Announcing the Contest Winner—and a Summer Break



Thank you SO much to all who entered the contest to win my new women's devotional journal, "A Sparrow's Worth."

And the winner is...

Branson Merrill!!!

I'll be emailing you to get your mailing address. CONGRATULATIONS!!

Everyone can still order a copy [click here] for yourself and perhaps a few to share with friends, because 100% of the proceeds benefit the incredible, Christ-centered work of the Lutheran Women's Missionary League. Plus, you get to spend time with the Lord in His Word with this devotional journal.

And now...

I am knee deep into my next book manuscript, so I'm heading to the writing cave for the rest of the summer to make strong progress, but I'll be back in the Fall.

In the meantime, I'll see you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

But I want you to know ... I'll miss you over the summer.

   And what's going on in your life.

      And our talks about Jesus.

Until then, love and hugs from the writing cave!
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Release Celebration! New Women's Devotional Journal (and a Giveaway!)


This new resource is now available!

Unending joy gushes as I hold out this offering to you with trembling hands, trusting an uncontainable God to do uncontainable ministry through it.

Because it's all about HIM. For HIM. Because of HIM.
In spite of our messes.

So what's it about? Culture bombards women with messages that we only have value if we are outwardly beautiful. But, dear sister, your value transcends far deeper. This 30-day journal refocuses our hearts and minds on what God values in us. Here's a snippet from the introduction:

"Each morning when you and I step in front of the mirror, we have a choice: to view our worth through culture's perception or God's truth. This journal teaches us to view ourselves through God's truth. Each day we will rediscover that in God's eyes our worth is never placed in something as transient as cultural opinion. We have been created in God's image (Gen. 1:27) where our worth is based on how God views us through Christ's blood sacrifice of love." 

And here's the really cool thing: 

100% of the proceeds from A Sparrow's Worth go to the work of the Lutheran Women's Missionary League ("LWML"). The LWML is near and dear to my heart, because they exist to spread the Good News of the Gospel through worldwide mission work and Christ-centered resources. I have been privileged to serve and partner with LWML for almost 20 years and have seen first hand lives changed and souls saved as a direct result of their commitment to sharing Christ's love.

A Sparrow's Worth makes its debut this weekend at the LWML's national convention in Des Moines, Iowa. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and I'll be honored to sign copies.

To celebrate what I am trusting God will do through A Sparrow's Worth, it's time for an exciting giveaway!!
  • Three signed copies of A Sparrow's Worth, one for you and two to share with special women in your life;
  • A beautiful bird mug, to enjoy your favorite beverage as you journal; 
  • $25 Starbucks gift card; and
  • Yummy Chocolate, because it's just not a prize without chocolate. :)


TO WIN:
  1. Leave a comment below and tell me why you'd like to receive A Sparrow's Worth.
  2. Subscribe to my blog via feed or email [look to the right]. 
  3. Share this Release Celebration giveaway on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram (be sure to tag @donnapyletx on Twitter/Instagram). Each time you share this giveaway on social media, you earn another entry into the drawing!
The winner will be announced on next Tuesday's blog post, so you have a whole week to share this opportunity! If you'd like to order A Sparrow's Worth for you and/or a friend, click HERE.

I pray that A Sparrow's Worth richly blesses your spiritual walk and draws you closer to Christ, our Value-Giver. THANK YOU for the privilege of serving you along this crazy, joy-filled journey of faith.

Time to Comment, Sign Up and Share!
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Charleston: For the Facing of this Hour




As Twitter and Facebook flooded with news of the tragic church shooting this morning, lyrics of that beloved hymn, "God of Grace and God of Glory," immediately came to mind:

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour." 

Even though you and I were not physically present in that beautiful, historic Charleston church, our disbelief and grief transported our hearts, thoughts and prayers into bloody pews alongside the grieving.  

Tweets containing the hashtag #PrayForCharleston have numbered in the thousands on Twitter. Facebook overflowed with outpourings of love and prayers for those affected.

