Is there anything like watching a little kid open a present? This was my four-year-old opening a package sent from his grandmother this week.


Oh, the joy!

During the Christmas season we often teach our children about giving, but I believe we have much to learn from our children about receiving.

Because somewhere along the way, as we grow older, we lose the art of it. In the moment John received his power ranger, he didn’t think a minute about paying his grandmother back. He knows he can’t! And I’m pretty sure he didn’t envision writing her a thank you note later like I did. None of that crossed his mind. He was completely fixated on the gift that was now his! And nothing delighted his grandmother more.

There’s a reason families arrange travel plans to be wherever the kids are on Christmas morning. We’ll do anything to be able to see those faces the moment they are overcome by surprise and wonder! We don’t want credit for the gifts; sometimes we even attribute them to a man in a red suit. It’s not about keeping score. We plot and plan and spend without counting the cost because…it’s a joy like none other to watch a child receive a gift.

We love it because, in many ways, we’ve lost it. As adults, we have a harder time receiving. We feel awkward accepting a compliment. We feel uncomfortable when someone gives us a gift and we can’t repay them. We feel unworthy. We’d rather earn it.

We focus our attention this season on giving. And giving is an incredibly beautiful thing. But, as children of God, the birth of Jesus is perhaps more of a time for us to receive. A time to receive a gift with wonder and awe that’s impossible to pay back. A time to receive a love that pursues us relentlessly despite how short we fall. A time to see that we are indeed unworthy, but accepting that somehow we’ve been miraculously—chosen. A time for us to become as Jesus said, “like little children.” (Matthew 18:3)

The birth of Jesus into our lives is a time when our Heavenly Daddy gets to see those of us who know we’ve been tragically naughty receive the gift of extravagant grace with the same foot-stomping excitement that John received his power ranger.

The joy is ours.

The joy is His.

Let earth receive her King!


Dear Lord,

Thank you for the precious joy we get to see in little children this time of year. Please help us learn from them how to anticipate with great hope and how to receive in exuberant joy. Please open our hearts by the power of Your Holy Spirit to receive the extravagant gift of Your Son. Thank you for joyfully receiving us as Your children. May the miracle of grace fall so fresh on us that we can’t help but dance a jig!



You are Beautiful!


Summer is coming, and as it approaches, I am hearing a lot about skin care, botox, self tanning and plastic surgery. Perhaps it is because I am eight months pregnant, but these conversations often leave me tired! I think it’s because I know I could spend all my time and money fighting the force of aging and worldly imperfections and still come up short. And it’s no fun to dwell on our flaws, is it?! It can be a slippery slope. I write this with no condemnation at all…I admit I delight in getting my hair colored a shade of blond it has not naturally been since I was 18 and don’t feel fully dressed until I put I on my lip gloss. I enjoy good beauty tips from friends!

But I think there’s another conversation we need to engage in as women. The battle is not against aging, cellulite, skin tone, wrinkles or roots…it’s against an enemy who whispers something to us from the time we’re little: “you are not beautiful” or “you are not as pretty as…” Or the more subtle whispers from magazines, billboards, commercials and the world around us: “you’d be more beautiful if...” What is that “if” for you? I know what it is for me. Our real battle is against these lies, and this is the battle we need to engage in and help each other fight. There is a fine line between stewarding the gift of our bodies well for God’s glory and questioning the masterpiece design of our Maker.

I had the privilege of hearing my amazing sister-in-Christ, Toya, speak on beauty this month. As she confidently shared how she sees herself as beautiful in the eyes of God, she radiated a contagious glow, and I felt myself becoming more beautiful in my own chair as she spoke. She read from 1st Peter 3, “Let your adornment be what’s inside—the real you, the lasting beauty of a gracious and quiet spirit, in which God delights,” and Proverbs 31, “charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” She talked about how Jesus had “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2) Isn’t that crazy? He was the most magnetizing person of all times, but it was not what was on the outside that drew strangers to reach out and touch him. It was WHO and WHOSE he was. Toya asked those of us in the audience what makes us feel beautiful. I think a common answer was knowing that someone saw it in us. Every little girl and grown woman out there longs for someone to see beauty in her. And until she sees herself through the eyes of God and knows WHO and WHOSE she is, she will never fully comprehend just how beautiful she really is.

