Freedom Friday: Eyes on the Resurrection

I started a new devotional for Lent today.

Yes, I’m aware Lent doesn’t start until Wednesday 🙂 I just wanted some built-in space in case I miss a day.

It’s called 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole.


Alicia subtitles it “A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast.” She shares some thoughts along with readings from the Gospel of John (my favorite).

I’ve always loved Alicia’s writing style, and this book does not disappoint. Simple. Direct. Probing. Vulnerable. She’s the real deal.

The Scripture today was John 12:1-11, a favorite story of mine, where Mary anoints Jesus with a pint of nard. She was in awe of Him, so much so that she humbled/humiliated herself in her worship of Him.

It reminds me of one of my favorite worship songs, “Pour My Love On You.”

Like oil upon Your feet
Like wine for You to drink
Like water from my heart, I pour my love on You
If praise is like perfume
I’ll lavish mine on You
Till every drop is gone
I’ll pour my love on You

A life poured out.

One question I walked away with from the first day’s reading is this: are we hyper focused on our sacrifices during Lent, or are we awed by the coming Resurrection Sunday? It’s a reminder to keep my eyes on the resurrection everyday – the promise of a new day, a fresh start.

Consider getting 40 Days of Decrease or another devotional for Lent this year.

Freedom Friday: Selling My Birthright

Driving to church on Sunday, I heard part of this sermon (Aug. 5th, 2012) based on these verses from Genesis 25:

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright. ”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.

red lentils

This dramatic and fairly well-known story describes the dynamics between twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, sons of Isaac and Rebekah. It was a volitile situation even from the womb, the Bible describing how the babies “jostled each other” within Rebekah. Esau was born first, but, not to be outdone, Jacob came out grasping Esau’s heel.

Yet Esau was still the first born.

We don’t have that many parallels today in Western culture as it pertains to birthrights. In Jewish culture, the firstborn child was given certain rights, privileges and inheritance simply based on the fact that he was born first. It is in Genesis and the story of Jacob & Esau where the rights of the firstborn are first talked about.

As believers, we have all been adopted into God’s family, and we are all His favorites. As His children, there are certains rights and privileges that God has given to us, promises He says will be fulfilled if we follow and trust in Him, surrendering our entire lives over to His lordship.

As I listened to the sermon, I couldn’t help but think of my struggle with overeating.

Am I selling my birthright for a plate of food? I wrote a poem that was posted 2 days ago if you missed it.

Alicia Britt Chole dissects the temptation of Jesus in her book, anonymous. You can read a Biblical account here.

Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and was genuinely hungry. Satan tells Him to turn stones into bread.

What would be wrong with that? Eating is not a sin, after all. What would be the harm in having a bite of bread?

From anonymous, pg. 65:

I find it noteworthy that Satan did not suggest that Jesus run into town and steal some food – that would have been a blatant violation of God’s commendments. But eating? Food in itself is not sinful. And here is where Satan’s lures can be deceptive. This layer was not about what Jesus would eat as much as it was about when Jesus would eat. Would he obey Father God even when obedience meant delayed satisfaction of legitimate needs?

In the layer of appetite, we witness Satan’s skillful use of a most effective lure: immediate gratification.

Imagine where we’d all be if Jesus sold His birthright for a plate of food.

Your issue may not be with food. It may be with gossip, crass talk, pornography, stealing, or subtle lying. Those could all be considered “false foods.”

What are you selling your birthright for a plate of? What false food do you run to in order to try and satisfy legitimate needs in illegitimate ways?

It is not likely that Esau was literally going to die of hunger, as he dramatically stated. Yet he was genuinely hungry.

Often when I run to the cabinets, I too am genuinely hungry.

But my hunger is not for food.

I desire comfort, escape. I am tired, lonely, bored, in pain, and am looking for a way to forget, to flee those feelings.

My need is legitimate, but it cannot be meet with food. My need is for God, spiritual strength, companionship, laughter, joy, peace and rest.

Think for a minute.

Are we despising our birthright, as Esau did, because we choose to run to false food instead of Him?

Are we missing out on the fulfillment of God’s promises – His presence, His provision, our inheritance as His child – in favor of more immediate gratification?

Is the pay-off, the “reward” really worth it?

