personal website

Call to Action

September 7th, 2017 . by maria

A friend shared an article about hate groups, and someone asked her what she’s doing about it. She answered that she’s praying about it. But she doesn’t have time in her life to go fight every battle.

Another friend shares Facebook posts against dog abuse. But these are only seen by her friends – who already agree with her. She does rescue and rehome dogs, but she’d like to get others to do more.

My employer started a new initiative about the Opioid Epidemic. They are focused on education, de-stigmatization, and on donating to sources that fund awareness campaigns. But this information will be directed mainly towards employees and their families.  Employees of our company, while not immune to this stuff, do already live a privileged life.

Awareness. Education. Engagement. A Voice. Rallies. An environment. Support. Conversation. A Cause. Petitions. De-stigmatization. Spreading information. Fundraisers. Donations. Bracelets and flags and bumper stickers.

All these things are great for reaching people in functioning families with reasonable and responsible lifestyles. People who watch TV, go to work, read flyers at the grocery store. And it does help some people. But the people who suffer the most, and the most often, don’t come from those backgrounds, or have been removed from them by death, divorce, disease, etc. They are in foster homes, abusive relationships, shelters, or just bouncing around. These people are so busy surviving – seriously, just figuring out when they’ll eat next, where to sleep, and how not to get beaten up. They are the ones most at risk for everything, but they aren’t in any position to hear what you’re spreading. And if they are engaging in risky activity, it’s most likely because everything in their life is at risk right now, and this thing – this thing that seems so bad to you – made one moment in their life easier. They fell into it because they finally felt accepted, or protected, or relieved.

If you are among the privileged group that has time in your life to complain, post, petition, etc. then please do more. Volunteer, donate, rescue, give, show up. Even $5. Even 30 minutes. Don’t just TALK about the problems – do something. Pick ONE thing that you CAN do something about and DO it. We can’t all fix everything, but we can all do something.  I know it’s easy to say that, so I put my money where my mouth is…not to brag, but to give some examples and go beyond talk. Below is a list of things I actually do. These may not be your favorites; you might even have criticisms about them. But these are the things I have chosen for me. You do you! But do something!

What I do (currently):

  • Protect Animals – Adopt from Shelters & Rescues, and Foster. None of our pets have been gotten from stores or breeders. We’ve fostered and rehomed a few pets over the years. We rescued and rehabilitated an abandoned and sick dog. Vet bills for rescues can get expensive, but it was the right thing to do.
  • Visit the Sick – Because I have a dog with lots of training, we got certified for Pet Therapy. We go to a local long-term care facility 30 minutes twice a week. The residents there miss their own pets, and love to see my dog. The Pet Therapy training was important to keep my dog safe, and I highly recommend it – there are a surprising number of hidden dangers in pet therapy.
  • Fight Homelessness – I have given diapers to Halifax Urban Ministries ($12), volunteered feeding the homeless (60 minutes on Sat afternoon), and even invited a homeless friend to live with us. (I wouldn’t necessarily make that offer to a homeless stranger, and even taking in a friend/family might be a stretch for some people, or even at some points in your life. But we were in a position where we could do it.)
  • Donate When Needed – Don’t just “Pray for X” when X happens. Research and find a charity that you believe operates with the values and integrity you require. Then, when something happens, donate to THAT charity. For me, this is Samaritan’s Purse ( (Not getting into how or why to choose here – just choose one!) So now, when something happens, I don’t just post “Pray for X” on Facebook, I click the donate button and give what I can! Even if it is $5, or $15, or $50, it is something. And if I had $5 for every “Pray for X” I had ever seen…wow, I’d be SO rich.
  • Raise Responsible Children – that’s a whole series of essays right there, but it may be the MOST important thing you do…and the most rewarding. If you can give the world ONE LESS person who is addicted, or homeless, or mean…and instead ONE MORE person who is kind and safe and giving…that’s powerful!
  • Make it a Habit – We ALWAYS give Shoeboxes to Operation Christmas Child EVERY year. It’s become so much a part of the holiday tradition that it is celebratory to give this way.

