Worshiping in Beautiful Diversity


I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately, mostly circulating through social media, of Christians criticizing the worship styles and methods of other believers. This saddens me, brothers and sisters, on many levels.  If anything should be held sacred and apart from personal attack, it is our worshipful expressions toward our amazing God.

The trend seems to be specifically focused upon criticizing “modern” worship as “more like a concert than worship” and “just a loud, meaningless performance” and other such indictments. As though anyone can say for someone else that he or she cannot be worshiping as they make a joyful noise unto the Lord.


Our church has five campuses spread over the Tampa Bay area, and all five have modern worship styles. I am blessed to know–at least on some level–many of those who are leading worship on all five campuses, some of whom are in my immediate family. I don’t know a single person who is up there for a self-glorifying performance. Any performing I see being done is for an audience of One and for the planned purpose of leading those among them to God’s throne in corporate worship.

I don’t see a flashy concert with a frenzied audience. I see people praising. I see hearts softening. I see brokenness mending. I see lives changing.

At the Cross

That blonde girl up there jumping around and shouting, “In the name of Jesus Enemy’s defeated! And we will shout it out!” is currently saving for a missions trip. That guy playing the guitar? He was called to worship ministry in sixth grade and has never looked back. The guy playing piano? He just lost his teenage daughter and is infusing his grief into using his talent to worship the God who holds her in Heaven.

And that silver-haired guy down there dancing all around in bare feet? That’s a man who loves his Lord with all his heart and recognizes that in all of his unworthiness he is worshiping the One who alone is worthy of the praises of unshod followers and young missionaries and broken fathers and all the others living out their God-calling in wild abandon dancing on holy ground.


One day into recovery from wisdom tooth surgery, I awoke this morning with the words to one of our currently oft-sung worship songs running through my head.

God is fighting for us! Pushing back the darkness! Lighting up the Kingdom that cannot be shaken!

It’s downright Scriptural. In a manner I’ve not seen in many other churches, we cover a variety of musical styles from country to hip-hop to pop to alternative to rock to classical to jazz and all in between. And believe it or not, we sing hymns. Sometimes we sing them in their original versions, often in beautifully blended a cappella harmonies. Sometimes the words are sung in a varied musical style, and sometimes parts of hymns are woven into more modern songs.


It’s okay to sing only hymns. Never mind that many of our original hymns were sung to bar tunes, because all music was God’s first, and what better place to sing God-songs than in bars? My point is whatever happened to worshiping the way you want to, and letting everyone else do the same? We don’t all have to be holding our hymnals like a scene from American Gothic droning out “Bringing in the Sheaves” with all the joyful enthusiasm of a geriatric sloth to be considered real worshipers.


The real worshipers are all of us, friends. However we express it, whatever songs we choose, whatever styles we employ, whether we sit or stand or jump around or dance barefoot. All of us whose hearts have been lit up by the Holy Spirit to pour out our worship to the God who makes all things new. The God Who heals the broken and delights in the dances of the gray-haired and the missionaries, and works His perfect will in and through the kid who said yes to His calling at 6th-grade youth camp.

We’re all in this together, believers. Let’s worship together, all of us, all over the world, in the ways and styles that suit us best as we praise the Creator of beautiful diversity and wide-open worship. Are you in? I am.





I mean no offense whatsoever toward those who promote weight-loss plans, but I find deprivation “diets” really depressing—and for me, totally ineffective. About mid-August I started focusing on drinking more water–a lot more–and once I did that, I naturally left soda behind. After a couple of weeks I noticed I wasn’t craving sweet tea any more, and by about the third week I noticed I was drinking exclusively water. I was feeling good, losing weight, and noticed a marked energy boost.

I never banned myself from those other things–it just came naturally–and that is why I believe it worked. I also noticed that I was eating less sweets to the point where now I rarely even want any. But I can assure you that if I had set out to deprive myself of any of those things, I would only have craved them more and my focus would have been annoyingly steered toward what I couldn’t have.

Not that I am knocking the value of self-control, because I truly believe God calls us to develop and exercise it. My point is that I don’t believe God calls us to blanket deprivation simply because a food is tasty/sweet/whatever. God gave us taste buds and made food tasty for a reason. I also don’t believe any food is more “righteous” than another. I am not closer to God because I eat more cabbage than I do M&Ms. I love them both, and I don’t think M&M’s are sinful any more than cabbage is holy.

