Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Shameless Plug: I need your help (and your votes!)

This week I need your help!

I've applied for a scholarship to attend the IF:Gathering Local Leaders Conference for women this fall. It's an amazing event and I am one of 43 being considered. However, there are only five scholarships.

So I need your votes. If you've got a few seconds, would you mind going HERE, voting for me, and then sharing the link on your social media venues?

Voting is open until the 1st. So vote and spread the word! THANK YOU!

And as always, may you live shamelessly!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Guest Author Sheli Massie, Charcoal Stained Lips

I asked Sheli Massie to blog for me this week because her writing is raw and beautiful. She doesn't shy away from darkness or feel the need to wrap things up in a pretty little bow--and yet--she somehow displays the hope and redemption of God. I know you'll be moved by her story. 

Second floor of the dorm they had just completed that spring. I lay on the bathroom floor. 
Cold tile against my ribs. Hair matted with last night’s pasta with red sauce. Head propped on the toilet.

Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. Psalm 38:3

Not sure if my roommate could hear me crying. This time. This time I had taken too many. Too many little blue pills that promised to make me feel better and look thinner. 
She had tried to hide them in her room behind her Biology book.
I lay there and could taste the tears salty, wondering who would find me first. Maybe she hears me. Maybe she hears my emptiness.

I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. Psalm 38;8
I can’t move.
My heart is going too fast.
Someone see me.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light is gone from my eyes. Psalm 38:10

The ambulance came that night. As morning pushed her way in.
My brother knelt over me crying. I could hear them say someone had found me like this.
This way. The way where the price of being thin had now caught the attention of the entire campus as the sirens rang my addiction for the seminary student to judge.
Tubes shoved down.
Raw throat, black charcoal spewed over the grey tattered t-shirt of the boy who broke my heart.

Friends that would never come. Never come to see the girl with the charcoal lips. 
They had given up watching me pile bowls of cereal on my cafeteria tray. 
Cereal they knew they would hear coming back up within the hour.
They stopped asking me to go out to dinner with them. Wasting money on food. 
Wasted on a girl who cared more about the size of her jeans than the relationships she left walking through the bathroom door.

My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds, my neighbors stay far away. Psalm 38:11

They had tried to save me. Tried to send me nutritional printouts through campus mail. 
Tried to distract me with activities and conversations.

I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. Psalm 38:14

But where the mind wants to go there the addiction stays.

Trapped in the image of emaciation is where control was found. Where no one would see the pain that I  forced out multiple times a day. Toilets, trash cans, napkins, pillow cases, showers, ditches. When grief would surface, the quicker it could be driven out the more I could breathe. The more I could have control again.

Yet this morning. When night was leaving me there on the tiled floor. When the secret was made public. Here is where He found me. Here is where I began to see the emptiness. Emptiness  in the sin that had bled me of actually feeling. Another addiction that clouded any connection others tried to grasp from me.

Oh Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior. Psalm 38:21-22

Here on the tiled floor is where He met me. 

That is where He is meeting you.

Sheli is a writer on good days when a child isn’t puking or screaming or the dog hasn’t run away for the zillionth time or when the house doesn’t look like a Hoarders episode or she didn’t forget to pick up one of the five children from school. She lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband who has pushed her to be a better version of herself for sixteen years. She adores her best friends and she gets anxiety attacks around anyone pretty or skinny, so she stays in her yoga pants and writes about her redemptive story as a proud member of Redbud Writers Guild. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

10 Tips for "Pre-Public Speaking," My article for Gifted For Leadership

This week I'm over at Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership with
Before You Open Your Mouth: Ten Tips for the Work of Pre-Public Speaking

 Here's a sneak peek:

"As a ministry speaker and part of our church’s teaching team, I still fight nerves every time I’m preparing a presentation. So I am constantly on the lookout for public speaking tips. There’s fantastic advice for the speech itself—start with a bang; use your lower register; make eye contact; use a visual aid; end with an application—but in my own experience, the most important work of public speaking begins before even taking the stage.  Here are ten lessons I have learned about the power of “Pre-Public Speaking”:

1)   Preach to Yourself. Before you prepare a message, have you lived it? As my friend, Jen Michel told me, “You sort of know the Holy Spirit is in it when you’re preaching to yourself and crying as you go.”  Anything I speak or preach on has been born out of a conviction of sin, an emotional discovery, or a story of God’s faithfulness in my brokenness. Not that I have arrived, but at the very least, I have been laid bare before God and experienced his transformative love. This helps me authentically share it with others.... 

You can read the entire article here .

Tune in next week for a beautiful piece by writer Shelie Massie.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Non-Territorial Church Planting

I'm finishing up my last round of edits, but wanted to give you a quick update on our church plant.

Two weeks ago, Mission Church-- a church who has bravely partnered with us to help plant a brand new church in West Chicago-- took a donation for us.

They raised over $40,000 in 4 minutes!

It was a beautiful image of generosity and non-territorial ministry in the Kingdom of God. We are so blown away, humbled, and grateful--and will use these resources for the glory of God and the good of the neighborhood.

Mission also helped create this video to spread the word about Renewal Church. I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

On Grief, for Cameron: A Repost

Today marks a year since I wrote this post, a year since Cameron died. It's hard to believe. A year later, the grief is just as present, but I'm amazed at God's tenderhearted way of personally ministering to each of my family members. 

Cameron's loved ones have created a scholarship fund, in his name, for any Junior or Senior at MTSU, studying aerospace. If you are in the Tennessee area, or know anyone that is, spread the word. The info is below. 


