How to Be Faithful and Focused in the Face of the World’s Pain

One of my first memories of my freshman year of college is the activities fair that was held in the student center. I attended a large, state university with tens of thousands of students, and hundreds of organizations had booths set up at the fair, inviting students to come and join their ranks. Despite having a relatively good idea of the types of things I’d like to be involved in, I was completely overwhelmed. There were so many good and meaningful things to choose from, and I struggled to know how to decide.

I’d like to say that I grew out of the feeling that there are so many things worth my time and effort that I may need to divide myself in two. But the fact is, as I’ve grown older, while I’ve found deeper passions and grown roots that I did not have had as a young adult, I’ve also discovered so many more possibilities. While I’ve learned more about myself and my specific calling in life, I’ve also learned about so much more of the world, so much more of pain and need, and I find myself wanting to step up and engage however I can.

So Much Pain in the World = Overwhelmed Hearts

I have a hunch that I’m not alone in this. Posts on social media these days seem to rotate between telling one another what we should or should not care about, and telling each other that we’re tired of being told what we should or should not care about. There is no shortage of opportunities to pursue personal development, to become a better parent, spouse, or friend, to learn a new skill, to read a new opinion, or to engage a new issue. As Christians, we ought to desire to live holistic lives that are not merely driven by love of self, nor by work, nor by play, but by worship and fullness and growth spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Keep reading over at iBelieve.

the friday features: april 28, 2016.


The Friday Features exist to fuel you with you sparks of joy and propel you toward the things that matter as you head into your weekend. If you’d like to submit an article to be included in the features, you can send me the link here.

For When You Have Target and/or Boycotter Induced Anxiety: Christians Can Hold Their Bladders and Still Shop at Target by Aaron Wilson for Christianity Today

For Artists Who Are People Too. (So, All Artists.): Lifting the Veil by Karen Swallow Prior for The Mudroom

For When Beyonce Teaches Us a Thing or Two about the Experience of Black WomenMaking Lemonade by Austin Channing

For the Table Flippers: How a Texas Church Drove out the Predatory Loan Industry by James Addis for The Local Church

For When You’re Headed to the Movies: “The Jungle Book” and the Doctrine of Adoption by Russell Moore

For the Mother’s Day Observers: It’s a Mother’s Day Giveaway by Me

For When Social Media is Giving You Hives: The Nine Types of Christians You Need on Facebook by Stephen Altrogge for The Blazing Center

For the Foodies: We Are What We Eat by Erin Straza for Christ and Pop Culture

Here’s to a restful weekend!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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a ground spacious and holy.

Be the Bridge is a nonprofit organization founded by Latasha Morrison which exists to be a credible witness of the glory of God through racial reconciliation. Latasha asked Andrea Poehl and I, two of several women who have had the privilege of being in a local Be the Bridge conversation group, to write pieces on racial reconciliation to feature here and on Latasha’s site. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to read Andrea’s post, and to watch Latasha’s segment (starts at 42 minutes) from this weekend’s If:Gathering in which she interviews another conversation group (the video is only free through today!)


We gathered in my living room, February of 2015, 7 women and nearly as many babies sleeping on their mothers’ chests. We were a lounge pants wearing group of IF: Local participants, hearts hopeful for refreshment, souls expectant of the Spirit’s movement. Oh, how He moved.

This was the February after Michael, Eric, Tamir. This was the Gathering when IF seized the moment, when they refused to be silent on an issue though they had not solved it. That’s a hard thing to do. We like to have our ducks in a row, us Christian folk. We like to know what we’re going to say and what we want you to believe when we finish saying it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, really, until there is. Until that way of thinking keeps us from having conversations because we aren’t sure which way they will go, until it keeps us from talking about events past or present because we don’t have all of the specifics, and more than that, because we don’t have solutions.

When Latasha and the roundtable participants walked onto the stage, it was clear that this was something we hadn’t seen before. The way of asking questions, the honesty of the answers, the cleverness of “the elephant in the room” passed from person to person to indicate whose turn it was to speak, this was not a summit for solving the world’s problems, it was a spacious place for knowing one another, for listening. That was the point. The words were important, but the profundity was in the listening, in the honor shown by locking eyes, by the lack of interruption, by the facial expressions that said, “I want to hear you.” This table was about holding space for one another’s stories.

Over the next few months, racially charged tragedies were relentless. Articles were everywhere, social media posts of differing and staunch opinions flying wild, creating bottomless rabbit holes of comment threads that were often better left unread. It was all very disheartening to me, which, as a white woman, I realize sounds absolutely ridiculous. What did I have to be disheartened about? Nothing. But I suppose that was the point. People were suffering, unheard, treated unfairly, and what could be done? On the day that the OU fraternity story came out, my soul could no longer withstand the conviction. Posting articles on Facebook wasn’t going to be enough anymore.

“Remember that race roundtable? Could we do that?,” two friends, Amy and Andrea, and I pondered by email.

