Be Still and Know

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

These words sound easy, but the practice of them is so very hard. For a few months, the Lord has spoken these words to me in many ways. I struggle so often with wanting to take control, to make my plans, to forge ahead. Thankfully, through Scripture reading and study, I have been reminded of the Israelites. God provided abundantly for them and worked in abundant ways. They saw His glory. Yet, they doubted and did not obey. I want to obey because I want God, and I want His way. Right now, that means being still and trusting in God’s perfect plan. Not easy for this little control freak, but I know His ways are higher then my ways and His thoughts higher than my thoughts.

What does it look like for you to be still and know?

It’s All Good!

“It’s all good!” How many times have you heard that phrase or even spoken it yourself? Because I started to say this to myself this morning, I thought about what this cliche really means then couldn’t help but ask the question: is it really all good?

In just the past few months, we have seen numerous natural disasters; there have been terrorist attacks; cancer still reads havoc on people we love; and just this past Sunday, 20 people were killed in a shooting at church.
All is not good!

This cliche is used to protect us from our own pain or the pain we see around us. The truth in all the pain is that God is good. As I wrestled with having my world turned upside down in this move to Texas, God kept taking me back to Psalm 56. Verse 9 says: This I know, that God is for me.”

“All is not good”.  But, God is good, and God is for me. Let’s stop running from the pain and pretending that all is good and start pressing into the good God who will never leave us nor forsake us. In the pain, He can work good.

Are You Thirsty?

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2).

Yesterday, I had lunch with a darling new friend here in Houston. Devera and I got to share some faith stories over the best vegan bowl I have ever had (Local Foods). We talked about desiring God, what that looks like in our lives, and how to lead others to a place where they experience this thirst for the living God. For both of us, our hunger and thirst for God increased as we experienced His healing touch in our lives. At that point, my faith moved from being just in my head down to the recesses of my heart.

As I read the Gospel stories of Jesus and his ministry, I long to be one of those people that Jesus touched or spoke to or just saw in the crowd. As I read the Psalms, I am reminded of God’s glory and the joy of being in His presence. However, as I live day to day life, I can forget that I am made for that intimate relationship with the Lord. Of course, I will have my quiet times, my prayer time, and even my weekly or multi-weekly time at church; yet I still wander and start thirsting for things of this world more than I thirst for Jesus.

Thankfully, all the things of this world leave me discontent, and I have to go back to the living water. Isn’t God gracious? He made us for Himself and He continually woos us back to His heart.

The danger is when we ignore His wooing and continue to look for things of the world to meet our needs. Eventually, the longing is so far subdued that we don’t even recognize it even more.

What are you thirsting for today? Does it bring life, true life?

Each morning, I start my day asking the Lord to help me thirst first and foremost for Him. I don’t live it out perfectly, but I can think of no better way to start my day. There are no better streams than the flowing streams of God!

Lord, cleanse our hearts, minds and spirits so they thirst for you and you alone!

He Loves Me — He Loves You

A few days ago, I shared Psalm 56 where we read the words: “This I know that God is for me.” For the past few days, I have been listening to the Chris Tomlin station on Amazon Music. At least 3 or 4 times, “Jesus Loves Me” played on this station. Amazing what music can do for a heart! Once again, I got to hear the words that “God is for me”.

I got a beautiful glimpse into what that means in my life. Once a month, moms from Spring Branch Middle School get together for some study, prayer and encouragement. This morning, we discussed what it looks like to fight for our children. I always say that you can do what you want to me, but if you go after my husband or my children, I will become the beast! I fiercely want to protect my family.

After hearing Chris Tomlin’s song, “Jesus Loves Me”, I got another glimpse into what it means to have God for me, what it means to have God for you. The Lord fights for us. Even greater is his tenacity for us than that of a mother for her child. God’s love is a love in action.

What does it mean to you to have a loving Father who fights for you? Does it change your perspective on your challenges, your hurt, your loneliness? Jeremiah 31:3 says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

EVERLASTING LOVE.

That is God’s love for me, for you.

What would it look like for us to move into that everlasting love of the Father today, to allow Him to fight for us, to know and fully trust His heart is good towards us — that He is for us?

I encourage you to go and listen to Chris Tomlin’s song again today. Here is a link on U tube that displays the words as the song plays: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8gKXu6J2wE.