There are SO many ways to volunteer, give, and share. And if you are reading this, guess what? You are better off than SO many people, and you have a RESPONSIBILITY to share.  But here’s something even better…God is asking you to share. It is more important to him than Not Sinning. Yes, really.  But don’t take my word for it. Read Matthew 25:31-46. Then, if you think that’s a fluke, look at all those postscripts in the verse – the ones that point to other verses – and read those. Even the Old Testament ones. It’s pretty consistent. Go. Do it. Give.



Sharing Fear on Facebook

June 5th, 2017 . by maria

Preface: I’m putting this over here on the blog instead of answering these posts directly on FaceBook because I have tried that before, and I don’t want those friends thinking I am picking on them constantly. But I need to get this off my chest:

GOD DOES NOT WANT US PARANOID AND AFRAID. He does not want us spending all our time looking for the boogeyman, checking under the bed, and leaving a light on in the closet. When you share or forward warnings, you THINK you are saving your friends. But if those warnings are outdated or false, you are planting fear where it doesn’t need to be. There are enough things to fear in this world, and we certainly should be fighting against all the ugliness and evil. But if you are spending more time, and more fb posts, on the negative, you are only amplifying the voice of fear!

2 Tim 1:7

So, what should I do when I want to share a warning on FaceBook ? I would like you to consider these key thoughts:

  1. Is it my calling to share this?
  2. Is it true?
  3. What do I ask of my audience?
  4. Can I make this positive instead?

You are thinking: “But wait – this sounds like a lot of work!” Informing people is a great responsibility, and it should only be undertaken if you are willing to do the work to be sure that what you are sharing is TRUTH. Because if it is not truth, what is it? So, let’s dig into these ideas and hopefully you’ll see that they are actually reasonable expectations.

Is it my calling to share this?

Don’t just think “people should know”, but ask if YOU specifically have a calling around this topic and a voice of authority in this area. Example: When my dog trainer shares an article about how flexy leashes are dangerous, I can trust that she has read it and understands the issues. She isn’t just trusting the headline. She has some knowledge and experience to back this up. On the flip side, she is not a computer expert, and would not be the best person to decide if the latest virus warning deserves my attention. (It might, or she could be wasting my time…I’d rather hear about malware from Bruce Schneier, because he’s only going to address the bad ones that my antivirus can’t stop, which are the only ones I need to worry about.)

Is it true?

Some internet warnings started out life based on a joke, a satirical article, a single incident from 5 years ago, or a personal vendetta – and have long since outlived their usefulness. Some are based on half-truths, or on something that is true only for X brand of product, or only an issue for people with Y condition. These are important things to note! Example: “fidget spinners can kill your child” is completely different than “some toys have lead in them”. Your friend whose child has benefitted from the spinner will be glad to know they don’t have to give them up completely, and all parents – even those who could care less about fidget spinners – need to be aware of lead poisoning potential in any toys from China.

It is helpful to do a web search on the key phrase from a warning, such as “gas pumps hiv needles”. See if a website you trust for news has covered the topic, and look for the important take-away on the subject. (That one was a hoax in June of 2000, but it is still in circulation.) Look for scientific research, personal experience stories (more than just one), etc.

Also check sites that specifically debunk articles. They often declare something a hoax long before it hits the media – if it ever does. Yes, many of these sites have particular political leanings. Even if the site’s editors are biased, if they include links to outside sources to prove/refute a claim, those sources can be valuable for getting more information.

So check news, hoax sites, and research-based articles. The more data you get, the more variety in your sources, the more accurate your conclusion will be. (Remember: one occurrence is not data, it’s an anecdote/anomaly.)

What do I ask of my audience?

Yes, you have an audience! And that should change the way you think about sharing stuff! Who is your audience on FaceBook? All your friends/followers.  Example: If you have toddlers, and most of your friends have kids that age, then “toddler parents” are your audience. So, it is easy to decide to share a post about defective sippy cups. And buying a different sippy cup isn’t much to ask. But it can be trickier to decide if you should share about hunger in Uganda. Yes, it’s happening…But what, exactly, do you want your friends to do about it, when they are trying to feed their own children? Is it something you have done? Is it realistic to expect your friends to pray/donate/protest/change their habits about ALL the things they see on FaceBook each week? Wouldn’t more focus create more impact?

