Faith is Taking the First Step

Today I took a trip to Family Travels on a Budget, the vacations tips home of my friend Karen Dawkins. I'm there sharing my favorite places in Memphis. Why not come visit there and get inspired to visit my hometown sometime? 

In the meantime, Karen's hopped over here to share with you. Please welcome her to the oasis!

Faith is taking the first step...

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight...
Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble.
Proverbs 3:21-23

“Mom, I forgot how much I love this place,” he spoke quietly as we strolled across the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. I hadn’t forgotten, but I knew this made his decision difficult.

Samford is more than nine hours from home. It’s a private school. Even with a great scholarship offer, it’s expensive. His other option, Appalachian State, is closer to home and less expensive. Not to mention, he already has several friends there.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, he agonized over his college decision. We prayed. I honestly didn’t expect it to be this difficult. Finally, he chose App State, for all the logical reasons. He didn’t seem convinced, though, so we waited to enroll.

A few days later, overcome with tears, I called my husband at work. Between sobs (ridiculous, I know), I tried to convey how wrong it felt. I explained that if God wanted him to go to App State, we should have peace. He agreed -- and admitted he felt much the same way.

The First Step is the Hardest
We waited some more.

We prayed some more.

Still no peace. As March drew to a close, our son had to decide.

“If money wasn’t an issue, where would you go?” I finally asked the question at the heart of it all.

Immediately, he answered, “Samford!”

“Well then, Samford it is.”

“How will we pay for it? You and dad already paid for your college, I can’t ask you to sacrifice that much for me.” We knew this was what held him back. We knew paying for Samford meant giving up vacations, dining out and cable.

Oh my son. Don’t you know I want the best for you? Don’t you know I’d joyfully do whatever it takes to help you to become the man God intends you to be? It’s not sacrifice. It’s love.

Together, we pulled up the Samford website and enrolled him. His face glowed. The peace finally came -- for us all.

An hour later, about 8:00 p.m., the phone rang. His Samford admissions counselor called to inform us that the dean had decided to increase his scholarship offer by a total of $10,000.

As I hung up the phone and relayed the message, my eyes filled with tears. We looked at each other, my son, my husband and I, stunned. Breaking the silent shock, our other son piped up, “See guys. God was just waiting for you to take the first step.”

The first step. It’s that simple, isn’t it? Take that first step in faith…

Where are you in God’s plan today?

Seasoned traveler and North Carolina mom, Karen Dawkins, writes about her experiences and shares travel tips at Family Travels on a Budget. She has traveled around the world with her family on a budget, enjoying the adventure and the challenge of doing it all for less! The next four years will involve lots of travel back and forth to Alabama!

She also writes about faith and family at Karen Dawkins: Destination Joy, a blog inspired by her favorite verse, Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” The next four years will stretch her to live out that faith as she takes her first steps away from daily parenting child number one.

Connect with her online at Family Travels on a Budget and Karen Dawkins: Destination Joy. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Taking the Hills

I want to know Christ...and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him.
Philippians 3:10

Running experts recommend not attempting a long distance run such as a half marathon until you can run easily run three miles. I'm not sure what their definition of easy is but after ten years of running, three miles still doesn't feel "easy". 

My typical three mile route is equally divided by a large hill. Each time I approach it I think to myself. This is my day. Today this hill will seem easy. But easy doesn't come until I'm on the other side of it.

Me and my second favorite running partner...
I find running hills difficult for three reasons: 

1. I Don't Like Hills

If God made queues for his various blessings, I doubt anyone, myself included, would line up under "Difficulty" or "Hardship". We avoid life's hills because we don't like them. No one likes suffering but life's challenges mold us into the shape of Christ. 

I don't like hills but I love becoming more like the One who purchased my victory on one.

2. I Change My Posture

When I face a hill, I'm tempted to lean forward, shorten my stride and gut it out. All these things work against my ability to run them. Difficulty can also change my posture. Typical advice during hard seasons is to "keep the faith", "you can do it" or "you got this." 

These admonishments sound upbeat but actually move my posture from one of humility and depending on God to one of pride and depending on me. When I face a hill, I need to maintain a posture of total reliance on God. He is the One who carries me up the steepest challenge.