Rest

Exodus 33:14: “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”

REST. God will give us rest? I have never been good at resting. I am good at moving, playing, working, even fidgeting. I am just not good at resting. One of my best friends can sleep anywhere — on a plane, in a car, during a sermon at church, lying on the beach — wherever she is, she can rest. How I have coveted her gift!

What God has revealed to me once again is that I am one who strives. I perform. I want to earn things and feel like I am constantly improving in some way. I love challenges, especially if it involves exercise.

One day, after finishing an exercise class, I laid perfectly still on the ground for some much needed rest. As I laid there, I saw a picture (in my mind) of a beautiful waterfall with a flowing stream at the bottom of it. It was glorious! Immediately, I had the sense that God’s presence was at the top of that waterfall.

So, I began to climb tenaciously. It was a steep climb with many trees on the path. I saw my striving, my work, then my fatigue. I wanted to get to God so I kept pushing and pushing and pushing. Anybody been there?

In my exhaustion, the Lord met me with the most wonderful news: “Brooke, my presence is at the top of this waterfall, but my presence is also down in the flowing stream.” Without delay, I headed down to the stream to experience the presence of God. There, I floated on paddle boards, played in the water and enjoyed rest. Just as I heard, the presence of God was in the flowing stream.

In our day and age, I think most people are longing for rest. It seems elusive and something to look forward once we are on vacation. Then, we need a vacation from our vacation! We talk about Sabbath in the church but rarely do we experience the true rest God offers on that day. God created us for rest. Look back to the passage in Exodus: “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”

He wants to give us rest today. What I have realized is that I have to choose to accept that rest; in my vision, I had to choose to stop climbing up the mountain in order to take the path down the mountain. There will always be more to do. There will always will be another mountain to climb. There will also be God waiting in the still, quiet moments. It is here that He longs to meet us and give us rest.

Casting Crowns says this much better than I ever could in their song “Just Be Held”:

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

God sees you in your striving and your exhaustion. He knows your needs, reaches out His hand and asks you to sit with Him and rest.  Friends, let’s choose just to be held!

The Gift of Imperfection

One of the most precious women I have ever known, Nikki Richnell for my Houstonian friends, came to my house for lunch last week. As always, she was dressed to the nines and was just as adorable as ever. We sipped tea while waiting on other guests, then Nikki excused herself to the bathroom.

When Nikki returned to the group, she burst out laughing and showed us her shoes. Both shoes were mighty cute, but they didn’t match. Needless to say, we shared in her laughter!

Being human means being imperfect. As put together and lovely as Nikki is, she is still human and subject to the fallen, imperfect nature. The same is true for each of us. We hide the imperfections so well through pretty clothes, make up, hair, and polished language. We desperately try to hide the brokenness underneath the surface and save those places for the people we love most — think husband and children.

What if we looked at our imperfections or the broken parts of ourselves in a different way? What if they are the very things that drive us to Jesus. The power in Jesus is His power to save, heal and restore. My favorite story in the Gospels is of the woman with the hemorrhage for 12 years (see Mark 5:24-34). This woman had tried every avenue to get healing from her disease, but there was no relief. At the end of herself, she risked everything to pursue the healing of Jesus. There is no doubt that her efforts were rewarded. Not only did the bleeding stop, but this woman had Jesus look her straight in the eyes and commend her faith.

Friends, we are imperfect. We make silly mistakes like wearing two different shoes, and we make huge mistakes. Our bodies are finite; our hearts are fickle; our minds wander. Thankfully, our God is a God who loves us in the midst of our imperfections. Can we see our imperfections and brokenness as the gifts that drive us to Jesus? Can we go after Him as if He is our only hope? Can we see being at the end of ourselves as a gift?

Go after Jesus! He sees you; He sees me. He sees beyond our masks, facades, fancy clothes and great rhetoric. “The Lord rejoices over us with singing” even when we are wearing two different shoes (Zeph 3:17).

Listening

Since my life totally changed in August, I decided it was time to try all things new. One of those new things was a different form of exercise. By God’s grace, I ended up at Big Power Yoga in Memorial. I love it — love the community, love the teachers, love getting hugs on the way to class (Gayatri), love the workouts (though I am almost always sore). I can honestly say that yoga has become part of my healing journey. I have learned so much about myself, my body and how to breath through challenges. Yoga has helped me grieve honestly and intentionally.

