, for quite a while, I’ve been buying more expensive, name-brand all purpose flour when I go to Walmart, because I want the unbleached kind. And now? I found store-brand unbleached flour at my Walmart just the other day. I couldn’t have been the only one, but I like to think I contributed to Walmart producing that flour and stocking it at my store by spending my money the way I did.

The way you spend your money really does matter. Moreover, the beauty of voting with your wallet is that you don’t just get one vote every four years. You get as many votes as there are dollars in your bank account, and you get to choose every single day where to cast those votes.

So, were you unhappy with how the election went yesterday (at any level of government)? Don’t sit around and complain about it. Use your purchasing power to advocate for the changes you want to see in your community, state, or the nation. 

Here are a few ideas of how you can do that:

  1. Shop at businesses whose stance on moral issues lines up with yours

    Do you support Hobby Lobby’s stance on birth control? Then shop there. Do you like that Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays? Eat there (but not on Sunday, which is when I always think of it).

  2. Purchase products with a mission

    I already talked about why I buy fair trade chocolate. I also try to buy only fair trade coffee. I have friends who make a point to buy products that are helping women escape trafficking. You can support causes like these by finding and buying products whose supply chain or profits are about more than a bottom line.

    Do you wish some organic farming bill had passed in your state? Then buy organic products. Do you wish the US was doing more to end poverty in foreign countries? Then buy from companies who are working to do just that.

  3. Buy local

    This is very important, especially if you were disappointed about the results of your local election. If a local tax measure you supported failed, one way to fight back is by spending as much as you can at local businesses. Those dollars feed right back into your own community and are more likely to trickle down to places that need them, like your schools or your libraries.

  4. Give liberally to causes you believe in.

    The church we pastored for almost four years was absolutely passionate about missions. How do I know? Because the people gave way beyond what is typically expected for a church of that size to be able to do. Our people gave to meet all kinds of needs, from impoverished kids in our own community to a family going to the far corners of the earth to tell people about Jesus, and their generosity always made Jason and me so proud and humbled to be their pastors.

    Jesus himself talks about the importance of being willing to give whatever you have, whether it’s a lot or a little, for the sake of the kingdom of God. In Matthew 13:44 he says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

    I want to be the person who is willing to sell everything to gain Jesus. Don’t you?


How God is Using My Health to Teach Me About Weakness, Part 2

(You can read Part 1 here.)

As we headed into the new year, Jason and I began to sense that the Holy Spirit was preparing us for a year of change. We knew that without divine intervention, it was a matter of time before our church would no longer be sustainable. We had been fasting and praying and seeking God’s direction for our family. My struggles with asthma seemed to be pretty well-managed, although Jason and I were still hopeful for my healing, and asked for prayer among our friends at church on a regular basis.

One morning in February, I woke up while it was still pretty dark and padded down the hallway to make my coffee, like I do every morning. I noticed a nagging pain in one of my toes, and wondered if I’d stubbed it in the middle of the night. I can be pretty clumsy sometimes, and have, on more than one occasion, missed the doorway trying to find the bathroom in the dark. I didn’t give it much thought until a few days later, another toe started to hurt. The next week, the pain had spread to the balls of my feet.

By March, I was waking up with stiff and sore fingers every morning. After that, the pain started showing up in bigger joints. One day my wrist hurt so badly I wondered if I’d somehow broken it. Then my knees ached. Then I had to go to bed with an ice pack on my shoulder just to be able to fall asleep.

While it was becoming clearer, and then certain, that our church plant would close when our lease ended on June 30, my health was a bigger question mark than ever. Within the space of a couple of months, I went from being perfectly fine to being very literally handicapped by my pain. All of a sudden, there were dozens of daily tasks that I simply could not do, and I was forced to ask for more help than ever before.

