Freedom Friday: I Am Not The Same

Today, Friday, is one of the very rare mornings where somehow I was awake before my beautiful 1 year-old baby girl. I snuck out of bed, searched for the baby monitor, and settled into my comfy chair to read some psalms.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.


There is something about this familiar passage that is so life-giving. The song with these lyrics sings in my ears as I read – a song I learned in those early days of walking with Jesus.

My soul exhales.


I prepared a teaching on Philippians 4 for the ministry this week. I wanted to share all my wisdom about how God’s Word would have us approach anxiety.

And wouldn’t you know it. I spent the 10 days leading up to the teaching, feeling more anxious than I have in a long, long time.

Times like these – I start to question myself. Why do I do this? I think. Who am I to say that Jesus changes lives? I’m as anxious as I’ve ever been.

There is something so familiar about these thoughts. Comfortable, almost. They are words I have heard in my thoughts for years. A voice of hopelessness.

In those low moments, I am unable to recognize those words for what they are, or whose they are: whispers of Satan.

This morning, I got down on my knees after reading a few psalms and repeated back to God:

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

I spent thousands of days elsewhere. I dwelt in the tents of the wicked. As I pondered these words, my soul exhaled again as God spoke to me:

You are not the same Brenna that you once were. Do not give in to the lies. I have changed you and will keep changed you.

I am not the same.

Fall in a park

The leaves are changing color here in New England. They have no control over it, but are submitted to a more powerful force.
The same is true of us. If you are a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit in you is changing you day by day as you surrender your life to whatever He has for you. You may have some of the same struggles, face some of the same fears, but you are not the same.

If the anxiety returns today, so be it. Rather than wonder how long it will last, I will walk out the truths from Philippians 4 that I shared on this week:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Don’t let the devil whisper into your ear. Listen to God. Pray, and sink deep into God’s peace.

Freedom Friday: What is Abundant Life?

Today, we are continuing the Jesus series as part of Freedom Friday.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

What is abundant life?  What exactly did Jesus come to give us?

Abundant life is not free of pain or trials or heartache. Instead, it’s full of perspective.


How do you view your life? How do you view the challenges that you face?

As I began typing this, I immediately thought of Wosne.  I read her story recently in this blog post.  When her husband and the father of her 4 children died suddenly, she had no way to support herself or her family.  She wished God would end her life.

Let’s stop at that point in the story.

I have never been in this woman’s shoes, not even remotely, though I’ve certainly had situations where I wished God would just come and take me home.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy……

But God had other plans.

Two of her children were able to get sponsors through World Vision.  She was able to buy chickens and make a living by selling the eggs.  She bought more chickens, and then a cow, selling its milk. She eventually was able to purchase a modest four-room house for herself and her children: dirt walls with a tin roof.

The post describes Wosne this way:

The day we met Wosne she was radiant. Her children encircled her and quietly sat as we spoke through an interpreter. She shared her story of hardship yet beamed as she recounted God’s provision for her family. 

She had become so prosperous, in fact, she had adopted two other children in the village. She even had a couple of pieces of used furniture and electricity—a single bulb hanging from the ceiling. 

By our standards, she was still living in abject poverty. By the standards of her village, however, she was one of its wealthiest citizens.

A typical Ethiopian village

She was asked:

“Wosne, if you could have anything else, what would it be? How can we help you?” Her answer stunned us. 

“Nothing,” she declared. “Nothing at all. I have everything I need. I am the happiest woman in the world.” And she meant it.


When I started writing this post a month or so ago, I thought I’d write that abundant life is bountiful joy and overflowing peace and lavish love.  And it does bring all those things, if we keep a godly perspective.

Following Jesus is so much about how we choose to look at things.  Do we choose to look at our lives through His eyes, through the truth of His Word?

What frames your perspective?

There are many, many posts here about the way we think.  Here are a few to help you flesh out what I’m saying.