One of the amazing teachers, Nancy Perry, said something quite profound in class today: “This practice is designed to teach you to stop overriding your body with your mind.” I couldn’t help but think of my earlier posting about hope and perseverance.

Perseverance is good; it is necessary; however, sometimes we have to listen to our bodies, to our spirits, to our broken hearts and slow down or even stop. Life for me has been about pushing through — pushing past the pain in body, mind and spirit. In His mercy, God designed us with the capacity to survive. The problem is that the very means of our survival can become the very things that rob us of life.

Healing for me has come as I have learned to listen to the pain and stopped trying to forge ahead without acknowledgment. Feeling the pain is scary. Pain takes us places where we feel out of control and uncertain. The promise of God is that His truth sets us free. Entering into truth leads to a greater experience of God himself and a better relationship with ourselves and others.

I am so thankful that I am learning to stop overriding my body with my mind. It is still my natural go to but with intentionality, I am getting better. Friends, we need a resting place. In yoga, that is child’s pose. It is humbling to go there, but sometimes it is the only place where one can get much needed rest and restoration.

Persevere with HOPE but don’t override your body with your mind. God designed these two to work in sync with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

And thank you to Amy Bruce who introduced me to Holy Yoga. I am had NO idea where God was going to take me after that, yet I am so grateful for the blessed start!

Live Loved

My word for the year is HOPE, and I have been posting Scripture verses that speak of that hope. This week, I have been pondering how to live with hope. One message reverberates in my heart, mind and spirit — LIVE LOVED!

I heard this message in church on Sunday; it was repeated over and over again in a song on the way to Bible study yesterday: “Oh, He loves us. Oh, how He loves us……”; in my Centering Prayer group, I kept hearing about God’s steadfast love then saw a picture of what it means to live in that love.

LIVE LOVED! Where to start? Reagan’s sermon on Sunday reminded me of a Cross Train devotion I taught many years ago from Mark 1:9-11: “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'”

Thanks to the death of Jesus on our behalf, we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. When God looks at us, He sees Jesus — all the righteousness of Jesus. We are declared clean, healed, forgiven, accepted, delighted in and perfectly loved.

This is an amazing message! Despite the amazing gift God offers me through Jesus, I still often choose to live unloved. I wonder what it would be like if we started each day allowing God’s words to Jesus/to us to flow over us and through us: “You are my beloved daughter/son; with you I am well pleased!”

God’s love is not earned; it is accepted. Just like God’s grace. If I want to live with HOPE, I realize I have to choose each day to live loved. The enemy taunts me. Shame wants to control me. Guilt sometimes tries to hold me back from fully living life. Yet, Love, GRACE, HOPE call out to me through God’s truth.

Today, I choose to LIVE LOVED; I choose grace; I choose HOPE because I am God’s beloved daughter and He is well pleased with me. That is a miracle that I choose to believe!

Your Body God’s Temple

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of teaching a class entitled “Your Body God’s Temple”.  While preparing for my teaching, I came across a thought provoking quote from a book called Temple Maintenance:

“Since the Bible gives assurance that God knows your frame (He made it), He knows how much weight your body should carry to function best. When you think about it, the Lord was very specific about the dimensions of both the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple of Solomon. Your body is a temple, too. He has your perfect size in mind”(p. 9).

The world tells us what we should look like and many times that goal is unattainable for us. Personally, I will never be the 5 foot 8 model with thin legs walking down the runway. My body is 5 foot 4 at best (on my tall days 🙂 and my base is much more muscular than thin. God made me to be athletic so this build often is quite useful to me in my line of work.  How crazy it would be for me to try and reach an emaciated state that would rob my body of the muscle and size that I am made to be.

Nevertheless, if you know my story, you will know that was my goal for a couple of years of life. I fell victim to finding power and strength in reaching a certain size and weight. The results were not power and strength but compromise, a lack of connectedness to myself and to others, as well as an unhealthy view of food and of myself.  It has taken a lot of work for me to see my body as the temple, healing work done with the Lord.  I can honestly say it has been some of the hardest work and most productive work I have done.  The fruit of that work is that I am being set free — free to be all that God created me and called me to be!

How has God designed your body? Are you working with Him and His plan on how to get to that place of health or are you striving to be something you weren’t made to be? Often when we find that we are stuck or moving in the wrong direction it is because we have lost sight of the true goal of health.