3. My Breathing Gets Shallow

Hills wreck my breathing. It goes from slow and steady to quick and shallow. I used to wonder how it was someone could "pray without ceasing" until I heard it described and spiritual breathing. 

As circumstances come in, we breathe a prayer out.
As a situation arises, we breathe a prayer out.
As a difficult personality confronts us, we breathe a prayer out.

When I face trouble, my temptation is to let my prayer life get shallow. The one sentence prayers we've been studying (review the first three here, here, and here) allow us to keep our spiritual breath even throughout the day.

I may never run three miles with ease. Hills may never cease to daunt me. But I can choose a running partner, a posture and a pattern of breathing that transforms the uphill climb as it transforms me.

Are you facing a life hill? How could you alter your posture and breathing to better face your challenge?

For more inspiration on preparing for life's big events, download Shannon's free 30 day prayer guide, PrePrayed: Preparation for Life's Events or Shannon's 8 Life Transforming Prayers.

The Beginning of God's Will for Your Life

Today I have the privilege and pleasure of welcoming Charles Specht to the oasis. I first met Charles when we worked together on Michael Hyatt's Platform Launch Team. Instantly I sensed God had bigger plans for our team than launching a bestselling book. 

You will see why I was impressed with him as a writer, father, pastor and friend.

by Charles Specht

  • Should I marry this person?
  • Which college should I attend?
  • Should I homeschool our children?
  • Which job do you want me to take, God?
Have you ever asked God questions about His will for your life? Have you ever wondered what His plan for your life is, and whether or not you’re actually in it right now?

Did you know that God wants you to know His will for your life? It’s true. His plan was never meant to be a carrot on a string. In fact, the Lord has already told you what His plan is, many times over. The issue, frankly, comes down to whether or not you have ears to hear.

God’s will for your life is like a coin with two sides. The top side is God’s REVEALED will. The bottom, His UNREVEALED will. Most people are overly concerned about God’s unrevealed will, such as where to work, who to marry, etc. The blunder we believers tend to make is that we often focus on His unrevealed will while ignoring what He’s already revealed in Scripture.

Did you know that the phrase “will of God” appears in the Bible numerous times? This phrase has to do with all the specifics regarding God’s plan for your life. The problem with most people, however, is that they want to know God’s UNREVEALED will for their life while—at the same time—being disobedient to what He’s already REVEALED.

The key to rightly discerning God’s plan for your life first begins with being the type of person God calls you to be. The New Testament outlines this REVEALED “will of God” for your life, and it can be broken down into the following twelve categories:
  1. Salvation.
  2. Sanctification.
  3. Thankfulness.
  4. Prayerfulness.
  5. Ministry.
  6. Giving.
  7. Submission.
  8. Hard-working.
  9. Wise.
  10. God-centered.
  11. Suffering.
 Let’s focus on just the first one for now. God’s will for your personal life is that you be saved.

God the Father sent His Son into this world to die on a cross—for you! He didn’t do it for any other reason other than that you might be saved. It is His magnificent plan. It’s how God the Father builds a family for Himself. He absolutely loves adoption, and all those who trust God become the adopted siblings of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).

The way God draws people to Himself in order to save them is by allowing them to be sorrowful to the point of repentance. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, saying, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

You see, when a woman is broken over her sin, God uses it to draw her to Himself. This plan in the will of God does not lead to sorrow for God’s child, but to everlasting peace.
Once a woman is saved by God’s grace, she then receives an insatiable desire for the things of God. The apostle John wrote, “The world is passing away, and also its lust; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). To be singular focused on God’s glory and His plan for your life is precisely the reason God saved you in the first place. It is His will for your life today.

QUESTION: In what areas of your life have you been asking God to reveal His will to you?

Charles Specht is a writer, a pastor, a father of 5 children (2 adopted "special needs" children from China), but mostly just a guy trying to figure it all out. He's devoted to pushing the envelop of Christian media, encouraging believers to be deliberate when crafting their own words to declare the inerrant Word. He has a passion for technology, for reading and writing, for serving Christ, and for figuring out how the worlds of traditional- and self-publishing are evolving before our eyes.

You can visit his church blog at or his Christian Writers website at Follow him on Twitter @CharlesSpecht, Facebook, and Google+.

