5 Things I Learned Spring of 2019

I follow several lovely ladies on social media and one of them, Emily P Freeman, invites people to join along in chronicling “what I learned this season.”  I love the idea of pausing four times a year to check in with my life.  I tried to start the habit of joining in sometime last year – but life got in the way of checking in with life and so the story goes.  Maybe this time it will stick.

What I learned this Spring:

1. I enjoy life when I have quality time with my friends much better than without.  This spring, work and kid activities took over my life and the thing that got cut out was my time with my friends.  I have plans this summer to be a little more consistent with some girlfriends this summer and I feel so much more settled knowing that I’m making an effort to clear a little pool of time in the schedule.

2. As much as I hate it, one of my very first reactions to unexpected and stressful life situations is anxiety.  We had some stressful, landscape-changing things happen on the work front this spring.  For a couple days I felt waves of useless adrenaline coursing through my body and my mind alternately felt frozen or went spinning out possible scenarios into a dystopian future.  Rather than pretend that’s not what I naturally do, I’m noticing it.  Which lead to:

3. I can control my responses to life situations –  I don’t have wallow in my natural reactions to them. My pastor is working his way through Matthew on Sundays and he said recently, “Jesus will tweak your expectations, the question is, what will you do with Jesus when He does?”  Over and over the Bible tells us there will be trials.  What matters most is not the situation itself, but our response to it.  Our response to the trials either brings us closer to Jesus or hardens our hearts and keeps Jesus from coming nearer to us.  Sanctification, I’m learning, is God’s process of tweaking our expectations and training us to respond through His Spirit.  Rather than despair and worry when circumstances unexpectedly skew, God is training me to look in faith to His character: goodness, love, and kindness.

4. I enjoy the Marvel movies.  I watched Thor: Ragnorok and Avengers: Infinity War and just thought they were fun.  Fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously is my jam.

5. My metabolism is slowing down, so I need to eat slower and listen to my body when it tells me I’m full.  It’s either that, or, the way things are going, I’ll need to purchase all new pants.

What about you?  What did you learn this spring?

Picture God

God is light, in Him there is no darkness.  Perfect love drives out fear.

Someone said that there are 365 Bible verses that admonish, “do not fear” or “do not be afraid.”  Considering “fear” is my word of the year, I thought I’d look them all up, one for each day.  Maybe we could even look at them together all year…I began and found that:

1) I didn’t see 365 Bible verses saying “don’t fear” or some equivalent; and
2) even if I had tried hard to scout them all out, the verses I did find weren’t all that encouraging, so I just quit the project.

I’ve had people telling me all my life things ranging from, “don’t be afraid” to “that’s what you’re really thinking!?”  to “quit being ridiculous.” None of those statements has ever helped still my quaking innards or calm my chipmunk thoughts.

In fact, at this point, I’m pretty allergic to people telling me things like that.  There is, actually, A LOT to be afraid of!  A casual perusal of the newspaper will reveal this much.  Plus, when my quaking and chipmunking don’t dissipate with such pearls of wisdom, and since I’m too honest to assure such would-be helpers, “wow, I feel better after that pep-talk,” people tend to get impatient with me.  I wear people out, is what I’m saying.

Also, better, but unfortunately not particularly helpful is people quoting verses or simple Christian truths.  That, my friends, rings cliche.  For example:  “God is in control,” or “God works all things for the good,” or “I’ve read the end of the Bible, and the good guys win”… Yes, right.  And, my head knows these things, but my body and feelings just don’t respond to the fairy-tale ending approach.  My allergy makes my mind argue (usually,  inside my head).  My inner argument goes like this:  yes, those things are true, but not actually that easy because…well, for one thing, have you actually read the whole middle of the Bible?  The blood, sweat and tears God has shed and asks His children to shed…?

Turns out arguing with people in this situation wears people out, too.

So, am I doomed?  Are all the unfortunate souls out there like me doomed to a life of anti-anxiety medication and wearing friends out until the only person who will talk to us is our therapist and even she doesn’t look forward to that hour?