Personally, I crave collard greens far more often than I crave candy, but when I do want candy, I have some. I am finding that my whole outlook on food is much healthier and more conducive to happiness as I take everything as a gift from God with gratitude and am watching extra weigh fall off as I follow God’s lead without a list of “NO”s to keep. My tummy shrunk considerably early on, and my portion size naturally adjusted to about a fistful at a time. Which is the size our tummies should actually be. Imagine that.

I do acknowledge that allergies and aversions/sensitivities exist and should be considered. I also am aware that certain foods are more nutritious than others, and that certain people have a harder time digesting food prepared in certain ways. I just happen to think that “all things in moderation” applies pretty well overall, and if you have a certain food sensitivity then pay attention to it without making the leap that such food/prep method is good or evil. It’s just food. All things in moderation with gratitude.

I guess my whole point is sharing the notion of purposefulness when it comes to what goes into our bodies. Stay aware, purposefully intentional, and grateful. That’s really all. I’m determined to find the size I’m supposed to be. There may not be a skinny girl trapped in here, but I’m fixin’ to find out who is and what she looks like. With all this water, at least I’ll have more energy for the quest. I’ll keep you posted on the excavation.



“One day I will find the right words and they will be simple.”
Jack Kerouac

These days, they are anything but simple. They are complicated, complex, wrought with conflicting opinion and stand-taking and assertion. I am tired.

I long for calmer moments, of rainy afternoons and dark clouds gathered and thunder like the rumbling of a distant train.

Things are about to become much less quiet in my life as I start work as a TA and simultaneously begin work on my B.S. in Ed Studies full time online. This will be far from simple, but I need rest soul-deep if I have any hope of getting through the next two years.

I want the election to be over. Whatever we are going to wind up with for leadership I just want it done so (hopefully) the arguing and judgment will stop. If it doesn’t stop, then social media will not be seeing much of me. I need to focus in a positive direction.

I long for quietness, for lightness of being, for peace. I long for moments spent holding my husband’s hand or playing Little People with my grandchildren or making dinner for my big, beautiful family. I need to pull inward, to beckon my heart back home. Only then can I pour myself out the way God calls me to do as a wife, a mother, a Mimi, a teacher, a friend.

I am praying for renewal of purpose. For all of us.

Marriage made in Heaven


Steve and I had quite a beginning to our love story that you’ll want to read more about if you haven’t already, but here we’ll pick up where that part of our story left off.

Most folks would say we started off behind the eight-ball in our marriage. It’s hard to be deeply in love and not make unwise choices during a long engagement. We were grounded in our faith, and yet we still made some of those choices. We found out in June of 1980 that we were three, and on July 13 we walked the aisle in our tiny church in East Tampa and promised to love each other forever.

On our wedding day I was green with all-day sickness and Steve had the flu. We spent our three-day honeymoon unable to sleep too near each other, him burning up with fever and me with my face in a bucket. Thankfully we missed the memo that all these things were supposed to spell our doom as a couple. We loved each other, and we figured the “in sickness” part was just arriving a little early.

I was “Sixteen and Pregnant” before it was cool enough for a reality show. Truth is there was nothing cool about being a pregnant teenager. I watched my friends fall off like flies one by one, all but a tiny few who didn’t mind being seen with me. I resigned as band captain and left my beloved music program behind to finish the few classes I needed to finish school early. It was one of the loneliest times of my life with regard to friendship, but I will never forget how our parents and church family gathered around us and loved us through those early weeks and months.

Steve has always been my best friend. Because of that friendship rooted in our love for God, everything that has happened to us in life has happened to us, not between us. I really don’t know any other way to explain our relationship, or why we don’t argue, or why we don’t struggle in ways most people do. It isn’t that we never disagree; it’s that we approach everything as a matter of how we will work through it, not whether or not we will. We made a covenant on our wedding day that the D-word wasn’t even in our vocabulary, so we’ve simply lived our life together based in that safe place.

Heartstrings and Apron Pockets


I attended an estate sale a few years ago, where a man was selling everything from his elderly mother’s home. I just found the whole thing gut-wrenchingly sad as I walked through and pondered over the items this woman had used and loved over the years.

He had most of the items priced well over what I would normally pay at such a sale, but browsing through a room near the back I came upon a bright orange apron the man said his mother had made. Being fond of aprons, I loved it at once. Tracing my fingers lovingly over the seams I noted that it was reversible with print on one side and eyelet on the other. I couldn’t help but wonder if she had worn it, because it looked rather new. I thought with sadness that perhaps she’d been too feeble or ill to use it herself. Somehow I felt like I’d known this dear lady, though I knew we’d never met.

