Suicide’s Silent Cry

This past Tuesday was World Suicide Prevention Day.

That very same day, a well-loved young pastor, mental health advocate, husband and father of two, Jarrid Wilson, committed suicide. He had been open with his struggle both through preaching and social media. Only hours before his death, Jarrid tweeted this:

His death sent shock waves throughout the Church at large. His young widowed wife and fatherless sons now face a very different future.

People who struggle with thoughts of suicide don’t want to die, they just want to stop hurting. And it’s a moment-by-moment struggle. For professional counselors and mental health professionals, every day is suicide prevention day.

Many people have asked how to respond if someone is brave enough to tell you that they’re struggling with suicide — or have actually attempted it. Let me share a first-hand account.

Six years ago, five minutes into a lunchtime conversation with a former co-worker, she looked at me with haunted eyes and said: “In November, I tried to kill myself.”

Stunned, I could only stare at my friend, tears welling up and spilling over. She had emailed the day before asking to meet for lunch. Just to chat and talk about a new venture in her life. We hadn’t seen each other in months. 

“I didn’t believe anyone cared if I was gone,” she said. “My family dynamics, my health struggles, financial stress – it just became too much. I was just so very tired.”

Her attempt wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. She had researched on the internet an over-the-counter drug that would be a lethal combination with her prescribed medication. She drove to the store, made the purchase, took the pills, and went to bed. 

She silently assumed her husband, family and friends didn’t care. That they wouldn’t miss her. She never expected to wake up again. But God had other plans.

When she awoke the next morning and realized her suicide attempt had failed, she confessed to her husband. He was beside himself and rushed her to the emergency room. The doctors informed her she had miscalculated the lethal dose by a mere 200mg. 

Looking back on that dark time, she realized that God gifted her with a new perspective. She sought counseling and shared hard, honest feelings with her family. She opened up to her church’s small group, who inundated her with love and support.

After years of struggling silently, she had reached her breaking point. Perhaps you can relate to breaking points.

Her story served as wake-up call for me.  I felt as if I had let my friend down. That I wasn’t there when she most needed me.

That experience made me realize that I need to have more conversations with friends about stuff that matters instead of the weather or latest TV program. To ask how they’re doing – really doing – and listen without interruption. 

It is easy for busyness to take the front seat, allowing those around us to slip through the cracks under a façade of “Everything’s fine.” 

If you know someone who is enduring a difficult season, call them. Send an email. Drop by. SOMETHING. Let them know you care. It may provide a 200mg difference.

We need to keep talking about mental health issues. People are suffering and we cannot be silent simply because it makes us uncomfortable.

I love you and do not tread lightly into this subject. It’s a privilege to pray for you and wrestle through the Scriptures together to find certain hope and strength. 

If you are reading this today and find yourself at a breaking point, please reach out to someone. A family member. Pastor. Friend. Trusted co-worker. SOMEONE. Because you are not alone.

You matter.
You are worth fighting for.
Jesus gave His life so you could live.
You are cherished.
You are loved.
Reaching out for help is BRAVE.

The comments are open. Let’s talk. 

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: (800) 273-TALK (8255)


Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and currently on sale at Amazon.

A lump, the diagnosis, and God’s unfailing promises (plus the giveaway winners)

Everything is okay, Donna, it’s only a benign cyst. But we want to remove it just to be safe.”

Those were the first words uttered by the doctor after my medical examination earlier this week. It’s not cancer.

One evening about three weeks ago, I found a lump on my breast. Breast cancer does not run in my family, but family history is no guarantee when it comes to cancer.

Cancer often seems like a tornado. It hits this house, skips three, and devastates the fourth.

I am very familiar with the C word. My dad died of lung cancer in 2003. I saw firsthand how cancer destroys a healthy body and how radiation and chemotherapy reduce a strong body to a frail one.

Not many of us have been untouched by cancer. It seems like all of us have known someone who has had cancer, currently battles cancer, or perhaps is experiencing it firsthand. I have prayed for multitudes of people affected by cancer.

I bet you have, too.