I particularly remember standing beside our bed one morning when I had to leave the house very early. “Sorry to have to wake you Jason,” I said. That’s when my voice broke. “Can you… can you help me get dressed?” I leaned on him while he helped me step into my pants, buttoned them for me, and then kneeled to put shoes on my feet.

At this point it was June, and we were in the throes of saying goodbye to our church, and my heart was aching over it. However, it was this early morning moment when I could not dress myself that I finally cracked.

I had never felt so helpless in my life.

It did however, drive me to my knees.

There is nothing that can push us closer to God quite the way desperate need can. And I was desperate. So desperate. I didn’t even know where to start when I prayed.

I prayed for God to carry us through the last few Sundays as pastors of Life360 Ozark. I prayed that He would go ahead of us and lead us into whatever was next. When I remembered to, I prayed He would do the same for everyone else in the church, and confessed my pride and self-centeredness for all the times I forgot about them. I repented of my ungratefulness, my faith in myself, and my love of comfort. I rejoiced in small mercies, and before I went to bed every night, I begged, simply, “Lord, would you please heal me?”

During this time, I was reading a wonderful little book called Hinds Feet on High Places. It is an allegorical story of how the Shepherd leads a young woman named Much-Afraid on a journey to the High Places. Much Afraid’s journey looked nothing like she thought it would. The path often seemed to lead away from her destination rather than towards it. And when the path finally did seem to go straight towards the mountain-top, it was so treacherous, and so steep, that at first Much Afraid shrank back from it. Could this really be the way the Shepherd wanted her to go? But on she followed, through the twists and turns, through the darkness, and into the deep valleys. At last, in the deepest valley of all, the Shepherd asked her to lay on the altar her most cherished desires. And it was there, at her lowest point, at her moment of greatest sacrifice, that Much Afraid is transformed into Grace and Glory.

The book spoke deeply to me. People had been telling us, as we began to publicize the closing of the church, that they believed God had great things in store for us. I wanted to believe that, too, but as my pain continued to get worse, all I could see ahead was more suffering. As I prayed about everything going on in our lives, I sensed God saying to me, “If I lead you, not from mountaintop to mountaintop, but from valley to deeper, darker valley, will you follow me even there?”

Even to the next valley. And the next.

Even there.

Will we follow Him, wherever He leads?

I don’t understand everything about God’s ways or why and how healing takes place when it does. I believe there is a dimension of God’s manifest presence, and accompanying signs and wonders, that the American Church almost never sees. I believe there is more that God offers us of Himself than we have yet taken hold of, and I do not want to be guilty of having not because I ask not.

However, I also don’t want my faith or trust in God to waver because I think He promised me something He never did. I long for God to completely heal me. But so far, for whatever reason, He has not.

I am not in nearly as much pain as I was a few months ago, thanks to a visit to a doctor, and some medicine. But this disease, which they determined to be Rheumatoid Arthritis, is not gone.

I wanted so much to wait to share this story until there was a happy ending. It’s scarier, by far, to say: “Here is where I am, and I don’t know where God will lead me from here, and if or how He will change my circumstances, but I trust Him.”

But it is the truth.

At least most days it is. I won’t pretend for a second that I never struggle with doubt or fear, because I do. When my symptoms flare up, I worry about losing my independence. Or about permanent joint damage. When I make appointments or refill prescriptions, I do so with one eye on our dwindling bank balance. “You know how much money we have, right, Lord?” I whisper. “And that Jason still doesn’t have a job? You’re going to take care of us, aren’t You?”

But most of the time, I am confident in God’s power and promises.

That confidence was one of the biggest gifts that the closing of our church gave me. It was one of the worst things I could imagine happening, and yet, we walked through it and we survived. That may seem silly, but it continually surprises me that having to get up and face that disappointment publicly did not literally kill me

We had been teaching for four years that the best promise of the Bible is God With Us, and now we got to live that out firsthand. Even when our world crashed down around us, God was still there.

I do believe that God has great things in store for my family. But I  know that no matter what the future holds, He will be with us in the midst of it.