There was fear and shock, as well. One tweet in particular caught my attention: "If you're not safe in church, where can you go? Where was God? I can't deal with this."

God knows our fears and hurts, and He is right here crying with us.

Then this news headline surfaced: "Churches all over Charleston open their doors to welcome the grieving and hold prayer vigils."

What the devil intended for harm has united God's people together in prayer and reaching out with His love.

We know we live in a fallen world where sin divides by gender, race and denomination, but we have a Savior who unites and conquers with LOVE.  

We saw it on Good Friday over 2,000 years ago as Jesus sacrificed His life for you and me to secure that certain hope for eternal life with Him.

This world may be messed up, but we have a Messiah who redeems beauty from ashes. What the enemy intends for destruction, God faithfully redeems for His good purposes.

You and I have a choice in how we respond.

We can waste time spreading hate-filled statements toward the 21 year-old shooter, or we can invest time spreading the hope and love of Christ to those families and loved ones affected.

So for the facing of this hour, I pray that we seek His wisdom and courage to move forward in compassion.

With prayer.

Arm in arm.

Relying on His strength.

"But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint
." Isaiah 40:31


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Where I Invite You to the Holy Land



Have you ever experienced a moment when you realized — as you were experiencing it — that God had forever changed your life in that instant?

On the morning of May 29, 2010, I sank to my knees in prayer under an olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane. That same place where Jesus did likewise over 2,000 years ago.

My tears turned the red dirt into mud as I grieved the sudden loss of my marriage only three months prior. From that profound place of brokenness, I asked God for three things:
  1.  Heal my heart and enable me to forgive;
  2. Confirm His calling on my life for a writing/teaching ministry; and
  3. Allow me to return one day to that very same place in the Garden to worship Him.
God answered the first and second prayers with a resounding YES and has faithfully brought them to fruition. And in His perfect timing alone, God has granted my third prayer to return to the Holy Land.

You are invited to join me on a 9-day tour of the Holy Land on April 16-24, 2016!

Rev. Wayne Graumann and his lovely wife Kathy will be joining us, as well. Wayne baptized and confirmed me on Palm Sunday 1991 and holds a very dear place in my heart and spiritual journey. Wayne and I will tag-team teach from Scripture at the very places where several Biblical events occurred. Individuals and couples are welcome.

I can assure you, your life will be forever changed on this pilgrimage.

Receiving Communion looking at the empty tomb will wreck you for Jesus. Love poured out for you, right there. It's truly overwhelming.

We plan to film and/or photograph part of this tour for a future Bible study/devotion series, as well. It goes without saying that there are limited spots, so they will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wayne, Kathy and I eagerly anticipate what God will accomplish as we share this life-changing journey to the land of our Bible. We are already praying for you.

For the detailed agenda and tour information, click HERE.

Rev. Wayne and Kathy Graumann
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Summer Blogging Break



It's that time of year.

A time to step back from the computer and step outside to breathe.

A season for me to finish a few unfinished reading projects. Disappear in Scripture for hours without interruption. And sharpen my Scripture memory work. And do some long, hard praying about a few situations.

You'll catch me hopping on and off of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram where I hope to see you. Right now, I need my writing focused on a new manuscript over the summer, the news about which I will share with you VERY soon.

But come the Fall, I'll be back so we can pick up where we left off.

Because I will miss you.  

And our chats here about Jesus. 

I humbly ask for your prayers for God to guide my thoughts and pen. And you are in my prayers as for a restful, Jesus-filled summer.

I am so grateful for the privilege of doing life with you with Jesus at the center.
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On Those Days When We Wonder If Ministry Is Worth It



I don't have a long list of theological qualifications or college degrees.

I am not steeped in denominational traditions that some hold sacred.

I wasn't raised going to church regularly.

Yet I have been part of the Church now for 24 years.

So when do I start feeling like an insider? 

I wonder if I'll ever be able to speak in front of a room full of people without trembling from head to toe, wondering whether or not this feeling of being an outsider will ever dissipate. Because I bring one qualification to the table: I'm a sinner saved by grace who simply said YES. 

