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.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: Introduction

I want to introduce you all to a new series I'll be doing on my blog called Monday Morning Meditation.

The idea behind this new series is to share a short thought or question that you can ponder and carry with you throughout the week. It will always be based on at least one verse of Scripture.

The idea comes from the following scripture:
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." Psalm 19:14 (NLT)
I love this verse. I actually an entire article about it a few years back called Shedding Weight. I've struggled quite seriously with what I fix my thoughts on and how I spend my emotional energy, as well as to what I devote my brain space. This verse serves as a constant reminder that what I think about matters and should be pleasing to God.

So this week, rather than go on to share something else, I want to challenge you to the read the above article and then ponder Psalm 19:14. As you go through the week, take some time to notice what you meditate on. What fills the most time in your head?

I'll be back next week with the first full installment of Monday Morning Meditation.

Also, I realized I likely need to post this Sunday night in order for those of you who receive this via email to get it Monday morning. Sorry about that! I'll be experimenting with what time I post it for the next few weeks, so we make sure you have it Monday morning.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Freedom Friday: Battling Fear

I'm battling fear today.

There are several scary situations I'm facing right now. My fears are random and widespread. Most are founded; some are unfounded.

For most of my life, fear dictated my choices and what I did & didn't do. Fear of rejection & abandonment. Fear that I wasn't good enough and would never be. Fear that I wasn't lovable. Fear that I would not have the strength to make it through the challenges I was facing.

Fear paralyzed me.

Fear could easily rule my life, if I allowed it to. Today is a good reminder of that.

My husband told me I needed to write Freedom Friday about fear. So here I am, writing these reminders mostly to myself. I hope they are helpful to you as well.

Once you recognize that fear is affecting you, here are some ways to address it.

1. Name your fears.
Write down what you are afraid of, and, if you can pinpoint it, why you battle those fears. I blogged before about fear of the unknown. It goes hand in hand with fear of discomfort, fear of new suffering. A common one I've been addressing lately is fear of failure; another is fear of success. I actually believe they go hand in hand. Fear of failure is often rooted in self-image issues. Not only are we afraid we are worthless, we are also afraid we are full of worth. We are afraid to shine, to walk in freedom, to live out our amazing.

Name your fears. Don't be shy. Journal about them or just speak them out to God in prayer. Lay them at the cross, and then....

2. Address your fears with Scripture.
Fear can have an enormously crippling effect on our journey toward living in the fullness of all God created us to be.

Fear is not something to be ashamed of. People make mistakes. It's part of being human. Jesus knew we'd be afraid. God knew fear was a part of life; that's why He continually reminds us in His Word to not fear, but rather rely on His strength and trust in Him.

Search the Word for Scriptures about not being afraid. Find God's direction about walking in His strength, about having courage and finding hope. Read them aloud and ask God to make the words come alive, that they would ring true in your heart & life. Remember that God is a God of peace:
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." John 14:27
3. Choose to trust.
Give your fears to God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose to trust God when Nebuchadnezzar was going to throw them into the fiery furnace. Their response is so challenging to me: "We do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up."

Even if He doesn't?

I blog a lot about trust. In one of my first posts, I shared about how I trusted God with the child who was growing inside me, and yet, that child died.

Even if He doesn't.

Trusting God is not about "believing for" a sunny outcome. It's a choice to trust that God's perspective is far above mine, that He is good, that He is faithful, no matter what occurs.

4. Do it afraid.
Joyce Meyer says when we are too afraid to do something, we should "do it afraid."

As I wrote this blog post, I thought of a story Steve Arterburn shared on his radio program, New Life Live. Early on in his career, he came up with what he thought was a fantastic idea for a conference. He felt God was in it. He booked a hotel, a ballroom, advertised, and waited. The event day came, and the turnout was pitifully small. By all perspectives, he had failed.

Then he had another idea for a conference. A rather strange idea coming from him, as it would be an all women's conference. While he could have chosen to be paralyzed by fear because of his past failure, he rather decided to move forward, full-throttle. It would be called "Women of Faith."

I imagine most of you have heard of it.

I read over on their site today that 388,000 women made first-time decisions to follow Jesus at a Women of Faith event. What would have happened if Steve Arterburn had let fear dictate his choices?

Do it afraid. Michael Hyatt says, "Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear." So I trudge forward; I do it afraid.

As I wrapped up the typing of this, God reminded me of His goodness. If He is really good, who am I to fear? If He is able to speak the world into existence, is anything too much for Him to handle?

What fears are you facing today? How can you, with God's help and sustenance, press through them to go to the next level?

A note to readers: if you follow my Facebook page, you know that I will be starting a new blog series, in addition to Freedom Fridays, called Monday Morning Meditation. Look for it on Monday! And if you don't follow me on Facebook, do consider it. I often post speaking engagements and other news there. You can also find me on Twitter.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Freedom Friday: Living Your Amazing Without Suffocating

The world was heartbroken this week by another star, taken too soon.

Some people were simply annoyed by all the press this specific person was getting. What about the members of the military who were killed or injured in battle this week? What about family members who died from addiction? Were these people any less important?

But all the press made me stop and think: why?

Why was the world so swept up in the death of someone most of us never even saw in person, much less really knew?

I believe the reason we are so torn up about stars who die is that there was something amazing about them.

Amazing vocalist.

Amazing songwriter.

Amazing actor.

Amazing inventor.

They had found the thing God created them to do, something I refer to as their "amazing", and it was powerful.

They wore their amazing on their sleeve for the world to see. Their amazing was breath-taking, soul-wrenching at times, and inspiring.

Here's the thing.

1. We all have amazing in us.
That doesn't mean we will all be famous, or well-known, or what the world would label "amazing". It means we were created uniquely, with specific gifts that only we have to offer to the world. We can all be world-changing in whatever sphere of influence God gives us by allowing the amazing in us to surface and be developed.
"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it." Psalm 139:13-14
God knows what your amazing is because He put it in you. Don't seek to find your amazing; rather seek God & His kingdom first "and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

2. Ready yourself for your amazing.
We need to have a certain level of maturity and foundation of faith in order to be able to handle our amazing.

I shared some months ago in this blog post that as I searched to find God's will for my life, sought to find my own amazing, God spoke some hard words to me: you're not ready to receive it.

God clearly told me, in His gentle and loving way, that I did not have the foundation of faith or strength of character I needed in order to walk in the fullness of who He created me to be.

So how do we ready ourselves? If Jesus has truly given us everything we need for life & godliness, what else can we do?

We can surrender. We can remember not to think too highly OR too lowly of ourselves. We can use the example of Philippians 2, looking out for others' interests as well as our own, and having the attitude of Jesus.

We can follow the directive in 2 Peter 1 to add to our faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.

We can gather folks around us to pray for us and help us discern God's voice.

We can prepare ourselves so that as God reveals our amazing to us, we are ready.

3. Don't let your amazing suffocate you.
Use your amazing for good. Remember that your amazing was given to you by God, and it needs to be continually given back to God. God is our sustainer; He alone stoops down to make you great.

Rely on God's strength. When we stop allowing God to sustain us, very dangerous things can happen. I was reminded of this when I recently read 2 Chronicles 16, where King Asa stops relying on God for success. I prayed upon reading that that I wouldn't get stubborn and obstinate in my old age and forget to rely on God.

Finding your amazing can lead to striving. We feel once we've found that thing we were created to do that we must do something to somehow feed and encourage it. Once again, we need the reminder that God alone is our sustainer. Even Paul had a thorn in his flesh to remind him that God's grace was sufficient.

In so many lives, we have seen that the journey to one's amazing can be suffocating.

It doesn't have to be.

Let your amazing drive you to God. Allow it to humble you and send you minute by minute to the foot of the cross. Even when it becomes natural, almost second nature, to walk in your amazing, declare daily that apart from Jesus, you can do nothing (John 15:5).

4. Prepare to be amazed.
As I was listening to a testimony of a man's journey to Jesus a few months ago, I was humbled to my core. The ways God is able to move took my breath away. A thought popped into my mind:

"If you are not amazed, you are not paying attention."

God is amazing. He wants to do amazing things in you and through you and in the lives of those around you.

Pay attention, if you're not already. Thank God for what He's done and what He will do. Praise Him simply for who He is. Declare your gratitude for His continual working in you. Remind God of His Word; Psalm 138 says "for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name."

The Psalm continues:
"The LORD will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me." Psalm 138:8

Ask God today to prepare you to find your amazing, if you haven't already. Ask Him to show you your blind spots and how to use His strength in those areas. And get ready. It's a wild ride; prepare to be amazed.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Freedom Friday: When God Calls For Silence

I had a conversation with a friend a month or so ago. It brought this thought to mind:

Maybe sometimes we need to be muted.

I guess God was preparing me.

It's a quiet time here. A thoughtful time. A prayerful place.

God has called for silence.

