disciples of all nations // dividing and conquering


Christians are called to love and serve others and to make this world a better place until we enter the next.

I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed by all that responsibility. Between disease and poverty and lack of clean water and suicide and violence and oppression of women and child abuse and homelessness and drug addiction, there is a lot to fix. And there’s no way you can fix it all.

It’s hard to think about, so it’s easier to just check out. To send a donation here and there for tax purposes but not get emotionally invested. To be honest, that’s been me for a while. I usually enjoy service projects while I’m doing them, but I often get depressed later on about the grand scheme of things.

But the thing is, we’re not called to fix everything. We’re called to fix something.

Acts of the Apostles records the very earliest days of Christianity. This passage gave me a swift kick in the pants and reinvigorated my interest in serving:

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

Acts 6:1-5

Even the disciples — the people Jesus personally chose to walk with him and carry on his legacy — couldn’t take care of all the challenges their community faced. What a relief!

Only God has the power to fix the entire world. We play just one small part of that. But it’s an important part.

So get out there and find your something.

This post is part three of a series on the disciples. Read part one here and part three here.

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leviticus doesn’t have to suck


The Bible is in the wrong order.

Genesis is pretty interesting. It folds nicely into Exodus, where the story of God’s creation and chosen people continues, leading up to the lineage of Jesus. Then comes Leviticus — and you’re first bored to tears and then, wham, smacked in the face with a list of punishments and ceremonial cleansing rituals that, to modern eyes, seem arbitrary and unnecessarily harsh.

A lot of the cherry-picked verses that are exploited as “proof” that Christianity is backward, misogynist, hateful, etc., come from Leviticus. Putting people to death for saying something mean about their parents doesn’t quite seem to jive with our goal of spreading the unconditional love of Christ. Even as a believer, it’s pretty hard to get through Leviticus without some serious questions — unless you have the proper historical and spiritual context.

I’m approaching my Bible study without any accompanying historical data or commentary, at least this first time around. It feels a little reckless and contrary to what pretty much every how-to blog post will tell you, but I know myself. I don’t want to get bogged down in dates and maps and miss the message.

But for Leviticus, context is absolutely necessary. My advice? Regardless of how you choose to read the Bible, read Galatians first, then Leviticus.

Galatians is one of Paul’s most powerful epistles and explains clearly and succinctly why Jewish law is no longer followed. Galatians 3 gets a little metaphysical, but the gist is that the law was created by God to govern his followers until such a time as Christ could come and release us from the burden of sin. A brief excerpt:

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Galatians 3:23-26

Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, we can now be saved by our faith, rather than our allegiance to a strict set of rules and regulations.

Once that was settled, my next question was: Why would the compilers of the Bible bother including a book of laws that no one is required to follow any more? For perspective.

If you have a Bible handy, flip to Leviticus and glance through the sections about ceremonial cleansing for people with leprosy (in my translation, “contagious skin diseases”) and bleeding or discharges.

Now think about how truly radical it was for Jesus to surround himself with lepers or heal the hemorrhaging woman who touched his cloak. By touching these people, Jesus under the law would have also become unclean and held to a strict schedule and series of baths. Nobody wanted to be near them for fear of becoming unclean themselves.

But Jesus kicked the law over and said, “Nope.” Love is all that matters.

By associating with lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, Jesus broke preconceived notions about what God is and isn’t like wide open. And that’s what he calls us to do every day — to break down the obstacles holding us back and to share God’s love and our love freely.

It’s our job as believers not to skim over the parts of the Bible that challenge us or cause us to question God, but to tackle those questions head-on. So, yes, Leviticus is kind of a drag. But it’s there for a reason. And dense as it may be, even Leviticus has something important to teach us.

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disciples of all nations // flipping quarters


I suffer from analysis paralysis on a regular basis.

The incredible technology we have at our fingertips with Google and smartphones and pages upon pages of customer reviews is often a blessing, but when we use it as a crutch, even the most unimportant decisions seem mountainous.

I spent at least five minutes in the tea section at HomeGoods last weekend.

Should I buy the blueberry elderflower white tea that I’ve never had before for $2.99? Or should I buy the plain old black tea I know I’ll like for $3.99? Is certainty in enjoying the tea worth an extra dollar? Or should I live a little and try something new? Surely I can give the rest of the box to someone else if I don’t like it? What is an elderflower anyway? But do I even need more tea at all? If I pick up this box of tea, will I then be more likely to buy other superfluous things I also don’t need?

