Dear 2020.

Dear 2020, You were a difficult one (which is no surprise) & warrant a letter of permanent reminding to the lessons, challenges, & joys you have birthed. But first, let me start with GRATITUDE… you have exposed, strengthened, & corrected the inner pieces of my soul I would have rather ignored. 

+ You required me to DIG DEEP (far beyond what I thought manageable) only to discover a strength & reliance I didn’t know I had. Thank you.

+ You forced me to LISTEN more intently to stories of injustice, indifference, pain, and suffering. Thank you.

+ You cultivated a deep well of GRATITUDE for my people…. the people I have been painfully vulnerable, present, and honest with. The ones who have seen the struggle; who have offered grace and mercy and presence and support through it all. Thank you.

But oh 2020, you have also been CRUEL. You have taken lives, have ushered in division, & you have shattered some of the holiest, well intended plans.

There has been pain and fear and worry and lots of lamenting… to not acknowledge such emotions would be dishonest. But as I look to a New Year, and (hopefully) a new season, Let me be reminded of the GOOD. The reminders, the lessons, the habits worth carrying into this new season. Let these lessons propel me to carry, encourage, & cling to what needs holding onto but also be brave enough to shed what warrants releasing. & Oh dear Jesus, please bless me with the discernment to know the difference. Here are my vows for 2021…

// Lessons worthy of keeping //

1. EMBRACE (HOLY) INTERRUPTIONS: As I write these words, my girls are currently playing with the newly found walkie talkies running up and down the stairs yelling “roger” every 5 seconds… as my ears (and mind) cringe from the constant stream of noise… when I pause to listen to the millions of “rogers” in their cute little voices, I am reminded what’s most/least important… Relationships. Friendship. Creativity. Presence. Intentionality… NOT wrapping up my “to-do” list for the day. I have come to find something incredibly (& painfully) sacred in these “interruptions.” They have centered me in a way similar to that of when you almost fall asleep in your favorite chair with a cozy blanket and suddenly a random noise awakes you from drifting off. So, as I close my computer and embrace the “rogers” alongside the creative minds of my daughters; I make this vow to 2021…

*I vow to (better) embrace the holy interruptions as an invitation to experience the sacred gift of relational presence.

2. FLEXIBILITY: I am constantly reminded of and am continually discovering that the “change of plans” is usually the divine, intended plan all along. I fight the change. I resist almost anything that deviates from what was perfectly orchestrated in my mind. 2020 deeply instilled (really purged) in me an openhanded approach to embrace each day, each moment at a time. That is such a simple, yet oh so challenging, approach for my type A personality…. to live MOMENT BY MOMENT. But yet, this approach has made a profound impact on my perspective & ultimately life as I have lived as though the “changes” are in fact how it was meant to me.

*I vow to hold each day… each MOMENT… with open hands embracing the plan(s) that God intended all along.

3. REMAIN COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE. Perhaps one of the most universal experiences of 2020 was a collective “discomfort.” Discomfort with masks, discomfort with social distancing, discomfort with civil and social unrest, discomfort with differences in political views, discomfort in difficult conversations, discomfort with zoom/FaceTime and a lack of cycle social gatherings…. discomfort has become quite the norm. But out of the discomfort, something beautiful has been birthed in me…. a settling in…or rather a comfort with discomfort. A comfort with trying new things. A comfort with listening to difficult stories and not being able to fix it. A comfort with letting go, navigating a new path, voicing my needs or beliefs or hurts or pains more honestly… and being okay if someone disagrees. I have found great comfort in these new spaces, experiences, and challenges.

*I vow to remain comfortable with being uncomfortable… for it is out of my discomfort I can better listen, communicate, & step into some new, unexpected spaces.

4. NO. This word comes naturally to some…. me, not so much. But if there’s anything a global pandemic will teach you it’s that the word “no” will HAVE to be uttered. I have limits, you have limits, we all have limits. But beyond limits or beliefs, I was reminded of the weight I had been carrying by offering out too many “yeses.” It’s a heavy, exhausting, sometimes deceptive weight that makes you think you can do, be, know, accomplish, master, & (perhaps most deceptively of all) keep everyone happy at all times. In 2020 I said “no” plenty of times…. some were far easier and more refreshing that others. Like saying, “no” to that task that has been weighing me down or saying “no” to some unrealistic plans I had in mind. But others were far more difficult… like saying “no” to someone’s expectation(s) of me. Or saying “no” to an unhealthy relationship or friendship or established boundary being pushed. Or even saying “no” to the stuff I wanted to do but knew it wasn’t BEST. What I am discovering is that the word “no” is an incredibly challenging yet freeing word.

*I vow to embrace a good “no” to preserve a better “yes.” To release the things (or people) that require me to compromise my people, my time, my calling, and my passion.

So farewell 2020. & Yes, I know I say that flippantly, but in reality I am more aware today (more than ever before) of how my hope cannot be in anything “new”… a “new” year or “new” season for we never really know what chaos a single year may hold. So instead, I shall say “HELLO.”

H e l l o to a new time, a new season, a new year to embrace, enjoy, & embark on deeply living these lessons I have vowed before you all.

I hope as you reflect on all of the hardships, joys, sorrows, lessons, challenges, and perhaps dreams this year has brought; you too will find a way to welcome & possibly mutter a humble H E L L O to this new year.

May you whisper a somber yet joy-filled “hello” as we enter this new year.


When it all goes wrong…

Have you ever had one of those days… weeks… years… when it all goes wrong? When your expectations are turned upside down. When your hopes seemed to have dissipated.  When your plan, promotion, kids, school, degree… fill in the blank… goes wrong. Like, way wrong.

Confession: I have had one of those weeks. 

