Happy Birthday Mr. Fudge Guy

33422_445689050125_6454112_nIt’s my husband’s birthday today. That makes it a holiday, because as far as I’m concerned, this is one of the best days ever to have happened. In its honor, I’m rerunning our story. Love stories aren’t always the way we expect them.

I’d love to hear yours.


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, in the midst of one of those full-blown college girl frenzies caused by (of course) college boys, I cried out to God. I had no choice, which is how most of our best cries to God work out.

The text went something like this: “OK, Lord, I’m done! I’m done picking out guys. Clearly, I don’t do it right. Each and every choice I have made has been wrong, dear sweet Jesus in heaven. I don’t even know.” (And, don’t get me wrong. They weren’t bad guys. I never went for the “bad boy” vibe. Just no. Ain’t nobody got time for that. But they were not the guys for me.)

“God,” I thought it best to add. “This is the kind of man I’m looking for” (here I listed the specific attributes I wanted), “and if he’s out there, I’m leaving it up to you to find him. I quit.”

IMG_0200Yes, I did give God a list of my qualifications for a man. I’m not sure why I thought he couldn’t figure that out in his own. But I definitely remember what I heard next, in the quiet after my rant. Not audibly, as in heard this voice in my bedroom, which would have been a little creepy. But when you hear from God, you know.

“OK, deal. It’s about time, really. But you already know someone who meets all those criteria. Have you thought of him?”

No, I hadn’t. Probably on account of I was a junior and he was a freshman with Coke-bottle glasses and an ROTC haircut. And a girlfriend back home. That boy had been friend-zoned right away.

That was near the end of the school year, and friend-zone guy and I went home to or respective states, and we wrote letters. Yes, those things you printed on paper with a pen and needed a stamp and a mailbox for. (We were, after all, pretty good friends.) I sent one letter with the sticker you see here:


It was just a fun sticker. Although, in fact, that was one of the worst summers of my life, and chocolate would definitely have been welcomed.

He sent it. A box of chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but homemade fudge, without nuts (just the way I like it), made not by his mother but by him. I think that’s when I fell in love. (Plus, somewhere in there he dropped out of ROTC, grew curly dark hair and a beard, and got contacts. Those things helped. A girl’s got eyes, after all.)

Three years later, I married Mr. Fudge Guy. Hey, if God says he’s the guy for you, AND he bakes fudge, I do not argue.

The course of true love never did run smooth. (Thanks, Shakespeare. You are almost always correct.) Sometimes it’s paved with college tantrums, desperate prayers, hippo stockers, cancelled stamps, and even fudge. His parents’ was paved with war and bath towels mailed from an army base with an engagement ring attached. My daughter, who will celebrate her first anniversary this spring, found her way through banjos and homemade soap and rain storms during church picnics.


One never knows.

In any case, it has been a good road. What’s your story? I’d love to hear it?

Straight Outta Context

29542-img_0057When I was on the debate team in high school, we learned one helpful reality—if you look hard enough, you can find a statistic to prove just about anything. See, in debate, you have to be ready to argue either side of a position at any moment. So, you learn to find “truth” that can be looked at from several different angles. Depending on the source, there is “proof” of anything we want to find proof of.

That this is so has never been more evident than in the last couple months.

Yet, don’t we Christians play that game just a bit, too?

–How many times have you had someone tell you they found the perfect scripture verse for your situation? (And how many times has it not been perfect at all but seriously guilt-inducing? I see those hands.)

–How often have we wailed, “I don’t understand why God didn’t keep his promise! I claimed that verse as my own.”

–How many people have told you, in trolling comments or in your face, that whatever you are doing, want to do, or are contemplating doing, it is wrong and this is the one verse in the Bible that proves it?

Well, maybe I get that last one more than you do, being a female preacher and all.


When it comes to truth, how often do we play Bible roulette, able to find a verse for any situation that will prove anything we want it to prove? Is that dealing honestly with God’s word? Or is it our debate-style proof of what we already wanted to believe?

Yes, God can and does give us the word we need to hear on certain days for particular times. But what if we’re sometimes playing finger roulette with the Holy Word, finding it simpler to open and point to what God wants me to hear that day than to pursue both a deep and broad knowledge of His story and our place in it?

Like finding a Shakespeare quote on Pinterest and thinking we know all of the Bard’s work now.

Like randomly picking a guy off of Tinder and being sure this is The One.

(Seriously, do not do that.)

That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men. Acts 17.10-12

See what they did there? They heard a good thought. They liked it. Then they searched the Scriptures. They figured out how this new idea fit with God’s whole story. They determined if it checked out against all they had been given.

They sought context.

