Advent Devotions: Love

When I was in junior high school I began going on mission trips each summer to New Orleans. Our youth group would break up into teams and lead backyard Bible clubs in neighborhood parks. We always carried Evangecubes—an interactive tract—with us. One day I was sitting at the bottom of a slide with a little boy who was around 8 years old.

Advent Devotions: Peace

Isaiah tells us of a promise that will be fulfilled. Though he expects to see the promise fulfilled in his lifetime, he is left waiting and faithfully pointing toward the truth. This is the same promise that we are waiting for as we move toward celebrating the birth of the Christ child.

Advent Devotions: Hope

As I’ve prepared to explore Advent and journey through this season of waiting and watching, I’ve had one song stuck in my head. Well, one line from one song stuck in my head: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices….”

Advent Devotions: Introduction

On Sunday we will begin a journey through the season of Advent. During Advent, the start of the church year or liturgical calendar, we wait expectantly for the coming Christ child. I’ve never been a huge fan of waiting…is anybody a fan of waiting?

Two Advent Hymns

At this time of year, we look forward to Advent worship. A few years ago, I realized that we might benefit from some additional Advent hymns, so I wrote a couple and set them to the tunes of well-known Christmas hymns. If you think your church’s Advent worship might be enhanced by them, I’d be honored for you to sing them.

Extending Forgiveness

This morning, one of my small dogs needed a little TLC. As she cuddled next to me and I stroked her fur, I reflected that over the last year, a particularly hard one, God had often offered me TLC too. Some years ago, a trial by fire presented itself when I had been asked to step in and run two affiliated companies whose owners had passed away.

Connections 11.25.2018: Because Christ Reigns

As you probably know, we had an election back on November 6. As of this writing, they’re still counting votes here in Georgia and in several other states. As the process stretches on, one can detect a touch of holiday rancor in the air.

The Gospel According to an Enneagram Nine

From the time I was a child all I wanted was some peace. I swore to myself all through my childhood and teen years that my relationship with my future wife and children would be centered in peace. No fighting! Blessed are the peacemakers. I was down with that.

Connections 11.18.2018: Insight for Divisive Times

The United States political and religious climate is nothing short of divisive, often in devastating ways. Within my own extended family, there have been threats of withholding contact due to political and religious differences. One person asked how the other could claim to be a Christian while holding a particular point of view.

The Gospel According to the Enneagram Eight

I am an Eight. At my best, I stand up to bullies. At my worst, I become a bully. I am strong. At my best I protect the weak and vulnerable. At my worst, I’m paranoid about my own vulnerability and weaknesses. I am heroic. At my best, I seek justice, bringing down systems of oppression. At my worst, I push boundaries too far and destroy lives.

The Blissful Affliction of Writing

I used to set my schedule around Monk on Friday nights. In case you missed it, Monk was a detective series on the USA Network that let us follow the adventures of an obsessive-compulsive genius named Adrian Monk. There was no doubt that Monk was a detective genius. He could solve crimes no one else could solve.

The Gospel According to an Enneagram Seven

In the deepest motivations of my heart, I am struck by how similar I am to the disciple Peter. I’m quick to come to the fight and chop somebody’s ear off all for a good cause (John 18:10). I am so energized by an exciting moment and eager to work that I miss the point (Matthew 17:1-8).

Different Drummer

Years ago, I was sharing with a very dear friend some issue with which I had been dealing. Very much like my mother, my friend always laughs at my stories, even the ones in which I’m complaining or seeking her advice.

The Gospel According to an Enneagram Six

As a child, after lights out, I would use a flashlight to illuminate my journal as I wrote list after list of the things I was worried about. First on that list was always gym class. Also making frequent appearances: tests, friends, and anything out of the ordinary.

The Gospel According to an Enneagram Five

When Drew asked me to consider adding to a blog series of all nine Enneagram types, I was intrigued by the challenge, honored to serve, and immediately overwhelmed by the pressure and world-wide-webyness of whatever I would submit. Welcome to the world of the Five (The Thinker).

