Empty Shelf Challenge Book #17: “Please Don’t Say You Need Me” by Jan Silvious

I finished my 17th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.


Please Don’t Say You Need Me: Biblical Answers for Codependency by Jan Silvious

Please Don’t Say You Need Me was mentioned in the back of a little booklet entitled Emotional Dependency, another resource I was reviewing for the ministry. Since emotional dependency and codependency are common struggle in the people I work with, I figured this book would be worth reviewing.

I’m so glad I read it! This was another book that I dog-eared like crazy. It’s truly a powerhouse of wisdom. It covers the roots and symptoms of codependency, as well as how codependency manifests itself in different types of relationships, including friendship, marriage, parent-child, and even in the workplace. It also has a chapter on how to maintain healthy relationships once you have recognized these patterns in yourself. The author does a wonderful job of weaving biblical truth into this struggle and healing from it.

If you have struggled with codependency or work with people who do, this book is for you.
My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #1: Learning to Walk in Freedom

I finished my first book for the #EmptyShelf challenge. It’s a fantastic book! You should really read it.

It’s called Learning to Walk in Freedom 🙂

LTWIF.front.cover

 

 

 

 

You can go ahead and laugh 🙂 I needed to read the proof that was mailed to me by the printer. This time, I wasn’t meticulously reading to find typos (hopefully, those have mostly been found!). I was reading to make sure everything looked good on the page.

I was reminded why I wrote this book and why I believe in it so strongly.

Here are some of my favorite moments. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the time to get yourself a copy!

I believe Scripture teaches that freedom is both a one-time gift and a process. The moment we come to Jesus Christ, He gives us freedom through the Holy Spirit, so that we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:17–18), but that freedom is something we need to learn to walk out in our lives.

 

If we expect a life free from temptation, then we expect to be more free than Jesus.

 

Free people do whatever it takes to become free and remain free. Whatever it takes. Jesus did whatever it took so we have the opportunity to learn to walk in freedom. He gave up everything as He hung from that cross, dying a criminal’s death, carrying the sin and the shame of the entire world on His back.

Learning to Walk in Freedom: Here What People Are Saying

Front Cover

 

Back cover

Read some new reviews of Learning to Walk in Freedom:

“Brenna has written a wonderful gem and a terrific resource. In almost 15 years of college ministry, I have witnessed students’ struggles with addiction, sexual brokenness, and controlling habits. This book provides an inspiring and holistic approach to helping us find freedom. She aptly encourages the reader towards intimacy with the Father, study of the Word, authenticity in community, and practical changes in behavior. I’m excited to use this as a resource with students on my campus.” Joseph Gavin, Chi Alpha Vermont

“I am privileged to have known the author since her college days and have seen the growth and maturity that freedom in Christ has developed in Brenna. This is a story of inspiration, rescue, and hope, but not just for the author. Like the traveler in Pilgrim’s Progress or Hinds Feet for High Places, Brenna leads the reader on a journey to meet the One who can help anyone learn to walk in freedom. Join her on the journey and find out for yourself.”
Mike Olejarz, National Chi Alpha Training Team

“This is a tremendous book, with so much depth and strength. It thrills the heart to read Brenna Kate’s testimony in the back of the book. Her journey in five steps is an easy read. God is so good to His children. We just haven’t truly let Him give us the freedom in our walk with Him, that He desires for us. This book will help the one seeking to walk in God’s freedom. Thank you, Brenna Kate. I will reread the book and will be sharing thoughts from the book at a local support group. Thank you for your obedience in writing this for the rest of us. For those who have not yet read the book, you’re in for a very special blessing. Again, THANKS.”
Nora S.

This excerpt is a continuation from yesterday:

Later that week, as I continued to cry out to God, He spoke clearly to me concerning some of my questions and struggles. Most of all, He called me to choose to trust Him, to rest in Him, and to allow Him to teach me. He beckoned me to go on a journey with Him, a journey to further whole- ness and freedom, choosing to believe He is who He says He is.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)

Thus began this journey into my current understanding of true freedom. (You can read a full testimony in the back of this book.) I’m sure it’s not over. I invite you to join me where I am now.

Wherever you are on this journey, there is something to be learned from Him. Even if you’re not generally a praying person, I encourage you to pause. Pray the following for yourself as inspired by the Scripture above and prepare to dive into a new level of freedom in your life:

God, I come to You. I am weary, burdened, and I need Your rest. God, I lay down my heavy burden and take Your yoke upon my shoulders, whatever that means, because You say I can learn from You, in Your gentleness and humility of heart. Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light. God, help me to receive that, and prepare me to really hear from You as I read this book. I surrender to all that You have for me as I learn to walk in freedom. Amen.

Get your free copy of Learning to Walk in Freedom today!

