Merry Christmas! Download “Learning to Walk in Freedom” For Free on Christmas Day!

Tomorrow, for Christmas Day only, I am offering Learning to Walk in Freedom for free!

LTWIFreedom Christmas

If you or a friend receive a Kindle for Christmas, download away! If you have an iPhone or iPad, there is an app that lets you read books for Kindle. That’s what I use.

If you already downloaded Learning to Walk in Freedom, why not grab some other resources to help you start the year strong? Here are some of the resources I reference in Learning to Walk in Freedom.

 Relational Masks by friend and mentor Russell Willingham talks about more about the concept of core beliefs and how these false beliefs impact our relationship with God and with each other. He wrote another great book entitled Breaking Free: Understanding Sexual Addiction & the Healing Power of Jesus.

 Think Differently, Live Differently by friend Bob Hamp addresses how the way we think impacts our choices and the truth we live out of.

The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg is an easy but challenging read with a new take on spiritual disciplines. Learn how to work spiritual disciplines into your everyday life.

And then some personal favorites, also referenced in Learning to Walk in Freedom:
Healing Is a Choice: 10 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and 10 Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them by Steve Arterburn. There is an accompanying workbook.

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives with Bonus Content by Richard Swenson.

Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God by Gary Thomas – finding your spiritual temperament with its traits, strengths, and pitfalls.

Enjoy! And spread the word 🙂

Freedom Friday: Are You Being Honest?

We have a serious problem in the church today.

We lie to each other.

We lie every time that we feel deeply broken and in pain, and yet we say we’re fine.

We lie every time we skip church because we don’t want to face the question, “How are you?”

We lie every time someone opens up about a struggle and, because of pride and fear, we pat them on the back, saying, “I’ll pray for you, friend!” rather than sharing how we’ve faced a similar struggle.

We lie to each other.

In Russell Willingham’s amazing book, Relational Masks, he addresses the core beliefs that make us feel as if we must put on our smiles and act as if everything is OK.

One major core belief is this: If I am honest, I will be abandoned. 

Shame runs deep. It began in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve tried to cover up the truth for their all-knowing Creator. If Adam and Eve struggled with honesty in their relationship with God, how much more so do we need to fight against this tendency in our lives.

Russell Willingham stated this in a teaching I once heard: we demonstrate the above core belief by always putting our best foot forward and never letting anyone see our weaknesses. We have this secret fear that if we’re honest about how deep the brokenness goes, we’ll be thrown out on our ears.

A lot of these core beliefs are based on experiences we’ve actually lived through. Some of our families would shut down our honesty. We’ve shared our struggles and experienced rejection. Thus, we don’t risk with people. We’re always respectable. We act like we have it all together.

Paul address in the church in Ephesus. “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25). You can read the context of the passage here. Paul was giving the believers instructions on new ways of living and interacting.

Paul was basically telling Christians to stop lying to each other. 

Because that’s our tendency. Our tendency, since the Garden, is to hide. Hide our sin, hide our brokenness, hide our shame. Act as if we’ve got it all together and we don’t need help.

Russell Willingham states that we need a commitment to truth-telling in our lives.

What have you gained, spiritually, by being dishonest?

With God?
With your friends?
With those around you who can help you?

Why do we put on our smiling faces and go to church when we are totally broken inside? Or worse yet, skip church all together during those tough weeks?

I know from my own life and years of ministry, we have a desperate need to be seen. That is the imprint of God within our hearts. He did not create us for isolation. He created us for love, acceptance and support in the safety of authentic, healthy community. He deposited in us a need for affirmation, for honesty, for the freedom that is found when we bring our struggles to the light.

Here’s the thing: not everyone can handle honesty. And not everyone has earned a place of trust in our lives that we should tell them our struggles. Remember Jesus’ example of 3 intimate friends and 9 other good friends. So you may have to go to a number of people before you find a safe place to share your heart. But it’s worth the risk. You were created for relationship. God designed freedom, healing and growth to happen in the context of community.