Life Transforming Prayer - Lord Insight Me

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 5:44

He rarely texts or calls. He makes promises he doesn't keep. He makes no effort to see her. One day at a time he chips away at the surface of a little girl's heart.

He blames his son for the fracture in their relationship. No amount of apologies make a dent in his cold heart. No measure of humility is enough to make him take a single step in his direction. Childhood wounds pierce a middle-aged man's heart.

She'll never admit what she did. Her memories are piled under a mountain of avoidance and rewritten history. She didn't protect her children. They wear the shame she won't confess. 

When I or someone I love experiences deep hurt my natural reaction is retaliation.  My heart incites to anger and hatred. In God's upside down economy, he asks the impossible of me - to pray for those who hurt me.

In A Street Called Freedom, I shared prayer is the door through which forgiveness walks. But it feels like the words will pass through a hypocrite's lips - insincere and meaningless. How can I begin to utter those life-giving words in prayer over my enemies?

Start simple with this prayer: Lord Insight Me.

When we pray for insight and understanding of our opponent, God fills the spaces of our resentment with the healing balm of grace of mercy. 

Lord Insight Me. I long for the freedom of forgiveness.

Lord Insight Me. I can not forgive apart from you. 

Lord Insight Me. Your well of grace and mercy never runs dry.

The Ocean of Opportunity

The Lord Almighty is with us.
Psalm 46:7

Clara is just as relaxed out of the water!
I smile as I watch them, so different in their relationship to the water. Clara is a fish. She jumps in without reservation like her body was made for the wide open water. Carynne is bullrush. She wades on the steps as her temperament prefers the safety of shoreline. 

They are in the middle of two weeks of swim lessons. Clara is clearly at the top of the class. Carynne is...well I'll just be positive and say she gets a ribbon for 6th place. There was this one day last week though when her ability suddenly surged. At one and only one lesson she exhibited incredible confidence and peace. What made the difference?

The presence of her father.

I traveled over the weekend. Before I left, I invited God to interact with my heart and in my circumstances. I asked Him to open my eyes to people who needed a touch from Him in their ordinary day. 

Honestly I would have rather waded on the steps - read my book, talked to no one and landed at my destination in solitude. At best my natural inclination to help others is 6th place. I saw a mom juggle her baby and bags - I offered to take the bags. My row mate missed beverage service - I ordered her one anyway. What made the difference?

The presence of my Father.

When I'm standing in the laundry room surrounded by more piles of laundry than I have family members, the presence of my father turns drudgery into gratitude.

When I'm stuck in traffic and know my schedule is getting tossed, the presence of my father pervades my worry with peace.

When I'm standing at the shoreline uncertain if an ordinary woman can make any difference, the presence of my father floods my fear with confidence.

The presence of our Father eases us from the shore of the ordinary into the ocean of opportunity.

Into what ordinary task can you invite God today?

Full Time Desired; Application Previously Submitted

Have you ever heard someone refer to being in "full-time" ministry? I recently heard this expression. It fell on my heart like a key turning a lock. Aren't all Christ-followers called to follow Him full-time?

We aren't temp housing. He isn't a drifter. He's taken up permanent residence.

I wrote on this topic today at Godly Writers and want to invite you to visit there. Let's find out together what it takes to go full-time with God. God's looking for full time Christians. He submitted our application 2000 years ago.

The Root that Makes Dreams Float

I could break the Guinness World Record for floating. I know. I looked it up. There isn't one. But seriously I was somehow designed by God for excellence in drifting atop the water. Seems strange when you realize I'm afraid to put my face in water doesn't it? But on top of the water I feel relaxed, invigorated and at home.

As we discovered yesterday, each person is packaged with God-given passions and dreams. These dreams are powered by love. The gap from dream to reality is closed by putting feet to your faith. Here are a couple steps to walking out your dream:

Take an Inventory 

This is your "at home"

Have you taken an inventory of the things you do particularly well? They may be something as oddball as floating or as ordinary as smiling but each is God-given. Each should make the list.

Connect the Inventory to Your Dream 

This is where you get invigorated.

