A Call to Worship in the Face of Fear

I drove my seventeen year old to school the other morning. I haven’t been able to do that since she got her driver’s license so it was a nice reminder of how life used to be. About a mile from the school we saw the banners reminding us that going to school is not a casual event for us anymore. It’s a blessing we will no longer take for granted.

Dozens of signs on long stretches of highway lined the road reminding us we are strong. Marshall Strong. We need to see and hear that because there have been many times over the past several weeks when we certainly haven’t felt it. I pulled in and slowed down, not at the usual spot I had for her freshman and sophomore years, but at the place where all students will now be entering for bag searches and metal detections. As I drove away, I prayed for her and every person whose life has been terribly changed just by going to school.

A few miles later, I parked at another school. This time for work. I turned the music down and thought back over the last couple of weeks. The frantic phone call from my oldest child, trying to process the words “active shooter”, the call to my youngest child and the terror at the realization that it could make her phone ring and let a gunman know where she was hiding, the flood of tears at that moment (and this moment as I type that and remember the feeling), the sleepless nights that came later, the traumatized faces both young and old as we tried to make sense of something impossible to comprehend, the questions, the guilt, the grief over losing friends, and the fear. Not your average, run of the mill fear, but a fear I had never come face to face with before. A fear that, if given too much space and power, could ruin my life. I thought of the school administrators, teachers, and staff who, out of concern for the children they worked with, ran toward the gunfire not stopping to consider that they could be running to their own death. I thought about the great love they had for these children. For my child. I thought about the things they saw and heard and how they entered a chaos so dark and unknown to help, console, and save and then I realized this is how every Christian is to live. We are called to run into darkness and terror and help even when we’re terrified. And then I cried. Just sobbed tears of grief, exhaustion, and the reality that this is our life now and this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

I dried my tears, grabbed my things, and jumped out of the car. And then as I made my way across the parking lot I heard the church bells ringing throughout the city. I hear them every time they are played but today was different. This morning they sounded clearer. More intentional than ever and I was reminded of something better. Something eternal. Something strong enough to get us through the nightmare in which we were living. A call to worship in the very face of fear and grief.

I wish there was an easy explanation for why our society seems to be crumbling and a quick fix for it, as well. I don’t have a perfect answer but maybe it has to do with the fact that we glamorize violence and drama. Our nation, including our children (even our young children) are drug addicted and dependent. Mental illness is rampant. Family values are on the extinction list. We say we’re a Christian Nation, but we don’t take care of our poor or oppressed. We aren’t a champion for the least of these, either. We put more faith in Washington, DC than we do Jesus Christ. Our church pews aren’t filled and even if they are on Sunday mornings, our neighbors aren’t being served or loved the rest of the week. Just ask the local waiter or waitress on Sunday afternoon if we’re really the people we claim to be on the pew. We’re mean to each other on social media. Read the comments on news stories and bullies are the ones speaking the loudest. Comments on religious articles show another group of bullies. Church bullies. They’re the worst and they’re raising children to treat others just the same. We have problems. We have a society problem, a mental illness problem, a heart problem, a gun problem, a discipline problem, a government problem, a drug problem, and a respect problem. Our culture is diluted with problems. But God has not left us. If we would turn down the noise of our hectic lives we might hear the faint call to worship playing as a soundtrack to our lives.

Church, it’s time to step up. I know you’re struggling with life. I agree that it is ridiculously hard and at times, terrifying. I know some of you are stressed over your finances or with your marriages. Maybe you’re struggling as a single parent with the ex, with visitation, with child support, or the lack thereof. Maybe you’re totally completely on your own and feel so alone.

I know we all want to be loved and accepted. I know we are broken and hurt and sometimes don’t even feel like we are worthy to call on the name of Jesus let alone understand and believe it when we’re told we are the temple of God. I know we’re wrestling with the sins we’ve committed in the past and the sins we’re in the middle of right now. I know there are days we don’t even want to get out of our own beds. I know we’re busier than we’ve ever been and feel like we get nothing accomplished. I know we struggle with feelings of worthlessness, with insecurity, and with doubts. I know our children, parents, jobs, and churches can be exhausting. I know we wrestle with pride, selfishness, and gossip. I know there are times when we just want Jesus to come back so all this hurt will be over. But I know and believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that we love the children deeply and will do anything for them. So I challenge us all today to be the spiritual leaders they need. To encourage them to love God and love their neighbors. To rise above the drama and darkness that plagues us on social media platforms and in our communities. To turn off the news and open our Bibles. To return to God and commit our children to him. To encourage them to join youth groups and to get back into a church group ourselves.

