Monday Morning Meditation: God is in the Details

God is in the details.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23

I slept in a little today (for me, at least), and I didn’t think I had time to get to the gym (given I needed to be at church at 10:30). About a week ago, I took my oldest’s bike out for a spin and noticed it was a good workout (despite only about 6 out of 20 gears working!). An early-ish morning bike ride sounded great!

During my neighborhood travels, I saw a free couch. The owner of the house was outside with her son, said there were no issues with the couch but they couldn’t fit it in the new place where they were moving. I rode home, got my husband Roy, and we went back to check it out. It mostly fit in the van, and someone else at the house had some bungee cords. I mentioned our find to a friend, and she sent her husband over to help us get it in the house.

God is in the details.

We just HAPPENED to discuss yesterday that we would be comfortable taking a free couch if we had a little information about where it was from.

I just HAPPENED to sleep in and decide to take a bike ride.

I just HAPPENED to ride by this couch.

It just HAPPENED to be in good shape and the type we hoped to buy.

It just HAPPENED to fit in the van.

The view from the front seat

There just HAPPENED to be a guy sitting outside the house AND a guy coming out of a neighborhood house that helped us fit it in the van.

We just HAPPENED to hang out with new friends last night, and one came over to help get the couch inside.

God blesses His children.

The most beautiful thing about this story? He blessed us with a perfectly good couch even though we have the money to buy a new couch – we just haven’t had the time to go and look. His love for us decided to bless us today by making our lives easier.

The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.      Psalm 34:10

I am God’s favorite, after all! And so are you. God is in the details.

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #14: “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” by John Ortberg

I finished my 14th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg

I’ve actually finished 18 books at this point due to being wicked pregnant and encouraged to stay off my swollen feet. Today is the baby’s due date, so I’m trying to finish up a few of these posts before she arrives 🙂

I was  introduced to John Ortberg almost a decade ago. I don’t remember who encouraged me to read his books, but I’m so glad they did!

I know I had started this book previously, but I’m unsure if I ever finished it before. I ‘m so glad I did now! It was a very appropriate book for the season that we’ve been in for over 2 years now, almost 3, when God called us to make the big step of moving to Virginia. Though we are now back in Massachusetts, that was another big step in choosing to trust God when we’re not sure what He could be doing.

The premise of the book is based on Matthew 14, where Jesus walks on water toward the disciples and beckons Peter to come to him. The book outlines several other stories from Scripture where people are called out of their comfort zones and into a life of faith and trust.

I’m not much for underlining in books unless it’s a text book. I’m more of the dog ear type. Well, this book is more dog-earred than any other I’ve read this year. Just so many relevant and challenging points. So many little takeaways. Here are a few.

“What am I doing that I could not do apart from the power of God?” pg. 79

“If I had it all to do over again – I would have trusted Christ more.” pg. 88

“Your heart is revealed and your character is forged when life does not turn out the way you planned.” pg. 100-101

“Worry is fear that has unpacked its bags and signed a long-term lease.” pg. 123

“It is fear that threatens to keep people from trusting and obeying God.” pg. 124

And there were many more.

If you are in a season where God is calling you to do faith-filled scary things, this book is for you. If you simply want to learn to rely on God more in everyday life, this book is for you. If you are tired of fear dictating your choices, this book is for you.

I imagine that pretty much covers everyone 🙂

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:


Monday Morning Meditation: His Treasured Possession

What is your most treasured possession?

We are in the process of moving (again). In fact, shortly after this posts, the movers will be here. As we pack, we have been setting aside things that we will drive to our new home in Massachusetts. Fragile things, awkward but important items, expensive or irreplaceable keepsakes – they will travel in the cars, rather than risk them being damaged or broken in the moving truck.

Some of them won’t even look like much to others. Some boxes of Freedom Book will be in there. We have an airplane propeller that my dad gave to my oldest son (his first grandchild), a couple pieces of driftwood, a box of old cameras. These things have value simply because we decided they have value.


