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Q. What is the best advice ever given to you? ~Robin

A. I’ve gotten alot of great advice through the years, from my parents, in particular.  I’d say one of the recent best pieces of advice I’ve received was from my mentor, Monty Hipp.  He encouraged me to take the word “busy” out of my vocabulary, as it creates distance between you and someone else.   I’ve found it to be such a solid piece of truth and extremely helpful to my life and relationships.  My friends and family are very gracious with me when it comes to my time and juggling all the things I have to do.  Letting them know I am never too “busy” for them is vital for them to feel as important to me as they truly are.

I also want ministry friends to know that I am not too “busy” for them.  Of course, I have to protect my time, as we all do.  None of us can do everything in a day or a week or a year we want to do. But part of ministry is letting people know they are important.  And if you are constantly “too busy” to bother, people notice.

I’m still trying to achieve this balance in my life.  Upon Monty’s advice, I have really been conscious of using the word “busy” with people.  I try to let them know when I am stretched beyond my capacity, and I try to give the grace to them I ask them to give to me.  The reality is, we are ALL busy.  But taking that word out of our vocabulary would benefit all of us, I think.

Q. Just curious — if you weren’t a writer, what would you be?   –Katie

A. What a fun question, Katie!  Thanks for asking me an easy one. :)

I got my degree in psychology and worked in counseling, used to be a make-up artist, and my very first job was selling swimming pools.  But I wouldn’t want to do any of those things now.

I absolutely love interior design and had intended to go to an art institute to earn my degree before God stirred in me a passion to write.  I get real joy from decorating my house and finding just the right touches to make it our family’s home, and I also love to consult with others on what things to do in their home to enhance them.  I have a blast when I can give someone tips that I have learned or tried in my own space.   Probably my favorite aspect about decorating is finding something cheap and making it look very expensive.

One of my favorite things in my house are my $12.99 Bi-Lo (yes, the grocery store) vases that sit on my mantel.  They look rich, and half the fun is seeing people’s expression when I tell them I found them in the frozen food section and how much they cost.  Thought you might enjoy seeing a picture of them. (Well, one of them. :))

And since I’m on a roll (see what happens when you tap into a passion?), here are a couple of other ideas of finds and how I’ve used them to decorate.

The chandelier that hangs in my foyer was being thrown out at a furniture store when I happened upon it.  I saw it sitting on the floor and asked about it.  The store gave it to me, and it was originally brassy gold.  I spray painted it black, put shades on it, and here it is, now…

Pictures, pictures and more pictures.  Pictures of people and things you love is a must in decorating, in my view.  This is a picture of one of my favorite walls in my house, in my office.  It’s of pictures I have taken that mean a great deal to me for one reason or another.

Here’s a tip for bathrooms with tall ceilings:  so as not to close the room in and make it look smaller, order a longer curtain and install the rod close to the ceiling.  Frustrated that I couldn’t find the shower curtain I wanted for my kid’s bathroom in a longer length, I found an indoor/outdoor curtain and used it.  The great thing about using this type of curtain is that they don’t need a liner (since it’s an outdoor curtain, it can get wet), and they are sturdy and look great.  (For whatever reason, it won’t let me post this picture.  But trust me when I say it looks cool. :)

Thanks for asking this question.  I’ve given up my professional ambitions in interior design for a much higher call, but as you can see, it’s still very much in my blood.  It’s been fun to share about it.

Q:  You talk about Jesus a lot, and I don’t trust people who don’t seem real.  I’d really like to know: are you a fake?-A.J.

A: Well, my friend, I wish you were the first person to ever ask me this because I might think it was just you.  But I have to be honest and admit that this is not the first time someone has asked me this question.   I also have to admit that it’s never a fun question to have asked of you.  I almost didn’t take it on because it’s a tough one, but you asked, so I decided to just put it (and my answer) out there.

Let me just first say that writers most always write about the things that are the most important and the most difficult for them.  We write from what we know. It’s not that everything we write is a piece of our autobiography, but it’s why powerful writing feels honest — because it often comes from a place of vast experience and even, deep pain.  So there – now I’ve outed us. :)

There is nothing more important to me than living an authentic life.  My background is not one of drug addiction or street living or abusive parents.  I haven’t been saved from those horrific experiences.  But make no mistake, I consider myself rescued, nonetheless. And as a result, my heart feels just as freed.  Anyone who has ever been rescued from a life of spiritual inauthenticity knows exactly what I mean.  You can’t ever thank God enough for drawing you in to the place where playing church stops being an option.  It’s why I talk about Jesus a lot  — because I passionately appreciate Him for not letting me choke on my own pretense.  There was a certain point in my life where I thought it might be my life sentence.  And it pained me to know that about myself and live with that thought, more than you know.

