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.

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #16: “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand

I finished my 16th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who later enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces and served as a bombardier. In 1943, he and his crews’ plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, killing eight of the eleven men aboard. One of the crash survivors died after over a month at sea, but Louis and his friend Phil survived for 47 days, only to then be taken as prisoners of war in Japan.

I read this 400-page book in just over 2 days. It certainly helps that I’m on maternity leave 🙂 But the story is so compelling that it was difficult to put down. It is also excruciatingly painful to read. The abuse that Zamperini endured in the various POW camps was astounding. Story after story of injustice and suffering as Hillenbrand, the author, recounts Zamperini’s two long years in captivity. Even after the war ended and he was freed, he endured nightmares and fears that drove him to use alcohol to cope.

This book certainly put my problems in perspective, and challenged me as I considered all that one man can endure and still come through, forgiving.

The story does have a happy ending 🙂 But you will have to read it to find out! I got this book through Paperback Swap (of course!), but I’m sure it’s available at the library.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

Freedom Friday: Light & Momentary

As I write this, I am still pregnant.

I was supposed to have a September baby, but here we are, creeping into October. I wrestle with the odds stacked against me in having the birth I want. I went to bed last night, thinking about all the challenges. I won’t list them, but they are many.


40 weeks pregnant

I woke up quite early today, before the sun came up. I lit a candle because I didn’t feel like turning on a light. I wanted to see the sun come up. I prayed, centering myself around God’s truth found in His Word. I got on my knees to pray (no small feat these days!). And the following verses came to mind:

“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.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This is one of my earliest memory verses. When Jesus called me by name, I faced some difficult obstacles. I wrestled deeply with depression and anxiety. My default setting sent me into despair and hopelessness on a regular basis. I memorized a number of Scriptures to help continually turn my heart and my mind back to Jesus, what He had done for me, and the truth that He would continue to work in my life.

These particular verses were so much a part of my every day that Roy, my then boyfriend, and I would say to each other at trying moments, “Light & momentary, babe. Light & momentary.”

Whatever challenges you are facing today might feel monstrous. They seem insurmountable. But in God’s perspective, they are light & momentary.

Let that soak in for a second. Think about how much of your brain space those worries are consuming. Now think of something you have to deal with today that is light & momentary. Can you change your thinking to also view your challenges the way you’d consider what sandwich to pick for lunch?

The apostle Paul goes on to talk about how our souls groan to be in our heavenly dwelling, “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” But we are not there yet. And so how  do we keep this perspective? In this “meantime” in which we live, how do we remind ourselves that the trials we face are light & momentary?

We fix our eyes on what is unseen.

We have a tendency to stare deeply into our struggles, as if by analyzing them over and over, we will find answers. Psalm 25:15 says, “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.” Notice it doesn’t say, “My eyes are ever on the snare, because only then can I figure out what to do.” That would be fixing our eyes on what is seen. That’s the opposite of what we are to do. Paul says, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight” 2 Corinthians 5:6-7.

We walk and live in light of faith and what we know to be true, based on what God has spoken through His Word, rather than what we see. Our perspective is so limited. And we all have a filter through which we view life that is often damaged by our past experiences. We have to continually refocus our gaze onto the things of God.

So when those trials threaten to consume you, keep turning them over to God, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7. Fix your eyes on the One who is able to lead you out of those trials instead. Do this over and over. It takes practice and perseverance to make this a habit, to change that default setting.

God is able.

Lord, today, the obstacles I see threaten to overwhelm me. But instead of staring at them, I choose to adjust my gaze. I choose to look deeply into Your Truth rather than the apparent “truth” of my circumstances. I choose to remind myself of the “light & momentary”-ness of what I am facing, and ponder instead the great work You are doing in me as I take my eyes off the snare. Thank You that You are able when I am not. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there were many more.

