I vividly remember my first shopping trip to purchase my first “real” Bible. I gathered up all my babysitting money and excitedly entered my local Christian bookstore. My balloon filled with enthusiasm promptly popped when I made it to the Bibles section. There were so many choices! After staring at them all, and haphazardly picking up samples to look through, I hesitantly chose a big black leather-like Bible—mainly because it looked studious and super-spiritual. I did not end up using that Bible much. In hindsight, it was a poor fit for me for many reasons.

You see, I was a toddler in the faith—actually not quite yet walking. I crawled around desiring to grow up and become closer to God. I just knew that getting a brand-new Bible would be the answer. But the version and type I chose was all wrong for me. This particular Bible lacked the simplicity and extra helps I really needed at that point in my spiritual journey. Plus, behind the study notes were beliefs that were a far cry from my own. This led to even more frustration and confusion. If I could go back and stand beside my former self, I would help past-Katie narrow down her choices in order to find a Bible that would fuel her burgeoning desire for the Bible and arm her with the basics of the Bible she needed.

That was in 1996, and the options today are much more numerous than they were then. So if you are in the market for a new Bible today, you might be just a bit overwhelmed! Past-Katie certainly would have been. She might have just walked out of that bookstore and given up on this walking-with-God thing.

So how do you know which one is going to be the best purchase for you? Before you go dropping dough on a Bible, you need to know the answers to three questions.

Why are there so many versions of the Bible?

The Bible was not originally written in English. Duh, right? But I won’t tell you how old I was when that fact finally dawned on me. I guess I just never really thought about it. It is important to recognize this fact because it will help us understand why there are so many different versions of the Bible (it can also help us with Bible study later on). Specifically, it is useful to understand that each publisher that has produced a new Bible has a purpose and a target audience. Some of them want to provide an accessible Bible that is super-readable to the everyday public. Others want to remain as true to the original text as possible, providing a better version for study. Therefore, each team of translators choose between “thought-for-thought” and “word-for-word” approaches, depending on what their end goal is.

If you are new to the Bible and/or want to do mostly Bible reading, I suggest you stick with one of the “thought-for-thought” translations below.  If you want study the Bible, a “word-for-word” translation is going to be most helpful. I think a healthy mix of using both types over time is ideal. There are loads of free Bible apps and websites that allow you to toggle between translations. I’m not super-familiar with all of the translations out there, but here are several I’ve had experience with. Those closer to “word-for-word” are listed first and as we move down the list, we migrate more and more towards “thought-for-thought” translations.

  • New American Standard Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NASB) – I grew up on this version and it was the primary version I used for study until the ESV came along.
  • English Standard Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (ESV) – This is the translation I’ve used since 2005 for all my deep studies and most of my Scripture memory.
  • King James Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (KJV) – I’ve never used this much, but it is certainly a popular version.
  • New King James Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NKJV) – I used this for a little while but it never stuck with me.
  • Christian Standard Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (CBS) – My husband and I have several new Bibles in this version, and have been trying them out for the past year or so. It claims to be the “optimal blend of accuracy and readability.” We like it.
  • New International Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NIV) – I’ve never been a huge fan of this version either.
  • New Living Translation Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NLT) – I enjoy this as fresh look at familiar verses.
  • The Message Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! – This is technically not a translation, it’s a paraphrase. So it is definitely a “thought-for-thought” and can be helpful if you find yourself completely unable to understand what a passage is saying. (Keep in mind, however, this is only one man’s thoughts on the passage.)

Mardel has a super-helpful chart of all of the above translations, alongside several others, and how they rank on the scale of readability and accuracy, as well as loads of other helpful information.

What is the difference between aaaaall the types of Bibles?

Once you’ve narrowed down your versions (translations), you need to understand the different types of Bible you want/need. For each translation, you will find several different types of Bibles available, thus a myriad of combinations can be found. Here are the main categories of Bibles typically found on the shelves.