Freedom Friday: Resources for the Journey

I’ll need your patience today.

I’m having trouble concentrating. Lack of sleep, illness, end of a long week: lots of reasons. So bear with me 🙂

As I was pondering today’s post as well as the next few posts that will end the year, I began to reflect on my journey toward today. I reflected in writing for quite some time before I determined that needed a post of its own 🙂

Suffice it to say if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you have heard me write a lot about learning to walk in freedom, as well as the process of becoming (or reconnecting with) who God created you to be by reconnecting with our power source, the giver of life, our Heavenly Father.

I’m so thankful for the people and resources that shaped me into who I am today. I decided I’d talk about some of those resources here. Also, if you get a gift card for Christmas, or are still looking for a book to give us a gift, I thought I could offer some suggestions, resources that have been helpful to me along the way. I’m linking to the actual book, but if you have a Kindle or something similar, there is a link to the other options on the page. Almost all of these books have a Kindle option.

The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner and M. Basil Pennington

I’m actually not quite done reading this book, but I’m so impressed I will go ahead and mention it now. Plus, it came to my attention through the recommendation of someone I deeply respect. I’m just so taken by the title! The concept fits exactly with what I often speak concerning: true freedom is found when we live in the fullness of who God created us to be.

Think Differently, Live Differently
by Bob Hamp

Bob Hamp is someone I’ve mentioned frequently in my speaking & writing. I’ve been familiar with his work for a while, but I finally had the privilege of meeting him this summer and now, through multiple correspondence, consider him a friend. This is a fantastic resource for completely reframing the way you approach your struggles. It is so impactful that leaders with decades of ministry under their belts have told me how this book, and Bob Hamp’s teaching in general, have caused them to completely revamp the way they do ministry. You can actually download quite a few podcasts of Bob’s teachings for free, as well as watch videos of his classes, here.

Boundaries and Safe People by Cloud & Townsend

Boundaries is a well-known book with many variations: Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries with Kids, etc. It really is a must-read if you haven’t picked it up before. While it’s certainly valuable to own a copy, I found Boundaries and Safe People at my local library.

I pair these 2 books together because they have an even more powerful impact when read side-by-side. I read Safe People first and found that to be invaluable. If you struggle with knowing who to trust, where or how to find help & support, or you find that you don’t always make the best choices in friends, this book addresses that clearly. I then read Boundaries, which helps the reader to implement some healthy limits in our personal lives and relationships with others.

Breaking Free and Relational Masks by Russell Willingham
Of course, I have to also recommend these 2 books by one of my favorite authors. I especially recommend Relational Masks as a good way to dive into the core beliefs behind your actions, as well as a way to unearth the masks that keep you from discovering who God created you to be.

Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chole
I highlighted one of her resources last week in my post on disillusionment. I’m finishing up this book Anonymous now. I’ll let the author’s description of the book speak for itself. “We all experience times of hiddenness, when our potential is unseen and our abilities unapplauded. This book redeems those times by reminding us that though we often want to rush through these anonymous seasons of the soul, they hold enormous power to cultivate character traits that cannot be developed any other way!”

And some leadership resources:
Preventing Ministry Failure by Brad Hoffmann & Michael Todd Wilson
Every time I mention this resource to a pastor or ministry leader I respect, I am shocked they haven’t heard of it! This is a truly phenomenal book concerning an issue close to my heart. I have always asked the question, “Why do leaders fall?” I mean, I know the literal answer to that question – because they made destructive choices. But how did they get to the point of making those choices? Have we set up such an unattainable standard in our churches and ministries that leaders are not allowed to be vulnerable with their struggles?

Years ago, I read this article, 5 Lies That Lead to an Affair by Julie Ferwerda. The main thing I took away from the article was this: it’s the tiny compromises that become the huge compromises. This woman didn’t wake up one day and decide to have an affair. It was a slow progression of little, only slightly destructive choices that may have appeared harmless from the outside. I also believe part of the issue was that she felt she didn’t have the freedom to be honest about her real-life struggles with those around her.

Back to this book: it’s written in workbook style and explores a myriad of issues, including having a life purpose statement, creating an adequate support system, understanding our calling, and setting up adequate safeguards. A must-have for ministry leaders today.