Let's take my "gift of floating" for example. My ability to float may not asset my heart's passions but my ability to relax wherever I am does. This is the connection between this inventory item and my dream. Find the connection and use it to your advantage.

Make a Plan and Trust It 

This is where you relax. 

Once each inventory item is connected to your dream, you make a strategic plan to use the gifts you have to live out your passion. Most of us get entangled in what's not on our list. While we can work on our weaknesses and possibly turn them into neutrals instead of liabilities, few of us will ever transfer them into assets. 

Stop wasting energy on the "don't haves". Trust that God equipped you with the "must haves". And relax.

Find your home, get invigorated and relax. These are the roots that make dreams float.

What is one of your strengths? Inventory it in a comment below and tell us how you can use it to achieve your goals and dreams.

That's the Power of Love

Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:14

We were young and just naive enough... to wait out the rest of the concert goers. My sister, good friend and I lingered outside Huey Lewis' limo long after the last note. Eventually a stubby man saddled up beside us. 

Photo Credit:
We expected to be dismissed. We were.

He called himself Something-a-Rather Lewis, claimed to be Huey Lewis' personal manager and invited us to a private after party at his hotel suite. We were young and just naive enough... to actually go.

After a half hour of Cokes and pretzels, the door handle turned. In strolled Huey Lewis and the News. Huey Lewis was quintessential cool. He learned everyone's name in the room in a matter of minutes. He was affable, friendly and charming. He entertained us with his favorite tunes - all country and western. 

Huey sang about the Power of Love. This message resonated with people, making it a Billboard #1 hit in 1985. At the time I didn't think much of Huey's dichotomy. He sang one style of music but his passion was another.

I don't know why he didn't pursue his passion. Perhaps he thought his passion would pay less. Perhaps his passion seemed a greater risk. Perhaps he lacked the confidence to pursue his dream.

I'm no longer young but I'm just naive enough... to believe God wants us to pursue our deepest passion and our highest calling. But how?

How do ordinary people who get frustrated in traffic, perform hundreds of routine tasks a week and forget to buy things at the grocery store live a life like that?

The Power of Love.

Love should be our motivation.
Passion should be our guide.
Do everything in love.

I want to nest my heart firmly in His love so passion can fly from my heart.

What could the Power of Love do for you?

Transforming Prayer - Lord Direct Me

My husband and I are contemplating building or buying a new home. It’s not the lengthy process of packing and unpacking that boxes my heart in distress. It’s not the mound of decisions and details that pushes my emotions to the edge. It’s two words – show condition.

Show condition.

Has my house ever come close to this standard? I’ll give you a hint. My first name isn’t Susie and the bunny doesn’t just hop by our home on Easter. The six of us have occasional rabbit visitors of the dust variety.

The amazing thing is I’m okay with it.

I’m a natural goal setter and achiever. A paper with every item crossed off is beauty. Honestly, I’d rather get an “A” than a “10”.

For years I lived in a constant state of panic – too many tasks and too little time to complete them. I fretted over keeping my hampers empty and my pantry full. I stressed about holidays and ordinary days. My emotions and outlook rode the wave of my daily “to do” list. The more I accomplished, the better I felt.

With so much achievement my life had absolutely margin. There was no room for God to work in my home because I was too busy doing it all for Him. I decided to make a radical change.

I began to pray a simple daily prayer – Lord Direct Me.

I gave Him the pen to my notepad.
I offered Him my time to manage.
As I breathed this sentence throughout my day, He breathed peace into my home.

As I prayed Lord Direct Me, my home became less type A and more type Him.

Does your home need an extreme makeover? What would change if you breathed this prayer into the space of your home and heart?

Spit That Out!

You will go out in joy  and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 
Isaiah 55:12

Working my frustration of the day into it chew by chew, my jaws grew weary from their work. I was chomping on gum for pleasure but my pleasure waxed to pain. Have you ever noticed the longer you chew a piece of gum, the harder it gets?

A certified people pleaser, nothing upsets my soul more than conflict. I can chew on misplaced, harsh or angry words for hours. The longer I chew, the harder it gets.

Each bite of instant replay moves forgiveness farther from my reach.
Each taste of concern over my phrasing turns my focus away from God.
The longer I chew, the more bitter my world becomes.

