How to Hit Home Runs in Real Life

Don't LoseFocus

I remember the heat, the red dirt of the field, and my coach feeding the yellow softball into the pitching machine.

And with an explosion of power and a WHACK—the ball soared over the center field fence.

Instant home run. Oh, how I wished that had happened during an actual game.

With raised brows—and grabbing a ball from the bucket—my coach simply said, “Let’s try it like that again.”

I never did. Sure I had great hits afterward, but I never hit the ball over the fence again.

Maybe I lacked the muscle, talent, or discipline. I don’t know.

A decade and a half later I’ve begun to see that hit as hundreds of variables colliding in just the right way—like an amateur golfer who hits his first hole-in-one.

The conditions lined up—the right pitch, speed, and wind. The perfect swing of the right bat meeting the ball at just the right spot, that “sweet spot.”

Life is like this, isn’t it? Sometimes circumstances line up, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity opens to us—a great job or running into the person you end up marrying.

On that day 15 years ago the only thing I really did right was to keep my eyes trained on the ball.

Focus.

Keep your eye on the ball. It’s simple advice that coaches hand out in T-Ball dugouts.

Though I haven’t touched a bat in years, I need this maxim now more than ever. Work, marriage, and motherhood grapple for my attention, and it’s easy to operate in emergency mode, where I lose myself to the day’s distractions.

Sometimes I convince myself that I control outcomes, but I know the only thing I really control is my level of focus.

Maybe your own dreams are sidelined, and it’s time to prioritize them again. Click To Tweet

We can work on our swing, sure, and improve our technique. But maintaining focus seems to trip up even the most practiced athlete.

Staying focused requires a mental fortitude, what my longtime coach and mother always called, “mental toughness.”

We must practice the art of training our eyes on the ball. But even still, every batter reaches a point where the ball falls out of their peripheral vision. Around mid-swing or so, batters must rely on muscle memory and . . . chance.

After every swing, there are only two outcomes—a hit or a strike. All we can do is try to connect with as many pitches that come our way, and know that God is in control of the outcomes.

And even if we strike out, we need to go down swinging. Because in the game of life, there’s always another pitch coming.

Hope for Those Feeling Weak

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I need you to tell me that I’m enough.

I texted my husband this message the way a sinking ship shoots up a flare.

Perhaps you’ve been in a similar sinking boat of emotions, feeling run down, depleted, or small.

Worthless, even.

I can barely whisper this bully of a word. I certainly don’t want you to know how I’ve cowered in its shadow most of my life.

Worthlessness is the single thread running through all my issues—all my hang-ups and failings.

Am I enough? Am I worthy of time, attention, affection?

This slave driver runs my life, driving me to prove myself to the world, but here’s the good news. We can choose to bask in God’s love.

We can trade worthlessness for wild love. Click To Tweet

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My friend Mary DeMuth just wrote a whole book on this subject. In Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love for You Makes You Worthy, Mary teaches us how to defeat the 10 lies that kill our worth.

If you find yourself engulfed in the flames of insecurity, this book extinguishes fire.

It teaches how to get off the treadmill of perfectionism, how to unshackle your worth from your to-do lists.

And I’m learning so much from it, bookmarking page after page, like this gem:

“If our worth is settled, we no longer have to run around this life desperately trying to prove it. We no longer have to use people’s opinions to feel better about ourselves. We can give up trying to do so many things in order to garner applause.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of doing things out of worry, fear, and guilt.

When we know God’s audacious love deep in our bones, “we live an abundant life based on our worth. We become irresistible to others who are hungry for our settled sense of worth and worthiness,” Mary writes.

So, when I’m tempted to believe my worth hinges on my productivity—how well I’m measuring up to my to-do list, I remember the truth.

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This book ya’ll!—if you buy and read one book this year, you won’t regret this one.

You are wildly, wonderfully loved. You don’t have to live with roller-coaster feelings of… Click To Tweet

 

 

The Myth of “One Day”

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For years I thought I could finally relax, finally rest and feel satisfied once my world was in the order.

Once my house was cleaned . . .

Once the kids were in bed . . .

Once we could save a little money . . .

Once our careers really got of the ground . . .

Once I attained my ideals I thought the emptiness—the gnawing hollowness and discontentment would fade. I thought once I achieved “enough,” I’d be satisfied, but that day never arrived. Click To Tweet

I finally did get my house cleaned, and the kids in bed, and a little money saved. Our careers really began to fly, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something.

Meanwhile, I had dinner to cook and soccer practices to cart the kids to. We bought a house in the suburbs, the kind of neighborhood I never thought I’d live in, with a lake and manicured lawns. Time slipped by and I kept sensing the hollow feeling, that I was meant for more and made for more.

