About Me

My photo
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, July 29, 2011

Freedom Friday: Resting in God

My youngest son as a baby, napping on my lap

Have you ever watched a child sleep?

My younger son is now 20 months old, but he is still beautiful when he sleeps. He took an extra long nap today after a short sleep last night. I went to check on him a couple of times, and had to restrain myself from taking his face in my hands and covering him with kisses.

So calm. So content. Not a care in the world.

"I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8

I have been thinking about the concept of resting in God lately. I seem to be continually encouraging people in my life to stop striving, trying to measure life by achievements and accomplishments, and just rest in Him. Like a good father or mother, God watches over us, carrying us, when we rely on and cling to Him.

"He will not let your foot slip;
He who watches over you will not slumber
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you;
The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm;
He will watch over your life.
The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." Psalm 121:3-8

Are you resting in God, secure in His love? Allowing your worth to be found in Him and who He created you to be, rather than what you do and accomplish?

We generally spend a lot of time doing what I've heard called "should-ing on yourself".

"I should be doing this; I shouldn't be doing that. I should have accomplished this, I should be at this certain point by now." Of course, it's good to recognize what is beneficial in our lives and what is not, what is edifying and uplifting and what is dragging us down.

But what types of feeling do these "should" statements usually bring up in us? Encouragement and passion for growth? Or shame and condemnation? It's usually the latter.

Whose arbitrary standards are we trying to meet, anyway?

That's why resting in God is so important. When we rest in Him, He puts in us a desire to do those things He wants for us to do, not what we or someone else thinks we should be doing or achieving.

Cling to Jesus. Come to Him as you are.

When you are struggling, even in the moment, invite God in. Allow Him to just love you because He loves you - not for anything you've done or will do, but because He created you, He called you by name, and you have been adopted into His family. This may not be how your family & friends have treated you, or even how you treat yourself, but it's how God treats you. He desperately wants to love you and fill you with His peace.

So stop. Right now. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and imagine that God is your firm foundation. Take a deep breath. Like a baby bird, picture yourself resting in the shadow of His wing.

Smiling in his sleep

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

My little one was so exhausted that he slept for 3 hours in perfect peace. His brother and I finally woke him with snuggles and kisses.

Your Heavenly Father delights in you. Soak that in. He sings over you, quieting you with His love.

Rest in Him. His burden is light.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Freedom Friday: The Freedom Found in Brokenness

Today the temperature is going to be 98 degrees, with a heat index of 105! I've already gone for a 4 mile run at 6 aM, 80 degrees and 80% humidity. Wow! My hottest run of the season so far.

We are hoping to leave the city early to beat the heat, but I wanted to leave you with a few thoughts.

Last week, I wrote about Is Brokenness a Blessing? I received quite a few comments, both here & on Facebook, about the truth of that post. Thanks to all who commented.

I came across some more truths in my study this week that directly relate to this question.

First, I was reading "Breaking Free" by Russell Willingham. The 10th chapter is on grace.

Willingham says this: "Embracing God's grace will give you the freedom to fail." He also says, "Whether you extend grace to yourself or hold yourself to a ruthless standard of legalism, you will still fail."

Willingham explains later that he's not talking about the freedom to continue making destructive choices. Rather, he clarifies, "In what area, then, are you free to fail? You are free - now don't miss this - to be imperfect."

As I read that, I thought, "That's what I mean by being comfortable with my brokenness!" It's not about accepting and embracing my faults or the unhealthy ways my brokenness may manifest itself. It's about saying I'm imperfect, and that's OK.

Before I share more on this, I want to write about another experience that relates.

I was listening to a podcast, and the speaker referenced a book she was reading. She said, "The times when we are the most vulnerable are not when we are weak; it's when we are strong." The author of the book (she did not mention his name) spoke of how his ministry had humble beginnings, with a heavy reliance on God's strength, provision, and direction. As the ministry grew, he began to do things without asking his leadership, his wife, or even God. He got to the point where he felt his strength was the only thing he needed to carry him.

Upon hearing this, my mind immediately went to 2 Corinthians 12. Was that the danger Paul was falling into? After all, he shares that the thorn was given to him to keep him from becoming conceited. Was he trying to overcome the thorn with his own strength? Had he forgotten his humble beginnings, his own brokenness?

When Paul asked God to take his thorn away, hear how God responded: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I can almost see the lightbulb go on in Paul's head as he thought, "Oh, yeah! It's OK to be imperfect! God views weakness as a good thing!"

Now see how Paul then responds to God: "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Are you well content with your weakness?

Paul came face to face with his own brokenness, his imperfection. In that place is where God can really work - if we will let him.

A woman I know, when she comes face to face with an issue in her life, is often sent plummeting. Instead of turning that area of weakness or need for growth over to God and asking for His help to work on it, her default setting is to be sent spiraling into despair, as if the issue at hand somehow proves the worthlessness she already wrestles with.