I loved this wisdom from my devotion “No More Perfect Moms” and wanted to share: “When you look at yourself in the mirror, what filter do you see yourself through? Do you compare what you see in the mirror to what you see in magazine articles and television shows? Or do you see yourself through God’s eyes? His eyes care more about the condition of your heart than the condition of your skin. We can make peace with our bodies if we will learn to see it through God’s eyes. Let’s explore what God says about our bodies and our hearts.

First Corinthians 6:19–20 asks, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (ESV). A little earlier in 1 Corinthians we read, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? . . . For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple (1 Corinthians 3:16–17 ESV). From the book of Romans comes this instruction: “I appeal to you . . . present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1 ESV). First Corinthians also reminds us, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV). All of these verses tell us that our bodies belong to God. He asks us to take care of our bodies and treat them like the Holy Spirit’s precious home. So taking care of our physical bodies is a stewardship issue. We are taking care of something that doesn’t actually belong to us, but instead belongs to God.

When you consider these verses, do you get the feeling that your body is actually a gift from God? I do. In fact, it’s a gift God made Himself! In Psalm 139 we discover, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139:13–14). . . .

Now imagine God knitting together your body. When the last stitch is complete, He says, “If you EVER wonder if I love you, just look at this incredible body I’ve given you. It is evidence of sacrifice and a heart full of love for you.” Our bodies are truly miraculous. . . . The human body is an intricate piece of artwork God fashioned and gave to each one of us. Think about that the next time you stand in front of a mirror!”

Isn’t that awesome? Along those lines, with beauty on my mind, something new and exciting struck me in reading the story of David and Goliath this week. Before David went to fight the giant, Saul put his own armor on the boy. The armor of a King, what a privilege. But David said about the coat and helmet, “I cannot go in in these…because I am not used to them.” (1 Sam 17:39) So he took them off. David was not engaged in the battle the world fights. He saw a different battle that called for a different armor. The rest of the Israelites saw the giant and as defying Israel and they were terrified. David saw the giant as defying God and he had courage in God to defeat him. God always wins His battles. So I ask you – what battle are you actually fighting when it comes to beauty? What weapons are you using? The weapons of the world or the armor of God? Are you fighting for victory or from it?

Saul tried to keep David’s eyes on his shortcomings by telling him he was too inexperienced to fight. But David confidently reminded his king that he had killed both a lion and a bear and that “this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them because he has defiled the armies of the living God.” (1 Sam 17:36) I think God often trains us for battles alone in the wilderness like He did David. That’s where our confidence comes from – that time in the wilderness between us, God and the enemy. In the battle of beauty, the enemy is a beast we think we can never overcome…one who whispers of our ugliness, our past sins, our shortcomings, and how we compare to others. But, once we’ve surrendered to God’s perfect love, fought that monster of ugly with His truth, received the victory Jesus won on our behalf, and see that beast defeated in light of the finished work of the cross, we are armed to fight any battle. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world….they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Cor 10:4) Paul tells us we have been given the weapons of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the sword of God’s word.

If the armor of the world doesn’t fit you, don’t let it weigh you down. You don’t have to put on anything that doesn’t fit you just because the rulers of this world tell you to. We are in a fight. Not against the giant of aging and imperfection, but against an enemy who defies the living God by telling us we are not beautiful, special, beloved, approved, fearfully and wonderfully made, and carefully knit together by divine design. This enemy knows how precious we are to our Maker, he shudders when he sees us coming and he knows that the One who lives in us is greater than him. He knows that our bodies are very special because they are temples of the Holy Spirit. And he also knows that when we start seeing this, he’s in big trouble!