Think Like a Free Person, part 1 & part 2
Resources for the Journey

Monday Morning Meditation: Overflowing Hope

Could you use a dose of hope today?
I could.
Romans 15:13 is a challenging and inspiring verse on hope:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The progression of this verse has been really encouraging to me lately, so I thought I’d share it with you this morning. Let’s read it bit by bit.
“May the God of hope…”
Notice first this is phrased almost as a prayer. “May the God of hope..” This is one of many almost-prayers in the book of Romans, and even in this chapter. Paul seems to be praying this verse for the readers of the letter.
Second, notice that God is called the “God of hope.” This Greek word, translated “hope”, appears 8 times in the book of Romans, and 48 times total in the New Testament. In Romans 5, Paul says that “hope does not disappoint,” and this particular hope is brought about by the character building that comes through suffering and trials.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him….”
I consider this bolded portion to be the heart of the verse: as you trust in Him.
The joy & peace come as we choose to trust…. and choose to trust again…. and choose to trust again.
I just talked about this in Freedom Friday a few weeks ago. Choosing to trust God has been such a big part of my journey, as I did not truly trust God for much of my Christian walk. My trust of God depended on my circumstances, my perceptions of what He was doing, and my speculations concerning His character.
A turning point came when God asked me to trust Him, and I realized that while I believed I was trusting Him, my actions and thoughts showed otherwise. At that moment, I realized trust is a choice. It cannot be dependent on what I see or how I experience life. It needs to depend solely on His character.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
By the power of the Holy Spirit (the same power that was exerted to raise Christ from the dead, according to Ephesians 1:19-20), overflowing hope is possible as we choose to trust.
I challenge you to choose hope this week. Choose to trust in the God who made you. Believe that overflowing hope is possible. Because He cares for you.

The Bible verses above are quoted from the NIV1984 translation.

Freedom Friday: Battling Fear

I’m battling fear today.
There are several scary situations I’m facing right now. My fears are random and widespread. Most are founded; some are unfounded.
For most of my life, fear dictated my choices and what I did & didn’t do. Fear of rejection & abandonment. Fear that I wasn’t good enough and would never be. Fear that I wasn’t lovable. Fear that I would not have the strength to make it through the challenges I was facing.
Fear paralyzed me.
Fear could easily rule my life, if I allowed it to. Today is a good reminder of that.

My husband told me I needed to write Freedom Friday about fear. So here I am, writing these reminders mostly to myself. I hope they are helpful to you as well.
Once you recognize that fear is affecting you, here are some ways to address it.
1. Name your fears.
Write down what you are afraid of, and, if you can pinpoint it, why you battle those fears. I blogged before about fear of the unknown. It goes hand in hand with fear of discomfort, fear of new suffering. A common one I’ve been addressing lately is fear of failure; another is fear of success. I actually believe they go hand in hand. Fear of failure is often rooted in self-image issues. Not only are we afraid we are worthless, we are also afraid we are full of worth. We are afraid to shine, to walk in freedom, to live out our amazing.
Name your fears. Don’t be shy. Journal about them or just speak them out to God in prayer. Lay them at the cross, and then….
2. Address your fears with Scripture.
Fear can have an enormously crippling effect on our journey toward living in the fullness of all God created us to be.
Fear is not something to be ashamed of. People make mistakes. It’s part of being human. Jesus knew we’d be afraid. God knew fear was a part of life; that’s why He continually reminds us in His Word to not fear, but rather rely on His strength and trust in Him.
Search the Word for Scriptures about not being afraid. Find God’s direction about walking in His strength, about having courage and finding hope. Read them aloud and ask God to make the words come alive, that they would ring true in your heart & life. Remember that God is a God of peace:

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

3. Choose to trust.
Give your fears to God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose to trust God when Nebuchadnezzar was going to throw them into the fiery furnace. Their response is so challenging to me: “We do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Even if He doesn’t?
I blog a lot about trust. In one of my first posts, I shared about how I trusted God with the child who was growing inside me, and yet, that child died.
Even if He doesn’t.
Trusting God is not about “believing for” a sunny outcome. It’s a choice to trust that God’s perspective is far above mine, that He is good, that He is faithful, no matter what occurs.
4. Do it afraid.
Joyce Meyer says when we are too afraid to do something, we should “do it afraid.”
As I wrote this blog post, I thought of a story Steve Arterburn shared on his radio program, New Life Live. Early on in his career, he came up with what he thought was a fantastic idea for a conference. He felt God was in it. He booked a hotel, a ballroom, advertised, and waited. The event day came, and the turnout was pitifully small. By all perspectives, he had failed.
Then he had another idea for a conference. A rather strange idea coming from him, as it would be an all women’s conference. While he could have chosen to be paralyzed by fear because of his past failure, he rather decided to move forward, full-throttle. It would be called “Women of Faith.
I imagine most of you have heard of it.
I read over on their site today that 388,000 women made first-time decisions to follow Jesus at a Women of Faith event. What would have happened if Steve Arterburn had let fear dictate his choices?
Do it afraid. Michael Hyatt says, “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear.” So I trudge forward; I do it afraid.
As I wrapped up the typing of this, God reminded me of His goodness. If He is really good, who am I to fear? If He is able to speak the world into existence, is anything too much for Him to handle?
What fears are you facing today? How can you, with God’s help and sustenance, press through them to go to the next level?
A note to readers: if you follow my Facebook page, you know that I will be starting a new blog series, in addition to Freedom Fridays, called Monday Morning Meditation. Look for it on Monday! And if you don’t follow me on Facebook, do consider it. I often post speaking engagements and other news there. You can also find me on Twitter.