I'm always sharing that healing happens in the context of community. This is still true. There's certainly something very important about sharing life and struggles with others.

There is also a place for silence and solitude.
"Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray." Mark 1:35
"But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer." Luke 5:16
I have a deep sense of reverence these days. That I just want to get down on my knees and stay there. I did just that for a while today.
"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him." Psalm 62:5 (NLT)
This verse has been the pulse of my heart for this current season and prior.

Quietly, in other Bible translations of the above verse, is also translated "silent" or "still", so I wanted to see what light the Hebrew word had to add to the passage.

Other possible meanings are:
to be struck dumb
to be silenced, be made silent, destroyed
to make quiet
to rest
to be still, die

Let me tell you - there is certainly a dying involved in the call to silence.

I'm a talker. In fact, I'm a loud talker. I'm also a loud laugher. People will often say to me, "Brenna, I knew you arrived because I heard you laugh." Ask any of my good friends. They have likely said this to me.

Silent? Reserved? Uh, not so much. Struck dumb? Never.

Yet God is calling me to silent spaces.

There is a tearing apart, a preparation, a refining of sorts. An awe of the jealousy of God's heart, that there are times when He asks me to pause, to be still before Him. To go straight to Him before anyone else.

A call to silence. A drawing into His heart.

Have you experienced this? What did you learn in that time?

Here's a bit of what I'm learning in my process.

When God calls for silence
1. Pray
If we look at Jesus' example, this seems obvious. But not necessarily natural. When God asks me to be quiet, my natural tendency is to pout! A call to silence is a call to prayer. It's a call to seek. It's a call to rest and trust. And ask. It's not necessarily a call to ask for specific things you want for yourself (a new job, a new car, or a specific outcome), but rather a call to ask for openness, general direction and sovereign guidance.

2. Fast
I really wanted to leave this one out. Really. I paused. And then I added it.

Fasting seems big and scary and - well - so pre-21st century.

That's exactly why you need to do it.

In the Old Testament, fasting was often tied with repenting or seeking the Lord. Jesus talked in Matthew 6:16-17 about "when you fast". Fasting is mentioned in the book of Acts as well.

Fasting can mean a lot of things. It could mean skipping one meal for a time of prayer, or skipping a week's worth of meals for a time of prayer. It could be a Daniel fast (traditionally 21 days of a vegetarian diet). It could mean giving up sweets or coffee for a week.

It doesn't have to be about food. You can fast from TV, movies, or Facebook. The time that would normally be spent in food prep, eating, or sitting at a computer is now used for prayer and seeking the Lord.

Isaiah 58 is an excellent explanation of why & how to fast.

3. Wait.
Waiting is about slowing down. It's about pausing. It's a reminder that there's more to life than jumping from one activity to the next. It can also be a place of preparation.

Oh, how I used to hate waiting.

I don't love it now, but I've learned to, as David talks about in Psalm 5, wait in expectation. Waiting is not passive. But I believe the call for silence is more for a waiting as described in Psalm 130:
"My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning."
We watch and wait. Watch for the first sunshine of morning, or hope, to peer into our silence. We are being prepared.

4. Listen.
Something I said in that conversation back in December about being muted was this: maybe those times when we feel most alone, or during the calls to silence, are really the times when God wants us to reach out to Him. He wants to be heard by us. What a powerful thought.
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." Jesus in John 10:27

"I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me." Psalm 16:7
God's voice often comes through His Word, or a sense in our spirit. Sometimes it's just a gentle prompting in our hearts.

Ask for ears to hear. Wait, and listen.

5. Obey.
What you do hear, even what you think you hear, obey. Take a step. Pray about it first. Fast about it. Remember that God will not ask you to do something that goes against His Word. Ask 2-3 others to pray if it's a particularly radical step. (Despite the call to silence, I do believe that asking for assistance and confirmation through the prayers of a few trusted friends is wise.) God will not punish you for trying to obey what you think is His prompting, even if you sometimes make a mistake.

6. Rejoice.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4
Enjoy the process. Honestly, this call to silence is not a happy place for me. Neither is it exactly sad. It's sort of a heavy place, a solemn, holy pause. At the same time, if I stop and wait, I can occasionally feel a little firework of joy going off in my heart. Since joy is often a choice, I will not choose sackcloth for this call to silence. I will choose to rejoice.

If God is calling you to silence, there is much to learn and experience in this process.

Pray. Fast, Wait. Listen. Obey. And rejoice.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Freedom Friday: Make The Time

I want to use today's post to check in about your focus roles and priorities for 2012.