But I’m not perfect.  Far from it.  I don’t want to present false humility here and dwell on this fact.  But just trust me when I say that I need many prayers to make it through the day without saying something I shouldn’t…or sinning my way into a self-made train wreck.  I am at high and constant risk.

I’m also not going to tell you that my personality is an easy one to understand.  I’m complicated, as my husband will readily attest. :) I feel things deeply, and I have a strong justice meter.  I have the characteristics that are very in line with my spiritual gifting.  Sometimes I marvel at how well God defined who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do.  Sometimes I think He wonders why He made me such a tough case to deal with.  :)

I say all that to say that if you don’t like me very much, I completely understand.  But if you think I’m inauthentic, that bothers me a while lot more.  Because I can live with people thinking I’m too bold or too opinionated or not as much of whatever they want me to be, but the one thing I can’t live without is that undeniable presence of God in my life to the point where my perfection is disqualified, but my passion for God is not.

I can’t convince you that I’m authentic, but here’s what I can tell you: I’m not afraid for you to watch my life.  I want you to judge me by my fruit, because that keeps me accountable to be better.  See what I spend my time doing and listen to what I talk about.  It’s true that I could put out what I want you to see.  To some degree, we all do that and I believe that there is value in keeping some things between only you and God.  But over time if that’s not coming from a real place, it will desenegrate.  At which point, the whole façade would come down and your assumption of me could be proven right.  I pray that never happens, but since I’m very human, it can.  That’s why the only person I can safely endorse 100% of the time through my writing is Jesus Christ.  And that’s what I pray I always do.

I want you to know one thing: the times I have been asked this question, I have gone straight to my knees and asked the One who knows me best and judges my heart.  When I’ve done that, sometimes He has revealed to me areas of my life I need to change.  Other times he has confirmed to me that it is a bias within the character of the person asking that has led to this conclusion, and in the process, I have been misjudged.  But either way, I’m willing to look at it.  At the end of the day, however it turns out, it only causes me to spend time with the One who is all truth and no pretense.  And that can only make me better.

One last thing I’d like to say.  It is in our nature to judge, presume, and conclude things about people – especially those who speak out about issues related to spiritual character.  I’ve heard many a believer judge another and deem them unworthy to talk about God, pointing out the sin in their life as making them hypocritical.  I believe it is why many people with great insights shy away from sharing things – because they don’t want to put themselves out there to be scrutinized and they know they are not sinless or perfect and don’t even have the things they talk about under full Holy Spirit control, themselves.  But friend, if perfection were the requirement than there would be no preachers or writers or speakers or Christians musicians or any of the above.  If we waited to have everything perfect before we addressed it, we would have no need for a perfect God and there would be no blogs or conferences or even, churches.  Often, the process of writing something is itself a personal process, meant to come alongside and help others who may be struggling with the same issues.  (Since we are all more alike than what we think.) Those of us who operate this way feel that if God is teaching us something, He will often put on our hearts to share it in a public way.  I believe it’s why God revealed many different aspects of the lives of our favorite faith heroes in the Bible – so that we would not mistakenly think that they were some type of spiritual elitists without error.  You have every right to desire and even expect those in authority or with a voice to live with character.  Absolutely.  But please remember that God doesn’t need us to be perfect to use us to influence people or spread His message.  He needs us to pray to be humble.  Willing.  Teachable.  And honest.  It’s a lie of Satan to believe anything else.  To disregard the insights of someone God wants to use because you deem them to be inauthentic is not only wrong, but it is a missed opportunity to hear from God through an imperfect vessel, regardless of who it is.

Thank you for asking this question.  It has made me look inside, once again, and take heart inventory.  I got some extra time in with God today because of you.  So, thank you.   I hope never to disappoint you, but knowing I probably will, please continue to seek Jesus, the perfect One who is the most real Person you will ever know.

Q.: I’ll be honest: I’ve been hurt by the church and it has made me not want to go back. I’m skeptical about trusting another church, again. What do you suggest I do? -Dan

A.: Dan, I’m so thankful for your question. As I’ve shared before in limited venues (but will share in detail in my next book), my father is a former pastor who lost his role at a large church in a very public way. So I know a little about being hurt by church people, and I have deep understanding for your feelings. I’ve heard from many others who share your experience, as well. So know that you are heard and understood.

I am a great lover of the church, which is why I spend so much time exhorting us to be better. Here are a few pieces of perspective my life-long journey with the church has taught me…

1) Love the church but don’t worship it. Appreciate the humanity in church people and leaders, alike.