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

I imagine that pretty much covers everyone 🙂

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:


Empty Shelf Challenge Book #11: “Thin Places” by Mary DeMuth

I finished my 11th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Thin Places: A Memoir by Mary DeMuth

I began interacting with Mary after a conference I attended and spoke at several years back. She was one of the featured speakers. I’m not exactly sure what prompted my contacting her, other than she has a fresh and unique way of talking about challenging issue like her experience of childhood sexual abuse.

I read one of her novels in 2013 (hence, it’s lack of mention in the #EmptyShelf challenge!). I then started her new book, Not Marked. It hits a bit too close to home, and I was having trouble finishing it (because it’s amazing and challenging and convicting), and took a break to read something else. Since I’ve been slowly collecting her book through Paperback Swap, I already had Thin Places: A Memoir.

I decided to bring it with me for my wait at the RMV 🙂

Mary has a talent for drawing the reader in, and thus, I read this book in a few days. I expected Mary’s writing to be more focused on the abuse she endured, and while she does talk about that, she does a masterful job of truly weaving life in and out of the pages. She also has a gift for seeing where God is and where He was throughout all the triumphs and trials.

This book will encourage you no matter what, but especially if you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Mary’s work is a joy to read, and she’s a joy to know, even if it’s just through the internet 🙂

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:


Freedom Friday: Straining Toward Freedom

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The above verse caught my eye in church on Sunday (Philippians 3:13-14). “Straining toward what is ahead,” it says. Not strolling into it or waiting around for it to happen – but straining. I looked it up in the Greek, and it means exactly what it says:

to reach out towards, to stretch out further, to strain for

Sprinter Crossing the Finish Line

No one ever wins a race by taking it easy. It takes training, it takes effort, and it takes straining.

Yet this does not make us happy. We, like the Israelites, look back longingly at Egypt when things seemed easier. We don’t want to stretch ourselves to reach towards what God has for us. We’d rather it be handed to us.

Why do we expect freedom to come easily? According to our nature inherited from Adam, sin is what comes naturally to us. Even with the Holy Spirit living in us, guiding us into all truth, we need to learn to walk in the fullness of the freedom Jesus died to give us (written about in Freedom Step 5 of my book).

Though believers are no longer slaves to sin, we can continue to allow sin to enslave us. Whatever inclination we choose to obey will become our master (Romans 6:16).

This is why we, like the Israelites, must forget what is behind in order to walk in the fullness of the Promised Land God has for us.

This verse has been used by some to “prove” we are not meant to process and heal from our past. That’s not what Paul is saying here. One of the ways we shake off those things that hinder us is by allowing God into those places of wounding so He can set us free.

What Paul communicates here is that we are to press forward (“endeavor earnestly to acquire,” the Greek says) in order “to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (v.12).

“Life is not simply a pensive look back to the known, but a daring leap forward to the unknown.” Mary DeMuth

There are times for rest, and times for war. There are times for waiting, and times for straining.

What is God calling you to strain toward in this season?

Worshipful Wednesday: Can’t Get Enough of You

For much of my life, I was paralyzed by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of loss. Fear of the walls that I’d so carefully constructed falling down around me.

Fear of trusting God and having Him disappoint me, too.

Though I had worked through some of this, I carried much of this fear into my marriage. I would at times ask my husband not to go out without me, such as an occassion where he was going to hear music with friends. I was totally gripped by a fear that something would happen to him while he was gone. This, thankfully, happened very infrequently, but when it did, it was as real and oppressive as anything I could remember experiencing.

In 2004, my husband and I were involved in an amazing church plant. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It really felt like this was how the church was supposed to be: real, welcoming, warm, convicting – just full of Jesus. I was the worship leader, and personally, I felt as if I was finally walking in the fullness of my calling: to use my songs to glorify God and to lead people to Him. I signed up to attend a local worship conference with Andy Park, Rita Springer, and some other well-known leaders.

Just weeks before I was scheduled to attend this conference, the church plant closed when the pastor chose sinful behavior (a sin that he had struggled with for years but had had several years of victory over) above his calling.

