It’s been a rough few years. Long before the pandemic hit, our family grappled with the devastating diagnosis Sean’s dad received of throat cancer.  We watched him battle bravely, but eventually lose the ability to speak, then swallow. He went into hospice where we had the honor of helping care for him to the end of his life. But end-of-life is no walk in the park. As one hospice nurse told me years ago, “We struggle coming into this world and we struggle going out of this world.” I’ve never heard a truer statement.

Even before we were able to have my father-in-law’s funeral, my mother’s dementia took a startling turn.  We’d been watching my mom succumb to Alzheimer’s for months, but it was so slow that we’d hardly noticed the small things, and the small things turned out to be enormous things that my father was unable to handle on his own anymore.

Just two weeks after Don’s funeral, we made the heartbreaking decision to put my mom into memory care.  Soon after, my dad began to show alarming signs of memory loss and he followed my mom, but into the independent living wing of the same retirement center.

Though I’ve summed it up nicely here in a few paragraphs, anyone who has taken any of these journeys knows the angst, pain and even terror of it.   As my mom battled severe mania and my dad became engulfed in grief, I tried everything to help, but to no end. I replayed the last days Don had on this earth over and over in my head.  My mind wouldn’t stop, no matter what I tried.

Even though I felt that I was handling everything well on the outside, my body began to betray that false sense of pulled togetherness, and I began losing sleep.

Lots of sleep.

I started having nightmares. Waking up in cold sweats.  Falling asleep to then, only seconds later, wake up gasping for air.

And most strangely of all, I began fearing the dark.

Even as a kid, I was not, in general, afraid of the dark. I kind of liked it. I’d lay in bed and think, quiet engulfing me, moonlight, if I was lucky enough, swimming against the carpet around my bed. As an adult, I still loved it.  I’d sit out on my back porch in the warmer nights and try to glimpse a star or at least a satellite.  And as I hit midlife, dark was a welcomed companion as sleep hit me harder and earlier.

But everything was different now.  I hated turning out my lamp by my bed.  Instead, I read or scrolled through social media for hours, waited until I was nodding off, the phone hitting my face. I’d quickly shut off my light and close my eyes, praying for instant sleep. If it didn’t happen, I’d turn the light back on and start over.

I consumed melatonin and sleeping pills, none of which helped the dark seem any less dark.

And I started noticing how dark the dark was.  In November I took my sister for an early morning surgery.  We left her house in the country before 5 a.m. I walked out her front door to load a bag and felt swallowed up by the dark.

In the city there is always a light somewhere, some place. But on one-hundred acres of farmland, it’s black and thick and suffocating. Even the stars were gone.

I stood on her porch, afraid to even go to my car.  What’s lurking out here? I wondered.

It turned out to only be me. I was the one bringing all the fear.

After many months of this, I knew I needed help, so I sought out a therapist. As we worked through this gripping fear I was experiencing, she recommended a book called Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep by Tish Harrison Warren.

The first thing I noticed was that the book was written by a female Anglican priest.  Having no real experience with the Anglican church, I wondered what this was going to be all about.

It turns out it was very Anglican, and one of the best experiences of my life.

The book begins by explaining the source of its inspiration, The Book of Common Prayer.  I grew up Baptist, then worked in the Methodist church, and now am with the Evangelical Covenant denomination, so I couldn’t say I’d ever cracked open the Book of Common Prayer, though I’d heard of it through the years.

But rather than dive into the topic with the formality that I expected, Tish Harrison Warren warmed up the hundreds-year-old prayer book and made it relatable, while emphasizing the rich history of it and the remarkable way we can lean into the voices of the millions of Christian brothers and sisters who’ve prayed these prayers before us.

Besides being personal in nature and deep with insight (for instance, she goes into the history of darkness, which was stunningly interesting), the book has its own lyrical quality that I found extremely comforting. I made a point of reading it at night. I wanted to challenge the notion that the dark had me in its eternal grip.

Warren points out how much we take light for granted. We’re scared of the dark so we switch on a light. Our ancestors didn’t have that luxury, and these prayers, the prayers of the night, were what kept them steady in the Lord as they waited hours for the sun. God was their light. Their only light for half of a day.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re going through what you might describe as “the dark night of the soul” in your life.  Are you grieving? Shifting in life?  Grappling with depression or illness?  Many of these things tend to strike fear and dread in us in the dead of night.

