Category Archives: sharing the Gospel

Salvation — When “IT” Becomes a Person

I’m joyfully expectant of spending eternity in heaven! My ongoing testimony is all about God and what He has accomplished and continues to do in my heart and life.

imgresSome people put a lot of emphasis on “spiritual birthdays.”  But not everyone can pinpoint the date, and repeating a particular prayer is not meant to be an eternal insurance policy.

I was saved by His grace when He led me to believe. I can’t take any credit for this; it is purely a gift from God. I know I’m a Christian, because today — right now — I trust Jesus as my only hope in this world and for eternity.

Glimpses of my story help illustrate when and how salvation didn’t happen and the magnificent work He has done.  At 50, I have less memories and more hindsight. I can reach deep into old memory files and fill in gaps with knowledge of how things turned out. Here’s how I see His hand at work —

When I was a plump baby, a pediatrician dubbed me “the perfect specimen,” and the nickname stuck. For decades, I tried hard to live up to it. Spoiler alert: Jesus calls us to Him by name, and mine wasn’t Perfect, Worthy or Good Girl.

IMG_0176My children once found my old trophies and report cards at my parent’s house and teased me about being a teacher’s pet.  I’m pretty sure they were put off. I bet they wondered how I could relate to their lives if they didn’t inherit my perfectionism?

I hope by now they understand my over-achieving brand of “self” was just as sinful as any misbehaving. Self-righteousness and perfection are simply more difficult to recognize as sin. They look good on the outside and often win praise from the world. The successful, good girl persona is hard to exchange for surrender, exposed weakness, dependence and ruthless trust — despite being rotten at its core.

When I participated in 6th grade confirmation,  I saw our class as good kids completing the next step in a good life. I joined the church.  I didn’t understand the Gospel, and I wasn’t saved — but God had long been actively and tenderly wooing me. It’s hard to express, and I couldn’t have called “it” God at the time, but I knew I did matter and Someone cared. I was searching for “it,” because from the tastes I had of Him, I knew He was irresistibly good.

By fourteen, I could no longer imagine perfection, much less achieve it.  I continued performing pretty well, but inside I felt an insatiable emptiness. If I ignored “it,” life worked okay and people appreciated me and my efforts — except for boys.  I so wanted to be chosen: loved and cherished. But high school romance was much more complicated than gaining the praise and approval of adults.

DSC00297One night I went to a Baptist Youth rally, because the boy I liked would be there. During the service, I was upset; I couldn’t miss that my guy was very interested in a different girl. I was confused and trying hard to figure out how I could be more of “something” I couldn’t name much less understand, when God overwhelmed me and my thoughts — and called me to another relationship. 

All else was silenced as the speaker explained that living in the strength of my flesh and for my own purposes was sinful — even if I was trying to be good. I thought sin was murder, stealing, lying and the like. For the first time in my life I really heard the good news. God showed me my heart of flesh was wicked. I deserved hell and NEEDED a Savior. And that Jesus would have died to save me, even if I had been the only one who needed Him. He loved me that personally?

I didn’t know what an altar call was, but when they asked anyone who wanted to be forgiven of their sins and accept Jesus into their hearts to come forward, I was there — alone in a crowd  — with Jesus. My contrition was sincere.

Was I saved that night? For many years I thought so, but later in life I questioned “it.” Was it dramatic enough to have been real? I was certain the Holy Spirit had touched me deeply and definitely gained significant ground in my heart, but did I need to do more?

IMG_0756I’m not sure anyone else noticed a difference in me back then. I didn’t talk about “it” and kept living for the perceived expectations of others, including God. However, I knew deep inside that I couldn’t measure up, even to my own goals. Achievement was increasingly less meaningful and more tiring to live for.

I did read the Bible and pray more often — usually asking God to bless my plans and decisions, but my desire for Him was not exactly a hunger or thirst. I used God as an avenue to achieving better success. I sensed there was more to God and faith than I understood. I wanted more from “it,” but I had no idea how to get close enough to Him to ask what else I needed to do.

When I went to church last Sunday, the above post was finished (with a different, shorter ending), but for some reason, I hadn’t published it. I think God knew why.

Through the sermon from Acts about Paul’s conversion, God revealed a little more of His work in me. I always struggled with how little my behavior changed following that night at the altar. After church, I saw “it” differently.

IMG_3410God did begin to transform my heart at the Youth Rally. While I didn’t understand all it meant to follow Christ at the time, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in me. No less dramatically than an alcoholic who quits drinking or a criminal who repents, I believe God took away my thrill in the world’s offering of achievement and recognition. I never would have nor could have given it up by my own volition. I thought I just floundered for years due to indecisiveness; I didn’t recognize His hand until now.

