For My Girls: Biblical Exploration

My mom co-wrote a workbook to go along with my upcoming book For My Girls. Each chapter has a short devotional, reflection questions, and related verses to consider in your own prayer time or with a small group! I wanted to give you bits and pieces for the chapter content on Unity. Be sure to purchase a copy on amazon when you buy my book and send us your thoughts!

Unity can be intimidating when we see how far we have to go, but it is more natural than we give ourselves credit for. We integrate with friends. We unite in relationships. We blend with our families. Unity is the vessel for life to flow in and through. One of the obstacles to unity that makes it seem unattainable is indifference to differences. We ignore and avoid all who are unfamiliar to us. The trouble is that, for all the ways someone may be different from us, they are undeniably kindred in respect to our identities as creations made in the image of God.

Developing a healthy respect for one another is a guardrail to living in unity. We want to acknowledge the differences between us and others, responding in wonder and understanding rather than judgment and distance. We have to believe God has created enough space for all of us to be ourselves. No one is infringing on our space or invalidating our perspective by being different…

Reflection Questions:

How do you and your friends help each other grow?

What gifts (strengths) do you have that encourage others and reflect the character of God? 

How have you handled disagreements with ministries or individuals within the Church in the past?  

Reflection Verses:

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble (1 Peter 3:8). 

And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14).

For more content, questions, and verses, stay on the look out for For My Girls and For My Girls: Biblical Exploration. Thank you for reading along, encouraging me, and spreading the word as I get closer and closer to my first book launch! I appreciate you.

Living Unafraid

One of my favorite Bible passages is Isaiah 41:10, 13-14

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”

I consider this verse when I feel overwhelmed with stress, hopelessness, and confusion. “Do not fear” sounds like a command. Still, I never feel pressure to feign competence so I don’t appear cowardly. “For I am with you” provides the peace and empowerment to live out His invitation not to be afraid.

I’ve been reading Judges recently and have spent the past couple mornings in the chapters on Gideon. In chapter seven, the Lord is commanding Him to defeat the Midianites. A gracious and near side of God’s character was revealed to me as I read through these verses:

“Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave…” v3

“If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp…and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged.” v10-11

“The Lord caused the [Midianites] to turn on each other.” v22

In the progression of verses, I see God allowing space for the fear those men held, then filling it with His nearness and bringing victory for them. He gave permission for men to turn back and leave. He gave an invitation to receive encouragement. He seized the victory in battle ahead of Gideon and his army.

If you are afraid, I want to give you the permission to pause. Ask yourself and God if this fear is warning you to turn back or inviting you to conquer. Give yourself the choice to walk away—not giving into fear but giving into trust that God will fight for you. God doesn’t want you to live in fear. I don’t want you to live in fear. I don’t think you want to live in fear.

I want to give you an invitation to receive encouragement. Ask God for the truth of Scripture, kindness of loved ones, and miraculous signs in the world to remind you He is fighting for you.

I want to assure you that God goes before you. You will not show up some place alone and unprotected. He is with you. Perfect love casting out fear doesn’t mean you will never be afraid, anxious, worried, nervous, confused, hopeless, or stressed. Perfect love casting out fear is sometimes being met with freedom and encouragement so that you don’t have to choose fear.

You don’t have to choose fear.

My prayer for you today is that you will not be afraid because the Lord is with you—that you would not be dismayed because your Redeemer will strengthen you. I pray that He helps you and upholds you. And I pray perfect Love would renew your mind and remove your doubts as you choose to live unafraid. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Can You Be Happy

As I drove home from a wonderful outdoor dinner with a few girlfriends last night I took inventory of how I felt: happy.

I believed for a long time that happiness was the counterfeit of joy and I should be cautionary not to idolize it or pursue it. Joy was eternal, heavenly, and good. Happiness was fleeting and shallow.

Maybe that is an okay distinction in some contexts but I don’t think they are all-encompassing definitions for happiness and joy. Joy is eternal, heavenly, and good. It’s also the gratitude I muster and hope I cling to in desperate times.

Happiness like the past evening was the same happiness I felt the weekend before when I had a thoroughly good day. Nothing extraordinary happened, nothing devastating happened. It was good.

I don’t need to feel shame for being happy. Happiness is the expression of joy when our environments are safe enough for us to relax. I’m recognizing now that my theme for the year has been rest. I’m sure God knew that I would need to rest so that I could feel happy. Being strung up and preoccupied was holding me back from being able to relax.

This reminds me of Genesis 1 where we see that God rested and said, “It is good.”