  • A Bible – This is just a plain ol’, regular Bible. There might be a few textual notes in the bottom margin, but typically these contain only the book titles (Genesis, Ephesians, etc.), maybe a few headings throughout each book, and the chapter and verse references. These are often referred to gift edition, slimline, compact, or thinline Bibles. One example is this pretty “Premium Gift” teal Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! .
  • Study Bible – These are typically very thick Bibles, filled with loads of helpful information. Most include important info like the author, audience, and aim of each book, commentary (teaching and explanation by the really smart people who have studied the Bible in an academic setting and know what they are talking about), charts, and maps interspersed throughout—all geared toward helping you understand what you are reading/studying. Many study Bibles are geared around a certain Bible study method or even a theme, which often means the commentary provided will be mostly within that subject. Study Bible examples: ESV Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , CSB Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , Inductive Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!
  • Devotional Bible – Typically geared toward a certain group of people (women, men, students, children, etc.), these Bibles contain short devotional thoughts and stories throughout each book of the Bible. You can think of them like a devotional book all split up and appropriately placed into the Bible for you. Examples include the (in)courage Devotional Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (I contributed to this one!), She Reads Truth Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! FamilyLife Marriage Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! ESV Men’s Devotional Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , The Message Devotional Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! and many, many more.
  • Journaling Bible – These Bibles are laid out to give you white space for note-taking or art journaling. Some provide designations in the title of where the journaling space is, such as single column, double column, interleaved (where every other page is blank), and whether or not it is lined. If not in the title, you’ll want to be sure to check the description or look for an opened sample so you purchase your prefered layout. Examples:  ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! ESV Single Column Journaling Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! .

How are you going to use this new Bible?

This may seem like a silly question, but it is important. Another way to ask this question is, “What do you primarily need from this Bible?” Room for sermon notes? Teaching on what a verse means? Space to record prayers and/or what you are learning? You might have your eyes on a stunning journaling Bible, but what you really need is a solid study Bible. Maybe you have a well-loved study Bible, but need room to record your study notes. You might be like me—continually forgetting to pack your Bible and favorite pens Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! —so having a Sunday morning bag like this Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  with a dedicated Bible and pens for recording sermon notes is just what the doctor ordered.

Generally speaking, a solid study Bible is going to be a great first investment ( I recommend the ESV Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! ), especially if you are new to the Bible. Here’s the key though: you need to use it! Study Bibles can be pretty overwhelming at first, but the charts, book info, and study notes are invaluable guides as you begin to explore Scripture.

Though ill-fitting, I’m glad I did pick out a Bible way-back-when. It was a choice of obedience for me. A determined step in the right direction. Though it wasn’t a perfect choice, God used my frustration with not understanding what I was reading to draw me even closer to Himself and also to seek out help from others. So if you are still feeling a bit stymied by all the options, I encourage you to step out, regardless. His Word is alive (every version and type!), our God is in control, and He can guide you even through an eeny, meeny, miny, moe approach. Narrow it down by version, type, and something you can afford, then take action … pick one!

It’s pastor appreciation month, and while baked goods, tie trinkets, and gift cards are usually welcomed (though not expected!) your pastor may be blessed by something a bit out of the box this year.

My husband, Chris, is a senior pastor and I have seen the best and worst sides of church people. We have been blessed beyond measure (a trip to Paris!) and wounded more deeply than I knew was possible, both through the actions and inactions of people in the pews. Although there can be difficult, unstable, and/or power-hungry people within the walls of the church, most of the heart-level hits a pastor receives are from the “everyday” church member: Words spoken or not spoken. Actions taken or not taken. Groups forming or splitting. All in the name of what they think is best for the church.

Chris and I have loads of pastor friends and I reached out to some pastor’s wives this week to help me with this post. Because as wives, we see what no one else sees. We know what church ministry does to our husbands. How it continues to forever change them and shape them—for good and for ill. As I submit this post, the comments from my pastor’s wife friends are still pouring in. With over 30 wives contributing, the thoughts below are a collaborative effort. Just like any wife would, we long to stand up for our husband, but because he is the pastor we often feel we can’t. It just seems self-serving. We each want to help our husband and support him in a public way but, selfishly, we usually lay low out of fear of putting our own conduct in the cross-hairs, if it is not already.

If you love your pastor and want to bless him this month (and beyond), we urge you to prayerfully consider these three deliberate choices:

CONTINUE READING at LifeWay Voices …

So, I’m going back to school.