It all went wrong.  For starters (& on a lighter note), my beloved Christmas cards finally came in… so pixelated you can’t even make out our faces.  Whelp, no Christmas cards this year and money wasted.  My advent candles finally arrived (2 weeks late)… & don’t fit the advent wreath. Whelp, guess we aren’t lighting the advent candles this year as a family (unless of course we want to light the entire house on fire).  & My really well-intentioned plan to be more “intentional” this advent season has practically disappeared, evolving into a massive “to do” list filled with gifts & planning & praying that somehow in the midst of this chaos, God would supply me with the massive amount of patience, love, and ENERGY I need to handle my 4 year old right now.  & That’s just the surface level stuff…

The truth is… it all feels wrong.

It feels exhausting. & Confusing. & Well, off.

It feels like… what I imagine, the first Christmas, feeling like.

Mary, an engaged virgin, finds out she will soon conceive God’s son.  That she will give birth not in her own home or town but instead, in a foreign, new, & completely unknown space. I image that felt wrong too. & Probably a little overwhelming & exhausting & confusing.

The truth is I fight… really I resist… all the things that consume my time during the Christmas season. 

I fight the decorating. 

I fight the massive amount of Christmas lists everyone needs from me. 

I fight the traffic & stress & preparation that honestly feels like a consumeristic version of “finding joy through stuff” in the name of Jesus. 

But then, God gently nudges my soul and reminds me to release the weight of desiring it to all go right. 

To release the expectations.

Release the broken plans and hopes and desires this season…

& To somehow find a small, simple way to praise Him in the mess. To praise Him in the mess of the wrong. The mess of the pain. The mess of the confusion.

Every year it baffles me that I so desperately crave the simple but yet fill my soul with the extravagant.

I crave a simple, intentional Christmas focused around a season that reminds me of the nearness and closeness of God.  A God who enters into creation out of pure love and humility.  A God who chose the unlikely, unwanted, unexpected people to be a part of such a simple, yet profound story.  I desperately crave a Christmas centered around that reality. 

But perhaps, my “perfect-seeking” craving is the reminder I deeply needed to better embrace the day, weeks… years… when it all goes wrong. 

To embrace my life (my Christmas)… as something that doesn’t need for it all to go right in order for it to be significant.

Perhaps, my numerous meltdowns in the “it all went wrong” moments are my soul’s gentle nudge that I may have forgotten the right. The good. The true.

How ironic is it that we celebrate, really we honor, the greatest moment in history when it all went wrong and somehow expect it all to go right while we’re celebrating?!  God entering into creation and choosing people like Mary & Joseph, and the town of Bethlehem… that was all wrong

The timing was wrong.

The people were wrong.

The place was wrong. 

& The circumstances were all VERY wrong.

But see, what I am rediscovering is that “the wrong” was… “the plan.” 

& Somehow, for me, remembering this VERY WRONG plan reminds me that even in my wrong I can find a right.  I can search and seek and discover contentment in the mess of it all, knowing the mess is often where God reveals his greatest miracles.  Oh how I need (& hate) embracing this reality, that…

The middle of the mess is often where God reveals His greatest miracle.

& That’s my prayer, in the middle of this very “wrong” mess.

That somehow in my (& maybe your) “wrong,” we can find a tiny miracle.  A tiny right & good & true piece of God that helps us breathe a little deeper.  Rest a little sounder.  & Hope a little stronger this Christmas season. Because we remember, the tiniest (& most significant) of miracles was birthed in the greatest of “wrongs.”


Forgetting big & going small.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you REST.” [Matthew 11:28]

Rest? Really?

I’ve always loved this passage.  It sounds so nice. So calm. So restful.  It sounds easy & full of peace & a quick “unloading” as one does when they are putting down the groceries or weights at the gym. It seems so… simple.

But in reality, rest is  H A R D.

The other day, I was listening to a podcast that addressed this passage and it reminded me of the very first words: “Come to me…” It’s an active word.  A verb meaning to intentionally pursue, engage, move forward.  To actively move in a particular direction; to take steps toward someone or something like a toddler learning to walk for the first time. & That takes WORK. & Pursuit. & Patience. & Lots of practice.  & This is how we are called to seek out REST… Clumsily. Awkwardly. With perseverance & determination. & With lots and lots of grace.

Building in rhythms of R E S T can be incredibly challenging.

Careers, family life, culture, and societal expectations don’t necessarily applaud rest & renewal.  We are encouraged to excel. To be perfect. To achieve ALLLL the things.  We are pushed to find the bigger and better in our lives & are constantly bombarded with images of those who “made it big.” Who struck gold. Who found the “secret” and how all the “hard work” was worth it. 

You know what I wish people talked about more?

The valleys. The challenges of integrating family and work and culture and people and holidays and all the things this season has waiting for us.  I wish people didn’t remind us of the big and great things but of the small things. 

I wish we spent more time talking about the small things that helped people not “make it big” but rather do it well

The small things that helped them along the way.  The small decisions to not “do” but to simply “be.” Small things like putting down the phone to engage more fully. Or like soaking in a rainbow or sunset or walk outside. Small things like scrolling less and reading more. Or maybe even the hardest of all “small things”… saying “no.”

See, I honestly believe these “small” decisions and choices is what our life is built upon. The seemingly “small” choices we make everyday. The small prayers & conversations & moments that occur when we look at good & best… and choose best. When we lay aside the “big” agenda for the day. When we put down the “big” expectation for ourselves, careers, & families. & When we look at our seemingly “small” and ordinary life and realize it’s worth and value aren’t tied to the “bigness” of culture or careers or people or affirmation but to the God who created it all.

For me, it’s a reframing. A reframing that shifts our perspective from the big to the small.

So today, here’s my small… REST. Finding (& creating) habits, time, or intentional days centered around stopping. Around being still. & Quiet. A moment… or day focused on simply being filled.  Making time, not just for myself (or a really awesome nap), but instead to be intentional.  Making time to breathe. To soak in what’s before me without stressing on what’s ahead.  Time to embrace the vastness of this creation and the warmth of the sun while on a walk with my daughter.  

Could REST be as simple as intentional time to just “be” & allowing that to be enough?

