Time to get still and take a break from ministry

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Aaron and shared something I’d been considering but hadn’t even mentioned to my wife: “I think I want to stop writing, at least publicly.” Aaron, a fellow author, was floored — and with good reason. For almost 12 years, I’ve spent thousands of hours writing a book, over 600 blog posts, hundreds of guest pieces for online outlets, and thousands of status updates. The pros will tell you that sustaining an audience requires maintenance. You’ve got to stay visible and keep putting out new content: another book, another blog post,…

Held hostage in the Middle East: the Maurice Graham story

At 4:45 a.m. in Kuwait City the sounds of gunfire began rattling through the streets outside the apartment where Maurice Graham and his family lived. It was August 2, 1990, and Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq, had ordered an invasion of Kuwait. The Grahams had moved to Kuwait that summer so that Maurice could serve as a pastor at a large Christian church in the capital. Their apartment was located on the church grounds; and unfortunately for them, the church was across the street from the parliament building, which was a central target during the attack. There was nothing…

Finding Jesus in the shame we try so hard to avoid

I still cringe when I think about that fateful moment in seventh-grade English class when Mrs. Silkman asked the question, “If you were stuck on a deserted island, what’s the one thing you’d want to have, other than food?” I don’t remember what the other kids said — probably normal stuff like video games, a house, or a fan. Not me. In my innocence, I said two words I would regret for years to come: “My kittens.” I truly did love my kittens — those puffy little offspring of Smokey, our beloved (and promiscuous) charcoal-gray momma cat. But within two…

We found treasure in the sand (and celebrated like angels)

This week my family and I vacationed at the beach under the blazing sun, playing in the sand, jumping over the waves of the ocean, building sandcastles, and making sure to apply plenty of sunscreen. It was a challenge for my 11-year-old daughter, Giselle, for whom eyeglasses are a necessity. They’re essential for her to see clearly but the beach is the last place she needs to bring them. It’s too easy to lose them in the endless acres of sand or while playing in the crashing waves at high tide. When we got back to the parking lot yesterday,…

Jen Hatmaker quits “church” and invites you to join her

I quit being part of a church for a few months when I was in my mid-twenties. I had been a regular churchgoer my whole life, so it wasn’t something I (or those who knew me) expected. It happened after I moved to a new city and started looking for a church. Every time I’d visit one, I felt lonely and lost in the sea of congregants. And I found no comfort in the familiarity of the services — if anything, it felt too familiar. I had the evangelical liturgies memorized — from the call to worship to the benediction….

My toddler was dangling on this guy’s neck, reminding me of Jesus

One time, when my second daughter was a toddler, I took her to a playground where we met another dad and his baby girl. The girls played together nicely and I chatted with the other dad, Justin, who seemed like a nice guy. Then things suddenly got awkward, thanks to my daughter. Justin climbed onto the playground equipment to check on his daughter, squatting down to speak to her–but then my daughter intercepted. Crawling over to Justin, she grabbed his shirt, pulled herself up, reached her arms around his neck, and hugged him. “Awwww!” said the other adults standing around…

What God showed me when my son thought he was going to drown

My two-year-old son clung tightly to my neck as I tried to lower him onto the wet sand where the ocean waves were gently rolling. “You’re going to be fine,” I said, trying to pry him off my neck, but he wouldn’t let go. Instead, he started screaming. No matter how much I tried to convince him, he obviously had it in his head that the ocean was going to swallow him up if his feet even touched the wet sand. So, I finally gave in and walked away from the water and onto the dry sand with my son’s…

These four words from a widow got me thinking about death (again)

I try to avoid tragedy stories on the news — stories of families dying in house fires, freak accidents during wedding receptions, a mother drowning trying to rescue her child. Sometimes I can’t help myself though — I’m that guy slowly passing the scene of a horrific accident on the side of the highway, subconsciously hoping to see something shocking. Recently, I was scrolling down my newsfeed and saw a headline that caught my attention: “Air Force Training Crash Kills 2, Including Newlywed Pilot, 24.” I couldn’t help myself: I clicked. There weren’t many details about the accident, which was…

My family finally went back to church — here’s what it was like

“Joshua, we need to go to a church this Sunday,” my wife said four weeks ago. We had moved to a new town right before the coronavirus hit and we hadn’t gotten much of a chance to visit churches; so for the most part, we had informal Sunday services with our kids in the living room. It was special in its own way but it wasn’t the same as gathering with other believers in person — not to say we didn’t try. After the Covid restrictions eased up and churches started meeting again, we visited one church that met in…

Looking for God outside the in-crowd

In seventh grade, the worst 15 minutes of my day were the first 15 minutes. It was the moment when I got off the school bus and faced the challenge of finding a group of boys to hang out with until the bell rang. It was a high stakes game of fitting in and I was usually losing. Outside the building were circles of kids standing around talking, reflecting their places in the social hierarchy. There was the popular crew, the druggies, the “trashy” kids, the smart girls, the “band nerds,” and the handful of African American kids in our…

What you’re doing for Jesus counts — here’s how to calculate how much

Several years ago, one of my friends authored a book and a few months after it was released, I asked her how many books had been sold.  She replied: “Well, the publisher made enough to cover the cost of my advance.“ In other words, the book hadn’t made a profit. It wasn’t until I wrote a book that I appreciated just how awkward it feels to get the “how many books have you sold” question. It’s like being asked about your salary, your weight, or why you aren’t having a drink at the party. For better or worse, the answer…

Fellow believer, here’s how we must deal with shame

I used to work at a grocery store meat department when I was in college, and one day, I started chatting with a young woman and her little girl. Her daughter had a rotten tooth and — I don’t know what I was thinking — I smiled and said: “Looks like somebody needs to brush her teeth!” The mom glared at me and said: “Looks like somebody needs to learn their manners.” A few days later, I saw the lady and her daughter at the grocery store and I apologized. Both the woman and her daughter were gracious and forgave…

I poisoned my grass and rediscovered God’s love

My mission was simple: Kill the weeds growing in the cracks of our concrete walkway. Before it was all said and done, I would definitely succeed at doing that. I just didn’t anticipate the damage I was going to do to the grass. My weed killing mission went awry the moment I purchased Roundup Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate Plus. Based on the reviews, any weed that Roundup touched would promptly whither; but I ignored the fact that it’s called “weed and grass killer.” The instructions warned against spraying Roundup if there was a breeze, which I read to mean…

I caught a glimpse of Heaven through Scripture, a C.S. Lewis quote, and a viral video

The most vivid picture I’ve ever had of Heaven was in a conversation with my dad when I was ten years old.  Dad was talking about how lovely it would be to see my two siblings who died in a plane accident when I was a toddler. Dad’s imagination caught fire and he began painting a picture of what it would be like to see his children in Heaven: blazing light and unbridled joy — images of Dad and the kids flying through space and shooting sparkling stars out of their hands. Dad’s colorful description of Heaven whipped my brother…

Major study says this is the number one quality in good relationships — but is it realistic?

Stop the presses. Somebody figured out the number one thing that makes relationships work. The Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science has published the results of a major study in which researchers analyzed data from nearly 44,000 participants and claims to have zeroed in on the top factor in healthy relationships. It’s something called “psychological flexibility.” Here’s how the British Psychological Society explains the term in its Research Digest: A psychologically flexible person is characterised by a set of attitudes and skills: they are generally open to and accepting of experiences, whether they are good or bad; they try to be mindfully aware of the present moment;…