This turning 40 thing has been fun. It’s as if the road to my purpose and calling has been finally paved and I’m ready to run. I’ve said for years that I would love to take seminary classes. This summer at the Southern Baptist Convention—specifically at the Women and Work panel—I was spurred on by hearing from those women chasing after their dreams—even amidst the crazy seasons of life. It was freeing to hear of one who’d been taking classes over a decade and is about to reach the finish line of her degree. For some reason I’d had it in my head that I needed to wait until life’s waters were completely calm before I could dive head first into school. So, yes, it may also take me a decade, but I’m going to start now.

I received my acceptance letter last week (yay!) to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue a Masters of Arts in Discipleship at the Orlando extension center—just 45 minutes away from my house! This is actually the same extension center my husband Chris started his MDiv 10 years ago. So fun, right?

Part of the application process was submitting my conversion and calling story. I thought I’d share them with you! It was fun to process this and look back on God’s faithful, patient calling on my life. I’m so grateful.

Explain your conversion experience. Include age and details.

With vague memories of a decision made at VBS, I spent most of my childhood believing I was a Christian. Through both Catholic and Protestant private schools, I learned much about the Bible and the characteristics of what a good religious person looks like. However, I primarily saw God as a distant, cosmic parent who primarily just wanted me to be good. So, I was good. I could readily articulate the reality of Christ’s sacrifice for the sake of mankind, but I thought it was enough to simply know about it and believe that it had happened.

Though I cannot remember the exact date (I was in junior high), I vividly remember the moment I recognized my personal need for Jesus. It was a simple afternoon at home in my bedroom when reality hit me of my distance from God and the fact that—although I knew about Jesus—I didn’t know Him personally or trust Him for salvation. Immediately, I confessed my need for Christ and my desire to follow Him with my entire being. I had been trusting in my goodness instead of His grace and I have no doubt that it was in that moment my new spiritual life in Christ began. It would be a long time before I found myself in any sort of a groove when it came to walking with Christ. God still seemed distant and there was much about grace I needed to grasp, but in His goodness I did begin to grow from that point on.

Discuss your call to ministry. How do you define a divine call? In what ways has your call to ministry been affirmed?

Though I didn’t recognize it at the time, I can see God’s hand and calling toward leading other women in the Word as far back as my freshman year at Auburn University (1996). I was still a toddler in Christ—just beginning to see that there is more to Christianity than the do’s and don’ts. I had been attending Campus Crusade for Christ, joined a freshman Bible study, and found myself surrounded by young women who talked about Jesus like they just had coffee with them. They didn’t just know about Jesus—they knew Jesus. They loved His Word and studied it eagerly and faithfully. Through their example and the discipleship of the upperclassmen and Cru staff, I began to learn about the how’s and the why’s of Christianity: How to study my Bible. How to pray. How to share my faith. How to live the Spirit-filled life; as well as why all these actions are so vitally important to our everyday experience of God’s power and presence.

The commands I’d heard all my life suddenly became more than a checklist. They became fuel and nourishment for my growth in Christ because someone finally took the time to train and teach me how to do these spiritual disciplines. I flourished under the Cru ministry, and it was just a few months in to my new-found growth in Christ, that God began to call me into ministry. The head RA of my 6-floor-dormitory knocked on my door one evening. She told me she had noticed I had verses pinned on my door, and was wondering if I would be willing to lead a Bible study in the dorm. She wanted to see one start up, but was not allowed to lead one herself. Out of all the hundreds of girls in that dorm, she challenged me to lead. I had no idea where to start or what to do, and I had only just begun to walk with Christ, but I can clearly see the beginning of God’s continual and specific invitation to step out and lead women in the Word.

The next year, at a Campus Crusade for Christ Christmas Conference, I committed my life to God’s purposes for my life. I didn’t yet know the specifics, but I knew that God had called me to serve Him in full-time Christian work. After graduating, I joined Cru staff, where I served in Campus Ministry for 6 years. I met my husband through the Cru ministry at the University of North Florida, and he joined staff after we married. I continued to serve on campus through evangelism and discipleship, even as our family grew. I absolutely loved campus ministry and the ability to pour into students (just as others had done for me) during such a key time of their lives.

In 2008, we left staff with Cru for my husband, Chris, to begin seminary and church ministry. We both loved our time with Cru, but it was becoming more and more evident that Chris was called to and built for pastoral ministry within the local church. My call to disciple and teach has been a natural fit alongside Chris, and I have continued to use my gifts and fulfill my calling through the local churches that God has called our family.

