Over the past few weeks, prolific blogger and author, Tim Challies, has posted a series of tweets and an article lamenting the changes he is seeing in the blogosphere. In short, writers are simply abandoning blogs, at least blogs that are personally owned. I believe he is right and as I’ve thought about it in regards to my own site, I know why I have not posted as frequently and it is simple, time.
It takes time to write, then edit, and then have someone else edit. Writing often takes research and reading and referencing. Then you have to upload it, add links if you have any, find a picture that works, and make sure when you hit publish it actually publishes correctly. That has been my experience and I’ve had to weigh whether or not I can spend that amount of time and effort on a blog or if it would be best spent writing articles for other outlets where there’s an editor in place and someone who can take the time to upload the post, etc. And evaluating my own blogging habits has also revealed a level of fear.
I think part of the desire to write and edit and rewrite is because people are actually reading my words and I don’t want to publish something with errors or something that could prove to be unhelpful. I want my work to be readable and relate-able. I also fear the Lord—I will give an account for every word typed on this site. Yet, I also believe there’s an unhealthy fear. I don’t want to be thought of as a terrible writer. I want to polish my craft and make sure that the commas are in the right place and the grammar isn’t awful. I hesitate then to publish because I want to look good. That’s a terrible reason not to write. In my heart of hearts I desire to serve you, my reader, and also in the back of my mind I wonder if I’m good enough. Did that sentence need a comma? Am I using passive voice? Yes, those are the things I worry about.
I imagine that temptation to fear pushing publish isn’t isolated to me. I know it’s not. I know others fear but for other reasons. Mine is about grammar but I know others would be about content. People hesitate to write because they want to make sure it appeals to the current issues of the day or that the reader would enjoy reading the content rather than writing about something the author actually enjoys writing about.
So, what you’ve stumbled upon here is a first draft. (Actually, my computer froze and I lost the last two paragraphs. So, this part is new. See, writing takes time!!) Over the next few months, I’m going to write first drafts and post them. No editing. No scheduling when it’s done. I’m going to write when I can during the week, giving myself about 30 minutes and then post it. I will look for a photo but I’m not going to spend more than 5 minutes hunting. I will write about whatever my heart desires: my time with the Lord, the weather, what I’m reading, confession, whatever. This series will be appropriately called First Draft. J
What about you?
Do you read blogs or has your blog reading slowed down? Are you a writer and have you stopped posting on your site? What would you enjoy seeing me write about? If you had a blog, what would you write about?
If someone had come up to me on the morning of my wedding day and asked me if I knew my husband-to-be well, I would have said yes without hesitation. Now, fifteen years later, I realize that while I did know him before I married him, I know so much more about him now. Our relationship has deepened, and my knowledge of him has exponentially increased since our wedding.
Why? Because we’ve spent hours upon hours together. We know each other’s history. We know our backgrounds. When one of us reacts to something, the other knows the context from which the reaction comes. We know each other because we have studied, learned, enjoyed, and listened to each other over the course
of these many years. And I’m looking forward to learning even more in the years to come!
It takes time to really know a person—and the same thing is true about getting to know the Bible. After nearly twenty years of “living with” the Bible and many, many hours of study, I’m only beginning to scratch the surface of its rich depths. And even with all my studying, I realize I will never exhaust the potential depths of learning about the Lord.
My hope is that you and I would get to know our Lord in greater ways through If God Is For Us, a study of Romans 8, a cherished book and favorite chapter. If you ask believers for their favorite book of the Bible, many would place Romans at the top of the list. And if you were to take a survey and ask what specific chapter in the Bible has had the most impact on their lives, a number would name the eighth chapter of Romans—and for good reason.
Tim Keller has written that “the book of Romans is the most sustained explanation of the heart of the gospel, and the most thrilling exploration of how that gospel goes to work in our hearts.”1 I agree wholeheartedly. And to me, Romans 8 is the heart of that great letter. It provides the assurance of this great salvation, summed up in its first compelling sentence, which proclaims to its reader that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (8:1).