I learned from the book to embrace the night, and to remember that God is the Lord of even the darkness, and what amazing things he can do within it.

Available wherever you buy books.

Recently, I took up drawing. I even bought myself a sketch book and a “Learning How To Draw For Beginners” for my birthday. I didn’t realize it was for ages 6-12 but, whatever, man. Michelangelo was once twelve, too, so… cool. I envisioned becoming a late blooming artist that would create these masterpieces. The sketching worship pastor. This is one of my masterpieces:

I wish I had kept the receipt. Truthfully, I never really thought I’d be good and, what do you know? I was right. But honestly, I don’t draw or sketch to be good. I sketch because it relaxes me. I like drawing old houses in the country. Sometimes, I just create these weird, cool shapes that mean nothing. I like drawing different shaped crosses and I enjoy drawing the occasional cartoonish kind of sketching. But my favorite thing to draw is birds. I don’t know why, but drawing birds relaxes me the most. I try not to psycho-analysis this too much – I just know that drawing birds is cool. I can’t tell you what kind of birds they are. I just go online, type in “birds” in the goggle search and scroll through images until I find a bird I want to draw. When I start feeling anxious, I draw a bird.  When I’m sad, I draw a bird. When I get mad, I draw a bird. Which is a huge improvement because before Jesus I used to just give the bird but now I draw a bird.

My son John will sometimes come home and I’m sitting there with my sketch book and he says “Drawing birds again, Dad?” Yeah, it’s ridiculous, I know, because to anyone else looking at them, they’re pretty deformed and ugly-looking. But to me, those are my birds. I made them. I created them. Sometimes they have lots of detail and I even bust out the colored pencils to fill them out. Sometimes they’re left in black and white. And sometimes they hardly seem finished, but I like my birds. And I’m not a bird guy.

It’s funny, though, what the Lord gives us to soothe our hearts and slow down our minds. I’ve found a quiet way to meditate with God through drawing. Even when the TV is on, once I open that sketch book, it’s just me, God and the birds. I imagine that – though far more skilled – God went through the same, pain-staking process of thoughtful creating each of his creations. When I think of how God detailed me so specifically, it’s overwhelming. The way I think, how I feel, what I’m good at and even how I struggle… all part of exactly how God made me.

There’s not a huge take-away from this. No deep, profound idea or thought, but if I could encourage you to do anything, today, perhaps it’s this: Be still and rest. Sit under a tree, hop in your pool, crank the AC in your car and take a short drive. Get alone with God and your thoughts and simply dwell and the fact that YOU are His great, intentional creation and not only did He design you perfectly, He knows everything about you. That gives me peace. Now, I got some more birds to draw…

Struggling with your job or career?

When you were a child, you probably had dreams of becoming a doctor, a nurse, a fireman, an astronaut. I remember from 1st grade on I wanted to be a doctor.  I pursued that dream, even going to pharmacy school at the University of Oklahoma first so I could be a better doctor. As you know that dream was interrupted by a calling from God to preach the gospel and be a Pastor.  Some of you grew up and are fulfilling those dreams.  And if you are there is a good chance you feel satisfied with a sense of purpose and meaning.

There are also those of you that did not fulfill those dreams for all kinds of reasons, and you found yourself in a job that you are not satisfied with and don’t feel a sense of meaning and purpose. Another way to put it is you might have a career but have not found your calling.

Now when we think of a “calling” we usually think of a person who heard God call them into a ministry or mission, and that surely happens.  But I believe we all have a calling. Some of you in your career may not be aware that you are fulfilling your calling.  The Bible says in Ephesians 2:10 that we are God’s masterpiece created in Christ Jesus to do good works which GOD PREPARED IN ADVANCE for us to do. God created you for a purpose, a calling, of what God wants you to do.  We have the tendency to put God’s “calling” in a box, but let’s not limit it to just being in the ministry. I believe teachers, doctors, nurses, police, fireman, EMS workers, etc., are not just careers but a calling.

