Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!

John Newton, who wrote these words, was indeed a wretch in his slave-hauling business but was gloriously saved.

I, however, have a bit of trouble with the word. I was practically born in church and responded to Jesus’ invitation around age 6. Very little opportunity for wretchiness, and Newton’s hymn does point to pre-salvation wretchiness.

Me: A despicable, base Wretch? NAH. Full of plain-old sin? YES. Deliberate, willful sin.

I recently read about a tactic common to women—the Silent Treatment for getting back at a husband. I had that down pat—a well-used weapon. And me—a pastor’s wife! When I look back at these lapses, I shake my head. What WAS I thinking? Deliberate sin, yes, abetted by iron-clad determination. I knew it was wrong but was too stubborn to quit. Does that make me a despicable wretch? I did back off with tearful apologies, and despite screwups—on both sides—we’ve enjoyed a good marriage for nearly 68 years.

My inner battle still rages, however. Jim’s short-term memory gives me plenty of reason to react negatively to inconvenience and unexpected behavior. I’m better armed now, as God has been prepping me to handle it.

  • Our three extraordinary children show that we did some things right.
  • My years of writing novels also helped. Creating believable, fictional characters requires double-dug soul nutrition.
  • Power-house authors have fed me—C.S. Lewis, Philip Yancey, Tim Keller, Eugene Peterson, et al.
  • My latest “find” is a Scottish preacher in the late 1800s—Alexander Whyte. You do need to eat spinach for breakfast before wrestling with his style of writing, but he’ll put spiritual hair on your chest.
  • My cancer has, of course, made me dig even deeper.

Through it all, I’m learning the art of soul-deep worship. Not just in church, though that’s my heart home, but daily, even in hard places.

I feel like I’m in a spiritual bubble, ready to rise straight to heaven. Though my body is failing, I’m swaddled in God’s love and the love of many friends.

A Wretch or Everyday Sinner—it all boils down to God’s


Do you struggle with Wretchiness? Tell me your story—below, or