Truthfully, I’m tired of the big.  I’m tired of the fame-focused posts.  I’m tired of the frenzied “keep up, do more, be better, & look good” marketing I feel so drained by.  I’m tired of those “big’s.” & Find myself craving a smaller, simpler way. A way that encourages the “small” & embraces rest & renewal.

& So, my encouragement for you today: do something SMALL.

Something good. Something restful. Something simple that brings joy.  Maybe you post about it; maybe you don’t.  But let it fill you. Remind you. Strengthen you. Let it offer you peace & rest & comfort as you find your place amongst the “bigness” of this world & our social media saturated culture.

Find your small. & Let that be enough.


Turning back; going forward

Exodus 14:1
Then the Lord said to Moses: Tell the Israelites to TURN BACK and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall camp opposite it, by the sea. Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, “They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.”

Exodus 14:15
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to GO FORWARD. 16 But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. 

I have been stuck in the book of Exodus lately; particularly in chapter 14.  Many are probably familiar with this chapter… It’s the moment when Pharaoh FINALLY agrees to free God’s people. & So immediately, they do the logical thing… they go. They leave.  & Quickly at that.  But then, God calls them to do something interesting…  He calls them to take the long way out.  Not the short cut, the straight shot or quickest route, but instead the longer, more complicated path.  Exodus 14:2 specifically says, “Tell the Israelites to TURN BACK…”

That’s odd. 

Shouldn’t God be calling them to GO FORWARD? To move FORWARD into  freedom? FORWARD to the promise land? FORWARD toward liberation?

Now fast forward to verse 15.  They are standing in front of the Red Sea; a barrier to freedom, to the promise land. Pharaoh and his army have changed their minds, are pursuing the Israelites and gaining quickly.  & What is God’s command to them in this moment? Verse 15: “Tell the Israelites to GO FORWARD…”

Again, odd.

Now would be the time to tell the people to “GO BACK.” Get out of here, change plans. Find a different route. But no… God says, “GO FORWARD.” Go forward INTO the barrier, the wall, the path that seems impossible… because I will make a way. & Sure enough God does.  God makes a way through their barrier, the Red Sea. 

The journey toward liberation & trust is complicated.  Far more complicated than we would prefer it to be. 

God’s people had a whole lot of trusting, developing, reshaping, & learning to be had.  & Oh how this is the same for me today.  I want the straight shot, the quickest route, the one with the least resistance, complications, & conflict.  I deeply desire the freedom, grace, liberation, & life God offers but so often run from the path that calls me to “TURN BACK.” To address the “Pharaohs” in my life that are keeping me from fully trusting & living in the promise land God has placed before me.

I run from (really I avidly go out of my way to avoid) the paths that cause me to question God’s guidance & GPS skills.  The path that feels as though I am lost or confused or stuck in a place that is forcing me to ask some pivotal questions…

Will I or won’t I… trust in the path God has called me to? 

Will I or won’t I… trust in God’s plans over my preference, Gods ways over my expectations, & God’s directing over my well-intentioned strategies?

& Oh how I crumble in the moments when God calls me to “MOVE FORWARD” through a very clear and obvious barrier; my “Red Sea” so to speak.  I stare at the impossible & question what on Earth God is thinking.  But, oh how God proves his love, grace, mercy, and power far surpass mine… every. time. 

See, the great irony in all of this is how God always had a plan.  A plan that went above and beyond what Moses or the people knew.  A plan that involved a promise land & parting a massive sea when God’s people didn’t believe they would ever be free.  Also, there was a method to God’s “madness.”  & I need to remember that.  Especially when I feel as though I am “turning back” when I should “move forward” or am “moving forward” when I think I should be “turning back.” 

The wandering not only developed the people but it confused their enemy; their oppressor (vs.3).  God was working upstream.  There was a method to the madness.  & Almost always that method is for the betterment & liberation of OTHERS.  See, the truth is, I like to make my own way.  A good, safe, comfortable way.  A way that benefits me, those I love deeply, & keeps all of us really, really… comfortable.  But see, God’s way is messier, less comfortable & far more fulfilling than that… 

God’s way forces courage out of the timid, strength out of the weak, & leadership from the least likely.

& So, my prayer is that we not run from times in life when we need to “turn back” & deal with our pharaohs & trust in God’s path toward restoration.  But also that we not cower in moments when we need to “move forward” & be brave & strong & courageous in facing the impossible… & to have the discernment to know the difference between the two.

Most of us tend to run from this kind of tension. This kind of wrestling, struggling, and then ultimately faith in God. The journey to freedom, toward liberation, is never an easy one. It calls for deserts & detours & wilderness experiences that almost make us lose our mind. But life in the promise land is life lived in freedom. Life lived with peace, trust, confidence, & the type of purpose and focus that only comes from traveling the road most run from. It is developed in the “turning back & going forward.” & Is birthed out of the the work & refining done in-between the two.

Creator God,

Help us to not dwell in what’s behind, fear what lies ahead, but instead live in what’s before us TODAY.  Give us the strength, courage, healing, focus, & discernment needed to know when to “go back” & when to “move forward.”   



The right “some.”

Voices.   We are surrounded by so many voices.  Some encouraging. Some discouraging.  Some affirming & truthful. Some self-absorbed & negative.  SO. MANY. VOICES.

The oddest reality to me is how it only takes a single negative comment to wreck a sea of affirming ones.

A couple weeks ago I got the privilege to speak at Hope Church Memphis on the subject of finding Christ in Social Media.  Don’t get me wrong, I love social media.  I love Christ.  & I love discussing how we can find Christ in and use social media for good.  But this sermon was a  s t r u g g l e.

The backstory, that not many of you may know, to this sermon is that I actually spoke on the exact same topic last year to our smaller Sunday night crowd, the Stirring.  I was excited about the subject and overly optimistic to try out a different preaching style, and was convinced this was the perfect topic to do it on. Fail. Big time.

