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’t 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 – things 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.

Freedom Friday: The God of the 4 Cent Monkey

If you struggle with believing that God cares about the little things, I have a story for you.

A friend gave me a gift card to Babies R Us, so I wanted to buy a couple of things I’m concerned about not having at this point (a month away from my due date), as well as possibly update the baby registry.

We went to the registry desk at Babies R Us to get our free gift for registering since we registered online and had not been in the store yet. While we were sitting there, having the sales woman explain things to us, JJ (my younger son at 4 1/2) spied the stuffed animals. He couldn’t resist picking one out for his baby sister on the way, so we added a monkey to the baby registry (one of his nicknames is Monkey).

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We only registered for 4-5 things because I had trouble finding stuff, and they didn’t have the shirts in stock that we had traveled to the store to buy. So we were planning on leaving without buying anything.

JJ was very sad we weren’t buying the monkey, so I figured I would look at the registry list to see what the cost for the monkey was. It said 0.04. I thought that couldn’t be right, so we went to grab the monkey to price check it at one of those scanners they have around the store.

4 cents.

We brought it up to the register to check one more time. Yep, 4 cents! We paid 4 cents for JJ’s gift to his baby sister.

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JJ, setting up his sister’s bed with the 4 Cent Monkey

Sometimes it’s easy to believe in the God who can hurl mountains into the sea, but not so easy to believe in the God who cares about the small stuff, too.

Sometimes it’s easy to believe that God will provide for your most basic needs (food, shelter, clothing), but it’s more difficult to grasp the abundance of His rich blessings to those who call Him Father.

Maybe there’s an area of your life in which you need to be reminded that God lavishes His love on His children. He is quick to rescue, quick to open His arms, and even quick to give a 4 year old a glimpse of His provision – not because we really needed another stuffed animal, but simply because it was important to JJ.

God gave us a 4 cent monkey so that JJ could give his sister a 4 cent monkey.

Just because He loves us.

Is there something you have been hesitated to ask God for, because it doesn’t seem important enough?

It’s important to God.

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35 weeks pregnant

Monday Morning Meditation: How Does God See Me? (Psalm 25 series)

Another installment of the Psalm 25 series, my patient friends.

This week’s verses (v. 6-7):

Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

One of the main themes of this psalm is guidance. It’s a patient waiting on God to show up. There is no reference in the psalm about the situation to which it was written, as there sometimes is. Just a longing, almost as if in laborious prayer.

Show up, God.

I imagine King David at this point beginning to wonder if he has done something to cause God to delay. Why is God staying away? Is He silent because of my sin? 

Because David committed a lot of serious sin.

Adultery.
Murder.
Pride.
Getting ahead of God.

Remember not all the wrongs I’ve done. My rebellion. My childish mistakes.

How many can relate to this prayer, almost a begging reminder:

God, You are good when I am not.

Lord, let Your love be primary.

Oh, friends, it is!

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8, emphasis mine

His love is primary. It’s the filter through which He sees us. Not in a “When God looks at me, He sees the cross” sort of way. I’ve heard that said before, and I don’t really think it’s an accurate depiction of what happened on Calvary. I believe when God looks at me, He sees me! And because of His desperate love, when He saw humanity, drowning in its sin, He gave.

He loved. A love so deep and tender that it kills its only Son.

How does God see you? He sees you as – well – you. He sees you in your messiness and powerlessness, and reaches down to scoop you up, just as any loving parent would. He’s a God who’s not afraid to get dirty. And He choose to use the cross to begin the process of making us not only clean, but changing us into who He created us uniquely to be!

April, 2011: Scooping up my sweet youngest

He sees you. As you are. And desperately loves you.

Embrace that place today. The place of being beloved and recklessly accepted.

God sees you as you. And in response, He loves.

A resource consulted in writing this post:
Kidner, Derek, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 15 of Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973.

Freedom Friday: Will I Choose to Love?

I first heard the song “Legacy” at a mom’s group I attended.  A member had lost her battle with cancer, and her friends put together a slide show to celebrate her life with all of us.

I wanna leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?

It hit close to home.