So, the question is, how do you know what your “calling” is?  The scripture says that God puts his desires in our hearts.  Our heart is where to find our calling. How do we do that?  Ask yourself, “What are the desires of my heart? What am I passionate about? What are the needs I see and would like to do something about it?  What feels exciting when I think about particular careers? What do I have talents and gifts to do?”

What you are good at is God-given to be used!

You might be thinking, “Pastor, you never had pastorship in your heart growing up.”  That is true, in a sense, but as I have reflected on it, I think God was putting it in my heart.  The mission of a doctor is to help sick people get well, get healing, get healthy. That is also what Jesus came to do. Jesus says in Matthew 9 that he came for the sick not the healthy.  He came to heal our sin-sick souls. One of the missions of a pastor is to help people get in a relationship with the “great physician,” Jesus Christ, to find healing and wholeness. So, I always wanted to help people find healing but didn’t realize it was spiritual healing not physical healing. My mom also always told me that God had something special for me, since I was born under very adverse circumstances, not to mention she didn’t think she could get pregnant again at almost 40 and had survived cancer.

So, when the moment came that a scripture jumped out at me and I heard words these in my head, “I have called you to preach the gospel and tell others what I have done for you I will do for them,” it ALL made sense.

The question is, do you feel a sense of calling in what you do for a living or is it just a job to pay the bills? Do you feel a sense of purpose and meaning in what you do or is it a struggle just to get up and go to work every day?   If it’s the latter, then it’s time to start looking at the desires of your heart, your talents and gifts and look to match those with a job or a career.  It can be scary to change jobs or careers, but the reward will be so worth it.  It’s time to do it!

As children we hate boundaries. We want to do all the things that our parents tell us not to do. It is in our nature to rebel. We are born with the need to go our own way. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change much as we age and don’t have those parental rules to follow. We are on our own, or so we think. We often ignore our conscience–that still, small voice that tells us when we have stepped over the boundaries God has placed. According to most of society, there is no right or wrong, no black or white, only grey areas with no real reason to feel guilt or remorse but as Christ followers we know that this is untrue.

Recently I stood on the beach in North Carolina, marveling at the vastness of the sea, hearing the calling of the birds and watching the waves roll in over the sand.

God’s mighty power was evident, his creation so beautiful that I had to twirl around in joy. My daughter and granddaughter joined me, and we laughed like little girls. It was glorious!

God was responding to Job’s questions in Chapter 38:10-11  when he spoke of the boundaries he placed on the sea: “When I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt,” I was filled with awe knowing those waves go on and on, day after day, year after year, yet the water stops at the shoreline. Well, most of the time. Just a week before we were in North Carolina, Hurricane Ian had passed through on the east coast. Sunset Beach wasn’t affected much but other parts of the Carolinas, and especially Florida, were devastated by the storm. Lives were lost and billions in property destroyed. The boundary God placed on the ocean was pushed away by the wind and waves.

Some would say that God caused it or at least allowed it to happen. I don’t have the answer but prefer to think that this fallen world, and its turmoil, causes these things to happen. The Earth is out of sync and groans for God to put things right.

It is very similar for us. We live in a fallen world that ignores the boundaries set up by God. Boundaries that are good and just. Boundaries that are for our benefit. When we don’t adhere to them, like a hurricane, we wreak havoc on our lives and on those who love us.

            We were made to live inside the will of God, yet we continually push against him in our need to go our own way. Foolishly, we think we know better than the one who created us. They may not come as swiftly as the waves crashing over the shoreline, but anytime we walk in rebellion of God’s laws there are repercussions.

During the years of our addictions, my husband Mike and I, though we knew Jesus and had been saved by his work on the cross, we still pushed against the life he had for us and decided to go our own way–almost destroying our lives and our family in the process. Until our arrest and my husband’s incarceration, we were traveling down a path of destruction.

Our lives revolved around finding drugs and using drugs. Getting arrested was the worst thing that ever happened to us, yet it was what saved us. I know God intervened. He drew us back to him in that terrible time and began to rebuild our lives.

A lot like the victims of the hurricane, we cleaned up, rebuilt, and lived life again. God did that for us, restoring what the enemy had stolen. I think back on that time with such a feeling of gratitude. God is so faithful even when we aren’t. It wasn’t an easy process. Because we crossed the boundaries God set, we had to face the consequences. Legal problems, years of probation for me and loss of freedom for Mike. He faced a very long sentence in prison but by God’s grace, spent less than a year in D.O.C. custody. That separation seemed like forever to us. (Especially to Mike.) It was painful for our whole family. Our children missed their dad and I know Mike’s mom and dad suffered knowing their baby boy was locked up. Stepping out of God’s will hurt us all.

God’s laws are for our own good–everything he asks of us is for our good. He is our Father, loving us through our rebellion, welcoming us back when we return, yet that doesn’t negate the consequences we face, be it physical, spiritual, financial, or legal.

God also sets boundaries for our thought life. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”

Although there are consequences we may face, God does not want us to dwell on our past mistakes. His mercy is new every morning. His love never wavers. When we allow regret and guilt to fill our thoughts, it only serves the enemy. He is the accuser. He is the one who condemns, not God. I wallowed around in my guilt and regret for years. What a waste of time!  My past is covered. I finally let it go. I hope and pray that you will let your past go as well. Let’s think about God’s faithfulness and grace. His goodness and mercy. His forgiveness in our weakness. Let’s be thankful for his boundaries. God set them in place, not to hold us back, but because of his great love for us. God is good and his laws are perfect. Let’s think on these things.

RENE GUTTERIDGE’S CHRISTMAS DEVOTIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS   The Greatest Gift – Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp If you’ve never read the lyrical prose of Ann Voskamp, it can take some getting used to, but once you’re into it, you’re into it.  Voskamp takes the small, nearly always overlooked parts of the […]

I’m sure everyone reading this right now prays in some way, fashion or form. You might have a habit of bedtime prayers or prayers in the morning.  If we are honest, some rarely pray on a regular basis unless there is an emergency of some kind. Let’s just admit it: prayer is hard. We are […]

Where is God?

A poem by Faye Elmore

So much hate in this world and not a compass to guide us.

Where is God?

People shooting people.

People running people down in the streets.

Where is God?

People lie, it’s their first language.

Cheat like they are entitled to everything!

Where is God?

Sexual predators and desires around every corner.

Everyone talks and no one speaks up.

Where is God?

How did we get to this point?

How did the world get so bad?

How did the world get so desensitized?

Where is God?

Let me tell you.

God calls us to be the salt of the earth.

God calls us to love one another.

To love our neighbor.

To turn from our ways and follow Him.

That’s where God is!

God is in me.

He is in you.

And He wants us to share it, to give it away!

Not to keep it to ourselves, for ourselves, or by ourselves,

But freely give it away.

Just as He did when He laid down His life for you

For me

For us!

So ask yourself this:

Where is God?

Are you doing what He asks?

Are you better than you were the day before?

Baby steps…


But make a step to show up

To show…

Where is God.

As a young adult, I had to battle the stigma associated with being single. Society seemed, and probably still does, to demand that you fit the mold of being married and raising a family. Otherwise, you’re led to think there’s something wrong with you or you’re getting left behind. That begs the question, why do we want to fit in a mold anyway? Whose job is it in society to tell everyone what the status quo is and what’s normal and acceptable or not? Why do we listen or even care what other people think our lives should look like? There are more than 330 million people in the US alone. Do you mean to tell me every single one of us should be living the cookie cutter life of a suburban family, complete with a white picket fence and shuttling the littles to soccer games?

I spent most of my life single, and I’m here to tell you, I’m very proud of that and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Of course, now that I’m 44 and 3 years married, it’s easy for me to look back and say how enlightening and empowering it was to be single, but would I have thought that 10 years ago? Twenty  years ago? Probably not. I didn’t have full perspective of how powerful that time in my life was until I got out of it. (Isn’t that how it always is? You never know what you have until you don’t have it anymore.)

What I learned in my “season of being single,” as I’ll call it, is a beautiful thing.  It’s something so many people think they already do and truly don’t, or people spend their entire lives looking for and never find.