Of course not.  Something I’m finding that shifts my body’s apprehension is taking in God’s character.  As in, gazing at His character, thinking about it, and then trying to act as if His character is true.  (I’m pretty sure, in the olden days — or, older denominations today — this is called “meditating on God”).

Not that His character is not true, but that I do not always act as if it were true.

And, the most apparent facet of God’s character that scripture is steeped in and that melts my fear, is fixing my gaze on  His love. CS Lewis captured the sentiment perfectly:  God, it turns out, is much like Aslan.  Not a safe, tame lion.  But, an utterly good one.

Winter Stress

Winter + Montana = pediatrician visits 3 weeks in a row.  Work deadlines + sick children = high stress.  And that, my friends, adds up to a coat most of us don’t wear real pretty.

Personally, I’ve caught myself having crazy arguments with the committee that sometimes camps out in my head – the one that points out every mistake I’ve ever made and is sure that whatever I put my hand to will fail.  This super helpful committee is sure to point out all the things that the future holds which terrify me.  This is the corner stress can back me into: the one where I’m wearing decades of crusty old guilt and carrying responsibility for a future that may never occur. 

Maybe your ugly stress coat finds you lashing out at people or fixating on having a spotless bathroom or seeking affection from some inaccessible hero.

I don’t know.  What I’m hearing from God recently, though, is that whichever particular unseemly corner we default to:  we don’t have to remain there.  Nor need we pack around that old heavy coat.  These out of control circumstances, these knee-jerk patterns, our weaknesses, what they reveal about us.  Let’s not remain hiding there, ok?  None of this is a surprise to the Creator of the universe.  God sees us there – saw us there long ago – and He did the heavy lifting.  Jesus came to live among us and humbled himself to the cross.  That power that raised Jesus from the dead?  It saves us.  It does more than that, the same power gives us everything we need for life.

Let’s preach the truth to ourselves and encourage one another.  When high stress threatens and we feel ourselves reverting back to patterns we would rather not: let’s remind each other that God’s grace and peace are ours in abundance through the heart-knowledge of God and Jesus. 

So, as this new week draws ever closer, let’s welcome all that it entails together with God’s grace and peace.  “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the heart-knowledge of God and Jesus.  His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,” Peter tells the Church in his second letter.

If you are dreading the week’s inception (even with this pep-talk and verses) may I encourage you to share your fears with someone?  If it’s easier, tells us about it by commenting below, but if you have a real-live-person you can reach out to and hear their voice or hold their hand, may I suggest using every bit of God’s power you need to reach out directly?

Grace and peace be yours in abundance this week, dear friends.

2019 Year of Fear

Hi friends.  Let me introduce myself.

I’m Becky, and I’m an Enneagram 6, with a strong 5 wing. 

Mostly a phobic 6, even. For those of you who haven’t done much reading on the Enneagram, I’ll explain: this means I can be a total in-my-head, neurotic, worst-case scenario thinking, wet-blanket, basket-case.  To make matters even worse, this “typing” firmly places me in the same camp as what most “Enneagram teachers” say the vast majority of people living in the 1st-world West are.  (Meaning: I’m depressingly ordinary). 

To illustrate, let me tell you a story. 

When I was in kindergarten, the firemen put on an assembly.  In one skit, a woman dressed in a flowing, gauzy, black gown – the embodiment of smoke – touched and put to sleep all the other characters so they did not know their house was on fire and could not escape.  As the red and orange fabric “flames” approached the slumbering characters, I burst into loud, terrified tears.   At this point, the entire assembly came to a screeching halt, and the woman in the black gown took off her gauzy black hat, audibly and visibly trying reassure me that it was just all pretend. 

She got me to stop crying and coerced me in front of God and everybody there at the assembly to agree that “this” was all pretend.  And “everything” was going to be ok.  But, even at 5, I could see the very real and present possibility of a house fire.  For months, even years afterward, I periodically lay awake in the night, wondering if my parents had checked the smoke alarms, (they most certainly had not, as flippantly cavalier as they were about such things), fretting that my little sisters might be too small to reach the bedroom window if there were a fire.  Closing the bedroom door (it’s harder for smoke to invade a room).  Chanting the “sinner’s prayer” because preparations likely had not been adequately managed.

