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, Tools for the Journey: Fitting Concentrated Study into a Busy Life

I have an occasional series in my blog entitled “Tools for the Journey.” Today, we’re talking about concentrated study.

Before I dive into this tool, I must mention how much God loves you. The God who spoke the universe into being loves you so much that He sent His Son down to earth as a man – to live as we live, to experience life as we have, and to even face the same temptations we face. That’s how important it was for this God to connect with you.

When I talk about studying or reading the Bible, often what we hear through our filter is, “I need to read the Bible to be a good Christian.” I hope today what you will hear instead is, “God loves me so much that He desires to connect with me all day, every day. One way I can connect with God is through His Word. There, I learn about His character, His promises and His heart for me.”

So, that said…..

I was recently listening to some teaching by Ian Green (he did some leadership training for Chi Alpha campus missionaries back around 2004, and then more recently at my church). He mentioned how, when he was younger, he took one night a week to spend concentrated time with God. He would read the Bible for 30 minutes, pray for 30 minutes, read a Christian book for 30 minutes, and then repeat.

I used to do something similar when I first became a Christian and wondered if I could somehow find a way to do this again. On a smaller scale 🙂

So for the last 2 weeks, I have been doing this in 10-minute increments. I read the Bible for 10 minutes, pray for 10 minutes, read a book for 10 minutes, and then repeat (if I have time). I set a timer on my phone for each increment, and keep my journal close by to jot down any thoughts. I use the prayer time to mostly pray for the needs of others. Sometimes, I send them a note of encouragement based on my prayers if I feel led to do so. This type of rotating study has been a welcome relief from the type of reading I normally do, which is much more academic.

You could also do this on a smaller scale. If you only have 10 minutes, you could do each segment for 3 minutes each. For your book reading, grab a devotional like My Utmost for His Highest, Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening (a favorite of mine, and only 99 cents for Kindle), or another I’ve been using lately, John Maxwell Daily Reader (a book my mentor Mike Olejarz gave me on the topic of personal and leadership development).

One of the warnings Ian Green gave is that when he began to set aside time for this purpose, all of a sudden, everyone wanted to visit him on that night. The phone would ring, and lots of things would cry out for his attention. He was living with his parents at the time, and simply told them to not interrupt him, no matter what.

It is easy to put our time with God as a secondary priority. There are other priorities that seem more immediate, more pressing (like little kids, dirty kitchens, incomplete work assignments). As we begin to be more purposeful about study and spending time with God, we need to guard that time. Block it off on your calendar. Ask for His grace and favor in getting that other stuff done as well. You will find the investment of time to be well worth it.

What methods do you use to make sure you get in your study time? 

Freedom Friday, Tools for the Journey: Keep It Simple

Years ago, I wrote

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.

Simple Girl
I am a simple girl
I live a simple life
I want to have a simple job
I want to be a simple wife

But I’m beginning to see that my life is not my own
And the path that I would take is not for me to choose
And all I want to be and all I’ve ever known
I’d give it all up for your sake; what do I have to lose?

My life would be nothing without You
My life was nothing before You
My life would be nothing apart from You
I can do nothing without You

© 2000 Unveiled Faces Music

I still want that simple life.

A picture of the sunset in Cape Cod

Yet I complicate things.

When reading these lyrics, I am reminded of a saying from 12-step programs, Keep It Simple.

How can we keep things simple when life seems overwhelmingly crazy?

1. Focus on what you know.
When trying to make a decision, I often think about all the unknowns and uncertainties.  It’s usually unhelpful and unproductive. 
It’s much more helpful to focus on what I know to be true.
Another saying I’ve taken away from my time in 12-step programs is, I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let God.

What a concept.

If God is really faithful, if He doesn’t jump off the throne at the first hint of an obstacle, then continually choosing to believe that He is who He says He is sounds like a much better plan than drowning in uncertainties.

Here’s what I know:
God is good.
He is loving.
He provides.
He stoops down to make me great.

That’s what I will focus on.

2. Stop analyzing, and keep praying.
I usually spend more time than healthy trying to make sense of things that may never make sense. I try to make decisions by weighing pros and cons, crunching numbers, and creating spreadsheets.
I try and figure out what seems good.
What appears good to us is often the enemy of God’s best.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Then I remember: you have not because you ask not.

In Luke 18, we have this example of a persistent widow.  She continued to ask the judge for what she wanted until she got it.  In Matthew 7, God is described as a good father who does not give His children stones when they ask for bread.