I won’t ask you to turn a blind eye to the suffering that our nation is experiencing right now. I don’t want you to live in denial of pain. But I will ask that you take a breath-long moment to relax. In this moment you are safe enough to let your walls down and let whatever joy is there inside you out. Feel that something in the world, in someone you love, in you, in God, is good. Choose happy now.

When it’s time for that moment to pass, because happiness is temporary, keep that joy inside you like a treasure to cherish throughout the day. Ask God to give you a little more. Even if you sow in tears, you’ll reap in joy. Be wise enough to preserve joy always and brave enough to be happy when you can.

SNEAK PEEK: For My Girls

We are getting closer and closer to the release of my first book For My Girls. For today’s post, I want to give you a little taste of what you can expect from the book. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter Sustained:

Over the years of working in college ministry, I’ve compiled a list of ways I’ve interacted with God and the Bible to share with my friends, their friends, and all of our disciples. Hopefully some of what I’ve found useful will be helpful or at least spark creativity for your own ways of interacting. Reading the Bible and having quiet time can quickly become an empty service to God when it’s so routine we hardly pay attention to what we are doing. We often find much more pleasure with God in creative approaches to our time with Him. When your Bible time feels dry, switch things up. A secret I live by is that there’s no such thing as a “dry season” with God. You have a fountain of life in you because the Holy Spirit doesn’t run out. So let’s dive in.

Contemplative Meditation: Meditation was a part of God’s desire and plan for us before it was an Eastern calming technique or pathway to enlightenment. Meditation is a discipline of attention and focus. Joshua 1:8 instructs us to meditate on the Word of God day and night. Meditation is also highly referenced and recommended throughout the Psalms. My parents introduced meditation into my Christian toolbelt when I was only seven. They had learned a method of meditation through the ministry they were a part of that I still use as a part of my regular devotions with God. We would divide the paper with two lines: one down the right side with a one-inch margin and another across the bottom of the page. We used the side margin to write down distractions and the bottom for cross-references we wanted to look at later. We would pick a single verse in the Bible and write it across the top of the page. We’d then close the Bible, remove electronics, maybe play some music in the background, and wait for God to speak as we pondered a portion of the verse on the page.
Our options in this method were to look at the Scripture and read it, write it again, sing it, say it, or pray it. It required discipline that developed over time to remain focused only on the verse at hand. I was tempted to think about what else I had to do or other aspects of God’s character instead of what was in front of me. But when I chose to engage with the piece of the Word I picked, I learned how much more of God there is to discover than I knew before. Every time I meditate, I learn something new about a verse. Some verses I have meditated on dozens of times and I still receive fresh revelation each time I come back. That’s the power of the living Word that is available to us. I strongly recommend starting this technique with an hour set apart. It may seem unbelievably long or unnecessary, but the students I mentor and friends I’ve shown who have tried it have loved it.

Creation Meditation: Creation Meditation is one method that my parents taught my siblings and I based off of Romans 1:20, which states, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” In our application of the verse, we would go outside and pick something in creation—a tree, a leaf, a cloud, a river. Then we would set an amount of time to focus on that piece of nature and talk to God about it. I like to ask God questions like:
Why did you create this?
What does this reveal about your nature?
What does this reflect in my life?
Is this written anywhere in the Word?
Write down what you feel like God is saying in response to your questions. Write down your thoughts and go back over them later. Then every time you see that part of creation, you’re reminded of God. Sooner or later, wherever you look will be a souvenir of time you spent bonding with God over His creation. When I meditate on creation, I’m essentially living out Psalm 8:
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
It may seem strange to look for God in nature, and it could be highly misguided if you’re not also grounding yourself in Scripture. But it’s actually just inviting God into another aspect of your life and letting Him speak.

Narrative Meditation: Narrative meditation is meditating on a passage of Scripture by inserting yourself there. Write a narrative as if you’re a person mentioned in the passage or even as if you’re yourself but in that time and place. I used this when I was doing a personal devotion time one morning before work. I had just finished reading through my chapters of Deuteronomy for the day. I wasn’t feeling much refreshment so I opened the Bible to Matthew 14 which shares the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. The chapter starts with “After this.”
I wanted to know what event preceded Jesus feeding five thousand, so I looked at the beginning Matthew 14 which tells the story of John the Baptist’s beheading. Now we know John was a relative of Jesus. When Jesus found out about John’s death, He went to be alone with the Father. But by the time He stepped off the boat to find solitude, a crowd had gathered. He was filled with compassion and began healing. The disciples told Jesus it was time to go because people needed to eat, but Jesus worked a miracle and fed all of them. Jesus sent the disciples away and stayed a while longer before dismissing the crowd. Once they had all left, He was finally able to be alone and pray.
At dawn, He went back to the disciples and continued His ministry to them. This revelation was so timely and powerful for me because I was learning how to balance ministry while grieving after the death of a family member. I allowed myself to wonder what Jesus was feeling then. I imagine He was heartbroken, maybe angry. Anger may have risen up from the taste of death that He had come to free us from. I asked God how that must have hurt Him and how He dealt with the pain when there were so many people around Him who craved ministry from Him. It was a moment I connected with God because of something I was going through presently that He had gone through thousands of years before. I felt less alone in my attempts to follow God, being compassionate toward those around me in ministry while also embracing comfort from God myself.

