Keep Austin Weird

austin wierd 4 4 18 pixabay

Georgetown is a far northern almost-suburb of Austin. A few months ago, I stepped out of an elevator and found myself face to face with a friendly woman wearing a bright pink T-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Keep Georgetown normal.” That’s not what most people say around here. The T-shirts I’m more likely to see say, “Keep Austin Weird.”

Yes, my friends, that’s the slogan for my new hometown! Does it mean I must be weird to live here? Probably. Truth be told, we’re all a little weird. I’ve heard a couple of great sermons lately reminding me that, in some ways, we’ve been called to be weird:

Give away money—even if the budget is tight. Who knows how God may use your “widow’s mite”? And many times, when we give, we get to see how God provides for our needs anyway. I’ve been reading about George Muller and the miraculous way he provided for thousands of orphans without ever asking anyone for money.

Give away time—even though life is busy. There’s time enough to do all God wants us to do. (Of course, we may be caught up in a few time-consuming pleasantries that aren’t really part of his plan. I have to keep looking for those and weeding them out.)

Forgive—even when there’s no apology. Apologize—even when it’s awkward. Forgiveness isn’t a suggestion. It’s a command. Bitter grudges only harm us and dim the joy God has for us. If our bodies kept every bruise we ever received, think what a physical mess we’d all be. In the same way, imagine the mess that would come from holding on to every hurt inflicted on our inner selves.

Submit to authority—even when we don’t agree. (I don’t mean we should submit to sin or sinful edicts, of course.) Silent submission may require great strength and courage. The Bible is full of ways God has honored this: Daniel, David, Joseph, Sarah…

Speak with kindness and respect—even when we’re angry. Perhaps this is what “In your anger do not sin” means for many of us.

So, as I close, I’m wondering if there’s a market for T-shirts that say, “Keep Believers Weird.” No? In that case, I hope you’ll simply keep that slogan in the back of your mind this week, smiling as you follow Christ—even if that makes you weird.


Filtering Our Lives Through Faith*


Does your faith ever waver? The ninth chapter of Mark tells about a father whose son needed to be healed. After he described the boy’s condition to Jesus, the father said, “If you can do anything, help us.” (Doesn’t that sound like us? “I’m not sure you can, but maybe you can. I’ll cover my bases by at least asking. So, in case you would like to, if you are able …”)

Jesus’ answer to that father is the same as what he says to us, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23 NASB).

How did that father respond? Here’s what Mark 9:24 (AMP) recounts, “At once the father of the boy gave an eager, piercing, inarticulate cry with tears and he said, ‘Lord, I do believe! Help my unbelief.’”

We can make that cry too. “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus healed the man’s son. He will help us too, but we need to increase our faith. How do we do that? We are never, this side of heaven, going to be perfect in our faith, yet there is a way to make it grow.

“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NASB). Faith comes by hearing the word of God. The problem is, of course, that we can hear without paying attention. Remember getting called on in class? I do. Sometimes I heard the teacher’s voice, but had no idea what she had asked. We need to pay attention to God’s word, the kind of attention that comes from wanting to know what he says.

Then we need to let those words sink in. If we don’t “pay it any mind,” as we say in the South, we’re sure to forget it. It’s like telling the preacher, “Good sermon today. It really touched me.” Sometimes, later in the day, when someone asks me, “What was the sermon about today,” I have to answer, “Well, I don’t remember, but it was good.” If we don’t meditate on God’s word, it might sound good, but it won’t do any good until it reaches our hearts and produces faith.

I deedoubledare you to hear God’s word this week. I mean get into it, read it, listen, and meditate. Try starting with Hebrews, Chapter 11 (Yes, the whole chapter.) You’ll see what people who believed God did by faith. You’ll read that, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV).

*For the month of December, each post will be an abridged excerpt from Every Wednesday Morning, written by my mom, Beth Smith. If you want to read all 64 devotional essays in their full length form, you can grab a copy of her book at  



The Rubber Met the Road


On Wednesday, July 27th, the rubber met the road. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I read, write, and study the topic of trust.

