How Great Thou Art

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5

Worth Watching

For the last few days there’s been a conference in Atlanta called Passion. It’s for young people from 18-25, and what I love about Passion is that it’s not a pep rally. It’s not about getting people all hyped up for Jesus and then turning them loose with nothing but a bunch of happy post-conference feelings that can never, ever sustain them. The platform speakers – Louie Giglio, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, Andy Stanley, John Piper – have poured out words of substance and truth to the 22,000 in attendance (not to mention the tens of thousands of people online). There are even more Gospel-driven leaders who are leading break-out sessions and community groups.

I’m telling you: that solid teaching is critical when you’re 18-25. It’s critical for all of us, for that matter. Last night Melanie and I were texting about what we’d seen and heard as we’ve watched online for the last few days, and I told her how encouraged I’d been to see those young people sit and soak up wisdom from people who are 20 or 30 years ahead of them in their faith journeys. I know it might sound strange, but listening to Andy Stanley, for example, preach yesterday about Jacob and Esau ministered to some of the regrets I have from my own walk through the 18-25 minefield. And John Piper’s message last night was one of the most beautiful, tender presentations of the Gospel I have ever heard.

The sessions aren’t available online indefinitely, but you can still see the last few sessions on the Passion 2011 website. Andy Stanley teaches in session 4, and John Piper is session 5. I think the link will land you on a page with a welcome video, and you can click through from there to find the links to the sessions.

Hope you’re having a great Tuesday!

A Handy Resource

Hey bloggy peoples –

I have a big night of TV in store, what with the Very Special Episode of “Iron Chef” on the DVR, not to mention a rented copy of “Star Trek” just waiting for my undivided attention, but I wanted to pass along this info before I forgot. And trust me: I will forget about four minutes into “Iron Chef” if I don’t tell you right now.

Our church is doing something this year called The Radical Experiment. And earlier tonight, when I was looking at the Scripture readings for the week, I realized that I can link to the Family Worship Guide that our church is putting out each week, and it struck me as something that might interest some of you.

There’s an original song that you can download and sing, a coloring page for your kids, a Bible lesson for the family AND suggestions for age-appropriate activities you can do with your kids – all corresponding to the Scripture readings for the week. It looks like the curriculum is going to be incredible. You can check The Radical Experiment website for updates each week.

Okay. That is all. I’m going to watch TV now.

Hope y’all are having a happy new year!


At breakfast a few days ago my friend Paige and I were having a mighty deep conversation over scrambled eggs and these little sausage stick thingies that were ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS, and somehow we got on the subject of our friend Angela’s house.

Because here’s the thing about Angela’s house, and I am not exaggerating: it is a SANCTUARY. As soon as you walk through the front door, you want to take off your shoes and curl up in a chair and drink something warm and pour out your heart. There’s always music playing. There’s always something good to eat. There’s always honest, wide open conversation. And there’s always a very big God at the center of it all.

Seriously. There is so much Light in that house that darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few days (listen. I don’t know what it is, but “reflective” doesn’t even begin to do justice to my current state of mind, and that is a problem because quite frankly IT IS INTERFERING WITH MY TV-WATCHING SCHEDULE) about how much I treasure the peace in our home. Granted, I know better than anyone that I am a solid gold goofball who can be a smidge difficult to live with what with all my overcommitting and procrastinating and not-folding-the-laundrying. But even still, when I’m at home I am so grateful for the freedom to be myself, for the blessing of laughing and singing whenever I please, for the fact that I am never more at ease than when I’m with my people. And lately I’ve been thinking about some inexpensive, personal touches I want to add here and there so that our house feels like home to whoever happens to visit.

And by the way, is anyone wondering if an alien has abducted the person who normally posts on this blog and replaced her someone who doesn’t know that she’s supposed to be writing about fried chicken, reality television and SEC football? I won’t blame you if you think that. Really.

Because do y’all know what I did this afternoon? I WENT TO HOBBY LOBBY. AND BOUGHT CRAFT SUPPLIES.


So all that to say: I’m curious. What are some specific things you do to make your home a haven for the people who live and/or visit there?

I can’t wait to read your ideas!

Needing Some Closure

So I’m not sure how it started, exactly, but the other day a friend of mine and I decided that we were going to have a contest to see who could come up with the holiest email closing.

This would probably be a good time to provide some background information. I do hope you’ll bear with me while I explain.