I totally misinterpreted this restlessness. I pushed myself to produce and do more. And boy did I have things to do with the diapers and dishes stacking up. And then, in what must have been an act of insanity, I volunteered my husband and I to take over the youth group at our church. In the flurry of activity and then a new baby, I kept coming up empty. I knew the answer was in Jesus. Of course I did.

But I was Eve staring at that piece of forbidden fruit, dissatisfied with the known. Always wanting more.

The Path to Lasting Satisfaction

That first sin crippled mankind’s ability to live loved by destroying mankind’s relationship with God. The world has never been the same.

I picture sin’s entrance into the world a bit like the movie The Wizard of Oz, only in reverse. When Dorothy reaches the way to Oz, the yellow brick road, her world transforms from black and white into a Technicolor dream. Sin, on the other hand, left humans in grainy black and white, the absence of God’s presence.

Sin’s devastation wreaked havoc on the union Adam and Eve shared with God. It ended their strolls their the garden. I can’t imagine the regret Adam lived with, the gaping absence of God’s nearness. The pain he must have suffered the remainder of his life. How do you live in harmony with all of nature, wielding the greenest thumb of all time, only to battle with the ground by the sweat of your brow?

To know Love himself, but then lose intimacy with him? To go from ultimate satisfaction, finding identity in God alone, but to have that ripped away only to face frustration and discontentment?

Imagine winning an all-inclusive vacation package, complete with decadent food, expensive drinks, and an opulent suite, only to be kicked out of the resort. A few days later, you sit hungry and alone, eating leftovers out of a restaurant’s trash can on the other side of the island. You remember the taste of the creme brulee, the bubbly feeling of champagne in your mouth.

When you’ve tasted perfection how do you return to bland food?

The ache for more that we all experience is the echo of eternity written on our hearts (Ecc. 3:11). Click To TweetPerfect Love continues to woo us—the dissatisfied and disappointed, the forbidden-fruit eaters, the fail-ers and the unfulfilled. We don’t pursue God without him first pursuing us. We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). No one comes to the Father unless the Spirit first draws them (John 6:44). God invites us to seek fulfillment in him.

He longs to rescue us from eating out of the trash heap so we can be his guests at a never-ending feast.

Author’s note: The above is an excerpt from my work in progress, a book about chasing contentment in God.

Healing for Marked Hearts

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Nine-year-old Dipa lives in India. Her uncle raped her last week. But that’s not the truly shocking part.

More than half of Dipa’s fourth-grade class has been raped or molested, according to a 2007 government survey. Visit any playground or school in India, rich or poor, boys or girls—53 percent are victims of sex abuse.

The atrocity of sexual abuse spans the globe and millions just like Dipa suffer in silence. They need hope and healing for wounds that run deep, piercing even into adulthood.

But often that hope never comes. Many victims don’t dare risk the stigma and shame associated with telling their story. No one talks about sex abuse.

That’s where the Healing for Marked Hearts campaign makes a difference. The Christian publisher I work for hopes to  place a purse-sized book in the hands of these silent victims—a book translated into their own language.

Dipa speaks Marathi, and few resources exist in her language. As a Christian publisher we want to fix this problem, and we have the perfect solution.

Mary DeMuth gave us permission to translate her book, Not Marked—a guidebook for sex abuse victims—into Dipa’s language.

With your help, we can translate this book into Marathi, Mandarin, Spanish, and even more, to provide hope to Dipa and others just like her. Translating, producing, and printing books cost money, and we can’t do it alone.

Will you help us bring hope to these marked hearts?

Not Marked voices Mary’s healing journey and beckons readers to risk the same journey toward emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental health.

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Heal Marked Hearts with Ultimate Hope

The Healing for Marked Hearts campaign will equip churches, crisis centers, and missionaries with both the full-sized book and mini books.

Although full of practical advice for trauma survivors, “Not Marked” sets itself apart by offering everlasting hope. Sex Abuse victims bear scars only Jesus can heal.

Each book includes a beautiful story of the gospel, which brings hope. And fewer than 2 percent of people who speak Dipa’s language —Marathi— know Jesus.

This book may be the only opportunity for these victims to hear the hope Jesus gives.

How You Can Help

If you would like to help many like Dipa you can give here. Millions need the hope this book brings. The money from this Generosity campaign goes directly to producing Not Marked into Marathi, Spanish, and Mandarin. Donations cover:

  1. Translating Not Marked into 3 languages (full sized book, one Mini book version, and one Q&A Mini book)
  2. Editing
  3. Cover Designs
  4. Marketing
  5. Formatting
  6. Book Printing
  7. Shipping to these countries

Marked Hearts Costs

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Other Ways You Can Help

We understand some cannot contribute financially, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help.