Can I make this positive instead?

Knowledge about a problem is good, but knowledge about a solution is better. Sharing about a study showing that X creates autisim? Why not share a study that shows that Y is an effective learning tool for kids with autism. Don’t just share the “supplement is bad” headline article – tell your friends how easy it has been for YOU to grow the herb, and why that’s better than the supplement. If you want to call attention to a cause, you can’t just do it with negative information.

The constant negative posts only make it seem like a huge problem that can’t be solved. Eventually, your friends will think there’s no way THEY can make an impact, and begin to see your posts as paranoid and negative. But sharing positive research, realistic calls to action, and your OWN active involvement in the problem, helps to cultivate your authority on a subject. And that’s something your friends will listen to.


If the claim passes ALL those tests, choose the most reliable and informed source and share that ALONG WITH your thoughts and actions on the subject. Sharing a NEW link is better than sharing the original facebook post, because your friends likely saw that one, and adding this one shows them there are multiple sources warning about this. They are more likely to pay attention. Adding your thoughts shows that you put some effort into the post, which should touch the heart of your friends. But if you can show them an action you have taken, they will see it as an action THEY could take as well, and THAT’s a way to share IMPACT, and not fear.



P.S. Debunking site links:

Below are some links to ‘debunking’ websites. Some of these sites have more of a tech focus (viruses and scam emails), some more of an urban legend focus (spider bites and slender man), and some have particular political leanings, so “pick your poison” as they say. But political bias is not a reason to rule out all fact checking. (i.e. “snopes has ties to…” does NOT equal “all fact checking is bad”) Having more information on a topic allows you to have more authority to prove or refute a claim.

Use the search function on one of these sites to find what you’re looking for. Also, check the homepage to see if the site is still being updated. (Some good hoax sites go dormant after a few years, when the editor burns out.),,,,,,, and the ever-unpopular ‘because it is run by liberals nothing on it could possibly be accurate’ .


My Songs on YouTube

May 12th, 2017 . by maria

Hey, If you’re bothering to check out my website, then you might be interested enough in this: I posted a few of my songs on YouTube. Check them out!

“Just Like Him” is about how any kind of church can be God’s people.

“It’s Time to Praise the Lord” is a fun praise song

“Said Job” is taken directly from Job 12 starting in verse 7

“What Do You Want” is a song about stages of life

The older videos on this YouTube belong to my dog, but she’s awesome, so you might like those too. 😉

Being a Follower Requires Action

April 27th, 2017 . by maria

Being a follower requires action. You can’t follow someone by standing still, and staying where you are. In fact, following is a continual action. But following is an act of trust – that who you are following is going where you want to go, and has chosen the best path. How do you get to that place with God where you fully trust all He is doing? Where your prayers become “your will God” without reservation? This is the place I am at (most days) now. It has been a journey of single steps. Each small step laying a foundation for another. I’ve learned that when I am faithful to take a step, it is always honored by God. You can’t go from zero to hero. Each of these steps builds on the other. But you do have to actually start by taking a step.

1. Accept and acknowledge. This could be the moment you ask Christ into your heart, or a later moment of personal enlightenment. But at some point you really take into your being the belief that God orders your steps, and that you are better off following Him than trying to do it all yourself. All the other steps will fail without this. Sure, you can show up and do all the right things, but it will be empty for you. Better to take small steps with meaning, than large ones leading nowhere.

I want to be really clear – many people believe in Christ the way I believe in the Eiffel Tower…it exists, has a neat story, and is a pretty picture…I’d like to visit someday. That’s not what I am talking about here. I’m talking life changing, soul saving, relationship. The kind of thing where you respond because you want to, not because you should.

2. Prayer. Once you’ve accepted God, speak to Him. It doesn’t need to be formal. Prayer is the simplest, most basic thing we can do: It doesn’t require any materials, we don’t have to go somewhere to do it, and nobody else knows if we’re doing it or not. Except us and God. But it is one step beyond acknowledging, and begins to teach us to listen and hear God’s voice.