When I was in high school my parents went to a really awesome weekend retreat, and they came home with all sorts of encouraging notes from people who had also been to the retreat, and many of those notes were closed with the following words:

In Him,
Encouraging Christian’s Name

And I’ll go ahead and admit it: I was a wee big fascinated with the “In Him” sign-off. After practicing with it awhile in notes both real and imagined, I decided that I really liked working the Christian closing into my 16 year-old correspondence. For instance:

I don’t know what in the world he thinks that he’s thinking, but he’s DEFINITELY not thinking the same thing that I’m thinking. By the way, aren’t my new Reebok high tops the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? I think they are SO MAJOR.”

In Him,

Or actually it would have said “Sofa” instead of “Soph” because all my high school friends called me “Sofa,” but let’s just pretend you have no knowledge of that bit-o-information, okay?

Right after David and I got married I started teaching at a Christian school, and I noticed almost immediately that “In Him” was no longer in vogue. Oh, I mean, it was FINE, and it would certainly do in a pinch, but the closings were a bit more elaborate. All I could figure was that during the first half of my 20s, when I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to Things Christian, the body of Christ got together and decided to up the holy ante in their email and letter closings. So instead of just being “In Him,” people were “In His grip.” They made it clear that their existence was “By His grace,” that their words were “In His service.”

And sometimes, if the subject matter was really intense, the closing jumped up a notch to “Because of Him,” but you pretty much had to have finished seminary in order to use that one. I’m sure there were some exceptions, of course.

Anyway, it took me awhile, but eventually I managed to catch up. And by 1999, after two years of intensive study in order to reacquaint myself with the Christian closing, I was completely up-to-speed on the lingo. In fact, I may have even thrown down the “Because of His grace” gauntlet in a heartfelt letter. And while odds are that nobody on earth noticed my gauntlet throwing, I’m pretty sure that when Jesus saw me type out “Because of His grace,” he released some doves up in the heavenlies. Or maybe it was just some pigeons. But still. There’s not a doubt in my mind that He was deeply, profoundly moved.

Over the last few years I’ve done a bit of scientific research (and I think we all know that when I say “scientific research,” what I mean is “I HAVE SKIMMED AND EVEN READ SEVERAL EMAILS”), and I’ve noticed an increased use of the participle in people’s closings. I’m fairly certain this increase can be attributed at least in part to the fact that we’re doers of the Word, people. Not just hearers. Oh no. We’re doers. Please consider the following:

Following Him,
John Smith


Running with perseverance,
Mary Jones

Or even better:

Seeking His face,
Jim Jackson

The presence of the participle-driven closing (not to be be confused with the purpose-driven life) creates action (again: doers – not just hearers – doers). And let me tell you something else: you need to be on your spiritual toes when you run across a closing that starts with a participle. I mean, you’d better know that if someone closes his or her email with “Standing firm,” they’re fully anticipating that you can make the leap to the entire book of 1 Peter. Might want to keep your concordance handy, my friends.

For the last several years I haven’t actively practiced the Christian closing, mainly because I email so much that it just isn’t practical to type out an elaborate closing in every single email. And yes, I know that I could set up a signature in my email preferences, but for some reason I feel like if I do that then the next thing you know I’ll be giving myself some made-up title. And then the next thing you know I’ll be writing down “goals” and trying to “achieve some things.”

So basically what I guess I’m saying is that while I know what is widely regarded as professional, grown-up behavior, I have made a conscious choice to do the exact opposite.

Anyway, one day a couple of weeks ago my friend J and I had a PERFECTLY REVERENT discussion about some of our favorite church-related moments, and somehow the subject of email closings came up. It didn’t take long for us to decide that we needed to have a contest to see who could come up with the best, most active (DOERS. NOT HEARERS.) closing. Also, we wanted to determine once and for all which one of us is holier.

And the prize? A $25 gift card to the LifeWay store. OF COURSE.

Here is my first effort. It’s a bit rough, but I trust you’ll see the heart behind it:

Seeking Him wholeheartedly,

I thought it was good, but J came back with all pistons firing:

This morning around 3:37 I was in my first hour of my quiet time in the cool refreshing morning air and I tried a new prayer position without stretching and pulled a muscle in my back.

Will you pray for me?

Praying without ceasing as to not quench His Spirit,

Not only was I moved by J’s signature – I was inspired. Which is why I replied with the following:

Not quenching,

Y’all have to admit that “not quenching” is gold.