It's called ministry.

Over the years, God relentlessly stirred in my heart a passion to study Scripture. In His Word there is breath and life, forgiveness and redemption, and grace and love. So I chose to become a Bible nerd, because that's where Jesus wooed me and I fell in love with Him. Page after page demonstrates how much He loves us and what He accomplished on our behalf even while we were still sinners.

I've learned to filter life through the teachings and truths of Scripture, but I still don't know it well.

It never fails after speaking at each event, people have questions. Questions I don't have the answers to. And I'll watch the realization dawn on their faces when they figure out that I'm just as frightened and confused as they are about this thing we call faith, and I'm not the authority figure they think they need.

Sometimes I wait fidgeting in green rooms before walking onto a platform, and I wonder with all the lights, production and media if it wouldn't be better for Lady Gaga just to show up and entertain.

I'm not an entertainer. I fit in best with those who don't fit in. The ones who are still trying to find their way. Those who survive life's messes only by the grace of God.

Because I understand that.

I live that. 

And I stand before some women who have lived this faith journey twice as long and wonder what in the world God will say through me that can even make a difference in their lives. I dive in out of obedience, then afterward a woman in her 70s comes up and says how she now understands parts of the Bible in ways that she hasn't before.

And I'm once again amazed at how God uses cracked, clay pots. How he uses our differences to make a difference.

But I soon forget the conversation, because someone else makes a thoughtless comment about divorce or the inadequacy of not being a lifelong church-goer. And I let the enemy take the wind from my sails once again instead of leaning against the Rock of Ages.

Some days I feel like such a fraud.

And then a reader from California sends me photos of their women's group walking through one of my Bible studies. And the envelope contains handwritten notes from each lady. Then I get an email of encouragement from Canada. And I sit next to a conference-goer's most precious little girl on a plane whose enthusiasm re-introduces me to the beauty of sunset at 42,000 feet.

And I just want to do well by these amazing people. And I long to honor God above all.

So I make plans to start a new devotional series or map out a new Bible study to keep pointing them the Source of Love.

Then my inbox gets too full. And someone warns me to tone down the divorce talk and loving-on-LGBT-people talk because it makes safe people feel uncomfortable. And then I worry if I'm offending my platform to where it will affect my bottom line, because I need to replace a rusting front gate before it collapses.

And I get anxious about getting my "brand" out there and keeping afloat on the sea of social media. Before I know it I haven't seen my mom or sisters in weeks and I only see real-life friends every other month because I'm too busy traveling the country telling other people how to love their neighbors.

And I get overwhelmed and angry and tired in places that I didn't know I could get tired.

Can this be good for my soul? Is this whole ministry thing worth it?

***

I pull into the driveway after a long trip, and see that one-eyed squirrel digging in my flowerbed.

George, named by an online friend's young child, is storing up nuts again. I thought for sure that a cat had gotten him last year when he suddenly disappeared and never came back. Yet here he is, half blind but faithfully working toward winter.

At the sight of him so industrious, I put my head on the steering wheel and let the tears roll.

Maybe it's because I'm exhausted from the trip.

Maybe it's because I'm just glad to be home.

Or maybe because George reminds me that life is only as complicated as I choose to make it.

So I just keep praying for God's guidance. For Him to give me the strength to do this calling that I could have never pictured nor imagined. Ever.

And I'll remember a raggedy band of twelve disciples who were outsiders and held no more qualifications for ministry than I do. Who could have never pictured nor imagined that journey.

And half blind I'll faithfully keep writing about real life and a real Jesus who loves real people in real time.

And I'll keep sharing encouragement from God's Word hoping that He uses this messy, unorganized disciple to stir ripples of hope in hurting hearts.

And I'll stop worrying about being an insider, because in this world we will always be outsiders, called to shine His light in the darkness.

It's that simple.

It's that hard.

It's that wonderful.

It's called ministry.