Yes, we all have “A” names. We are also all white.

We acknowledged this immediately, the fact that without input from friends of color this effort was fruitless. Thus began the awkward invitations, and the gracious responses of four women – Carole, Jessica, Jenny and Zoe. A few weeks later, we gathered around a table. And it was not perfect. We still had “too many” white women, three of us out of a group of seven. But when we prayed, when Carole opened the Bridge to Racial Unity guide and began to lead us, God’s grace spilled out over our imperfections and He laid the soil of holy ground, making fertile the place for tender confidences, for stories, for repentance, for forgiveness.

Six of us continued to meet every few weeks after that first night. And then Charleston happened, and all we wanted was to be in the same room together, to grieve this atrocity around the table with the people who had proven themselves humble and strong enough to lament, to bear the weight of hurts, questions, anger, repentance. It was then that we realized the fact that this group had accomplished its essential purpose. We had crossed the bridge from fellow members of a group to deeply bonded friends, the kind of friends who can talk about the hard things and trust that there is fierce grace in the depths.

We were on fire when we met after Charleston. Hot with anger, racked with grief, overcome with passion, it was time for us to do something more, and we knew exactly what it was. Since the first night we met, we had discussed the possibility of helping other groups get started. And this was the time. Nationwide, hearts were broken over the tragedy in Charleston. Many who had been hesitant to enter the racial justice conversation were ready to take a step toward engagement. So, we decided to host a night at Amy’s house where we would share what our group had been doing, perhaps model a round table, offer resources and, if participants were interested, get new groups started. To our great surprise, over 100 people came, joining us on that holy ground.

BCS BTB NightSince then, new discussion groups, a book club which hosted a community event to discuss The New Jim Crow, and a Facebook group have all been started. A class at Texas A&M University took us on as a project, spreading the word throughout the campus and community. We attended a vigil for victims of police brutality hosted by a black fraternity. We partnered with a church to host a public reading and discussion of Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

“So…what exactly is the point?,” you may ask. We have found that the point is to gather those willing to lean in and listen, to engage in the ministry of reconciliation given to us by Jesus Christ, to believe that this will lead to change. Perhaps, at first, the point is simply to acknowledge that change is needed.

I encourage you to consider how you can join in the story. My prayer is that more and more of us will become fiercely convicted by and convinced of the ministry of reconciliation which God has given to us, that we will be willing to overcome the fear of the confusing or unknown, to repent of bias or bigotry. May we bear the image of God as we bear the weight of one another’s hurts, confusions and questions. May we be seekers of the holy ground and may there be many who stand alongside us.


Since IF last year, the Bridge to Racial Unity guide has been downloaded over 4000 times. Groups are popping up across the nation, and hard, healing conversations are happening. You can be a part! If you are local, check out the BCS Be the Bridge Facebook Page. The nationwide Facebook group is here, where you can connect with others online and near you. Find resources here.

trinity, justice & love. [grace & truth series]

last week, i kicked off the first round of the grace & truth series which will be focused on social justice. in that post, i stated six truths of social justice that i’ve learned, the first of which i’ll discuss today.

1. Loving God leads to loving others.
(talking normative Christian life here, folks. not trying to determine whether or not somebody is going to heaven based on what i see in their life. that’s another convo for another day…one that probably falls outside of the scope of this blog. thx & gig ’em.)

Grace & Truth: Loving

Every once in a while, I learn something new, or hear something in a different way, and all of the sudden I hear it everywhere. Over time I’ve come to realize that this is a way the Spirit testifies to me – repeating a truth, typically a truth of God’s character, over and over and over again as I seek to come to grips with it.

The past ten days or so, this has been happening with the truth of the Trinity.

I’ve believed in the Trinity for a long time. The Trinity is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity – that God is, has been and will always be existent as three in one; the co-eternal, co-existent Godhead.  However, in these recent days I’ve been struck by a new depth of this truth – the relational essence of God displayed with ungraspable beauty in the Trinity.  I know I’ve learned about this before, but I’m coming to see more and more that it’s just so very human of us to need time and repetition in order for truth to burrow itself deeply within us, so I’m letting myself learn this anew.

Some of the ways the Trinity has been working its way into my thoughts recently have been:

  • We are studying Genesis at church. While describing who God is, our pastor stated that God “has always been in relationship, because He is Trinity” citing John 1:1. “Before creation,” he told us, “the Trinity glorified one another” (see John 17:5).
  • On my way home from an out of town trip today, I listened to a sermon entitled “Relaxing in Trinitarian Love” presented by Tim Chester at the 2011 Together for Adoption Conference. He stated that God’s essence is love and relationship, because He has always been Father, He has always been communicating, He has always been loving. (cue tears of joy)
  • In both of the above sermons, the preachers implored their listeners to not view God as one who created out of a need for fellowship or out of any lack within Himself. God created out of fullness, as an overflow of His perfect union and fellowship within Himself through the members of the Trinity.