Self-love is the thing we all need to be talking about. This is what we all really want, right? We spend our lives seeking validation from everything and everyone else… except ourselves. Why else would we try so hard to fit the mold? Or feel inadequate for not fitting a mold? What we should be doing is making our own mold that fits our true selves, actively discovering what we want our mold to look like and working to be the best version of that mold. It took me 40 years to figure out my own mold, and that was only after I spent years being unhappy because I didn’t fit the mold that was expected of me. I was 25, not married and no kids. Then I was 30, not married and no kids. Then 35…

I think it was when I turned 30, and spent my entire birthday crying because I wasn’t at all where I thought I’d be, that it hit me…why exactly was I sad? Am I lonely, yes, I think I am. Shouldn’t I be? I don’t even have a boyfriend. Am I sad I don’t have kids? No. I’m not ready for kids. Am I sad I haven’t bought a house? Yes, isn’t that what shows I’m successful in life? Or am I just feeling left behind because I see all my peers getting married, buying houses, making babies, and I’m nowhere close to having any of these things.

But then I dug deeper. Why in that moment in my life was I defining myself by what everyone else was doing? Isn’t that what we all do? In an age of social media, how can we not? We see a small glimpse into people’s lives, (what they decide to share anyway), and it tempts us to compare our lives to what we think theirs is. But I grew up in an age with no social media, and I still felt inadequate. That’s exactly what happens when we look outside for validation.

My “season of being single” taught me a lot of things. It forced me to learn how to love myself. When you’re alone all the time, you get inside your own head a lot. For some, that can be excruciating. There’s a lot going on inside our own heads. Deep inside, that’s where all our baggage sits. Who wants to sit alone and stare at all their baggage? I certainly didn’t. But for most of my life, I had no choice. Some people get engrossed in work so they don’t have to sit with their baggage. Others drink or do drugs. Still others busy themselves with superficial, temporary relationships that offer no depth, because going deep means to go to where your baggage is sitting. For me, I didn’t love my job enough to get engrossed. I drank socially, but it didn’t consume me. The thought of having another superficial conversation or relationship exhausted me so much I threw up walls so I didn’t have to socialize with anyone. So, then that left me with myself. Whether I liked it or not. I didn’t know it at the time, but this allowed me to become so tuned-in to myself that I slowly started learning what I liked. What I didn’t like. What I cared about. What made me feel right in the world. And most importantly, how God fit into all of that. I started praying to God, not because that’s what I was raised to do before dinner or before I went to bed, but because I genuinely wanted God to be a part of my life. When you continue to do something on a regular basis, over an extended period of time, it’ll start to have lingering effects. It wasn’t necessarily my goal; I didn’t really have a goal at the time. I was just trying to live day by day. But looking back at it now, I was developing a true relationship with God. I was also developing a true relationship with myself. I started recognizing the things that had value in my life and the things that had no value. I began to weed out these things of no value, because I found myself at a point in my life where I truly valued myself. The more time I spent with God and myself, the more I didn’t want to waste my time on things that had no value.

Perhaps it was also my sense of maturity growing as I got older, but by my mid-30s, obtaining a boyfriend was the furthest thing from my mind. At this point, I had shed enough tears, screamed into enough pillows, lain awake for enough nights, and endured enough lonely days. After I fought kicking and screaming for enough years, I learned to completely rely on God and His plan for my life. I lost my obsession for trying to make things happen in my will. I fully embraced God’s will and I became confident in the fact that when He was ready, God would bring that person into my life. I wasn’t going to have to figure it out all on my own. How liberating that became for me! I could finally relax. I didn’t feel pressure to force anything to happen, I trusted God had it under control. I was strong. I was independent. If I needed to do something, I didn’t wait for someone else to come along to do it for me. I watched a how-to video, got the tools I needed, and I figured it out. The more I did for myself, the more I loved and respected myself. I learned to not seek anything external to contribute value to me. It all came from within, because as my relationship with God deepened, so did my trust in Him.