Will you take a risk today? Would you risk being honest, and, in the process, risk finding the freedom you long for?

Monday Morning Meditation: The Power of Together (Psalm 34 Series)


I’m going to start a little mini-series here for our Monday mornings together where we study a psalm in its entirety. Today, we’re going to begin Psalm 34.

I really love this psalm. I love it so much I decided to memorize it a few years back (only got up to about verse 14). I encourage you to read the whole thing (we’ll be reading this psalm in the NIV1984 translation).

This morning, we’re just going to cover the first 3 verses:

I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.

All psalms were meant to be read and sung. Sometimes, you’ll see a particular tune mentioned. But when I read this out loud a few months back, I noticed something I had never seen before: King David (the author of this psalm) was speaking this psalm to someone.

He begins by praising God, declaring that his soul will constantly speak God’s praise and boast of Him, in hopes that the afflicted will hear and find reason to rejoice. Then he says to the listener: “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” (emphasis mine)

David is emphasizing the power of together.

Our boasting in what God has done, even our soul’s declarations of gratitude, were not just meant to be done in our prayer closet. They were meant to be seen. This psalm calls us to have His praise always on our lips, including in the presence of others.

Who can you bring alongside you today and encourage? Who can you speak to of God’s faithfulness? Who needs to hear you boast in the Lord, even if you’re not feeling as if there’s much to boast about?

During this series, I’m going to encourage you to take the verses mentioned and read them daily. I set up a daily “event” in my Gmail calendar at 6 AM called “Psalm 34” and put the 3 verses in it. I set it to repeat daily and send me an email reminder 5 minutes before to the event, and I cut & paste the 3 verses into the description field. I personally set it to repeat indefinitely, so I can just change the verses next week.

Whether you put them on your bathroom mirror (a low-tech option), on your car dashboard, or set up your own reminder system, I encourage you to read the verses daily. Consider memorizing them. Be reminded of the power of together. And ask God to show you an opportunity to practice this, to come alongside someone and glorify the Lord together.

Have an amazing week!

Secure in His Treasure Pouch

No, it’s not Friday (sorry!). I just felt like sharing something with you all today 🙂

Yesterday in my Bible reading, I came across this verse. This is spoken by Abigail, the wife of Nabal, a wealthy man whom David inquired of, asking for provisions. Nabal refused, and David sought to take Nabal’s life. Abigail ran out to meet David & his men with provisions, to appeal to him.

Are you ready to take this in?

“Your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch!” 1 Samuel 25:29 (NLT)

This was spoken to David, but I believe it’s true for all of us. We are secure in Christ, treasured by God, as I wrote last week, His favorite.

Something big happened today in the life of my family. It feels big to me. Thus, God’s faithfulness is almost tangible, His presence felt and sensed.

God treasures you. In fact, He has declared that the lions may grow weak & hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Is there something you desire in your life, but are afraid to ask for?

Take the risk. Ask. Taste & see that the Lord is, indeed, so good.

Freedom Fridays: Trust or Despair?

Think of the biggest struggle in your life right now, the thing that plagues you. The issue you’ve dealt with for so long that you can’t imagine ever feeling free of it.

Now imagine yourself in a place of great victory. You are finally learning to walk in freedom as it pertains to your struggle.

You have overcome obstacles that used to appear to be Mount Everest. Now you feel as if you have conquered Mount Everest!

I’m rapidly nearing the end of Joshua. Today, I read chapter 23.

It’s exciting to imagine the Israelites in the Promised Land. The land had been divided; the Israelites had received their inheritance. They were settling in to their new homes.

We hear Joshua imploring the Israelites to continue to follow God with everything they have.

So be very careful to follow everything Moses wrote in the Book of Instruction. Do not deviate from it, turning either to the right or to the left. Make sure you do not associate with the other people still remaining in the land. Do not even mention the names of their gods, much less swear by them or serve them or worship them. Rather, cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now.

Put yourself back in that place of great victory you envisioned at the beginning of this post.