Anybody else need a glass of water (or a nap)? Stay with me!

I’m so thankful for all of this truth. I’m thankful that it’s going to take me a lifetime to even scratch the surface of understanding all of it, and even more thankful that my limited understanding has, by the power of the Spirit, incredible impact on my life now.

And that’s why we’re gathered here today, my friends.

God has always existed in love. In fellowship, relationship, friendship, unity, communication. He made us from that overflow. He loved us from that overflow. We sinned. We severed the communication, we broke the fellowship. He reached out, down, toward, through, and restored us to Himself by the shed of blood of His Son and we enter the kingdom through the power of the resurrection. While there are many, many more reasons we have to love one another – this is the basis. We love because He first loved us. 

And what does love do?

It moves. It enters in and splits the curtain and overcomes the wall. It doesn’t cower to fear or submit to insecurity. It thrives in the dark places because it can always find the light. It blossoms in the tough ground because it knows how to reach out for the water.

Love. never. fails.

We love because He first loved us. This is the heart of the first premise. Loving God leads to loving others. Care for our neighbor, of the stranger, of even our enemy is motivated by perfect love. The love that we know because it was shown to us in the plan of Father, Spirit, Son to bring man to God, to bridge the gap.

And it is our joy to mirror them.

Not to seek to become them. Not to earn their approval. But to reflect them. The Spirit guides and we look to the Son and we pray to the Father and may we be one as they are one.

Loving God leads to loving others. This is a fundamental truth of social justice, because when the going gets tough and the road is dark and dangerous we are loved by the One who enables us to love. We fight for the freedom of our fellow man because our ultimate freedom was purchased on a cross and cannot be stripped away. We raise our voices for the voiceless because Jesus Christ speaks on our behalf, mediating on the basis of His blood shed for us. We stand up for those who have been oppressed because Jesus Christ stood in the gap for us and He cannot. be. held. down.

There is so much more to discuss when it comes to social justice. There are ways and means and whys and hows and hope and sadness and wherever people are involved, there is great challenge. But for today I’m choosing to rest in this – the root of all hope and change and justice for mankind, is the love found in the man Jesus Christ that we are offered the opportunity to reflect. He is good. He is just. He is love.

grace & truth: entering in – social justice.

i’m fairly certain that about 4 seconds after i hit the “publish” button on the post introducing the grace & truth series, i was stripped of all knowledge, wisdom and insight i’ve ever had on any topic at any time. i don’t know anything anymore.

ok, probably not.

it’s perhaps more likely that i was simply stripped of the confidence to engage and wrestle and think, and maybe to be wrong (gasp). i’ve thought for 10 days now about what this initial post should discuss, how to phrase things in such a way that would compel you to get involved in the discussion and not just sit back and absorb (or repel) it, how to tackle a topic with some sort of originality, and to be honest, i haven’t gotten very far. i’m not sure i can propose anything new to any of you, but maybe the newness isn’t quite as important as the opportunity to re-engage. are we ever really finished thinking through something that matters after our first encounter with it? i know i’m not. so here’s to rehashing and hoping for progression of thought and belief. 

Grace & Truth: Social Justice
during our time at seminary, i was invited to a bible study that, cliche as it sounds, completely changed my life. the women there were fellow seminary wives with deep passion for the things of God, community, bearing one another’s burdens and building one another up. recognizing the intensity of four years alongside our ever-studying husbands, these traits were absolutely invaluable, especially when sickness, the tumultuous nature of all things motherhood, work hardships, sin struggles and even death touched our lives. we studied the Word together, convinced that the Spirit would guide and that there was great depth to be found, and i remember so clearly one night a few years in to the study, when some had graduated and left an indelible mark on our theology and lives and some had just begun their seminary journey, we were struck by the frequency and intensity of God’s call to care for “the least of these” throughout scripture. we were so floored and convicted that we made a Kiva micro-finance loan that night and signed up to volunteer at an apartment community for previously incarcerated women who were being reunited with their children. we were gripped. all in and head first we held high the banner of on earth as it is in heaven
. “social justice” became a real, living, breathing part of our lives, and i think back on that night, as well as those leading up to and following it, as an incredibly formative moment and season.

those nights and the actions we took because of them taught me:

1. Loving God leads to loving others.
2. Love works hard.
3. We are called to seek the welfare of the city.
4. It is not enough to speak the gospel with our mouths while living lives that extend no grace toward those who need it.
5. It is not enough to offer a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name but never open our mouths and speak the gospel.
6. We can’t do it all. But, God ordained, Jesus exemplified, Spirit guiding, we can do a lot.

i hope to use these six big ideas to open up a discussion on social justice in the coming weeks. join me?

what does “social justice” make you think of? feel?
does loving God lead to loving others? (
i’m not asking this as a question of salvation. i’m asking if the normative, active Christian life naturally leads to loving others.)
what place does social justice have in the theology and life of the Christian?
how do Christians engage the humanitarian, secular social justice movement?