Did you ever wonder why we pray at meals and bedtime? I’ll tell you a secret – it isn’t really to make our food better and our sleep safer. It’s so we will remember to pray! Eating and sleeping are two things we can’t live long without, and we should treat prayer the same way. So don’t just say “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Amen.” (You know you’ve done that. Some of you even used those words.) But be reminded to converse with God, and invite Him to join you. It’s also no coincidence that these are two times of day when we have to stop talking, at least a little.

3. The Word. Biblical teaching is the next step in hearing God’s voice. When we know what He’s said and done, over and over in the past, we are better equipped to hear Him. We can see what He’s doing now, what He wants us to do, and how He views the world, because He’s already told us. Biblical teaching can be at church, in Christian music, and other Christian teaching. (Conferences, magazines, blogs, YouTube.) But don’t forget to read the Bible yourself. (Thank you, God, for Gutenburg!) That’s how you’ll learn if the teaching you are getting is sound – it will match up with what you read, over and over. Others can only give you what God has given them, and some only give you what they want to hear. So if you really want to hear God speak, pick a chapter and read it as if He is telling you something.

4. Private Commitment. If you are praying and reading in private, you are already taking an action in response to your faith. Build on that in the ways God puts in front of you, in your life. Only you know what that is. Maybe He is asking you to complain less, to be more generous, or to step away from an addiction.

5. Public Participation. Showing up at church is an action of public commitment. It doesn’t take a Christian to show up, but showing up does improve your Christian life. Showing up is just the start. The Bible says to sing, shout for joy, and dance. To raise our hands to Him and praise Him. But I might look silly…or pretentious! But doing these simple things for God here makes it easier to work for Him out there. I am not afraid to say “can I pray with you about that” , because I’ve done it here. I won’t care how it looks, because I’ve looked sillier than that here.

6. Service. This is the level where you are joining others in serving. It can start here, but it shouldn’t stay here. Here is practice; here is baseline. We should branch out. We should be getting out of the church building and getting out of our own heads. The Bible says we are like salt, but salt does no good sitting in the shaker! Get out there with the other salt, and change the flavor of our world! Now, don’t just go out and do “random acts of kindness” to the world. I’m sorry…that’s just silly. That guy has enough money to buy coffee, or he wouldn’t be in line behind you! Learn how to recognize where God wants you to serve. Join in serving somewhere with someone else who is already serving. This is where we learn what a calling looks like, what hard work is, and where we practice doing. When we join, we start from a place of humility, so we are ready to learn and in a mindset to follow.

7. Your mission. It will come to you. Don’t worry – I am not saying that this path leads to being a missionary overseas, or even being a pastor or other leader. But God built you a certain way for a reason. When you have been stepping out, He will start to reveal that to you, and open doors for you to use that. Maybe it will be speaking His truth in simplicity, or connecting with the broken. But maybe some of you have a gift with finance and project planning, and you’ll learn when God is calling you to make something happen. Maybe your mission starts at home with your kids, or when you walk your dog and get to know your neighbors and take the time to speak hope into their hardships. Seriously, a dog is a great icebreaker!

Each of these steps loops back to reinforce the others. You accept. You pray, and your acceptance of God grows. You get into the Word, and you get to know Him and accept Him more, and speak to Him more. You join other Christians, and hear what He’s done or is doing for them, and you love God more and see how He works. You step out with the tiniest action, and He honors your effort, and you start to know Him better and hear Him speak more clearly in your life. And He shows you the next step, and you take it. And it builds – it is a snowball effect. Seriously, if you want to sense God in your life, step out of the church and do His work. You will be changed.

But it all starts with a response. With you being willing to act – needing to act – in response to what God has given to you. Whether you’ve come from a broken place and found healing, or if you’ve just looked around and realized how blessed you have always been. And it doesn’t matter if you are 2 or 12 or 47 or 70 – God wants to speak to you and work with you. When you feel it, when you understand His love, there is a response that goes beyond just showing up for an hour on Sunday morning. That’s kinda scary, right? What will I have to do? What will I have to give up? But oh, my dear heart, what will you gain? Just…go for it. It’s ok if you Start small. It’s ok if you screw up. But act. Take steps. Move.