I went forward with my plan to attend the conference, though I had no idea why. It felt as if all my dreams had come crashing down, once again.

The conference was amazing, but on the morning of the last day, that dark voice began to beckon: You need to leave. Something awful is going to happen. You need to go home NOW or something will happen to Roy.

I called Roy, sobbing in my car, telling him I needed to come home RIGHT NOW. It didn’t matter that there were only a few hours left in the conference (something Roy pointed out). I replied, “Right! There’s only a few hours left! I might as well just leave, so nothing horrible happens! It won’t hurt to miss a few hours!”

Thank God for my patient husband. He talked me down, and we hung up. And as I remember the story, I sat in my car, crying out to God, weeping, so desperate for Him to show up.

And at that moment, this song, Can’t Get Enough of You, flowed out of me. It begins:

I come to You in desperation

On our last Sunday at our beloved church in Virginia, I was asked to lead worship, as our regular worship leader was out of town. I lead the congregation in this song, Can’t Get Enough of You, for many reasons. For one, I have lead worship numerous times at the church, and it is a team and a congregational favorite. And I sang it for myself because of the special place it holds in my heart: in times of desperation, in places where I am stepping out in faith, the song reminds me of God’s faithfulness. I needed to be continually reminded, is times of ease and trials, of Jesus’ wordsApart from Me, you can do nothing.

My husband captured this video on his iPhone. The lyrics are below, as well as a link to the chords.

Can’t Get Enough of You
By Brenna Kate

I come to You in desperation
I wait for You with expectation

I wouldn’t want to take even one single breath without You
I don’t want to make even one little step without You

Without Your touch, without Your breath, My life is meaningless
I need Your power, I need Your love, I just can’t get enough

I just can’t get enough of You, more of You
Lord, You’re the one thing I desire
I can’t get enough of You, more of You
I need Your passion and Your fire

God, take me in Your arms and fill me with Your love
My heart wants more and more, I just can’t get enough

© 2005 Unveiled Faces Music

Here’s the chord sheet: Can’t Get Enough of You in C#m. I wrote the song in B minor, but it seems to be easier for the congregation to sing in C#m.

I also want to mention that this was the last time I had one of those dark episodes. God is able.

Freedom Friday: Go and Take Hold

Has anyone ever given you a gift that you refused to open?

Maybe it was in a box with entirely too much tape on it (can you tell we’re in the process of moving – again?). Full of anticipation, you began the process of tearing the tape off piece by piece, trying to figure out which piece was on top and which one to remove first. The excitement wore off when you realized the work ahead of you, and you put it aside for another day.

Perhaps you had an idea of what was in the box, a glimpse of the gift you would receive. While the idea of the gift was enticing, you weren’t sure it was any better than what you already had. And you could see the obstacles that stood in the way of what you were given. They seemed insurmountable.

I’ve been reading through the story of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Having finished up about 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, I’ve reached the point of the story where Moses shares his final admonishments for the people he has been leading for 40 years.

In my reading this morning, I came upon this gem:

“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it” (Deuteronomy 1:21a).

Isn’t this just so like God? Later in the story, when Joshua is staring at the walled city of Jericho, it was so closed up that no one was even coming or going. And yet, what was God’s perspective? God basically tells them,“See I have delivered Jericho into your hands – now go and take it” (a summary of Joshua 6:2-5).

How did God direct the Israelites to enter the Promised Land? How does God ask the same of us?

First, God asks us to see. Not with our own limited perspective, but with His. If He has said He will do it, then He will do it.

During the time referred to in Moses’ recounting, the Israelites sent spies in to scout out the land. All the spies reported that the land God would give them was indeed good land, even bringing back some fruit. They also reported that the people were stronger and taller than them, and the cities large and walled. Rather than focus on what God asked them to see, they fixated on what they saw with their eyes. God wanted the Israelites to first see with His perspective.