Please quit believing that the government can fix all of our problems. And please quit arguing about it on Facebook. Refuse to listen to a world that tells you you’re not worthy to follow the Christ. Believe the God of Heaven and Earth when he calls you holy, chosen, and dearly loved. Shock people with your compassion and grace. Realize your neighbors need you. Your church needs you. Your children need you. They need you to speak words of light and love. They need you to model forgiveness. They need your peace and joy.

We need our people on the pews of our churches and we need our people on the curbs of our communities. We are missionaries. We are ambassadors. We are servants of the Christ. Our children need to see men and women of honesty and integrity who are preaching the name of Jesus. They need you. Yes, you! Stressed out, run down, overwhelmed, fed up, messy, broken you. Be the spiritual leaders that the children deserve. Show them that even when we’re tired and afraid, we can still be active in the work of the Lord. Rise up, bow down, and worship.

The next time someone tells you God isn’t allowed in schools, remind them of the men and women who ran towards the gunfire.

The next time someone says love can’t fix this world, remind them it already did. Now, it’s our move.

The next time someone wants to argue on Facebook, pray for them, and move on. You have better things to do with your life.

The next time someone grieves over this world, grieve with them but tell them about hope.

The next time life terrifies you, remember that it’s normal to be afraid but fear doesn’t get the final word. It doesn’t get to direct our path.

Regardless of this life and it’s trials we will refuse to let fear have the upper hand. In faith, we will radically love our families, our communities, our churches, and our enemies. We will rise above the terror. We will speak love and grace into the fire. We will refuse to stir the flames of drama and discord. We will humbly accept the mission to proclaim the name of the one who has called us out of darkness even when darkness arrives on our doorstep.

Evil may have its moments but its days are numbered. It may consume our nights but it will not win our hearts. Our God is faithful. Our God is redeemer. He is our strength, our King, and our comforter. We will endure. We will believe. We will worship.

Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized February 26, 2018

What Do We Know of Holy?


A young woman preaches grace and truth and receives death threats from other Christians.

College students are hurt by their school and then wounded even more on social media by other Christians.

A preacher spends weeks agonizing over a sermon, praying it will bring glory to God and encourage the Kingdom only to be criticized, isolated, idealized, or treated as an office manager or building keeper by other Christians.

We wonder why we’re losing our children, why no one wants to talk to us about religion, and what we can do to make things better in this world. Maybe we need to take a long look in the mirror.

We are the holy people of a Holy God which means he should be influencing our actions, reactions, and words regardless of whether they are spoken or typed.

What does holy look like when you’re faced with someone who doesn’t interpret Scripture the way you do? It looks like laying down your stones and choosing grace instead. That may mean withdrawal but it never means cruelty.

What does holy look like when someone has been offended? Regardless of your opinion on the subject, holy looks like listening and trying to understand someone else’s viewpoint and story.

What does holy look like for a church and her minister? It looks like an adequate salary for the vital role served. It means making sure they can afford quality health insurance for them and their family. It looks like good communication from and with the leadership. It means walking alongside them in their work for the Lord and not expecting them to carry the entire congregation. It means friendship, encouragement, and love.

In every relationship holiness looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It’s thinking Jesus and inviting him into every situation.

Church, it’s time we step up. We are God’s people. We know holy. Let’s start living it. The world is watching.



1 comment Posted in  Uncategorized  Tagged:  , , , , , September 18, 2017

What We Have to Do



I received this note from a kid at school the other day. I especially like the second line. “I love God and Jesus so you have to love God and Jesus.” I can hear her attitude loud and clear and it cracks me up. This sweet, innocent child of God has some bad theology to sort out. But don’t we all?

I hope a kind soul gently breaks it to her someday that not everyone is going to love God and Jesus. I hope they go on to tell her that regardless of what others choose to believe about God (even choosing to live against God) doesn’t negate the way God expects her to respond to them. She still has to be kind to them. Still has to protect them, go the extra mile for them, feed them, visit them, walk alongside them, and help them. She still has to show them Jesus even if they refuse to see him because loving someone doesn’t mean accepting the choices they make, it means accepting the Christ and his wildly, radical call to love your neighbor.

