Missional Marriage: 10 Practical Ways to Serve Other People

My husband, Jeremiah, and I always had a desire for our marriage to make a  difference in the lives of others. We knew that God brought us together for a greater purpose beyond “us.”

Early in our marriage we had the opportunity to serve in an apartment ministry together. Our responsibilities were to facilitate community among residents, build relationships, host dinners and events, and share the love of Christ. We invested in our residents for two years and most of them were non-Christians…

Continue Reading over on StartMarriageRight.com… I’d love to hear your thoughts over there!

On Sailing… and Serving Others With Your Gifts & Passions

On Saturday, I surprised Jeremiah with a boat ride for his birthday. We boarded a beautiful wooden catamaran that seated about 30 people. Scott was our captain. He was super friendly and we knew we were in for a treat on the lake. It was just what we needed after a stressful week.
About 30 minutes into our sail, Scott came by to accept our payment. Jeremiah initiated a conversation with Scott on how he got involved in sailing.

“I got on the computer and Googled ‘how to build a boat,’ ” he said.

“I found all the necessary resources and started building. I never dreamed I’d be taking 35 trips a week and that my business would grow like this…”

Then he said something profound that stuck with both of us:

“I think it’s important to find what you love to do and serve others through it.”

You could tell that Scott had what he wanted in life. He’d been married to his wife of 30+ years, his children were grown and doing well, and he was doing what he absolutely loved. But not only that, he was blessing the lives of a lot of people- every week.

Scott takes a shot of us behind the wheel

During the remainder of the trip, I thought about how God distributes gifts to people and how the purpose of those gifts are to edify and equip the Church. So often it’s easy to get caught up in the what-my-gift-will-do-for-me kind of mentality.

But it’s not about that at all. Certainly, our gifts and passions draw us closer to God, make us come alive, and give us meaning and purpose. But our gifts aren’t supposed to be hoarded and hidden inside our own little box.

We’re supposed to give our gifts away. And if we think anything different, we’re missing the boat.

I don’t know if you’ve found your gift or the one thing you want to spend your life doing. I don’t know if you’re discouraged in that pursuit or if you believe you have something to contribute to this world.

But what I do know is God created you for a purpose and that involves building into the lives of others.

You have something to offer that no one else does and other people need you to draw out your gifts, however that might look and whatever risks that might involve.

When you view your gifts with an outwardly-focused kind of mentality, your life will change drastically. Your perspective will shift off of yourself and onto how God can use you to make a difference in the lives of others.

In middle school, I started journaling. It was how I felt closest to the Lord and it was the easiest way for me to write out my prayers and remember them. It also came natural, just like the assignments did in my Creative Writing classes. After receiving my first publishing contract in college (7 or so journals later), I realized that God was starting to call me out of my comfort zone of personal journaling and into riskier territory of writing for an actual audience.

As the years passed and I started writing for other publications and eventually writing Bible study curriculum for churches across the country, I realized even more that writing was my number 1 passion. But the best thing about it was that I could use my writing to serve and encourage other people and help build God’s kingdom. My focus, including my goals, started to shift. Still today, I’m learning what it means to be outwardly-focused and I’ve found so much joy in the journey.

“Find what you love and serve others.”

I’ll always remember the wisdom Captain Scott imparted to us that evening and I hope it will encourage you too.

*From the Archives*- You Might Also Enjoy Reading…

Daring to Risk a Little More

The Joy of Being on Mission

Five Minutes to Let It Shine

Give Yourself Away




When You Pray for & Love Your City

photo credit: athensboy.wordpress.com

This past Sunday, our church partnered with 15 local churches to pray for 18,000 homes in the city of Rowlett, TX (just outside Dallas).

Our church gathered together for worship, a message of encouragement, instructions, and then our leaders sent us off. I teamed up with an incredible family in our church, Judy and Ali Master, along with their four children.