The Gospel According to an Enneagram Four

As an Enneagram Four, I tend to want the world to be ideal. I’m caught in a constant internal struggle of how my actions can create a more authentic experience for myself and how I can feel more connected to the world around me. As a Four, I’m all about the ideals and feels.

Follow the Leader

One day, Jesus asked his disciples what they were hearing people speculate about him. They offered various answers. Then Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. A disciple named Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

The Gospel According to an Enneagram Three

Enneagram Threes find their value in how others perceive them, especially in regard to what they do and accomplish. For this reason, we Threes are very goal-oriented. We tend to be the people you call to get something done. We adapt to situations so that you will still think we are great even when we aren’t.

The Gospel According to an Enneagram Two

I love when science and religion so perfectly come together to enhance our overall health. Healthy Twos are compassionate, unselfish, and generous. Sincere in their love for others, they focus on a life of service and encouragement. In truth, however, most helpers have ulterior motives.

The Gospel According to an Enneagram One

It’s a familiar story. The Pharisees, concerned that Jesus cares nothing for the law, test him with a real life case study: a woman caught in adultery. Jesus, instead of answering, stoops in the dirt to write with a stick.

The Gospel According to the Enneagram

Whenever I read these words from Jesus to Nicodemus, I think of the messages I heard as a teenager about what it meant to be a Christian. I was told that there was supposed to be a separation in my life between who I was before and after I “accepted Jesus into my heart.”

Walks and Talks

This summer, I went for a long walk on the beach with my oldest son, Mack. We were at the tip of Florida where the shells are amazing. The waves are mild so the mollusks don’t bury so deep in the sand. Because of this, they are brought in by the gentle tide and land on the shore.

The Holy, Hard Things

I have had the honor of having two Papas on this earth, my father and grandfather. Both were men who loved God, sharing God’s good news every opportunity they had.

Connections 08.19.2018: Really Real

I can still see the beloved pastor of my growing up years standing behind the communion table, speaking words meant to prepare us for the Lord’s Supper. They went something like this: “Now we know that the bread isn’t really the body of Jesus.”

Loving Charlottesville

Early on the morning of August 12, 2017, my husband and I woke up, got dressed, and drove a little over a mile to West Main Street in Charlottesville, Virginia. We find ourselves on West Main Street a lot; our favorite restaurant, Mel’s, is there—they have the best burger and the warmest welcome in town.

Lamb Hugs

Earlier this summer I wrote a blog post about returning from a trip to Texas with my husband, Nick. While we were in our home state we spent the night with Nick’s family in Houston. We then jumped in our rental car and met my parents for brunch in the tiny town of Hearne as we drove to Waco.

Tend

Years ago, I had a wild dream. In the dream, I was carrying around a container full of gross stuff. I would take care of this container, show it to my friends. It went with me everywhere I went. Weird, huh?

Formations 07.08.2018: Eating in Worship

When the Bible says, “Break down their altars, smash their pillars, burn their sacred poles with fire, and hew down the idols of their gods, and thus blot out their name from their places,” what do you do (v. 3)?

Connections 07.01.2018: Journeying through Grief

“Grief Is Complicated.” My first thought when I read the title for this lesson was Well, that’s an understatement! Anyone who has experienced grief—no matter the cause—knows that it is more than complicated.

The Day I Lost My Sam

It’s funny how in losing something, you find something else. Like when you’re looking for your lost earring under the dresser and you find that Lego piece your son needs or paperclips or cut toenails. Gross. Who finds cut toenails under their dresser? Definitely not me.

Very Short Commentaries

Recently, WIRED asked some science fiction, horror, and fantasy writers to follow in Hemmingway’s footsteps and write a short story in only six words. This project is crying for a biblical application.

David, a Warrior after God’s Own Heart: Community

We see many of the needs of our returning service members and their families by also looking at Psalm 69 and the life of David, a warrior himself. This week, for our final devotion in this series, I want to focus on verses 12-13.