Now imagine you are an Israelite.

You have stepped into your Jordan.

You gathered your stones of remembrance.

You have seen challenges through God’s eyes.

You have learned the importance of consulting God in all things.

And now you are living in the fullness of God’s specific plan for you.

No wonder you feel as if you’ve conquered a giant mountain! Surely now you can exhale and finally relax.

Now, imagine you are facing another obstacle that makes you wonder if you made up the Promised Land. What feelings rise up within you? Hope? Fear? Trust? Or Despair?

The reality of life is that we are bound, just like the Israelites, to face challenges. We don’t have control over that. But we do have control over how we respond.

Despair used to be one of my default settings. And it’s no surprise. I’ve had a challenging life. The circumstances and situations I have faced could easily point me to despair. Many of those things seemed hopeless.

But slowly, by seeing God’s faithfulness, by learning to tell myself the truth, by choosing to trust in God’s goodness, my tendency to despair is something I’ve slowly been able to overcome.

Now, when the despairing thoughts come, I replace them with truth.

When I worry about the details, I say out loud: “God will take care of me. He doesn’t give His kids stones when they ask for bread. I am worth more than many sparrows.”

I remember 2 Corinthians 4:8: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Then I pray through it:

“God, help me to be perplexed, confused, but not to fall into despair. Persecuted, yes, but God, You NEVER abandon me. Struck down, but Lord, you are my strong tower, a refuge in times of trouble, an ever-present help in time of need. Lord, thank You that the lions may grow weak & hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

In that moment of maybe, I have a choice: despair in my circumstances or trust in my God.

As I finish up Joshua, I’m excited and apprehensive concerning not only what the Israelites will face next, but more importantly how they will choose to respond.

How will you respond today? When trials come, will you rely on your feelings to dictate your truth, or will you once again choose to trust in Your Creator, the Freedom Giver? Will you choose to believe the father of lies or the lifter of your head?

The old hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” comes to mind.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.

Looking up, as Joshua did, not looking at our challenges, but looking at our God. The God who hung from the cross, who gave up everything for you & me, surely He is trustworthy. Are you, as I wrote about last week, choosing to hold on to hopelessness and despair, or are you willing to unclench your fists, open your hands to God, and see what He has for you?

Freedom Friday: Face Your Default Setting

It’s happened to all of us.

We are walking down the street, out of a class, into the board room, and something happens.

Someone makes a comment that feels like a slight.

We share our excitement with someone, and they minimize.

We open up about a struggle, and it is dismissed.

We are reminded of a shortcoming.

We feel weak. Exposed. Undervalued. Ignored.

We retreat to our default setting.

What is a “default setting”?

A “default setting” is the place you retreat to when triggered. It could be an action (like reaching for pornography) or an emotion (like falling into complacency, depression or suicidality).

A “default setting” could be a ritual, the places you go and the patterns you fall into when self-medicating.

We all have a default setting. You may have one or many. It may change over time, depending on various contributors.

The concept of a “default setting” is something I recently started thinking about while talking to a friend. She has a very clear default setting that she goes to when something triggers her or the outside stressors feel like too much.

My default setting is currently mild depression, lethargy and lack of motivation. I was sent to my default setting on Monday by some challenges that came my way over the weekend. I woke up, feeling down, and spent most of the day, sitting and staring at my computer. At around 4 PM, I finally was able to snap myself out of it long enough to do some stuff around the house.

I’ll ask you to think for a minute: what is your default setting?

Sometimes, the pattern of going to our default setting is so ingrained in us that it’s like going from 0-60 in a split second. Other times, we can see ourselves slowly descending to that place. Either way, we need an action plan to either usurp the process or pick us up out of it, as is clear from my personal example above.

Here are a few things I thought of.

1. Reach Out.
Create a list of people that you can call when you are headed to or arriving at your default setting. If calling is too hard, email or preferably text, so someone can call you back right away. Have a code word, if asking for help is too hard, that your friends know ahead of time means you’re at your default setting.