My three-week waiting period from discovery to diagnosis proved spiritually revealing on many levels. First came the questions:

What if I actually have cancer?
How will I manage appointments when I get sick since I live alone?
Is my health insurance good enough to cover everything?
Am I going to lose my breasts?
I don’t want to be an imposition on family and friends. Who will help?
Am I strong enough to handle chemo or radiation?

Then came the stark realization that the common denominator in all of my questions centered around: I.” Talk about a loud wake-up call.

Through His Word, God reminded me of the larger picture. We are ALL on a spiritual battleground, not a school playground. And it’s time to go to war. God leads the charge, not us.

We can fight the fight with God’s Word.
We can fight the fight with specific medicine.
But when all is said and done, Jesus will have the final victory.

The devil excels at forging weapons of fear and doubt against us. Their effectiveness lies in their unseenness — like an invisible Goliath whose putrid breath invades our nostrils. Fear can paralyze and shut us down, rendering us ineffective on the battlefield.

The real enemy is fear.

Finding that lump caused me to experience waves of vulnerability and emotion. Yet despite the roller coaster, tidal waves of comfort inevitably returned when I focused Jesus. He has never, nor will He EVER, abandon me. I am not alone on the battlefield. Neither are you.

By His grace alone, God gives us the strength to:
– wield the Word of God to silence our giants
– hold high His shield of faith to deflect fiery darts
– stand firm on unshakable faith to drown doubt
– identify fellow faith warriors to walk with us
– cling to the truth that Jesus gave His life to secure ours for eternity

The ultimate battle against death has been won by Jesus Christ on the cross. But while you and I walk this earth, we are engaged in warfare. And we cannot merely saunter onto the battlefield. We suit up in the full armor of God, fully covered by His protection and grace. Nothing can touch us without His permission.

And when weakness threatens to consume us, we gather faith warriors to remind us of our confession that we believe in God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, suffered, and crucified on a cross, yet He rose again on the third day and sits at God’s right hand. And He will return again.

Battles never arrive at convenient times, do they? Yet those battles never surprise God. We often pray for God to remove us from hardships, but strength is forged through the fire of adversity. Sometimes He ordains that we walk through the battle, His perfect plan ever prevailing, providing assurance that He never leaves us for one moment.

A couple of days after I discovered the lump, I noticed that my “I”-centered questions morphed into faith-centered questions:

Will I trust God during this season?
Will I stand firm on Christ no matter how hard the battle rages?
Will I still see today as a gift without worrying about tomorrow?
Will I take every thought captive to the Word of God?
Will I cling to the Lord as the stronghold of my life?
Will I stand on the Rock of Ages or give in to fear?
Will I be slow to speak and slow to be anger if medical procedures fail?
Will I cast ALL my anxiety on Him?

Only God knows if I would have passed that long-haul test. For now, He orchestrated a future outpatient procedure to remove the cyst and life will continue.

I fully realize that such a minimal diagnosis has not been the case for others. Perhaps your diagnosis, or that of a loved one, was very different. You are living that long-haul test right now. If so, keep these promises close:

– “The power of the Lord is present to heal you.” (Luke 5:17)
– “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17)
– “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31)
– “The Lord is my strength and my defense.” (Psalm 118:4)
– “If you ask anything according to His will, He hears you.” (1 John 5:14)
– “God did not give you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Not knowing my diagnosis for three weeks was the hardest part. Even if the diagnosis had been cancer, at least the truth would have unveiled the opponent’s face. Something to confront. But I would not have had to face that face alone.

Along this short journey I re-learned a lasting truth: On the battlefield, we need warriors, not worriers.

Our job is to walk by faith and believe God. God tackles the impossible to render miracles — even today. God can make a way when we see no way forward. He already knows the outcome.

We have the gift of today, not knowing what tomorrow brings. So, relying on the strength of the Lord…
Keep believing.
Keep walking.
Keep praying.
Keep fighting.

Jesus sees you.
Jesus hears you.
Jesus loves you.
Jesus died for you.
And He is working all things for good.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

GIVEAWAY WINNERS: Congratulations to Becky Wehrspann for winning the 150th CPH Birthday Celebration prize from last week’s post! And congratulations to Genevieve Wagner, Karen Hunter, and Virginia Von Seggern for winning a copy of the study guide for my new Bible study Perseverance. I will reach out to you later today!


Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and on sale at Amazon.

Happy 150th Birthday Concordia Publishing House! {celebrating with brags and giveaway swag }

Before telephones rang or light bulbs glowed. Before fountain pens, cars, or laser printers had been invented. A full century before the internet even existed, Concordia Publishing House was already producing materials that pointed people to Jesus.

In 1869, CPH began its journey to print Gospel-centered resources for a young Lutheran synod. Everything was printed in German and employees drank beer as they worked. Many things have changed!

As time and technology progressed, printed resources delivered by horse-drawn buggies expanded to electronic resources immediately accessible through downloads and apps.

By the grace of God, CPH is going strong 150 years later because it listens to readers, keeps track of current trends, and implements the latest technology to provide award-winning Christian products.

It has been an unbelievable privilege to write and publish five books through CPH to date. There is a beautiful camaraderie among CPH’s authors because we share the same goal: to honor God with the written word. We routinely learn from and encourage each other.

Women are avid readers and love Bible studies, so CPH has eagerly welcomed female authors to lend our unique, God-given voices and experiences to engage readers with the Bible. Shout out to these extraordinarily talented female CPH authors: Deb Burma, Sharla Fritz, Heidi Goehmann, Elizabeth Ahlman, Christina Hergenrader, Katie Schuermann, Kim Marxhausen, Gail Pawlitz, Lisa Clark, Heather Kaufman, Sarah Baughman, and Ruth Meyer, just to name a few.

Now, some people may ask, “Aren’t all publishers the same?” NO.

CPH truly feels like family. Their perspective is eternal. It’s never simply business as usual. Many people at CPH have become cherished friends over the years. We don’t just talk about manuscripts, marketing, and launch dates. We ask about each other, pray for each other and face life’s roller coaster ride together.

When I turn in a manuscript, I know that learned scholars and talented professionals use all of their God-given gifts to produce a doctrinally sound, Christ-focused, engaging Bible study that guides readers toward the very heart of God.

Not every publisher does that.

And not every publisher reaches 150 years young. (This is most certainly true.)

So this is a celebration! And what’s a party without presents? (I’ll let you bring your own beverage and scrumptious cake. Can somebody pass the Riesling, please?)

True to its generous heart, CPH sent me an incredible goody package to offer to one lucky subscriber! [So if you aren’t subscribed to my blog, please do so now.] Here are the giveaway contents:

A brand new Enduring Word Bible, CPH journal, a Bible marking pen set, and insulated beverage container. And I am adding a copy of my brand new CPH Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges–A Nehemiah Battle Plan.” {The videos for that study are available online only, or I would include that, too!}

But a birthday wouldn’t really be a grand celebration with just one gift, would it? So I’m giving away one copy of “Perseverance” to THREE additional subscribers, as well!

To Enter:
1) Subscribe to this blog (you can always unsubscribe later).
2) Follow CPH and me on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram.
3) Share this blog post giveaway on your social media channels and tag me (so I know to put your name in the hat). EASY!

I will draw names from all eligible entrants and post the winners on next Friday’s blog post. You have until Thursday, September 5, at 5:00 p.m. CDT to enter.

CPH’s journey brings this Scripture to mind: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Thank you for faithfully running the race with holy integrity and endurance for 150 years and counting. Happy Birthday, Concordia Publishing House!

As School Starts, An Ode To Mamas

As I drove past kids walking to their first day of school this week, God brought moms to mind.

While kids spend their days learning, moms will spend their days leisurely watching daytime television, going out to lunch with friends and taking long naps until their bundles of joy arrive home from school.

Yes, I jest.

Motherhood is so much more than anticipating unencumbered days while youngsters expand their brains with higher education. You’ll organize a million small things to nurture the welcoming, safe space that accomplishes the big things.

Sometimes I wonder: What special considerations did God ponder as He created mamas? Perhaps, just perhaps, it went something like this:

“I need a nurturer. Someone willing to rise before dawn, cook breakfast, pack a child’s lunch, flag down the school bus, work all day making the house a home, cook again, eat supper, then go upstairs and stay up past bedtime reading stories to eager ears.”

So God made a mama.

“I need someone willing to sit up all night with a sick child, and nurse them back to health with boundless love. Somebody who can cheer loudest, sew a new dress from scraps, demonstrate how to twirl, make play dough from scratch, and teach a round-eyed pre-schooler how to build a castle.”

So God made a mama.

It needed to be someone who could tie a ponytail holder from pipe cleaners, bread ties and curly ribbon and will finish her 40 hour work week by Tuesday supper, then clear the dishes and sit back down with her children to log another 50 hours checking arithmetic, sounding out vowels, and calling out spelling words.

So God made a mama.

“I need somebody strong enough to discipline when necessary, yet gentle enough to push a swing, decorate cupcakes, trim a Christmas tree, and kiss a scraped knee. Somebody who forgives transgressions with a smile, defends her child against a harsh world, yet stops her car in traffic to patiently wait for stray ducks to cross.”

So God made a mama.

It had to be somebody who would love deeper than the oceans and see the glass half full. Somebody to bake, make, wake, support and encourage and chauffeur and teach and plant seeds and keep singing through the hard times. Somebody who would teach them about Jesus, how to serve others and be kind and brave, and wrap a family together tight with the soft, strong bonds of prayer.

So God made a mama.

And one day long hence, dear mamas, when they visit you during college breaks, you will chuckle, and then sigh, and be speechless with tear-filled eyes, when your child says with a thankful heart that some day they want to be a parent — the best mama they can be — just like you.

As another school year begins, it is my delight to heartily applaud and fervently pray for all of you incredible mamas as you do the hard work, the important work, the necessary work that few people see of being the best mama God made you to be.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed.” Proverbs 31:25-28

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Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.

Two Questions Women Shouldn’t Ask

During a leisurely lunch with three dear friends some time ago, horror stories and scars surfaced around two familiar topics.

Among the four of us, two are married with children, one has never been married or had children, and one is divorced with no children. We range in age from 35-51 and are committed Christ followers.

First, I need you to know something. This post took significant time to write and pray through because it’s rather blunt about sensitive topics.

This post isn’t a vent — it’s a plea borne out of loving others. That being said… 

Throughout our adult lives, my three friends and I have been asked two questions so many times that we’ve lost count. To this day, we remain flabbergasted that some women haven’t caught on. There are two questions that plainly shouldn’t be posed to another woman — unless she’s your BFF or a close second.

Question #1: Why aren’t you married?

Stated like that, this question isn’t really a question. It’s a judgment. 

Since I didn’t get married until I was 29, I fielded that question a LOT of times. We met when I was 23, dated for two years and were engaged for four years while he finished post-graduate college. During those six years, if we would have collected $1 from each woman who asked me why I wasn’t married yet, we could’ve easily paid for the wedding and honeymoon four times over.

As our conversation continued, my three friends and I realized that more often than not this question was posed by married women. That’s tantamount to a millionaire asking an unemployed person why they aren’t buying a mansion.

Even if asked in a caring or flattering way (perhaps she thinks highly of you), it still stings. Believe it or not, some women ask it to intentionally inflict emotional or social harm. And trust me, those on the receiving end can tell the difference.

I’ve also been asked innumerable times since my divorce nearly ten years ago why I have not remarried, along with who, when and whether or not I am dating. Frankly, the answer is entirely too personal to discuss nonchalantly with casual acquaintances. So I never bother. 

Last month, a Christian friend whom I hadn’t communicated with in a while asked about my dating status. When I responded that I was not seeking to be in a relationship, she typed a stunning one-word response: “Disobedient” — immediately followed by, “You’re not a nun.”

Wow. Currently, I am more content in Christ, peaceful and purpose-filled than at any other time in my adult life. But she didn’t ask about those things. She simply judged one aspect as the whole story and moved on.

If you are single, divorced or widowed, perhaps you need to hear this today: God gave marriage as a blessing, not an entitlement or commandment. He did not create us as half a person seeking another half to “complete” us. We are whole and complete in Christ alone. The rest is all grace.

I loved serving God as a married woman. I love serving God as a single woman. Simply put, God calls some women to serve through their marriage and others through undistracted singleness. The key is a passion to love and serve God no matter your marital status.   

And the second question… 

Question #2: Don’t you want children? 

Again, stated like that, this isn’t a question. It’s a judgment.

This question has caused more scars in my life (and my three friends) than any other. It presupposes so many things that it’s hard to know where to begin addressing it.

Asking a single woman that question is cruel — whether intentional or not. Perhaps having children has been a lifelong, unfulfilled dream that has cost her many sleepless nights and a river of tears. What if she believes marriage should come first? Should she rush out to the nearest bar and hook up with the first man she sees? Should she rush to the sperm donor bank and sign up? 

Asking a married woman that question presupposes that she is physically able to bear children. Perhaps she and her husband have tried to conceive children for years only to face financial hardships due to unsuccessful fertility treatments. No woman should ever be expected to share her private struggles or physical condition to justify why her home isn’t overflowing with children.   

My ex-husband and I were married for thirteen years, but didn’t have children. We trusted God’s plan that if He wanted us to have children, He would provide. I believe we would have been wonderful parents. But now looking back on divorce, I believe God knew best. 

Some people have pulled out the Christianity card. “God designed women to have children, so you’re disobeying if you don’t have them.” Yes, people have actually had the audacity to say such an unkind thing to me and my three friends in the past. And when such a statement comes from someone we hold dear, the wound plunges deep. 

Some people have played the adoption card. “So many children need good homes, why aren’t you willing to adopt?” Stated like this, that question is also a judgment. Perhaps she is, in fact, willing to adopt, but is still thinking and praying through the many considerations of such a monumental commitment.  

Simply put, no woman owes another an explanation to these two extremely personal questions. Over time, I’ve learned to smile and deflect the tension. However, the pain inflicted still takes significant prayer, extending relentless forgiveness, and time for God to heal.

The bottom line? Those two questions negate God’s sovereignty. They infer that we need to follow cultural norms or our own plans instead of submitting to His. If no one has ever asked you either question, you are among the blessed minority. 

If you are unmarried or do not have children, please hear this truth loud and clear:

Despite your marital or parenting status,
   God loves you right now
   Just as you are. 
   Precisely where you are.
You can joyfully, successfully serve him today.

Following God isn’t about conforming to some cultural mold of how others believe our lives should look. Remember the Apostle Paul? The Apostle Peter? One was married, one was not; one had children, one did not — but they made a powerful difference for God’s kingdom from their individual, God-designed circumstances.

God can use any person at any time in any place for His holy purposes.

No tangible thing on this earth makes us more or less of a Christian. Following Christ never hinges on whether or not we’re married or have children. It’s about being in relationship with Him. It’s about our desire to know Him and be fully known by Him. To rely on Him for our every need. To receive His immeasurable love and amazing grace into the deepest recesses of our soul with overwhelming gratitude.

So to my fellow women who have been on the receiving end of these two questions: I love you. I know what it feels like and I’m so sorry for your pain.   

And to those women who believe it’s okay to keep asking another woman either of those questions, STOP.

PLEASE STOP. 

They damage — and even kill — friendships.

*These wonderful friends are not members of my home church. They read this post when I originally wrote it and gave permission to share the generalities of our discussion in the hope of shedding much needed light on this sensitive topic.*

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Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.

When Summer Beckons of Gardens and Harvest Fields

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2-3

As a little girl, Grandma’s garden was a magical place. Rising early, I would open the low picket gate, hands trembling with anticipation. After all, high adventure awaited.

I loved pretending that beautiful oasis was my kingdom. I ruled over butterflies, bumble bees and fat red earthworms. My scepter was a fragrant stalk of mint and my princess glitter was the fresh morning dew.

Grandma puttered around in her floppy hat, earth-encrusted gloves and apron patiently weeding, pruning and keeping the kingdom delightful. She taught by example how loving care encourages gardens to produce a rich harvest.

By the end of our lazy, garden mornings together , her small basket overflowed with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and other fresh delights we would enjoy later in the day.

Flowers were my crown, a little summer dress was my ball gown, and life couldn’t get any better all the way around.

Although picturesque, when Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, He meant something entirely different than my childhood kingdom.

Jesus spoke of souls, not of garden knolls. Instead of butterflies, bees and worms, He spoke of laborers bringing in His harvest.

That’s you. And that’s me. Every Christian who calls themselves a disciple is His laborer.

