It was slightly irreverent but I snapped the picture of bird poop on the labyrinth sign anyway because it fit my mood — because it seemed to symbolize my own path, my own crooked maze through life.
Oh, there wasn’t a big catastrophe going on, just my own smelly thinking that needed to be cleaned away that day. I had hoped time in the beauty of Tinker Nature Park would settle my soul a bit, so I walked by summer’s blooms, stopped to say thanks to the buzzing bee hives and meandered over to the labyrinth, still thinking pretty poorly of myself and my accomplishments when I saw the pooped-on sign.
Listen, I am all in favor of cute baby pictures, and I don’t even mind the occasional snapshot of a meal. But if given the choice, I prefer a steady diet of story and substance – in real life and on social media.
If you’re looking for that, too, then let’s compile a list of people who offer practical tips for living out our faith. Let’s find people who are authentic and encouraging because their stories will strengthen all of us.
I’ll get us started. Here’s who I’ve been following and learning about on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat:
- It’s no secret that I have a writing crush on Ann Voskamp. I love her focus on gratitude and how she uses her words with the precision of a poet, and it was one of her social media posts that introduced me to Meredith Toering – a must-follow on Instagram. Meredith, an Oklahoma native, lives in China and runs Morning Star, a foster home for babies and infants who have complex congenital heart defects. Her Instagram feed could easily dwell on the challenges she faces. Instead, you’ll find post after post that highlights courage and hope. (Even if you aren’t into that, you should follow her just to get to know a little boy named Ben. He and his chubbiness are the reason I check Instagram every day. He has his own hashtag: #benstagram.)
- I call Instagram my sacred place. It is where I only follow accounts that I find uplifting — accounts that remind me of the beauty of God’s world and His people. That’s why I follow @hellosweetshade. If you need just a little space to breathe, just a moment to let your thoughts turn toward God, follow her, too. You can learn more about her at her blog.
- Eric Maddox’s life story reads like a suspense novel – and that’s why the former Army interrogator who tracked down Saddam Hussein has a bestselling book and a movie in the works. Hopefully he’ll get the chance to tell how his faith influenced his decision to join the Army and his ability to gather information without using violence. Eric is easiest to find at his website, but he’s also active on Facebook and Twitter as @ericbmaddox. I am slightly biased since we grew up together, but Eric has a lot to teach us all.
- You’ll like Tyler Speegle, too. He’s on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He writes about things like spiritual conviction and finding peace when you are uncomfortable. Good stuff. Important stuff.
- I find The Blessing Counter hard to resist. Carol Shrader, a mama to four – including triplets born prematurely – writes about her challenges and, of course, her blessings. She shares raw emotion and gives us a glimpse into parenting not just multiples but parenting children with Cerebral Palsy. So. Much. Wisdom. Besides her website, you can follow her on Twitter at @carolsblessings.
- I’m addicted to listening to podcasts and I really like Man in the Pew by Phil Mershon. I’m not his target audience, but he covers topics like how to stay grounded in tumultuous times and how to stay competitive at work while following Christ — topics that are helpful regardless of gender. Oh, and you might also like Engaging Story. It’s a podcast about marriage.
- If you are looking for advice on using social media with your ministry, check out Natchi Lazarus. He wrote The Connected Church: A Social Media Communications Strategy Guide for Churches, Nonprofits and Individuals in Ministry. Also, Heather Heuman helps business owners and churches grow their online brand. She hosts a Facebook group where she shares tips and suggestions.
- I started following Adam Powell mainly because he loves tacos, and I respect anyone who points that out in his profile. Turns out he’s also in ministry and a photographer, and I’m really enjoying what he says: The world is desperate right now for the person God has called you to be and We always want God to fix our circumstances. Sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes He wants to fix our focus within our circumstances. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @RealAdamPowell. Look for the taco emoji.
- Interested in a more inspired life? Follow Called to Create, a community of Christian entrepreneurs and creatives. You can find them on Instagram or visit calledtocreate.org to sign up for their weekly devotional.
- For those who want to learn more about social media marketing and about podcasting, try Michael Stelzner and Cliff Ravenscraft. They are easy to find on Facebook and Twitter, but their usernames on Snapchat are @mikestelzner and @cliffeotc. They are both experts in their field – Michael is the founder of Social Media Examiner and Cliff is known as the Podcast Answer Man – and while their content isn’t about faith, it shows in the respectful way they treat people.
- While Cliff Ravenscraft rides long distances on his bike, Kelly Nash has been known to run more than four marathons in 24 hours. Find her on Facebook at Running with Kelly and be inspired to run the good race both physically and spiritually.
- Mike Gastin owns a design firm that handles everything from branding to video production, and he shares his advice for business owners and those interested in leadership and entrepreneurship through his blog, Twitter and podcast. For a glimpse into his life outside of work – including his wife’s beehives – follow him on Snapchat, where his username is @mikegastin. Two other people who are known for inspiring people in business are Lewis Howes, a former professional football player, and John Lee Dumas, an Army veteran. Both offer podcasts, webinars and plenty of interaction on Twitter and other social media platforms. Find them on Snapchat as @lewis_howes and @johnleedumas.
- Tara Howisey, A.K.A. The Radiant Goddess, is one of the first strangers I followed on Snapchat, and I’m glad I did. She describes herself as a bohemian-mystic, a fusion of Christianity and Taoism with a dash of Buddhism and Law of Attraction. Because she has a different faith background than I do, she explains spiritual principles in ways that are new to me. I always walk away with new vocabulary and imagery – and that’s helpful when I put it through the lens of my own faith. You can find her on Snapchat as @tarahowisey. She also recommends following @enthusiasticlay, who really promotes meditation and stillness on Snapchat, and @nikinpos, a makeup artist who shares the beauty of Positano in southern Italy every single day.