I’ve mentioned here in passing that I have a dear loved one battling terminal illness.  A week ago today, he lost his 12-year battle with cancer, but won the race of life and was received into Jesus’ arms.

My dad.

His joyous smile

When my parents divorced, my father was awarded primary custody of me and my older sister.  I was already living with him and continued to do so throughout high school and into college.

Prepping to walk me down the aisle

My father was such a role model to me. What I’ve learned since his death is the impact his life had on so many others.

The comments that have come have been truly astounding. His generosity, humor, fullness of life.  His magnetic presence, his joy, his clear love for his family (including my mom’s 9 brothers and sisters, as my dad was like an older brother to them).

My dad lived a life that impacted far more people than he likely ever realized. He was a role model to many.

I don’t remember hearing him say an unkind word about anyone. He was not one to complain. Even to the end, he alternated telling jokes with displaying his concern for his loved ones.

Did I choose to love?

He wasn’t perfect, of course.  Neither am I.  We certainly had bumps in our relationship.  But I can honestly say that my grief over his passing is not at all complicated by some of the questions that plague many who lose a parent.  I know he loved me and my sister deeply and was overflowing with pride at what our lives had become.

I just wish he didn’t have to leave so soon.

My father never failed to ask a store clerk, “How’s your day going?” with all sincerity.  He even would ask the nurses and doctors this during his long cancer battle, even when the situation was an emergency, or he was in a lot of pain (I witnessed this myself when I accompanied him to the emergency room).

He once shared with my stepmom that some people aspire to greatness in their lives; he aspired to goodness. This is what he instilled into me from a young age.

This is the legacy he chose to leave behind.

There were other things instilled in me from a young age, though not by my father. Venomous things that taught me to emphasize people’s flaws, to expect perfection of myself and others, that taught me not to trust.

Sometimes that venomous voice is so loud I cannot hear anything else. It’s also insidious. I’m only now starting to recognize the hold it still has on my thoughts.

What legacy will I leave?  Will I choose to love?

 

On the days when it’s hard to breathe, the days when I can’t imagine taking another step without my dad around to see, I remember his strength battling cancer, I remember his kindness and huge heart.  I remember his daily choice to love.

Oh, Lord, let that be my legacy…..

 
Dad, thank you for all you taught me, even if it was taught through silence (a skill I need to work on!). While I grieve that you were only here 64 years, I rejoice for the 37 1/2 (exactly to the day) years you spoke into my life. You had an amazing heart, and I can only pray that my life will be a light to many as yours was.  I miss you so much.  But since you are in heaven, give Bunny Boo and Grammy a hug for me, and could you please tell Keith Green I said, “hi”?

Freedom Friday: The Power of Service

My 4 year-old came to me recently and excitedly shared about his prayer life.

He said, “Mommy, when I wake up in the morning, I pray to God that……”

OK. I’m pausing in the story to say I was sure he was going to share he had been praying for a loved one’s health, or the end to world hunger. Actually, no, I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to say any of those things. Let’s get back to the story.

“Mommy, when I wake up in the morning, I pray to God that I would see a ghost!”

After a discussion where he reassured me he knew ghosts aren’t real, I asked if he was praying about anything else.

“That I’d have lots and lots of video games.”

Well. There you have it.

I of course posted on Facebook to ask how to teach gratitude, compassion and social awareness to small kids. I got a lot of reassurances that his behavior is age-appropriate, we’re already doing some good things, and also some concrete suggestions. It brought to mind some of the ways we served when I was a child, the most memorable being at the soup kitchen.

You may be asking, what does this have to do with freedom?

We know that Jesus came to serve. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NLT)

Jesus served by laying down His whole self, both in life and death. How does following His example help us learn to walk in freedom?

1. Service helps us to love.
If you are still deep in the thick of your battle with life-controlling issues, you may think it silly or even inappropriate for you to consider working in service, especially to the church. There are many possibilities and places you could serve, however. Does your church provide coffee and snacks after service? Offer to bake or help with clean-up. What sort of outreaches are happening in your community? Assist at a food pantry.

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:13-14

In a mystery we can’t fully understand, when we serve others we are serving Jesus Himself.

