What Are You Reading These Days?

What books are you reading these days? What is encouraging you and challenging you?

Two biographies I recently finished:

High Adventure in Tibet: The Life and Labors of Pioneer Missionary Victor Plymire by David V. Plymire

David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who Believed by Gary Wilkerson

I’ve read High Adventure in Tibet before, years ago, but then I had trouble locating a copy of it. They have it at CBD for $2.49. I found David Wilkerson while searching through the virtual “sale rack” at CBD. Really loved both these books and their honesty about the lives of these two heroes of the faith, albeit one well-known and one unsung.

And slowly working my way through this with a friend:

Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth by Dutch Sheets

What are you reading? I’m looking for good biographies of Christians in particular.

Freedom Friday: Eyes on the Resurrection

I started a new devotional for Lent today.

Yes, I’m aware Lent doesn’t start until Wednesday 🙂 I just wanted some built-in space in case I miss a day.

It’s called 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole.


Alicia subtitles it “A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast.” She shares some thoughts along with readings from the Gospel of John (my favorite).

I’ve always loved Alicia’s writing style, and this book does not disappoint. Simple. Direct. Probing. Vulnerable. She’s the real deal.

The Scripture today was John 12:1-11, a favorite story of mine, where Mary anoints Jesus with a pint of nard. She was in awe of Him, so much so that she humbled/humiliated herself in her worship of Him.

It reminds me of one of my favorite worship songs, “Pour My Love On You.”

Like oil upon Your feet
Like wine for You to drink
Like water from my heart, I pour my love on You
If praise is like perfume
I’ll lavish mine on You
Till every drop is gone
I’ll pour my love on You

A life poured out.

One question I walked away with from the first day’s reading is this: are we hyper focused on our sacrifices during Lent, or are we awed by the coming Resurrection Sunday? It’s a reminder to keep my eyes on the resurrection everyday – the promise of a new day, a fresh start.

Consider getting 40 Days of Decrease or another devotional for Lent this year.

Freedom Friday: Exercise Your “No” Muscle

Have you ever done a plank?

They’re a type of abdominal exercise. And they are hard.


Prior to having Maggie, I planked regularly. At first, I held it for 10 seconds and had to stop. But I kept trying. I got to 20. And 30. And so on as my abdominal muscles strengthened.

For many years, I answered “yes” to temptation. I didn’t even know it was temptation, and I didn’t know I could say no. I thought my feelings dictated my life, and my desires dictated my actions. And every time I gave in, my “yes” muscle became stronger and stronger.

When I became a Christian, I was surprised how much power my “yes” muscle still had. My eating disorder was still ever-present. I even had another lesbian relationship, despite knowing it was wrong. I thought I was a new creation? I’d cry out to God, wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn’t figure out how to say no and walk away.

How did I move from that place to where I am today?

As I recently chatted with other believers, I realized something.

I learned to exercise my “no” muscle.

Prior to following Jesus, I exercised my “yes” muscle quite a bit when temptation came my way. “Yes! I will starve myself.” “Yes, I’ll have sex with you.” “Yes! I’ll drink too much.” “Yes, I’ll self injure.”

It took me a while to realize that the Holy Spirit wanted to empower me to develop my “no” muscle.

At first, it’s very difficult to exercise your “no” muscle when you’ve been so used to your “yes” muscle being your default. It will feel unfamiliar, even uncomfortable. But as you say “no” more and more, it will become easier, until it becomes almost your default.

I have exercised my “no” muscle in the area of sexual sin so much that now I can fairly easily exercise my “no” muscle when it comes to pornography, fantasy, or acting out sexually.

My book Learning to Walk in Freedom talks extensively about how I also needed to learn to exercise my “no” muscle in the area of my thoughts and struggles with hopelessness and despair.

I still working on using my “no” muscle in the area of food. I read Lysa TerKeurst’s devotional for folks like me called Made to Crave. This quote today really caught my attention:

It is good for God’s people to be put in a place of longing so they feel a slight desperation. Only then can we be empty enough and open enough to discover the holiness we were made for. When we are stuffed full of other things and never allow ourselves to be in a place of longing, we don’t recognize the deeper spiritual battle going on.

Satan wants to keep us distracted by chasing one temporary filling after another. God wants us to step back and let the emptying process have its way until we start desiring a holier life. The gap between our frail discipline and God’s available strength is bridged with nothing but a simply choice on our part to pursue this holiness.

A simple choice to exercise my “no” muscle on a regular basis.

In what areas do you struggle to exercise your “no” muscle? Confess this struggle James 5:16 style to a Christian friend and ask that person to pray for you. Then ask God, through His Holy Spirit, to empower you to choose better next time.

Romans 6:6 (NLT) says “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”

Exercise your “no” muscle. Watch it get stronger and strong as God empowers you to walk out the freedom He died to give.

My Favorite #EmptyShelf Books of 2014

I finished 20 books in 2014 as part of the #EmptyShelf challenge. You can see them all lined up below.

This was difficult to do, as I read a lot of great books this year. Click the link below the book’s image to hear my thoughts on each.

Looking back on my choices, I see I didn’t pick a lot of variety! I didn’t read any fiction. I also didn’t pick much non-fiction than wasn’t a religious book, or that had a faith component (not all that surprising, I guess!). I definitely read more biography/autobiography than usual, which I enjoyed.

So here are my top 5:

The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears

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

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

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

The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times

And honorable mention:

The Cross and the Switchblade

Here are all 20:


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:

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:


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?

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.