And, that’s what it was like growing up as a phobic 6.

Oddly enough, I’ve never had an anxiety attack (head scratcher, I know). 

I thought I’d put my nervous anxiety behind me around the time my third child was born.  I was in a new, less tightly-wound place and really enjoying it.  But the same sense of dread came back with a vengeance this fall.  Dread hanging over me like a thick, yellow smog. 

I pled with God to just fix me, already. 

I’m tired of this.  I’m getting rather old for this.  Blah, blah, blah.  Same sentiments, different decade.  But then, I sensed the Spirit saying, “what if this anxiety is a trial of the James 1:2 variety?”  Consider it, pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work in you, that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

So, rather than be embarrassed, angry and ashamed of my nerves, I’m considering it joy.  Well, asking God to help me consider it joy, anyway. 

I came across these words in a book I’m reading by Jan Johnson recently that ring true:

If I don’t like what my actions tell me about what I want, what do I want to want? // If we want to want God, our next step is to come to terms with our underlying fears.  We start where we are.  We invite God to work with us on these fears so we can begin drinking God’s living water.  God’s own Spirit, as Dallas Willard explains, ‘will keep [us] from ever again being thirsty – being driven and ruled by unsatisfied desires…Indeed, it will even become ‘rivers of living water’ flowing from the center of the believer’s life to a thirsty world (Jn 7:38).”

Jan Johnson, Abundant Simplicity

God, help me.  Help us.  Amen.

Self-Control Day 5

You were taught … to be made new in the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22, 23-24). Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about these things. (Phil. 4:8). … we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5). But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-26).

1. According to Ephesians 4:22-24,what were we created to be like? According to this verse, how are we to be made new?

2. Which of the things in the Phillipians passage is easiest for you to think on? Which is hardest?

3. What are we instructed to take captive in 2 Corinthians?

4. Which part of the fruit of the Spirit has God been leading you deeper in this summer?

5. Keep “practicing” your discipline for the next three days.

Self-Control Day 4

Train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  (1 Tim. 4:7-8).  For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.  (Hebrews 4:12-13).  For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life. (Prov. 6:23).  All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.  (Phil. 4:12-13).

1. What are some characteristics of scripture, according to these verses?

2. How have you used the word of God as training in godliness?

3. Have you practiced your “spiritual discipline” today?  Is it becoming easier to practice this “discipline”?

Self-Control – Day 3

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in ever increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:3-9).

1. What has God’s divine power given us?  How do we attain what God’s divine power has given us?


2. What may we participate in and escape through God’s activation of “great and precious promises”?

3. What keeps up from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Jesus?

4. Where have you experienced God’s divine power giving you what you need for your life?

5. Have you had the chance to practice your chosen “spiritual discipline” yet today?

Self-Control – Day 2

[C]ontinue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil 2:12). Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last.   Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  (1 Cor. 9:24-27).  I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him …Not that I have already attained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I don’t consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one things I do: 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.  (Phil. 3:7-14). 

1. How have you been running your earthy “race”?

2. In Phil. 3:7-14, what is the one thing that Paul says he does?

3. Throughout the day, are you more earthly minded or eternally minded?

4. Have you yet put into practice the one thing that you committed to the Lord to do on day one?

Self-Control – Day 1

But the fruit of the Spirit is …. self-control. Galations 5:22-23.

It’s not particularly necessary to define “self-control.” Of all the virtues we’ve studied to date, it is, perhaps, the most self-explanatory. In Greek it’s the word, “egkratia” which means – self-control (it is also translated as temperance, but that word would need some defining in this day and age!).

Control of one’s self. Self-control. I have so many words that I’ve been trying to say about all of this. I’ve typed and erased for several nights in a row. So, I’m ditching those words for this: this week, let’s choose something good and do it, repeatedly.