The book of Deuteronomy is one long admonition from Moses to the Israelites. They will soon be entering the Promises Land, and, since he cannot go with them, there are some things he wants them to remember. In the midst of warnings not to intermarry, cautions not to bring detestable things into their new homes, reminders to not forget God, we find this gem:

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 7:6

It would be easy for the reader to become overly focused on Moses’ numerous warnings of “Don’t do this, don’t do this, and don’t do this.” Sometimes I know I get overly focused to those things myself. But we must not lose sight of the why.

God had chosen the Israelites. He called them by name and set them apart. He absolutely treasured them and did not want to see them harmed.

As I put a piece of driftwood that my dad saved because it reminded him of a dancer in my car, I carefully wrap it in a blanket. I pad the sides to insure nothing bumps into it or damages it. If someone else were to move it, I would call out, “Be careful!”

Because it is just that important to me.

How much more so does God treasure us! He encourages us and admonishes us to grasp the “Life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19), an abundant life that will satisfy us so much more fully than anything else (John 10:10). Because He doesn’t want to see harm come to us (Jeremiah 29:11). Because His love is better than life (Psalm 63:3). Because He delights in us (Psalm 18:19).

Because we too are His treasured possession.

Freedom Friday: A Time For War

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

Everyone walks through different seasons in life. Even the weather goes through seasons (in most places, at least!). Here in northern Virginia, the last few weeks have been unseasonably cool. There was one day when I headed to a group run at 5:45 AM, and I had to turn on the heat in my car. Now we seem to be back to the hot, humid weather of late summer. But the nights are getting longer. It was still not fully light when I got out of my exercise class this morning (around 6:25). Soon, the leaves will change, and autumn will be upon us.

If you continue reading in Ecclesiastes, you find there are many types of seasons. There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to plant and a time to harvest. There is a time to tear down and a time to build up. Have you considered what type of season you might be in?

Read the first 8 verses of the chapter now.

I shared before about a season I walked through in 2004. I was desperate to know God’s plan for me, to know what the future would hold. God did confirm that He had an amazing plan in store for me, but that I wasn’t ready to walk out that plan.

Instead, God called me to a season of quiet (v. 7). He called me to rest in Him, to soak up His heart and His Word and all the amazing things He thinks about me as His adopted child. So rest, I did. It was also a time to tear down some faulty ideas I had about God and about my identity in Him, and a time to build up the foundation of His truth that I needed in my life in order to maintain a healthier relationship with Him.

In the past few years, there have been deep seasons of grief. First, my grandmother and my aunt. Then, the baby I miscarried, Bunny Boo (who was due in August of 2009 and would have been 4 this week). Several uncles, my grandfather, and most recently my dad. It has been a time to grieve and cry, as well as laugh, remembering all the amazing moments I shared with these people.

Yet with all the transitions of the past several years, I am tired. I am in a season where everything seems hard. I just want to return to that season in 2004 and beyond, take time to rest in God and let Him tell me all the things He loves about me 🙂

But He spoke to me specifically a few weeks ago as I lamented about how tired I am. He said, “Brenna, this is not a time for rest; this is a time for war.” It’s time to go to war against all those not-God-honoring thoughts that have crept in during this time of uncertainty. It’s time to take those self-limiting and God-limiting thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. It’s time to think like a free person once again.

What type of season are you in? Is it a season of rest? Or do you need to declare war on some habits and thought patterns that have slowly worked their way into your life?

Freedom Friday: He’s Coming for a Pure Bride

On October 14th (yes, the day after the marathon), I spoke at a church north of Boston as part of their series on the book of Revelation (the text for the day was Revelation 2:18-29). It was a slightly different version of my testimony, focusing on the importance of purity and embracing weakness, and I thought I’d share it here.