I would love for each of us to take a little time this week to ask your maker how He made your frame, what His picture of health is for your life and the steps to get there. I believe the purpose and plan for each of us is freedom and Optimal Health.

The Race of Faith

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Last weekend, I learned about running with endurance. Months ago, I signed up for my second half marathon in the past few months. Knowing that I like to train with a group, I led the Cross Train ladies in preparation. As always, training with these ladies was an absolute blast! We talked a lot; we laughed a lot; and we also worked hard. We did long runs, maintenance runs, speed work, technical drills and plenty of strength training. I felt very good about our upcoming race. The week of the race is always my favorite week as it is taper week. In taper week, we cut back on training and rest our bodies so that they are race ready. We add a few extra carbs to our diets and try to get a little more sleep. I did all those things and thoroughly enjoyed them!

On race morning, I awoke at 5:00 to make sure that I had a good breakfast, coffee and water two hours prior to my starting time. I had the plan for my race hydration and nutrition. As far as I knew, I had done everything to prepare me to accomplish the goals that I had for the day.

The race started. I had a lofty goal for my race so I started with a pace group that was just a bit faster than my goal time. Immediately, I knew something just wasn’t right. My breathing didn’t settle; my legs felt like lead; I wasn’t enjoying the race. Nevertheless, I had a goal so I kept pushing on towards my goal pace. Three miles into the run, I wanted to cry. Nothing was going as I had planned. My December run felt nothing like this one. If I hurt this badly at 3 miles, how was I going to run 10.1 miles farther?

Questions abounded in my mind — Quit? Slow down? Let go of my goal? How I toyed with quitting! I could make a good excuse—I had suffered from a cold last week. Quitting was acceptable, but I just couldn’t grasp the idea of stopping after all those weeks of training.

Slow down? That takes humility, admitting that I am not able to do what I had set out to do. Nevertheless, the longer I ran, the more I knew that slowing down was the only good option. I simply couldn’t keep up the pace. So what about my goal? Is it okay to set a goal and not reach it? What does that mean about me?

The Lord had some powerful answers for me that morning. He started with the reminder that even Jesus took breaks. He knew when he had to slow down and rest and spend time with his Father. There is value in recognizing our limitations and operating within them.

I did slow down, and I did let go of my goal. When I did, some pretty amazing things happened. Every time I passed by a police officer, I had the breath and the desire to say thank you. Thank you for making this a safe race course for me. Thank you for sacrificing a Saturday morning to stand out in the rain for hours. All those volunteers who handed out water, sports drinks and supplements — they didn’t have to be there. They served us in a much needed way. I thanked them and tried to share joy with them. When I passed spectators, I took in their words of encouragement and affirmation. I smiled and told them I appreciated their cheering us on in the race. I encouraged other runners and shared words of acknowledgement. The race did not get a whole lot easier for me. My breathing never fully settled; my legs still hurt; every mile was pretty painful. However, I gained a very valuable insight: when it comes to the end of my life, I want to be remembered for being a person of love, not a person who succeeded at all of her worldly goals. As I was able to let go of the lesser goal of a race time, I was able to pursue my greater goal of loving well.

There were other blessings along the way — when I slowed down, my friend and running partner caught up to me. Truthfully, I don’t think I could have finished the race without her. We didn’t talk nearly as much as the last race (or at least I didn’t), but she kept me going. I felt stronger and more motivated with her by my side. On the one stretch where she got weak, I got strong and was able to encourage and push her. We finished together and God reminded me once again that we are made for community; we are better together!

Finally, The Lord graciously helped me think through my goals in life. While running, I saw a picture of myself coming to the end of my true race. At the finish line, Jesus stood there with arms outstretched. His joy in my race was overwhelming. Despite all the times I missed my goals and fell short of my expectations, Jesus was not disappointed. Instead, he met all the goals and expectations for me. All my goals are complete in him. Better yet, he understood that I could never do it on my own.

Running the race with endurance is looking at Jesus. It means keeping my eyes on him, dropping the baggage and sin that holds me back, dropping the idea of quitting, the excuses, and looking to the joy set before me. It means listening to my body and feelings, listening to my limitations and working within them. It means knowing that I need God’s strength and the strength of the people he has put into my life. Finally, it means trusting in the Only One who could finish the race perfectly. My race is one of faith and that race has already been won by my Savior!