A Prayer of Blessing

I didn’t quite know what to expect with this kind of event, but I knew that there is power in prayer and you never know the hardship, chaos, or disfunction going on inside someone’s house. All of us have experienced pain in some way or another. We were being sent out to pray this prayer of blessing over each home:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26

During the first few homes we prayed for, we noticed a middle schooler riding his bike on the road. He rode up on the sidewalk and we introduced ourselves. His name was Ryan and he attended the school our church met in right down the road.

I told him what we were doing and I asked him if he wanted to join us. I figured he’d think I was wacky for asking such a question, but I wanted him to know we noticed and cared about him.

He responded with a sincere “No” and rode off. I was a little disappointed but I couldn’t blame him! We were complete strangers.

An Unexpected Breakthrough

We continued on our walk, discreetly praying for each home. Ryan was still riding his bike just ahead of us. I told Judy and her daughter, Molly, about how interesting it was that he was still “with us” an hour into it all. They’d been thinking the same exact thing.

Towards the end of our designated houses, Judy engaged in more conversation with him and invited him to our church. He opened up more and said his parents were divorced and that he might be at his dad’s on the weekend. We told him whatever he could do was fine.

The Master’s and I headed to our cars to load up, and Ryan rode over near my van. He asked me some questions about my kids and told me more about the dynamics of his family. I was amazed at how nice he was and how natural it was to talk to him. He was totally different than when we’d first met.

Then he asked what time our church started because he forgot. I told him when to come and he said he was going to try and make it this coming Sunday.

Living, Learning, Loving Redemptively

I was so excited about Ryan’s willingness to join us. I believe he saw Christ living through us and that light was attractive. It was encouraging that our prayers to make a difference in someone’s life were being answered.

Being on mission with the Master’s created a special bond between us as we worked together to reach out to Ryan and love on him. At the end of the day, whether he comes to our church this Sunday or not, I just hope that he knows he’s loved and prayed for and that ultimately he will come to know Christ.

Acts 29 church planter, Jonathan Dodson, says:

The power of redemption, in turn, changes the heart of man who can change his culture and his city. Liberated from the power and penalty of sin, the redeemed are released into true humanity. In turn, we devote ourselves to living, learning, and loving redemptively.  (See Article: “Hate the City, Love the City”)

When redemption is truly understood and lived out in our daily life, it becomes impossible not to pray for and love the people inhabiting our cities. How convicting and challenging this is, but what a joy to be apart of the redemption God desires for each and every person we come in contact with.

How are you doing at loving your city?

Daring to Risk a Little More

“I want to go up there!” my son John shouted pointing to the white monkey bars off in the distance. They were really high and obviously not suited for his age, but we wanted to let him try. Besides, great determination was in his eyes.

We ran over to the monkey bars and my husband lifted him up. His little fingers latched on to the first bar and he made it to the next. He tried to hold on, but he lost his grip.

“All done!” he cried.

Daddy pulled him down and after a few minutes, even though it was a little scary, you could tell he was satisfied with the attempt.

John’s zeal to go just a little further taught me a lot about my own faith. Often, I’m content and comfortable to stay “elementary” in my faith instead of maturing and growing up towards godliness.

Pursuing more in my faith requires discipline and discipline is hard work. I think that’s why I’m quick to remain put and not take risks that seem difficult or even impossible by human standards.

But God has called me to something so much greater. He calls me to step out of comfort and into living on mission for Him, meaning that I must give MORE.

  • Giving more in the way I serve others for no other reason but love.
  • Giving more in the way I raise my children and love and respect my husband.
  • Giving more in the way I use my gifts and abilities so that others will be edified and equipped.
  • Giving more in the way I share the resources and money God has entrusted to me.
  • Giving more in the way I proclaim the gospel to whoever God puts on my path.

Failure, disappointment, and conflict are all risks that come with this kind of giving and it is radical. But the joy and fullness and blessing of knowing God through giving more away is irreplaceable—bringing me just a little bit closer to complete maturity and Christ-likeness.

John was craving more when he saw those big kid monkey bars. While he was innocent of the dangers, he trusted in his daddy to help him reach each challenge.

So it is with God.

What areas in your life do you need to give more? What are you risking?