Cover and interior design done by Rusty and Ingrid Creative

Freedom Friday: Get Learning to Walk in Freedom for Free Tomorrow!

Learning to Walk in Freedom is free tomorrow for Kindle!

Front Cover

It will be my and Roy’s 11th wedding anniversary! So I’m celebrating by giving you the opportunity to download my book for Free!

Back cover

I’ll remind you again tomorrow! Help me spread the word 🙂

Here’s an excerpt from Learning to Walk in Freedom:

Freedom is my anthem—it has been my life’s theme. The questions that come with the word freedom are questions I continually ponder. The answers did not come easily.

I became a Christian at age 23. I came to Jesus with a lot of problems: an eating disorder, same-sex attraction, emotional dependency, self-injury, self-loathing, and chronic low self-esteem. My life was controlled by and revolved around my issues and trying to get rid of them.

I felt like I was drowning.

Why, if I had become a new creation in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), did my life not feel all that changed? Why was I still dealing with the same issues? I had a crowd of people continually praying for me. I fasted for long periods of time. I devoured the Word of God and prayed my heart out, including interceding for complete strangers whose prayer requests I found on the Internet! I went to church, led Bible studies, and sang on the worship team. I was writing songs for God and serving Him every way I knew how.

And I was still drowning.

I remember the moment vividly. It was May of 2004 at a campus ministry conference. I was one of the leaders, the teachers, the ones with the knowledge—the answers. Still, I was gasping for air.

Drowning.

Is this it, God? 

I was walking around the old campus. There was a castle, and in the castle was a piano. I sat down at the piano to sing, to write, to think. (I sometimes think best while sitting at a piano.) I began to play, and this is what came out:

There must be more than this 

Over and over, I sang this to my Lord. Deep down in my soul, I expe- rienced God’s fingerprint. I knew He was real. And because I had already seen Him working in so many ways, I had to believe that there was more. I desperately needed to hear His voice tell me that all this striving, all this seeking wasn’t for nothing.

Freedom Friday: Living a Healthily Transparent Life

Is my life healthily transparent?

This question popped into my mind this week. I had listened to a leadership teaching on finding the balance in being healthily vulnerable and transparent, and it brought to mind how much I have changed.

If you had met me 13 years ago, by the end of our first few months of friendship (and possibly the first few minutes), I would have likely shared what a challenging life I had, all of my current struggles and all the things I thought I had overcome. This would have included intimate details of trials, abuses against me, the many therapists I saw, and tons of “woe is me” moments.

Within a few months of becoming a Christian, I became much more guarded, to the point of hiding. I lived in terror that people in the church would think I wasn’t a real believer based on the things I thought and struggled with.

Recalling all this made me ask the question: how do we go about finding a healthy balance of transparency and privacy?

1. Know Your Own Worth.
As believers, our worth is defined by the cross. It’s not defined by anything we’ve accomplished, but rather, by what Jesus accomplished.

Sometimes we hold things too tightly to ourselves because we are afraid. Afraid of being “found out” as a fraud (as in my story about my resurfacing struggle with same-sex attraction in 2005). Afraid of being rejected. Afraid…..of the unknown, as I discuss in this blog post.

Some of these fears are certainly warranted. The world is full of imperfect people who may respond imperfectly to whatever you share. But when your worth is defined by the cross and who God says you are as His adopted child, it allows us to respond in a healthy and godly way to any real or perceived rejection or “brush-off”.

Other times, we hold things too loosely. When I became a Christian, I visited the Christian group at the college I was attending and was invited to Bible study. The Bible study leader invited me to lunch beforehand, to get to know me better. Oh, boy, was she in for a surprise! I told her all my business and then some! In fact, I shared so much that she asked one of the other group leaders who knew me better, “Is Brenna always that open?”

I did this because I was so sure she would reject me for my sordid past that I figured I might as well get it over with first thing. Her response? “OK! Bible study is at 5 PM on Tuesdays. Can’t wait to see you there!”

As you can see, oversharing and undersharing can be two sides of the same coin and are often rooted in the same fears. Knowing our worth needs to be the foundation of who we are and how we live. It helps us to have wisdom and discernment in the choices we make about sharing life with others.

2. Know the Worth of Others
Often times, we talk about “normal people” and put those people on a pedestal. We think that “normal people” wouldn’t understand our struggles, or will judge us.

No one is normal; “normal people” only exist in our imagination. As I heard someone once say, normal is a setting on the dryer. Everyone has something that they’d rather others not know. The ground at the foot of the cross is level. The same blood that was spilled for you was spilled for all those “normal people”.

Another thing to consider is how you react to others sharing. If you are asking people to accept you “as is” without judgment, are you willing to do the same?

3. Strive for Balance
We will make mistakes as we try to find the middle ground in healthy transparency. There are some questions we can ask ourselves as we try to be balanced.