I hope someone opens a Bible and shows her that Jesus died for us while we were still enemies so we have no excuse to exclude or mistreat ours. Maybe they’ll also show her the Gospels and she’ll realize that our Savior built a church on relationships not rules and regulations. Maybe she’ll strive to be a friend to others regardless of how or what they choose to believe. Maybe she’ll be so moved by the way Jesus loved, healed, and associated with sinners that she’ll eagerly welcome them and do the same. Maybe she’ll be so busy she won’t have time to protest, oppress, or ignore others made in the image of God.

I hope she chooses not to listen to some in the church when they say love is a nice idea but won’t work in the real world. Jesus certainly thought it would. I hope she sits with the outcasts and hears their story. She might find out they loved God and Jesus all along.

More than anything, I hope someone gently teaches this sweet kid that loving God and loving other is what we have to do and we have to do it in a way so genuine, others might even decide to love God and Jesus, too.





Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized May 18, 2017

Why Today Matters


December 30th may not mean anything special to you but it holds a great deal of significance to me. My father passed away on this day in 1980. It also marks the anniversary of my mother’s death in 1990.

The end of each year can be rather somber if I allow the grief to become too strong. Instead, I try to focus on the good memories and the beautiful way God has led me from there to here.

Some has said that 2016 has been a rough year but it was no worse than 1980 or 1990 or any year that has impacted you.

As we venture into a new year, we’ll witness wonderful moments and heartbreaking disappointments. There will be new babies to kiss and old friends to bid farewell. Many will give their lives to Jesus this coming year but some will walk away. There will be those who begin their futures together in beautiful weddings and those who will end theirs in bitter divorces.

We will lose those we love and admire but we will not allow our heartache to steal our hope and joy.

As those around us are making grand resolutions for the entire year, let’s resolve to live life one day at a time, starting with this day. Today:

Be a servant.
Encourage God’s people.
Refuse to let your past, your pain, or your problems keep you from your mission.
Meditate on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable.
Remember that you are chosen, holy, and deeply loved.

We don’t know what tomorrow will hold. What we do know is that today brings us one day closer to seeing Jesus. So chose this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15). Use it to glorify him, and remember, the same God who loved us so much that he sent his only son (John 3:16), can get us through any day we face.

Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized December 30, 2016

Newest Articles

For my latest articles (including this one), check out the main page at Wineskins:

The Truth About Millennials

Hey 40-somethings, 50-somethings, 60-somethings. All you guys closer to my age than my kid’s age. We need to have a chat. Get off the young people’s backs. Quit using the word millennial as a derogatory term. Stop it. Stop sharing articles about how terrible they are. Stop criticizing your younger brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a sin and Paul warned Timothy about people like you (I Timothy 4:12).

If you really care about the church and want to help the next generation win, then go out and meet them. Have a cup of coffee with them. Hang out with them, mentor them, and love them. Let them see how much you love the Lord. Get out of your comfort zone but be advised, we find out who we really are when we do and that may scare you a little bit but that’s a good thing.

The millennials I know are in places you wouldn’t even dream of going telling others about Jesus. They are on the front lines of this Kingdom, courageous, and on fire for the Lord. They don’t have time to criticize the other generations because they’re too busy making a difference in theirs.

I really don’t understand how we can treat a group of people the way we have and then turn around and wonder why, in some places, they’re leaving the church. So stop that and start sharing the love of Christ.

The church has enough criticizers. Be one of her cheerleaders. Quit complaining about others. Quit pointing fingers and start building bridges. We’re all in this together.

Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized December 17, 2016

Cleared Lanes

louisville raod




A few months ago my oldest daughter was injured at work and needed surgery. Although, she fiercely assured her mother that it wasn’t a big deal and would be fine without me I couldn’t stand it. As soon as I could, I threw together a bag and started out on my trip to the big city. This is where I need to tell you that I hate driving especially long distances at night by myself.

Getting on the interstate in my little town wasn’t that big of a deal but as I got closer to the end of the several hour trip, I started getting a little anxious. Big trucks and fast cars were flying by. A couple times a car would swerve all over the road and I would pass to see the driver on their phone.

Every time I got off one ramp and merged on to another, I would ask God to clear my lanes. And he did. I didn’t have to worry about merging into that crazy traffic because there was always a space that I could easily glide into. I’ve since driven in different parts of the country and have no problem asking God to clear my lanes and he never fails to make a way.

And then the other day happened. I got some news that I’m still reeling from. Unsure of what to do and how to proceed I sat down and grasped for words. The only thing I could think of was to ask God to clear my lanes. Remove the obstacles of fear, doubt and anxiety and help me to see that regardless of what happens, he will work everything out for his good. It may not be in the way I would expect. It may not be the decision I would make. It may even hurt a little but I know that he’s got this and everything is going to be ok regardless of the speed bumps and traps of life.