And wouldn’t you know, the person God had for me was right under my nose all along. He was a friend of a friend, with whom I’d periodically spend time with in casual group settings. Little did I know God was working in his life, too. He was preparing us both for the person he had prepared for us… each other. For years, this person wasn’t even on my radar, and vice versa. It just wasn’t time yet. Sure enough, one day out of the blue, during one of our group social outings, he looked different to me. I noticed a spark. A butterfly in my stomach. A deeper conversation than we’d ever taken the time to have. It’s funny how we start to see things differently when it’s divinely orchestrated. I saw him, and he saw me in a completely different light. Needless to say, the rest is history, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say, timing was everything. If it happened any earlier, it wouldn’t have worked. Neither one of us would’ve been fully prepared to be the best versions of ourselves for each other.

I say all of this to say, learn to love yourself, trust God, and trust the process. Don’t compare your life to others. God’s plan for your life is for you only. He knows what he’s doing, and believe me, what He has planned for your life is well worth the wait. Let go, and let God.

We have all lived through a cultural revolution. Because of the internet and technology we no longer need to go to the “brick and mortar” places like banks, shopping centers, grocery stores, and video rental stores. We can do almost everything online and through streaming.  Many of us work from home and no longer need to go to a physical office.  This shift has also affected how we view time.  We are no longer bound by what “time” we should go shopping, check our bank account or watch a movie. We can do most of these things any time we want.  Most of us have acclimated to this new cultural shift and for the most part like it.  What’s really driving this is our insatiable desire for “convenience.”  We like things quick, easy, accessible.

This has spilled over into our spiritual life, namely going to church. The whole aspect of church is going to a brick and mortar building at a certain place and a certain time. This has become a struggle for many as it’s just not how we operate in our life anymore. Then comes the invention of the online church. Some churches were doing this pre-covid, such as our church, but most started it and continue to do it since covid.

I have several thoughts about this.  First of all, the online church is here to stay.  To say it was just temporary due to Covid is like saying Amazon is temporary.  Just like we watch our movies on demand, now people can see the church service on demand.  It’s more convenient to watch from our couch than get ready, especially with kids.  Some work Sundays so with no streaming they would totally miss the service. Others can’t come due to health reasons.  Some that miss can watch it and catch up with the sermon series.

Second, online church is the new front door to the church.  Most people that come for the first time have already come for the first time via streaming, so they already know what to expect. And when they come, they already have a pretty good idea that they will like it. There are many advantages to the online church.

So then, let’s get to the question of, “Do I need to go to church?” The answer is, “Yes if at all possible.”  So, what’s wrong, if anything, with just watching it online?  There is nothing wrong with it. It just doesn’t give you all you need as a follower of Christ.  The church is not a building but a body of Christ. A body is meant to be together. A body is meant to be connected to each other. When we come to a church service and we are “together,” there is a life-giving fellowship that is shared and experienced.  People that watch online and then come always say that it’s much better to be here in person. Does that mean you can’t get anything out of watching it online? No, you can, and people do, but it’s just not the same.

There’s an old saying, “If you can’t beat them join them.”  I know it’s not realistic for everyone watching online to start coming to a physical building at a certain time any more than it is to ask people to quit using Amazon. So, here at WCC, we have created what we are calling “WCC Home Churches.”  This is a way to experience church at home as if you were there.  Here is the structure:

First, you invite your friends and family over at whatever day and time. Then you turn on the streaming and participate in, not just watch, the service.  So, for example, when the singing starts, everyone stands and sings and worships together. Next, during the offering, everyone is encouraged to get their phone out and give via the WCC app. When the sermon begins, follow the message and take notes via the app. At the end you will have been given questions about the message to discuss. Afterward, hang out and fellowship together!

You might be thinking, “What about the kids?” We have an app that gives the kids’ lesson via streaming as well.  You could have people take turns presenting the kids lesson.  As you can see, you have just experienced “church” as if you were there.

I think the big take away is, don’t just watch it alone.  It’s easy to become a spectator and not a participant. But it’s when we participate and engage that we experience God’s presence, hear God speak, and grow spiritually. So, if you primarily watch church online, how about signing up to become a Westmoore Home Church.  You can e-mail my administrative assistant, Tanya Secrist, at and she will send you the structure on how to do it.

Going to church can be in a building or in a home. The question you must ask yourself is, am I participating and experiencing worship, fellowship, small groups, and giving to the mission?  Now we can do that in both places!