Years later at Vanderbilt, I met Flip. We made a foolproof plan… we would get our Engineering degrees, then MBAs. Because we could do the geeky stuff AND communicate, we figured we would climb to the top fast!  Flip is now CEO of a Fortune 500 in the energy field.

I  on the other hand, derailed.  I left Engineering, changed majors a few times and earned a schizophrenic BA in English with related work in Communication and Business and all electives in Engineering. I earned no accolades and left no mark in college. After graduation I debated getting an MDiv or MBA, but instead got an MRS.

Despite some giftedness, I just never felt any passion around engineering, math, or business. I looked “good enough” to a disinterested world, but on the inside I knew I was more broken and empty than ever. I felt some guilt about not living up to my academic/ career potential, but couldn’t seem to care. I later gave grad school another shot, but dropped out with severe nausea and vomiting on my way to my next title: MOM.

IMG_3209Only the Holy Spirit living in me could have broken my addiction to worldly success. He saved me from hell and continues to transform me. Now I know my greatest success in life is something He did for me, though I never deserved it. My greatest success is knowing God and experiencing Him intimately through His Son, Jesus. If not accomplished in this light, all else is rubbish.

My next posts will be of His continuing work of grace in my heart. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Phil 1:6)

PS:  I ran across Flip’s name recently in a google search. We haven’t kept up, but it’s my hunch that God is smiling on Flip’s path — ‘our’ plan just wasn’t His plan for me.

I am greatly encouraged by your comments and thoughts!  If you would like to get future posts by email, please let me know below. You can unsubscribe at any time. 










Religion vs. Relationship — It makes All the Difference

Critics of Christianity often say religion is no more than  a way for people to cope with life. I agree — all too often it can be, if we are religious without actually knowing God.

IMG_1127Because I’ve tasted a bit of the abundant life He wants for me, my passion is to invite others to join the continuing adventure of relationship with the Living God.

I share my story here and with friends in order to introduce Jesus to those who have only heard ABOUT Him. To help people understand that they not only can, but must have a relationship with God in order to enter His heaven (Matt 7:22-23). To challenge the religious to be sure they are saved, and to challenge the saved to surrender to transformation in order to experience His power, abundance and joy while on earth. I am or have been all these people at times. It’s exciting to see what God does in us as we realize it is our privilege to seek Him for Who He is, not just what He gives.

During my 40-day commitment to focused, listening retreats with Jesus, I’ve written very little, but God has said so much! A few of today’s pearls embody all that drove me to seminary, where God taught me to seek His face above knowledge, understanding or even wisdom.

IMG_1122Religion can be a legalism trap instead of a Relationship. Many people have daily quiet times, tithe, attend church, etc. In short we seek spiritual fulfillment by a “good” behavior to-do list, believing our lives will fall in place, because we’re doing what God wants. We think certain actions and disciplines are not only central but sufficient for being “spiritual.”

In short, we squeeze into a safe box an understandable God we feel we can control and predict. Then we do stuff “for Him.” Focusing on the externals, while difficult, is much easier than offering your heart to His blade.  Because our scale is a measurable comparison to the behavior of others, we generally become complacent and feel we no longer need to struggle with the internal conflict of flesh and spirit. In fact, we hide our inevitable struggle, because we feel we should have matured spiritually beyond all that (I’ve worn that mask, even to church).

IMG_1142For a while we are smug, possibly self righteous — until despair creeps in. We know ourselves and that we fail to measure up. Or possibly we finally “have it all.” Life is under control and all we worked for has transpired — and that’s terrifying, because it’s not enough. Or as happened to me,  life caves in and exposes that this religious system we’ve developed isn’t enough to sustain us in the toughest times.

The point is, God will allow the frustrations and trials of this world to unsettle us and compel us to seek Him. To look beyond the illusion of control to where God woos us into true relationship. And He will use it all for our good, as we love and trust Him.

Christianity is not a lifestyle. Our legalism is inevitably exposed as idolatry and entitlement at its heart. The religious formula that God will give us earthly well-being if we will merely do the right things is a lie. True spirituality is a relationship, not a prescription or action plan.

IMG_1055Relationship with Him will take as many different forms as He has children… so in no means do I intend to describe specifics. But a general description might help, if intimate relationship of a Christian with God seems foreign or impossible.