I received a few negative comments and “didn’t love the sermon” type remarks. & So naturally when I was asked to speak on social media for a second time (only this time in front of a few thousand more people) I offered an obedient “yes” with my lips while internally screaming “NOOOOOO.”  Immediately after leaving this meeting, I went into panic mode.  For me the looming question was WHY ON EARTH would God want me to discuss this topic again?! & WHY ON EARTH would anyone else want me to after last time?!

I let my past failures cloud my vision for what God could do in the future.

I worried about the negative comments, the people who felt social media was irrelevant, the comments that may…no WOULD… come.  It only took a tiny seed of insecurity to breed a mountain’s worth of doubt, fear, self-pity, and distrust in God.

But what I love (& am often frustrated with) about God is how he uses our weaknesses to reflect the perfection of his power.

See, during this time God revealed to me some significant lessons in my personal life as well as my life as a pastor.

I was reminded of the importance of community.  People who push us along, who remind us of the GOOD as well as the need for different perspectives.  My insecurity forced me to engage with others on the subject, to gain their thoughts, help, & wisdom.  And ultimately because of it, God reached far more people than just my little perspective could.

I was encouraged to be… ME.  There is this temptation to be like others, especially in ministry.  We see others thrive in preaching, ministering, caring for others and doing REALLY well at it.  & So the temptation is to be like them.  To do it like them.  Talk like them.  Be like them.  & I fell into this trap. I was tempted (in my original sermon) to preach in a way that isn’t my gifting.  Yes, attempting it was needed and because of it I was reminded to walk in MY gifting, not other’s.  To be ME in the way I preach, minster, & LIVE.  To be the ME, God created.

& Possibly the most convicting question God raised was whose VOICE would be the loudest in my life… people or God?  Would I let fear, insecurity, doubt cloud my faith & hope & trust in God’s strength? OR– would I seek God, strive after God, listen to God as he led the way? Through lots of prayer & shaping & nudging, I sought the latter.  & It was in this very verse (at the end of the passage I preached on) that God most deeply convicted me…

Acts 17:32-33 (NLT)

 When they heard Paul speak about the resurrection of the dead, some laughed in contempt, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.” 33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them, 34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the council, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

S O M E.  That’s all we are left with at the end of chapter 17. Paul steps into Athens; he engages, he proclaims truth, he seeks the good to a community that had misunderstood God and religion and JUST SOME– join him and believe.  While also SOME– laugh and mock him.  He has two, very contradicting, reactions from the people he poured into.   And the beauty of this passage for me is that Acts 17 isn’t where it ends for Paul. The negative, mocking “some,” don’t derail Paul in his calling.  They aren’t the SOME he was focused on. The SOME he listened to and let shape him.  See, Paul was fixated on the GOOD.  On his calling.  On the strength he had in Christ (Phil. 4:11-13).

There are a lot of voices & “some’s’” that can wear us down, distract our souls, & discourage our hearts and minds from pursuing what or where God is leading.  I get that.  But Paul’s life is such a beautiful reminder to press on; to keep our minds on that which is…

“…True, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (Phil 4:8)”

I focused on the wrong “some.”  The negative, “the worst, the ugly, things to curse“… the what if’s and worst case scenario set of circumstances.   & In doing so, I lost my vision.  I couldn’t see the work God was doing in the process.  I couldn’t see that it was in my very weakness & doubt & insecurity that God did his greatest work.

Once I lifted my gaze, once I changed my perspective, & looked past my inability– did I see God’s capability.

Weakness frighten us.  We don’t like the vulnerability or exposure of realizing we really can’t do it or aren’t good enough or don’t have it all together.  There is great irony in the truth that the more we are comfortable with weakness, the stronger we actually become.  Pursue weakness dear friend and remember some of Paul’s most challenging words to embrace…

“For when I am weak; I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

& If you’re curious about the Christ in Culture: Social Media sermon that inspired this post– The first one is HERE and the recent one is HERE.


The Discouragement Fight.

Discouragement. Meh. The very word “discouragement” makes me… well, feel discouraged.  But truthfully, I’ve been experiencing a season where discouragement has been very real and very demanding.  Remaining hopeful or full of joy has been a challenge and surviving the chaos of this busy season has often felt debilitating.

Do I want to write about this? Tell the world about my current season of discouragement? Nope. Not at all. In fact it’s why I haven’t been able to write.  I’ve tried to write around the other stuff. The moments of clarity or verses that have been helping me remain focused but they all fell flat.  They felt fake.  Forced. & Really, just dishonest.

The truth… the honest truth, is that fighting discouragement has been very real battle. Some of it my own doing.  Some of it the world’s doing.  But it’s been a heavy season. Think globally at all that has been happening…

The hurricanes and tornadoes and wildfires

The shootings and violence and current political tension of our nation. 

The hatred and violence and evil that has been permeating my news feeds. 

& The Shootings… So. Many. Shootings.

This is heavy, heavy stuff.  Stuff I have gotten lost in but stuff that, unfortunately, also extends to my very “local” life.  Once pain and suffering were distant and somewhat disconnected from my little life in Memphis, Tennessee but now I am walking through some difficult circumstances with those I love most.

Walking through loss & disappointment. 

Walking through injustice & hate & division.

Walking through confusion & change & overwhelmingly burdensome circumstances.

Life is hard.  & Discouragement can come easy.

But I honestly believe in a better way.  A way beyond pain and hurt and violence.  A way beyond the social media smiles and perfectionism and constant comparison.  A way that is raw and honest and truthful.

And that is why I wrote these words (and actually posted them).  Words of honesty. Words of truth. Words of…. A heavy reality that any given moment can strike any of us.  Because it’s a road many of us have traveled and a road some of us didn’t expect.  See, I believe, there is power in naming our discouragements.  Discouragements with our jobs, kids, marriages, country, cities, or current set of circumstances.  But I also believe there is power in taking (small) steps forward.  Forward through the discouragement.  Forward through the pain.  Forward through the complexity of the plan you didn’t anticipated.