I probably looked like a crazy woman standing there waffling over boxes of tea.

There’s a psychological phenomenon known as “ego depletion,” which states that we only have a finite amount of willpower. The more decisions have to we make, the poorer the outcomes will be as we run out of energy. It’s the scientific backing for laying out clothes and packing lunches the night before you need them.

Despite being responsible for much more life-changing decisions than I deal with on a regular basis, Jesus’ disciples didn’t suffer from analysis paralysis. When the disciples needed to select a candidate to replace Judas, they prayed about it…and then they cast lots.

So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. They they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Acts 1:23-26

They didn’t sit around deliberating for hours on end. They didn’t consult their friends or family or Google or experts who had a certain number of years of experience. They just relied on God to show them the right candidate. That’s it.

Can you imagine having that much trust in God that you would flip a freaking quarter next time you need to make a life-changing decision? Not praying as a backup to all your research and contingency planning — guilty here — trusting completely that God will make that 50/50 split fall in just the right way.

It’s scary, but also incredibly liberating, to relinquish the burden of overthinking and let God guide your decisions. I wouldn’t bet on 50/50 odds, but with God, we know that everything will turn out according to his plan.

If the disciples could trust God so fully when picking the one who would join them to carry on Jesus’ commands, then so can I. That trust is growing in me, a little at a time.

This post is part two of a series on the disciples. Read part one here and part three here.

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finding god in stress-eating brownie bites


Brownies are pretty much my undoing. Brownie bites are even worse. They’re so small, it’s totally fine to have three, or four, or five…

Last night I found myself unreasonably worried about pretty much everything unimportant but irritating. We’d just dropped a small chunk of cash getting an earlier flight back home from a wedding, with the hope that Monday would go a little smoother. I’d just told my coworkers I would go to an event later in the week, forgetting that I had Bible study that same night. My dog sitter was going to be late. We had a plumber coming the next day (during a characteristically huge window of time) to fix our master toilet for the second time. I hadn’t done my next blog post. It was supposed to be a recipe, and I had exactly zero of the necessary ingredients or energy to prepare it.

And so there I was, standing at my kitchen counter, waffling over all the things, eating my weight in brownie bites. When I came out of the fog and realized how anxious I was feeling, I then started being anxious about being anxious, especially over such trivial things when my life was actually really great.

There’s a saying circulating around the Christian parts of Pinterest: Don’t say God has been silent if your Bible has been closed. Mine had been closed for three days.

It’s so apparent from Jesus’ words that he didn’t come to Earth for us to be paralyzed with anxiety.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:25-27

When I realized how long it had been since I’d read my Bible, a wave of comfort washed over me. Oh, right. I’m not alone. I remembered those words from Matthew in the shower and felt the stress fall away with the dirt and sweat of the day. The things that were niggling at me were nothing in comparison to my family, my health, and especially my faith.

I like how John Piper put it: “Anxiety is an emotion. It is not a decision. We don’t decide to get anxious. It happens to us.” When the stresses of day-to-day life get to us, we are not alone — and God can help us with two solutions: relieving our anxiety and helping us the problems we face, no matter how small they might be. 1 Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you.” He cares for the sparrow, and so he cares for us.

As I write this post, it’s Sunday night. I’m in my jammies with a hot cup of tea. And as soon as I schedule this post, I’m cracking my Bible back open.

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4 tips for studying the bible


A few weeks ago, I got a text from a friend out of the blue. She shared that was in a similar place as I was: wanting to know God more and dig deeper but not knowing where to start. She had read my first post and wanted to make the same leap I did into the Bible. (That text made me feel incredibly humbled and invigorated at the same time and made this blog thing worth it already!)

I think a lot of Christians — at least Christian women — are in the same boat. We go to church, go to Bible studies and small groups, and hang out with our Christian friends but rarely pick up a Bible in our few moments of quiet. This world is so busy, and it’s hard to choose the Bible — an incredibly complex and challenging book — over the other zillion things calling our names.

But you can do it. I did, and I’m still doing it.

As I’ve made my way down this path of studying God’s word for the first time, I’ve found a couple of things that help me keep at it.

1. Pray before you start.

I’m really bad at praying. Most of the time I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall. But the more I study, the more I find that praying before I start is so important to clear my mind and center myself around God.

Usually I just pray in my head, but sometimes I find it helpful to write down my prayer in my notes.

