That Speaking Thing I Did


Gentle Reader,

Never open your mouth at a retreat.

This past spring I was able to attend my church’s district women’s retreat. (I am a member of the Church of the Nazarene. A district is just a group of congregations in a particular geographic area, overseen by a superintendent. If you’re interested in what that looks like, here’s a map). I got to stay with friends in a beautiful bunkhouse up in the mountains, surrounded by trees and quiet, with a lake just a few hundred yards away. The speaker’s messages moved me to ponder the Lord and my relationship with Him, the music was deep and soulful and did I mention the quiet? How I needed the time away.

There were also workshops. One of them focused on Bible study and small groups.

That’s my jam.

In my “this chick is far too intense about this” way, I shared how important Bible study is and how, if God has gifted you to serve Him in that way, then that’s exactly what you should do, no matter if you lead a group of 3 or your group is so big you have to break it down into several groups. Two of the district leaders present encouraged me and affirmed my calling, which was incredible. One of them even told me that she thought I should speak at “The Mix,” the district discipleship conference in October.

I pretty much laughed at that.

Never thought it would happen.

Because I’m not a speaker.

Then I stopped being a Resident Assistant at the shelter and moved over to the Chaplaincy Team. Suddenly speaking was expected. Now, of course I’m used to leading a small group. I know how to guide a conversation and keep discussion flowing. But just me? Up front, alone, talking? With people looking at me?

Not my jam.

Just after becoming a chaplain, I received an email. Would I speak at “The Mix?” Would I do two sessions on Bible study, the “why” and the “how” of it?

Wait, what?

God, I think, delights in shoving us outside of our comfort zones, because we have no choice but to rely on Him. I knew immediately that I was supposed to accept the invitation. Definitely flying without a net.

Shortly after that, the pastor who heads the Chaplaincy Team asked me if I would like to teach. I’d been there…maybe four times at that point. This was just before I had surgery, so I asked if it could be a combination of sermon/lesson/testimony/whatever. He was cool with that. I showed up at the shelter an hour before I was to speak, pacing the room, praying. “Um, yeah, Jesus? I don’t know what I’m doing. Would you please just really show up today? Make sure the focus is on You, not me.”

When we seek to glorify Him, God’s answer is always “yes.” My words weren’t polished or amazing or up there with “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But the Holy Spirit moved and He was strong and the prayers afterward were powerful and something really began to unwind in me that day.

Still, as of 8:00 a.m. on Friday, September 30, I wasn’t sure if I was going to show up for “The Mix” the next morning.

As I got ready for the day, I listened to this and the line about David running at Goliath hit me with all the force of the stone from that sling. David didn’t kill the giant because David was so cool. David killed the giant because God was there, with him, enabling to do what he had been tasked with doing.


I heard that.

Yet my heart continued to pound. My palms continued to sweat. I felt like running away. I even asked my mom if she wanted to read what I had written (I am definitely NOT an off-the-cuff speaker, for sure) as we pulled into the parking lot of the church where “The Mix” was held. She just smiled at me.

I was supposed to speak in the afternoon, but of course the schedule changed. Up first. Back-to-back sessions. I don’t mind telling you that sweat trickled down the back of my neck. (That could have been due to the ungodly temperature of the room, but I doubt it).

The person who had asked me to speak opened the session in prayer.


For a second I thought I might have a heart attack and drop dead.

As soon as I opened my mouth, a strange, indescribable peace descended. I may never be asked to speak at anything ever again, but those two hours on that Saturday morning – that’s exactly where I was supposed to be. The Lord filled me with assurance. My voice didn’t crack. I didn’t cry. I was able to make eye contact with each person there.

Only God can do that. Only He can take a person who can’t do the thing and give her all that she needs to do the thing. Only He can empower that way. Only He can provide the necessary boldness, confidence and love for the hearers required to share a message that was, at points, hard. It was no fluffy, feel-good sermon I had. It was, for all intents and purposes, a call to action.

I doubt that I’ll be setting up a speaking tour anytime soon, but next time, if there is a next time, I won’t be quite so afraid. Or maybe I will be. Doesn’t matter. It’s all about God, anyway.

May I remember that.

May you remember that.


There is no video or audio of my sessions. If you are interested, you can read the text of Session 1 and Session 2.

Five Minute Friday: Expect

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

What outcome are you trying to control?

That question came from the lips of one of the ladies interviewed for the Hope*Writers online conference. (Wish I could remember who). The twelve sessions with authors and editors were worth listening to for that one piercing arrow alone. Anxiety is directly linked to control, or lack thereof. So what is it that you, that I, am trying to control?