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” Matthew 25:37-40

Service helps us to love. It helps us to love ourselves, to love God and to love others.

2. Service helps us recognize our gifts.
” God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)

I heard a speaker once say that if you don’t know how God is gifted you, or where He’s calling you to serve, just try something. Ask the person in charge of greeting newcomers if you can try it one Sunday. Offer to sit in on a kid’s Sunday school class. Fold bulletins. Find something that seems interesting to you, or where there is a need, and commit to serving there for a period of time. If it’s not a good fit, ask the leadership of that ministry where you have strengths and where else you might consider serving.

3. Service requires God’s strength.
The verse from 1 Peter 4 quoted above continues, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (NIV1984)

Serving requires God’s strength. You won’t always feel like getting out of bed early on a Sunday to set up chairs. Ask God to help you. Service is another way to grow in intimacy with God, as you ask Him not only for His strength, but His grace in empowering you to be a blessing to others.

4. Service gives us perspective.
My favorite answer to my Facebook question was from my friend who lives with her family in Guatemala. How do you teach children empathy and social awareness? She simply wrote, “Move here.”

Service helps us to get our eyes off our own struggles for a moment. It reminds us that the whole world is struggling and suffering in some way. On the other hand, do not fall into the trap of shaming yourself about the time and money you have spent on your recovery. There is a time and a place for that as well. But those problem that seem so big and overwhelming can be put into perspective when we come face to face with the suffering of others.

This past week on Mother’s Day, one of the pastors at church shared about his mother not eating for days to ensure she had enough food to feed her children. Still, the kids often ate once a day. Even in the most trying times, I could likely feed my children for a month with what I have on hand. Imagining opening the cabinets to find nothing for my kids is one of the most heartbreaking things I could imagine.

You might also consider going on a humanitarian missions trip with your church or other outreach, as my friend suggested in her “Move here” comment. Others agreed that nothing gives you perspective like seeing how the truly poor live, or walking through the devastation caused by a natural disaster.

In what way could be serve someone today?

Monday Morning Meditation: Carried in God’s Arms

“Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.” Psalm 68:19 (NLT)

Have you ever tried to carry someone who didn’t want to be carried? All the parents of children just said, “Yes!” Not only does my two year old sometimes run from me when I need him to do something, he melts into a 37 pound, thrashing, screaming mess when I catch up to Him and try to get him into my arms.

Are you trying to carry yourself into this week? Or running in the other direction at its mention?

The above verse tells us that God desires to carry us every day. But we have to let Him.

“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” Isaiah 40:11 (NASB)

A few months ago, the Lord put a thought in my head that I’ve mentioned before: “If the burden is too heavy, then it’s not mine to carry.”

Sometimes, *I* am the burden that I try to carry. I become a burden to myself when I attempt to carry and sustain myself. It was never in God’s design for me to be my own carry-er! That was always meant to be God’s job.

Much of Christendom is celebrating Holy Week for the next seven days, the week we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let Jesus’ words speak to us afresh today:

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Let God carry you today and every day, as we remember how He carried the weight of our sin on His shoulders, so that we might have life and life to the full.

Note to readers: I am currently reading the Life Recovery Bible. The NLT seems to have slight differences there when compared to the NLT at Biblegateway.com.

Freedom Friday: Learning Contentment


Most babies are born content. (Not all. Ask my first!)

My 2nd son was the most peaceful baby I had ever met. He seemed completely unaware of any disruption around him. Sometimes, I’d put him down in his bassinet to do something, and he’d spontaneously fall asleep.

He didn’t have to learn to be content. He didn’t have to study to become that way. He just was.

Unfortunately, as we go through life, we seem to unlearn contentment. Our trust fades. We become jaded. The cares of the world seem overwhelming and burdensome. We take them on ourselves as a burden we think we should be able to carry.

I have this excerpt of Philippians 4 by my desk on my office wall.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

If you would like to see the passage with clickable links to the Greek words, here it is.

After staring at this passage for quite some time one day, I noticed something: Paul said, “I have learned to be content.” It wasn’t something that just came naturally to him.