That amazing declaration would be enough, but there’s more, so much more. We learn throughout Romans 8 that:
- The Spirit is actively at work in us (8:4–11);
- We are heirs with Christ, the adopted children of God (8:12–17);
- Our suffering is for a great purpose and doesn’t compare to the glory we will
- Even in our weakness, the Spirit is at work (8:26–27);
- God is working all things for our good (8:28);
- And absolutely nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ (8:31–39).
Need I go on? Oh, I can, and I want to! I haven’t even gotten to the five life-changing questions that solidify our conviction that God is absolutely, undeniably for us (8:31–38).
So in case you’ve been concerned whether a single chapter in a single book can sustain an entire six-week study, don’t worry. We could probably spend another six weeks—or a lifetime—and still find more.
If God Is For Us will take us on a journey into Romans 8, reminding us of our great salvation, our inheritance, and ultimately the love of our good Father. Romans 8 can be easily quoted—and often is—but through If God Is For Us I hope that we might meditate deeply on it, soaking in the goodness of this truth and rejoicing in the mind-boggling reality that God intends nothing but good for us. My prayer is that, together, we’ll gain a greater understanding of the significance of this passage of Scripture and why these verses mean so much to so many.
We will accomplish this through reading the text, through studying God’s Word, through daily reflection on the passages, and ultimately through prayer. But God must do the work in our hearts for us to understand. Let’s ask God to help us as we seek to know the God of our salvation in ever-deepening ways.
Grab the Book and Make It Work For You!
If God Is For Us is formatted to provide flexibility and I encourage you to make it work for you! It’s designed to be done in a group setting or individually. Here are just a few of the possibilities.
- Do the study entirely on your own at home.
- Meet daily with a few friends in-person (maybe for coffee) or online to share
your response to the devotionals and the questions.
- Try a combination—do some of it (like the devotionals) at home and some of it (like selected study or reflection questions) in a weekly group gathering. Or study at home and then come together to discuss your insights and discoveries.
You can follow the suggested pattern of five days of study, two days off, or you can stretch out the material to cover six or even seven days. Personally I like the idea of reading and study on one day, devotionals and reflections on five more days, and then taking a “sabbath” day of rest.
My hope and prayer is that you would enjoy God through this study!
Grab the book at Amazon! You can also purchase it at other retailers and see what others have said about the book on my book page: If God is For Us.
Over the past month, I’ve enjoyed a new-to-me outlet for sharing and encouraging the church: podcasts. This fall and winter I have the joy of participating in not one, but two of these. Here’s more about both—plus a little info about a challenge I’ll be taking in November.
United? We Pray
United? We Pray is a podcast that calls for prayer about racial divisions in churches. I’m honored to join my friend Isaac Adams as we dive in to various topics related to race and, most important, pray together about these topics. We want to encourage Christians who are laboring to see racial unity and justice to join us.
God has limitless wisdom and strength, but we do not, and the trials and complexities of race and racism often challenge our capabilities to think and act in redemptive, effective ways. Yet we do have a powerful resource available to us—prayer. In the Bible, when people realized their limitations, they usually prayed. They prayed to the God who can do more than any of us can imagine (Eph. 3:20), the God who commands his children to cast their anxieties upon him because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7) the God who is more eager to give than we are to receive.
You can learn more at the website praypod.com or go straight to iTunes to listen: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/united-we-pray/id1289500755?mt=2.
Listen in every other Wednesday.
ERLC Podcast “How to Handle” Series
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (where I work) has a podcast that typically features talks from conferences. I decided to change it up for a season to include a series called “How to Handle” We live in a world where issues arise in the news and culture daily. Behind every issue, however, is a person—a person made in the image of God. This new ERLC Podcast series, “How to Handle,” will tackle tough issues for today with the hopes of equipping the church to address the topic, help those struggling with sin and temptation, and care for those who may have been or could be harmed. Every week I will be joined by a guest who is knowledgeable in the area as we explore ways to handle each issue.
You can access it here: https://erlc.com/resource-library/podcasts/recently-added
Listen in every Monday.