Additionally, for the past 8 years, I have led thousands of women through various online opportunities. What started out as a simple Bible study blog has bloomed into a very unlikely publishing career and speaking/teaching ministry, both of which I never originally set out to achieve. God continues to draw me out and into spheres of influence I never dreamed of. This call to pour my life into the lives of women—both locally and globally—is continually affirmed through both the fulfillment and joy I receive through the use of my gifts, as well as the fruit and opportunities God continues to bring my way. My husband and I are in continual evaluation of how I spend my time and to how my calling to minister outside of the home coincides with my call as a wife, mother, and the pastor’s wife. 

We all have divine callings, spelled out clearly in Scripture. I like to call them our “Big C” callings. The call to work toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission, the call to be a vital part of the local church, the call to worship and honor God with our time, talents, and resources, etc. But we each also have individual “little c” callings. These are the specific and unique purposes God has for each individual. These are also divine callings and can be for seasons or a lifetime. They often morph over time as our capacities change and they lead to both internal and external fruit. I often walk into a mid-week Bible study exhausted, yet leave rejuvenated by the life-giving obedience to God’s call on my life to teach and disciple women. 


I’d love to hear about your conversion and calling! Even if you don’t leave a comment below, I encourage you to take some time to look back and reflect on God’s call on your life—both into the rest of His salvation and the work of His specific purposes for your life.

I’m a goal-setter. Idea slinger. Persistent achiever.

Those last two don’t always mix well. My brain and heart are filled with concepts and plans to keep me busy for eternity. Thankfully, God has also given me a capacity to juggle several projects and responsibilities at once. (He’s also gifted me with a husband who cooks, kids who do their own laundry, and a family with a high tolerance for a messy house. Score!)

However, I’m also a perfectionist.

And Perfect Katie is always lingering around the corner, ready to show me all the places that are not quite right. The hyper-critical gaze of Perfect Katie can paralyze me from moving forward. Perfect Katie’s constant pressure makes me want to throw up my hands and give up. Perfect Katie often keeps me from setting out to begin with.

Perfectionism stymies me from making progress toward my goals

Take these blog posts, for instance. My goal was to write 40 posts in 40 days. If you’re counting at home, you’ll recognize that it’s been two weeks since I last wrote a post—and Perfect Katie’s been berating me about it. Life hit, I chose people over tasks, and the goal to write everyday was missed. And she wants me to quit, take down all the posts, and any evidence that a goal was unsuccessfully attempted. (Although, I did compromise with her, and change the challenge to 40 posts for 40 years, instead of in 40 days.)

But what Perfect Katie forgets is that perfection was not the end goal. The purpose of this self-imposed challenge was to get back to placing meaningful words on this screen, to begin using the writing muscles that have been given an intentional rest, and to have a reason for writing whatever was on my heart for that day. And I’ve loved it!

The temptation to just stop trying is strong, but when I take a step back and look at what has already been accomplished, I can see that the goal, in many ways, has already been met. And 11 posts that otherwise would not have been have made it into the archives.

Perfectionism keeps me from pursuing my dreams

I love to learn, and I love God’s Word. I’ve said for years and years that I’d love to go to seminary one day. But I’ve realized that Perfect Katie has allowed me to define “one day” as the unattainable season where my kids don’t need me, our church is on autopilot, I’ve finally figured out how to keep our household running without hiccups, and …

It hit me this summer that the perfect time to go back to school is never going to arrive. Life is always going to be busy, and I don’t have to take the suggested load to complete it quickly. I can take classes in my own timing and plan. So, I began the application process about a month ago, and yesterday I received my acceptance! It may take me 10 years to complete, but slowly and surely, I will pursue this dream.

Perfectionism stunts my growth

When I teach the Too Busy for Bible Study? FOCUSed15 training course, I share about this struggle of perfectionism with my “quiet times.” I’ve traveled all over the nation and spoken to thousands of women, most of who I see nodding their heads at and fervently jotting down in their journals this reality: We must let go of the lie, “If I can’t do it right, than I shouldn’t do it at all.”

Because 5 minutes of reading one Bible verse is better than none read at all. A half-read reading plan is progress made that wouldn’t have been made if the plan had not been attempted. Instead of hyper-focusing on what we haven’t done or aren’t doing, we need to deliberately look for and celebrate what we have accomplished and how we have grown.