I understand being in that place. I used to be there.

Every failure or perceived weakness, large or small, was proof of my inherent inadequacy. Well, that's sort of true! But I was using that truth as a battering ram to my soul, not as a realization that I am imperfect - just like everyone else.

Russell Willingham uses the analogy of how a baby learns to walk. If the baby tries and falls, and the parents respond by clapping and saying, "Good job! Try again!", then the baby feels safe to try again. If the parents instead respond, "What is wrong with you? Can't you do anything right?", the baby may very well give up trying.

Willingham concludes, "In order to learn a new behavior, an atmosphere must exist that allows for failure."

With which voice do you speak to yourself? The accepting, loving, gracious voice? Or the condemning, belittling, shaming voice?

If I begin to rely on my own strength and accomplishments, my failures can become an indicator of my worth. If I am, instead, continually aware of and comfortable with my brokenness, this gives me the freedom and the confidence to fail. It keeps me mindful of the fact that apart from Christ, I can do nothing. It's that simple.

It also causes me to remember that my struggles and my trials are not as unique as I think they are. Often we can use our specific issues to isolate ourselves. We drown in them because we are convinced not only that no one will understand, but even if they did, nothing will ever change.

Paul implores us to rather be well content with our weaknesses. Why? Because that's where God's power can come to rest.

The freedom found in brokenness is the freedom to not have to do it in your own strength. In our admission of brokenness and weakness, and in our declaration that grace allows room for failure, that's where Christ is able to be strong.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Freedom Friday: Is Brokenness a Blessing?

Soon after I began following Jesus, I read the book, "The Blessings of Brokenness" by Charles Stanley. Honestly, I can't remember a ton about what specifically the book said, but I just remember it really clicking with me.

In my past, I felt as if I needed to put on a show for people. To demonstrate that I had it all together, I had it all figured out. I would openly discuss parts of my life that I felt I had some handle on. The parts of my life where I felt overwhelmed, confused, and just plain broken - those parts I would hide from almost everyone.

I carried this method of concealing what was really going on into my Christian walk.

I think the bottom line, my core belief (you can read a thorough discussion of core beliefs in Russell Willingham's book, "Relational Masks") seemed to be: I can only share honestly about a struggle if I have that struggle figured out.

Core beliefs associated with that would be:
I will appear weak if I am honest.
I show I am strong if I share what I've overcome.
If I share my current struggles, everyone will know I'm broken.

Wow. What heavy burdens to carry. Burdens Jesus wanted to carry all along.

I've been mulling over this a lot after I recently shared with a group that I'm very comfortable with the fact that I am broken. Some people responded by laughing; some just looked at me strangely. Others nodded in agreement. Since then, I've been doing some pondering, some reading and wondering, what do I mean by brokenness?

In her book, "Brokenness, The Heart God Revives", Nancy Leigh DeMoss says this: "Brokenness is the stripping of self-reliance and independence from God. The broken person has no confidence in his own righteousness or his own works, but he is cast in total dependence upon the grace of God working in and through him."

Russell Willingham, in a book I've mentioned previously called ""Breaking Free"", has an entire chapter devoted to this topic called "The Courage to be Broken". He defines brokenness simply as "spiritual poverty" or being "poor in spirit" and asserts "we must grasp our fundamental brokenness and stop pretending we are something else." He distinguishes between brokenness and sinfulness:
The main reason we struggle with the idea of brokenness is that we see it as a sign of sin. Though the two are related and often overlap, they are not the same thing.

Willingham talks about David's statement in Psalm 109:22: "For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me." He writes that brokenness comes from being wounded. "This wounding can come from being born into a fallen world, being sinned against by others, or committing sins of our own." Here's why the distinction is so important to understand:

The man who understand this [that we are broken/wounded] doesn't condemn himself when the old system fires up again. He expects such occurrences but quickly defaults to the new settings as soon as he realizes what is happening. However, the man who doesn't understand his fundamental brokenness berates himself when the old machinery kicks into gear. He then falls into self-loathing or says, "What's the use?" and gives in.

Brokenness is spiritual poverty.

Acknowledging my brokenness allows God to breath life into me, embracing the humility to permit Him to shape me into whom He created me to be.

Brokenness means that Jesus' salvation didn't transform me into something other than a human being. Accepting my brokenness is simply stating that I'm imperfect and that's OK; I don't have to pretend to be something I am not. It means that salvation began the process of transforming me into a new person, but that process is not complete.

I do not coddle my brokenness, or use it as an excuse for sin or bad decisions. It's just a simple declaration that apart from Jesus, I can do nothing.

One of the ways I define brokenness today (a saying borrowed from 12-step groups) is:

I can't. God can. I think I'll let God.

"True brokenness is a lifestyle - a moment-by-moment lifestyle of agreeing with God about the true condition of my heart and life - not as everyone else thinks it is but as He knows it to be." Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Friday, July 8, 2011

Freedom Friday: Who Is Your Source?