I am so excited to share more of my book with you this summer! Those are just a few of a long list for how to interact with God and the Bible. I hope this encourages you to connect with God through whatever means you have around you.

Processing through disappointment and other feelings

Processing through disappointment and other feelings: 

  • You may be experiencing disappointment because you have lost things from this, and that is very real. It’s actually essential that you let yourself fully experience the emotions of those losses right now, through healthy grief.  If you don’t let yourself feel, then you may accidentally shove it down and numb yourself to your reality, which will hinder you from being able to accept what reality is and move forward in what God has for you through this. There is space for each of these feelings, but make sure you are choosing to feel them WITH God. In the middle of each of these stages, open up your hands and ask God what He has to give you for comfort and direction in the middle of the messiness because He always has something to exchange. Listed below are the 5 stages of grief so you can be aware of what may come up in you and your friends as you walk through this. As you talk this through with your people, invite them to ask their questions directly to God, and then take some time to listen and see how He answers them. God can meet us in so many ways to help us keep moving forward in hard circumstances.
    • Denial: many of us have been or are still in shock that this is life right now. That is normal!
    • Anger: you may begin asking questions like “why is this happening now?” “why were so many things taken away from me?” and frustration may set in.
    • Bargaining: this could look like “maybe if I had done ___ before this happened then ______.”
    •  Depression: you may get really sad about everything and ask things like “what is the point of still trying to _____?”
    • Acceptance: you get to a place where you know that God is good and He is moving, and even though things are different, you are okay and able to move forward because you can live in hope.
  • Remember, when you go into the place of your grief and bring an emotion to God, He will always exchange it for something better. Isaiah 61:3 says “and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair”
    • To move forward once you have brought your emotions to God you need to let Him bring joy where there isn’t any yet, let His perspective come and replace your perspective, and praise Him everyday (even if it’s just 10 minutes) in the middle of your grief. God actually wants to bring us out of our grief and into joy and comfort. Joy is the thing he will exchange for grief, and doing this will help us to grieve less and less as time goes on.
  • So yes, these are some of the harder emotions that come up when you are grieving, and you get to acknowledge them, but the important thing to note is that because we know God, this is not the end of it! As followers of Jesus, we get to add HOPE to the final step of acceptance; you can learn to accept your emotions without wallowing in despair. Henri Nouwen says in His book, The Inner Voice of Love, “You must go into the place of your pain, but only when you have gained some new ground. When you enter your pain simply to experience it in its rawness, it can pull you away from where you want to go… trust your experience of emptiness is not the final experience, that beyond it is a place where you are being held in love… the more roots you have in the new place, the more capable you are of mourning the loss of the old place and letting go of the pain that lies there. You cannot mourn something that hasn’t died.” You have permission to go there and feel what you feel, it’s an important part of healing,  but you have to do that from a place of knowing your victory is secure and you have God’s promises to stand on. You have to let go of the old and embrace the beautiful exchange God is trying to give you so you don’t accidentally remain in the pit of despair.

Tori Kramer

Breakfast and Exercise

I’ve been spending the last few weeks reading through 1 Chronicles. I don’t love it.

I’ll find something intriguing every few chapters but overall it feels like a retelling of 1 and 2 Samuel. Genealogies, battles, and not a whole lot of obvious theology like Paul’s letters offer. I was complaining to my friend about how much of a bummer reading the Bible was becoming for me. She encouraged me to pause from 1 Chronicles and read something more preferable. At first, I rejected the idea because I’m trying to read through the whole Bible. Then I remembered reading the Bible isn’t supposed to be a task I complete; it’s supposed to be a way I connect with and learn about God.

I took a few days to read 1 John in conjunction with 1 Chronicles. I felt more excited to read my Bible and felt like I was actively learning again.

As I prayed on a morning walk about my experience, I felt like God was likening my Bible time to breakfast and exercise. Reading 1 John was eating breakfast. I felt nourished, energized for the day, and overall enjoyment. Reading 1 Chronicles was exercising. Most days I didn’t look forward to it and some days it was unpleasant. But in committing to it, I’m growing. In the same way progress from exercise takes a while to see, the fruit of 1 Chronicles make take me a while to see.