The Joy of Being on Mission- Letting God Use You Wherever You Go

On Sunday, God answered a prayer I began praying two years ago for a young woman named *Allison.

Two years ago I was deeply stirred and convicted that I can be salt and light wherever I go: at the grocery store, the park, the mall, Chick-fil-a, wherever… There were people all around me that desperately needed to hear the hope of the gospel. I knew I needed to start being more intentional with people and stop making excuses.

I started thinking about the people in my path on a regular basis and Allison instantly came to mind. She was one of the sitters at our gym’s childcare. I saw her consistently and she had a great affection for my son John. He loved seeing her too. From the moment I met Allison, I got this feeling that she had pain in her life. There was something in her eyes and in the way she carried herself that said it. I felt like God wanted to use me, by his grace, to show her love when I had the opportunity.

On the days I dropped my son off at the gym, I would engage with her by asking about her day and about herself. One day I made banana bread for her and the staff there. I knew simple facts that she had a daughter and lived nearby but that was it. Our time was often cut short with me having to round up the kids.

There were days I got so frustrated because the right timing hadn’t come for me to share Christ with her or invite her to church. But somehow I would always go back to the fact that all I needed to focus on was building a friendship with her and showing Christ’s love. So that’s what I did over a span of two years.

Well about a month ago, I called to set up a childcare appointment and our conversation naturally flowed into me asking if she’d like to come to church with our family. To my amazement, she said she’d love to and we planned to meet in the morning. But morning came and she had to cancel. I was a little upset because I was so excited about it. The next Sunday we had planned to meet again, but her daughter ended up getting sick and my kids got sick too.

I grew discouraged thinking she’d never make it to church with us. I wondered if God really would make it happen. Then out of the blue and not in my timing at all, on our flight home from VA Beach this past Saturday, Allison texted me saying she wanted to join us for church. I was a little doubtful it would happen especially because we weren’t even sure we were going after a long day of traveling, but I trusted the Lord and we planned a time.

I texted her that morning to see if she thought it would work and she was ready to go! We met and she followed us in our van. When we arrived, Jeremiah took the kids and checked them in and I helped her check in her daughter. This was her daughter’s first time to church and she was so excited. When it was time for worship, we got our coffee and seats and the music played. We all stood to sing. I glanced over at Allison and she was blotting her eyes with tissue. She told me midway through how much she loved the songs.

When our young adult pastor, JP, gave the message, I felt like it was one of the best sermons I had ever heard. It was on being a light that shines bright among the darkness and the gospel was clearly presented.

After the service, Allison told me she loved it and wanted to come back next week. Her daughter also loved her class. We went out to lunch after, along with a couple in our community group and Jeremiah’s sister. Amidst the craziness of kids at the table, we learned a little more about her. She felt the freedom to share that she was adopted and her adopted dad died when she was a little girl. Several years ago she was in a very bad relationship, where she was beaten and the man killed the 8 month old baby in her womb.

I had never heard anything so tragic and I was amazed by all that she had gone through and that was only a small part of her story. Allison had experienced tremendous loss. But I was so encouraged that she heard the true gospel and she desired to come back to church. She experienced love from the body of Christ and I believe she knows that Jesus can heal her of all those hurts. I am praying for more opportunities to follow up with her and continue to encourage her toward a relationship with Christ.

As I write this, my eyes fill with tears because God is intervening in Allison’s life. While she may not fully know it yet, I believe it’s clear that he is working. We serve a God who cares deeply for people’s hurts and that they would be reconciled back to Him. We serve a God who wants to use us in every day life as we yield to His Spirit while we’re on mission for Him.

I look forward to seeing what God does with Allison’s life in the future. I’ll be sure to update you.

* name changed to protect privacy

Consumerism and the American Dream

To help people trade in the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ.

This is the mission statement behind the work I do every day for RightNow, Bluefish TV, and Small Group Trader.

Our passion is to create Traders. A trader is a new kind of missionary not defined by geography but by a resolve to: Choose Daily, Hate Injustice, Work as Worship, and Act Swiftly by using his or her time, skills and money to impact the world for Christ.