I was born prematurely in May of 1975. I spent my early months, isolated in an incubator, as premature babies were not touched or held. Those first months seemed to set the tone for the rest of my life. I have distinct memories of songs and stories that scared me as a child. I’d zero in on themes of abandonment with great fear, sure that at any moment, I would be alone.

I began experimenting sexually with girls at a young age. As a high school freshman, I began a physical relationship with my female best friend. I looked up “homosexuality” in a health book. The book said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black and white. I am a homosexual.”

For the next decade, I had several long-term and short-term relationships with women. I was not happy. At age 22, I found myself at music school in Boston. It was there I started learning more about Jesus. Christians seemed to start coming out of nowhere to share about His love. They never took it upon themselves to say that I should not be a lesbian. Like everyone else, I was a sinner in need of Jesus in my life. My sexual behavior was only one of many indications of this need.

My life spiraled out of control in many areas, not only my sexual identity, as I also had an eating disorder and a struggle with self-injury. A friend gave me a CD by a passionate Christian artist. His voice sang of a friend who was always there, a friend who would give everything for him. That friend is Jesus. In the midst of that song, I cried out to God saying, “I want what he has!” God, in His great mercy, met me on that day in January of 1999.

I had one more lesbian relationship after Jesus became Lord of my life. I felt stuck. Was it really even possible to break free of the chains that still held my life in so many ways, and give myself fully to my relationship with Jesus Christ? I eventually said yes to God after my girlfriend broke up with me.

Some days were a moment-by-moment practice of surrender. I went to a Christian counselor who helped me transform my life and my thoughts. God made it clear that I was to share my story. His power, perfected in my weakness, is also perfected when I boast in those weaknesses. I eventually married. And yet, purity is still a daily embrace, a moment-by-moment decision.

That is not to say I still struggle with same-sex attraction at the level of intensity I did 12.5 years ago when I finally surrendered my sexuality to God. I don’t. But every day, I’m faced with the same choice as all of you, no matter what you struggle with. It’s a choice as to whether or not I will trust God in the face of uncertainty. And those times where I don’t choose to trust, I find myself longing to trust in other things, whether it be food or envy and greed.

The lyrics of a song have gripped my heart recently:
He’s coming for a pure bride.What are you doing when no one is watching? Children get your hearts right. God’s coming for a pure bride!

Just the magnitude of His holiness inspires me to choose Him, to make the right choice when no one’s watching, even if no one besides God would ever know. Today, I do not obey God out of a place of fear, or a worry that His feelings for me are somehow as fickle as mine often are. I obey God out of a deep, deep place of love, respect and complete abandon to the God who spared no expense to rescue me.

He’s coming for a pure bride.

Help Me Be New

God is doing a work in me
He’s walking through my rooms and halls
Checking every corner
Tearing down the unsafe walls
And letting in the light

I am working hard
To clean my house and set it straight
To not let pride get in the way
To catch an eternal vision of
What I am to become

Will you help me be new
Will you hold me to the promises
That I have made
Will you let me be new
Forgive my old self and my old mistakes

It seems easier
Living out my life in Christ
For those who do not know me
To hide the thorns stuck in my side
And all my secret faults

But you know me well
And it’s you I want the most to see
And recognize the changes
A word from you empowers me
To press on for my goal

Will you help me be new
Will you hold me to the promises
That I have made
Will you let me be new
Forgive my old self and my old mistakes

When I feel condemned to live my old life
Remind me I’ve been given a new life in Christ

“Help Me Be New” by Sara Groves

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: You Are God’s Favorite, Part 3

Hello, beloved 🙂 I hope you’ve been soaking in the reality of God’s fierce tenderness for the last week.

Have you been referring to yourself as the disciple whom Jesus loved? If you try, you’re bound to giggle at yourself. But I seriously recommend it. In fact, why don’t you add the following while you’re at it (expounding on the meaning of the word “beloved”):

I am esteemed by God and very dear to Him.