And I wouldn't change it for the world.

Thoughts?

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What Scriptures Helped You Survive Life's Darkest Storms?



It's the wee hours, the candle has almost burned to a nub, and I'm finishing up another chapter in my next book.

The rain is coming down in sheets outside.

And it hits me: I need your wisdom. Well, your experience, really.

What Scripture passage(s)  have helped you through life's darkest storms?

We all experience those life storms. Death of a loved one. A wayward child. Divorce. Miscarriage. Infertility. Health difficulties. Unending singleness. Job loss. Career transfer. Caring for aging parents. Sending that last kid to college.

You name it, we've experienced it.

But what I want to know is: which passage(s) did God highlight for you during those toughest trials?

When I endured the unbelievable pain and sadness of divorce five and a half years ago, God led me straight to Psalm 18:

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
Psalm 18:16-19

Those amazing verses helped me remember that God never abandons me in the storm -- even when I can't see Him past the debris. He is my rock and spacious place -- because He delights in me.

What about you?

Someone reading this post today may be enduring a hard time.

The verse that God used in powerfully your life may be just the one that he or she needs to hear. 

It may be the exact one that fits perfectly in this next book.

Would you be willing to share it here today?

And if you're experiencing one of those storms right now, perhaps you could make a note of these to keep close each day.
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When Less Means More



Less is more.

We hear that a lot.  

It's a trendy phrase. 

Magazines embrace the vision of simpler living, of pairing down, of decluttering.

Fashion shows promote what not to wear and dressing in straight-lined classics.

Technology pushes new gadgets in front of us that promise to streamline life, if only you sync it with your nine other devices through a cloud that's not really a cloud.

But the less-is-more trend isn't new.

Jesus introduced that concept over 2,000 years ago.

"Few things are neededor indeed only one," He reminded Martha. {Luke 10:42}

You see, Martha's sister Mary figured it out. Yes, there were two dozen tasks that demanded Mary's attention to help Martha prepare dinner for Jesus and His guests. But Mary knew what was needed.

Tune out the crowd noise, sit at Jesus' feet, and listen to Him.

When you look at your daily to-do list, does that fit?

When you need to go grocery shopping, pick up the dry cleaning, pay for the dog's meds at the vet, withdraw cash from the ATM, prepare a fabulous meal, and get the kid to soccer practice before 7pm while still letting your husband know he's number 1, does it fit?

Sometimes in the midst of writing, traveling, speaking, reading, working, volunteering, and coordinating time with family and friends, I simply forget.

Tune out the crowd noise, sit at Jesus' feet, and listen to Him.

In the wee hours, when all is quiet, He reminds me, just like He reminded Martha centuries ago: "you are worried and anxious about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one."

Only one thing is necessary. 

That I walk in closer communion with Christ.

That I pause life's chaotic pace to spend time at His feet, like Mary did.

Every. Single. Day.

It's simple—embrace the greatest adventure of being a wholly-devoted lover of Jesus Christ.

To take up our cross daily and follow Him.

Just that one thing.

It doesn't have to be complicated, because that one thing is everything.

Whether it's five minutes in prayer or ten minutes in a morning devotion, every minute you spend at His feet translates to less stress.

In the lessening, He becomes greater.
   In the listening, He becomes our guide.
      In the leaning in, He becomes our refuge and strength.

Tune out the crowd noise, sit at Jesus' feet, and listen to Him.

When it comes down to it, less means more because we hand off our anxieties to Him and receive His new mercies every morning.

More grace. More gifts. More growth.

Less stress. Less worry. Less struggle.

Less really IS more. 

Just ask Jesus. 

Do you struggle with less is more?
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When the World is in Flames and We Need Burning Bushes



I pull out the plastic storage bin labeled "Easter," grab the knitted bunny by her starched ears, and nestle her safe against the decoupage eggs. She stares blankly into space.

I know how you feel, girl.

As I glance back at the blur of April, Easter seems three years ago, not three weeks.

The calendar will flip to May on Friday. 