- Marshall Norgaard, a sociology student who plans to go to seminary, writes encouraging scriptures on sticky notes and posts them in public places. It’s fun to watch on Snapchat. Find him at @marshallscott.
- And while Marshall Norgaard leaves a scripture or two at a time, Blake Croft helps people pick out a new Bible, is active on Twitter and offers brief devotions on Snapchat – all with what feels like authentic friendship and admiration for those who follow him at @agospelminute.
- Interested in a more beautiful life? Follow Thoughts from Alice on social media. She’s a blogger who shares gorgeous pictures of her not-any-bigger-than-yours house, and she writes posts that talk about embracing the imperfections of her 1930s home and searching for hope while living with depression. If you follow Alice’s blog you’ll quickly see the beauty in her life and in your life, too.
Who else are we missing? Who should we add to the list?
You can find me on the Simply Faithful page on Facebook and as @markettagregory on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
Simply Faithful column now available to churches
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The column, written by journalist Marketta Gregory, takes readers inside churches and communities to tell stories of faith in action. She draws readers in by writing about personal experiences, interviewing important religious figures and even reviewing books and movies with spiritual themes. She has 20 years of professional writing experience, and several of those years were spent covering religion full-time. Add to that her experience as a wife, mother and woman of faith and you get columns that are full of practical advice and that address today’s most relevant issues.
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I knew when I went to a work conference in California that I’d come back with a notebook full of ideas. What i didn’t know is what a difference it would make in my husband’s life.
Brian is a stay-at-home dad, and he home schools our boys. He has every Wednesday night off — and he has about 30 minutes to himself each night when he slips away to get something he “forgot we needed” at the grocery store. But I think we figured out that he had slept away from the boys for three or four nights in the last eight years… until he tagged along on my business trip.
That first day, I started to see a difference. By the second day, I could almost see his shoulders relaxing. And by the third day, he rattled off all the places he had visited while I was in class, and then he paused and said how glad he was to have the chance to explore and to have an adventure.
I had forgotten how fun adventure is, he said, and I think I can have more adventures at home, too.
She has always known me best, this best friend of mine. For years she has picked out my music, recommended some of my favorite authors and sent me gifts I cherish. The retro journal. The cigar box purse. The necklace with the chieftain, the turquoise cross and the words create and inspire – all a nod to my home and my heart.
So, when I opened her latest box and saw the book of Puritan prayers, I knew.
I knew if Ang had mailed it to me, I needed to read it.
And so I began.
Sometimes it isn’t the bad weeks that make my heart race – it’s the busy ones.
The late-night work events. The meeting with the higher-ups. The talk at church. The paperwork piling up at home and pushing against a deadline.
All good things. All things I wanted to do.
Still, I woke up last week feeling nervous and rushed. My drive to work came to almost a complete halt about the time I reached Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and its neighboring road construction. I drummed my fingers and tapped my foot, urging the cars ahead of me to move. I wanted to be really early for work so I could move a few things off my to-do list before my meetings even started for the day. Maybe then I could relax my shoulders a little. Maybe then I could settle in to a comfortable pace.
It happens to all of us, this in between. We aren’t quite settled where we are, but we aren’t sure what the next step is. So, we’re in between.
You know that tired, old phrase about how when God closes a door He opens a window? Well, that’s fine unless you’re in the hallway, the in between.
It’s not so bad if it’s over quickly – if the hallway from the living room to the kitchen is short. But when it starts to feel like you might as well pitch a tent in the in between? Well, that’s when I start to wring my hands and question. That’s when I start to whine and complain.
Brian opened the door for me and I slid into the back seat of a taxi cab for our 10-minute ride deeper into downtown San Diego.
Are you here for business or for vacation, the driver asked as we passed palm trees and then drove by street lamps that curved into modern art.
Both, we answered. I would spend my day attending a conference, while my husband walked to a maritime museum and searched for the best seafood.
I quickly learned that only the early get seats at Social Media Marketing World, and the rest line the walls until the fire marshal gets nervous. So, I sat in my seat on the left side of the aisle seven minutes before Park Howell was set to take the stage and show us how to tell better stories.
I was typing out a story of own on my phone when a woman put her bags down and sat in the chair in front of me. Before I could finish and hit send, she had turned to face me and introduce herself.
She started with her name and followed up with where she worked and what she did there. Then came the talk of all the awards they had won recently.
About three minutes in, she asked my name and what I do for a living. I dug for a business card.
Friends, this week we are fortunate to have an embellishment kit from the very talented Freckled Fawn to give away! This is a monthly subscription kit, and each kit contains a crazy-cool pouch filled with goodies to decorate letters, scrapbooks, journals and planners. Click here to enter.
I’m always looking for fun things to send in the mail to kids and others who might need a bit of encouragement, so I thought I’d use some of these Freckled Fawn embellishments to create pocket letters.
To make pocket letters: Take a plastic sheet that is designed to hold trading cards. Cut pretty paper to fit the pockets. Fill pockets with fun items (like stickers, washi tape, decorative paperclips and seashells) and tuck a little letter inside.
There are thousands of YouTube videos about making pocket letters. They can look pretty intimidating, especially if you don’t have a room full of craft supplies, so I’m sharing two faith-inspired designs I made. All you need to do is print, cut and start filling the pockets!
If you haven’t already, please slip your email address in the box on the lower left of this page. Then, click here for the beach-themed pocket letter: BEACHFAITHPocketLetter. Click here for the pocket letter with the doughnut and globe: FAITHPocketLetter.
My hope is that these pocket letters will bring joy and share God’s love. Enjoy!
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about how writing letters can be a ministry, click here.