Put your analysis on pause, and ask the God of the universe to lead you in His paths.

3. Choose to trust.
Friends, if you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, you know this is one of my central themes.  If I say I believe the Word of God, which states that God is trustworthy, then I need to choose to trust Him.

Choose to trust Him in the way you think and the things you think about.

Choose to trust Him with what you say about yourself, your situation and your God.

Choose to trust Him with your actions and in the decisions you make.

God has our best at heart.  I need to remember that.
Keep it simple.

I am praying Romans 15:13 for you all this week:
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.

Freedom Friday: Resources for the Journey

I’ll need your patience today.

I’m having trouble concentrating. Lack of sleep, illness, end of a long week: lots of reasons. So bear with me 🙂

As I was pondering today’s post as well as the next few posts that will end the year, I began to reflect on my journey toward today. I reflected in writing for quite some time before I determined that needed a post of its own 🙂

Suffice it to say if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you have heard me write a lot about learning to walk in freedom, as well as the process of becoming (or reconnecting with) who God created you to be by reconnecting with our power source, the giver of life, our Heavenly Father.

I’m so thankful for the people and resources that shaped me into who I am today. I decided I’d talk about some of those resources here. Also, if you get a gift card for Christmas, or are still looking for a book to give us a gift, I thought I could offer some suggestions, resources that have been helpful to me along the way. I’m linking to the actual book, but if you have a Kindle or something similar, there is a link to the other options on the Amazon.com page. Almost all of these books have a Kindle option.


The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner and M. Basil Pennington

I’m actually not quite done reading this book, but I’m so impressed I will go ahead and mention it now. Plus, it came to my attention through the recommendation of someone I deeply respect. I’m just so taken by the title! The concept fits exactly with what I often speak concerning: true freedom is found when we live in the fullness of who God created us to be.


Think Differently, Live Differently
by Bob Hamp

Bob Hamp is someone I’ve mentioned frequently in my speaking & writing. I’ve been familiar with his work for a while, but I finally had the privilege of meeting him this summer and now, through multiple correspondence, consider him a friend. This is a fantastic resource for completely reframing the way you approach your struggles. It is so impactful that leaders with decades of ministry under their belts have told me how this book, and Bob Hamp’s teaching in general, have caused them to completely revamp the way they do ministry. You can actually download quite a few podcasts of Bob’s teachings for free, as well as watch videos of his classes, here.


Boundaries and Safe People by Cloud & Townsend


Boundaries is a well-known book with many variations: Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries with Kids, etc. It really is a must-read if you haven’t picked it up before. While it’s certainly valuable to own a copy, I found Boundaries and Safe People at my local library.

I pair these 2 books together because they have an even more powerful impact when read side-by-side. I read Safe People first and found that to be invaluable. If you struggle with knowing who to trust, where or how to find help & support, or you find that you don’t always make the best choices in friends, this book addresses that clearly. I then read Boundaries, which helps the reader to implement some healthy limits in our personal lives and relationships with others.

Breaking Free and Relational Masks by Russell Willingham
Of course, I have to also recommend these 2 books by one of my favorite authors. I especially recommend Relational Masks as a good way to dive into the core beliefs behind your actions, as well as a way to unearth the masks that keep you from discovering who God created you to be.

Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chole
I highlighted one of her resources last week in my post on disillusionment. I’m finishing up this book Anonymous now. I’ll let the author’s description of the book speak for itself. “We all experience times of hiddenness, when our potential is unseen and our abilities unapplauded. This book redeems those times by reminding us that though we often want to rush through these anonymous seasons of the soul, they hold enormous power to cultivate character traits that cannot be developed any other way!”

And some leadership resources:
Preventing Ministry Failure by Brad Hoffmann & Michael Todd Wilson
Every time I mention this resource to a pastor or ministry leader I respect, I am shocked they haven’t heard of it! This is a truly phenomenal book concerning an issue close to my heart. I have always asked the question, “Why do leaders fall?” I mean, I know the literal answer to that question – because they made destructive choices. But how did they get to the point of making those choices? Have we set up such an unattainable standard in our churches and ministries that leaders are not allowed to be vulnerable with their struggles?

Years ago, I read this article, 5 Lies That Lead to an Affair by Julie Ferwerda. The main thing I took away from the article was this: it’s the tiny compromises that become the huge compromises. This woman didn’t wake up one day and decide to have an affair. It was a slow progression of little, only slightly destructive choices that may have appeared harmless from the outside. I also believe part of the issue was that she felt she didn’t have the freedom to be honest about her real-life struggles with those around her.