But then J came back strong:

Thirsting for more,

Honestly, y’all, I wondered if I was in over my head. So I thought about it, prayed about it and ultimately realized that the problem was that I’d been focusing on participles instead of focusing on – you guessed it – Him. Just raise your hand if you’ve been there, sister.

I think you’ll see the shift in my closing philosophy if you look at my final entry:

He’s changing me,

Needless to say, I was humbled and honored to put the focus back where it belongs.

As for who won the contest – well, I’ll let the internet be the judge. But just know that if you need me, I’ll be ramping up for hour number four in my prayer closet, where I’ll be writing inspirational music that came to me in a vision when I was involved in an intensive seven-year study of the Psalms.

Counting it all joy,

With A Side Of Attitude

I’m hesitant to say that today was a bad day, but by 12:30 this afternoon I was DONE. I slept too late this morning, muddled through my quiet time, didn’t get to drink any coffee and by noon I had a screaming headache. Plus, my parents’ internet was down and there was a small bloggy ish-ah I needed to handle before we drove back to Alabama. But I couldn’t handle it. Because there was no internet. And did I mention that I had a headache? I WANTED THE WORLD TO PAY.

On the way out of town the little guy and I stopped at Hardee’s, where I ordered a couple of hamburgers and THE BIGGEST DIET COKE THEY OFFER, and as we pulled up to the window I realized that A. had gotten something stuck in one of my car chargers. Even though it really wasn’t a big deal, I sighed and I flailed and I made all my frustrations known, and when I looked over at the sweet girl in the drive-thru so that she could hand me our lunch, she smiled at me and said, “Ma’am? Could you please pull up to the white line until your food is ready?”

There was something about all her sweet sincerity that sent me right over the edge. Because I WAS TRYING TO BE GRUMPY, DADGUMMIT. I was enjoying my grumpy and wanted to wallow around in my grumpy and then she just had to go and pour a big ole bag of nice all over me.

So I responded as any good Christian girl would: I punched the gas and roared up to the white line. It was only after I hit the brakes that I realized that Bob and Larry were singing “You Are Holy” on the CD player.

Hello, irony. So nice of you to make an appearance at the Hardee’s.

After we got our food and started driving back home, I thought about my bad mood and how I’m a GROWN WOMAN and really should have more control over my emotions at this point than to damage my testimony while I’m in the Hardee’s drive-thru. I mean, I was so bent out of shape while we were waiting at the white line that the six year-old spoke up from the back seat and said, “Remember, this is supposed to be a HAPPY day, Mama – we get to see Daddy!”

Meanwhile, I was sitting in the driver’s seat wishing that I could double-dog dare the cute girl in the drive-thru to smile at me one more time. Just one more time. SO I COULD GO AHEAD AND SCREAM.

This past Sunday morning I flew home from North Carolina after a weekend where I was surrounded by encouraging people and sat under some phenomenal teaching. I laughed A LOT. It’s pretty easy to put on (and keep on) your happy face when you’re staying at a great hotel and you’re all up in the Word and there’s a lovely breakfast buffet in the lobby. I was prayed up and praised up. Couldn’t wait to tell my husband all about it when I got home. And when I drove to my parents’ house Tuesday afternoon, I cranked up my worship music like nobody’s business.

But then there was today.

As I made my way down I-20 this afternoon and tried to figure out how I made it from the mountaintop to the edge of the valley in less than 48 hours, I had a little bit of an epiphany somewhere between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham: God is showing me that there’s still way too much of me in me. Too much pride. Too much ugliness. Too much self-righteousness. Too much selfishness.

And that realization totally shifted my perspective. Oh yes ma’am. You’d better believe it did. Because the problem with today wasn’t my circumstances. The problem with today was me and my stupid humanness.

So Thursday, it wasn’t one of my favorites. It’s not a very good feeling to realize that a person WHO JUST FINISHED KINDERGARTEN responded to a situation with more wisdom and self-control than I did. It’s not very fun to remember how out of sorts I can get about ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

But even though Thursday wasn’t one of my favorites, it really was good.

Because I have a Father who patiently loves me and changes me and teaches me every single day.

Even if I have to show out a little bit in the Hardee’s drive-thru to learn the lesson.

“So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children He loves.” – Psalm 107:9