In fact, I am His favorite!

He has declared me worth knowing, worth loving and worth creating.

Try it. I’m serious. OK, don’t roll your eyes at me. I saw that!

I know a few of you think I’m absolutely crazy. But I dare you to speak these truths to yourself. Just try it.

You may wonder why I’m talking about this. And why on earth am I pressuring you all to speak these strange (but true!) things to yourself?

This is why.

I’m going to share with you an excerpt from when I first gave this talk to the campus ministry I directed back in 2004.

A little background:

First of all, I couldn’t believe God wanted me to talk about this. I had just started to discover these truths myself and had barely seen the tip of the iceberg, but I felt strongly God wanted me to talk about it.

Second, God didn’t want me just to share facts. He wanted me to share my experiences. Intimately, and transparently.

This was my first year as a campus missionary. It was my first year working with Alive in Christ.

I had no idea what I was doing.

I was still struggling deeply with depression, doubt, fear & insecurity.

In my talk, I posed the question: how does this knowledge [of being God’s favorite] change us? And how has it changed me?

This is, content unedited, what I said.

I’ve always struggled with feelings of worthlessness, uselessness and stupidity. It has been worse in the past year. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve begun to do something that doesn’t have a rule book, a step-by-step guide dictating “this is how you do it”. I don’t know if it’s because I’m putting myself out there, making myself more vulnerable. But I do know how it manifests itself – in negative self-talk and paralyzing feelings of inadequacy. I used to walk around thinking “Jesus loves even me.” Now instead, I tell myself “Jesus loves especially me.” The knowledge that I am Beloved changes how I treat myself, and in turn, changes the way I view others.

I believe when Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself”, He not only meant “don’t put others below yourself” but He also meant was “we can only love others as much as we love ourselves”.

I don’t have to all figured out. I continually need to allow the knowledge that I am Beloved to be a filter for my thoughts and my actions. Instead of letting my emotions and experiences dictate my worth, I allowed God’s acceptance of me and His love to dictate my worth.

Wow. I’ve come a long way since then.

When I wrote the above, that I was learning to allow “God’s acceptance of me and His love to dictate my worth”, I was probably only successful 10% of the time.

Now, I can honestly say that 98% of the time, being God’s favorite truly defines me and dictates how I feel about myself. I say 98% because I still have moments when it feels as if life is ganging up on me and I begin to question my worth. I had a moment yesterday and a few weeks ago, which reminded me that those moments are now few & far between.

This is why it’s important. If you begin to view yourself and others through the lens of being God’s beloved, you will be radically changed.

“The truth,” Henri Nouwen wrote in “The Life of the Beloved”, “even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace . . . We must dare to opt consciously for our chosenness and not allow our emotions, feelings, or passions to seduce us into self-rejection.

If you truly believed that you are “beloved”, God’s favorite, and you lived out of that tender affection, how would that change you?

It’s time to find out. It’s time to start telling ourselves the truth about who we are in Christ.

How do you do this? Try some of these posts. Speak these truths to yourself. Speak them to others. Commit to telling yourself the truth about who you are and not believing the lies any longer.

Do you truly know the love of Christ? His acceptance? His favor?

Do you want to?

Does it affect every part of the way you live your life?

Rest in Him. Let Him transform you. Surrender to Him, and to His love.

Let this knowledge change you. Let Him change you.

Freedom Friday: You Are God’s Favorite, Part 2

Last Friday, I wrote about you being God’s favorite.

I talked about John, and his description of himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. I shared that our position is the same as John’s. If we are followers of Jesus, we are the beloved (favorites) of God. And how if we lived out of that truth, that we are truly God’s favorite, our lives would be changed forever.

The question I left you with last week was this: do you treat yourself as if you are a cherished, precious possession of an all-powerful, all-loving God?

Did you think about that?

Next question: what does it mean to be God’s Beloved?