We offer our hearts with child-like wonder in the presence of the One who made us and sustains us. We willingly expose all of who we are to God, who already knows us, and engage with all He has revealed of Himself in the Word and the world. We love, worship, struggle and trust Him in increasing surrender. He interacts with us with mystery and awe. We are open to His surprises and delight in Him as a child.

We are not immune to life under the sun. We experience confusion, rest, frustration, peace, impatience and joy. We learn to embrace that God is mysterious (beyond our comprehension), but always good and loving. Life in relationship with Him is not predictable, tamable, or without pain (in fact there’s often more), but it is purposeful and good beyond our wildest imaginings — which is why we can experience joy and peace no matter what the circumstances.

IMG_1121God wants our hearts. Our flesh (self serving) is in conflict with His spirit which lives in every believer. We must be open, and welcoming to His transformation of us, even when it hurts. We can be sure “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 6:8).  We know God better each day, but not exhaustively — not until heaven. We look forward to our time with Him as the best of our days! As we are with Him and surrendered, He changes us. He works in us to make us more like Jesus. To release His power, joy and love to flow through us to others.

Everything good, beautiful and pleasurable here on earth is a hint of heaven.  It’s meant to turn us toward Him in gratitude and expectation! Our passion is to know Him better each day, as we look to the day He will complete our joy and the work He is doing in us — and we will worship Him and experience His endless mystery, wonder and love (heaven).

After some time getting to know Him, I can’t help but share Him with others.

IMG_1196It’s a beautiful picture, of the already (Christ in me, heaven) and the not yet (flesh, still earth bound). Just to be clear, I mess up (sin) and fall away (my agenda, all the “self” words like self-sufficient) from HIm daily. He sees me as His work in progress and forgives me as I turn back toward Him. I experience the consequences of my sin, but not condemnation. Nothing I could ever do could make God love me more or less… because His love is perfect and complete.

Jesus is my all in all. I want everyone to know Him intimately and to experience His love and caring.


I am greatly encouraged by your comments and thoughts!  If you would like to get future posts by email, please let me know below. You can unsubscribe at any time. 

Bringing Young Life Camp to my “Daily Grind”

IMG_0237I don’t want to spoil any of the over-the-top surprises and wonders of Young Life Camp for future high school-aged guests. From a camper’s perspective and experience, you’ll see and read less here than you can on the YL website. What I want to write about is all God wants me to bring home and live out from my adult guest experience at Sharp Top Cove.

Rob and I ended our wonderful week at camp on my 50th birthday. I have felt God teaching me this last year about ways I need to change, and how my life should look on the “back nine.” With Young Life Camp as the exclamation point on His year of lessons, what is He saying? How shall I live?

what better way to spend my last week in my 40s than to play like a teen at camp?

On the outside Young Life Camp feels and looks like all fun and games. No one is bored with the Gospel there! A beautiful setting with everything taken care of for the campers, who are treated like royalty. As they walk through a human tunnel of  enthusiastically cheering kids their own age — truly just glad the campers have arrived to be served — the campers get their first glimpse of the week ahead: the best week of their life! “Let me take your bags and show you to your cabin.” The kids walk in to the lodge style accommodations and are taken aback by the professional decorations and attention to detail and comfort. And it’s all for them.

As they get off the bus they are told that for the week, this camp is yours! Off they run to freedom — to blob, zip line, slide, swing, play and hangout with their friends. The running, frenzied pace at which they try to experience it ALL that first day, makes you think they think it may be a little too good to be true.  In an unstable world, it seems they’re trying to grab it all and take it all in, while they can! The one thing removed from their world this week (that is so pleasantly notable) is electronics of all kinds… no phones, computers, itunes… just friends and this awesome camp.

IMG_0195Behind the scenes, it’s the staff’s  intentionality in all the details and the spirit of the abundance and the fullness of God’s provision that impressed me. A philosophy of excellence, service and surrendered trust in God is apparent in every aspect of their ministry. This attitude in each moment and each task is what I want to bring home to my everyday life. Colossians 3:23-25 (MSG) says, “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.”

I saw these verses lived out daily in the staff, volunteers and activities at Sharp Top Cove. Despite their fatigue and the monotony of some of their jobs, it is those involved in the “daily grind,” the business of making Young Life Camp happen, whose faces  reflect the MOST love and joy. There’s a secret for me in that obvious truth. Another verse comes to mind,  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

rope swing
rope swing

The skits and singing, the lake activities and climbing, through cabin time and quiet time, delicious AYCE meals and soft clean sheets — everything point to the Gospel and Jesus. Everything. That’s how I want to live my life — as a living sacrifice, fully alive, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Loving HIm with all my heart. soul, strength and mind, and loving my neighbor as myself. I’ve never seen a sincere, living example of the Gospel quite like at Young Life Camp.