When we read the Word, we don’t have to feel bored or dread it. Reading the Word is also not solely for pleasure. It’s okay to read it and feel nothing. Having a balance of breakfast and exercise in our times with God can help us sustain the feeling of connection as we pursue connection with God in different ways.

Investing in our relationships with God is important. If you don’t like what you’re reading, you have the freedom to switch it up. If there are parts of the Bible you avoid, you have the Spirit with you to begin exploring those. If you’ve been reading to finish reading, I encourage you to reflect on the purpose of reading the Word today and make adjustments to the ways you interact with the Word. You don’t have to love everything you read but there is value in all of it that I hope you can see.

As I’m finishing the last few chapters of 1 Chronicles, I feel excited. I’ve found freedom to invest in what I’m learning through the account of David from this perspective. In chapter 4, there’s a man named Jabez who has two verses about him. In those couple of lines I learned that God granted his request to keep him from harm and free from pain. That’s crazy. It challenged my perception of the necessity of pain. I would have never had that moment of enlightenment if I kept avoiding this book. The Word is so much better than we give it credit for sometimes. I hope as you explore it, whether breakfast or exercise, you fall more in love with the Author.

A Call to Love

“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” 1 John 2:11

I’m guilty of teasing out words to find a accurate one to excuse my sin. I would never say I “hate” someone because that’s wrong. Hate is a strong word. I would say I’m hurt by, angry at, or plainly avoiding someone. In the 1 John passage, the writer isn’t trying to say if you want to murder somebody you’re living in darkness. He’s saying if people sin against you or God and it makes you not want to be around them, you’re not in the light. I felt conviction as I read those words.

Acknowledging I don’t actually hate someone and recognizing what I’m truly feeling is a great first step in self-awareness. Acting self righteous because I’m above “hate” while I water down my sin with semantics is a terrible second step. It keeps me in darkness.

Feeling is important. Hurt and anger are not sin– they’re neutral responses. Anger is our notification that something is wrong. What we do with those responses are when we give into sin or not. We don’t want to sin in our anger– choose pride, unforgiveness or bitterness. We want to let seeds of love grow in our gardens, even if we water it with tears. Don’t be fake and shut down your heart. Acknowledge the hurt then learn how God heals and restores.

We don’t control how we feel but what we do with what we feel. Like a child being overwhelmed by emotion, we can’t stop what we feel but we can run to a nurturing present parent for help. God didn’t set us up for failure with our feelings. He makes things right and teaches us to make things right. He calls us to love.

My friend and I call the people who grate our nerves “grace growers.” Think of your grace growers. Where are you hurt? Why are you angry? What can you do to receive healing and not run away (from God or the person)? Whoever that person is, whatever they have done, your next step is to love. The step after that is to love again. Darkness will blind you and you won’t find your way forward unless you choose love. Love can look like connection, correction, or confrontation, but it will definitely look like patience, kindness, and hope.

My call to love is that you reflect on what you feel. Where there is hate or milder forms, ask God to replace it with love. Then reflect on how you are interacting with the people who are against you. Ask God to lead you in loving. We might win the battle, but we lose the war if we are without love.

If we want to live in a world full of light, we have to begin choosing to walk in the light and bring others with us. This has been a desire of mankind since at least when John was writing his letters.

I’ll leave you with passage from John 1 that describes Jesus who is Light, Life, and Love:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Resources to Understand Systemic Racism

Watching this video will take the same amount of time you would normally take to read one of my blog posts:

Educating yourself and others on social issues is the first step toward change. We have to acknowledge the problems so we can work toward the solutions. Be brave enough to ask questions and be kind enough to listen. I’ve compiled a few graphs from the PEW Research Center on disparities between races that helped me understand the enormity of our need for justice.

While we are making progress, we are not finished yet. Thank you for using your voices and choosing to love. I’m hopeful that real change is happening and will continue to bring equality.

As I was worshiping in my car last night, I felt inspired to write about what I’ve been learning the past few days. I’ll leave it as my last words to you today:

I close my eyes
Because if I look then I’ll see
If I see then I’ll care
And I only have so much to give
There’s only so much I can do
But what is love if not stronger than death?
What is grace if not greater than sins?
What is hope if not belief in miracles?
One step toward peace
For those who now rest
For those who still fight
For those who yet live
Another step toward peace
From the mistakes of the past
From the ways we fall short
From the promises we break
Chains don’t just break
Laws don’t just change
Wounds don’t just heal
I can break
I can change
I can heal
You can break
You can change
You can heal
We choose to step forward
Or we choose to sit still

How Can You Act on George Floyd’s Behalf

I continue to share in the grief resulting from overt and covert inequality, and the anger rising to match the horrific injustices that fill the news. I am encouraged by the bravery and compassion of Americans from all around who have refused to give into hopelessness for our very lost nation. I am sorry for the suffering caused in a war that should have been won before it started.