Harvest denotes a time of urgency, not lazy summer days. It offers a precious short window of opportunity to pluck what the Lord of the harvest has already prepared: souls for His kingdom.

As His laborers, do we adopt the same sense of urgency? With over seven billion people on the planet, the harvest field is massive. When Jesus spoke these words about the harvest field, He looked upon a generation open and ready to receive the Gospel.

You and I live in a generation ready for harvest.

Look around, what do you see? I see thousands coming together at youth gatherings and Christian conferences. People say the church is declining. I say we’ve lost focus on the harvest.

Instead, what if:

…we focused on reaching the lost instead of counting heads in the pew?

…we focused on ministry initiatives instead of placating the comfortably saved?

…we focused on mobilizing God’s laborers into the harvest field instead of moving someone out of the White House?

Being His laborer means I need to stop acting hypocritical and start loving people like Jesus did. It means being willing to risk it all and get my hands dirty to bring in His harvest.

It’s HIS harvest. You and I just have the privilege of being His gardeners, our wages fully paid by His sacrificial blood at Calvary.

It’s a great big world. We have a great big job. And we have a great big God who has equipped us to bring in His holy harvest.

So we believe.

We pray to the Lord of the harvest and step out in faith, trusting Him to bring in an overflowing abundance.

We can even wear a floppy hat.

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Donna’s brand new Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.

View Video Trailer

Dear Single Christian Woman

During two events where I was invited to speak earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to talk with young, single women (late teens, early 20s) about specific challenges that single Christian women face in today’s fast-paced, social media era.

These young ladies wanted helpful tools to apply as they live out their daily faith walk as single Christian women. Since I have lived “single again” for nearly ten years now, I am intimately aware of the myriad of issues.

To be clear, I wasn’t a Christian the first time I was single. Having now experienced singleness as both a non-Christian and Christian, I can tell you that it makes ALL the difference. As Christ followers, we are held to a higher, holy standard.

Having said that, over the past decade God has taught me to some very practical ways to live a God-honoring life as a single Christian woman. It all comes down to one thing:

I need to act like I’m already married.

Let me explain.

As an unmarried woman I am careful not to spend significant time alone with men. This is partly to guard against misconceptions (especially if they are married), but also to guard against temptation. Having watched infidelity play out in my own marriage (and others’ marriages), I’m under no illusions that hearts are bullet-proof to physical attraction.

As an unmarried woman I guard my speech around men. This is hard for me because I love to use humor to put people at ease. Teasing or sarcasm so often communicate flirtation, and innuendo opens sketchy doors. Social media and texting etiquette add additional complexities, as well.

As an unmarried woman I think twice about what I wear around men. I strive to look my best each day, taking care with my hygiene and appearance. Looking nice is not a sin. Dressing to intentionally attract a man’s attention to certain body parts is another story. We might as well dangle an apple from our breast. When I know that I will be in mixed company, I dress so that men will look me in the eye, not from neck to naval. I don’t wear a tent, but I don’t wear skirts slit up to my pelvis, either.

As an unmarried woman I think twice about my body language toward men. This one is particularly hard for me because I’m a Southern woman who loves to hug the stuffing out of people. However, I ensure there is daylight between me and the man sitting next to me. I still hug, but never prolonged to avoid implied intimacy. It’s a “hug and release” policy (yes, I love to fish so this fishing analogy made me smile).

As an unmarried woman I guard my thoughts about men. If I find myself idealizing the appearance of a man that leads to fantasizing about “what if” or “if only” scenarios, I confess those thoughts to God and set them aside. I have learned to “bounce my eyes” so that I am not disrespecting men with a neck to naval assessment which may invade my dreams later.

I fully realize that this list may seem fastidious, but it reflects the high regard in which I hold men, their marriages, and their personal boundaries.

My question for you, dear single Christian woman, is this: What will you give to this man who is not your husband? Don’t cheapen yourself with the legal gymnastics of, “How far is too far?” Ask instead, “What is my motivation for the thoughts, words, and actions I am choosing as I interact with this man?”

Don’t fish with your body. Fishing never works out well for the bait.