Our 3 strategies for making traders is to inspire church leaders, transform small groups, and coach individuals.

As a writer and editor on our team for our Bible study curriculum, articles, and more, my role in our ministry is fleshed out mainly in inspiring church leaders and transforming small groups. I have to tell you though that every day, I’m challenged and inspired by our mission here. In a culture that is all about consumerism, self-focused leadership, and “what’s in it for me?” (yep in church culture too), I’ve been challenged to really consider what the American Dream means in my personal life.

The truth is that the American Dream was once about opportunity, but it has evolved into a “more” and “me” way of life. More house, more car, more money, more everything. And I have to regularly ask myself, do those things control me? Even in the smaller things like getting a Starbucks drink, buying clothes, or household things, I’m becoming more aware of my motives and realizing that sometimes I just buy things because I can or maybe even because I feel entitled to.

But through a process, I really desire change and to trade in those pursuits in order to give my life away for the sake of other people and for the gospel. And this is no easy task because I’m so s-e-l-f-i-s-h and sometimes I love my agenda more than people. I think when we truly grasp all that is at stake when we cling tightly to the American Dream, our lives are changed and we can’t go back. And life is just too short to live it for ourselves.

Over the past few years, my husband and I have both traded in time, comfort, and sleep to provide meals and community activities to our apartment residents every week and through that experience, I learned more than ever what it means to trade in my life. Since I’ve tasted what being a trader is about, I don’t really want to live life any other way. But I recognize I will always need God’s help in order to be a trader.

Have you thought about the idea of being a “trader”? Are you trading in anything right now or would like to in the future?


When faith has action

For quite a while now, I’ve been praying for God to help me live out my faith on a day to day basis (in the mundane details of life). Sometimes I feel like I have a lot inside me, but I don’t know how to give it away. I’m impatient with the Lord and wonder why more opportunities don’t exist to be a light.

Well yesterday, Jeremiah and I went for a walk to the park with John. We put John in his favorite swing and noticed a young man walking our way with three kids. He positioned his twin toddlers in their swings next to us and his older daughter went off to play on the slide. He managed to have his eye on all of them, but he did look tired.

We introduced ourselves and started talking about random stuff. He lived in the lofts off in the distance. Jeremiah engaged with him more so I decided to go play with his kids on the slides. During that time, Jeremiah learned that he was divorced with a lot on his shoulders taking care of three kids and working a lucrative job. It was neat to see him really open up.

When it was time for him to go, I asked Jeremiah if we should give him our number if he ever needed someone to help out with his kids. He nodded, so I went up to him as he was getting his kids situated.

“Hey I know we just met and you don’t know us well, but we’d love to help watch your kids sometime.”

I was nervous about his reaction but his eyes lit up. “Really? That would be such a help. Thank you so much.”

He then asked us to text him our number. He told his kids to tell us goodbye- they were adorable. 30 minutes later, we got a text back saying how he would probably be spent by the end of the week. We told him we were available Saturday to help him out. I couldn’t believe how quickly we were going to be able to help!

Initially it was tempting to not act on the need we saw. This guy didn’t know us at all. But I think the issue wasn’t really him, but us. Would we extend a hand? Yesterday really helped me see that God uses us to help bring his love to people. And to me, that is just amazing that he would use us (in spite of our shortcomings).

I’m thankful that a Monday evening at the park is going to turn into more opportunities to serve…

Being on Mission with Your Children- Part 2

This is part two of the series, Being On Mission with Your Children. Part one consisted of Being a Mommy on Mission. This final part is about Being a Daddy on Mission. I encourage Mommy’s and Daddy’s (anyone) to read both.

In Being a Mommy on Mission, I addressed how the tiniest moments of slowing down will define the huge moments of how we meet our child’s physical and emotional needs. Slowing down is just one of the many ways that mommy’s can be on mission.