There are a bazillion other examples and areas of our lives that we allow perfectionism to take over and rule us. And where we do, we stop growing. Perfectionism actually keeps our imperfections from being brought to light and changed. Perfectionism whispers the lies that we don’t need God’s help. We can do this on our own. We can keep things under control.

So, today in the pursuit of growth and goals and intimacy with God, I’m telling Perfect Katie to take a hike.

Politically speaking, the last several years have been tumultuous ones. The United States of America has not been living up to its name in the “united” area. It seems that we become more and more divided with each passing day. I have friends and family on both sides of the political fence, and it’s heartbreaking to see the chasm that separates us.

Everyone deals with this dissension in different ways. Some choose to ignore it. A few brave souls jump into the heat of the battle with full gusto. Many try to deny reality. I heard of some disillusioned voters who moved “off the grid” in an act of defiance toward the newly elected President.

An old philosophical saying goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” (Or as my husband use to joke when our kids were smaller … if a child is crying in their room but we can’t hear it … is it really crying?) This is the approach some have attempted. Plug your ears. Disregard the news. It never happened. Of course, we know that though they may try to cut off any news of the Presidency to their ears, it doesn’t make the facts any less real.

Not everyone has gone to such extreme actions (most probably can’t afford to). I’d say the “everyday” disillusioned have resorted to a more economical way to make their feelings know through the use of the hashtag #notmypresident. This stamp of disapproval is a way some are attempting to cope with their dashed political dreams.

Politics aside, this type of declaration of defiance is more common than you might think, especially in the spiritual area of our lives. Instead of #notmypresident, we signal #notmygod—and I’m not talking about just those who refuse to trust Christ for salvation. We who claim the name of Christ declare #notmygod every time we choose our ways instead of His.

Psalm 2 begins with nations raging, peoples plotting, and a counsel of rulers declaring their rebellion to the law of the Lord. Submission is not an option. So they tune their hearts to the #notmygod channel and reject the “bonds” and “cords” of the way of the righteous.

But just because they declare #notmygod, doesn’t make God any less God. The King of Kings has ruled, is ruling, and will rule forever in perfect righteousness. The Lord of all Lords is not threatened by their uprising nor is His power hindered by their silly plans. The Holy of Holies will in His perfect timing, serve His perfect justice to all who fail to bend the knee.


This is a small excerpt from my new project, Secrets of the Happy Soul. 

I am the worst at unpacking my suitcase. Mine still lays at the foot of my bed from this weekend’s trip (it’s now late Wednesday), waiting to be emptied and put away in the closet. I don’t know exactly why I resist this small task. It will feel so great when it is done.

There are many little projects lying around the house that I choose to ignore. A few lingering boxes from our move, papers that need filing, drawers and closets that already need purging (sigh). And whenever I decide to get tackle them, I will be so glad that I did (finally!)

Yet I resist.

There are other areas that I could get lost in for hours. I love working in the yard. I’ve started two small succulent gardens in some abandoned window boxes left from the previous owners. I’ve learned how to propagate teeny tiny babies from different parts of a succulent that has become too big for its britches. I’m continually rearranging and repotting the plants on the porch, as well as digging up perennials to divide them and plant them elsewhere in the backyard landscape. Much of this is hard, sweaty work, but that doesn’t bother me. I love working in my yard because I love the end result. (I think I also love it because it gives me some alone time where my brain doesn’t have to think about anything. “Cause no one else is lining up to dig up plants with me!)

But I know that I will also love having a tidy house. Unfortunately, I do not possess the same drive to get it done.

I still resist making my bed. For a long time, I just didn’t do it. It felt like such a waste of time, to only come back a few hours later and mess up all the work I put into making the bed nice. (You can see my same problem with laundry. It is a never ending task.)

It’s like I’m in rebellion deep-down somewhere. There is a part of me that likes exercising the right to say to the suitcase, the pile of laundry, or the pile of papers, “Nope. Not going to do it because you can’t tell me what to do.”

I think I might benefit from some therapy. (At least I’m not verbalizing these thoughts out loud to the suitcase.)