Paul talks about fighting the “good fight.” (2 Tim 4:7) The Greek word good is “kalos,” which also means beautiful. Yes, we are called to fight the beautiful fight. It’s the fight for souls, the fight for eternity when we will “put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.” (2 Cor 5:2) It’s the fight against the lies of an enemy who defies a living God…a God who died for us so we’d never be ugly again, who made us in His image and lovingly placed on each one of us the weight of HIS glory. The battle has already been won for you. You are cherished and precious in His sight. We can stop trying to become beautiful because we already are! You will never be more beautiful in Christ than you are right now. This beauty never goes away or fades, and it is being renewed every day. It’s a free gift. Receive it. Walk in it. Claim it. Tell another sister she’s beautiful today, and show her WHO and WHOSE she is. We are free to take off the armor of the world if it doesn’t fit us and fight the beautiful fight. The real battle. God’s battle. Agree with Him. And say it to yourself: “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, there is no flaw in you.” (Song of Solomon 4:7)

Uniting and Igniting! OurCityOnAHill

Uniting and Igniting! OurCityOnAHill

I grew up in the Episcopal Church, where the hymns and processions at Easter and Christmas still linger sweetly in mind. And communion was a beautiful and powerful experience. Will and I joined a Methodist Church when we first got married and heard some amazing and thought-provoking sermons that opened us up to deeper discussion about our faith. I was saved in a charismatic mega-church and now belong to a non-denominational church with Baptist roots. Some of the biggest teaching influences in my life are Presbyterians. I’ve felt as if the earth was shaking from hearing the angelic and soulful choirs in an African American Church and have knelt to pray quietly in some of the most breathtaking and historic Catholic cathedrals of Europe. My husband and I are in Bible study with seven families that represent five different churches, and in keeping our eyes on Jesus, our different teachings serve to strengthen us. What is most amazing to me is in recent years serving at Choose Life and Lincoln Village, I have sat face-to-face with people I may have never crossed paths with and have little in common on the outside…but as we’ve shared a common love of Jesus, it immediately tears down those walls and unites us as people who know the joy of being called out of darkness and into His wonderful light. There is something healing about this to me. Christ tears down the dividing lines I unknowingly put around myself and others, and washes them away into a higher truth…brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of the High King.

Sometimes I picture heaven looking a bit like my church or neighborhood, but really – the throne room is going be incredibly colorful with people from all over the planet. “For God so loved the WORLD, that He sent His one and only Son…” (John 3:16) Not just the Baptists or Methodists, Americans, Asians or Africans, but the WORLD. We often look at denomination and doctrine, which I believe are important. It is great to feel passionately about knowing as much as we can about our Creator. But also great when our cultural and worship style preferences are secondary to our common love of Jesus, who rescued us and brought us into a new family. “You are members of God’s family.  TOGETHER, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.” (Ephesians 2:19-20 NLT)

I believe God sees us all as broken people in need of redemption, as equal before Him, as nothing without Him, and as righteous in Christ. He has used ALL of the voices, styles of worship, teachings and people to pursue me into a beautiful relationship with Him and open my eyes to the truth in His word. We have a creative Creator who made us all unique, and I am thankful for the many different ways to find and worship the One who made us for His glory.

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up ONE WHOLE BODY. So it is with the body of Christ….All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” (1st Corinthians 12:12,27 NLT)

What gets me FIRED UP is a group of different people who all rally around Jesus. It’s almost as if you can hear God’s heartbeat when see people, hundreds of people, very different people, gathered in the name of Christ. To me, it feels like a taste of heaven. There’s an energy that could fight off any darkness and unity that reflects God’s heart:

“His purpose was to create in himself ONE NEW HUMANITY…And in him you too are being BUILT TOGETHER to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph 2:15,22 NIV)

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for YOU ARE ALL ONE in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NIV)

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they MAY BE ONE as we are one.” (John 17:22 NLT)

“Love the family of believers.” 1 Peter 2:17 MSG

I saw this in a powerful way when my friend, Katie Wilson, and I went to the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta last fall. Thousands gathered for worship and teaching – many voices, almost all denominations, much global diversity and unique talent, but one voice came through – HIS. The leaders opened the with the question, “who are you?” and “what breaks your heart?” and suggested your answer to those questions unlocks the change you are meant to bring to the world.