I paid him the inflated price feeling like I was purchasing more than an apron. I was taking home a treasure with memories in its pockets–tiny facets of a woman whose worldly goods were being sold to strangers wandering through her home.

That apron remains one of my favorites, and I hope to make sure someone eventually gets it who will appreciate it for the memories of both its maker and me. I consider it an honor to wear it while making lovely meals for my family. I’d like to think she’d be smiling if she knew.


What we’ve lost


There are days when I am no match for social media. Today would be one of those days. I have un-followed en masse and trimmed my news feed down to a skeletal list of family and even fewer friends and the smattering of news outlets that have survived the cuts, and yet everywhere I turn the posts and headlines pelt me like sharp rocks to the temple.

Famous Christian artist admits Bible not trustworthy!

Pastor has pornographic visions, gets ousted by foundation he created!

ISIS beheading Christians {Video–Graphic content!}

Economy lowest since Great Depression!

President’s approval rating lowest in history!

Military cuts hundreds of soldiers while on active duty!

America being overrun by illegals!

Beloved actor takes own life!

The anger, the grief, the misunderstanding, the accusations, the judgment. The deep, discouraging, disappointing loss.

It’s enough to bury the sturdiest among us, so it can really do a number on someone juggling mid-life hormone flux. Today has become a day when I needed to walk away from my computer and pour myself into housework or textbook reading or planning dinner. Or pouring all the anguish into a blog post.

Life can be pretty overwhelmingly depressing lately. Which brings me to depression and how wildly misunderstood it (still) is.

I see the reactions to a beloved actor’s death, words flying back and forth, from “Didn’t he know how this would affect his family?” to “You’re finally free!” to “It was a decision! He CHOSE this!” and quite honestly I sit here at my little desk and cringe at how blindly judgmental folks can be.

At risk of oversimplifying, please allow me to state the apparently-not-so-obvious: The person in clinical, chemically-altered depression is not thinking with his/her own mind.

This person is not weighing everything out, determining the massive damage suicide will do to those s/he loves, deciding s/he doesn’t give a rip about that damage, and then in full cognizance of all this, pushing the End button. It just isn’t as clear-cut as that.

I remember clinical depression well. It scared me to death. The sky looked dark in the middle of the day. I’m talking, like almost-night dark. I remember asking my husband if that was what it felt like to go insane. It felt like I was literally losing my ability to think clearly. And the truth, I discovered later as I researched it all, is that in a sense I really was losing it.

And today, what I fear we’ve lost is the ability to consider that we might just not know everything about everybody and what’s going on in the mind of another. And because of that, it might be best to hold opinion-forming until we know a bit more.

What people in depression do not need is blame. They need help. They need a shoulder, a hand, a listening ear. They need hope, not harassment. They need compassion, not condemnation. Believe me, there’s far more than enough condemnation coming from within.

So maybe instead of condemning an actor for selfishly taking his own life and leaving everyone in pain, it would be a better use of our time and energy to reach out to that person we work with, go to school with, live near, see at church/the grocery store/the post office and show a little love. Be a friend. Make a difference that might keep that person around long enough to get the help that is so desperately needed.

Less finger-pointing and more friendship. Because haven’t we lost enough?




Dreams Revisited


It’s been a while since I wrote here. At first I was reeling from a rough April, then June came and I made a decision to go back and pick up a dream that was woven into my heart as a little girl.

I decided to go to college to become an elementary school teacher.

The week after I made that decision, which already just felt “right”, I found out a local college is just starting a new program this fall for incoming elementary education students. I immediately dove into the to-do list for the program, first applying, then testing, then checking one after another task off the list right down to the personal interview. I found out on July 27th that I was accepted.

And so it is that I find myself 50 years old and eight days away from starting college to become a teacher. I am a giddy schoolgirl again.

It’s raining today, and I watch it pour out my office window and I marvel at the timing of all this. Homeschooling was over for us a year ago, but I didn’t yet feel the nudge to return to this dream. I did follow another one, and wrote two books within six months. Whatever happens (or doesn’t happen) with the books, I can rest knowing I did what I’ve always wanted to do as a writer.