Freedom Friday: When God Calls For Silence

I had a conversation with a friend a month or so ago. It brought this thought to mind:
Maybe sometimes we need to be muted.I guess God was preparing me.
It’s a quiet time here. A thoughtful time. A prayerful place.God has called for silence.
I’m always sharing that healing happens in the context of community. This is still true. There’s certainly something very important about sharing life and struggles with others.

There is also a place for silence and solitude.

“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” Mark 1:35

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16

I have a deep sense of reverence these days. That I just want to get down on my knees and stay there. I did just that for a while today.

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

This verse has been the pulse of my heart for this current season and prior.

Quietly, in other Bible translations of the above verse, is also translated “silent” or “still”, so I wanted to see what light the Hebrew word had to add to the passage.

Other possible meanings are:
to be struck dumb
to be silenced, be made silent, destroyed
to make quiet
to rest
to be still, die

Let me tell you – there is certainly a dying involved in the call to silence.

I’m a talker. In fact, I’m a loud talker. I’m also a loud laugher. People will often say to me, “Brenna, I knew you arrived because I heard you laugh.” Ask any of my good friends. They have likely said this to me.Silent? Reserved? Uh, not so much. Struck dumb? Never.Yet God is calling me to silent spaces.

There is a tearing apart, a preparation, a refining of sorts. An awe of the jealousy of God’s heart, that there are times when He asks me to pause, to be still before Him. To go straight to Him before anyone else.

A call to silence. A drawing into His heart.

Have you experienced this? What did you learn in that time?

Here’s a bit of what I’m learning in my process.

When God calls for silence
1. Pray
If we look at Jesus’ example, this seems obvious. But not necessarily natural. When God asks me to be quiet, my natural tendency is to pout! A call to silence is a call to prayer. It’s a call to seek. It’s a call to rest and trust. And ask. It’s not necessarily a call to ask for specific things you want for yourself (a new job, a new car, or a specific outcome), but rather a call to ask for openness, general direction and sovereign guidance.

2. Fast
I really wanted to leave this one out. Really. I paused. And then I added it.Fasting seems big and scary and – well – so pre-21st century.That’s exactly why you need to do it.In the Old Testament, fasting was often tied with repenting or seeking the Lord. Jesus talked in Matthew 6:16-17 about “when you fast”. Fasting is mentioned in the book of Acts as well.Fasting can mean a lot of things. It could mean skipping one meal for a time of prayer, or skipping a week’s worth of meals for a time of prayer. It could be a Daniel fast (traditionally 21 days of a vegetarian diet). It could mean giving up sweets or coffee for a week.

It doesn’t have to be about food. You can fast from TV, movies, or Facebook. The time that would normally be spent in food prep, eating, or sitting at a computer is now used for prayer and seeking the Lord.

Isaiah 58 is an excellent explanation of why & how to fast.

3. Wait.
Waiting is about slowing down. It’s about pausing. It’s a reminder that there’s more to life than jumping from one activity to the next. It can also be a place of preparation.

Oh, how I used to hate waiting.

I don’t love it now, but I’ve learned to, as David talks about in Psalm 5, wait in expectation. Waiting is not passive. But I believe the call for silence is more for a waiting as described in Psalm 130:

“My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

We watch and wait. Watch for the first sunshine of morning, or hope, to peer into our silence. We are being prepared.

4. Listen.
Something I said in that conversation back in December about being muted was this: maybe those times when we feel most alone, or during the calls to silence, are really the times when God wants us to reach out to Him. He wants to be heard by us. What a powerful thought.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Jesus in John 10:27

“I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me.” Psalm 16:7

God’s voice often comes through His Word, or a sense in our spirit. Sometimes it’s just a gentle prompting in our hearts.
Ask for ears to hear. Wait, and listen.

5. Obey.
What you do hear, even what you think you hear, obey. Take a step. Pray about it first. Fast about it. Remember that God will not ask you to do something that goes against His Word. Ask 2-3 others to pray if it’s a particularly radical step. (Despite the call to silence, I do believe that asking for assistance and confirmation through the prayers of a few trusted friends is wise.) God will not punish you for trying to obey what you think is His prompting, even if you sometimes make a mistake.

6. Rejoice.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Enjoy the process. Honestly, this call to silence is not a happy place for me. Neither is it exactly sad. It’s sort of a heavy place, a solemn, holy pause. At the same time, if I stop and wait, I can occasionally feel a little firework of joy going off in my heart. Since joy is often a choice, I will not choose sackcloth for this call to silence. I will choose to rejoice.If God is calling you to silence, there is much to learn and experience in this process.

Pray. Fast, Wait. Listen. Obey. And rejoice.