“Please call. It’s an emergency.”

I received a text message last week, quickly calling back my mom, only to hear the traumatic news that my cousin was missing in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

As the pieces came together over the next few days, it became clear that our precious Cameron died in a tragic accident while snow-shoe hiking.

Heavy with grief for a life lost all too soon, we now undulate between rage, sadness, shock, and a twisted hope that this is all a nightmare. Like Tom Sawyer, Cam’ll show up at his own funeral. His mom will ring his neck and we’ll all have a good laugh.

But, that’s not going to happen.

My family traveled to Oregon, in his footsteps. Only to realize, without doubt, that an end had come.

A light had gone out.

Empty chairs sit at empty tables.

And so, we grieve.

I’m thick with it now and I have no answers.

I have no way, nor any desire, to wrap this up neatly in a bow.

I do have a lot of questions: How could God let this happen? Why didn’t He stop it? Is God who He claims to be?

But, I’ve learned I don’t have to sort out all of those answers right now; I just get to be sad with my sweet family. 

And I am.

I do find some comfort in knowing that God created each of us with unique personalities. He knows us fully and is not surprised by our grief. 

He knows some of us need tears, stories, and photos. Others need silence or screams. Some need music and pints of Guinness.

Indeed, He is a God who knows us intimately and knows death intimately. He has suffered for, and now, suffers with us.

But, how are we supposed experience any real comfort while in the grip of death's prideful cruelty?

Crowder’s song, I AM, says,

There's no space that His love can't reach
There's no place where we can't find peace
There's no end to amazing grace…
I am
Holding on to You
In the middle of the storm
I am holding on 
I am

If there was ever a place your love and peace needed to reach, Oh God, it is here.

During a recent sermon, my husband said this: “God’s joy is found in the dirt and the dust, in the most unexpected places of life.”

So, I echo: if there were ever a more unexpected place to find joy, Oh God, it would be here. 

Please give us glimpses. Help us cling to you in the middle of this storm. Remind us of your unending amazing grace. We so desperately need you now. 

Kevin and I are co-officiating a wedding ceremony this weekend. I’ve never been so thankful for these human, yet sacred, rituals. They serve as a reminder that things are cyclical—we will always carry our grief with us, but even in our pain, there is joy somewhere in the world.  

So, we grieve our boisterous and joy-filled Cameron as we live - one day at a time. 

All the while, stuck within that most miraculous and painful paradox: the kingdom and presence of God is already here, but not yet complete. 

Already and Not Yet, rolled into one.  

We endure brokenness alongside beauty, winter along with spring, and midnight together with the resplendent sunrise. 

Our deepest sorrows mingle with the most astonishing thing of all - hope. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I lugged a heavy suitcase down the stairs, hearing some unidentifiable thuds along the way. When I looked back to investigate the source of said thuds, I discovered the following: a pair of socks, a shirt, a swimsuit, a bottle of lotion. A trail of breadcrumbs down the steps behind me.

I forgot to zip up the suitcase before I carried it downstairs. No big deal, right?
It was a mistake, a mundane, inconsequential one at that. 

But without warning, this thought violently pinballed through my brain—

You are so dumb.

On another occasion, I was folding laundry in the living room when I accidentally spilled a little wine on the couch. (Yes, I drink wine to make it through all the folding. Don’t judge me. )

There it was again—

You are so dumb. 

Like a demented Sam I Am, this particular lie of shame is annoyingly persistent in my life these days. 

You are dumb going down the stairs. 
You are dumb sitting on chairs. 
You are dumb here and there. 
You should feel ashamed everywhere.

As if my mistakes mean my insufficiency.

I feel it heavily as I attempt to finish my book on overcoming shame. Who am I to tackle such a massive topic? I must be dumb, that's who.

C.S. Lewis said, “God did not die for a man because of some value He perceived in him…He loved us not because we were lovable but because He is love.”  (The Weight of Glory)

In the face of Shame-I-Am, I will try to remember this: I belong to the One who loves me, not because I zip up suitcases successfully, or never spill wine, or even write a perfect book. 

He loves me because He can't help but love. It's His very being. 

In Jesus, I will not feel ashamed here or there. I will not feel ashamed anywhere.

I am no longer Shame-I-Am's. 

I am I AM's.

And in Him...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pinterest Wishes and Overstock Dreams: A Repost on Bronwyn Lea's Blog

So thankful to my friend and sister Redbud, Bronwyn Lea, for reposting this piece (originally published at Several of you have asked about it--so here it is again, a slightly newer version. I hope you enjoy!

...There’s a reason why Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods and Disney’s latest production of the same title are bookended by two powerful words:  I wish. The point is wishing is cyclical. We wish. We receive. We wish again. 

While there is nothing inherently wrong with online shopping, I began fixating on what I didn’t have, couldn’t afford, and yet desperately longed for. I wasted long hours placing household items into online shopping carts only to delete them in a moment of anti-materialist resolve, only to later add them again.

My wishing swiftly mutated into obsessing, and likewise I transformed from a sweet Sondheim fairy tale character into a nighttime Gatsby; surrounded by my new beautiful kitchen while staring out at the Other Kitchens just out of reach. And all of this was literally in the span of a week.

In scientific terms: Girl. Gone. Cray. Cray. 

Incidentally, as swiftly as the wishing came, the shame followed....Read the rest of the post here

And receive regular doses of Bronwyn's amazing blog here.