  • Don’t worry, be happy.
  • Trust and obey.

Those lines are pretty easily said and done when life is rocking along. But what about when life is simply rocked? Stephen Covey is famous for saying, “Begin with the end in mind.” So here’s the end of my story: God is faithful. Everything I’ve read and written about trusting him in the dark times is true. Here, though, is the rest of my story.

First of all (pardon the nitty  gritty of this) I want you to know my symptoms. No, make that symptom—singular, and subtle. I had bit of spotting so faint I almost could have missed it, and certainly could have talked myself out of paying any attention to it. No pain. No abnormal pap smears. Just a bit of a blush when there should have been none. Steve and I were cleaning out bookshelves, and I “happened to” scan one that didn’t make the cut, just one final look before I threw it away. Here’s what the book said. Please make a mental note of this and tell every woman that you know: A woman with any abnormal bleeding should see a doctor. And so I did. (And I promise, that’s the last descriptive medical detailing you will read here.)

I started that Wednesday in in solitude, drinking Earl Grey with honey and randomly chose to read Psalms 116-118. I hope you’ll take time to read those chapters today. The passage I read included these verses:

  • “Truly I am your servant, Lord. I serve you just as my mother did, you have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:17).
  • “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done” (Psalm 118:17).

I’d never noticed that “mom” part before. In fact, it struck me as a little odd. I didn’t realize God was preparing me for the hours to come. Here’s what you should know about my mom. About 30 years ago, she had the same surgery I ended up having. A teacher, a speaker, and a writer, she is nearly 80 now and continues to be an ace at proclaiming what the Lord has done. Two hours after my Bible reading, the phone rang. Endometrial cancer, stage unknown. I’d need to have a hysterectomy before further treatment could be determined. I scribbled notes, trying not to pass out, hoping to get all the information straight. Then came one of the hardest moments of this journey.

I had to tell Steve that my biopsy showed cancer, but here’s another of what became a stream of blessings. He was home when that call came through. No waiting. No deciding whether or not to tell him the news over the phone. He was, my journal of that day says, “just as I needed him to be.” He held me, prayed with me, and helped me rewrite my scattered call notes so that I’d be able to keep all the doctor’s information straight. It “just so happened” (are you seeing a pattern here?) that all four of our kids would be visiting within a couple of hours. We were thankful for the opportunity to talk to them in person, even though it was hard to see those red-rimmed eyes.

Now you’ve heard the beginning and gotten a glimpse of the end. For the next four blogs, I want to talk about the middle, to “proclaim what the Lord has done,” to describe the creative ways God took care of me, encouraged me, and showed himself faithful. It will be far more uplifting than this introduction has been. I hope you will stick with me for the next several weeks, and that you’ll share my story with as many people as possible, because it’s always good to brag on the goodness of God.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like…

sound of music

When Elizabeth was small, she loved to sing. You may be thinking “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” or “The Wheels on the Bus” or even “Jesus Loves Me.” Well, I’m sure we sang those, too, but her favorite lyrics were from The Sound of Music. One of her favorite songs was “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” I’m sure I could find a home movie and upload it for your viewing pleasure, but instead, let me ask you to use your imagination.

Picture a three year old in a pink sundress. She’s standing in the kitchen singing the pithy prose from that Rogers and Hammerstein hit with predictable cuteness. Then she comes upon THE WORD. Sometimes she demurs, knowing it’s forbidden. Other times she belts it out, figuring she has found an opportunity for exception. And what is that word? HATE. “I HATE to have to say it, but I very firmly feel, Maria’s not an asset to the abbey.”

When my children were small, they weren’t allow to say “hate” or “stupid.” Lately I’ve been thinking about that rule, because I’ve been reading 1 Peter. It’s very convicting, particularly the second chapter. You see, I have allowed “hate” and “stupid” to creep back into my own vocabulary over the years, and I don’t think Peter would approve. Let me give you a sample of his words:

  • Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1).
  • Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).
  • But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:20-21).

