About Me

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I'm a wife, a mom, a singer/songwriter, an author, a public speaker, an abolitionist, an encourager & freedom coach, a seminary student, a worship leader, a lover of life and joy, and most importantly, a follower of Jesus Christ.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Freedom Fridays: Learning to Walk in Freedom Wrap Up

Today, we're wrapping up the "Learning to Walk in Freedom" series. If you click on that link to read the series, make sure you scroll to the very end to start, as the posts are in reverse order.

What have we covered so far in "Learning to Walk in Freedom"?

Intro: What is Freedom?
1. Spend Time with the Freedom Giver
2. Spend Time with Freedom Seekers
3. Act
4. Understand Grace
5. Think Like a Free Person

This list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it intended to be a list of "the keys” to walking in freedom. These are simply some truths that have helped me and others as we desire to walk in the fullness of all that Jesus died to give us.

We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to walk in freedom. Whatever it takes! If you struggle with pornography, put a filter on your computer, or install Covenant Eyes or a similar software, which reports all the sites you view to one or two accountability people in your life.

Can’t think of anyone to hold you accountable? Then disconnect the Internet at your house or on your phone. Go to the library to check your e-mail.

You’re probably thinking, “Now, that’s just unrealistic.” Remember, we lived for centuries without e-mail, and even as recently as 10 or 15 years ago, it was something only a few people could access from their homes. Some people still don't have email! Shocking, I know :)

Some people I know can’t even watch secular TV or listen to secular music because the themes are triggers for them.

I’m talking about taking drastic measures! If you’re not willing to do whatever it takes, then you don’t really want freedom in your life.

That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

At an Exodus conference, I heard a speaker share that she made a list of 20 people she could call if she was having a "Moment of Maybe" as described in "Act like a Free Person, Part 2". She wrote it in order of how well she knew these people, 1 being her closest friend and 20 being a good acquaintance. One day during such a moment, she called through the entire list. No one answered. She started calling through the list again. #14 picked up. She said, "I'm calling because I'm struggling with temptation right now and just needed to tell someone. Could you ask me tomorrow if I need good choices for the rest of the day?" She didn't need to go into details, but she needed to reach out and be honest with someone.

I know a grown man who would give his car keys to his dad or his accountability partner and would have to tell them where he wanted to go and basically ask them permission to use his own car. Why? Because he struggled with acting out sexually. He took drastic measures!

I remember being at an event with an ex-girlfriend who made it very clear that she would like to “get back together”. As soon as I got home, I called a friend and let her know what happened, lest I be tempted to do anything. It was like 1 or 2 in the morning, but I didn’t care. My relationship with God was just more important.

You may be thinking, "That's fine for you, Brenna, but you don't know how dirty and ugly my struggles are." Please don’t tell me that you can’t tell anyone, that no one would understand, or that you’re too embarrassed or ashamed of your struggles to bring accountability into your life. Those things may feel true to you, but you are in essence saying that you are unwilling to do what God says is necessary for walking in freedom.

I do get it. Not only did I struggle with same-sex attraction for years, I had an eating disorder where I was addicted to laxatives (talk about gross) and I self-injured. I cut myself with anything I could get my hands on, and when I decided that was just not acceptable, I punched things, punched myself and banged my head against walls.

Talk about ugly!

But I came to the point where I just didn’t care what anyone thought about me. I could not live this way anymore – my desire for experiencing freedom in my life began to outweigh any shame or embarrassment I felt. I was tired of struggling. And I became more disgusted by the sin in my life than I was concerned about what anyone thought about me.

Ultimately, it only matters what Jesus thinks about me and how I present myself to Him today and on judgment day.

Are we willing to do Hebrews 12, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Free people do whatever it takes to become free and remain free. Whatever it takes. Jesus did whatever it took. He gave up everything.

It's OK to not quite be there yet. When I started to recover from my eating disorder, I prayed, "God, help me want to recover." The reality was I knew that recovery would be difficult and lengthy, that I would gain weight, and that I would have to deal with all the pain and hurt I was avoiding by abusing my body. I didn't want that. Who in their earthly selves would? So I prayed, "God, help me to want recovery. Help me desire You."

God gave His only Son for you, for your freedom. Tasting freedom will eventually be so much more satisfying than a life of bondage.

God wants us to experience freedom, the freedom that is available to all of us through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.