Thinking along those lines leads directly to the heart of fear. If we can look full-face at the core with all of its blood and gore, we can begin the process of dismantling it in the grace and truth of Christ. Going beyond the fear into the reason for the fear is an important step in finding freedom from the fear. Deal with the cause, not the symptom.

Maybe I’m slow, but that’s exciting and new to me.

Kate says: expect.


Every woman struggles with the urge to hide her true self. We feel we are too little and too much all at once. More often than not, the image we project through behavior, clothing, ambition, home decor or a million other little things is just that – an image. Who we hope to be, who want to be, who we think we should be.

It’s our armor.

Our defense.

Because we expect to be hurt. People let us down. Fathers. Friends. The men we should never consider dating but wind up with for far too long. Mothers. Children. Coworkers. Husbands. Ourselves.

We want to be authentic. We want the outer to reflect and celebrate the inner instead of masking it. We want to let the guard down.

It’s hard.

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending my church’s district women’s retreat. The setting was picturesque, the music moving in the richest way, the preaching profound. But what got me, what really got me, was the experience of having my calling as a teacher affirmed in front of a group of mostly strangers. I had opened my mouth and blazed forth with opinions and suggestions regarding the importance of Bible study. I expected to be shut down or at the very least for people to just roll their eyes and move on.

I never expected to be built up.

It broke something deep inside of me.

I’m always apologizing. Always toting around a vague sense of guilt and a strong sense of shame. Always worried that I’ll offend or have offended someone and they’re just waiting to pounce. Always trying to control the environment. Not in a direct, manipulative way. In a, “I don’t want so-and-so to be mad at me way.” Sure, I have what I’ve been told is a very direct (okay, blunt) writing voice, but that doesn’t carry over into my “real life.”

I’m done.

This day, May 19, I’m done.

The pastor at the retreat invited us to hang out with the Samaritan Woman of John 4 all weekend, taking us a little deeper into her story every session. The woman couldn’t just sit there and magically wait for the freedom Jesus offered her to change her life. She had to grab on. She had to take what He was giving. She had to fling herself into the mystery of grace, not knowing what would come next as a result.

She had to expect the good.

I can’t fulfill my calling or experience the abundant life Christ offers if I keep expecting the bad, if I keep shrinking back against the wall. I’m tired of being bound up. I’m tired of avoiding new relationships because old ones have been bad. I’m tired of keeping silent.

I’m tired of expecting the worst at all times. I know bad things are going to happen. I’m not trading in dark glasses for rose-colored ones. Rather I want clear vision, straight-ahead vision, eyes-on-Christ vision. To see the good and expect the good. And when the bad comes, to see it in the light of the Good, Good Father.

Like a flower just beginning to open, full of hope and promise.


My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden

Five Minute Friday: Forget

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

I had planned to join the party last night, but a headache and planning lessons for the Pre-K Sunday School class kept me away. (How did I become the preschool teacher again?)

Kate asks us to: forget.


The Right Dishonorable Lady Derptina Idiocia McJankerstein. Also known as “Moronica Jones.”

I named my liver.

Would like to forget about her because she’s stupid and refuses to work properly. We aren’t speaking right now. I have nothing to say to her. She keeps giving me a gigantic middle finger.


But I can’t forget about her. I have to watch what I eat and walk what feels like 100 miles a day (it really only averages out around three; that’s all my body has energy for) to try and make her happy. Despite these efforts, there’s no pleasing her. She just stays swollen and gives me pain and nausea.


The Lord led me to these words the other day as I indulged in a good, frustrated cry:

Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.
Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes bulge with abundance;
They have more than heart could wish.
They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;
They speak loftily.
They set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue walks through the earth.
Therefore his people return here,
And waters of a full cup are drained by them.
And they say, “How does God know?
And is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.
Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.
When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.
Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
As a dream when one awakes,
So, Lord, when You awake,
You shall despise their image.
Thus my heart was grieved,
And I was vexed in my mind.
I was so foolish and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish;
You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,
That I may declare all Your works.

– Psalm 73 (NKJV; emphasis mine)

Much as I’d like to forget about that malfunctioning organ, I can’t. And so I cannot, must not, forget about God. He alone is my strength, my comfort, the uplifter of my head.

When the tears stain my face and the pain is great, He is there.

And He is good.


My journey to faith. (15)

Photo credit: David Marcu