The Greek word, Agapetos, is primarily translated “beloved” in the New Testament. It also means “esteemed, very dear, favorite, worthy of love”.

Worthy of love.

This may seem random, but I encourage you to read my “What’s In a Name” testimony, part 1 & part 2. In it, I talk about the names we have attached to ourselves or allowed others to attach to us throughout our lives, and how God the Father calls us worth knowing, worth loving and worth creating.

He calls you beloved.

Back to the question of the day. What does it mean to be God’s Beloved?

The Greek word Agapetos, the word we translate as “beloved”, was used 60 times in the New Testament. 60 times!

The first instance of use is in Matthew 3:17. “And behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'”

Jesus was the original “beloved” child of God.

God said this to Jesus at the very beginning of His public ministry.

Jesus hadn’t done anything.

He hadn’t performed any miracles (this moment is not recorded in John’s gospel, and turning water into wine is considered to be Jesus’s first miracle), preached any sermons (unless you count his discussions in the temple at age 12). It appears He didn’t even have any disciples at this point.

And yet – God was pleased with Jesus. He called Jesus “beloved”.

Through Jesus, if we are followers of Him, we are also God’s beloved children.

51 of the occurrences of “Agapetos” in the New Testament are in the Epistles. It’s always used when addressing the audience of the letter, or the congregations in a particular town.

A few examples:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

“Listen, my beloved brethren : did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” James 2:5

Different Biblical authors (Paul John, James, Jude, Peter, the author of Hebrews) remind us frequently in their letters of who we are in Christ, that we are God’s beloved. John was no exception. In fact, John liked the word so much that he used in 4 times in his last epistle, a letter that was only 15 verses long.

John and the other authors wanted to make sure we didn’t forget our position as the “beloved children of God”.

Being beloved means that, like John said, we are the one whom Jesus loves. It means God’s very fond of us, that He not only loves us, but He actually really likes us.

Do you ever feel like God is just putting up with you because He has to?

Or do you honestly believe that God likes you, not just loves you because theologically, God has to love you?

God says through Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! You are precious in My sight…………you are honored and I love you……..For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you’ Says the LORD who has compassion on you.”

The Hebrew word, Racham, translated “to have compassion” can also be translated “to have tender affection”.

I challenge you to read through the Old Testament and replace the word “compassion” with “tender affections”. Do you believe that God could have tender feelings for you?

Author Richard Foster says this about God: “His heart is the most sensitive and tender of all. No act goes unnoticed, no matter how insignificant or small. A cup of cold water is enough to put tears in the eyes of God. Like a proud mother who is thrilled to receive a bouquet of wilted dandelions from her child, so God celebrates our feeble expressions of gratitude.”

Being “beloved” means we are fully accepted, fully worthy to be loved by God, we are very dear to Him, that we are in fact His “favorite”. That nothing we could do could make God love us any more, and nothing we could do could make God love us any less.

Worth knowing, worth loving, worth creating.

Rest in that.

You Are God’s Favorite, Part 3

Secure in His Treasure Pouch

No, it’s not Friday (sorry!). I just felt like sharing something with you all today 🙂

Yesterday in my Bible reading, I came across this verse. This is spoken by Abigail, the wife of Nabal, a wealthy man whom David inquired of, asking for provisions. Nabal refused, and David sought to take Nabal’s life. Abigail ran out to meet David & his men with provisions, to appeal to him.

Are you ready to take this in?

“Your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch!” 1 Samuel 25:29 (NLT)

This was spoken to David, but I believe it’s true for all of us. We are secure in Christ, treasured by God, as I wrote last week, His favorite.

Something big happened today in the life of my family. It feels big to me. Thus, God’s faithfulness is almost tangible, His presence felt and sensed.

God treasures you. In fact, He has declared that the lions may grow weak & hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Is there something you desire in your life, but are afraid to ask for?

Take the risk. Ask. Taste & see that the Lord is, indeed, so good.