If you tend toward sharing too much of yourself too soon, ask yourself: has this person earned the right to this information? If you just met them, the answer is likely no. Trust is built with time, and the more intimate details of your life should be shared with those who have proved themselves to be trustworthy.

If you tend toward sharing too little, ask: am I holding this information back due to fear? Is what I’m feeling the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but I’m not responding due to my own insecurities?

I now try to live with healthy transparency. This is my life, and these are my stories. I can choose to share them, or choose not to. I try to live with a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and an openness to sharing parts of my life and journey if that might be helpful to someone.

Are you living your life with healthy transparency today?

Freedom Friday: Jealous God

When it’s time for Freedom Friday, I will be out of town for the death of a family member. I will be 20 country miles from the closest Starbucks, with no access to WiFi.

So I’m going to leave you with a few classic posts that are on my heart.

He is Jealous for me
This theme is so heavy on my heart. This used to make me feel as if I needed to shape up and behave better. Now I recognize all His jealousy requires of me is that I open my heart fully to Him and allow His fire to consume all of me.

Do You Really Know God?
This was the top viewed post of 2011. I ask this question: how do you envision God? Who do you imagine Him to be?

“Talitha koum!” Expelling the Laughers
Is anyone discouraging you in your journey of freedom, telling you that your goals are not possible? This post is for you.

I’ll be back next week 🙂

Happy 2012, Living Unveiled Readers!

It’s officially 2012! What are you doing to ring in the New Year?

One great way to ring in the New Year would be to do a refresher course on learning to walk in freedom series.
Also, if you have come up with focus roles and some goals, I encourage you to read through the tags (called “Topics to Explore” in the right navigation of my blog) and click on any that resonate with your focus roles for the year.

Again, happy new year! I’m praying for you as you continue to grow into the person God created you to be.

Freedom Friday: Keeping Up the Pursuit

This blog post is coming to you from the Exodus International Freedom Conference! What a fantastic time we are having here. Gifted speakers, amazing worship leaders, and good friends.

I’ll be speaking to a group today and teaching a workshop tomorrow. But first, a short Freedom Friday.

As I read Judges yesterday, a short verse jumped out at me:

Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it.

Judges is interesting, challenging and at times convicting to read. The book of Joshua had just ended, full of victory and promise. The Israelites had finally come into the promised land! But despite warnings from God & Joshua, the Israelites almost immediately began to follow other gods. Fast forward a few chapters, and that’s why they were in this position with Gideon, described in the above verse, of pursuing their enemies: because they stopped pursing the One True God.

Why? Why did they leave behind the God who had shown Himself to be faithful over & over? Were the gods in the Promised Land that alluring? Were they pressured by the people they were living among to try out these other gods?

We don’t know exactly. Judges 2:10-11 simply says, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.”

Are you tired of following God? Weary of doing the right thing? Has following after God at times exhausted you?

God knew that doing the right thing, choosing to act like a free person, clinging to Him would not always be easy. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.”

Galatians 6:8-10 says, “Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

The theme of this week’s conference is The Reality of Grace. Generally, about half of the people here at these conferences are first-time attendees. They are truly stepping into their Jordan. I’ve talked to numerous people whose worlds have been rocked by what is being shared here. My world was rocked backed in 2004 at an Exodus conference when I first truly considered the reality of living in grace. Grace is a breath of fresh air to a weary, striving soul.

Something we hear in Exodus circles quite a bit is that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality; it’s holiness.

I have to ask, if the pursuit has you weary, what are you pursuing? Are you pursuing freedom from temptation? If so, it’s no wonder you are tired! We will always be tempted in some way. The Bible does not promise freedom from temptation. Even Jesus was tempted, but He did not sin.

Or are you pursuing God and all He has for you?

If it’s the latter, the Bible promised that if we continue to choose God, to dive deep into Him, we will reap a harvest.

It will pay off. It will be worth it.

God is calling you to Himself because the desire of His heart is to see you become the person He created you to be. He wants to be known by us, known for who He truly is.

If you are weary today, pull out your encouragement file. Ask someone to pray for you. Take some time alone with God and reflect on the words of Jesus in John 16, where He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Ask God to show you His perspective through His eyes.

And remember the words of Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Thank You, God, for inward renewal, renewal that Your Word says is happening, even when we can’t see it. Thank You for loving us enough to reach out when we were running from You. And help us to learn to run to You, to cling to You, to dive deep into You, even when the pursuit has us weary. We love You, Lord. We pray in the mighty, powerful, awesome name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lent: Moderation & Consecration

Lent is upon us.

Recently, my kids were quite sick. During that time, I was surprised by an unexpected blessing: I had to slow way down.