Perhaps you’ve heard of NaNoWrMo—or National Novel Writing Month. It’s a fiction-writing challenge in which writers take the month of November to churn out 50,000 words—yes, 50,000 words! Because I’m always up for a challenge and I have a long list of writing projects I need to complete, I’m joining some friends to take the challenge! But because I am not a novelist and I don’t desire to be one, I am concentrating my efforts on a new book project (can’t wait to share more!), a Bible study (yes, the Lord has given me the opportunity to write a Bible study—more soon!), and smaller projects that must be completed.
Here’s my plan: instead of setting a goal I must hit each day, I am logging my daily word count with the goal of writing 50,000 by the end of the November. I might set an individual daily goal simply to keep myself on track, but the main goal is that total at the end of the month. Each Monday I’ll check in with my friends to let them know how I’m doing.
Want to join us? You can either sign in at the official NaNoWrMo site or, if you’d like to take up the challenge with me and my friends, simply check in here each Monday for writing encouragement and short update from me. Write a comment and let me know how you are doing.
Hope you’ll listen in on the podcasts and join me as I take off on a writing adventure this November!
Often American-focused discussion about ethnic differences gets narrowed to just Black or African Americans and White Americans. It is fairly understandable, given US history, that we’d focus so much attention on black and white relations. My hope for God’s Very Good Idea, however, is that it would encourage all people made in the image of God to celebrate the differences in each other. God’s word says that we will be rejoicing with every tribe, tongue, and nation for eternity. That’s why I’m thrilled to share with you where you can find God’s Very Good Idea around the world. (Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. Click on the link below the country to find God’s Very Good Idea)
The Good Book Company
Internet Bookshop Italia
SKS Books ( Coming soon. The Singapore retailer has not yet listed the book on their site even though they’ve ordered it.)
The Good Book Company
And of course here in the US
The Good Book Company
Barnes and Noble
and anywhere Christian books can be purchased (independent Christian stores)
If you know anyone in these locations around the world, please spread the word!
It’s been a while since I’ve simply updated you on what I’m up to, so I thought I’d take a moment to do so today. Our news feeds have been filled with discussions about the election, and though the election is incredibly important to continue to address, I’d like to simply take one moment to share about something else. I have written an article for the ERLC on how we might pray for the President-elect, so I hope you’ll check it out and join me in praying.
On the personal front, January through November has been a wonderful whirlwind of writing and speaking. As I travel and get to know people around the country, I’ve often been asked questions about writing, the writing life in general and how I got started. First of all, thank you for visiting and reading at my site. I pray that what has been posted here has been an encouragement to you. So, in light of those frequently asked questions, I’m focusing today’s update on writing.
How did you start writing?
I started writing in high school, experimenting with poetry and quickly realizing that it wasn’t the genre for me. I loved research then and continue to today. I’d be the one person eager to do a term paper. So, in college I realized that research was a passion of mine. And I also enjoyed the idea of journalism and began writing (infrequently) for my college paper.
Once I got married and had our first child, I decided I wanted to work from home and the most logical and practical step for me at that point was to pursue what I had done in the past—writing. So, I pitched some stories to our local paper and began a wonderful journey into freelance writing for my local newspaper.
Although I loved writing feature articles about people, events, and interest stories in my local community, I knew that I wanted to write more reflective and perspective pieces, specially from my Christian worldview. That’s when I asked my editor at the local paper if she’d allow me to write a column. She said, yes, and because I like to tiptoe into the deep waters of all sorts of difficult topics, I wrote about biblical submission (I assume you now see the sarcasm. Ha!). I loved it! So from there, I started a blog.
Within a few months, I realized that writing from my Christian perspective was a way I wanted to encourage, inform, and minister to others. I had always been in ministry one way or the other, and it seemed the Lord was leading me down this path. It was confirmed by my husband, Thern, an agent, and then from organizations like Desiring God and the Gospel Coalition and the rest is a bit of history. I’ve been writing consistently ever since.
How do I get started writing?