Second, God asks us to trust. God had promised a land flowing with milk and honey to the Israelites, a land He promised that He would bring them into. The Israelites simply needed to take God at His Word. God was in essence saying, “I said I would do this. Remember how I drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea? Remember how I provided food and water for you throughout your journey? Remember how I traveled with you by fire and cloud? I am with you, and I will continue to be with you as you choose to trust in me.” When what they saw didn’t make sense, God asked them to fix their sight on His promises and not the fear in their hearts.

Third, God asks us to go and take hold. After deciding to see things through God’s eyes, after choosing to trust in God, God then asks us to take a step of faith, go, and take hold of all that He has for us. The Israelites chose not to do this with disastrous consequences. Only Caleb and Joshua got to walk in the fullness of God’s promises.

As believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, God has given us so much. In fact, He “has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Peter goes on to talk about God’s “very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.”

In typical God fashion, though, this too is something we need to go and take hold of. “For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”

Paul knew this intimately when he wrote the following to the church in Philippi: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already ready been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Is there a promise from God that you have not yet received? First, see with His eyes. Second, trust in His promises. Third, go and take hold.

“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 1:21

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #3: “Choosing to See” by Mary Beth Chapman

I finished my 3rd book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope by Mary Beth Chapman

As I stated before, I don’t plan on doing full book reviews, or summaries even. Rather, I will share a few quotes as well as my personal takeaways from the book.

I chose to read this book next because it came in the mail this week. Why did it come in the mail? I got it from Paperback Swap! I’ll share more about that later, but it’s another great way to make the #EmptyShelf challenge affordable.

Overall, I enjoyed Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope. In it, Mary Beth (wife of Steven Curtis) Chapman recounts not only the horrible car accident that took the life of her 5 year-old and impacted her whole family, especially her son who was driving the car, but also the events in her own history that made her who she is.

I appreciated her ability to shift her perspective and try to see her life and the events within through God’s eyes. I can’t say I enjoyed the format of the end of the book, which mainly copied journal entries and blog posts into the text. It felt hard to read and flimsily put together.

The story was certainly compelling, and I read it over the course of 3 days. Yet the things I carried away from the book and found myself earmarking were quotes from other people and not the conclusions Mary Beth came to.

Still, an enjoyable read 🙂

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

Monday Morning Meditation: Is God Writing Your Story?

Steve Saint is the son of Nate Saint, a man who was killed in Ecuador alongside Jim Elliot and 3 other missionaries by the Waodani Indians in 1956. I learned of Steve and his father Nate through the film, End of the Spear.

In many ways, Steve has continued the work of his father through his organization I-TEC. The organization’s focus is “opening doors to the gospel by meeting needs with innovative tools.” In the testing of one of these tools in June of 2012, Steve was seriously injured by a falling piece of equipment. He was partially paralyzed from the neck down. He has made some progress since then, though he is still quite limited in many ways. I-TEC recently posted this challenging video with a one year update. Grab a tissue – it’s worth watching all 7 minutes.

Here are a few excerpts of what impacted me.

“None of us knows what our life is gonna be like. I wouldn’t mind dying, but I’m gonna stay here longer. I want it to count. And I want my grandchildren to see that life isn’t good when everything is fitting together right. Life is good because we know that we have a hope when this life is done.”

“My theme has been ‘Let God write your story.’ He doesn’t promise all easy chapters, but He does promise that if we let Him write our story, that in the last chapter if not before, He will make sense of all the other chapters and then He will take us to live with Him in paradise.”

“I want God to still write my story.”

Are you allowing God to write your story? As a song line I love states so clearly*, are you opening your eyes to let Him rewrite even tragedy?

As your week progresses, as you find yourself confused or frustrated about how God is allowing things to play out, shift your perspective. Surrender to God, the all-knowing author and perfecter of your faith. Believe He has what is best for you.

Let God write your story.

*Sara Groves “Rewrite this Tragedy”