What breaks my heart is when people do not know the extravagant love of the Father, and how He sees them through Christ. I wish everyone knew they do not need to hang onto their shame or past sins, but believe in the One He has sent and know they are the righteous in Christ who has died to make them worthy to wear white before a Holy and Perfect God. How these aren’t just words but realities. That we don’t just “move on” but are truly FREE in Christ. I came home with a passion to spread the word of Choose Life’s Healing Hands ministry and started meeting with church leaders in the community about it. Choose Life’s mission applies to all walks of life and denominations, and this work has expanded my view of our city. As often happens when we serve, we are doubly blessed. I have met some amazing people and leaders who are seeing the Gospel move forward in their churches and who have incredible stories themselves.

As I’ve met with these people, it has sparked a desire for everyone I know to meet them and connect to what’s happening. There is so much God is doing in our city, and a lot of great efforts to unite people, but not enough connecting all of the dots. There are many events I’d love to go to if they were just on my radar. There are many amazing believers in this city of all races and denominations I’ve never had the chance to connect with simply because there are no bridges to connect our paths. These are brothers and sisters and we live in the same place! There are many churches I’ve never even driven by. And incredible ministries where the Gospel is changing lives I’d love to lend a hand, resource or referral to if I knew more. I desire to connect more in Christ, and I get the sense many others do too. Why connect? Because when the flames of two candles touch each other, there is more than twice the light. We all have the same enemy, the same Savior and same call to the lost. How much stronger are we together!? And how beautiful when we can see ourselves united in the One who gave us differences to reflect the many facets of His glory.

Katie Wilson (the other half of Catalyst Team Katie!) came home with a desire to write and blog and teach, all of which she does beautifully (see her blog). Her boldness in writing and sharing her faith is part of what inspired me to start a blog. We put our heads together over lunch one day to share our takeaways from Catalyst, and felt God leading us in the idea to create a website called “OurCityOnAHill”. Our hope is to create a place with no walls for people from all denominations and walks of life to connect to each other, God’s word, testimonies, the hearts of pastors, prayers, voices of our past, dreams for our future, ministries, local events, and Bible studies.

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Our mission is to make Christ known and unite believers. God has pulled together a team of people with different backgrounds, and one thing in common – we love Jesus and love to share Him! “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 MSG) We are volunteers with limited resources, and it has been amazing and humbling to see God bring us helping hands with different skills. We pray His power continues to be made perfect in our weakness. This site is not in any way about us; it’s about Him and the Gospel that is transforming one life at a time in our city!


We pray those who come will “taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Psalm 34:8) We are launching this site on Easter Sunday. We feel God is moving in a powerful way in our city and this is just a part of it. There are different groups all over the city praying for gathering, praying for revival, praying for the Holy Spirit to blow through every inch of Huntsville. We feel we are just participating in the uniting and reviving work HE is already doing.

I have to admit, this is a bit scary at times…as it always is to follow God’s lead. When you bring a bunch of people together, it can indeed get messy. It’s not perfect, but we know that HE is. And ONLY He is. Our desire is keep our eyes on JESUS and pray He is glorified. Will you pray He is glorified? And will you come to Will you share your voice with us? Our hope is that we can connect on OurCityOnAHill and then connect face to face through the many events we’ll promote.

Come connect to where God is moving in our city. Come to connect to people, but mostly, come to connect to Him. And let us connect to you! God has given each of us unique gifts, passions, talents, trials and spheres of influence to be agents of change in the place where we live. Who are you? What breaks your heart? And what is your special role to play in a world that is yearning for hope? What’s your dream for our city? A dream is not seeing what is, but what could be. We’ve asked children to dream for our city – come to our site and check out what they’ve said. Here’s a sample:


Share your dreams. Isn’t it great God didn’t see what was? He saw what could be. There was darkness, brokenness, sin and death and rather leaving it that way, He sent His perfect Son to die on the cross and be raised to life so that we may be righteous, blameless and reconciled to our loving Father.

My dream is for the world to know Him…for each person in this city to grasp “together with all the Lord’s holy people… how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” (Ephesians 3:17) that the “eyes of hearts may be enlightened…that we may know the hope to which he has called us,” (Ephesians 1:17) and that believers will unite as the family He has made us… “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV) I kneel with the team of OurCityOnAHill and many others and dream that…as a city we can unite and ignite in a way we never have before!

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.” (Matthew 5:14 MSG)

See you April 5th!


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