And that power is what I am in constant need of.  The power to move.  The power to press on.  The power, not in my own abilities or positive thinking, but in the God who sustains and enables and empowers.

These words are not for those on the mountain top.  Those embracing the high of life and basking in its glory.  Those of you, “mountain high-ers”– SOAK IT IN.  That is a blessed and sacred season of life.  No, these words are for those of you in the valley.  Those approaching or embarking or stuck in a season of D I S C O U R A G E M E N T.

On the mountain top we praise but in the valley deep we cling.

We cling to the promises of hope and joy and redemption.  We cling to those around us encouraging us on.  We cling to those ahead of us reminding our weak and tired spirits that the road to the mountain top is often filled with switchbacks and rest stops and lots and lots of fighting.

Fighting to press on.

Fighting to see the blessings.

& Fighting to not let the bad outweigh the good.

But see it’s in the fight that we become stronger.  We become bolder. We become braver. We become KINDER, more empathic people.

People who learn to ask for help.  People who learn to deeply love those in pain.  People who are doing (& have done) the work it takes to make this world truly a better place.

So yes, that’s a lot of “rah-rah you can do it.”  But you know what… sometimes we need a little of that.  Sometimes we need a little reminder that we ALL get bogged down with a wave of discouragement from time to time. For some it’s a battle.  For some it’s a journey.  & For some it’s a season.  I don’t know what it is for you but my encouragement is this… FIGHT.

Fight to remember the GOOD.

Fight WITH those who love you most (bring people into your pain).

& Fight knowing it’s not (just) your battle.

I’ve always loved Moses’ words to the people of Israel at the climax of the Exodus.  The Egyptians were nearing, the Red Sea was but an obstacle, and all looked lost.  The people were freaking out (rightfully so) & Moses turns & says these prolific words in Exodus 14:14

 “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 THE LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU; you need only to be still.”

Amen to that incredibly life-giving truth. That it is The L O R D who will fight for us.  The L O R D who will be with us.  & The L O R D who will deliver us.

I guess our challenge is in the remembering.  Remembering we “need only to be still.”  Remembering to let go.  Remembering to trust.  & Remembering to stand firm & remain faithful when our Red Sea is brushing against our toes and the Egyptians are taunting our faith in the distance.

In that moment; that moment of pure desperation & exhaustion & discouragement…. REMEMBER you need only to be still  [THE LORD] (not circumstances, people, opportunities, or any sort of change) will fight for you.

& Let your hope and trust and peace lie in that deeply complicated and yet freeing truth. One day at a time.


Fancy Houses.

I have a problem… I like fancy things.  I believe the term is the “finer things in life.”  At one point this used to be a compliment.  Now, it’s just a problem.

My Nonnie liked fancy things too.   Her favorite activity was to take the grandkids shopping and secretly buy them way too much stuff.  I remember my prom dress like it was yesterday.  We were visiting family in Atlanta and during the trip dedicated an entire day to finding the “perfect dress.”  We searched high and low and couldn’t land on one.  Then, out of I’m sure desperation, my aunt suggested a place that smelled nicer than anything I owned.  Shocker, I found the “one” at the overpriced prom dress shop.

Nonnie used to call it “expensive taste.”  That was code for “picky” and “materialistic.”  That was (is) me.  So, yea I admit, I like the finer things in life.  Things like kitchen renos and fiddle leaf fig trees and midcentury modern.  Now, there’s even such thing as fancy wallpaper. Surprise, surprise I want it.

Recently I spent some (much needed) time at the beach.  I devoted 6 days for studying, preparing, resting, and then preparing some more for the next few months of ministry.  One day, as I’m walking on the beach, thinking and praying about God’s plan, admiring His creation, and asking for direction and wisdom (all super spiritual things) suddenly, almost out of nowhere, I am hit with a row of freakishly beautiful beach homes.  Not kidding, I kept checking to make sure I didn’t wander on some sort of movie set or “exclusive” beach.  These homes were insane.  Some of the most elegant, immaculate, MASSIVE, homes I’ve witnessed.

& Instantly I’m derailed and caught in a cycle of…

WHO owns this? Do they live here or is this their “vacation” home? I wonder it looks like on the inside.  How can I become their friend and visit? Scratch that, how do I get the job that would allow me to afford such a house?

Yea, the complete opposite of “super spiritual.”  It was vain, superficial, and quite frankly distracting.  Then, almost as though God was shaking me back to reality, a loud wave crashed next to me and immediately forced me out of my hypnotic, vain trance.

I got lost in “stuff.”

In fanciness.  In the created and not the Creator.  In the gifts, not the gift-giver.

I’d love to say this is a one and done type thing.  But the reality is materialism temps me (us) greatly.  It sits at our front door and whispers pinterest-y ideas and “updates” and outfits and “stuff” that would offer some type of momentary satisfaction.

I’m starting to wonder if materialism has become some type of gateway drug.  A fix to make us feel more confident, more valued, more professional, more… together. Well- manicured. Clean.

We used to call this “keep up with the Jones’.”  First of all, who are the Jones’ and why do we have to keep up with THEM?  And second of all, it’s more like “keeping up with every-single- person you know/follow/meet/like/tweet/pin/post.”  That’s a lot of pressure.  A lot of keeping up and looking good and perfectly filtered selfies or random hipster posts of your new shoes/rug/coffee mug/article of clothing you are trying to promote in order to get known. Ouch.

I said it. I’ve done it.  We all do it.  We like the likes.  We like looking good.  We like the stuff.  If we didn’t, Pinterest would be out of business and there wouldn’t be millions of people running around in debt or in houses/cars/shoes they can’t afford.

It’s an epidemic. 

A trap. 

A vicious, vicious enslaving cycle that promises the *hint* of satisfaction.

The hint of meaning.  The hint of value.  The hint of making a name, our name, known. Ouch again.  & Yea, guilty again.

