Hope for Wholeness Conference, 2015

I just returned from an amazing Hope for Wholeness conference in the Asheville area of North Carolina.

The theme was Masterpiece in Process.

11329870_10206873638541325_639983284837434531_n

I was very excited to reconnect with Bob Hamp, one of my unofficial mentors ūüôā Since it was in the elevator that we first met in 2011, he wanted to recreate the moment. That’s Meleah with the photo bomb.

Maggie, my daughter, spent most of the conference hanging off my back. Since you can only see the very tip of her head in the above picture, here she is, photo-bombing a shot with my friend and comedian, Christina Ringer.

10257455_10153471011563619_3061129393103790690_o

I can even play the guitar with Maggie hanging out back there!

11392925_10206885354154208_8413810404361205404_n

Conferences are my happy place, and this one was no exception. They also remind me that I have a blog ūüôā You can imagine that my life is busy as a mom of 3 and the director of a non-profit ministry. And you’d be right! But I miss writing and am hoping to check in with you more.

Perhaps I’ll even share the video of me rapping at the conference!

Freedom Friday: Jordan River Assignments

Guess who arrived October 8th?

Baby girl at 1 month old

Baby girl at 1 month old

She’s actually 7 weeks old. We’re doing great! She’s a healthy little girl who is most comfortable in her mommy’s arms, so blogging time is extremely limited!

That said, I wanted to share about a moment a couple of¬†weekends ago. I went to speak and exhibit at the district Assemblies of God Women’s Retreat (yes, with a 5 week old – I should have my head examined). I was sharing something with a¬†woman named Michelle at the booth next to me, something I noticed about the story of Joshua stepping into¬†the Jordan River. This story has been such a central theme of recent years, I shared, that my daughter’s middle name is Jordan.

At that moment, a friend¬†joined the conversation. She jokingly referred to my daughter as “Jordan River Simonds.” Michelle¬†misheard my friend as saying, “Jordan River Assignments.” Wow, did that get my wheels turning!

Joshua’s Jordan River Assignment began with camping¬†next to a flooded river for 3 days – a river he knew he needed to cross in order to reach the Promised Land. Many believe that Joshua 1:11 implies this was based on a directive from God. The 2nd part of¬†his assignment was to have the priests step into that flooded river and trust that God would provide a way where there was no way.

While the actual assignment for the Israelites was to cross the Jordan, the heart behind the assignment was a command to trust God and to not be afraid. This is why God’s first directive to Joshua was to be strong and courageous (said here and¬†here).

When facing the Jordan, the Israelites could have easily concluded, based on God’s history of parting bodies of water, “But doesn‚Äôt God want us to walk on dry land?”

They could have determined that the way God behaves = the way He behaved when He parted the Red Sea rather than determining to believe the truth about God: that in the midst of His call to be strong and courageous, He will carry us through whatever He calls us to.

We all have Jordan River Assignments Рthings that seem impossible for us. I wrote about this a few years ago. But God truly is able.

Sometimes God’s assignment for us is to let us camp¬†on the riverbank at flood stage.

Perhaps you are camped on the riverbank of an assignment that seems impossible for you. You feel the spray of every obstacle as it splashes against your face.

God is calling you today to look beyond the overflowing river that is before you and to see the Promised Land. All that stands between you and the fullness of all God has for you is a few Jordan River Assignments.

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 #15: “Destiny Bridge” by Frank Worthen

I finished my 15th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Destiny Bridge by Frank Worthen

This book is the story of Frank Worthen, written in his own words. Frank Worthen is considered one of the founders of the “ex-gay” movement, after living as a gay man for 25 years. This was another book that I read over the course of a weekend.

It’s compelling, disheartening, shocking, and encouraging. Don’t let the back cover of the book dissuade you. I didn’t find it a particularly inviting synopsis of what was going to be described in the book. In fact, if it weren’t for the recommendation of a friend, I might not have read it. But I’m so glad I did!