Pray this with me.
God, you know where my heart is today. You know the doubts and the fears and the struggles. Help me desire freedom. Give me the willingness to do whatever it takes to follow You and to experience all You have for me. Help me recognize the lies and replace them with truth. Forgive me for not relying on Your grace, but instead relying on my own strength and effort. Forgive me for my unwillingness to take drastic measures, for making excuses, for hiding from You and Your healing and love. I need You. Your Word say when I am weak, You are strong and that in Your strength, I can do all things. I need You. I desperately need You. Be Lord of my life today and every day. In Jesus' mighty, powerful, holy name, I pray. Amen.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Eeyore Complex: Pooping on God's Plan

I tend to have a "Woe is me" attitude. I don't know if it's because I faced quite a few challenges in my life, or just because I'm choosing to have an Eeyore complex.

I have this problem that is an extension of my Eeyore complex. I often talk too much about the challenges I face. I like to get people to join in my pity party. Or on the flip side, I think if I don't broadcast my need to everyone in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, God can't and/or won't provide.

I actually think most Christians have an Eeyore complex. It may not manifest itself in them as it does in me. I think many Christians don't talk about their problems enough, or at least don't know how to talk about them in a redemptive way. But this Eeyore complex is generally characterized by envy and pessimism. We see how God is working in the lives of others and while outwardly rejoicing with them, inwardly we are jealous. Jealous of how God is blessing others. Envious of how visible He is in others' lives. And pessimistic toward our future, which, in our eyes, is forever bleak.

What we're basically saying is, God is going to bless others with good things, but not me. God is working in others' lives and providing for their needs in neat ways, but He's not going to do that in mine.

Today as I was feeling particularly pessimistic about a situation in my life, and, of course, sharing about it on Facebook, this thought struck me: I wonder how my whining makes my Heavenly Father feel.

I sort of know the answer.

How would I feel if my children went whining around the neighborhood, asking for everyone else to feed them and meet their needs, but they didn't come to me? What if they only came to me as sort of an afterthought? Like I was their 2nd or 3rd choice?

If I found my kids begging for crumbs at the corner store, I would be beyond heartbroken. Completely devastated.

"You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him." Matthew 7:9-11

I once heard someone say that by being envious of what God is doing in others' lives, we're basically saying the specific plan that He has for us isn't good enough.

That's sort of like pooping on God's plan.

I have this blog post bouncing around in my head. It's somehow related, maybe just in that God wants us to go to Him first.

I need to take my own advice and tell myself the truth, that I have an amazingly loving father who sent His Son to hell & back for me, who wants to bless me beyond my wildest dreams.

I need to stop pooping on God's plan and rather trust in the beautiful plan He has for me, a hand-crafted journey thought up by the One who knit me together and knows me better than I know myself.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Freedom Fridays: Think Like a Free Person, Part 2

Last week's Think Like a Free Person, Part 1

Thinking like a free person isn’t just about addressing the lies we’ve chosen to believe. It’s also about fully embracing all God has for us, and more importantly, all God has already done for us.

This took me years to get. In fact, I'm still getting it.

For so long I relied on my feelings as my understanding of “truth”. If I felt something, it was “true”. If I didn’t feel it, it wasn’t “true”.

That is such a dangerous way to live.

I remember some very painful and tear-filled prayer times in my early walk with God. I’d cry out to God, “I can’t feel you, God! Please be here with me.” Satan tried to use that against me. “See, you can’t feel God! He doesn’t like you anymore! Nah-nah-na-boo-boo!” Of course if he had actually said, "Nah-nah-na-boo-boo!” maybe I would have realized where these thoughts were from.

I thought it was “true” because that’s how I felt.

Satan is the father of all lies! Not some lies, but every single one. In the Amplified Bible, the end of John 8:44 says “When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar [himself] and the father of lies and of all that is false.”

I now know it doesn’t matter how I feel; I’m always in God’s presence. In fact, Psalm 139 says there’s nowhere I can go and not be in God’s presence. Absolutely nowhere.

Another thing I’d cry out to God is “God, why don’t You speak to me? You must not like me or I must have some unconfessed sin in my heart. So, God, I’m going to sit here until You show me what that sin is or until You speak to me.”

I was telling myself a half-truth because the Bible does say in Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” I used that verse to beat myself up as proof that I was a pile of sin and piece of crud, and that I couldn’t hear from God because I had some cherished sin in my heart. But the truth of the matter is I didn’t have unconfessed sin in my heart; I was truly open to God’s conviction.