Use What You’ve Got

April 26th, 2017 . by maria

So, I ended my last post with “Well, when God wants you to lead worship with a Ukulele, He will make it happen!” That couldn’t be more true. I played Ukulele on 1-2 songs each Sunday after that, including the Christmas Eve service. But around that time, I also was getting a message that God had plans for me away from TLC Church. (To be clear: I love TLC Church, and the people there, and the music team. I didn’t want to leave, and nobody did anything to make me want to leave.) But I’ve learned that when God is pushing you, it is best to follow before He has to get stern with you. So I let my leaders know, and laid out a timeline ending in March. I visited a lot of church websites, and then took a Sunday off here and there to visit a couple churches. They were OK, but not a good fit. March came along, and I still didn’t know where I was going, and I was like “um, God? Open door?” But while I was out one Sunday, the leaders told the team I was leaving, so…well…it was happening, and I trusted God had a plan.

March 5, 2017 I visited Ponce Church, liked what I saw and heard, and spoke with the worship leader (Buddy Reaves) briefly. I put my email in their offering to help with their feeding the homeless project. Wednesday I got an email from the pastor, Rick Tidwell. They had just done a church plant and lost their worship leader. Buddy is a fill-in, but can only do a couple days a month, and his other contacts are unavailable. Would I be interested in leading worship?  DOOR OPEN.

I made sure Pastor Rick knew that I play an electric Ukulele, and he was cool with that. (Hmm…I didn’t even have to tell him how that was God’s fault.) I arranged to visit one more Sunday, with my Dad in tow, because I respect his experience and judgement. And because he had been feeling a similar pull, and I was hoping we’d end up together. We did, for now at least. We started leading worship there March 19 (taking turns with Buddy). And it is working. God prepared it, and me, and it is beautiful to feel like you’re in the exact place doing the exact thing that you were built for. Make no mistake, my stubby little fingers weren’t built for playing anything but the Ukulele. But that’s OK, because I was also built to worship my God.

Practicing Ukulele Worship at my Aunt Nana’s house

Defending your Faith conference notes

March 15th, 2013 . by maria

A couple weeks ago we had a great conference at our church called “Defending Your Faith”. My oldest son and I were excited about it because the speaker (Ray Ciervo) had visited the church previously and spoken on Sunday, and we really enjoyed it. The conference was spread over 3 days, and included several break out sessions where you could choose which topic you wanted to learn about. I geeked out and took my netbook, so I could take copious notes. My son has since asked for a copy of my notes, and a friend of his wants a copy as well, so I decided to post them here. Actually I am going to post 3 things:

1. Teaser bullet points from my notes from Ray Ciervo’s original visit:

  1. Refute and Demolish strongholds & arguments
  2. Reason and Present Evidence (Acts 17:2-4)
  3. Adjust to your Audience: know what they beleive (Acts 17:23-30)
  4. Content: fight for our Faith (Jude 1:3)
  5. Always be Ready to Give a Defense (1 Peter 3:15)
  6. Certainty: So that you may knwo the exact truth (Luke 1:1, Acts 1:3)
  7. Pillar and Support of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15)
  8. Apologetics (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

2. Full pdf of my notes from all 3 days – organized and made all pretty. I even pulled in the full text of each quoted Bible verse, and put these in a special font. I also looked up the full and correct name and spelling of each book and author. Book recommendations for each section are also called out in a box. Where I wasn’t sure on something, I noted it. Where something was my own thought, I noted that and changed the font, so you can tell. Enjoy! DefendingYourFaith-ECC-20130301

3. Link to the ministries’ website where you can listen/download/app the podcast/mp3s of all the sessions, including the breakouts we didn’t choose so they aren’t in my notes. In case other things have been posted after, and you don’t see them at the top, You are looking for the items on 3/1, 3/2, and 3/3/2013 or titled “Apologetics Conference 2013”: