Merry Christmas! Download “Learning to Walk in Freedom” For Free on Christmas Day!

Tomorrow, for Christmas Day only, I am offering Learning to Walk in Freedom for free!

LTWIFreedom Christmas

If you or a friend receive a Kindle for Christmas, download away! If you have an iPhone or iPad, there is an app that lets you read books for Kindle. That’s what I use.

If you already downloaded Learning to Walk in Freedom, why not grab some other resources to help you start the year strong? Here are some of the resources I reference in Learning to Walk in Freedom.

 Relational Masks by friend and mentor Russell Willingham talks about more about the concept of core beliefs and how these false beliefs impact our relationship with God and with each other. He wrote another great book entitled Breaking Free: Understanding Sexual Addiction & the Healing Power of Jesus.

 Think Differently, Live Differently by friend Bob Hamp addresses how the way we think impacts our choices and the truth we live out of.

The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg is an easy but challenging read with a new take on spiritual disciplines. Learn how to work spiritual disciplines into your everyday life.

And then some personal favorites, also referenced in Learning to Walk in Freedom:
Healing Is a Choice: 10 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and 10 Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them by Steve Arterburn. There is an accompanying workbook.

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives with Bonus Content by Richard Swenson.

Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God by Gary Thomas – finding your spiritual temperament with its traits, strengths, and pitfalls.

Enjoy! And spread the word 🙂

Freedom Friday: Do I Still Struggle With Same-Sex Attraction?

Brenna Simonds

“Brenna, do you still struggle with same-sex attraction?”

I get this question a lot. Via email, in interviews, on ministry phone calls. As I was answering such an email earlier this week, I thought it would be great material for Freedom Friday. You can read more about my struggle with same-sex attraction here.

In March of 2000 when my last girlfriend ended our relationship, I surrendered my sexuality to God and chose to walk in obedience to what the Bible says about human sexuality.

I also asked God to remove my same-sex attraction from me, and in many ways He did. I did not feel the same draw and pull I had felt toward women for as long as I could remember. I felt as if, in many ways, God had “delivered” me from my same-sex attraction.

And then 2005 happened. I began to experience the feelings of same-sex attraction again.

I didn’t do anything with those feelings, meaning I didn’t act out in any way. I didn’t fantasize, look at pornography or try and connect with another woman inappropriately. I initially just hid my feelings because I was ashamed. I felt as if I couldn’t tell anyone, lest everyone think I was a fraud.

I did eventually tell my husband and then one of my accountability partners. But it was way more difficult than it needed to be.

What happened back in 2005 to bring on this struggle again? I believe it was a number of things.

There were several ministry-related things that happened at that time. My testimony was printed that summer in the Exodus newsletter. I became the director of Alive in Christ a year earlier, and we were about to become an Exodus member ministry. Love Won Out was coming to town, and there was to be a protest with over 1,000 people, AND my story was in the Boston Globe.

I wholeheartedly believe that God allowed that period of temptation. It made me come face to face with some questions I needed to examine:

Was my testimony and ministry built on how *I* overcame same-sex attraction?

Or was it built on God’s goodness, faithfulness, and sustaining power whether I actively experienced same-sex attraction or not?

I realized that my fear of people knowing was due to the fact that I had centered my story of healing around the absence of same-sex attraction in my life. I needed to go through this period of intense struggle to be reminded that struggles will come. Same-sex attraction is a form of temptation; the attraction itself is not a sin. For instance, simply having a thought or feeling of attraction pass through your head, even if it’s toward the same gender, is not sin. Pursuing that thought by turning it into a fantasy is sin.

I’ve come to a place where if I struggle, so be it. If not, that’s okay, too. Those things I do struggle with (whether it be same-sex attraction or something else) do not define me, nor do they define my relationship with God. They also do not make or break my experience of His freedom.

“Freedom is not the absence of something; it’s the presence of someone.” Bob Hamp

Too often we define true freedom as the absence of temptation. We need to face up to the fact that that’s a completely unrealistic goal. That doesn’t mean some people won’t experience complete removal of their same-sex attraction. Some certainly claim to, and I’m not going to argue with their experience.

However, if we measure our freedom based on whether or not we still struggle with a particular temptation, that means we expect to be more free than Jesus.

Same-sex attraction is just temptation. Say it with me again 🙂 Temptation is not sin.

One of the things we need to be set free from is unrealistic expectations. If you define freedom as the absence of temptation, you are setting yourself up to fail. But if you define freedom (as I do) as living in the fullness of all God created you to be, despite and in the midst of your struggles, then freedom becomes much more attainable.So……….do I still experience same-sex attraction? Sometimes! But the big picture answer is it doesn’t matter so much to me anymore. Notice I changed the word “struggle” to “experience.” That’s because it’s not a struggle. I don’t allow whether or not I experience same-sex attraction to define me. And when I do experience it, I don’t have to respond by choosing to sin. I can pray about it & turn it over to God. If the temptation persists, or it is really bothering me, I tell my accountability folks about it and ask them to pray as well. I ask God to reveal any unmet needs in my life that may be contributing to it. I practice the tools for the journey, such as HALT. And I get on with my life.

Are you allowing temptation to define your freedom today?

**Updated March, 2014

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: How Did We Get Here?

Lots of exciting things going on over here at Living Unveiled 🙂

I’m not sure if I shared that I’m turning my “Learning to Walk in Freedom” series into a booklet that we will hand out at the ministry I direct. I hope after that to convert it to an eBook for sale.

I did the “final” edits about a month ago and was quite excited to be done. Then I got into some discussions with two of my unofficial mentors/really cool guys who have eye-opening things to say about recovery, addiction, and how to become free. Those 2 guys are Bob Hamp and Russell Willingham. Yes, I talk about them a lot. Yes, you should really, really go check them out if you haven’t already. Like, right now. I even provided links for you.

I decided after those discussions I should do one more read-through.

Something (or some “things”) was missing. Something big.

After hearing Bob Hamp speak at the Exodus Freedom Conference, I felt I needed some clarification of my freedom step #4: Think like a free person. Bob’s take on 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 intrigues me (he uses the NASB translation, whereas I’ve always used the NIV), so I asked him to further discuss this with me.

Herein lies the moment where I crack myself up.

So….my short 21-page document has now become 24 pages. I still have 3 more sections to re-read. And I haven’t even rewritten the original section that spurred many of these questions!

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I want you to read the information I added to the intro of my booklet.

For those who have read the “Learning to Walk in Freedom” series, the following excerpt now comes after “What is Freedom? Part 2“.

How Did We Get Here?

It’s important if we want to walk in freedom that we understand why we don’t walk in freedom now. In order to understand how to get free, we need to know how we got bound.

I don’t mean we need to dig deep into our past and find out the root causes of our struggles. That can help, of course.

What I mean is we need to have a foundational understanding of how we all got to be the way we are, and how to get back to how God created us to be.

As believers, we can get hyper-focused on the “eternal life” aspect of our faith. Before you dismiss me as a heretic, hear me out.

Jesus did in fact come so that we may have eternal life. Most of us know the oft-quoted verse, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I believe this is only half of the equation. Too often we see in the church people who have eternal life but are not walking in freedom. I was one of these people.

There is another very important reason Jesus came. He states it clearly in John 10:10 (NASB): “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” The Amplified Bible states it this way: “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

Is that the current state of your life?

Jesus was not talking about eternity there; He was talking about our life here on earth.

Let me explain this more fully by going back to the Garden of Eden.

In Genesis 1:26-27, the Bible talks about the creation of mankind: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

God created Adam & Eve in His image and likeness. His characteristics, His attributes, His image were within Adam & Eve. As if this wasn’t amazing enough, we read this in Genesis 2:7: “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

God not only gave them life through shaping and creating them and giving them His image and likeness; He went a step further and breathed His very breath into them.

He was, quite literally, their source of life.

In the Garden, God walked with man. He spent time with man. But that all changed when Adam & Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they ate from this tree, not only did they pass down the bondage of sin to generations to come, even more significantly is the fact that they became disconnected with their source of life.

Remember John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” This is exactly what the serpent did in the Garden. He stole their freedom from sin, he killed them in the sense that they would now age & die, and he destroyed the deep connection they had with their source of life.