And be honest with your prayers. One day when I was feeling frustrated by some particularly dense section of the Old Testament, I just wrote, “God, make this make sense, please. Amen.” He wants to know what’s on your mind — and he’ll understand exactly what you mean even if you don’t have the energy to come up with long, eloquent prayers. Just ask him to reveal the wisdom he wants you to know and give you the strength and clarity to apply it in your life. He’ll handle the rest.

2. Find a quiet place.

You can’t really sink your teeth into anything if you’ve got the TV on, kids running around screaming, or your phone blowing up with notifications.

I usually do my reading in my guest room. It’s in a quiet part of the house where I can’t hear the TV if my husband has it on or the neighbors’ kids playing in the back yard. It’s bright and neat and clutter-free and comfortingly silent.

I settle into my wingback seagrass chair (one of my favorite pieces of furniture, which I took off a friend’s hands for a ridiculously low price) with a notebook and colorful pens and my pups curled up at my feet. I keep a glass of water or tea nearby so I don’t have to get up if I get thirsty. Sometimes I light a candle. I leave my phone in another room.

The goal before you sit down should be to minimize as many distractions as possible.

3. Take notes.

I underline verses that stick out to me and write down any important thoughts or questions that come to mind in a spiral notebook. Taking notes not only helps you remember what you write, it also helps you process what you’re studying more thoroughly — good news all around. Bonus: You can always flip back through your notes when you need inspiration or encouragement or need to find a particular passage you remember.

I rotate between brightly colored pens so my Bible and my notes are full of life and color and make me smile when I open them.

4. Don’t pressure yourself. (This is the most important part.)

Before I got off my lazy butt and started reading the Bible, I spent a lot of time agonizing over what order to read it in. None of the plans I reviewed seemed just right. I was never sure how many chapters I could comfortably read per day. So I just wouldn’t read at all.

I rarely say this, because I’m very much a planner: Don’t have a plan. Or at least not one that you can’t modify as you go.

I don’t hold myself to a certain number of pages or chapters per day. I read however much I’m comfortable reading. It’s strangely liberating and, I find, more conducive to growth to not be restricted by a to-do list.

In the day-to-day, my most important advice is that if you’re not feeling it, it’s fine to set the Bible down and come back later. If you are feeling it, go ahead and power through a whole book (or two)! If you miss a day here and there, it’s not the end of the world. In my view, God would rather you dig deep into a few verses and see him than read the whole Bible begrudgingly because you feel like you have to do it a certain way.

Just remember that the point is not to check off a certain number of chapters or pages — the point is to get to know God and his story and breathe in his word. So settle into a comfortable pace and enjoy the ride.

I hope that helps! If there are more of you out there who want to start this journey but haven’t quite gotten yourself there yet, let me be the first to invite you to just jump in!

If you need advice or encouragement, hit me up. It’s my hope that this blog will spur others to open their Bible and join me on this crazy journey to getting to know God.

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disciples of all nations // at once


When Jesus met Simon and Andrew on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and asked them to become his first disciples, Mark 1:18 tells us that they dropped their nets “at once” and followed him.

When was the last time you felt God tug at your heart and dropped what you were doing “at once”?

Nah, I’m busy.

I need to fix this other thing first.

I’m not good enough. Someone else will do that.

What? Nope, I didn’t hear anything. La la la, I hear nothing!

Now think about the times you’ve been “called” by your job, your need for acceptance or approval, your friends, your obligations. Do you find it easier, as I do, to drop everything when you know the tangible benefit you’ll get from changing plans?

As a planner who loves to-do lists and checkboxes and brand new notebooks and Google Calendar, I know that not being able to see God’s whole plan is way scary. But we’re told that all things work together for the good of those who love God. No asterisk.

Next time we feel that little tug at our heart, let’s be like Simon and Andrew and go at once. And not begrudgingly — with excitement and anticipation for what God has put in our path. He had some pretty cool stuff in store for the disciples, and I bet he does for us too.

This post is part one of a series on the disciples. Read part two here and part three here.

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deeply distressed


In chapter 3 of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand. The Pharisees, literal interpreters of Jewish law, criticize him for healing on the Sabbath, a day of rest. Of course, Jesus defies the Pharisees and heals the man’s hand anyway. But that’s not the part that struck me.

Mark 3:5 reads that he was “deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.” Not just frustrated or annoyed or disappointed. Deeply distressed.

Jesus doesn’t just write them off, Jesus knew that Pharisees gonna Pharisee. He knew they would reject him, but still it deeply distressed him. He wanted nothing more in that moment than for them to follow him.