Somewhere along the way we became more enamored with the houses that face the ocean than the ocean itself.  We became more enamored with the things of God rather than God, himself.  We’ve take a beautiful, majestic, holy creation and turned it into raw commercialism.  Into a fix of some sort; a drug that would never be satisfied.

But let’s be honest.  We are surrounded by it.  Materialism, commercialism, none of it is going to change.  It’s a large, well-oiled machine that’s just going to keep manufacturing.  The challenge becomes to not get on the machine.  To not get lost in the sparkle and forget what gave it, it’s shine.  To not get lost in a row of beautiful things facing THE MOST beautiful thing.

Sparkle does what sparkle does.  It fades. And one day it gets replaced with something shinier and brighter and more expensive.

So the battle is in learning to be content. Learning to be thankful for what we have. Giving to those who have less. And living a life of gratitude that points not to our fancy houses or well put together selves… but to the God who created all of it.

Listen to this passage in Hebrews…

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Does that seem odd at all to anyone? I get the “keep your lives free from the love of money” bit.  But the “because” or “reason” appears disjointed.

Shouldn’t it read something like:

“BECAUSE when you follow God you will have all you need?”

or “BECAUSE everything is God’s?”

or “BECAUSE God’s love is better than money?”

All of those seem like a logical reason. A logical “because” to follow the challenge to be content. But to challenge us to remember God “will never leave us or forsake us” seems off.  Or does it?  Maybe it’s not off but rather dead on.  Dead on in revealing the core issues we as a nation and as people deeply wrestle with.

 Think about it…

WHY are we such consumers?

WHY does money and fancy homes and Target have such a strong hold our lives, souls, comfort?

Because we are attempting to fill a piece of our eternal souls with a finite object.  An object that can be easily & quickly attained.  That has the promise of instantly making our circumstances, bodies, homes, and frustratingly difficult realities a tiny bit better.

But what if we put our contentment in God?  In what we are blessed with today and what we can help others with tomorrow.  What if instead of maxing out our credit cards or working to the bone so we can afford all that “stuff” we have… what if we took less and gave more.

What if we deeply and intimately KNEW that God would never leave us or forsake us?

It’s strikingly similar to God’s command in Psalm 46 to “Be still and KNOW that I am God.”  Only this time we need to be still and know that God is PRESENT.  That God is with us.  That God will see us through this season, challenge, day, struggle.  That God won’t leave us or abandon us or forget us.  That in fact, just the opposite, is true.  Maybe that way we wouldn’t work so hard trying to convince ourselves that God is present in our challenging day in day out lives.  Maybe then we would KNOW God is real.  And that God is PRESENT in our pain, & insecurities, & loneliness.  That we actually don’t have anything to prove to anyone (not even ourselves)…. Because God, THE GOD, is with us- through thick and thin (no matter that the Jones’ have to say).

How would deeply and intimately knowing that truth change us?  Would we then still patch these little leaky holes in our souls with more finite stuff or with the everlasting, eternal God?  Would we still avoid our painful realities or begin to allow our gapping wounds to heal?

The truth is, tearing off those Band-Aids, putting down that fix, yea it might be painful.  Who knows- It might be quick.  It might be long.  It might be difficult.  I have no clue what that process will look like for you.  But I can promise you, the healing process is a journey (so be patient with yourself) & that God (THE GOD who created the ocean and sky and birds and fancy houses) is with you every step of the way.  That’s a big promise but I can claim it.

So, keep your lives FREE  from the love of money,

Be CONTENT with what you have,

& Never forget to always remember; God will NEVER leave your side.

bible study, devotion

Boats. Waiting. & Meh.

I’m not a big “boat person.” Not sure what that really means other than, I don’t do it often and haven’t had many positive encounters with the water and small boats and/or canoes.  Bigger boats, I’m all about. Someone else drives. You sip your beverage of choice and eat some cheese dip all the while someone else is in charge of maneuvering the boat from water to shore.

I can do that. Easy.

Smaller boats that I’m in charge of maneuvering/rowing/whatever the term is, nope.

I will say, if you ever want to “test” a relationship… go canoeing together.  I was dating a guy in college and my family went on a canoeing/camping trip and he came along.  It was the worst/best thing for our relationship (aka- it ended shortly after the trip).  Pretty sure we looked like a life-sized pinball machine going from bank to bank to bank.  It took us forever to get down the river and when the waters became more turbulent… we hit a tree and flipped the canoe. The large, metal canoe flipped and slowly started sinking.  He started fending for himself.  I was left clinging on with dear life until my dad shouted at me to “LET GO OF THE BOAT.”  So I did.  & Had a moment when I was being swept down the river and was convinced I was about to die.  But then, lucky for me, I spied a wilted tree branch, grabbed it, swam to shore, and gave my dad “the look” that said “YOU almost killed me?!”  Thank God for lifejackets.

Hated every second of this experience.  & Haven’t been canoeing since.

Recently I’ve been thinking (really challenged) on the times in life when God says “wait.”  I hate those times.  Those time in between where you’ve been and where you’re going.  The times when life is just “meh.”  & You can’t place it, get out of it, or fix it.   It’s just where you are and where you’re supposed to be. Meh.

See, I’m always ready for the “GO” or “NO” answers from God.  The answers when you ask God what’s next or what you should do or where you should go… and he answers.  “Go” is easy for me.  I like doing.  Adventures.  Moving. Making things happen type stuff.  & The no answers are tough but I’m good with it because it is… well, an answer.

But the wait answer… hate it.   Why? Because it’s calling me to be, to live, to remain where I am.  In a place I don’t want to be.  In a place that is hard and trying and complicated.  In a place that hurts and is exhausting.  In a place that is just meh.

Waiting feels a lot like my boat debacle.  For me, it’s that time in between letting go of what is pulling you down and arriving safety to shore.  It’s that time of panic when you think you’re going to drown or die or made the wrong decision or whatever goes through your head when you being pushed along in white water rapids and all you have is your life vest.