I am tired.

I don't know why.

This morning, after my usual 5 AM wake-up (thanks to our wonderful dog), I did something unusual: I went back to bed.

When our dog started rising earlier & earlier, I realized after letting him out I rarely fell back to sleep. Rather than lie in bed & stare at the ceiling, I decided to go running at that early hour.

Running, rather than trying to go back to sleep, became my pattern. I've been slowly increasing my weekly mileage to the point that last week, I ran 35.5 miles & competed in a 10K on Monday.

I've gotten to the point where the benefits of running first thing were worth more than trying to go back to sleep.

That's what made this morning so unusual. I was so exhausted I let the dog out & crawled back into bed. Unfortunately for me, my 2 children did not stay asleep and after an hour, I got up & went running anyway.

I have now spent the entire day, completely exhausted. This is generally not a good set-up for writing Freedom Friday; add whiny kids to the equation (they are likely as tired as I am!), and forget it.

I needed to pause. Stop grabbing food & coffee (my go-to when completely spent). And rest in God for a minute.

I need to ask myself (yes, I ask myself these questions in 2nd person):

Who is your source?

What or who breathes life into you?

Who sustains you?

What gets you out of bed in the morning? (For me, the answer is clearly my dog!)

Who is the first person/thing you check in with in the morning? Facebook, email, the Bible?

To whom or what do you run when you are drained, wiped, out of energy, or just plain done?

We all know what the answer to these questions should be. But what is it really?

Today, I'm struggling to believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13), but in the midst of my struggle, I'm choosing to believe that it's true.

This word that is translated "strengthens" seems to imply that it's a process. It is also translated in the New Testament "grew strong" or "increased in strength".

When I started running, I would run 2 miles, max., and it would take me 24 minutes (a 12 minute mile). I ran my 10K this week in 58:10 (that's just under a 9 minute & 23 second mile, but the course was really flat). I could only do that time, and my 3 mile run of 31 minutes this morning, because my muscles have grown stronger with extended use.

Here I am, getting a congrats smooch from my grandmother-in-law!

Muscles grow through exercise. Use of muscles creates small tears. Your body reacts to this damage by repairing the muscles and growing stronger in the process.

If I keep running to other sources, those muscles will never grow, and I will never learn to respond differently.

So today, I imagine my patience & endurance muscles tearing in small ways (hence the pain & exhaustion). I picture God knitting them back together, even stronger, so that the next time I face a similar situation, I will be all that more equipped to deal with it.

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13


Friday, July 1, 2011

Freedom Friday: The God of Ice Cream

Hello, Freedom Seekers!

I hope this post finds you choosing to trust. Since writing on that topic last week, I have been doing just that.

I have faced some challenging circumstances in this week as well, in fact another just this morning. But God knew these things were coming and prepared my heart to respond with confidence in His faithfulness.

This week has been full of stones of remembrance, and I'll share just one with you.

My older son has food sensitivities (I write out this in my other blog). We eat all of our family meals according to those limitations (no dairy, wheat or soy), and my younger son also eats this way. Because of this, it can be a challenge to find a variety of foods for my kids that are also fun & affordable.

We are part of a buying club where we get our flours, beans, seeds, and other kitchen essentials in bulk. We had a pick-up this week. The driver of the truck had to wait around for a while because he was early, so we were chatting. My younger son was playing little games with him. As he got ready to leave, he came out of his truck with some ice cream. It was a mislabeled item, and he would have had to run his truck for 12 hours in order to keep it frozen. It was green tea coconut milk ice cream, one of the only types of commercially-made ice cream my kids can eat! It generally costs $5+ per pint! I walked away with 4 pints of ice cream for my family.

That may seem like a silly story, but I felt so cared for by God! I can obviously live without ice cream, but it felt like a blessing directly from God of something we would not have gotten for ourselves.

I am someone who struggles with asking God for anything other than my most basic needs. A roof over my head, clothing on my back, food on the table, and water to drink. I even struggle with asking for those!

I, as a parent of 2 wonderful boys, don't just want them to have food, clothing, water & shelter. I desire so much more for them than the basics!

I'm coming to understand that God not only wants to meet our needs, He often wants to meet our wants as well.

God is generous. I need that reminder. God is giving. I even wrote an article a few years back, called "God Gave His Only".

God......spared no expense, but extravagantly gave His only; He did what needed to be done in order for us to have the opportunity to be reconciled to Him, once and for all.

I wrote those words. Yet I still need to be reminded.

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17

Thank You, God, for not being the God of barely enough, but for being the God of more than enough. Thank You for being the God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. You are not just the God of our daily bread, but You are the God of ice cream. Expand my limited thinking and asking. Your Word says, "You have not because you ask not." Help me to ask, and surrender the answer to You. Love You, Lord.