  1. Share the campaign using Generosity’s sharing tools.
  2. Like our Facebook page.
  3. Check out our blog posts about sexual abuse.
  4. Ask God to use these books to change lives.

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Author’s Note: I originally wrote this post for my day job. But I couldn’t wait to share it on my personal blog. I want to thank you for helping make a difference for these marked hearts around the globe.

What Tom And Jerry Teaches us About Preaching the Gospel

Tom and Jerry

The Tom and Jerry cartoons always bored me. Why would anyone want to watch Tom chase Jerry for more than one episode?

Despite, Tom’s near catches, Jerry almost always outwits Tom. The same story told over and over again gets old.

Or does it? I never grasped Tom and Jerry’s power to hypnotize until my two-year old dragged me onto the sofa with him to watch. That day I understood why the cat-and-mouse franchise just celebrated its 75th birthday.

Right there on the sofa Tom and Jerry taught me three principles we as Christians need to embrace as we preach “Christ and him crucified,” (1 Cor. 1:23).

  • Children don’t watch the show to hear a new story. They watch see the old story told in a new and interesting way.

Tom and Jerry’s producers know how to reinvent the classic cartoon without losing its essence. Through updated music and modern animation, its creators keep the story relevant.

Churches must do the same. Creativity doesn’t change our message—it only enhances it. We need to tell the Christ story in a different way.

Books chock full of religious jargon, or “Christian-ese,” fill libraries. We need to find fresh words and replace stale analogies. When we talk to our friends about Christ, we need metaphors that relate to culture.

  • My kids watch to see the simple story unfold into new layers.

They find comfort in knowing how the basic story doesn’t change.

And isn’t this true of the gospel? We could live for 500 years and never plumb its depths or appreciate its beauty.

The gospel’s never-ending work in us keeps peeling callouses from our hearts and challenging us to new levels of love and grace.

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  • The story itself matters.

No one tunes in to see if Tom will actually catch Jerry (although he does a few times). Creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera understood this.

Likewise, Christians need to stand on the conviction the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus matter. But for an example of an old story told afresh, we can look no further than the Cartoon Network.

That day on the sofa I saw Tom dance the flamenco across the screen, in step with a castanet-clad kitty.

My five-year old’s eyes widened, probably anticipating the banana Jerry flings onto the platform.

I don’t remember the rest of the episode. I was too busy watching my son’s belly jiggle in laughter while I savored their wild guffaws, their eyes transfixed on the TV.

**Author Note: This story first appeared on Authenticity Book House’s website.

Four Things I Learned from Living with Cockroaches

Photo by Kathy via Creative Commons Flickr,

Photo by Kathy via Creative Commons Flickr.

Another Kathy photo, via CC Flickr. "Eating at night always makes me gain weight."

Another Kathy photo, via CC Flickr. “Eating at night always makes me gain weight.”

My ability to see a cockroach out of the corner of my eye borders on a superpower.

I honed this skill after five months of watching these creatures crawl back into walls when I turned on the kitchen lights.

I worked among roaches, too.

Since my work commute included a jaunt into the spare bedroom, crawlers surrounded me all day.

Can someone say heebie-jeebie? I shudder to type the word roach now, but I will for two reasons. I want to face my phobia and tell you what I learned about tough times from these little fellas.

1. Hard times can infest any home. Just as roaches don’t care whether you live in a mansion or a shack, difficult times are no respecters of persons.

We all go through valleys and slumps in life and have moments we long to do over.

2. Only God gives lasting peace. I know my little roach story may not compare to real suffering, but I know the One who carries us through the large and small trials.

This peace Jesus gives—this Peace He is—doesn’t go away. It’s permanent hope for our life and can be applied to ANY circumstance.

Believe me, those five months living with roaches tested me. Our roachy apartment showed me how peace can calm an ocean of fear.

We always have the ability to tap into this peace through prayer and meditating on His truth.

Kathy, you may have too much time on your hands. Still, nice name, "I think these make my antennae look fat." Via CC Flickr.

Kathy, you may have too much time on your hands. Still, nice photo title, “I Think These Make My Antennae Look Fat.” Via CC Flickr.

3. Cockroaches love a dirty house, like hard times love a messy life. Ever met someone whose drama never ends? At some point their drama snowballed and started creating its own drama.

Sometimes God leads us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and other times we pitch our tent there.

I wish I could tell you I’ve avoided self-inflicted difficult seasons, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Here’s what I know. My life gets “messy” when my thoughts stray from God’s truth.