When I say “hate” or “stupid,” my comments are probably at least a bit malicious or slanderous. They certainly aren’t loving or respectful. And I’m pretty sure they don’t qualify as following in Christ’s steps. And so, by God’s grace and with his ever-available forgiveness, I will begin again with a clean slate and a new determination to eliminate “hate” and “stupid” from my vocabulary.

Tell me, are there words want to eliminate as well?

Eighty Happy Students


I’ve got two quick questions for you today:

How many Bibles do you own?

Are you excited about those Bibles?

My friend Sara teaches Tanzanian children through Village Schools International ( – a mission worth reading about!). She started a program that gives each student a chance to earn a Swahili Bible by memorizing 25 verses. It’s working! I’d like to let you read a portion of her latest email telling about the results:

I love getting to see the students huddle together and help each other memorize different verses. They get so excited as they learn more verses and gain a better understanding of God’s word.

Last week two of my students finished saying 25 verses. Yesterday I had them over for a little celebration so they could see how excited I was for them. The three of us had some sodas, talked about the verses they learned, what some of their favorite verses were and how they would use their Bibles. Both of them were very excited when I handed them their Bibles and spent the whole time looking through them.

The three other missionary teachers in my region also gave out Bibles to those students who earned them. There were 78 Bibles given out to some very thrilled students. One student said he was so excited to get a Bible because he could now have his own and be even closer to one day being a pastor. Other students were so excited to receive their Bibles they cried, sang and danced for joy.”

I have multiple Bibles in my home, and access to a dozen or more through my Kindle alone. I do read them. I do memorize a verse now and then. But I can’t remember the last time I opened my Bible and really thought about what a  privilege it is to have one. Tomorrow, when I sit down to read Gods Word (or plug in my head phones to listen to an audio version) I’m going to think about Sara and her students. And my heart is going to dance for joy!

P.S. Please pray for Sara and for VSI. They are doing awesome work!

Ride with Your Hands Up

028[1] (3)Elizabeth and I were headed to Disney World when the truth hit me: I would have to ride Tower of Terror. Tower of Terror is her favorite ride, and I was her only travel companion. She fully intended to follow the rules like buckling her seat belt and remaining in her chair. Beyond that, she was ready to ride, no holds barred. And she would definitely have her hands up.

Not me. I don’t like speed. I don’t like heights, and I definitely don’t like thirteen story drops. I held on for dear life, gripping the bar in front of me as if it was my only hope of survival. When the ride was over, Elizabeth was grinning with delight, and I was sighing (silently) with relief.

Fast forward about five years. We were days away from the marriage of our son Tony to the girl of his dreams (and ours). I was reviewing my list of responsibilities, wondering if all the details would work out according to plan, when I heard a still small voice say, “Ride with your hands up.” I knew exactly what that meant.

When you ride a roller coaster you can grip the safety bar until your hands cramp, or you can raise your hands in the air and savor the moment. Either way, if you follow the rules and buckle up, you’ll be safe. Holding on doesn’t really keep you in your seat. Your harness does. It’s the designer of the ride, not the rider, that determines where the roller coaster is going to go. You’ll probably catch a little air along the way, but roller coasters are meant to toss you around a bit. Some people even enjoy that.

If you throw your arms up in the air on a roller coaster, you just might have more fun. Isn’t that true about life as well? Have you put your faith in God, and asked him to be the Lord of your life? Are you trying to live as he wants you to live? Then ride, baby, ride! Throw your hands up in the air in praise, trust and joy. You aren’t going to fly out of that roller coaster, and holding on until your knuckles hurt isn’t going to make you any safer. It’s just going to make you sore.

No, you won’t always know what’s coming. Sometimes you’re going to catch a little air and wonder when things will calm down again, but that’s okay. The One who designed your ride has it all in control, regardless of how it looks from the top of the biggest drop. So smile, trust, relax and ride with your hands up.