I appreciated Dan Browne’s comment from last week: “We made a decision to live each day with our child to the fullest. Even if that means Mickey Mouse Club House for a few hours because she wants to see the fish or dog or show us the flower on the screen, etc…”

Daddy’s don’t want to miss those moments either, and I’m convinced that Daddy’s role is equally important as Mommy’s, if not more important.

1 Corinthians 11:7 says that a man is the image and glory of God. I just love that. God has designed the man as the leader and head of the home. He has purposefully created men to cultivate and to build (Gen. 2:15), so I think the important issue with being a Daddy on Mission is that you have to fight in the Battle as you build.

God created Daddy’s to cultivate their children through discipline, love, encouragement, rebuke, and making sure there is steady progress in the family. But the reality is that since the fall where sin made its first ugly appearance, Daddy’s have to work hard at cultivating (Gen. 3:17-19). It doesn’t come natural and it doesn’t happen over night.

I sense the fight in our family. When my husband Jeremiah leads the three of us in prayer before bed time every night, searches out the deeper things in my heart, loves me and John well, and is being the spiritual leader he was created to be, there are all kinds of things that want to thwart that mission.

I can be a very difficult wife sometimes and an impatient mommy. John can be fussy, disobedient, and a handful. Jeremiah sometimes gives into his flesh and has a hard time leading. All of that coupled with the flesh, spiritual warfare, baggage, and Satan’s ultimate plan to destroy the family can’t be diminished.

But what I do see is that Jeremiah puts his armor on daily and is ready to fight back. He’s not perfect, but he works hard at loving us even when he doesn’t always get the response he wants. He strives to love me like Christ loved the church by being in the word, confessing sin, staying pure, and being held accountable to other guys. His love has encouraged me to be the person God created me to be. And honestly, I think he “gets” how to love much more than I do.

While he fights to cultivate well, I’m also learning that it’s my role to build him up and not tear him down when he has failed. I realize the implications of that are massive. Choosing to tear down could result in another casualty- a mere tragedy all together.

So why do you have to be in the war? How come it’s just so hard sometimes?

In our experience, we’re learning to expect the battle because we’re fallen. In our marriage and in raising John, we’re starting to appreciate the gospel even more. We treasure God’s constant grace on our failures and sin. We become more dependent on him to make it through each day because some days are just plain hard. We’re thankful he’s in the process of sanctifying us for his glory.

Daddy’s have such a high calling as cultivators of their marriage and their children and to love without conditions. And apart from the Holy Spirit’s transforming power in a man’s life, it’s impossible to be the cultivator God desires. But Daddy’s who are in Christ, have been given everything they need to stand strong and fight the battle against sin.

So build away, and continue to let God be your ultimate strength as you raise your family. We need you, Daddy, more than you could ever imagine!

Question: What challenges do you face in being on mission as a cultivator? What rewards? What do you want wives and mommy’s out there to know about “the fight”?

Being on Mission with Your Children- Part 1

This is part one of a two-part series called “Being on Mission with Your Children.” Part one will consist of being a Mommy on Mission and part two will deal with being a Daddy on Mission. I encourage you to read both parts.

Kelly Sauer‘s Twitter bio caught my attention the other day. It read: I dream big and change diapers.

I just love that and it made me think of a little mission statement that’s been ringing in my head since I’ve been re-reading a book I had to read for my Child Developmental Psychology class in college called The Power of Mother Love.

My new-found mission is: I want to change the world, one diaper at a time.

To tell you the truth, however, I didn’t know this would be my desire until God gave me my son John.

I’m learning that he is my mission. He is 15 months old so of course he doesn’t know it yet, but how I give my love away to him now will profoundly influence and shape his life and character and ultimately, who he will become one day.

Many of you know that I’m fresh into being a mommy so I’m not a pro, but I’ve found a little secret that’s helping me to be “on mission” with him each day and to value, above anything else, the importance of who I am to my child.

This might seem way too obvious, but it starts with Slowing Down.