I’ve been trying very hard the past several months to rest. To keep my schedule from becoming too full, too quickly, and I’ve done a fairly good job at doing so. I’ve napped a lot, read a lot, and spent many slow mornings enjoying coffee, Bible study, and prayer time for several hours. After an insane few months of moving and traveling, It’s been a season of R&R. However, there is a fine line between keeping things purposefully slow and simply being lazy. I don’t always know when I’ve crossed that line.

This isn’t a post where I am going to wrap everything up with a pretty bow and tell you I’ve figured out the secret to unpacking your suitcase in ten easy steps. You can leave all the comments you want about what works for you, but nothing will change until I make the choice to change.

But I wonder how many other, more important areas of life come down to the same thing: choice. The choice to do the things we don’t really feel like doing, because we know it is what is best in the long run. The choice to prioritize our walk with God. The choice to change our bad eating habits. The choice to get physically fit and stay there. The choice to prioritize people over things.

The list goes on. But I wonder how many of us are in rebellion to one or many of these areas, because we are holding on to some sort of warped sense of authority over those areas, to avoid feeling guilty every time we bump into them.

With summer in full swing, you may find yourself on the road. If so, I encourage you to use this opportunity to visit another church!

About twice a year we get to visit other churches while we are on vacation. We make it a priority to attend church, even when on the road, and it is always a refreshment for this ministry family to sneak in the back and worship without feeling the pressure of so many eyes on our every move.

The benefits of attending a new church are not reserved for the ministry family, however. I think it is a great practice for all church members to use their Sundays away to visit another church. Here are three reasons why:

It reminds us of what it’s like to be the newbie

We’ve all walked into someone’s home to be hit in the face with some strong smells. Often, the owner of the house can no longer notice it. Whether it be mold, trash, or pet problems, the smell is most obvious to the nose that is new to the offense. Similarly, the visitor notices things we don’t. Or maybe we noticed it way-back-when but have forgotten all about it.

Not only do visitors notice some of the oddities we ignore, they also don’t know how things work. Too many churches assume that everyone understands where the nursery, bathrooms, and/or fellowship hall is located. Bulletins are filled with event names with no description, groups with no specifics, and loads of information with out any invitations.

Additionally, when we visit a new-to-us church, it reminds us of how uncomfortable and vulnerable it can feel to walk into a crowd where no one knows you. It gives us a new urgency to be a friendly face to the visitor when we return home.

Being the newb—even for just one Sunday—can be a powerful agent for change in our church back home.

It gives us ideas for how (or how not) to do something

We’ve been a part of several churches where many of the attendees have only attended that church. For others, they have maybe only attended 2 or 3 churches, all in the same area. This is a situation ripe for an in-grown and shallow view of what Sunday morning church should look like. Just because it’s all you’ve ever known doesn’t mean it is the authoritative way to do things.

The Southerner can learn from the West Coaster. The Northeast from the Texan. There is even more to observe between nations. In Haiti, years ago, we attended several church services and there was much to learn from their passion, reverence, and devotion to the urgent and sincere hearing of the Word of God.

Using our travels as an opportunity to get out of our “this is the best way to do things” bubble, can be a powerful agent for refining change in our hearts, which can overflow into our church experience back home.

It reminds you of what you love about your own church

Hopefully! Even when visiting a stellar church who seems to get so many things right, being away from your home church ought to give us a sense of missing out and an urgency to get back home.

So much of my life has been spent leaving. Leaving California for Auburn. Leaving Auburn for Jacksonville. Leaving Medical Technology for full-time ministry. Leaving Cru to go into church ministry. Leaving Florida youth ministry for a full-time Kentucky pastorate. Leaving Harrodsburg to move back home to Florida.

In some ways, leaving is easier each time because you’ve experienced God’s provision during the previous move. Yet, inevitably it just all catches up to you. The goodbyes. The loss. Even the little things you miss out on simply because you are no longer there.

And there are always regrets. People you miss. Choices you wish you made differently. Time wasted that you long to redeem.

Yet with each move and new city, with each new relationship and assignment, there is grace. We receive an opportunity to learn from the past and start fresh.

Leaving naturally leads to looking back. And a backward glance allows you to see the providing hand of God in ways that are simply hard to see when you are in the throws of the moment. And as I look back on the dreams that I had for my life, the visions of what life would be—and who it would be with—is so much different and so much smaller than what God has had planned for my life.