Back to this book: it’s written in workbook style and explores a myriad of issues, including having a life purpose statement, creating an adequate support system, understanding our calling, and setting up adequate safeguards. A must-have for ministry leaders today.

And last, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
This book was given to me by my spiritual mentor. The minute I started reading it, I barely put it down unless I absolutely had to (feeding the kids, changing diapers, you know!). I read it in one day. Lencioni is a powerful storyteller who creates a fictional tale about an organization that needs a major overhaul. He concludes the book with practical help for creating a unified and constructive team.

I hope you are able to pick up one of these resources for yourself or someone else. And no, I don’t know most of these people and I’m not getting paid to endorse these products!

Freedom Friday, Tools for the Journey: Hope

One or two mornings a week, I get up extra early to try and spend some uninterrupted time with God.

Some days, I read the Bible and pray because I’ve made a habit of it. No fireworks go off, and I don’t hear any specific “words.”

Some days, my time with God literally feels like breath and life and sustenance.

I was still reeling from some challenging events. Earlier that week, I had fought the overwhelming urge to sink into my default setting. Then my uncle, who everyone had been praying would be healed, passed away.

I knew I needed to make some carved-out time with God a priority.

After reading some Scripture, I opened a file on my phone where I keep a list of prayer requests. The first thing I read was this:

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

Hope. Not in people, things, or a certain outcome to prayers. But a pure hope that is only in God.

I needed to read that.

As I ponder hope, I feel I can’t talk about hope without also talking about hopelessness.

As Russell Willingham said in his book Breaking Free, “Hopelessness is not only a response to traumatic losses; it can also become a habit-forming coping mechanism.” Hopelessness, despair, depression are all part of my default setting.

As I wrote about a few months ago in a post on hopelessness, “If God is real, if He is who the Bible says He is, then hopelessness is not an option. If His promises are true, if He doesn’t change, and never lies, then we have to reverse the pattern in our lives of getting sucked into hopelessness.”

A couple of things to remember about hope:

1. Hope is a choice.
I read recently Christians need to be self-leaders in the area of hope. I agree. Hope is a choice, just like trust is a choice.

For most of my life, I based my hope solely on my experience of life. I was used to looking for hope in the things around me, clinging to my circumstances or glimmers of hope I saw in people. When I became a Christian, I needed to learn an entirely different way of living.

During this time, I clung to all Scriptures about hope. I read them, I breathed them in, I memorized them and quoted them to myself frequently.

Romans 8:24 was one of my favorites: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?”

I needed to learn to stop hoping in what I could see with my limited vision and perspective, and starting seeing with God’s eyes.

Hope is a continuous choice for me. When I felt myself slowly sinking into that default setting earlier this week, I had to make a conscious choice to head in the other direction. I had to decide to choose God, to choose His breath and His life within me.

I had choose to hope in Him.

2. Hope can’t be conditional.
If my experiences tell me that it is pointless to trust God, useless to put my hope in Him, that I’ve tried that before and it didn’t work, maybe the problem is not God. Maybe the problem is my perspective. Maybe the problem is that my hope, my trust, is conditional.

My hope in God cannot be reliant on Him answering my prayers in a certain way. I’ll be honest. When my uncle died earlier this week, in addition to grief & loss, I felt frustrated, disappointed, and confused. So many people were praying, and even fasting, for his healing. Why hadn’t God answered those prayers?

Rather than doubt God, doubt His goodness and His faithfulness, I chose hope. And God opened my eyes to His perspective.

On the day my uncle died, I was getting my boys down for a nap in the afternoon, as I always do. I usually ask Bear, my 4 year-old, what he is thankful for and what he’d like to pray for before we go to sleep at night. We don’t usually pray before nap, but we did that day. Bear prayed for the first time ever, using his own words. “God, I please pray that Uncle Greg would feel better.” I found out that evening that Uncle Greg died just minutes later. I can only believe that God answered that prayer and that Uncle Greg now feels better for eternity.

3. Hope can be learned.
If hopelessness is part of your default setting, it is possible to change that. We can learn to hope.

Dive deep into hope. Ask a believer what hope looks like for them. Ask a friend to pray for you, hold out hope for you. Memorize Scriptures about hope. Read stories in the Bible about people who chose to hope in God and what that looked like. When you find yourself sinking, speak truth to yourself. Say out loud some of those hope Scriptures you have memorized.

“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:5

Pure hope is a belief, a trust only in God, that His will be done.