When I was sitting with a sick kid or stuck under a sleeping baby, my iPhone options were boring me. Thus, I got back into the habit of actually reading books!

We were also unable to go to church due to lingering illness, so I read Acts 22 (no special reason – I’m reading through Acts and that’s the chapter I was on), as well as that day’s reading from My Utmost for His Highest. Then we watched a pastor friend’s church service over the internet.

As I found a few minutes to pray, I was thinking of the upcoming Lenten season and what, if anything, God would have me do during that time. The line “Make My Life a Prayer To You” came to mind.

So I began to sing through the lyrics:
Make my life a prayer to You, I want to do what you want me to,
No empty words and no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise
I want to shine the light you gave Through Your Son, you sent to save us,
From ourselves and our despair. It comforts me to know you’re really there.

Oh, I want to thank you now, for being patient with me
Oh, it’s so hard to see when my eyes are on me
I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say
Oh, you’re coming again, coming to take me away

I want to die, and let you give Your life to me, so I might live,
And share the hope You gave to me – The love that set me free,
I want to tell the world out there You’re not some fable or fairy tale
That I made up inside my head: You’re God, The Son, You’ve risen from the dead.

I want my days to be free of rituals and compromise of any sort. I want my entire life, every moment, to be a living sacrifice, wholly devoted to serving Him and others. I know there are areas that I do still falter or willfully disobey. I want to learn to submit them to Him.

This Lent for me will be a time of moderation & consecration, a time where I ask God to cleanse my life of any idolatry (the song “Give Us Clean Hands” also keeps coming to mind), a time to continue on the journey of becoming all God created me to do so that I can do all the things He has called me to do.

And when I falter and I am not able, I will choose to remember that He is able.

Freedom Fridays: Think Like a Free Person, Part 1

Quick Overview of this Learning To Walk in Freedom series:

What have we covered so far in Freedom Fridays? (I’m only included the posts that are actually in this “Learning to Walk in Freedom” series).

Intro: What is Freedom? Part 1 & Part 2

1. Spend Time with the Freedom Giver: Part 1 & Part 2

2. Spend Time with Freedom Seekers

3. Act Like a Free Person, part 1 & part 2

4. Understand Grace, part 1,part 2 & part 3

And now, today: Think like a free person.

Romans 12:2 says “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Isaiah 55:8 says that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. God is speaking of how we are naturally without the Holy Spirit. “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.” Philippians 4:8

Even with the Holy Spirit, guiding us and directing us, we still need to fight against our natural ways of thinking that are often deeply ingrained in us.

“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Read that again. Soak it in. And now think about some of the thoughts you’ve had in the recent past. Were they encouraging? Life-giving? Or soul-crushing?

Could you use some transforming of your thoughts?

Satan is the father of lies. Lies are his native language (John 8:44). As we begin to change the way we think, we need to recognize where the lies come from. The lies we’ve chosen to believe, that we’ve allowed to sink in & attach to us, whether they were spoken by our parents, someone we love, or even spoken by ourselves to ourselves, really originated from the enemy.

We’ve bought into so many lies about who we are and who God is, and we need to take up the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16) and declare war on those lies. We need to trust in God’s truth, and we literally need to take up that truth and use it as a shield against the lies of the enemy.

It’s a battle; it really is. It’s a struggle to undo the years of lies that we chose to believe. 2 Corinthians 10: 4 says: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” We often think of strongholds as only the big stuff: addictions, etc. But isn’t anything that keeps us from God a stronghold? Aren’t these lies a stronghold? They keep us from knowing God and believing the truth about ourselves. In Christ, we have the power to let go of strongholds.

Read the following verse: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It’s a battle that mainly takes place in our minds. We are commanded to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ – to make our thoughts agree with what God says about us and how God views us. And anything that doesn’t meet that strict criteria needs to be demolished.

Think of a lie that you’ve struggled with lately. Maybe you’re struggling with believing that God is going to provide for you in some way. When that lie comes up, if you have nothing to replace it with, it will just stay stuck in your head. Not only that, but I find often we reinforce the lie. “Yeah, God isn’t going to provide for me in this situation, at least not in a timely manner. I always have to do everything myself. He could make this easier, and He isn’t!”

Sound familiar?

What do you think would happen if instead, you said this:
“Wow, God, this is a really tough situation I’m in. But I know that You will meet all my needs according to the riches of Your glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). I also know that the lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing (Ps. 34:10). I am worth more than many small birds (Lk 12:7) and You are a good father who doesn’t give His kids stones when they ask for bread (Mt. 7:9). Lord, I believe; help my unbelief (Mk 9:24).”

And next week, in part 2, I’ll share how learning this above truth has played out in my life.

A couple things to leave you with: read this story of mine where I share the power that labels had on me (it’s 2 parts). Also, read this article about the meditations of our hearts.