So, yes. Leaving has been a big part of my life. And instead of focusing on the pain and tears leaving has caused, I choose to believe wholeheartedly that leaving—again and again and again—has been His call, His plan, His desire for me. I choose to focus more on what I’ve gained from each experience instead of what I’ve lost.

And as I stand here today so very tired of leaving—still counting the loss, still morning, still waiting for the emotional space and energy needed to make new relationships in our new place—I’m grateful. I’m grateful for every assignment. Grateful for every friend. Grateful for every goodbye. Grateful for the promise that even if God calls me to leave again, He will never leave me.

If you follow me on social media (here, here, and here), you know I’ve been writing a book proposal for Secrets of the Happy Soul. It will be a journey through several Psalms to see what the Bible has to say about happiness and the God in whom we find it. This is the first step in many towards (hopefully!) seeing this book on the shelves. I thought I’d share with you one of the more put-together pieces of this crazy puzzle I’m working on. 🙂


My degree is in Medical Technology. It’s a bit of an obscure field. In fact, it’s been renamed since I graduated. Essentially, it’s lab work. If you’ve had your blood drawn or peed in a cup to have it sent off to the lab, the Med Techs (now called Clinical Laboratory Scientists … because I know you really wanted to know) are the ones that analyze it.

Right out of college, I worked full time in a huge hospital. My time was split between the Chemistry lab and Blood Bank. I enjoyed Blood Bank so much more because it was all manual work, whereas Chemistry was mostly run by machines. I also had a very competent co-worker in Blood Bank (we’ll call her Sally). She already had tons of experience and, since I was the newbie, that was a great comfort to me. Blood Bank is serious business. When a patient needs a blood transfusion, we received the orders for a type and cross-match. We would figure out what blood type the patient is (A+, B-, etc.), then cross-match the bags of blood ordered with the patients own blood to ensure there would be no life-threatening incompatibility reactions. Yeah, so the whole “this patient will die if you mess this up” pressure was pretty scary for me. Thus, why I really liked working with Sally.

On the nights where we didn’t have many orders to fill, I would attempt to get to know Sally a bit through small talk. I learned that she had been in the military and wasn’t originally from Florida, but that was about all I could get out of her. I could tell she would rather be lost in her book than talk to me, so I defaulted to bringing something to keep me occupied for those slow evenings. Since that part of the lab was small, I often would move into our supervisor’s office to read, as she had previously told me I was welcome to use the space on her desk if needed.

After working about several months together, I noticed Sally had progressively become even more quiet and grumpy around me. She’d become impatient with my questions about work and stuck to as little interaction as possible. I could tell something was up.

One evening (I can’t even remember exactly what set her off), Sally lit into me about being disrespectful to our supervisor. She went on and on about how inappropriate it was that I sat at our boss’ desk night after night. Sally proceed to tell me how much trouble she would have been in if she did that while in the military, and how it was utterly despicable behavior. Then she went back into her shell in the opposite corner by the Fresh Frozen Plasma freezer and returned to pretending I didn’t exist.

Well, then.

Looking back, her lack of receptiveness to my attempts to get to know her, and the fact that she spoke to me only when necessary to get our job done made a whole lot of sense now. She was utterly annoyed by my presence and couldn’t stand to be in the same room as me! I was a constant offense to her protocol. She was furious, I was frustrated, and our work hours together incredibly frigid.

Maybe you, too, have had a situation where you could tell you’ve offended someone but you didn’t know exactly what you did wrong. You had been held unfairly to an unspoken code of conduct—leaving you in a continual state of violation. Disheartening, isn’t it?

As frustrated, annoyed, and even embarrassed I was to find out that I had been unintentionally offending Sally for months and months,it would be much more so to find out that I’d unintentionally offended the holy, powerful God of the universe. Gratefully, He has not left us in darkness. His Word has given us very clear directions for most areas of our lives. The original hearers of these opening words from Psalm 1 would have known that the instruction mentioned in verse 2 was in regards to the Old Testament Law. This includes the famous 10 Commandments as well as many very specific guidelines for how to worship God, how to treat His people, and how to interact with the nations around them.

The Psalms start out with a parallel comparison and contrast between those who walk/stand/sit with the wicked/sinners/mockers, and those who don’t. The contrast is especially seen in verse 2, with the mention of the Lord’s instruction. Without it, these verses would not make sense. Because in order for there to be a wrong, there must be a right. For something to be out of bounds, there must be a boundary.