I will share at the end of this post how some of my 2012 goals are progressing. How about you?

As I've reflected on past goals I've achieved, I've been asking myself: why? Why did some goals get ignored? Why were others achieved?

One goal I made back in 2005 was to take a ballet class. I had always wanted to take ballet as a child. I did take some jazz & modern dance, as well as theater dance (tap & jazz) in college. But I just always wanted to see what a ballet class was like.

This was a goal in 2004 as well. I did not achieve it that year. Why? I did not make time for it. Carving out time in an evening when you are a campus missionary and a leader of a non-profit is not easy! But in 2005, I decided it was a priority, and after years of hoping to do this, I made the time. It was a fantastic and affirming experience.

In the book Getting Things Done (one of the books I'm reading this year), author David Allen says "you don't manage priorities; you have them."

Those things that are priorities for us, we will make time for.

If you're a football fan, I bet you had no trouble fitting the past play-off games and this Sunday's Superbowl into your schedule! If you love to eat, you don't have any challenges fitting in 3 meals a day, or finding the time to get to your favorite restaurant.

I never really committed to running until two things happened. First, I learned the major exhaustion I was experiencing (that was likely due to something called "adrenal fatigue") could be greatly helped by regular, vigorous exercise. Second, I needed to maintain a 50 pound weight loss that I had worked hard to achieve.

I made the time for running because I needed to.

My fatigue issues have improved by about 90%. I barely notice it anymore, above and beyond the normal fatigue of a mom whose kids don't sleep through the night! It is now normal for me to get up at 5 or earlier (today, I was up at 4:36) to meet folks for a run or go solo. I have found I need less sleep when I run regularly. I also not only maintained my weight loss and lost 10 more pounds.

I made the time for running because I decided it was important for me to do so.

"LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is." Psalm 39:4

Here are some tips on how to make the time you need to achieve your goals.

1. Analyze your current use of time. We all have the same number of hours in the day. All those hours have the same 60 minutes. God calls us to be good stewards of the time He gives us. Try carrying around a notebook for a day. Note what time you get up, and what you do for each 15 minute increment from that point on. Yes, that sounds a bit anal, but just try it. I remember how eye-opening it was when my husband & I started using a virtual envelope system, and I realized how much money we were spending in certain categories. 15 minutes 3 times a day on Facebook is 45 minutes. This exercise will likely be quite enlightening.

2. Prioritize your free time. What did the exercise above show you about your free time? I read recently that most Americans have 3-5 hours of free time a day. It likely doesn't feel that way to you! Ask yourself from the exercise above: how much time do you spend putzing? On Facebook? Twitter? Your smart phone? Watching TV? Is there forced down time (like your commute) that could be used to accomplish your goals? Some examples of my forced down time is when I'm getting my kids to sleep or hanging out with them on the couch. I can write on my laptop or read a book while they watch a movie. We do not need to schedule every minute. That said, I know I feel better emotionally when I have stopped myself from getting drawn into a black hole of time wasted.

3. Create more time. Get up earlier. Go to bed earlier. Say no to things that you don't have to say yes to and would rather not be doing. Be careful not to overbook yourself or your kids.

Here's the status of some of my 2012 goals.
1. Keep my iPhone inbox below 50 emails (that's 50 total for 5 email addresses).
Check. I have been able to do this every day, including when I was out of town and only had internet access on my phone.

2. Cut out food dyes, corn syrup, dairy & wheat, as well as most pre-packaged, processed foods. Cut down on grains.
Making slow progress here. I brought the boys a treat from my trip: green apple gummy bears! Definitely not food-dye free! I'm doing more cooking and baking grain-free.

3. Run 100 miles per month through the winter. Consider what other races I should do.
4. Run a half marathon at a :30/mile faster pace than my 1st half marathon, which I ran with a 10:08 pace.
I did 120.54 miles in January. Looking into some races. I also ran 13.46 miles (slightly longer than a half marathon) at a 9:19 pace, which is faster than my goal for my next half marathon.

7. Create a 4 week meal plan every month and follow it.

9. Continue daily Bible reading. 2 days a week, get up at running time to read the Bible, pray, journal & be silent.

12. Read & finish 25-30 books in 2012. That's just over 2 books a month. This includes books I've started and not yet finished.
2 books done in January. Check.

I only commented on the goals that I made significant progress on. You can go to my original post to see the ones I'm still working on.

What do you need to make the time for today? What can you make the time for right now, in the next 5 minutes? What is draining time from your day?