It feels as if I just prayed through Lent while looking forward to celebrating Jesus' resurrection. The days seem to blur together as I'm just running to catch up.

But God knows how to grab our attention.

To deploy holy pyrotechnics.

He once did the same for Moses: 

"I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
Exodus 3:1-3

Moses thought that day was no different than the blurry one before. He expected nothing uncommon except the end of a common day.

Yet God needed to interrupt Moses' safe, complacent life to remind him that he had a higher calling.

Sometimes it takes flames to capture our attention and re-engage our hearts with a hurting world.

Like flames from the rubble following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal.

Like flames from burning businesses and police cars in the divided streets of Baltimore.

Burning bushes tend to jar us out of our fireproof bubbles to notice the world in flames around us. As I have buried my head in writing a new manuscript, heartbroken families in Nepal bury their loved ones.

Burning bushes tend to clarify what's truly important -- RELATIONSHIPS.

Relationships with each other.

Relationship with Him.

Sometimes God needs to interrupt our lives and reignite our hearts to serve others in love.

Experts say that the Nepalese earthquake moved the capital by three meters and Mount Everest moved by none, but God used the tragedy to move countless hearts toward each other in love.

Love fans the flame of compassion so that we ditch the fireproof bubble of safety and risk it all to share the light of the Gospel with a dark, hurting world.

He reminds us that we have a higher calling: LOVE.

Although Easter happened over 2,000 years ago, its message of love burns bright:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son,
That whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."
John 3:16
 

I gather a few more Easter items to tuck away until next year.

A wire basket. A rough wooden cross. Some green plastic grass.

But my eyes pause on the bunny.

As she stares glassy-eyed from the bin, I whisper:

Lord, may you never let us see the world that way.
 
What is one way that you could demonstrate God's love today?


So God Made a Mama


In a few short weeks, we will celebrate Mother's Day.

My mom and my three sisters are incredible mothers. Through good times and bad, they've always stressed the special bond of love that binds our family together. Consequently, we are very blessed to have a close, loving, supportive family.

When I think about Mom, for some unknown reason I remember that Dodge Ram commercial. You know, that one about farmers narrated by Paul Harvey that makes me cry every time.

As I ponder the incredible mothers that my Mom and three sisters have been, I penned what a similar commercial would convey about mamas.

So to Mom, my sisters, and all you precious mamas out there -- this is for you:

God looked down from heaven on families and said, "I need a nurturer. Someone willing to rise before dawn, cook breakfast, pack a child's lunch, flag down the school bus, work all day making the house a home, cook again, eat supper, then go upstairs and stay up past bedtime reading stories to eager ears."
So God made a mama.

God said, "I need someone willing to sit up all night with a crying baby, and nurse her back to health with boundless love, who can cheer loudest, sew a new dress from scraps, demonstrate how to twirl, make playdough from scratch, then teach a round-eyed pre-schooler how to build a castle."
So God made a mama.

It needed to be someone who could tie a ponytail holder from pipe cleaners, bread ties and curly ribbon and will finish her 40 hour work week by Tuesday supper, then clear the dishes and sit back down with her children to put in another 50 hours checking arithmetic, sounding out vowels, and calling out spelling words.
So God made a mama.

God said, "I need somebody strong enough to discipline when necessary, yet gentle enough to push a swing, decorate cupcakes, trim a Christmas tree, and kiss a scraped knee, who forgives transgressions with a smile and will stop her car in traffic to wait patiently for stray ducks to cross."
So God made a mama.

It had to be somebody who would love deep and see the glass half full, somebody to bake, make, wake, support and encourage and chauffeur and teach and plant flowers and keep singing through the hard times. Somebody who would honor her husband and wrap a family together tight with the soft, strong bonds of prayer.

Who would chuckle, and then sigh, and reply with tear-filled eyes,
    when her daughters say with thankful hearts,
        that they want to be a mama --  
            just like her some day.

So God made a mama.

What do/did you find special about your mama?
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