So often I spend my time thinking and waiting for the answer on the other side.  The “what’s next” or “when (fill in the blank) will happen.”

& The longer and longer I live this life, the more I become painfully aware that the answer is not in the resolution but in the journey.

The journey from letting go to arriving on shore.  The journey from getting off your sinking (or comfortable) boat, jumping into the rushing waters, and making your way to shore.

Jesus had a lot of experiences with/on boats.  Times when he fell asleep in the middle of a storm.  Times when he called people out of the boat and into the water.  Times when he’s on shore calling his people to follow him.  Boats and water are all over the gospels.  And those would be the easiest verses or story to insert right here.  But that’s not what I’m going to do.

Instead I’m going to insert a story on waiting.  One placed in the Old testament, written to God’s people when they were in between what was and what is to come.  One when the people were damaged beyond (what seemed) repair and were completely broken.

Lost dreams. 

Lost plans.  

Lost hopes. 

Everything felt… lost.  And finally God’s people cry out to him.  Ask for God to heal them, forgive them, bring them to a “new” place.  A new season.  A new ANYTHING- just as long as it’s a “not where they are” place.

& Here’s God’s response to his people…

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare… For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” 

Ouch.  The people asked for a way out.  A new season.  A new place.  A new home.  & God commands them to do just the opposite.  LIVE WHERE THEY ARE.

Live in difficult season.

Live in the place they don’t want to be.  & Not just endure it or survive it… enjoy it.  Get married, have kids, plant gardens, & to pray for the city that took away their freedom.  What an incredibly difficult calling.  A calling that required faith.  True, deep, committed faith.  But what I love about God is that he doesn’t calls his people to such an incredibly difficult challenge without give them a promise.

Here’s what he says (directly after calling them to live where they are)…

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”  [Jeremiah 29:5-14 (ESV)]

Yes, this is that really cutesy verse painted in some pastel color probably hanging in your house (or any and every Christian store).  But the truth is, this verse is more than than a sign or cute verse to quote in difficult times.  It’s a verse filled with disappoint, pain, anger, frustration.

It’s a verse with a story.  A back story of loss and confusion and God calling his people to find CONTENTMENT where they are.

In the loss. 

In the pain. 

In the disappointment. 

In the place they didn’t want to be.

This verse reminds me to find, discover, seek contentment right where I am.  When I love my place and when I hate my place.  When I am hurting in my place.  When I am joyful in my place.  That place.  My place.  The place I am today is where God calls me (calls us) to fully live.  But he doesn’t call us to such a difficult challenge without a promise.  A promise of his goodness, his greatness, his love, and true plan.  A plan that is built upon love.  A plan we may have messed up big time but a plan that can be redeemed.  A plan that will ultimately bring about some glory and hope and love and goodness.

So the point?

Let go of your boat.  It’s going down, you’ll eventually go down, and what you’re reaching, searching, crying out for is not on the boat.  It’s in stepping into uncharted territory.  In doing what God is calling you, probably whispering to you, to do ever so quietly.  That’s when life gets good.  When things get tough and fulfilling and crazy and exciting.  All of it.

It’s in the fight to find the good that we learn to let go of all of the bad.

We learn to live in the place we are.  We learn to let go of the idols we cling so desperately to and begin finding a new vision, a new story to tell.  And in that moment of waiting.  From letting go to making your way to shore, remember this one thing: God is good.  Rushing waters tend to cloud our judgement.  But the reality is; God IS good.  And his plan is just and right and exactly what we deeply need.   My advice:  take it up with him on the other side but for now- for today; own it, live, & somehow find a way to let go of your boat and enjoy the wait.

Find contentment where you are, T O D A Y.

& Focus on the good in that day.  Not on the difficult.  Not on the “I might not make it” kind of stuff.  & Find contentment NOT in what may or may not change.  Or in what you can or cannot to do to fix it but instead on the goodness and greatness of the God you serve.

The reality is, when our time on this earth is coming to an end, the stories you will be telling will be about that ridiculously crazy time when you were floating in white water rapids and how you clung to a stick and pulled yourself on shore.  See, no one cares about the shore.  The shore is safe and easy and comfortable.  They want to hear about the rapids.  About the time you lived and served and loved your guts out when the most challenging obstacle was place before you.  & You survived.  You made it through.  You learned how to live & love & be in a place you didn’t want, ask for, or quite frankly ever think you’d be.  But you did.  God did. & because of that boat, that waiting, that meh, you became stronger and more confident and more focused on the calling God has placed on our heart.

Now, that’s a story.

My hope is that we live it well so it’s a story worth telling.




Lent 2017// 40 days of intentional giving.

I’m not big on Lent.

Before you start questioning my Christianity and ordination… let me say I agree/honor/endorse the season of Lent and all it signifies.  I just don’t usually do the whole give up/add/take out sugars kind of thing.  And the reason is not because it’s not significant; it’s that I flat forget.  Almost every year Ash Wednesday rolls around and I realize I haven’t figured out something to “to do” and so I don’t.

I once gave up sweets.  Hated every minute if it.  But I will say, it was a good practice and I was reminded, very often, about “what Jesus did for us.”  Saying no to sweets is not an easy thing for me.

If you’re new to Lent or (like me) constantly forgetting about it, here’s an incredibly succinct definition I found from my United Methodist friends:

“Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others (Here’s where I found this).”

I love thinking of Lent as a time of “self examination and reflection.”   Because truthfully, that’s what I desired and opted to focus on this year.  Fortunately, I was reminded a week out and knew I needed to be intentional this year. Intentional… That’s been a big word word me this year (all 3 months of it, but really it has been).  & So, I wanted to weave “intentionality” into this Lent season.  I definitely wasn’t feeling an “anti-sweets” theme again and desired for something that would change me.  That would help me be more in tune and intentional with God, myself, and help me (deeply and spiritually) prepare me for Easter Sunday.


Each day I wanted to be intentional about giving something away.  I didn’t have many rules other than each day I wanted to be open to giving someone, something that God pressed on my heart.  And it didn’t have to be overly spiritual (I think we get hung up on that sometimes) and thus be limited to only bibles and “Jesus books.”  But instead, I wanted it to be about the people I encountered and what God would lay on my heart.  It could be a necklace someone complimented or it could be an encouraging email.  It could be a flower, a phone call, or a old window frame… seriously anything.  The sky is the limit.

And that’s what I’m doing this season.  Being intentional.

Yes, LENT technically started 13 days ago but so far God has been right on.  Each day I have a conversation or see something that makes me think of a person and thing I should give them.

This practice has been opening up my eyes to the little “God-moments” we have each day but far too often get distracted and forget about them.

Lent has given me the accountability to follow through when God urges me to do something.  And it’s helping me listen to God and develop a looser grip on “my stuff.”  I am seeing God put people and conversations in my path each day for the simple act of giving away.  And honestly, it’s been incredibly powerful… & exposing.

You’ll be hearing more about this as the days pass on. & Not sure I have enough “decent” things to give away but we shall see how God does this.  If you get a sock or random stale piece of candy; you’ll know what happened;)

Here’s to Lent 2017 & what God is going to speak, reveal, shape, and expose over the next 40 days.


My vision.

John Calvin compared the Scriptures to a pair of reading glasses. He believed that the Scriptures, like a pair of reading glasses, enabled a person to see (and know) God more clearly. The Scriptures made clear what the world or our minds made blurry. It’s a brilliant metaphor.

Here’s what he says about it (and yes I had to read this about 5 times to really understand what Calvin was saying):

For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book, however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written, are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly.[2]

I discovered this metaphor in seminary. It was something that has stuck with me amid the numerous papers, books, and lectures in my years in the classroom.  Honestly, I’m not sure why.  It’s not all that profound or extraordinary.  But, honestly, maybe that’s why I like it so much.  It’s common. It’s normal.  &… I wear glasses.

Calvin’s metaphor makes sense to me because it’s something I experience every day. No glasses = not being able to see and function like a normal human being.  Not wearing my glasses means I can’t fully take in all of the life that’s happening around me. And this is the same with the Scriptures. The more I read and dive into the Scriptures, the more I see and understand God & the more clear my vision and focus are.

But here’s what this has to do with you & me & this blog…

I love the Scriptures.   And one of my passions is helping others read and understand the Bible.  I just love it.  I love how the scriptures breathe life and conviction and clarity into the deepest parts of our souls.  How it shapes and speaks truth in places where human words or understanding fall short.  My favorite time of the day is grabbing some coffee (preferably hot- if you have kids this makes sense), sitting in my favorite chair, and spending time quieting my soul and listening to God, through His Word and our time together.

And so, my idea for this blog (& if I’m lucky- one day a book) is to provide people with the tools and resources needed to read and be led by the Scriptures. No, you don’t need a pastor or random girl on social media telling you how to read the Bible in order to understand it- Martin Luther fought this fight in the Reformation. I just hope to provide some tools and resources to help you dig a little deeper into the Scriptures, in your quiet times, bible studies, or small groups.

If you’re at all like me you’ve come up against a couple of issues, (at some point) on your Christian journey, with the word “DEVOTIONAL:”

  1. They are either too dense and homework heavy (thus not relatable/realistic for my stage of life) OR

  2. They are too light and filled with a bunch of “feel good” stories and don’t teach much about THE BIBLE.

Notice the emphasis on THE BIBLE.  I’ve found a good number of studies that will give me day-by-day readings or inspirations, mostly involving life stories or experiences, but little meat with verses or Scripture itself.  I also have found a ton of commentaries I love. But these all felt a little dry and weighty for my quiet time readings. And honestly, both of these resources are amazing.  There is, no doubt, a need for them.  I, however, desperately desired a straightforward, devotional-type bible study resource that didn’t feel like a commentary or an author’s life story with some random scripture passages thrown in.

I longed for something clean, to the point, and easy to follow that helped me read and understand the Bible a little better.  And not only that but the author didn’t tell me what to think or “get” out of a particular passage.  It just prompted me to think, to pray, to listen to God say what it was He desired to say.

I’ve been working, volunteering, and leading in ministry for over 15 years now (wow that made me feel old) and these 2 issues were a piece in my earning a Masters of Divinity and later becoming ordained in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  I believe the Christian community desperately needs educated people (women, in particular) who can provide a resource that is something in-between a cutesy feel good story and a dry commentary.

One of the lessons God keeps teaching me is- if it’s something you’re thirsty for or want… then go be or do that for others…& stop whining about it.  Honestly, I’m kind of tired of this lesson. Whining is so much easier.  And way less complicated.

Is this blog/ [re]SOURCE the solution? Probably not.

I am… well, just me. Regular ole’ Jessica Morris. I’m not a brilliant scholar or theologian who randomly bursts out into Greek or Hebrew throughout the day.  I’m also not the best, well-polished author who knows when to use “then” or “than” or “well” or “good” correctly.  I am a 100 percent ordinary woman who just so happens to be ordained and have her Masters in Divinity and loves Jesus and the bible and speaking God’s truth.  Really that’s all. Well, obviously, I also love my husband and my two little girls and coffee… a lot. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you know this to be true (sorry I’m not sorry- they are THE BEST).

So maybe this makes you excited. Maybe this confuses you. But the point is I want us to practice digging deeper. Reading and listening to the Scriptures. Stopping. Being still. Listening. And using the millions of resources we are surrounded by in order to put on our glasses and really read and spend time in the one, very tangible resource God left us with… the Bible.

& I have come up an aid, a [re]SOURCE, to help walk us through a richer, deeper quiet time or bible study.  Hope this excites you as much as it does me.

Also, if you want to receive a copy of my first [re]SOURCE, make sure you’re signed up for my NEWSLETTER! First copies go out to my email team;)

Can’t wait to introduce you to [re]SOURCE.