The Greek word that is translated “content” in verse 11, Autarkes, is not used anywhere else in the Bible. Here are some of its meanings:

sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or processing enough to need no aid or support
independent of external circumstances
contented with one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest

Paul goes on to say that he has “learned the secret” of being hungry or full, having abundance or want. The Greek word used there, Mueo, translated as “learned the secret” is also not used anywhere else in the Bible. It means:

to initiate into the mysteries
to teach fully, instruct
to accustom one to a thing
to give one an intimate acquaintance with a thing

To become instructed in. To become intimately acquainted with. To learn, independent of external circumstances, the mystery of contentment.

How are some ways we can learn to be content, no matter the circumstances?

1. Rest. Stop striving. Stop trying to fix everything. Hand it over to God. And then hand it over again. Let Him give you strength, as the passage recommends.

A month or two ago, God spoke to me and said, “If the burden is too heavy, then it’s not yours to carry.” Stop “should-ing” on yourself, and start resting in God, allowing Him to speak into your life and teach you to be content.

2. Pray. Something I’ve realized is that being content in all circumstances does not mean we don’t pray for our circumstances to change. In fact, earlier in chapter 4 of Philippians, Paul commands, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” It simply means we’re content even if they don’t.

As the Greek implies, contentment is based on the internal, not the external. This is a lesson I’m still learning. It’s Christ in me, strengthening me, working in me, changing me, that is the source of my contentment. And yet we’re commanded to ask & keep on asking, like the persistent widow in Luke 18. I need to find that balance between acceptance and prayerful request.

3. Trust. Learning contentment means we choose to trust God, even if our circumstances don’t change. It means we actively choose to trust that He is good, He is faithful, and He will show up. As Paul says later in chapter 4 to the church in Philippi, “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

In what areas of your life could you use some contentment today? How is God wanting to teach you contentment, and in what areas is God waiting for you to ask for His help?

Freedom Friday, Tools for the Journey: Hope

One or two mornings a week, I get up extra early to try and spend some uninterrupted time with God.

Some days, I read the Bible and pray because I’ve made a habit of it. No fireworks go off, and I don’t hear any specific “words.”

Some days, my time with God literally feels like breath and life and sustenance.

I was still reeling from some challenging events. Earlier that week, I had fought the overwhelming urge to sink into my default setting. Then my uncle, who everyone had been praying would be healed, passed away.

I knew I needed to make some carved-out time with God a priority.

After reading some Scripture, I opened a file on my phone where I keep a list of prayer requests. The first thing I read was this:

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.” Psalm 62:5

Hope. Not in people, things, or a certain outcome to prayers. But a pure hope that is only in God.

I needed to read that.

As I ponder hope, I feel I can’t talk about hope without also talking about hopelessness.

As Russell Willingham said in his book Breaking Free, “Hopelessness is not only a response to traumatic losses; it can also become a habit-forming coping mechanism.” Hopelessness, despair, depression are all part of my default setting.

As I wrote about a few months ago in a post on hopelessness, “If God is real, if He is who the Bible says He is, then hopelessness is not an option. If His promises are true, if He doesn’t change, and never lies, then we have to reverse the pattern in our lives of getting sucked into hopelessness.”

A couple of things to remember about hope:

1. Hope is a choice.
I read recently Christians need to be self-leaders in the area of hope. I agree. Hope is a choice, just like trust is a choice.

For most of my life, I based my hope solely on my experience of life. I was used to looking for hope in the things around me, clinging to my circumstances or glimmers of hope I saw in people. When I became a Christian, I needed to learn an entirely different way of living.

During this time, I clung to all Scriptures about hope. I read them, I breathed them in, I memorized them and quoted them to myself frequently.

Romans 8:24 was one of my favorites: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?”

I needed to learn to stop hoping in what I could see with my limited vision and perspective, and starting seeing with God’s eyes.

Hope is a continuous choice for me. When I felt myself slowly sinking into that default setting earlier this week, I had to make a conscious choice to head in the other direction. I had to decide to choose God, to choose His breath and His life within me.

I had choose to hope in Him.