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

Please pray for my uncle’s family. He left behind a wife, 2 daughters, 9 siblings including a twin sister, his parents, 20+ nieces and nephews, as well as many other friends & family who love him and are deeply feeling this loss. Thank you.

Freedom Friday: Tools for the Journey, God’s Word

I talk about trusting God a lot.

I mean a lot a lot 🙂

I was talking to a friend last week about something and, of course, I was sharing about choosing to trust God. “Just like you say in your blog,” was the response I received.

Yep 🙂

As I’ve shared before, I write what I know. I write what I’ve lived. I write what I’ve experienced, what God has shown me, or is showing me.

I don’t write about it if it hasn’t already begun to pulsate in my blood.

I write about this because I hear from people, at least on a weekly basis, that they don’t know how to trust God. I hear from people who have been Christians for decades that God is confronting them on the fact that they don’t really trust Him.

They may trust Him for salvation – but they do not trust Him with their daily lives. They don’t really trust Him for provision or healing or freedom or any of the other things they desire or need.

Why don’t we trust God?

There could be a million reasons. There may have been a time He didn’t come through. He didn’t heal a loved one. He didn’t give us that job we really wanted. He didn’t come through with that miracle.

He didn’t provide – or at least not in the way we wanted Him to.

Trusting in God isn’t just about trusting that He is going to do certain things for us as His adopted children, or that He will give us certain things because He loves us.

It’s about trusting in His character, that He is who He says He is and He will do what He has said He will do.

Ultimately, I think one of the main reasons we don’t trust God is because we don’t know Him. Yes, we have been adopted as His children through Jesus’ gift of salvation, but we don’t really know Him. We have unrealistic expectations of Him. Yes, God can do anything, even the impossible – according to His perfect will. Yet our method is to come up with a plan, and expect Him to bless it and carry it out in our timing.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

We need to grow to know His character, His attributes. We need to know His heart.

We cannot surrender our struggles to and grow to trust someone we don’t know. The primary ways we get to know God are through spending time in His Word and in prayer.

Let me pause and clarify. Lots of people (and I do mean lots) who have life-controlling issues (and especially relational brokenness issues) have been told that if they read the Bible and prayed more, their problems would go away. I’m not saying that at all. There is a reason that “Spending Time with the Freedom Giver” is only 1 of the Freedom Steps in my “Learning to Walk in Freedom” series. It’s only 1 step in the process, but it’s an important step.

BUT I think those of us who have been indoctrinated with this “try harder, do more” mentality of “read the bible and pray more” sometimes throw the baby out with the bath water, as the saying goes (um, and being a parent, what a strange saying!).

Since we’ve already “tried harder” and it didn’t “work”, we don’t invest the time & energy needed into having a regular, set aside time with God and His Word. I fell into this trap for a while. I continued to read some Christian literature, sometimes a devotional book, but I did not spend much time studying the Bible unless I was preparing to speak (kind of embarrassing to admit that!).

There was just so much baggage attached to the Bible for me. I had to get over that. I had to release that baggage and those misconceptions to God and recognize what I’d already experienced the truth of: when I read His Word consistently, I walk away changed.

Now I can’t live without the Word of God in my life.

If you feel lost in how to begin studying the Word of God, here are a few ways you could start digging in.

1. Start with a gospel. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John are the 4 gospels in the New Testament, 4 accounts of Jesus’ time on earth. They are all very different. Mark is a shorter book with rapid-fire description of what Jesus did here on earth. John is slightly longer, but it provides a fuller picture of the person of Jesus, with quite a few of His longer teachings and speeches, as well as an intimate look into His time with the disciples.

2. Get a study Bible. Ask a friend (or friends) what study Bible they use. Go to a book store and check a few out. Currently, I’m reading the “Life Recovery Bible” which is the New Living Translation and includes thoughts about recovery and the 12 steps. I generally read the NIV (I have a Serendipity Bible from my campus ministry days that has thought-provoking, and sometimes silly, questions to ponder) or the NASB, so I wanted to read something a little different.

One word of caution: even if you are using a study Bible, you don’t need to always be reading the little boxes and interpretations of the passage. You can simply read the Scriptures and work through them yourself (see #3 for some suggestions). If you tend to rely too heavily on other’s thoughts about the Bible or trust too much in others to interpret Scripture for you, you’re likely better off with an old-fashioned “pew Bible“.