When I choose to let my mind feast on the negative, tough times are almost sure to follow.

4. Move on and don’t let any bugs (or excess drama) come along. Since roaches are natural hitchhikers, I consider it one of God’s greater miracles these bugs didn’t follow us when we moved into our house four years ago.

These are the things nightmares are made of. But I did take a ton of precaution to keep the little dudes from jumping into our boxes. (I bagged everything in plastic).

Hard times teach us to rely on God. Sometimes we need extra time and care from Him. If you’re in one of these seasons in life, please believe, God longs to meet with you and speak to you. He’s not against you. He’s always for you.

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:2-5).

How to Scratch Out Joy On Your Worst Days

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While the dinner dishes sit in the sink, my body slumps into the sofa, mind and soul sagging.

Irritability sneaks into my voice. Or do my kids conspire against me to see how many times I will say “brush your teeth,” before I start yelling?

I know I need to stop for prayer. So, I resist the urge to conquer baths and bedtime routine for a much needed timeout.

If the timeout age rule—one minute for every year—applied to moms, I’d be in heaven. 31 minutes in the corner? Sure, sign me up. But I settle for five minutes, and the dialogue does a little like this.

“Help.”

Maybe toddler speak has stunted my vocabulary. Or maybe Anne Lamont is right, and “help,” “thanks,” and “wow,” are the most profound prayers of all.

Sometimes that’s all it takes—30 seconds of “Help me, God,” and Jesus resets the tripped breaker of my attitude. Other times, well, I’m in for a long night of rewiring.

Some days it’s a crank up-the-Hillsong-worship and come-to-Jesus-kind-of night.

Know what I mean?

There’s one guy in Scripture who really knew how to get alone with God. When life got REAL, David knew how to beckon joy.

We watch David grasp for gladness with this prayer. “May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness IN you,” (Ps. 70:4).

He didn’t look inward at himself, outward at his circumstances, but upward at God. David’s prayer gets better.

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“Those who LOVE your salvation repeatedly shout, “God is great!” (Ps. 70:5). According to David we “love” our salvation by thinking about it “repeatedly” and turning our thanks into woops of praise.

Yeah, if it sounds like all sunshine and roses, it’s not. David wrote Psalm 70 running for his life, hiding in caves, afraid to sleep—afraid to wake up with spear to his throat.

No one has ever brandished a spear at me, but I can relate to his desperation in the next verse.

“But as for me, I am poor and needy; please hurry to my aid, O God,” (Ps. 70:6).

David knew how to scratch out impossible joy on the worst days of his life. Once, when His wives and children had been captured, his camp plundered, we catch a glimpse of his secret.

“He encouraged himself in the Lord,” (1 Sam. 30:6).

We, too, can learn this holy habit.

David wasn’t practicing positive self-talk. Instead he made a warrior’s decision to place his faith in God.

Next time you’re discouraged, take a cue from David. Don’t look inward or outward—but look toward the only One who can speak courage to your fears.

Readers Won’t Forget the Book The Day I Met Jesus

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Books affect me and leave their mark, but it’s not often a book makes me feel like I’m sitting at the unsandaled feet of Jesus.

When I read The Day I Met Jesus, I felt like I had been transported back to the first century. As I read the inner thoughts of these women, I found soul sisters, kindred spirits and desperate women in need of grace.

I found myself on the pages of this Biblical narrative.

I bookmarked every other page to use as pull quotes in this review. I was tempted to save the last few pages for later, to savor it and to keep the book from coming to an end.

Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth have written a stunning book unlike any book I’ve ever read. Half of each chapter reads like a diary entry. The other half explains the Biblical text, providing historical context.

The Day I Met Jesus chronicles the day Jesus changed the story of these five women.

  • The prostitute who loved much.
  • The Samaritan at the well.
  • Mary of Bethany.
  • The woman with the “issue of blood.”
  • The woman caught in adultery.

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I didn’t expect this book to impact me the way it did. I didn’t expect the five fictionalized characters from the Bible to embed themselves in my heart.

I was a little nervous reading the fictional backstories of these women. But what Frank and Mary have done in this book breathes life into the Scriptural account.

No longer am I rereading the same stories I’ve read countless times. On the pages of this book, I feel like I’m meeting a real person. I’ve rediscovered the power of their faith and the radical Christ I fell in love with years ago.

I met Mary of Bethany afresh and watched her wrestle with the need to be an ideal woman—a battle I fight daily. I watched her throw away the need to please and enter a man’s world to sit at the feet of Jesus as his disciple.

She loved Jesus more than she cared about what others thought of her.