Jesus certainly came to give us eternal life. This is important. But I believe we don’t fully understand the ramifications of what Jesus accomplished on that cross.

He came rectify the problem of slavery to sin in our lives, by becoming the perfect sacrifice on the cross, and by being resurrected – brought back to life. He does this, rectifies the killing, stealing and destroying of Satan, by reconciling us to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19) – in other words, reconnecting us with the ultimate source of life.

“I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV1984)

Eternal life is one piece of the puzzle. It’s the first piece, and it’s an important piece. But so is learning to live an abundant life here on earth.

God is thus our source of life and ultimately the source and the giver of our freedom through Jesus Christ.

If you want to hear more about the more practical side of learning to walk in the fullness of the freedom that is available to all of us as adopted children of God, start here.

Freedom Fridays: Spend Time with the Freedom Giver, Part 1

The past couple of weeks, I’ve talked about what is freedom, and why I love to talk about it 🙂 This week, we’re going to start to dive into the practical side of learning to walk in freedom.

Spend time with the Freedom Giver.

Before you check out mentally, let me be very clear in saying this is not a post that will say: “If you spent more time with God, you wouldn’t be facing the issues you are.” That’s hogwash. I know LOTS of people dealing with life-controlling issues, particularly those of a sexual nature, have likely been told ad nauseum to pray and read the Bible more. I’ll be the first to say that yes, it’s an important piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the whole puzzle. In the coming weeks, I will also share that we need to spend time with believers, we need to correctly understand grace, and some other practical tips. But the reason I encourage you to first spend time with the freedom giver is strategic.

I minister primarily to Christians dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction. This is broadening slowly as people approach me outside of the ministry I direct, but this is its primary focus. They come to the ministry because they can’t figure out how to deal with a particular problem/temptation.

Well, there are a few things about approaching your issues in this way that are not super helpful. First, we were never promised a life free of temptation. After all, Jesus was tempted, but did not sin. We’re pretty much promised temptation! It’s how we respond that we have more control over.

Second, when we spend our lives micro-managing a particular struggle, we quickly lose sight of the bigger picture. We are not simply a problem. Our identity is not defined by what we struggle with. Our identity is defined by our Creator. The often-quoted verses in 1 Corinthians 6 list a string of offenders that will not inherit the kingdom of God. And then the punchline: “That is what some of you were”. Our identity doesn’t lie in how our struggle with sin manifests itself anymore! We are new creations. Our identity now rests in God. And all our problems wouldn’t go away if this one problem went away 🙂 We’d just get a new set of problems because we haven’t dealt with the core issues of who we are, who God is, and what true freedom looks like.

Bob Hamp has said that freedom is not the absence of something; it’s the presence of someone. That someone is God. This is so important. This is why we need to spend time with the Freedom Giver! This is where we find out who we are and who He created us to be.

When we begin to follow Jesus Christ, often we talk about how we have a relationship with Christ. And that’s true. Whereas sin used keep us from truly knowing God and being able to be in relationship with Him, Romans 5:1 says that when we “have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” But let’s think about what it really means to be “in relationship” with God.

I use a lot of marriage analogies because I’m married 🙂 I talk to my husband every day. If a day goes by when I don’t get to sit down, look into eyes and talk with him face to face, I miss it. This time is increasingly difficult to find after having 2 kids 🙂 Even though I am in Roy’s presence quite frequently, it’s not the same if I don’t get to sit down and spend time with him, talking to him face to face. In Psalm 139:7-10, it says there is nowhere we can go and NOT be in God’s presence. But while we’re always in His presence, that doesn’t mean we’re actually spending time with Him. We can’t be in a relationship with someone we don’t know. And how do we learn about the Freedom Giver? One primary way is by spending time in His Word.

Being in a relationship with God is all about surrender. In order to completely surrender, we have to grow to trust Him. But we can’t trust someone we don’t know. And in order for us to truly grow in our knowledge of God, we not only need to read the Word; we need to do what it says. James 1: 22-25 says:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

We need to read the Word and do what it says. We’ve got to take the time to listen to & learn about God’s heart. The things He desires for His children -good things! God loves us more than we could fathom & is concerned about our everyday needs in a way that we could not even imagine. No concern or desire is too small for God.

More on this point next week 🙂