God has been so good to us to give us instructions, and you and I have much more than the OT to go off of. We now have the full counsel of God at our fingertips. Not only that, but we live in an age of information in which commentaries and many other tools are easily accessible to us. There is no excuse for not knowing what God’s plan is for us. From how we spend our money, conduct our days, and manage our thought-life, to how we worship, talk to, and tell others about Him. His will has been made clear to us in the pages of Scripture.

This is not to say that understanding everything in the Bible is easy. It’s not. But it is available, accessible, and approachable. He is not a distant, grumpy co-worker grumbling behind our backs about how offended He is by our actions. He is a clear communicator, a gracious guide, and a merciful master. And every one of His commands is for our good. Each truth is there to light our way.

Say it with me now,

This is not my church.

Church is not about me.

My pastor is not out to get me.

We’ve been chatting about the mindset shifts we all need to make for the sake of the church and reflection of Christ. Here is one more along with an action plan we all need to consider: My pastor has been called to be my pastor and I need to follow.

Your pastor has been hand-picked.

We’ve been through the pastor search committee process three times now. All of these committees were either close to or over a year in the process when Chris was finally called to the position. If you’ve ever been on a search committee, you know what long and difficult work it is. In case you haven’t let me paint you a picture of how much effort those team members put in.

Even a small church might get 50 applicants. Some of the really large churches receive thousands of applications. This last job Chris accepted had around 400 applicants. That’s 400 applications that were read through, considered, and narrowed down … which brought them to the end of the first round of eliminations and dozens more rounds to go. Every search committee narrows the applicants down using different methods, but they all (if the committee is doing their job well) include researching (which would include things like a bit of Facebook stalking), reference checking, follow-up interviews via email, phone, and/or Skype, completing background checks, and sometimes traveling to view the pastor in his current church. Countless sermons are listened to, tons of discussions are held at their committee meetings, and many, many hours of prayer are put in.

From the other side of things, it feels a lot like American Idol. At first, we are just another number in the masses. Then we make it to the top 24, then 12, then the final 3. At this point, there is usually another round of interviews, often including me (SIDE NOTE: There aren’t many other jobs where an interview with the wife and a consideration of what she “brings to the table” is normal. But it is very much expected in this process.) Sometimes we’ve been picked, and sometimes the team decides to go with someone else.

Here’s my point: This is not applying for a job at Burger King and getting hired on the spot. It is a long, drawn out, prayerful, Spirit-led process. But it is a year-long journey (again, if the team is doing their job) that God uses to guide a church to the man He has chosen for them, and vice versa. So when you begin to second-guess your pastor’s decision making, preaching style, walk with God, and facial hair choices, remember that he has been appointed by God to be your pastor. He’s been called to serve God through this unique role, which includes leading your church toward God’s will.

Your pastor has been equipped.

Just in case the fact that the man you call pastor has been hand-picked and called to be right where he is right now isn’t  enough to get you to follow him, pray for him, and support him in every way you can, here’s one more thing to consider: He’s been trained to do this job! Now, I know not all pastors have been to seminary, but the vast majority of them have. They have attended classes, read books, and written papers all about how to do their job. They’ve hit on topics such as how to deal with the difficult people in their churches that just won’t follow…

In just about every other arena, someone who tells someone else how to do their job is considered rude. In the church arena it’s unfortunately, it’s considered common.

Your pastor deserves to be listened to, respected, and followed.

It should go without saying that your pastor is not perfect. He will make mistakes and have mixed motives. But just because he’s not perfect doesn’t mean you get to disrespect him.

I am not calling for congregants to shut up and sit down. I am calling for the people of God to consider that the man of God behind the pulpit has feelings, too. And there is not much that will take the wind out of his sails than pews filled with people who refuse to trust him. Who chose to just drag their feet until he picks up and leaves. Or worse—who manipulate, plot, and make life as difficult as possible in order to force him out.

If you want him to boldly lead you through the big stuff, let him lead you through the little. If he meets resistance at every corner … and if all he’s tried to do so far is update the toilet paper dispensers in the bathroom and spruce up the website … it’s going to be really hard for him to believe that you are going to follow him through the important decisions that are going to lead to the lost walking through the doors of the church.

Lord, give us mercy.