With that being said, I want to address my city. Athens, Georgia, we have work to do. I am thankful for local ministries and organizations who have worked for years to promote diversity. Every person has the right and responsibility to pursue justice for all.

Our Athens-Clarke county police have required body cameras, de-escalation training, procedural justice training, and communication training for all officers. The force is led by Chief Officer Cleveland Spruill, a black man who actively promotes building trust by serving his community. He abides by New Perspectives in Policing strategies that encourage officers to be guardians rather than warriors– to protect the people and treat collateral damage as unacceptable*. If you have witnessed encounters in which the department has fallen short of these standards, you can voice complaints at under professional standards. You can also submit commendation forms for officers who are standing up for justice to celebrate their integrity. These men and women are dedicated to creating a safe environment for us to live in. Let’s encourage them as they serve and enforce accountability for situations that are handled in ways that do not align with their mission.

Athens Church is starting an online discussion group focused on racial justice. You can fill out a form on their website to join the conversation and learn how we can protect peace in our city at

Enlightened Media Productions has created a Black Business Directory for Athens. You can support local Black business owners by going to and finding a restaurant or business you’d like to try this week.

Students can email President Morehead of the University of Georgia at with strategies to promote diversity.

Athens residents can contact Governor Kemp and legislators Houston Gaines, Spencer Frye, Marcus Wiedower, Bill Cowsert, and Frank Ginn at and with policy changes you would like to see.

Giving to organizations that support the families of the victims across the nation as well as organizations that support civil rights is simple and impactful. You can donate to causes you are drawn to or find some options at and

Hosting a movie night or book club is still possible via text, zoom, facetime, and other virtual communication platforms. Set up a night with friends to watch a historical film featuring a person of color or start a book that expands your perspective and encourages conversation.

Don’t burn bridges, build them. You are far more powerful than you realize, and every effort helps. Be brave, be kind, be good. We need you.

*New Perspectives in Policing

Permission to be Brave

“Jesus is so good at making things clean. Run to the Father, and you’ll find the path under you is righteousness.” -For My Girls

I want you to answer this question:

What good thing would you do if you were a little braver?

You can think of an answer in terms of a relationship, your time with God, your job, plans you’ve made, goals for your life, finances, maybe even personal development. Keep whatever it is in mind because we’re circling back to it at the end.

When I’m driving anywhere outside city limits, I put the address in my GPS and follow the directions. It doesn’t matter if there’s a shortcut or if know the way to go. I will most likely make a wrong turn, usually distracted by performing Ariana Grande songs with my water cup as a microphone, and not make it to where I’m going in time. On more than one occasion I was supposed to drive to Lawrenceville and accidentally circled the loop around Athens for an hour.

Without my GPS and with a little concentration, I have a fantastic sense of direction. I force myself to make sense of the roads I do know to get me to where I want to go. When I rely on my memory and intuition, I push myself to stay focused but take the risk of getting lost. When I rely on my GPS, my route is secure but I’m just coasting. Both ways get me to the same destination, but they serve different purposes.

Righteousness is similar. There’s enough truth in the Word to sustain your faith. You can absolutely read it, do what it says, and coast through life. I don’t believe God will love you any less. The destination you’ve set is eternity with Jesus so that’s awesome. At times, it’s completely necessary so that you can enjoy the ride of life.

Other times, you take a chance on what the Holy Spirit is leading you in. You have to focus a little more on what you think God is saying and make sense of what you do know in light of where you want to go. You take the risk of getting it wrong. But you’ll learn more and get to be amazed at what you’re capable of.

Righteousness is a blend of spirit and truth, written and spoken, security and risk, enjoyment and challenge. These don’t have to compete with each other. They balance your life and provide different experiences for your journey with God.

I want you to be brave today and take a risk. Think of the answer to that question at the top and ask God if it’s okay to go for it. If it is loving, God-honoring, and wise, you’ve probably got a green light. If you can’t decide, check with someone whose faith you admire.

Like Peter, take a step out of the boat and see how long you can keep your eyes on Jesus. It’s okay if you fall. He’ll catch you and get you back in the boat. He’ll calm the winds in a moment. I believe He’s calling us to take leaps of faith. How are you going to respond today?

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