This post isn’t about who or how to date. Those are entirely separate lists. There is much fun and joy to be had during dating. This is about how to act as a single Christian woman, whether or not marriage is part of God’s plan for your life.

Scripture describes the Church as a bride awaiting a husband who is to come. That bride is admonished to keep herself pure, to live as though she is already the wife of her bridegroom. That is a powerful image of what being a single Christian woman looks like.

Whether an earthly husband is ever in your future, a heavenly Husband already is, so honor Him now in eager expectation of meeting Him one day.

And may I point out a crucial truth? You are not half a person seeking an earthly person to “complete” you. You are whole and complete in Christ.

Remember, the apostle Peter (in his married state) and the apostle Paul (in his single state) linked arms and made a difference for the kingdom. Our ultimate goal as Christ followers to is follow Christ. The other blessings in this life are pure grace.

Whether or not you ever become a married woman, thinking like one guards your heart from sin and opens it to embrace God’s incredible plan for your life – whatever that may be.

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Donna’s brand new Bible study, “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.

View video trailer.

Dear Pastor’s Wife: Please Forgive Us

Last week, I wrote a post dedicated to pastors. The response was beautiful.

Beyond the comments left on social media and the blog, what moved my heart the most were the many private messages I received expressing gratitude from those who love our pastors most: their wives.

It reminded me of the challenging road that our pastors’ wives walk — not only my pastors’ wives but the plethora of these amazing women whom I have been privileged to befriend all across the U.S.

So to my pastors’ wives and each of you dear, courageous women married to pastors:

You gracefully stand silently in the shadows while people clamor for your husband’s attention and heap praises on him while we don’t even acknowledge your presence.

Please forgive us.

You live in a glass house where we notice every fingerprint, yet you faithfully keep those windows clean by extending forgiveness that we often don’t deserve.

Please forgive us.

We ruthlessly police your fashion, hairstyle, hair color, size, and words like it’s our sole duty on this planet.

Please forgive us.

You listen dutifully while your husband uses your family as a sermon illustration again and graciously smile while we laugh at you.

Please forgive us.

When we unjustly criticize your husband or how he runs the church — even when it’s so nasty that there should be a smackdown right there in the narthex — you smile graciously and assure us gently that you’ll pass along our concerns.

Please forgive us.

You strive to faithfully walk as Christ’s disciple faced with the same struggles and hurts that we experience, yet you shoulder the burden in solitary silence.

Please forgive us.

You are often volunteered for tasks in the church that no one else wants to tackle — often areas you are not gifted for — yet you trudge faithfully ahead while we slander your efforts.

Please forgive us.

And then there’s this:

Some days you worry that the stress may kill your husband. Literally. You desperately want to be in the will of God but are afraid of what that requires from you, your marriage and your children.

You long to help the multitudes alongside your husband and willingly lay down your very life for the beautiful body of Christ. And some days that makes you very, very tired.

Perhaps you wonder when your husband retires if you will ever walk into a church again. Sometimes sheep bite.

But I want you to know, dear Pastor’s Wife:

Your calling is hard and it can get lonely, but you are standing on the Rock.

You may not have anticipated this calling to be a pastor’s wife, but God has equipped you for this noble work.

God will faithfully provide helpers to you who love you unconditionally, find joy praying for you, and commit to walk alongside you — whether inside or outside your church.

Take heart: Jesus can heal your wounded soul, renew your exhausted mind, reconcile broken relationships, work beautiful forgiveness, mend your broken heart, and meet your every need.

I pray for God to keep faith and hope alive in you because we NEED you.

We often neglect to tell you, but please know this:

You are LOVED.
You are BEAUTIFUL.
You are VALUABLE.
You shine God’s light RADIANTLY.

THANK YOU for your extraordinary sacrifice of praise to Christ our Savior as you serve us. Sisters, I love you dearly and esteem you greatly.

Church, when was the last time you prayed for your pastor’s wife?

Dear Pastor: Will You Forgive Us?

Pastors have answered a high and difficult calling. There are few things that boil my blood faster or put my feet on a soap box quicker than when I hear God’s people hurling mean-spirited or spiteful comments at God-loving, servant-hearted pastors.

It gets ugly when sheep turn on their shepherds. And Satan, along with the world, watches. Smiling.