The Proverb writer also told us about God clearing lanes but he said it in another way:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I have a feeling that you’re going through something right now, too, that is shaking you up a bit. Something that you’re not sure how to handle or how you’ll get through. Something foreign and messy. Something that hurts. Maybe you’re upset with God.  Maybe you don’t even know what to say or do. I’m right there with you. Still trying to figure it out. Still asking God to clear my lanes. Spend  a little time in Proverbs and if you’re still unsure what to say, try asking him to clear your lanes.

1 comment Posted in  Uncategorized June 3, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day!

The following status is based on actual events. Names have been withheld to protect the guilty & please feel free to add your own in the comments. We’re all in this together:

If you’ve ever accidentally left kids at the church building, you might be a mother.

If you’ve ever choked down food prepared by young children, you might be a mother.

If you’ve ever cleaned the house only to find it destroyed within 2 minutes, you might be a mother.

If you’ve ever had to tell a soaking wet individual that the next time they jump into the baptistery better be when they’re getting baptized, you might be a mother.

If your favorite cat has ever been shaved to look like a ridiculous lion, you might be a mother.

If you’ve ever hid in a locked pantry to eat Hostess cupcakes or chocolate of any kind, you might be a mother.

If you’ve ever worn clothes that are mismatched, stained with spit up or completely out of style but just glad you had time to actually get dressed, you might be a mother.

If you’ve ever spied on or tracked down a child so well the CIA would be impressed, you might be a mother.

If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to sleep all night, you might be a mother.

If you’ve ever taught teenagers to drive and were pretty sure you were going to eat a guardrail, you might be a mother.

If you’ve ever had flowers brought to you while you were standing in line at a funeral visitation, you might be a mother.

If you’ve ever had to explain why we don’t pick flowers at a funeral home, you might be a mother.

If you’ve ever dug Legos out of a stopped up toilet, you might be a dad (seriously, that’s too disgusting, people).

If your new vacuum has ever been used to clean up beef stew, you might be a mother.

If mattresses have been used to surf down stairs in your house, you might be a mother.

If you’re amazed at how much you love the people who have made you crazy (but sane is boring & overrated, right?) you might be a mother.

Go have a great, wonderful, happy Mother’s Day!mothers day

Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized May 7, 2016

When Church Hurts

sad person

Don’t judge Christ by those of us who so imperfectly wear
his name. -Yancey summarizing a quote by Tolstoy
I have fond memories of the church where my father served as minister before his death. They were very good to dad before and after he was diagnosed with ALS. They supported my mother when she became a young widow and loved spending Sunday afternoons with her two small children. They encouraged and rescued us in so many beautiful ways. Regardless of how often I think of them, I can’t shake the memory of the one person who flippantly tossed a few dollars toward my father and told him to get a haircut before he preached again.
Sometimes church hurts. The place that should be the safest sometimes isn’t. Those who should be filled with grace, understanding and support sometimes aren’t. Although we would like to tell the world that we’ve got our act together we don’t. Church isn’t perfect. Thankfully for all of us, Jesus is. 
If we claim Christ as our Lord it is imperative to respond to tragedy, death, politics, anything that threatens our life or liberty in a way that is different from those who don’t. What we post on the Internet, how we treat our spouse, how we act and, more importantly, react to life’s problems is crucial to the Kingdom. Most of the time, we’re great at that. Other times, not so much.
So what do you do when you’ve been hurt by the one place that claims to be a sanctuary? First, realize that you’re standing on a land mine. Scripture tells us that Satan is constantly looking for a way to invade our hearts and attack (1 Peter 5:8). Peter warns us to be on guard, alert and ready for the devil’s advances. Our enemy will see this coming long before we do and will use it to damage the Kingdom. Don’t let him.
Accept the fact that we are all family. If you believe God is creator than you must accept those around you as your brothers and sisters. Especially those who don’t yet know they belong to God. Your treatment of them will either lead them closer to or farther from the Kingdom. 
And maybe you’ve walked away from God because someone who claimed to follow Jesus said something hurtful. Maybe it needed to be said but the tone and attitude left you thinking and feeling that Jesus was an arrogant tyrant. Or maybe it never needed to be said at all. Maybe they were wrong.
Maybe they cared more about their doctrine than they did about your soul.
Maybe they didn’t understand that church is a family of the broken and not a country club for the rich.
Maybe they had bad theology or just bad manners.
Maybe their traditions were more important than truth.
Maybe they didn’t take the time to sit down and get to know you.
Maybe they acted like they had all the answers instead of introducing you to the One who does.
Maybe they took one look at your brokenness and instead of offering comfort, offered a religious checklist.
Maybe instead of being preached at, you just needed to be loved on.
Maybe all you needed was to be shown Jesus but instead you got the church. Wounded, imperfect, flawed followers marred by tradition. Well-meaning stumblers of grace who have been known to have a hard time showing the love of Christ. I promise that we’re trying but we get it wrong occasionally. Thankfully the Bible gives us several examples of others who left Jesus shaking his head.
When the people in Samaria refused to accept Christ, James and John were ready to torch the entire city (Luke 9:54-55).
When Bartimaeus called out in faith for Jesus to heal him, some demanded his silence (Mark 10:46-49).
When others were performing miracles in the name of Jesus, the apostles wanted them stopped (Mark 9:39).
When the disciples tried to keep the children away from the busy Messiah it was the adults who got in trouble (Matthew 19:13).
If harsh words have been spoken to you, if you’ve been treated in a way that is mean and unfair, if you’ve wandered away from God because his people were a bit rough around the edges, I want to take this moment to apologize and ask you to give Jesus another chance. Don’t blame him for our failings. We’re working on this loving others lifestyle but we have a tendency to mess it up. We’re not perfect. Forgive us for claiming to be. Give Christ another chance.  Give us another chance.
Church, be nice.  Remember that you’re not the director or star of this Kingdom adventure. You’re an usher. Lead others in. 
Originally published at Marshall Daily.

