Monday Morning Meditation: It Takes Practice

I’ve been asked a few times by people, “How do you have peace/joy/hope in trials? How do you pray with faith with there’s no evidence to put your hope in? How do you keep smiling when things are difficult?”

The answer is simple but not easy.


God, in His sovereign purpose, has given me plenty of opportunities to practice learning these truths. Or perhaps it’s just that I was crushed by my choices and my circumstances when I came to Christ that I couldn’t NOT practice these things.

It was do or die, literally. I had to cling to these promises of God as if my life depended on it – because it did.

After being asked about this again last week, this Scripture was read in church yesterday:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

I do not often hear these 2 verses quoted together. I don’t usually quote them together, but I should, because so often when I reference them, I’m sharing on our thought life. What I hear Paul saying is this: This isn’t easy and it won’t come naturally. It takes practice and hard work to fight against our old patterns of thinking and living.

Paul goes on to talk about how he has learned the secret to being content. God promises to teach us these things as we choose to walk in the truth of His Word, who He says He is, and what He has said He will do.

Why is this so hard for us? If we want to become skilled at something, we know it requires practice, whether it be cooking, knitting or running. If I want to run a race at a faster time than I previously have, I practice running at a certain pace, I do track work, and I cross-train. Why does it surprise us that this is also true for the Christian walk?


From WikiMedia,

God has given me even more opportunities to practice these things with our recent move back to Massachusetts from Virginia. Moving all our stuff, my dad’s stuff, my children’s stuff, and our bodies (including my 6+ month pregnant self) is a major chore, and wow. So many things have gone wrong. It could make me question whether or not we made the right choice – but I’ve chosen not to do that. Given that I’m reading through the Old Testament right now, I can see parallels in the Israelites’ journey into the Promised Land. It wasn’t easy to begin with, and they made it much more difficult by complaining their way through. So I am trying to choose to pray and praise rather than complain and grumble. This is something I’ve practiced, and that practice is now coming in quite handy!

In today’s My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers discusses the Christian life being “gloriously difficult.”

God saves people by His sovereign grace through the atonement of Jesus, and “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). But we have to “work out” that salvation in our everyday, practical living (Philippians 2:12). If we will only start on the basis of His redemption to do what He commands, then we will find that we can do it. If we fail, it is because we have not yet put into practice what God has placed within us. But a crisis will reveal whether or not we have been putting it into practice. If we will obey the Spirit of God and practice in our physical life what God has placed within us by His Spirit, then when a crisis does come we will find that our own nature, as well as the grace of God, will stand by us.

This is quite similar to how I describe the freedom that is available in Christ. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), but we need to learn to walk in that.

We need to put it into practice.

What discipline do you need to practice today? Is it joy? Contentment? Praying and praising no matter what?

Freedom Friday: Watch For God

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, God gets our attention in the strangest ways?

So often, we beg for God’s guidance in a situation.

We ask for a sign. We generally have an idea of what that sign might look like.

Yet, all around us, God is speaking to us. He has His hand on our situation, guiding us, directing us, but we’re so busy looking for a particular sign that we miss Him completely.

I was at a Spin class yesterday morning, and I noticed the man in front of me had the word “God” on his wristband. I strained my eyes to see if I could decipher exactly what it said.

The message of the bracelet?

Watch for God.

Image from

Before Spin, I had been reading 1 Corinthians 2 (finally done with Jeremiah!). I prayed on my run over to the gym: for myself, for others, for God to be revealed in my life and the lives of my family. You can read the whole chapter here. But a few verses caught my heart:

“But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.” verse 10

God’s deepest desire is that we know who He created us to be. He longs to reveal His perfect will to us. Yet we often pray as if we somehow have to beg in order to get God to speak loudly and clearly enough for us to hear.

God spoke to me through that bracelet. He said, Watch for me. I am working, always and everywhere. Open your eyes. I am calling you to hope (Eph 1:18).

The passage continues:

“No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” verses 11-12

God has freely given us so much.
His Son (Jn 3:16-17).
His life (Jn 3:16-17).
His Spirit (Acts 1:8).
His joy (Gal 5:22).
His peace (Jn 14:27).
His mind (2 Cor 2:16).

Today, I encourage you. Watch for God. He calls you “beloved.” He calls you “mine.” He says, “You are my favorite!”

God is working around you, in you and through you. Watch for Him.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

Monday Morning Meditation: How Does God See Me? (Psalm 25 series)

Another installment of the Psalm 25 series, my patient friends.

This week’s verses (v. 6-7):

Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

One of the main themes of this psalm is guidance. It’s a patient waiting on God to show up. There is no reference in the psalm about the situation to which it was written, as there sometimes is. Just a longing, almost as if in laborious prayer.

Show up, God.

I imagine King David at this point beginning to wonder if he has done something to cause God to delay. Why is God staying away? Is He silent because of my sin? 

Because David committed a lot of serious sin.

Getting ahead of God.

Remember not all the wrongs I’ve done. My rebellion. My childish mistakes.

How many can relate to this prayer, almost a begging reminder:

God, You are good when I am not.

Lord, let Your love be primary.

Oh, friends, it is!

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8, emphasis mine

His love is primary. It’s the filter through which He sees us. Not in a “When God looks at me, He sees the cross” sort of way. I’ve heard that said before, and I don’t really think it’s an accurate depiction of what happened on Calvary. I believe when God looks at me, He sees me! And because of His desperate love, when He saw humanity, drowning in its sin, He gave.

He loved. A love so deep and tender that it kills its only Son.

How does God see you? He sees you as – well – you. He sees you in your messiness and powerlessness, and reaches down to scoop you up, just as any loving parent would. He’s a God who’s not afraid to get dirty. And He choose to use the cross to begin the process of making us not only clean, but changing us into who He created us uniquely to be!

April, 2011: Scooping up my sweet youngest

He sees you. As you are. And desperately loves you.

Embrace that place today. The place of being beloved and recklessly accepted.

God sees you as you. And in response, He loves.

A resource consulted in writing this post:
Kidner, Derek, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 15 of Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973.

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.