I mean, if we really want to play stick-the-finger-in-the-Bible and find our verse for the day, what happens when these come up?

  • Go marry a prostitute and have children with her. — Hosea 1:2
  • Throw the first stone. — John 8:7
  • There is no God. — Psalm 14:1
  • Go to Bethel and sin.— Amos 4:4

You can see the problem.

But what about a few others, a few we are far more used to taking on their own and making, can we say, almost idols out of?

  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.—Philippians 4:13
  • Judge not, that you be not judged.— Matthew 7:1
  • Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.—Proverbs 22:6

Do those words you keep using really mean what you think they mean?

When Philip came across the Ethiopian eunuch reading the Scripture, he asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Then, he gave the whole story.


Why does this matter?

There are a lot of teachers out there. I try to be one of them. The reality is, some Christian teachers are dishonest. This should not surprise us. Some plumbers, carpenters, doctors, and lawyers are dishonest. Some people in any profession will tell us lies. Some will mislead us out of the best of intentions, maybe not even realizing they too are victims of pick-and-choose verseology. Some are so wrapped up in their particular belief or cause that they cannot see the big picture.

The truth has nothing to do with the size of the person’s audience or the feeling you get when you hear him or her speak.

The truth is in the whole story.

It matters, because in a world of alternative facts and fake news, we need more than ever to know what the whole arc of God’s story has to say about something. We do not need to know one or two or five carefully chosen verses planned to sway an argument the way a person wants it swayed.

God help us, we do not want to live our faith out by a few verses we like best and miss the rich context God has for us.

So how do we do that? How do we be like the Bereans (that sounds like a great dance move, by the way) and find context to the story?

Ask questions of the teachers you listen to and read.

  • What is the writer saying?
  • Can he/she draw that conclusion?
  • What is the context of the verses he or she is using? Is it valid?
  • Is whole of scripture in agreement?
  • Does this contradict any command of God?
  • Would Jesus say this? Seriously, would this ever come out of Jesus’ mouth?
  • Does this make logical sense?
  • Would believers I respect agree?
  • Is there someone who teaches the opposite? What does that person say? How do they inform one another?

When reading Scripture, read large bits of it, not just a verse-a-day devotional.

Make a reading list for yourself so you can get a but of the whole picture progressively. Like this one we use at our church:

  1. Mark
  2. Paul’s letters–Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians
  3. Genesis
  4. Acts
  5. Proverbs
  6. John
  7. 1, 2, 3 John
  8. Romans
  9. Exodus
  10. James
  11. 1 and 2 Peter
  12. Jude
  13. Ruth
  14. Luke
  15. Isaiah
  16. 1, 2 Corinthians
  17. 1, 2 Samuel
  18. 1, 2 Timothy
  19. Titus
  20. Matthew
  21. Deuteronomy
  22. Hebrews

keep going!

Keep it in context. God didn’t put verse numbers in, after all. He gave us a love story, a whole one.

Alternative Facts and Truth We Can Touch


What is truth?

Pilate asked that question before he washed his hands clean of the guilt of crucifying Jesus.

But he is not the only one.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. — Marcus Aurelius

If this was a man’s belief in the first century, perhaps the notion that we can choose our own truth isn’t as new as we think it is. Certain politicians may lean on it (a lot) more than others, but apparently truth bending and fact creation has been with us since, well, since a snake in a garden said, “Nah, that’s not at all what God told you. I know.”

And if we need more evidence, consider the eerily accurate prophecy of a famous futuristic writer:

The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history. — George Orwell

As we’ve been discussing truth here for the last month, and as the world has been discussing truth and lies and “fake news” and “alternative facts,” it’s easy to wonder where to look for facts that are not created by the whim of fallible humans with an agenda to push.

What is truth, indeed?

While we scurry around looking, let’s look at one great aspect of truth we often forget.

Truth is a person.

I AM the way and the truth and the life. — John 14.6

This is truth on a whole new level. We are used to truth as an idea. Truth as a set of rules. Truth as a logical explanation, like those proofs we had to do in freshman geometry. (I loved proofs. I find I am in the distinct minority for this affection.)

But truth as a person? A god-person? How do we even wrap our heads around that?

If Jesus IS the truth, then all searching for truth ends in him. All that I don’t understand is clear through the truth I can know. All things that claim to be truth have to be held up next to the one life that WAS truth.


If they waver next to Him, they aren’t true.

See, I think God knew that we would need truth with skin on. I think He knew we would never understand the truth until we met it. In person. I think that once we fall in love with a true life, we will recognize it whenever and wherever we see it. We will settle for no less.

We can hold all the rules, create dozens of propositions, and read systematic theology cover to cover. (Trust me, I have.) In end, though, here’s the thing. It is we who must be true, not static words and rules. This is the most important thing truth does for us.