The answer to this question will be short and sweet: you write. Start a blog, maybe. Or, journal. But if writing is something that you are truly interested in, then just start writing. A lot of people want a five-step plan to publishing or a clear path that I might be able to share. The truth is, every writer’s story is incredibly different. I’d hate to give you more advice than to simply write. If you begin that and can do it consistently, then you’ll know if you want to do it more. Writing can seem glamorous to those who desire to do it…until you actually do it! Then you realize that it can be lonely, hard work. But I hope you’ll go for it if that’s your desire! So, grab your pen (I’m so old school) and get to writing.
What’s next for me?
Here’s the short update: next week I’ll begin sharing more about my newest book Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts. But I’ll let you in on something exciting—I have an Advent devotional that will be available soon with a pre-order purchase of Enjoy! There are a few other exciting projects coming down the pike—and the moment I’m able to share I will!
What about you?
Do you have a story that you’d be willing to allow me to share and feature on my site? Is there a way that I might pray for you? Whatever it is, I’d love to hear from you. And know that though I may not be able to answer every email—I do indeed read them all and I’m so grateful when I receive one from you.
At the beginning of the year, there are many of my friends who choose a word that they hope will be “their” word for the year. Words like: gratitude, peace, balance, and flourish. They then spend the year thinking about the word, if I understand correctly, trying to experience the word or even be motivated by the word. I, obviously, have never chosen a word for the year—except, I think, I’ve discovered that this year a word chose me. Throughout the first seven months of the year, I’ve had a renewed conviction and desire to think about stewardship and specifically stewardship in writing.
This year I decided that I would be more intentional about my writing. I want to steward the ministry the Lord has given me. I think, in the past, I’ve been much more reactionary in my writing. In other words, if someone asked me to write a piece or contribute somewhere I’d say yes. But lately, I’ve been eager to prayerfully and intentionally consider how I might serve those who read my work in greater ways. I want to wait on the Lord more, consider the series I post on my site, oh, and actually write on my site! That’s been missing over the past several years. While I have been writing, I haven’t written nearly as much as I would like on my own site. Part of my renewed desire to steward my writing well, is to contribute to the writing home that the Lord has given me.
That’s one reason I’ve stepped up my writing here. If you’ve missed anything, I hope you’ll check it out! My hope is that I’d steward this ministry well to the glory of God. And my prayer is that you’d be encouraged in your faith and Christ would be magnified through my tiny efforts here. That’s my hope.
As part of this stewardship, I’ve been thinking about how the Lord has uniquely gifted me in writing. I’m often asked how I got started, which I’d trace all the way back to when I began exploring writing as a young girl, writing poems and songs with my father. I wasn’t exceptionally good with poetry and as I entered high school, I realized I was most suited for research. In college I continued in that research vein and I also dabbled in journalism writing for our university paper. After college and after my first child, I began to do freelance journalism with my local paper The Knoxville News-Sentinel. I spent several years writing frequently for the paper. I loved every minute! My concentration was mainly on feature stories—writing about community people, events, and unique stories. My favorite story, which is unfortunately no longer available online, took me to the streets of my town interviewing buskers. I loved learning about their lives, hearing their stories, finding out what made them tick, discovering why they were homeless—if, in fact, they were homeless.
Reflecting on that piece specifically makes me think that despite the fact that we see words every day—many words—there are still so many untold, remarkable stories. Although I love what I do now, I miss journalism. I miss sharing others’ stories.
That’s why I’d like to ask you to consider letting me tell your story.
I’m looking for individuals, male or female, with unique and compelling stories of strength, survival, courage, selflessness, suffering, perseverance or quiet service. That’s a lot! But it’s intentionally broad because stories shouldn’t be measured by glitz and glam, and neither should they be limited to the popular. The most encouraging stories I read are of those ordinary people who are relying on their extraordinary God. So, that’s what I’d love to hear from you.
If you have a story that you think could encourage others or if you have a friend who you think would be great as a part of this feature, please contact me via my contact page and let me know. I may end up pitching these to some of my friends at The Gospel Coalition or Christianity Today or, depending on the subject matter, could be posted at the ERLC. But most likely, they’d find their home here on my site.
Would you let me tell your story? If so, go ahead and contact me.