It requires a lot of intentionality on my part to see the world how John is seeing it, to get off my computer or i-Phone, to stop doing the dishes or the laundry, or worrying about this or that, but to really be all there with him. He invites me in to his world every time and his world is already at a much slower pace than mine. The choice is if I will choose to be still, within my own spirit, and embrace his world with him.

I’ve found that when I’m still and engage with him, I’m able to meet his deepest emotional needs by letting him know I hear his words and see each little step he makes. We’re able to capture moments together like when he first says “t-e-n-k you” or learns how to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on his own. Or when he’s offering to kiss me on the cheek or give me “that look” when he needs something. I can sense his needs easier and I’m there to nurture him whenever he needs it. And he always has a way of knowing whether I’m fully there or not.

My love is more available when I slow down.

Being on Mission as Mommy’s starts with slowing down, to where we are meeting our children’s deepest emotional needs, but that is not the end, it’s the means to the end where we’re slowing down so that we can best live out our faith and instill biblical truth into their lives.

In a hectic, over-worked, disorganized schedule it’s difficult to be all there and live out our faith in front of our children. Nine times out of ten, over commitment results in frustration, anger, restlessness, impatience, depleting quiet times and prayer and we end up not being who we want to be. I’ve been there and it has affected my home. I’m convinced that the tiniest moments of slowing down will help define the huge moments of how our children will grow and come to salvation in the Lord later on.

Of course, their salvation is an act only by God, but we have a huge part to play in how they view and love God for the rest of their lives. What a challenge and responsibility, but what a joy and privilege to help lead them to the cross and have them join us in God’s mission.

If you’re a mommy, and like me, have been wondering where your ministry is and how you can best serve God, remember that you are on mission right where you are, the best place you could ever be…

In your home.

The place where you were meant to help change the world, one diaper at a time.

Will you join me in this mission?

Question: What are some other ways you’re giving your love away and being “on mission” in your home?

Being on Mission in Holiday Madness

While at Whole Foods the other day, I had to overcome some fears and I had to do it quickly.

As my cashier Jaime was loading my groceries into the bag, I asked him how the crowds had been with the Thanksgiving rush… He said they weren’t too bad.

I told him I shop at Whole Foods on special occasions. My husband was in seminary and our budget was tight.

“What’s seminary?” he asked.

Trying to think of a simple answer to what seemed like a complicated question, I said:

“Well, it’s a school where you learn more about the Bible and eventually become a pastor or something like that. My husband wants to help teach others the Bible… It’s a non-denominational, Christian, evangelical school.”

“Oh okay,” he replied.

I could tell the people behind me were anxious to get their groceries on the belt, but I had another question for him and those people were annoying me so I just blurted out:

“Do you have a church background at all?” I said extremely fast.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Did you grow up in the church at all?”

“Well, my family is Roman Catholic and I grew up in that but I’m not into the whole ceremonial stuff. You know…”

“Yeah I understand… Well, the church my husband and I go to is more about a relationship with God than it is about religion. It’s laid back and it really doesn’t look like a church at all. You wouldn’t think it was one.”

“Where’s it located?”

“It’s a big building off 635 and 75. We’re still in the building phase actually.”

He said he thought he’d seen it before from the interstate.

“I think you’d really like it!” I added.

He stopped and looked at me.

“Well I’ll promise you this- I’ll go and check it out sometime.”

I was shocked. Really? You would? I thought.

I smiled, said that would be awesome, and wished him a great Thanksgiving.

As I left that day, I was ecstatic that God used that 2 minute window for me to talk to Jaime. I often get this knot in my stomach before starting up a spiritual conversation. Even though Jesus is the most important person in my life who I want to proclaim to the world every day that I live, I still have fears. I still struggle with getting past “me” and other insecurities.

But I’m learning that the greatest way to overcome that fear is to dive in wholeheartedly, no matter the risk.

To lovingly engage people in conversation.

To live on mission.

To get past the distractions so that God can receive glory, even during the holiday madness.

I pray that Jaime will remember our talk and check out Watermark so he can learn what it means to have a relationship with God.

I hope you’ll pray with me too. In the mean time, I’ll be checking up on him the next time I need a treat!

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