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.

Worshipful Wednesday: You’re My Everything

For a while, I’ve wanted to use this blog to share some of my songs, for your use and encouragement.

A friend and I were chatting back and forth last week, and she sent me this verse as encouragement, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

I thought, “Hey, I wrote a song with that verse in it!” And decided to make a recording of it.

Most of the songs I share will be recorded on an iPhone, so they won’t be studio quality. But you can download them for free, and I’ll include the song sheets if you would like to play them.

The PDF:

You’re My Everything

If you look at the chords, they appear way more complicated than they actually are. That is the summary of the notes being played for times I played with other instruments.

So let me explain in my best guitar-ese, remembering that I am not a trained guitar player.

Despite the complicated-sounding chord names, “You’re My Everything” consists of the same 2 chords, repeated over & over. Here’s what they look like on the guitar neck:

 

IMG_8279

You’ll notice I have my fingers on the two middle strings (D & G) on the same fret, and then I move up one fret in the same position. The first chord is the 6th fret, and the 2nd chord is the 7th fret.

Enjoy!

Monday Morning Meditation: Before I Formed You, I Knew You

“Before I formed you, I knew you.”
Jeremiah 1:5a

Sometimes, life feels totally random. Why am I going through this trial? we ask ourselves.

The way things fall into place (or don’t). The promotion that comes through “too late” (or doesn’t come at all). The risk you took because you thought it was God’s leading that works out marvelously (or doesn’t work out at all).

What makes the difference? Why do we sometimes succeed and sometimes…. not?

This verse from Jeremiah came to mind yesterday, and with them much comfort. Before I formed you, I knew you. This word translated “know” is yadaand it is used in a variety of contexts. It generally means “to know deeply.”

We all have a desire deep within our hearts to be known on an intimate level. Whether or not people know certain things about us can bring shame or relief. And yet Scripture informs us that the Creator of the universe knew us even before He knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

My son JJ in my womb

My son JJ in my womb

Before I formed you, I knew you.

My life is not random. The direction I go, the way God leads, the things He asks me to do were planned long before I was even in my mother’s womb. He knew me deeply, and continues to inform my steps as I acknowledge Him in all my ways (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Lord, on this Monday morning, help us to remember that we are known by an all-powerful God who bent down to earth, putting on flesh, in order to rescue us from our shame and hurt. Help us to act known, to walk out the knowledge that You had a plan for us before You formed us, and You are still carrying out that plan, even when we feel directionless. Thank You, Master. We give You our all. We allow You to be “God with us.” We pray in Jesus’ holy and powerful name, amen.

 

Monday Morning Meditation: Turn to Me (Psalm 25 Series)

Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 16-18):

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
free me from my anguish.
Look upon my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.

Do you ever feel as if the troubles of your heart have multiplied? Like you already had enough troubles, and suddenly, you find yourself with exponentially more?

Turn to me, O God.

Have you ever found yourself lonely and afflicted (the NLT says “deep distress”)? Drowning in anguish?

As I write this, I have just completed the Yakima (WA) Relay for Life. I chose this location to support my friend Eva. I chose this event to honor my father, who I lost to cancer 7 months ago.

It was a beautiful and emotional time. I am now facing flying home with 2 sick kids. It’s a long plane ride and a 2 1/2 hour drive to get to the airport.

“Drowning in anguish” is a bit extreme for how I feel, but distressed is sufficient.

Turn to me, O God.

I am reminded that God is near. One of the themes of this psalm is hope. “No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame.”

I rest in that promise. God is able.

Feeling overwhelmed? Pray with David (and me):

Turn to me, O God.

Monday Morning Meditation: Off the Snare and On the Lord (Psalm 25 Series)

Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 15):

My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

In times of trials or problems, what do you tend to look at? On what do you focus?

This is easy for me to answer. I tend to focus on my problems. In the past, this was my typical pattern:

First, I would stare at the trap or potential trap.

Second, I would try to think up a solution I could do myself.

Third, I may begin to think about how the God of the impossible could probably help me out with this situation.

Fourth, I generally end up talking myself out of God being able to really do anything because isn’t this problem just too big for God?

When I say it out loud, it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

But this is what we do all the time.

Today at church, my pastor said, “What is impossible for God?”

And all of us good Christians answered, “Nothing.”

If only we acted as if we truly believed this.

We say it, but we don’t live and act as if we believe it.

We limit God.

As I read this passage a few months ago, I realized how often I fix my eyes on the snare. I analyze it. I imagine all possible outcomes and how I can avoid it or fix it. I lament at the difficulty of the situation.

And often I end up expending so much emotional energy evaluating the snare that I practically fall into it.

“My eyes are ever on the Lord….”

What would happen if we instead fixed our eyes on the One who is able to release us from the snare?

God does not tell us to evaluate the snare. God calls us to look on Him. I’ve included some past blog posts at the end to encourage you in looking to God.

Pray this with me:
Lord God, forgive me for trying to fix things all the time, as if that is within my power. You call me friend, and yet I am slow to ask for help. Your Word says, “You have not because you ask not,” and so, I ask. Help, Lord. May my eyes ever be on You, the Rescuer, and not on the snare. I pray this in the mighty, powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

Several blog posts that might be helpful:
Seeing with God’s Eyes
Look Beyond Your Mountains
Watch for God

Monday Morning Meditation: Embrace Grace Again (Psalm 25 Series)

Welcome, friends. Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 11):

For the sake of your name, O Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

I can’t get past this verse. I want to tack some of the following verses onto this blog post, but I just can’t.

My heart cries out with David.

For the sake of your name….

My sins, Lord – they overwhelm me.
They flood over me,
To the point where I feel as if I might drown.
Do you see how great my struggles are?
Do you see the foolishness, 
Not only of my youth, but of today?

David, in his humble state, wrestles with the questions that I imagine many of us do:

Will God forgive me?

Can He?

Read again verse 10:

All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
For those who keep the demands of his covenant.

David knows God’s character. He spends much of this psalm declaring that truth. And yet, he still seems to express almost a doubt here about those times he did not keep the demands of the covenant –

For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

David knew a Messiah would come. We know the Messiah has come.

We look at our sin, reminding God of how great it is. God shows us the cross, reminding us how sufficient He is.

I’m so thankful for the cross. Through it, we have the opportunity to experience his grace everyday, grace that seems to good to be true.

Grace declares all of our sins forgiven, even the one you committed yesterday that you’ve committed a million times before.

Grace also empowers us to resist sin through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Can you embrace grace today?

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

Approach the throne. Embrace the power of grace. Rather than beg for forgiveness, as David did, ask to be continually filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) who is able to empower you to resist the lure of temptation. Look to the cross. It is sufficient.