It’s certainly a compelling story of how a young man was led by his spiritual authority directly into sin. More importantly, it’s a story of a loving, persistent God who spared no expense in calling Frank Worthen back to Himself. It’s a story of a man who, out of his small steps of obedience, impacted thousands of lives in the name of Jesus Christ.

What a great book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic of same-sex attraction.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

 

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #10: Assemblies of God History, Missions, and Governance

It’s been 4 1/2 months since I’ve updated my #EmptyShelf challenge.

Ouch.

It’s not because I haven’t been reading, though admittedly, I’ve been reading a lot less. I am 3 books behind on posting blog updates with two other books I will finish very soon.

In these months, I’ve walked through a very difficult pregnancy, a long-distance move, and getting resettled as a ministry director here in Boston.

So without further delay, book #10:

IMG_7905

Assemblies of God – History, Missions, and Governance (this links to Amazon, but this is not the most updated version of the text. Global University would have that.)

I’m working on finishing up my ministerial credentials with the Assemblies of God. I took 2 classes about a decade ago that were very similar to this one, but it seemed I needed to take this updated class. I wasn’t thrilled about it ūüôā

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and how much I learned. It was a lot of memorization (as there’s a test you take at the end), but the improvements and developments that have occurred in the past decade were worth reading about.

I also had more of a context for a lot of what the book was talking about and the history within the Assemblies of God movement since I have now been attending various AG churches for most of the past 15 years.

This book would certainly be enlightening to anyone with an interest in the development of the Pentecostal movement in the 20th century.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

 

Great Article: “The Pastor’s Wife Who Went Crazy”

This popped up on my Facebook feed this week: The Pastor’s Wife Who Went Crazy

I so appreciate her honesty in sharing her story of mental illness, suicidality, and self-injury. The world needs to hear what she has to say.

While I never really tried to take my life, I frequently toyed with where the line was. How many aspirin could I take and still function? How skinny could I be without dropping dead? How deep could I plunge the razor without doing permanent damage?

In 2008, I “came out” on Focus on the Family’s webzine as a cutter. It was definitely one of the most difficult articles I’ve written.

As I read Heather’s article, I knew I needed to take my confession a step further.

I then shared with my husband several incidents where I experienced what Heather Palacios, the author of the article, describes: epsiodes where it was almost as if I lost all control of myself, where I didn’t even feel as if I was inside my body any longer. I was a animal desperate to harm myself, desperate to numb the emotional pain I felt.

As  a high school student, I hit myself so hard and so many times with a meat tenderizer, I gave myself a horrible black eye. Just imagine the rage that is required to hit yourself over and over with a hammer, and you will get the picture. I lied at school that week, saying I tripped in a dark hall and hit my eye on a doorknob.

A few years later, I got into a fight with my married girlfriend. As I was leaving the house, I took the boot I was putting on and repeatedly hit myself in the eye/forehead with it. I don’t remember feeling pain. When my girlfriend realized what was happening, she ran over and gasped. In my frenzy, I didn’t notice that I had been hitting myself with the sharp corner of the boot’s heel. I was covered in blood.

There were other episodes, some less frenzied, some more calculated. While many of my scars have faded, I will forever wear on my body evidence of one of the last times I self-injured: a “W” carved into my thigh. “W” is for worthless. I was a Christian when I marked myself in that way.

All I can say to close is God is able. Seriously, guys. When I began to allow Him to, He poured His very life into me and birthed a new freedom inside of me. Just because He loves me.

He loves you, too. And He can do the same for you.

So that is my confession. Now go read Heather’s article. It’s important.

The photo was taken from this article at Christianity Today.

Here I am again, at Ridgecrest

This is my 4th time at Ridgecrest Christian Conference Center.

IMG_8602

Exodus International rotated the location for its annual Freedom conferences. Every 3rd year, it was held on the east coast, here at Ridgecrest.

In 2005, I came here to attend my 2nd Exodus conference (my 1st was in California in 2004 – I attended alone). This was my first conference as a leader, as I had been the director of Alive in Christ almost a year at this point. Roy and several others from the ministry attended. Because Jerry Falwell spoke that year, there was tons of media attention, and I spoke on television for the 1st time about my same-sex attraction.

I don’t remember much about the interview, except they showed a close-up of my wedding ring, and I was wearing a purple shirt.

We returned in 2008, this time with a 11-month old Bear in tow (my older son’s nickname). I had the privilege of sharing my testimony from the main stage and teaching a workshop entitled “Learning to Walk in Freedom” (sound familiar?). I think I also participated in the forums on youth ministry.

Back again in 2011, Bear was almost 4, and we now had JJ tagging along at 1 1/2. We stopped at my dad’s on the way. It was there I found out that apart from a miraculous touch from God’s own hand, my father would die from cancer.

I again had the opportunity to speak, telling the women this time about¬†“Learning to Walk in Freedom.” It was an amazing conference.¬†I felt as if Exodus had truly been refined by fire, and the gold was truly shining through (many others agreed).

In 2012, I flew out to Minnesota by myself, having been invited to participate in the conference on various ways. It was the best Exodus conference I had been a part of, even more so than 2011.

At the 2013 Exodus conference (which I did not attend), it was announced that Exodus would close.

Recently, Alive in Christ joined a new network, Hope for Wholeness. I spoke at their conference this past fall, and now here I am, at Ridgecrest once again, to speak and participate in the Hope Rising conference presented by Hope for Wholeness.

We arrived yesterday, a day early, because the drive was long, and I wanted to get everyone settled. I am 5 1/2 months pregnant, and didn’t want to be too tired for the events.

I’m used to arriving when the buzz of activity is already in full swing.¬†I find myself here with mixed emotion.

So much history in these hills.

As I process all the emotions that are represented here at Ridgecrest, I choose to focus on the excitement I feel at what lies ahead. I’m thrilled with the connections I’ve made in the Hope for Wholeness network, and am humbled to be part of this new work.

God is still holy. His Word still reigns and is to be obeyed.

God is still loving and good and just and faithful.

God is still able.

ridgecrest

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 ūüôā

Freedom Friday: Brenna Kate Simonds at Exodus Freedom Conference, on Minnesota Public Radio

I’m at the Exodus Freedom Conference. The theme this year is “Made for More.” As I write this, we’re not even 24 hours in, and I’m already amazed at all God is doing.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Laura Yuen for Minnesota Public Radio.

The interview aired this morning. You can listen to it here, or read the text of the article, which is almost a word-for-word transcript of the story.

I am asked frequently about repression. It seems to be a favorite question for those trying to understand why someone who experiences same-sex attraction would make a daily choice not to act on those feelings.

I think Ethan Martin explained it so succinctly in his Wednesday night testimony (not an exact quote): “Jesus gave up His sexuality for me. He could have been married by age 33, but instead He was dying on a cross.”

This is a theme that has continued to come up at the conference, though I gave my interview prior to the conference start. Sacrifice. Pursuing Jesus above all else. Surrender. Laying down everything for Jesus.

Too often, we focus on what we have to give up and sacrifice to follow Jesus. What about all that we gain?

When I am asked about repression, I try to turn the question around. Jesus gave up everything for me. God spared no expense to restore relationship with me. The things I want to hold on to pale in comparison to what Jesus did and accomplished while hanging from that cross.

It is a privilege to follow Jesus. An absolute honor. Rather than focus on the things I may have had to release to Jesus in order to follow Him, I choose to focus on all the things I’ve gained. Unconditional love, real peace, pure joy, abundant life, and true freedom.

Last week, I mentioned this Freedom Friday would be about owning your choices. I am postponing the writing of that until next week. Thanks for understanding!