Speaking with a group of people about this topic recently, many of their default settings involved withdrawal and isolation, as well as acting out in whatever way they typically self-medicate. Russell Willingham says that relational problems require relational solutions. That’s why the first step is to reach out and try to connect with someone. It is also an example of practicing James 5:16.

But if you reach out, and are unable to connect…

2. Check HALT.
We talked in a past post about HALT.

Are you:

If so, remedy that.

3. Do something.
This may seem kind of obvious, but remove yourself from the situation. If pornography is your struggle, go to a public place. If you find yourself headed to a location where you usually act out, turn around. If you identify that your emotions are spiraling and descending into despair or self-loathing, do something that makes you happy. Read an encouraging note that you received (I have an encouragement file for just this purpose). Write a list of things ahead of time of “happy activities”, like go for a run, read a comic strip, listen to uplifting music, or read today’s “Stuff Christians Like” guest post (seriously, you will laugh if you know the song he’s talking about, and I love that song, as you know if you read my blog regularly). Do something that takes you out of your situation.

4. Pray and speak truth to yourself.
Ask God for help. “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.” James 5:13a

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:41

“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.” Philippians 4:6-7

Pray. Remind yourself whatever you are facing is not unique. Tell yourself the truth, that God loves you (a million Scriptures, John 3:16 to start with), you are written on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), that His arm is not too short to deliver you, nor does He lack the strength to rescue you (Isaiah 52:2), and He is an ever-present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1). And then pray again.

And if you are still at your default setting….

5. Reach Out Again.
Start with step 1 and do it all again.

It is most helpful to have a plan written out somewhere. You can add things to your own list. The problem with our default setting is usually we go there so quickly, it’s hard to be proactive in pulling ourselves out. That’s why connecting with someone is the best way to deal with our default setting. That person can speak truth to our situation and pray for us when we are unable to speak truth to and pray for ourselves. And if we are unable to connect, having a plan written up ahead of time gives us some other ideas about how to constructively address our default setting.

Freedom Friday: "I Have No Man": Looking for Help in All the Wrong Places

The Pool by Palma Giovane

Last week, I heard someone quoting John 5 on the radio and it was opened up to me in a whole new way.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]

A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?”

The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

The above quote is from the NASB; you can read the whole chapter here.

I’ve heard this passage discussed quite a bit in recovery circles. In fact, it’s the basis of Steve Arterburn’s challenging book “Healing is a Choice“.

And what has always stuck out to me was the man’s response. I always viewed him as sort of making excuses in his reply to Jesus. After all, he didn’t answer Jesus as to whether or not he wanted to get well; rather, he pointed out the reasons why he couldn’t get well.

But on this occasion, I was most struck by the fact that the help he needed was right in front of his face, but he was unwilling or unable to see and accept it.

Do we sometimes ask the wrong people for help? Are the people who are available to best support us right in front of our faces, and yet we don’t reach out?

A few months back, I was feeling a bit lonely and undersupported. I was lamenting this fact to Roy: all my friends are busy, have kids, have jobs, live far away, boo-hoo, no one loves me 🙁 He reminded me of my pregnancy with Bear, that I had a list of women who I emailed on a regular basis with updates. What was stopping me from doing that again?

What was stopping me was that I hadn’t thought of it!

I have 3 women I am accountable to, so as Roy suggested, I started emailing them regularly with an update to ask for prayer. Two of them live far, far away (as my 3.5 year-old son would say), and one of them lives about an hour away, so while I don’t see them often, I know I have their support in prayer.

One of my default settings is to feel abandoned and rejected. I think that’s part of why it’s a challenge for me to reach out. But I can’t complain about having inadequate support if I never actually asked anyone to support me. So I’ve also started asking others for support & help, even if they are likely busy and will say no. I can make an active choice not to allow past rejection & abandonment keep me from having deep, connected, supportive relationships.