In those moments when you feel like giving up, it’s so easy to think God won’t bat an eye because he’s busy caring about those good people over there and working in their lives to deal with your mess. You’re just little old you. He has bigger things to worry about, right?

But Jesus is at work in each and every one of us. What’s more, he was also human and very much like us — he felt angry, sad, afraid, distressed. And he wants more than anything for us to have a relationship with him. Even when he knows we won’t measure up to his perfection, it pains him when we fear and doubt and refuse his love.

On the other hand, nothing makes the Lord happier than our commitment to following his will. As Luke tells us, the angels rejoice when just one turns and repents.

On the hard days when you feel far from God, remember Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees’ rejection — he was deeply distressed — and decide to be that one who causes the angels in heaven to rejoice instead.

This is the first piece I wrote when I began reading the Bible in July 2016. It originally appeared on Riverbend Church’s blog.

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welcome // my testimony


I’ve never really thought of myself as a person with a testimony. I don’t have a dramatic conversion story or anything you could call a born-again moment to talk about. I can’t tell you the date I “was saved.” Honestly, most days I don’t feel like a “real” Christian.

But the more I look back, the more I see God working in my life. Even when I’ve shut out or ignored or just plain forgotten about him, he’s been right there waiting for me, chasing me with his grace. 

I’ve called myself a Christian all my life but didn’t engage with God much until recently. Though my family didn’t go to church together, we almost always had Christian radio on, and I went to Christian schools. I’m certain I approached Bible readings for school more as a worksheet to be filled out (goody-two-shoes that I am) than as a glimpse into God’s heart, but I had a good foundation. To borrow Shauna Niequist’s words, “We all grow up with half a pie, and part of being an adult person of faith is finding the rest of your pie.”

When my then-fiancé, Geoffrey, moved from San Antonio to Austin in 2012, we decided to start looking for a church. When we stumbled upon Riverbend, the empty half of my pie plate got a little smaller. My personal faith journey began.

Riverbend was unlike any church I’d experienced.The services freshest on my mind were from my Catholic high school, where I had felt stifled and restricted. Riverbend, on the other hand, was welcoming and contemporary, filled with grace and hope. I still remember walking out of Riverbend for the first time feeling eager to return. I still have the bulletin from that Sunday.

We kept coming to church literally every Sunday we were in town. We got married at Riverbend by our wonderful pastor, a delightful and insightful man who inspires me weekly and even consented to making a Lord of the Rings joke with our wedding rings at the altar. We joined a community group of like-minded couples and became two of its leaders.

Though my faith had grown a little, it ebbed and flowed. Most weeks I was just going through the motions. In a particularly weary season, I thought of switching churches, thinking something had changed at Riverbend. But it wasn’t my church that was failing. It was me. I was failing to connect with God.

During the summer of 2016, two things happened. First, I went to a new evening worship service. It was the kind of thing that normally makes introverts like me extremely uncomfortable — chairs organized in a circle, forced to sit next to and make eye contact with people you’ve never met, and even hand-raising. GASP. But as I settled into my seat, I didn’t feel the urge to fiddle with my phone or bolt for the door. It was small and intimate and the faith in that room was strong. I felt the exhilarating presence of God in a way I hadn’t felt often, if at all, in my life. I can’t say I ever truly understood the concept of worship until that night.

Second, my couples’ group created a separate small group for a few of the wives that wanted to go deeper. We gathered to keep up with what was happening in each other’s lives and to learn how to be better Christians together. We read a book called Wild and Free, and the life-breathing words we read and conversations we had over the course of twelve weeks literally changed my mindset on faith and life. We talked about our fears, our struggles, our hopes, our doubts, death, change, and the artificial boxes we construct and try to shove our lives into — despite the fact that we know we already measure up, because God created us and called us good.

The combination of meeting God for the first time and learning to live wild and free led me itching to read the Bible. Not because I felt like I should or guilty that I hadn’t, which had inspired my previous feeble and short-lived attempts at Bible-in-a-year plans. Not because a pastor or teacher was telling me to. Just because I wanted to.

I’m a writer by trade, and putting my thoughts and desires into words on a page helps me process them. This blog is my way of sharing what I’m learning as I really get to know God.

I’m by no means a perfect Christian, and I certainly never will be. But I’m slowly being transformed into a wild and free daughter of the king and learning what it means to follow Christ in this messy but wonderful world.

And I hope you’ll join me.

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