The Challenge? How do I bring it home to my daily grind? Don’t get me wrong… my life is wonderful in most ways. Still, there is a “daily grind” so to speak… meals to prepare, floors to clean, clothes to wash and bathrooms to scrub. Bills to pay, necessities to purchase, calendars to manage — and that’s all outside of the office! No one is really taking care of the details for me here.  In addition most of us in the sandwich generation juggle family obligations and privileges at a pace that’s hard to explain or achieve. We just feel  crazy busy and struggle to even fit in our quiet time. Even so, I feel God is saying, you can experience that same camp life, here and now. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

I think this post will be ongoing… as I uncover more of what God is saying to me, so I’ll start with a few observations, in no particular order.

  1. IMG_0225At camp, there seemed to be more time in the days — I didn’t feel rushed, yet it seemed MUCH was accomplished. We had a very full schedule, but I didn’t feel crazy busy. Unlike Young Life Camp, in my daily grind, it’s not so normal to see two or three huddled together in prayer. We rarely stop in the frenzy of our days, like the college-aged mountain bike guides (and all the others) did, to acknowledge God’s beauty, thank Him and ask for His protection — before racing off.  Even if we do fit in our morning quiet time, we often segregate that time with God away from the rest, and move forward from it into “real life.” If we don’t take God with us and talk to Him all day, aren’t we driving further from Him throughout the day?  I want to pray more freely throughout the day, inviting God into my mundane chores and meetings and others into my prayers.
  2. IMG_0280Despite all the wonderful activities and great group of friends, club, cabin time, chalk talks… all the times we met together to pray and to talk about Jesus were the highlight of the day for most everyone I asked! At Young Life Camp people literally line up and run in to hear about Jesus! The distractions of all those wonderful 2nd tier things that are fun and useful, diminished in importance throughout the week, and our relationship with Jesus and others increased. The days just got better and better as the camp swelled with God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s notable presence. I want to make Luke 10:27 my life verse: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” I can never be reminded enough that God and my relationship with Him is my priority! My purpose in this world. All the other wonderful components of this life on earth are for my enjoyment and important —  but EVERYTHING pales in importance next to God. Everything. And loving people and meaningful relationships is top on the 2nd tier.
  3. IMG_0180I sang more than I have in years! Loud and free! Worship songs,  favorites from the ages, even pop songs I’ve never heard. My grandmother mentioned my poor singing voice once as five year old little me belted out “Happy Birthday.” She was right! My voice is not beautiful, to say the least. But I’ve spent too many years mouthing the words and shutting music out. At camp I loved singing like no one was listening, because it was so loud no one could hear me! Music is so awesome for bringing  bound emotions to the surface. I’m not so good with itunes (at least since I changed computers) and all the modern marvels of music. I want to get with the times, and get more music in my life — including some of the current tunes I feel too old for. I want to be relevant today and use the voice God gave me!
  4. IMG_0171The kids can’t take the lake, the mountains, the toys or the service home. The work crew, cooks and staff won’t be tending my every need in Tallahassee. But there is Someone enduring we can take away  — and in Him, we take the BEST of what felt so good at Sharp Top Cove. The last days at camp the frenzy to DO all the activities weined. We were more content to BE. Engagement in relationships, regular worship, prayer and enjoying God and His creation are available everywhere. Young Life Camp is more than a place. It’s a way of doing Life to the fullest. I’ll try to flesh out what this looks like in the weeks to come. I already knew Jesus as my personal Savior when I went to camp — but back home, I still may not really believe this world and all God’s treasures are freely mine while I’m here. I’m still a little rushed and frenzied to  achieve and experience all the good things the world offers — but they aren’t the main event! I need to shift my focus. Live more like the latter days of camp where there might have been less scheduled events, less activities, but there was no way God or people were going to be squeezed out. He was the focus, the reason, the celebration, and the gift, in and for all else.

IMG_0562More to come as I continue to listen. For now, “Abba, thank you! You gave me several periods of rest — in Europe, at the beach and at Young Life Camp, because you love me and care about the details of my life. You removed me from the frenzy of the daily grind and spoke to my heart. Many of the more stressful circumstances of my life are not yet improved, but I feel Your Peace. Thank you for reminding me to rest in You, trust in You, and to find life and love in YOU!” In Jesus name, Amen.

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