Really, I could stop with this thought, alone. Because we are an imperfect bunch of people with an equal need to be rescued by God, no matter whether we are a Sunday morning attendee or we are the lead pastor. All of us have the same capacity to hurt each other, disappoint each other, and do the wrong thing. Though pastors are often put on pedestals, they are human beings with flesh who mess up all the time. Our job is not to make them more important than they should be and not to judge them when we find out they aren’t perfect. It’s a tough balance, but it’s an important way to view leadership. Often, our dissatisfaction with the church comes from being disappointed by a leader. Other times it happens when a person in the church acts in the flesh (which we are all capable of doing) and hurts us. But whether pastor or co-worshipper, when we recognize the humanity in them, we are better able to put both their role and their behavior in proper perspective. We are all flawed and sometimes behave badly. No one is immune to poor judgment, imperfection or sin.

2) Separate God from your tradition.

This is so key as it relates to our relationship with God. As much as we love where we worship or grow attached to our traditions, we have to understand that they are not what ultimately grow our one-on-one relationship with God. It is my strongest belief that at some point for all believers, we will be let down by the church. (It’s not an “if” but a “when” because of the humanity I talk about it point #1.) As I’ve seen, time and again, if when that happens you have not separated how you feel about God from how you feel about church people, you will dive head first into a doubt journey about God that is both draining and non-productive.

Separating God from our tradition is a proactive step that I believe needs to be done so our view of church and God and people can all remain healthy and be clearly defined. It is one of the things I am most driven to help the church understand and one of the 3 main themes of my new book. We don’t find God in a specific place or in a treasured ritual and sometimes those things can even get in our way, spiritually. When we live with a clear picture of both church and God, we see Him as our everything and let the church be a place to serve, love and worship without expectation of perfection. It may be among the most important lessons for all church-going people to grasp.

3) Find the commonality between you.

Church people may disagree all day long, but the one thing on which we can all agree is how amazing God is. When we are hurt by the church, He is the first One who can soothe that, and He never takes sides or is skewed by second hand information or appearances. This thought has brought me comfort many times when I felt betrayed, let down or hurt by an injustice toward me…or someone I love. But when you boil it all down, Jesus is the amazing common denominator among all believers. Focus on the aspect of who He is and let His love help heal the hurt of other believers behaving badly.

So bottom line — what do you do when the church hurts you? You pray. You forgive. You ask God to help you have a healthy perspective about church today and every day, moving forward. Trust me when I say that I know how it feels to be hurt by the church, and it is among the most painful of all wounds. But God’s love can heal anything, including a wound that has been inflicted by the people we should be able to trust the most. At the end of the day, bad behavior by humans only reminds us of how much greater a God who is incapable of such things really is.

Q: I have always had interest in being a writer, but I’m not sure exactly where to start. What advice do you have for an aspiring writer?    – Randelle

I firmly believe in paying it forward as a writer, so I’m always excited to help aspiring writers when they ask me this.  Writing is an amazing outlet for our thoughts, convictions and passions – and often, it starts with simple things like keeping a journal.  If you are truly just starting out, it’s a great point from which to launch.  Once you’ve gotten your feet wet in that, you may be ready to branch out into an online blog, where a broader audience can read your words.  A blog is a must for any aspiring writer, and it will help you hone your craft.  You will begin to see consistencies in the things you write about, and that will help you find your voice.  Since the reader’s time is limited, it is important to have a purpose for your blog, so that your audience will know what to expect from you when they stop by to read.

As you continue to grow your blog audience (through networking, social media, etc.), continue to pursue outside writing opportunities.  Find online sites you enjoy and do research on how to submit your writing to them.  It’s easier than ever to connect with people online, and as you connect, begin asking where your writing might be a fit.  Every publication, whether online or print, needs good articles.  Keep pursuing getting your writing in front of people who can help further it.

It is also important to gain knowledge on how to write and what are the current trends in publishing.  Websites like Thomas Nelson CEO & President, Michael Hyatt’s, {} provide a wealth of information to both the aspiring and the established writer.

Beyond that, I highly recommend to every aspiring author to attend a writer’s conference.  Not only will you glean great wisdom and practical advice from the sessions, but you will also have the unique opportunity to connect with influential people in the business: editors, agents, marketers, etc.  In some cases, you will be given opportunity for one-on-one meetings that carry the potential for a future book contract.  Writer’s conferences can be pricey, but they are worth the money, especially for an aspiring writer.  For female writers, I am a big fan of the She Speaks Conference in Charlotte, NC {}.  It takes place in the summer and usually books up fast, but it is reasonably priced and a great venue for the new writer.

Writing is a rewarding field, yet the business of getting published can be lengthy, tedious, challenging, and at times even discouraging.  My advice for you is to keep sharing your heart in whatever avenue God provides, focusing on the message unique to you and your experience.  When you close your day knowing you have done that, you can rest in whatever result it brings.