Conflict is inevitable so how can we communicate with others without making a midnight snack of our conversation?

Accept Responsibility

We own what we say. By taking full responsibility for our words we move from reaction mode to response. A reaction is a thoughtless, involuntary retort. A response is a God-directed, well-thought reply.

Move Toward Reconciliation

Be the first to offer forgiveness. Take the lead in healing. Leave the conversation without regret by moving toward reconciliation.

Refuse to Replay

After the conclusion of your conversation, mentally press stop. Refuse to allow your mind to dissect and dwell on every exchange. Allow grace to cover your mind and your conversation.

When we stop chewing, joy fills the spaces of our heart. We will leave the conversation, go out in joy and be led by peace.

What are you chewing on today? What would be required for you to spit it out?

Don't Take a Vacation...

Two of My Cuties, Vacation 2009
Vacation is my favorite week of the summer. With kids scattered from kindergarten to closing in on college, my daughters will find themselves on mission trips in Joplin, driving over 24 hours on a bus to Colorado for Jr. High youth camp and serving at our church's Vacation Bible School. Our summer is jam packed.

But...a pause is coming. I'm counting the days. 

A pause is coming. I'm mentally packing.

A pause is coming. I'm researching fun.

As much as I long for the coming week, there's one thing I don't want our family to take a vacation from...time with God. For me, it's even harder on the road than home to take intentional time with God. 

Today I'm a guest at Encouragement Cafe where I'm sharing my tips on how to take Jesus on the road this summer. Join me as we learn how not to take a vacation from Him.

Permission Granted

"Mommy, can have a friend spend the night?"

"Momma, can I stay out past curfew?"

"Mom, can I have another cookie?"

I spend all day granting permissions of one sort or another. My kindergartner wants to watch cartoons. My teenagers desire a trip to the mall. My elementary student wants to enroll in a new activity. Although my answer isn't always yes, every permission I grant requires my participation in some way.

A trip to Target to procure the friend's birthday gift.

A late night of waiting for my driver girl to return home.

An emergency batch of laundry to wash the swim suit. 

Why is permission so easy to grant to my kids and so difficult to give myself?

We need to learn to give ourselves permission.

Permission to step away and into the presence of God.

Permission to turn on cartoons so we can turn to the Word of God.

Permission to hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign across our heart so we focus our thoughts on Him.

Here's the thing with permission. It requires our participation. Friend, give yourself permission today. Allow yourself to slip away into the arms of the One who holds you up through the flurry of other permissions in your life.

What do you need to grant yourself permission to do today?

Fill Her Up, Please

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126:3

When I was a single mom, my tank ran on perpetual empty. A lack of funds coupled with a lack of time equaled many prayers uttered over gasoline. I can not begin to count the number of times I coasted into a station on fumes and prayer.

My car isn't the only part of me that used to run on empty. For much of my life, my heart ran on empty toward anything and anyone I thought could fill it. When we have a lack, we long to quench our emptiness.

In my post I mention my Handsome Daddy -
Here he is with my Mom on their 50th wedding anniversary
June 11, 2011
I wrote about this today at Keeping It Personal. Won't you join me there today as we find love full-filled? Fill her up, please!

Transforming Prayer - Lord Change Me

Welcome to a new Tuesday series - Life Transforming Prayer. For the next eight weeks we will look at eight areas of life and the single sentence prayers that radically transformed my life. Are you tired of an unsatisfying marriage? Does your health reveal inner struggle? Do struggles in relationships gnaw at your joy? 

Then this series is for you (and me!) Join me for this thrilling journey as we tap into the power of single sentence prayers. Fasten your seat life awaits!

Each one should test his own actions.
Galatians 6:4

I blubbered my way down my first aisle. Deep within I knew a colossal mistake waited at the other end. Eight years of striving in my own power led to divorce.

That second walk down the aisle was not taken without thought and prayer. The love I felt for my new husband made my prior marriage look like puppies were exchanging vows. I was certain. I was resolved. I was invincible.

I was wrong.

My second marriage wasn't much easier than my first. About a year in we faced our first marriage trial. Stress nibbled at our foundation. My husband's flaws surfaced with every bite. 

I knew if he would change, I would be happy.