And now I turn my thoughts, my focus, my energies, to becoming certified to do what I’ve wanted to do since first grade. Mrs. McBrayer was my first grade teacher, and in the short time I was in her classroom before they moved me on to second grade, I made up my mind that I wanted to be her when I grew up. I called her on the phone the day after I found out I’d been accepted into the Elite Educators program, and I thanked her for inspiring me through 25 years of homeschooling and still how as I embark on this adventure of college and educator certification. She said I made her day. She is 82 and stays right here in my heart.

I am grateful beyond words for this opportunity. I get teary when I think about it. I’m 50 and I am blessed to have a whole new adventure ahead of me.

What dream have you laid down? Is it time to pick it back up again, dust it off and remember what the little girl in you always wanted to do? Dream-chasing is much more fun with company along the journey.

Let’s do this.



It’s starting to sink in how much of my life is spent striving.

Striving to stay healthy, not offend anyone, be everything to everybody possible, be available, be open, be real, be safe, be me. I’m not sure I remember what it feels like to truly rest.

I’ve been sticking close to home a lot more lately–not hiding in a shell, but curled up in a chrysalis. Wait. Maybe chrysalis isn’t a good analogy, since that implies I will eventually open up into something new. I’m not sure I’m supposed to be–or that I want to be–something new. I want to be something real. I want to be who I already am.

For me, resting doesn’t mean shutting out the world. It means paying attention to what heals me, calms me, makes me feel fully alive in this life God created for me. This grateful, beautiful life.

I’m working on another book, and while I find myself scrambling for motivation to really get words flowing I find the process as a whole getting easier. I think it took getting that first book out there for me to believe I actually have something to say that someone else might want to read. I can be a little slow to believe in myself.

And so while I am resting, I am also working hard here in my little office overlooking the yard and palm trees and dock and lake with sandhill cranes loping and cardinals flitting and the wind chimes singing me a breezy Florida winter song. Writing is calming for me, and this is the perfect place for it.

I spend a lot of time alone, but I am never lonely. I’ve grown deeply introspective lately, but it has me examining some things that merit close attention. I find it drawing me closer to God in ways I couldn’t have imagined. With the Holy Spirit as my ever-present companion I could never be truly alone.

These are days of grief and fear, but also of gratitude and joy. I struggle to word how those things can all be present at once, but as I move the days and years of my life I am realizing more and more just how complex the living of this life can be–and how difficult to word.

But I go on trying to word it, this story of mine that only I can tell. I keep showing up, hoping somehow it will be used to give someone hope.

If I have nothing else to offer, there’s always hope.



Not all who wander are lost. Not all who wonder are lost. Do all who are lost wonder?

I feel lost lately. Not sure where I fit. If I fit. Sometimes even wondering when or if my time will come, or if that time has come and gone. And if it is to come again, where will I be? Is there a time in life when we are freed to use our giftings, and then once that time is over…are we obsolete? I wonder sometimes if I am just plain washed up.

I know what I’m good at. I don’t talk about it a lot because I don’t want to be “that person”. But I know, deep down, what I am wired to do. I know what jazzes me. I know what I’ve done wildly well in the past. I know how God has used the unique (maybe even a little bit crazy) way He knit me together to reach out and shed light into other lives.

I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend. I am a homemaker, writer, speaker, editor, creator, maker, artist, singer, musician, composer, mentor, teacher, nurturer, connector, encourager. I keep hearing that those things are of value. Are they?

I’m just not sure what to do with those things right now. If I lament that I wish I could do more, be used more in what I can do, I fear being written off as a complainer. If I stay silent, I hurt alone. Either way, as resilient as I try to remain, this hurts.

In the absence of being needed so much outwardly, I am drawn toward home. This is not unusual for me, homebody that I am. I am happiest here. I feel drawn inward, deeply introspective and almost private. At least for now. But I don’t believe it is meant to turn my thoughts inward toward myself. I believe it is to turn my thoughts more intently on Him and the message–messages–He wants me to get out in books.

In short, I am feeling called to a season of words. Specifically, words sprawled into books. What He does with them is up to Him. Showing up to the page is up to me.

And so I lose myself to find the messages. Wherever they are.

I wander and I wonder and I am lost but not lonely. These are days to find my rest in Him.

When I fall


Thanks for catching me when I fall
Sometimes the empty of it all caves in
Like waves rushing over pushing memory
Where too many moments crush at once
I run and the tears come and I miss her so
And you reach out and steady me again
I did that for her

Thanks for loving me through it all
When the sadness steals truth from my knowing
And I don’t hear your heart at first
Know that I always feel it, look past the surface
And see you reaching out to grab my hand
Knowing you love me like I love her
And you