2. Hope can’t be conditional.
If my experiences tell me that it is pointless to trust God, useless to put my hope in Him, that I’ve tried that before and it didn’t work, maybe the problem is not God. Maybe the problem is my perspective. Maybe the problem is that my hope, my trust, is conditional.

My hope in God cannot be reliant on Him answering my prayers in a certain way. I’ll be honest. When my uncle died earlier this week, in addition to grief & loss, I felt frustrated, disappointed, and confused. So many people were praying, and even fasting, for his healing. Why hadn’t God answered those prayers?

Rather than doubt God, doubt His goodness and His faithfulness, I chose hope. And God opened my eyes to His perspective.

On the day my uncle died, I was getting my boys down for a nap in the afternoon, as I always do. I usually ask Bear, my 4 year-old, what he is thankful for and what he’d like to pray for before we go to sleep at night. We don’t usually pray before nap, but we did that day. Bear prayed for the first time ever, using his own words. “God, I please pray that Uncle Greg would feel better.” I found out that evening that Uncle Greg died just minutes later. I can only believe that God answered that prayer and that Uncle Greg now feels better for eternity.

3. Hope can be learned.
If hopelessness is part of your default setting, it is possible to change that. We can learn to hope.

Dive deep into hope. Ask a believer what hope looks like for them. Ask a friend to pray for you, hold out hope for you. Memorize Scriptures about hope. Read stories in the Bible about people who chose to hope in God and what that looked like. When you find yourself sinking, speak truth to yourself. Say out loud some of those hope Scriptures you have memorized.

“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:5

Pure hope is a belief, a trust only in God, that His will be done.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.” Psalm 62:5

Please pray for my uncle’s family. He left behind a wife, 2 daughters, 9 siblings including a twin sister, his parents, 20+ nieces and nephews, as well as many other friends & family who love him and are deeply feeling this loss. Thank you.

Freedom Friday: Practicing Gratitude

Last week, my husband & I went to see a documentary on modern-day sex slavery.

It opened my eyes to the challenges, economic, political, emotional and spiritual, of addressing this type of slavery. My heart both broke and soared at the victories and obstacles in the real-life stories of women who are trying to come out of prostitution.

Yesterday morning, I read the blog post of a woman named Sarah Lenssen. She started the Ask5for5 campaign in an effort to help families suffering from famine in the Horn of Africa. Two of her children were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought that is causing millions to go hungry.

Sarah brought tears to my eyes when she said:

If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother’s hungry child?

I have NEVER once opened my cabinets and found nothing to eat for my children. Never. In fact, my cabinets literally overflow with food. Roy & I will adopt a child at some point (we are homestudy-ready and waiting). Is our child (or children) out there going hungry right now? I wept and prayed at the mere thought.

After reading this, I headed to a moms group I attend. A member of this group died of cancer on Tuesday. She was 36, married, with 2 daughters, age 5 & 12.

I didn’t know her, as I joined this group a year ago when she was already in intense treatment. But I’ve been praying for her. Yesterday as the moms group gathered, there was much pensiveness, gratitude, and grief.

It all makes me thankful for every breath. We’re not promised another.

I have been praying for many sick relatives and loved ones this week, people facing unfathomable challenges. On Monday, I happened to pick up a little book off my shelf that was recommended by a relative. This book talks about the importance of giving thanks in all circumstances. I can’t say I completely agree with some of the author’s theological conclusions, but his thoughts encouraged me to search the Scriptures for myself.

Upon study, I found the Bible implores us over 60 times to “give thanks”, as translated in the NASB. Over 60 times, God commands we give thanks!

Here are a few examples:
1 Chronicles 16:34
O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Psalm 7:17
I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Psalm 9:1
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.

Psalm 54:6
Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good.

Psalm 100:4
Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

Psalm 109:30
With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD; And in the midst of many I will praise Him.

Psalm 139:14
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

I think Paul summed it up when he said the following:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Give thanks in everything? Really? I should give thanks when I get sick? When my car breaks down? When my bank account is empty?

The answer is YES.

I gave this a try today when I suddenly had a bad headache. It was time to get my younger son down for a nap, and he was not giving up without a fight!