And last, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
This book was given to me by my spiritual mentor. The minute I started reading it, I barely put it down unless I absolutely had to (feeding the kids, changing diapers, you know!). I read it in one day. Lencioni is a powerful storyteller who creates a fictional tale about an organization that needs a major overhaul. He concludes the book with practical help for creating a unified and constructive team.

I hope you are able to pick up one of these resources for yourself or someone else. And no, I don’t know most of these people and I’m not getting paid to endorse these products!

Freedom Friday: Dealing with Disillusionment

transitive verb

: to free from illusion; also : to cause to lose naive faith and trust

Disillusionment: the state of being disillusioned.

Have you ever experienced disillusionment?

I have. I went through an extremely painful time in the early years of my faith. I’ve mentioned it here in bits and pieces.

I doubted everything. I questioned everything. And my doubts and my questions tore me to shreds.

Recently, I heard Alicia Britt Chole speak at a conference. I had been looking forward to it for quite some time. Her DVD series Choices was one of the first things we studied in Bible study after I became a Christian, and it was eye-opening and heart-changing.

She spoke about disillusionment, particularly as it relates to the disciples and Jesus. The disciples were incredibly disillusioned with Jesus at times, despite the fact that they walked with Him. They were disillusioned with His timing, disillusioned with His ways, and disillusioned with His words.

One example of this disillusionment is in John 6. Jesus had just done a miracle with a young boy’s lunch, and the crowds were following Him around to see what else He could do, as well as to see if He might feed them again.

In the midst of this, Jesus shared this:

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

Imagine how you would have replied to this, had you been one of Jesus’ disciples. I think I would have stood there, thinking, “Huh? Jesus, that doesn’t even make sense!” Let’s read further to see what the response was.

Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining……..At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.

They complained. They were disillusioned. This isn’t what they were expecting from Jesus. They wanted a meal, and maybe a miraculous sign. They wanted a concrete explanation of what on earth Jesus was talking about. When they didn’t get any of those things, they left. Not everyone, but the passage says “many”.

Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”

What is the difference between the two groups of disciples in this story? Why did some turn away? Why did some stay?

Some responded to this difficult command by grumbling among themselves. They turned to each other for wisdom, and complained about this strange leader of theirs.

But others react to this statement of Jesus’ quite differently. They chose to look to Jesus. They knew enough about Him to chose to believe that there was nowhere else to go. They chose to take their questions to Him.

They asked their questions while looking into the safety of their Savior’s face.

So often when we start asking questions or having doubts in our faith, our tendency is to take our questions elsewhere. We turn away from God – out of fear, anger, hurt, or general disillusionment.

I did this. I did not take my questions to Jesus. I stopped reading the Bible. I stopped praying. The questions felt overwhelming, suffocating.

There is nothing wrong with questions and doubts. That’s something I love about the disciples’ example. They weren’t afraid to ask questions, even questions to which the answers seem obvious to us today. Jesus wasn’t afraid of or offended by their questions. He just wanted the disciples to bring their questions to Him.

Sometimes, Jesus would answer them right away; other times, He shared that His words would make sense eventually.

He says the same thing to us.

I’ve heard disillusionment described as gaining a reality. Through this period of questioning, I gained a new reality. A reality that trust is a choice. A reality that not everything is going to make sense in the moment. A reality that God is good, He is on my side, and that His plans are for my prosperity and hope.

Now I take my questions to my Savior. Not always in a timely manner, but my doubts no longer cause me to run. My questions no longer feel like abandonment. They no longer send me spiraling to my default setting. I am able to simply take them to Jesus and trust He will show me the answers, with time.

If you’d like to hear more about disillusionment, I highly recommend the CD “Real Life, Real Pain, and a Real God” from Alicia Britt Chole’s resources. You can also find many of her books on (I’m loving the book anonymous right now!).

Your questions are OK with God. Just remember to ask them to Him, to His face, and in the safety of His arms.

A quote from "Anonymous"

“Seasonally, we too are stripped of visible fruit. Our giftings are hidden; our abilities are underestimated. When previous successes fade and current efforts falter, we can easily mistake our fruitlessness for failure.”

Anonymous, Alicia Britt Chole

This book was given to me by Chi Alpha Boston as a gift. I’m getting so much out of it that I thought I’d share it with you all 🙂