Out of sheer desperation, I began to take long walks with God. Every step surfaced a new complaint. I could cover miles with the imagined short-comings of my spouse.

One ordinary walk, I felt the tug of God to stop talking about him...and start talking about me. Only I couldn't see my own faults. Scott's grace-filled heart wasn't listing mine. I didn't even know where to start.

I muttered the only prayer I could conceive.

Lord, change me.

Step by step, walk by walk, week by week, God transformed my heart. Heart change led to life change. Grace conquered criticism. Mercy triumphed nagging. Compassion covered callousness. 

Some things about my husband did in time change. Some things did not. The temperature and tone of our marriage set by my thermometer did. My heart warmed to his. 

Lord, change me.

Do you dare to pray it? A renewed, revitalized marriage will be your reward.

Mirror, Mirror

And we all reflect the Lord's glory.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Let's face it. My four little sweeties reflect their mom.

When they get good grades, they reflect my intelligence.

When they get a lower one, they reflect my tendency to procrastinate.

When they make healthy eating choices, they reflect my dedication to fitness.

When they reach for one too many cookies, they reflect my tendency toward impulsiveness.

Do you struggle with the reflection your kids portray of you? I wrote about this today at A Pastor's Wives Garden. Don't let the blog name scare you, there's hope for every parent there today. Join me?

Random? Acts of Kindness

Whatever you did for one of the least of did for me.
Matthew 25:40

In 2002 my life lost all sense of direction and control. I started the year married. I ended it a single mom to two young daughters. 

I longed for security. I craved boundaries. I was distant from God so I drew them myself in the form of a little black binder.

I organized my scattered life into notebook. There held my groceries lists, my credit cards, cash, my agenda, my travel necessities and even stamps and note cards. I could literally live weeks on end with access to nothing but my little black rectangular prism of safety.

As a single mom, weekends encompasses the sum total of quality time I had to offer my kids. One Saturday morning we headed out for an "adventure" - translation: A trip to the bank to get the month's cash and then to Walmart.

I was uber prepared. My notebook contained my to do list, my household needs, my groceries and upcoming school projects. In less than an hour I had procured everything necessary to keep my life running as smooth and easy as possible.

I smiled as I pulled out of the parking lot, proud of the strong, independent woman I'd become. My grin vaporized into terror when I realized I'd left my "life" on the back bumper of my car. A quick stop at a gas station confirmed my suspicion, my binder was lost.

Waves of fear and nausea passed through me. I had no one in Jacksonville. My whole system of fortifying myself to face life as a single mom had vanished. I called out to the only Source of hope I knew. Though we weren't exactly on speaking terms, I asked God for help.

Within an hour my phone rang. A friendly voice informed me he'd found my binder and wanted to return it. I'd watched enough Lifetime movies to know to arrange to meet the creep in public. A nearby grocery store was appointed.

Thirty minutes later a man with kind eyes and a woman who perpetually wore a smile drove up to my car. They told me how thankful they were to make contact with me. They were Christians and so grateful to be able to return my property to me.

I smiled, sincerely thanked them and secretly expected to find my file considerably lightened of cash. Every penny was inside.

The term random acts of kindness has long been used to describe the actions of a couple like this. I'm a huge fan of them myself. I enjoy paying for the coffee of the car behind me, stopping to help a mom with an infant or gathering the newspaper for a friend. 

But are a Christ-follower's kindnesses truly random?

If you've ever stopped to help a stranger, you felt the nudge in your heart. What even made you notice the person? Didn't God have to first illuminate your eyes? 

What if we stopped thinking of kindness as random and began to tune into the tug of God? Random would become intentional. Kindness would become a lifestyle. Random acts of kindness would transform into intentional living.

What is one thing you can do dial your heart to God's today as an intentional giver of kindness?

Saddle Up

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Hebrews 11:8

Sherwood Elementary
We lived in Sherwood Forest on Robin Hood Drive. Our subdivision in a small bedroom community outside Seattle, cradled adventure behind every tree. My brother and I were determined to take part.

Our adventuring hearts ultimately landed my mom in the principal's office of Sherwood Elementary. Though the principal is the highest ranking official in the life of young kids, we didn't let him snatch our fun. While our mom discussed some issue around behavior, we behaved like a couple of bandits. 