3. Use a study method. When I was a student, I used the PROAPT method.
Pray: Begin your time of study by praying for God to open your eyes and your heart to what the passage might be speaking to you today.
Read: Read the passage you’ve chosen for the day.
Observe: Simply observe, by asking the questions how, who, why, where, what & when, what is going on in the passage. Who are the characters? What are they doing? Where are they? When is this happening? What are they feeling and experiencing?
Apply: Apply the passage to your life. What might this passage have to teach me today?
Pray: Pray again that God would make what you have read have His life breathed into it.
Tell: Tell someone about what you have learned in your Bible reading today.

Another similar resource is often referred to as “the Navigators Word Hand“. The “Word Hand” shows five methods of learning from the Bible: Hear, Read, Study, Memorize, Meditate.

A friend of mine likes to take Scripture and put it in his own words by writing his thoughts out in his journal.

4. Think outside the box. Your “quiet time”, as it’s often called, does not need to look the same every day. Mine doesn’t. Ask God to help you figure out what works best for you. Be creative. Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways, has some great suggestions.

There are lots of options.

Next week, I will share more on this topic 🙂 See you then!

Freedom Friday Tools for the Journey: Stones of Remembrance

This is a continuation of the last 2 Freedom Friday posts. It falls into the “Tools for the Journey” category, but it’s also a continuation of the discussion of Joshua (I recommend going back & reading this if you haven’t already).

We pick up the story in Joshua 4. The Israelites have just crossed the Jordan. They’ve seen God’s hand move powerfully and faithfully, as He continues to do what He has promised He would do.

Then God tells Joshua to have one man from each tribe go back into the middle of the river, take a stone from where the priests are standing, and carry it back out of the river.

4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. 5 He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 6 We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”

I can’t help but wonder why God doesn’t tell them to get the stones on their way through the river. Is this again another little faith test, like when He commanded them to step into the Jordan, and only then would the waters part? While crossing the river, the Israelites were specifically instructed to stay a half mile away from the Ark of the Covenant, whereas now they are told to gather rocks from where the priests are standing. The stones needed to be from that very spot where the Ark of the Covenant, a sign of God’s presence and His promises, was held. God also instructed Joshua to make another pile of 12 stones in that very spot in the middle of the Jordan.

Notice they weren’t celebratory stones. It would have been a fine time to celebrate, but no. The “Stones of Remembrance” served as a memorial. A reminder of God’s faithfulness. That His promises were, and still are, true. The end of an era (slavery and wilderness wanderings), and a new beginning in the Promised Land.

The reality of life is that we all get discouraged. “Discouraged” is likely too weak of a word – “disheartened” is better. Proverbs says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. Our focus gets sidetracked by the wait. We forget all that God is, and all He has done in us & through us.

We get hyper-focused on our vision of how things should be. We even have a picture of how, when and why God will show up and come through.

The Israelites certainly had a preconceived idea of how God’s deliverance should look. Imagine the Israelites, enslaved for 400 years. For all those generations, they spent their days, while subject to the whims of Pharaoh, dreaming of how God would show up. In my article “Craving Egypt“, I wrote about how quickly the Israelites lost sight of all that God had done to deliver them from slavery in Egypt. The following words were spoken by the Israelites soon after the parting of the Red Sea.

“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Exodus 16:3

Even the Pharisees and Jewish leaders had an idea of what the Messiah, their deliverer, would look like. They had built in their minds an image of Him so inaccurate that when Jesus came, they didn’t even recognize Him.

The Stones of Remembrance after the crossing of the Jordan served not just as a reminder, but also as a warning. You will forget. You will lose sight. You will get off kilter, lose focus, sink into despair. You will even come up with your own ideas of what freedom looks like and how it should arrive.

It’s as if God is saying: I’ve carried you this far. Trust me. I’m not going to stop caring for you now. It may not look like you think it will. but I’m still here and I’m still working.

The Stones of Remembrance encourage us to focus on the “who” rather than the “how”. We love the “how”! We love imagining and conjuring up the grand scheme of how God is going to work in a particular situation. We’re not so enthusiastic about simply resting in the knowledge of who God is. We get too caught up in the details of the “how” to remember to fix our eyes on the eternal: Jesus.

This tool is different from the encouragement file in that the encouragement file is a place to keep reminders of thoughtful notes, affirmations, and thanks from people from over the years. Stones of Remembrance are times God came through, often in surprising ways.

So start writing it down. Look back through your journals, your emails, your Facebook status updates, and start a new journal. Write the date, and the way in which God came through. The manner in which He reminded you that He is good. The person through whom He spoke truth. The Scripture you heard three times in the same day, through three different means.