The best I could come up with was this: “God, thanks that I have a head. If I didn’t have a head, I wouldn’t have this headache right now. I’m really thankful I have a head.”

I know, I know, kind of pitiful. But that’s a start!

Honestly, I have a good life. It’s hard at times, but I have SO much to be thankful for.

Gratitude flows naturally when I compare my present circumstances to the challenges others are facing. Gratitude causes us to get our eyes off ourselves for a minute. It challenges us to look at the bigger picture, to ask for God’s perspective, to get a glimpse of His tender heart for us and others.

It’s God’s will that we give thanks in everything.

What are you grateful for today? What can you praise God for? What difficult circumstance can you thank Him for?

Today, I’m thankful for breath. I’m thankful for my boys, who keep “interrupting” me as I try to write this. I think I’ll end with that and go hang out with them!

Aren’t they sweet?

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” Psalm 28:7

Freedom Friday: You Are God’s Favorite, Part 1

I tell my kids all the time that they are my favorite.

One is my favorite Bear, the other is my favorite toddler. One is my favorite 4 year-old, and the other is my favorite fuzzy head.

Or I just say it plain, “You are my favorite!!”

Because they both are.

I love the way they talk, the things the say, even the ways they get sassy with me. I like the sounds they make (for the most part!), the silly games they make up & play, and the way they walk. I love seeing how they play at the park, taking them to the library, watching the toys they gravitate toward, and the shows they like to watch.

I love to tell them: “You are my favorite!”

Later they may ask, “How can we both be your favorite? Doesn’t ‘favorite’ imply that there can only be one?”

What a great question!

A long time ago, I wrote a teaching entitled, “You Are God’s Favorite: Living in the Reality of God’s Fierce Tenderness”. I thought this was a great time, given the recent posts about being God’s child, to pull out that teaching and re-visit it for this blog.

1 John 3:1 says “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

John, the writer of the above, was one of the 3 disciples closest to Jesus, one of His intimate friends. As I share in the post, “Is Having One Best Friend Biblical?“, Jesus did not have a single best friend; He had 3 intimate friends. John was one of these 3.

From what we know, John didn’t begin writing about his experiences with Jesus until very late in his life, as historians believe he wrote his gospel and letters over 50 years after Jesus died.

The Gospel of John was written with perspective. He had decades of reflecting on Jesus, His time on earth, and what the Christian walk was about. I believe it was because of this perspective that in his gospel, John referred to himself as “The Disciple whom Jesus Loved”.

“One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved” by Ary Scheffer

Some people feel that this is just a prideful statement for John to make. Really? You are the disciple whom Jesus loved?

I don’t hear it that way at all.

John was intimately familiar with the special place that Jesus had in His heart for all believers. John was the disciple who had literally rested his head against God’s heart at the Last Supper when he leaned on Jesus’s chest. Thus, John did not define himself solely as a disciple, or an apostle, an evangelist, or a writer of truths about Jesus – he didn’t even call Himself by name in the above mentioned passage (a very important thing during that time).

Instead, he based his entire identity on the fact that he was loved by God.

I’m sometimes asked to define myself with labels. I am Brenna, I simply respond.

I used to call myself a lesbian-identified bisexual. It was important to me that people got that label right.

I also called myself anorexic, or that I “have an eating disorder”, though the eating disorder I actually had, ED-NOS, did not exist at the time.

When I was in a relationship with a married woman, it was very important to me (and her) that I be referred to as “her wife”.

Now people want to know: are you gay? Bisexual? Straight? Post-gay? Ex-gay? Do you have an eating disorder? Are you fully recovered or still in recovery?

I’m with Paul when he says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

All the former labels that were so important to me no longer matter.

I solely define myself as a Child of God.

That’s the core of what I’m saying today – our position is the same as John’s. If we are followers of Jesus, we are the beloved (favorites) of God.

If we lived out of that truth, that we are truly God’s favorite, our lives would be changed forever.

The question I want to leave you with today is this: do you treat yourself as if you are a cherished, precious possession of an all-powerful, all-loving God?

Do you live in and walk out that truth?

Come back next week to hear more 🙂

You Are God’s Favorite, Part 2