Comparison Trap

Girls! I’m so excited to present Comparison Trap.

For a little over a year now, I’ve been working on a fun side project. This 4-part video study has a companion 28-day devotional book and a free app. It’s hot off the press and ready for you and your favorite group of girlfriends! Hey guys, this is the perfect gift for those ladies on your shopping list. Yep… just here to help.


I’ll save tales of the process—like the anguish of seeing yourself on screen—for another post on another day. I just wanted to drop in with a quick introduction. And a note that if you’ve bumped into an “out of stock” message on Amazon or elsewhere, there are a few places you can find them right now.

In the meantime, let’s do some giveaways! Comment here, like the Facebook page, or follow the Pinterest board for the chance to win some fun Comparison Trap stuff.

Not Rocket Science…or Swimming Lessons

shutterstock_81781318During the summers of my high school and college years, I worked as a lifeguard and taught kids to swim. It all started with a family friend who managed one of the textile mills in town. He had been an amazing college swimmer at North Carolina State.

John started teaching swimming lessons on the side. He had such a huge response that he soon needed an assistant. I was about fourteen or fifteen at the time, so it seemed like a good job for me. Plus, he taught at our house, so it was convenient! After a couple of summers, he left town to pursue the next phase of his career and left me with the swimming business.

John always began a new batch of kids’ lessons with a parent meeting. I’ll never forget him telling the parents that his goal was simply to get each kid from “Point A” to “Point B.” That each child’s beginning and ending places would likely be different. He didn’t make lofty promises. Nobody left the meeting with visions of college scholarships or Olympic medals. But he did promise that each child would make progress.

And each one did.

Over the past five years, Andy and I have discovered that foster care is a lot like swimming lessons. Each child is unique and comes into care at a different starting place. The goal of a great foster parent is to meet a child at her own “Point A” and lovingly coach and encourage her toward whatever “Point B” is uniquely hers.

Like Coach John, we don’t make promises we can’t keep. But we do work to ensure that every child who comes into care can take a next step—his or her own next step. Sometimes progress is imperceptible. On some days it feels like we’re going backwards. On those occasions we have to remind ourselves that even a temporary place of provision and safety with a picture of what a future can look like is progress.

Occasionally, the time a child spends with a foster parent or foster family is life changing. His progress is astounding. Instead of a short A to B, he makes huge strides and finds himself much further along on the continuum.

Either way, the common denominator for foster kids who make progress is time—not necessarily the length of time in foster care, but the time spent with caring adults who made them feel worth it.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not even swimming lessons. It’s simply time invested in a kid or two as they discover their Point A’s and journey along to their Point B’s.


Evolution of a Court

Evolution of a CourtIn his book, Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs, Albert Speer discusses something he witnessed as Adolf Hitler’s popularity began to escalate.

“Hitler himself put up no visible resistance to the evolution of a court.”

Powerful people, whether they intend for it to happen or not, find that “a court” of sorts rises up around them. Suddenly people want to serve them. People want to run errands for them. Something happens and people look to see how that person is responding, and they respond accordingly. It happens to powerful people, popular people, famous people. And it’s not the powerful, popular, famous person’s fault. It’s simply human nature.

Just before a friend of ours became CEO of a Fortune 500 company, he asked a predecessor what to expect. The former CEO responded, “Your jokes are about to get a lot funnier.” It was his way of saying that a court would soon be evolving around this leader.

Dictators and CEOs are not the only victims of this phenomenon. Pastors and ministry leaders are as well.

Apparently, Jesus saw this coming. He certainly experienced it. And, he made it clear how leaders should respond.

Jesus continually emphasized the importance of humility. He instructed his disciples to serve rather than be served. Toward the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated humility in a way his followers would never forget. As he gathered them to celebrate Passover, he assumed the role of a servant and washed their feet. This was awkward, to say the least. So awkward that Peter initially refused. Jesus concluded his demonstration by saying, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” I think it’s safe to say Jesus resisted the evolution of a court.

Extraordinary humility was not the only way Jesus resisted the evolution of a court. He had a pattern of getting alone to pray after huge crowd affirmation. Luke tells us that as his popularity increased, he often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Matthew explains that after feeding the five thousand, he sent the disciples ahead, dismissed the crowd, and went up on a mountainside alone to pray.

So what do we do when confronted with the evolution of a court? How should we respond when people glance our way for cues? What’s our next move when people begin looking to us for answers?

We must resist the evolution of a court by serving others and by humbling ourselves in prayer. As we exalt Jesus, we find ourselves aware of our place.