Write it down. You will forget. You will lose sight. We all do.

The Stones of Remembrance are what we reach for when we are disheartened, weighed down by the burden of the problems we were never meant to carry.

In the words of Sara Groves in her song by the same name, “He’s always been faithful; He will be again”.

That’s why we need Stones of Remembrance.

21 Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. 24 He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”

Freedom Friday, Tools for the Journey: Keep an Encouragement File

Today, I went to go back to a series that I originally called “Keeping It Simple”. I’ve retitled it “Tools for the Journey”. Today’s entry will indeed be simple.

I was a campus missionary for a number of years, and during that time, a ministry associate recommended keeping an encouragement file. It’s an actual file that I keep in my filing cabinet with notes of encouragement or thanks that people have sent me over the years.

The Bible talks about the importance of encouragement over & over. In this blog post, I talked about how words have the power to deposit courage into you (encourage) or rip courage out of you (discourage). Too often, life, circumstances, and people rip courage out of us.

When that happens, it’s time to get out the encouragement file.

I thought of this yesterday, as a ministry participant sent me a kind & encouraging email about some things I’ve said & done in our support group. I actually haven’t added anything to my file for some time, but a few recent emails reminded me of its value.

Here’s a picture from inside my neglected encouragement file.

Some of these notes are 10+ years old. Many of them are from the 3 years I worked in student life.

The first image shows a scribbled-on envelope, where I quickly wrote down 10 things a friend was learning through Habakkuk from God. There are cards, post-it notes, printed emails. A few drawings from a dear friend. There are many ways to receive encouragement.

I’m adding 3 recent emails to my file today.

Remember also to be an encourager. Students I worked with at leadership conferences would fill out form letter encouragement notes, to develop their encouragement skills.

Encouragement is a learned skill. Encourage your friends, family, loved ones, and your spiritual leaders. Strengthen them with your words. Think about people who have impacted your life positively. Take some time to write those people a short note of thanks and appreciation.

Be an encourager of others, and start an encouragement file for yourself today. That’s today’s Freedom Friday Tool for the Journey.

Freedom Fridays, Tools for the Journey (New Series): HALT

I had a blog post started for today but decided to simplify it. Various events lately have reminded me that sometimes, we just need to keep things simple. So today’s post will be the beginning of another series within Freedom Friday called “Tools for the Journey”. Yes, I will continue to finish the “Learning to Walk in Freedom” after this brief diversion 🙂

How do we keep recovery simple? What small things can I keep in my toolbox as I learn to walk in freedom?

I’ll start off the “Tools for the Journey” series by talking about a number of things we can do when we have a “Moment of Maybe” as described in “Act like a Free Person, Part 2“, those moments where we are tempted:
To sin
To see ourselves in any other way than how God sees us
To believe the lies and fall back into old patterns, tempted to take our unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts and run with them
To fall into despair and hopelessness

In those Moments of Maybe, we need to stop and do some evaluation & self-care. So the first thing I want to share about is HALT.

We need to practice HALT.

In recovery, HALT stands for:
Hungry
Angry
Lonely
Tired

In evaluating HALT, we ask if our most basic needs are being met. Our need for food and sleep, as well as our need for relationships and true expression of feelings.

My older son has food sensitivities (can’t eat wheat, dairy or soy). And we discovered not long into his little life that if he doesn’t get adequate protein in his diet, it manifests itself in his behavior.

So every morning, he starts off the day with protein. He has to eat his protein before he gets anything else. Protein helps regulate blood sugar, and drastic blood sugar drops cause mood swings. 3 year olds are moody enough without adding blood sugar issues to the mix, so we make sure he gets plenty of healthy protein.

The reality is people who feel bad act bad. We can’t use our physical or emotional feelings as an excuse to behave poorly, but we can use those feelings as an opportunity to evaluate:

Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Am I tired?

If we find one of those things to be true, then we can take care of it. With my son, he sometimes doesn’t know that he needs a snack; thus, asking, “Are you hungry?” in the middle of a tantrum isn’t all that productive. Instead, I put a drink and a protein-rich snack in front of him, and as a general rule, he’ll devour it.

Since I’m a grown-up, I can get myself a small snack and then re-evaluate how I’m feeling. I can think about whether or not I’m getting enough sleep. I can look at the recent weeks and see how much time I’ve spent developing my relationships. And I can stop for a minute and consider whether or not I am angry or upset & unsettled about something.

The next time you’re in a Moment of Maybe, stop and practice HALT.