Sherwood protrudes from a large hill as an unsightly profile shot - a hill steep enough to guarantee fun. Still small enough to sit in a stroller, my brother repeatedly raced to the top of the hill, let my stroller go and let me barrel down as he galloped behind to catch me. I sometimes wonder if that were the precise moment I gave my heart unreservedly to adventure. I was made to be a Robin Hood...or at least a Maid Marion.

You can determine if you have Robin's heart with this simple test. If your spouse came home tonight, told you to pack a bag in ten minutes because your flight to Paris leaves in an hour would you squeal with delight or shake with fright? But what if I told you God has planted His heart of adventure in every one of us?

Faith is the ultimate adventure. God asks every one of us to saddle up and ride into the forest of faith. Behind every tree and down every hill are new thrills. Whether our natural bent is to ride or hide, we need to embrace the adventure of faith. 

The fathers of our faith left us trail markers to follow. Their footprint was faith in action. Yes some, like Moses, questioned their ability. Others, like David, occasionally wandered off the marked trail. All followed God on an incredible adventure.

What is the most thrilling thing God could ask you to do? What is the most terrifying? Surprisingly they might be one in the same. Are you ready to saddle up?

(If you're reading this over email, visit to view the music video to "The Great Adventure" by Steven Curtis Chapman)

Marriage is a Marathon

It was Mother's Day 2003. I wasn't really expecting a present from Scott. We weren't engaged. We weren't married. And I certainly wasn't yet the mother of his children. 

The package was simple in its presentation yet extravagant in its impact. The words Marathoning for Mortals blinked back at me. Mortal definitely described me. 

Often picked last in PE, I never believe I could run to the end of the block let alone mile after mile. My then boyfriend, saw an unexposed dream tucked in my heart. I wanted to run a marathon. I wanted to believe an unathletic, uncoordinated, ordinary single mom of two could run 26.2 miles.

Life happened. We got engaged. We got married. I bore two more daughters. 

Nearly ten years later I finally cracked the spine. Reading this book has been a delicious morsel of how-to and you-can. Every bite has tasted like inspiration.

As great as this book is as a marathon training guide, and I do highly recommend it, digesting it has reminded me of a different marathon - marriage. Each of Bingham and Hadfield's sections has called to my heart as a wife.

Getting Started

Even though we dated two years, Scott and I weren't entirely sure we were ready to marry. Divorce carves caverns of reluctance into your heart. Could two "marriage flunkies" really make it? We have and we will because as we got started we invited God into the center of our marriage.


Just as long distance running requires a daily regimen of rest, cross-training, miles and nutrition, marriage requires daily care. Marriage needs rest - moments of quiet reflection on a walk, in bed or over coffee. Marriage needs cross-training - I need to do my other priorities well to maximize my life with my spouse. Marriage needs miles - marriage is a day in, day out commitment. As I log miles of encouragement, love and tenderness my heart becomes better trained for the distance. Marriage needs nutrition - I need to feed my marriage time and attention.

The Toolbox

Like a casual runner who leaps from a 5-K to a half-marathon in a week, some marriage issues get too big for just the couple to handle. In our toolbox, we need to pack mentors, counselors and resources. A mentor couple can smooth out the bumpy road of marriage. Counselors can help us around unexpected bends. Resources like seminars, books and Bible studies can keep us off relationship-breaking concrete and allow us to run on the cushion of wisdom.

Game Face

The best time to prepare for marital strife is before it occurs. When we pray together as a couple, invite God into our marriage and live according to Biblical guidelines, our marital game face is secure.
John "The Penguin" Bingham &
Coach Jenny Hadfield,
co-authors of "Marathoning for Mortals"

Training Plans

Just as a runner can't peel off 26.2 miles without a plan, neither can we experience success in marriage without a plan. We need to make a plan together. How often will we date? What time will we spend together each day? How will we stay emotionally connected? All these questions and more need to be addressed in our mutually agreed upon marriage training plan.

Thank you, John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield, for your book. I will run my first marathon December 1st. I will be better prepared because you so kindly shared your wisdom. But I will also be more prepared to run one of the most important races of my life - the one that begins with "I do" and ends with "death us do part".