I love to intentionally encourage my pastors. When I see them at some mid-week church function, I am fully aware that they may have faced strenuous spiritual warfare. The enemy has likely lobbed a stream of fiery darts at them, whether it’s tough counseling sessions, disheartening church politics, or the death of a member.

It’s critical to convey to our pastors and pastor friends just how vital they are to God’s work and His church — to let these grace-filled men of faith know how much they, their families, and their ministries mean to so many.

So…to my pastors, all my pastor friends, and your beautiful families:

You embrace the calling to be crucified with Christ, yet sometimes we are the ones pounding in the nails.

Please forgive us.

You take up the cross of Christ without hesitation because it is not merely your day job–it’s your very calling, passion and purpose. Yet sometimes we watch from comfortable pews without lifting a finger as you stumble under that staggering weight alone.

Please forgive us.

You love us enough to sacrifice family time, shorten vacations and make yourself available 24-7-365. Yet when you need to unplug and allow God to recharge you, we haughtily demand your instantaneous appearance.

Please forgive us.

When life blindsides us with loss, relationship difficulties, health scares or financial burdens, you are the first to offer prayer and call in the posse to help. Yet when you need us, we wear busyness as a badge to dodge.

Please forgive us.

You willingly live in a glass house with our noses pressed against it, gracefully shouldering our smart aleck remarks and quick judgments. Yet when you lovingly ask us accountability questions, our self-righteous indignation could choke God Almighty.

Please forgive us.

But I want you to hear loud and clear: You are not expendable.

You are VITAL.
You are VALUABLE.
You are LOVED.

As you stand at the vanguard of deadly spiritual warfare, it’s an amazing privilege to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you on God’s battlefield. To heartily encourage you when you are weary. To follow where God calls you to lead.

THANK YOU for your integrity and tireless commitment.

Church, when was the last time you prayed for your pastor?

One Night Lit the World (Advent, Week 3)

Have you ever been in a situation where you were too terrified to speak? Shocked into frozen immobility?

Imagine for a moment the night of Jesus’ birth from the shepherd’s point of view. Suddenly their peaceful, starry night sky lit up with the glory of the Lord! And if that wasn’t enough, then an angel of the Lord dropped in with a heavenly message.

Can you even imagine? No wonder the angel’s first words were, “Do not be afraid.”

That shekinah glory of the Lord that Luke records here refers to the splendor and brilliance that radiates from God’s very presence. Scripture tell us that the shekinah glory manifested in the pillars of cloud and fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt. It shone from the burning bush for Moses. It appeared in the brightness of the cloud at Jesus’s Transfiguration.

The glory of the Lord was quite an attention-grabbing, heart-stopping manifestation, indeed. It was a sign of both God’s nearness and His remoteness.

And the Levitical shepherds of Bethlehem were completely surrounded by it. After 400 years of God’s silence where His glory never visibly shone over His people, God made His mighty presence unmistakably known.

Though the shepherds were likely terrified, the angel’s announcement did not foreshadow gloom and destruction. He trumped the Good News that the Savior promised by God had finally arrived!

And the angel’s Good News was not limited to the shepherds, but intended for all people. Not just those who are good for goodness sake. It was the Good News of the Gospel that Jesus Christ had arrived into this world to save all who believe from eternal separation from Him.

God’s plan of salvation promised in the Garden of Eden had finally been put in motion that night. That one, extraordinary, life-giving night. And God tasked those shepherds to get the word out.

It was an announcement of great joy that we are privileged today to share with others — especially during this beautiful Advent season. It is God’s message of love, reflected in the innocent eyes of a Baby.

The shepherds didn’t realize that they would be hearing the heavenly announcement that night which would change the course of eternity. That it was a night like any other in all of history before or since.

Those stunned shepherds were privileged to be part of one extraordinary night that changed the history of the world and become bearers of a story full of wonder.

So, like the shepherds, the angel reminds us, “Do not be afraid.”
Don’t be afraid to receive the Good News.
Don’t be afraid to believe that it is for you.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate with great joy that your eternal address has changed from lost to found, because of the sheer grace and vast love of God almighty.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her king.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
Let heaven and nature sing! 

 


We would be honored for you to join us on this life-changing tour.