Here are a few thoughts to consider as it relates to being a church leader:

  1. Don’t let your church/ministry pay for things that you should be personally responsible for. That’s why you get a paycheck. You must resist the evolution of a court.
  2. Think twice before accepting expensive gifts from your church/ministry. You must resist the evolution of a court.
  3. Don’t let church members/attendees do monetary favors for you (e.g., give you cars, lots, or loans). It will usually cause relational problems, even if they assure you “there are no strings attached.” If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it or accept it. You must resist the evolution of a court.
  4. If people are in the habit of standing when you enter a room, insist they break that habit. You must resist the evolution of a court.
  5. If your organization insists on celebrating your birthday, make sure they’re celebrating everyone else’s too. You must resist the evolution of a court.

Entitlement always begins somewhere. If you don’t choose where to draw the line, no one else will. Great leaders draw the line early and often. Great leaders resist the evolution of a court. 

Grace in the Dark

GRACEHave you ever felt true awe when watching people you know respond to a serious illness or a season of extreme personal difficulty? I don’t mean you just admire their attitudes. I mean you’re awestruck over their rock-solid faith and trust.

Andy and I watched and prayed for Andrea and Josh Smith and their four beautiful young daughters for nearly two years. They navigated the complexities of a cancer diagnosis, identifying a huge malignant tumor in Andrea’s chest cavity. They trudged along through all of the subsequent treatments, side effects, surgeries, scans, tests, and life disruptions that came along with it. Through the entire ordeal, they “navigated” and “trudged,” filled with unexplainable joy and peace—unexplainable, unless you understand, as they do, the sufficiency of God’s grace.

Here’s something Josh wrote during that time. I hope it speaks to you and encourages you. If you’re walking a dark path right now, I hope you find that the truth of this rocks you to the core and gives you that same unexplainable strength in the midst of your journey.

“There is one little statement from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that has been a continual source of encouragement to us. The Lord simply says, “My grace is sufficient for you.” This is not a prayer request. This is a promise. It is a statement of fact. His grace will always be sufficient. We don’t have to worry about this. His promise is sure. There will never be a moment in which we find ourselves in need of more grace than is available. The struggle is never the sufficiency of God’s grace; the struggle is in believing his promise. So, instead of praying for God’s grace to be sufficient, we must simply pray that God would give us the faith to believe that his grace is sufficient. Faith is defined as “enduring confidence in the promises of God.” So today, we are praying that God would give us enduring confidence in the promise of his sufficient grace. We pray you will do the same.” —Josh Smith

Amazing grace, sufficient grace—exactly what we need, when we need it. Thank you, Andrea and Josh, for modeling this for us.

So, You Always Wanted to Be a Cheerleader?

Cheer Photo*This post’s intended audience is Pastor’s Wives, but I think it actually applies to everyone!

I’ll never forget one summer night having dinner with a pastor and his wife. Andy and I were newly married and navigating the world of working with teenagers. I don’t doubt for one minute that this pastor’s wife loved Jesus and meant well, but something didn’t feel great about the vibe between the two of them. I remember her telling us that she always felt it was her role to keep her husband humble. What with all the people praising and complementing him all the time…  He chuckled a little bit uncomfortably. She was pretty proud of her success.

In spite of my complete inexperience and floundering to figure out what being a ministry wife meant, that one thing failed to ring true for me. I decided to do the exact opposite. My goal became “be his greatest cheerleader.” I don’t always get it right, but that’s the bull’s-eye on the target. Even when busy with ministry and family and whatever else, my top priority apart from my personal relationship with Christ is Andy. There are lots of people affirming him and admiring him. Why would that EVER make me do it less?

So, for what it’s worth, here’s my advice. Never assume the role of keeping your husband humble. Don’t let anyone else “out cheer” you. I don’t mean loudly and publicly and obnoxiously. I simply mean in HIS heart and mind, you’re his greatest fan.

A few ideas to get you thinking… I’m so proud of you. I love what God is doing through you. I love life with you. I love parenting with you. I’d marry you again in a minute! Thank you for your sweet text, it made my day. That shirt looks really good on you.  Have you been working out? Okay, okay, maybe I’m getting carried away, but you get the point.

I’m convinced that this approach is a win for your ministry, a win for your husband, and a win for YOU!

A note to the guys: Men, how would you like to hear this? “Honey, I wish everyone who hears you speak could know how well you live what you teach. You’re the real deal.” Hey, give her some stuff to compliment. Live up to what you teach. You potentially have the best cheerleader in the world right next to you.