If you are honestly open to hearing from the Lord about any areas of sin in your life, He will show them to you. Just like I don't need to constantly ask my intimate friends if I've done something to somehow offend or upset them, I don't need to go on a constant fishing expedition to figure out if I've somehow offended God or upset Him. I'm not saying that there isn't wisdom in praying, as David prayed in Psalm 139, "Search me, O God, and see if there is any offensive way in me." What I am saying is that we don't have to constantly pick through our day with a fine-toothed comb in hopes that we can find whatever cherished sin is keeping God from hearing our prayers.

Jesus said in John 10:27 (NASB) “My sheep hear My voice”. Not “they might hear my voice” or “they could maybe one day hear my voice” or "if they try hard enough", but “My sheep hear My voice”. Period. The Bible is full of these types of promises, of what God has already done for us and everything that is available to us simply because Jesus died on the cross and we, in turn, repented of our sin and accepted His sacrifice as our Savior.

If you’re still allowing your old ways of thinking about yourself and about God to dictate your worth and your actions, you are basically telling Jesus that He’s not allowed to be Lord of your life. You are accepting the salvation He is giving, but rejecting the transformation He is offering.

We need to allow Him to take His proper place in our lives - not only as the Savior of your soul, but also as Transformer of our lives & Redeemer and Renewer of your mind.

Read the following verse as you think about the negative things you have said to yourself: "Men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken" (Matthew 12:36). You may have never thought to apply that verse the words you say to yourself, but you are God's precious creation. If you are a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ, you have been adopted as God's child. Think of how God's heart breaks when we speak cruelly to ourselves.

I'm not a subscriber to "name it & claim it", nor do I think we can speak anything we want into being. But there is something to be learned from those theologies. They may be taking a truth of God to an extreme - but there is still some truth there.

Think back to the last big mistake you made. How many times did you call yourself an idiot? Did you curse yourself for taking a risk? Did you berate yourself for for doing something so stupid?

I made a big snafu this week. I was going through the chest freezer to defrost some stuff and left a bag of steaks on the floor when I put stuff back in the freezer. I didn't notice for like 15+ hours. And these were no ordinary steaks

The book of Proverbs says “reckless words pierce like a sword”. A pastor friend of mine used to say that words have the power to deposit courage into you (encourage) or rip courage out of you (discourage). How have your words to yourself been today? Are you depositing courage into yourself by replacing the lies with truth or are you ripping courage out of yourself by mistaking the lies for truth?

In Matthew 4, we read the account of Jesus being tempted after forty days of fasting. It was clear that Satan was lying to and trying to trick Jesus. Jesus could have just said, "Satan, you're ridiculous. Go away." Or worse, He could have given in to Satan's demands. But instead, Jesus responded to Satan's lies and even the Scripture he half-quoted with Scripture. Even in his tired, hungry state, Jesus had the Word so deep in His soul that it just flowed right out of Him.

We need that. As I said at the beginning of this series, we need to immerse ourselves in God's Word. Looking at Jesus's example, we can easily recognize the lies when we have been soaked in God's truth.

Today, you have a choice. You can choose to trust that God is who He says He is. You can choose to believe all the promises the Word has for God's children. You can choose to attack the lies with truths from God's Word.

That's how free people think.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Freedom Fridays: Think Like a Free Person, Part 1

Quick Overview of this Learning To Walk in Freedom series:

What have we covered so far in Freedom Fridays? (I'm only included the posts that are actually in this "Learning to Walk in Freedom" series).

Intro: What is Freedom? Part 1 & Part 2

1. Spend Time with the Freedom Giver: Part 1 & Part 2

2. Spend Time with Freedom Seekers

3. Act Like a Free Person, part 1 & part 2

4. Understand Grace, part 1,part 2 & part 3

And now, today: Think like a free person.

Romans 12:2 says "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think."

Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Isaiah 55:8 says that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. God is speaking of how we are naturally without the Holy Spirit. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

Even with the Holy Spirit, guiding us and directing us, we still need to fight against our natural ways of thinking that are often deeply ingrained in us.

"Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think."

Read that again. Soak it in. And now think about some of the thoughts you've had in the recent past. Were they encouraging? Life-giving? Or soul-crushing?

Could you use some transforming of your thoughts?