Maybe the man at the pool had a similar default setting as I do (I’ll be talking about “default settings” thoroughly in a future Freedom Friday, but just imagine it’s the place and space you find yourself falling back to). It wouldn’t be surprising, given that he’d been sick with something for 38 years, and no one was helping him get into the pool (likely the only way he thought he’d ever be healed). There was nothing wrong with his plan (to have someone lift him into the pool), but he was so fixated on that plan that he didn’t see the help that was available right in front of him.

Where have you been looking for help? All the right places, or all the wrong places? Have you been so fixated on a particular plan that you are sure would work that you can’t see that the help you need is readily available to you?

Freedom Fridays: I’m Not a Superhero

I’m taking a break from today’s scheduled Freedom Friday post to do a public service announcement of sorts.

There are 2 issues I wanted to address in this blog post that have more to do with my story and my personality than really the topic of freedom. So bear with me 🙂

First, you may have noticed that when I write, I speak very matter-of-factly. I think sometimes I likely come across as unfeeling – or even worse, I come across as if I think the things I’m saying are easily done or achieved. That I’ve somehow “arrived.”

That’s not it at all.

I’m still growing as a writer and figuring out how to let more of my personality come out in these blog posts. If you’ve heard me speak, I share lots of personal stories; I’m told I’m good at laughing at myself (I think that’s a compliment!). Those things are much easier for me to work in to my teachings as I speak than they are for me to work in to teachings as I type.

That said, I do feel I’ve written lots of articles (such as Bye Bye Pebble Baby) where I’m pretty free with sharing my life and my heart. I need to go back through and add some personal stories and anecdotes to my Freedom Fridays 🙂

Second, I am not a superhero. News Flash, I know 🙂 But I do find that some people look at me that way. The reason I am sometimes idealized is the same reason I was drawn to Keith Green during the period of time when I became a believer. I thought Keith Green was awesome, authentic, passionate, had an amazing heart, and he had something I desperately needed. So on that night in January of 1999, I wasn’t all that sure what that “something” was, yet my declaration was simple: I want what Keith has.

I know the life I live and the things I have overcome are like a breath of fresh air to many. I have come out of and overcome many thing – big things: same-sex attraction, self-injury, disordered eating, to name a few.

I’m still coming out of and overcoming other things – things that don’t seem as “big,” but can be far more insidious: selfishness, impatience, envy, greed, resentment, bitterness, entitlement, pride. just to name a few.

I may not be a superhero, but Jesus is. That’s what I’ve been telling my 3 year-old, who is in love with all things superhero. I’m not sure he understands completely, as he still thinks “Jesus died on the crosswalk,” but we’re working on it.

In all seriousness, though, it’s perfectly Biblical to, as Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” the original superhero. It’s just important to recognize that while I may be further down the journey of freedom than you are, I’m still just a human being, like all believers, who has been empowered to be free by a supernatural God. The promise of the Gospel is life-changing transformation. That’s available not just to me, but ALL believers.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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. Philippians 3:12-14

If you want what I have, it is available for you. Press on and take hold of it.

Remember that “freedom is not the absence of something; it’s the presence of someone.” Bob Hamp. Ask the Freedom Giver to continue to reveal Himself to you as only He can.

Is Having One Best Friend Biblical?

This is not a new topic, nor is it one I thought up. I actually first heard it at an Exodus conference, and then read more about it in the book Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend. I’ve since wrote about it at Boundless.

I’ll quote myself is saying that Jesus had 12 good friends, His Apostles, but He also had three intimate friends whom He took with Him certain places, such as the transfiguration, and the raising to life of the dead girl in Mark 5. At the Garden of Gethsemane, He had the nine other disciples sit at a distance while Peter, John and James went further into the garden with Him.

I never made the connection that when Jesus called the first disciples, Peter (also called Simon), James & John, they already had some sort of established relationship. I read today in Luke 5 that James & John were Peter’s fishing partners. Jesus built a relationship with the 3 of them together.

Just a tidbit I found interesting 🙂 I’ll actually be writing about Mark 5 in a future blog post about how to find the right kind of support.