I wept for the woman with the “issue of blood.” I felt her ache and rejection. When she met Jesus, I rejoiced with her and saw Jesus anew through her eyes.

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I don’t have the space here to tell you how the women caught in adultery challenged the way I thought about my love for Jesus. I wish I could tell you how the woman at the well’s radical exuberance for the Savior challenged the way I approach sharing my faith.

I won’t soon forget this book, and you won’t either.

I’ve been a student of the Bible, formally and informally, for years, and I learned more about first-century customs from this one book than a pile of my theology books. The authors do a great job of explaining details that we as modern readers fail to see.

This book needs to line the bookshelf of every home and church library.

You can read the first chapter here, and buy it at 50% off here. Stay tuned for an interview with the authors this week!

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How God Remodels a Shabby Heart

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I wasn’t coincidence I booked the grungiest hotel room in North Dallas. I’m pretty sure the Sovereign God pre-planned the metaphor.

I entered a broken, near suicidal woman and penned the following in my journal.

My heart looks like this shabby hotel room.

Peeling wallpaper. Water-stained ceiling. Roach in the toilet. Curtains as old as me. Pictures one step up from clown art. Only the TV looks like it belongs in this decade. It’s in desperate need of a remodel—just like I am.

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I pour my life out and ask God to remake it. Will His Spirit hover over my chaos and confusion, like He once hovered over the depths? With my last bit of faith, I ask Him to remake me and create in me something beautiful.

I ask God to part the sea of anxiety I have been swimming in for months. My mind longs for silence, and I hope for death if only to quiet my anxious thoughts.

I can see myself pull the trigger. I imagine blood soaking the pillows and sheets, flowing along the seams of the mattress. I will wrap my head in a trash bag to stem the mess of blood. Will the bag be much help against a bullet?

Where do I place the gun? At my temple or the roof of my mouth?

When I entered that hotel room, I had forgotten God’s goodness. Fear bullied me. Bitterness and self-pity kept me company day and night.

In the bedside table lay a Gideon Bible. I lifted it out of the drawer and turned toward Psalms. The Psalms of lament were the only Scripture I could stomach. The first passage I read sparked hope.

“The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!’ Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful” (Psalm 116:3-5 ESV).

The verse hit me like a life preserver strikes a panicked, drowning woman, and I clung to the hope. I willed myself to believe in God’s grace and mercy.

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I began to pray that God would remodel me. I didn’t want to live a bitter, angry life. I didn’t want to just plaster a smile on my face at church. I wanted to live from a wellspring of joy.

Right on top of the quilted bedspread, I repented and asked for God to remake me. But how does God remodel our lives?

He usually starts with truth from his Word. When I let that truth seep into my heart, the remodel process began. Like a sledgehammer, it knocked down a structure of lies I had let the enemy construct.

God had to do more demolition work in my heart, but the work He started in that shabby room, he would complete. Not only that, he would lead me to healing through meditating on his Word.

Like balm on cracked lips, his Word infuses healing into our lives. “He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction” (Psalm 107:20 ESV).

I didn’t see a way out and I couldn’t envision hope, but he came and whispered truth to me.

That’s why I can confidently tell you God can lift you out of your pit, whatever your situation. It doesn’t matter if you dug the pit yourself. God can and will rescue you if you’ll let him.

Whether you war against anxiety, depression or another form of lies, Jesus is the door to peace. He is Hope itself.

The reason the Son of God put on flesh and stepped into time, happens to be you and me. The Doctor came to relieve the sick.

If your life is in need of a remodel, don’t settle for anything less than the remaking love of God.

Love in the Scribbles

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This is my youngest taking the opportunity to doodle in my journal while I gathered laundry.

I stared down at his soft curls and realized this is what we must look like to God when we take the pen of our lives and try and write our own stories.

We might hold the book upside down and tear the pages. We might draw all over our hands and feet. The best we can do is scribble on the page.

Still God’s crazy about us, just like I’m enamored over the inked drawings in my journals. They remind me of little hands who try to imitate me.

Sometimes we grow up a bit. We may even let God write a sidebar or two in our lives, the small stories. We might fight to maintain control of the main story. But the margins we freely give to God.

Just think what would it look like if we let God beyond the margins. What if we gave him more space to create in us, to recreate us?

What if we gave God the entire book of our lives to write what he pleases? Sure, he would write in more danger and kick us out of our comfort zones, but he would pen more adventure for us, too.

I’m certain he would map out more ways for us to love people. He would give us eyes to see the least, the low-down and broken, and in doing so we would see Jesus.

He would unite his church and the power struggles and insecurities would evaporate as Love himself perfected us.