Satan is the father of lies. Lies are his native language (John 8:44). As we begin to change the way we think, we need to recognize where the lies come from. The lies we’ve chosen to believe, that we've allowed to sink in & attach to us, whether they were spoken by our parents, someone we love, or even spoken by ourselves to ourselves, really originated from the enemy.

We’ve bought into so many lies about who we are and who God is, and we need to take up the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16) and declare war on those lies. We need to trust in God’s truth, and we literally need to take up that truth and use it as a shield against the lies of the enemy.

It’s a battle; it really is. It’s a struggle to undo the years of lies that we chose to believe. 2 Corinthians 10: 4 says: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” We often think of strongholds as only the big stuff: addictions, etc. But isn’t anything that keeps us from God a stronghold? Aren’t these lies a stronghold? They keep us from knowing God and believing the truth about ourselves. In Christ, we have the power to let go of strongholds.

Read the following verse: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It’s a battle that mainly takes place in our minds. We are commanded to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ – to make our thoughts agree with what God says about us and how God views us. And anything that doesn’t meet that strict criteria needs to be demolished.

Think of a lie that you've struggled with lately. Maybe you're struggling with believing that God is going to provide for you in some way. When that lie comes up, if you have nothing to replace it with, it will just stay stuck in your head. Not only that, but I find often we reinforce the lie. "Yeah, God isn't going to provide for me in this situation, at least not in a timely manner. I always have to do everything myself. He could make this easier, and He isn't!"

Sound familiar?

What do you think would happen if instead, you said this:
"Wow, God, this is a really tough situation I'm in. But I know that You will meet all my needs according to the riches of Your glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). I also know that the lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing (Ps. 34:10). I am worth more than many small birds (Lk 12:7) and You are a good father who doesn't give His kids stones when they ask for bread (Mt. 7:9). Lord, I believe; help my unbelief (Mk 9:24)."

And next week, in part 2, I'll share how learning this above truth has played out in my life.

A couple things to leave you with: read this story of mine where I share the power that labels had on me (it's 2 parts). Also, read this article about the meditations of our hearts.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Freedom Fridays, Tools for the Journey (New Series): HALT

I had a blog post started for today but decided to simplify it. Various events lately have reminded me that sometimes, we just need to keep things simple. So today's post will be the beginning of another series within Freedom Friday called "Tools for the Journey". Yes, I will continue to finish the "Learning to Walk in Freedom" after this brief diversion :)

How do we keep recovery simple? What small things can I keep in my toolbox as I learn to walk in freedom?

I'll start off the "Tools for the Journey" series by talking about a number of things we can do when we have a "Moment of Maybe" as described in "Act like a Free Person, Part 2", those moments where we are tempted:
To sin
To see ourselves in any other way than how God sees us
To believe the lies and fall back into old patterns, tempted to take our unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts and run with them
To fall into despair and hopelessness

In those Moments of Maybe, we need to stop and do some evaluation & self-care. So the first thing I want to share about is HALT.

We need to practice HALT.

In recovery, HALT stands for:

In evaluating HALT, we ask if our most basic needs are being met. Our need for food and sleep, as well as our need for relationships and true expression of feelings.

My older son has food sensitivities (can't eat wheat, dairy or soy). And we discovered not long into his little life that if he doesn't get adequate protein in his diet, it manifests itself in his behavior.

So every morning, he starts off the day with protein. He has to eat his protein before he gets anything else. Protein helps regulate blood sugar, and drastic blood sugar drops cause mood swings. 3 year olds are moody enough without adding blood sugar issues to the mix, so we make sure he gets plenty of healthy protein.

The reality is people who feel bad act bad. We can't use our physical or emotional feelings as an excuse to behave poorly, but we can use those feelings as an opportunity to evaluate:

Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Am I tired?

If we find one of those things to be true, then we can take care of it. With my son, he sometimes doesn't know that he needs a snack; thus, asking, "Are you hungry?" in the middle of a tantrum isn't all that productive. Instead, I put a drink and a protein-rich snack in front of him, and as a general rule, he'll devour it.

Since I'm a grown-up, I can get myself a small snack and then re-evaluate how I'm feeling. I can think about whether or not I'm getting enough sleep. I can look at the recent weeks and see how much time I've spent developing my relationships. And I can stop for a minute and consider whether or not I am angry or upset & unsettled about something.

The next time you're in a Moment of Maybe, stop and practice HALT.