Truth gives us a relationship where we discover true living

We needed to see a true life to live a true life. In relationship with the Truth, we discover true living. The closer we get to him, closer we get to being true people.

Being true people is more important than knowing truth.

One day in high school I looked at a friend and thought to myself, I don’t know all the details about God, but I know the truth about him is there. Right there, in her.

She lived a true life.

I want the kind of life that others will see and say—I’m not sure what truth is, but I know it when I see it. And I see it there.

When we live lives of truth, cascading with transparency and integrity, Jesus tells us we will be telios—complete, lacking nothing, at peace. Can you imagine the effect of that kind of truth on others?


This is the biggest reason truth is important. Because truth is a person. Truth is a relationship. Knowing that person, having that relationship, gives us true lives, something far more valuable than any win in any debate I ever entered or score on any apologetics test I ever took.

When we are confused by alternative facts, fake news, and subjective but vehement opinions, remember. Hold it up to the One who lived true. Can it stay there? Or does it wither away next to the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

We can handle the truth because the Truth made himself ultimately handleable—to be in flesh and blood and skin and sweat what we needed. He made Truth accessible.

Bedrock, Lasers, and English Papers

img_7471Remember outlining? That junior high English class exercise where you had to put everything you were going to say in a paper in an organized, neatly lettered and sub-lettered, torturous form?

I taught that. Please don’t hate me.

Outlining Truth

As a writer, I know the power of outlines. As a preacher, I know people do not want to sit through a sermon that was not outlined. I’ve sat through too many of those myself. If a writer does not know where she is going, she’s going to end the article, or sermon, in a vague mess of excess stuff.

If a life isn’t lived with an outline, it’s going to end in a vague whimper of, “Yeah, I guess I’m done now. That was it?”

I don’t want that.

Truth gives us that life outline. That’s one of the answers to the “why” question of our age. Why is truth important? Because we don’t want a vague life.

Truth matters because if it is timeless and steady, we have an outline for everything else. If not, we waver through life like a bad research paper that never finds its objective.

Truth gives us a framework

img_3688I learned about building skyscrapers this week. First, engineers build a steel framework for the building, sunk into the bedrock below. Then, walls are actually hung on the framework, like giant curtains in the air. It’s a fascinating idea. The stronger and better built the framework, the higher it can soar, and the more curtain walls can be hung.

There is so much information bombarding us at all times. TMI is the plague of the 21st century. How do we know what to choose from the chaos as truth we will hang our lives on? How can we grow higher and farther unless we are hanging new information on an absolute steady framework dug deep into bedrock?

If I do have that, everything else I find in life, every bit of information or challenge, can be tested by its fit on the building. Yes, this stays—this will help me soar higher. I can hang it up. No, this goes. it drags down. It doesn’t fit the framework.

Truth matters because it gives us something to test everything by to know what rightly fits when building our lives.

Truth offers light

Sixteen years ago, a surgeon cut a cancerous thyroid from my neck. To do this, she used a headlight that shone with laser-like focus on the part of me that needed cutting out. I’m not sure I would have been comfortable with a surgeon who was going to forgo the light and just reach into my neck in the dark, find something the felt “thyroidish,” and pull on it. There are important things in the vicinity of the thyroid, like a trachea, aorta, larynx, and facial nerves. I prefer a surgeon who uses a light in that dark place to see exactly what needs to go and what needs to stay where it is.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. John 3:19-21

God’s truth shines in dark places and says—yes, this is real. This is good. Keep this. No, this is garbage. Yank it out. This is useful when so much garbage is being tossed at us on a daily basis, and we have to find the good bits in between. Light is invaluable.

To follow Jesus inevitably puts us in light, because He is the light of the world. Without fail, it forces us to see the reality of ourselves. Through His light, we see the truth about ourselves, the world, and our place in it.

Truth tells us our place in this world, which is valuable help in a world that tells us we are kings and queens of our own destiny.

img_7421I’m grateful for an outline. I don’t want to waver through life unsure of where I hope to end up.

I’m thankful for a framework. I want to be able to build my life higher, better, stronger, and I can only do that when it’s based on a scaffold embedded in bedrock. Embedded in truth.

Yes, we disagree on any things. Christians disagree on a lot of things. But there is a framework.

We believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.

We believe He was crucified, died, and was buried, and rose again.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, life everlasting.

We believe. These things stand. These things are what all else hangs on. These things are true.

Where do you need truth today to hang your hope and dreams and on? Where do you feel like things around you are crumbling and you could use something to hold them together? Where do you want to grow higher and better? Find your outline. It’s holding what you need.