Add comment Posted in  Uncategorized April 16, 2016

dec 30Today may not mean anything special to you, other than another year is passing too quickly, but it holds a great deal of significance to me. My father passed away on this day in 1980. The date also marks the anniversary of my mother’s death in 1990.The end of each year can be rather somber if I allow the grief to become too strong. Instead, I try to focus on the good memories and the beautiful way God has led me from there to here.
As we venture into another year, we’re going to witness wonderful moments and heartbreaking disappointments. There will be new babies to kiss and old friends to bid farewell. We’ll see evil in this world but we will be encouraged by those who aren’t afraid to proclaim Christ as our Lord.

Many will give their lives to Jesus this coming year and sadly, some will walk away from him. There will be those who begin their futures together in beautiful weddings and those who will end theirs in bitter divorces.
Love, faith, and hope will be readily available to drown out the failures, difficult moments, and tragedies that we might experience.
As those around us are making grand resolutions for the entire year, let’s resolve to live life one day at a time, starting with this day.
Today, be a servant.
Today, encourage God’s people.
Today, refuse to let your past, your pain, or your problems keep you from your Savior.
Today, meditate on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable (Philippians 4:8).
Today, remember that you are chosen, holy, and deeply loved.
Today, walk with the Lord.
Making plans for the entire year is futile. We don’t know what tomorrow will hold. We may find ourself in the pit. We may stand on the mountain.
What we do know is that today brings us one day closer to seeing Jesus. So chose this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15). Use it to glorify him, and remember, the same God who loved us so much that he sent his only son (John 3:16), can get us through any day we face.

2 comments Posted in  Uncategorized December 30, 2015

He Knows My Name

Nearly three months into a school year and halfway into a class period that she has had every week; this sweet little first grader raised her hand and said, “Mrs. Art, could you help me?’ I could and did and still smile every time I think about Mrs. Art.

I thought about that the other day when this song started to play. Aren’t you glad the world doesn’t call us by what they think- Mrs. Stressed Out, Mrs. Failed at the Important Things, Mrs. Looking for a Fight, Mrs. Change Agent, Mrs. Broken &  Needing to Be Healed, Mrs. Unwanted and Unworthy?

God has set a new name upon us. A name truer and greater than anything the world could place upon us. He calls us child. He calls us holy, chosen and dearly loved. Before you took your first breath, he loved you. Before you took your first steps, he loved you. Before you made your first mistake, he loved you. He will always love even if you choose not to love and follow him.

This life is too short and too difficult to do it alone. You weren’t created to. So choose God. Choose life. Choose joy, peace and hope in a miserable, war-torn and desperate world. Choose life because the one who created life knows your name.

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.  I’ve called your name. You’re mine.” Isaiah 43:1


2 comments Posted in  Uncategorized October 11, 2014

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