David, a Warrior after God’s Own Heart: Guilt

We’ve been focusing on some of the struggles that veterans face after coming home from war and how we might help them. But we’re looking at those needs through a unique perspective: the eyes of biblical hero King David, who was also a warrior for most of his life.

David, a Warrior after God’s Own Heart: Enemies and Family

Pretty much all of us here have enemies, but I doubt any of us have the kind of enemies that David had. David had been facing enemies since he fought Goliath as a young man. His own mentor Saul repeatedly tried to kill him. The Philistines tried to kill him. In fact, while king, all the surrounding nations were trying to kill him and destroy Israel.

David, a Warrior after God’s Own Heart: Depressed?

David is in a bad place. He has been sinking in the miry depths, the floodwaters are rising over his head, and he can no longer get a foothold. He’s in trouble so he is calling out to God for help. In fact he has already been calling out to God. He says he’s been calling for God’s help so much that his throat is parched.

David, a Warrior after God’s Own Heart: Drowning

I’m excited to begin with you a five-part series looking at the life of David through the lens of Psalm 69. We will discuss this psalm from the perspective of David, not just as a king but as a warrior.

Broken Spirits and Dry Bones

We have a friend in the Bible named Isaiah. God was looking for someone to deliver some hard words to God’s people. Isaiah had an incredible encounter with God involving an angel and some coal (Isa 6). And after this experience, he told the Lord “I’ll go, send me.”

“Find God”

So, I decided to clean the top of my desk. I try to do this at least once every 25 years whether it needs it or not. Among the stacks of papers, I came across a list, at the top of which I had written “Find God.”

“Band-aids Just Hold the Blood In”

This is what my 7 year old told me after a nasty bike fall in the cul-de-sac. He came in scraped on every bony part, a little bloody, but mostly just sad. He’s my sensitive one. He needs lots of sleep, hugs, and kind words. His heart is very tender and can be broken in an instant.

“Be Still and Know that I Am God”

Of all Bible verses, “Be still, and know that I am God!” is one of my favorites (Psalm 46:10). A hyperactive individual all my life, just being still is a challenge. And controlling the mind? An act of Congress could not do it, so that’s a feat better left to God. Praise the Lord, I have tried numerous, varied, untold places to pray and meditate.

Lent. The Ugly Step-Sister Season.

Lent… It’s not Christmas, that’s for sure. It’s not a season when we’re hanging the holly and lighting the tree, twinkling and throwing gifts around like confetti and singing carols to strangers. It’s not a season that glitters.

Connections 03.11.2018: To Know You

One of my favorite Christian singer/songwriters is Nichole Nordeman. She put out nearly a dozen albums at the beginning of her career and then took a ten-year break to be home with her children and navigate a personal crisis.

Faith and Science

Every great once in a while, my father, the late great Champ Ruffin, would decide it was time to get a new used car. He had one main criterion for any vehicle he purchased: it had to have four doors. The reason was that we transported “the ladies” (as he called them) to church every Sunday.

When Words Catch Fire

When I remember the Saturday that my seven-year-old self spent in the church library while her father worked on his sermon down the hall, details are missing. I don’t know how long I was there, the name of the book that moved my imagination, or who its author was.

Jesus Would Not Have Denied Me Communion

My husband Paul and I have been married for more than 47 years! We are as alike as jelly and jam and as different as whole wheat and rye. He grew up in the northern United States; I grew up in the South. He’s Catholic and I’m Baptist; for the most part that distinction has never been an issue.

“How Do You Write So Much?” Tips for Aspiring Writers

I get folks asking me quite often, how do you write so much? I have written over twenty articles, several chapter essays, four books, and I have a few manuscripts I am working on now. Here are my seven tips.

Try Writing with Friends for Lent

Writing in groups creates that kind of wonder. I’ve seen it show up around classrooms tables when people who had spent their lifetimes in the same congregation share their longing for a deeper faith for the first time.

Greeting God

Greet God each morning with open arms! When our children were young and my husband and I would come home from work, they would run to us with arms open wide, overflowing with happiness and love. How I miss those times of unrestrained, all-encompassing love.