Here’s the thing: God has been teaching me in deeper, more thorough ways, how the mind, body and soul are all connected. Train yourself to be godly. (1 Tim. 4:7). Boom. The mandate is laid out there in black and white.

But, how?

I can’t tell you in the next 4 days all the ways…Not that I “know” all the ways. Really, I think God wants us to live the rest of our lives here on earth learning all ways in which we can train ourselves to be godly. I’m going to spare us the long dissertation on the classical spiritual disciplines and just say that, the first Christians followed Jesus’ practices of Bible study and memorization, prayer, solitude, silence, fasting, simplicity, celebration, giving and confession (there were others, I’m sure). For a more in-depth look at these classical tools to use as “training” in godliness, I recommend Richard Foster’s Celebration of the Disciplines or for a less in-depth but more accessible look, the IF:Gathering has a recent Bible study on the disciplines.  In essence, what the classical spiritual disciplines do is offer us a way to do something to work with the work God is working in us. To participate in our sanctification.

Briefly, the theological (psychological and philosophical) underpinnings of these disciplines is that, before we are transformed into a new creation by acceptance of Jesus’ substitutionary death for us, we have repeatedly done sinful things which have, in turn become habit and that habit has, in turn, become character. While our true nature after conversion is that of Christ, our thoughts and actions continue along the same path that we have carved out and, through the help of the Spirit and our own work, we can form new habit and character. (For an in-depth look at the theological, philosophical and psychological underpinnings as I’ve boiled them down, Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines is helpful –also, I’m not sure I completely understand or buy into everything he concludes there, but it’s very interesting).

Boiled down for our purposes here, what I think God is prompting for this week’s study on self-control is to focus on one area of our life and diligently bring it before Him. It can be an area where sin has been sticking to your soul. It can be an area where you have felt God prompting a step in faith.

This is where it gets tricky. Foster says, in effect, we should approach the disciplines with an experimental attitude. The disciplines are not the point – the point is to deepen our walk with God, heighten our sensitivity to the Spirit, abide more fully. To do anything else is empty, poisonous, legalistic ritual.

Self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is not legalism. It is the freedom to love and live in the fullness of life that Christ’s sacrifice grants.

So, I encourage you to take at least five minutes to sit before God with the question of where He is focusing you this week. Where does He desire for you to work? And then, ask Him how He desires for you to work it out – train in godliness in this area this week. This is where it gets tricky that I haven’t gone into a minor (or major!) discussion on each of the classical disciplines and the really neat spiritual disciplines I’ve run across over the last year.

So, let me say that basically anything good or abstaining from something that’s not actually bad can be a spiritual discipline. I suggest that, it is helpful to have a connection between the things the Lord has prompted you about. For example: • Maybe the area is pride – perhaps you could abstain from blow drying and curling your hair or wearing make-up, or perhaps you could pray as you go through the habit of getting yourself ready for the day, remembering Colossions 3:12-14, making the act a clothing of yourself in God’s compassion, patience, love and kindness to be worn in your spirit. • Maybe the area is anxiety – if so, perhaps you could spend just 5 minutes a day silent before the Lord, quieting your soul before Him, allowing His presence to bathe you; or maybe you could spend 5 minutes a day memorizing a scripture like Psalm 139:14, Zeph. 3:17, Matthew 7:7-11… • Maybe the area is prayer – perhaps you can take a 10 minute walk/run by yourself everyday and dedicate the time to praying, or even pray for your family when you do the dishes or your laundry – asking the Lord to give them spiritual nourishment or clothe them in the armor of God. • Perhaps God is prompting you to step out of your comfort zone with the people He has brought into your life and He wants you to send a quick note or text message to someone every day or attempt to arrange a time to invite someone to spend time with you every day.

I suggest that, if your “discipline” is something that will require your family to change their routine a little bit, that you tell them a bit about what you are doing so that they can encourage, not accidentally hinder your  efforts.

No matter how small or seemingly silly the thing you are prompted to do, God will accept it as a fragrant offering if done with the heart to know Him better. He will also use it to help define your character, making your family resemblance to Jesus stronger.

Now, sit with God and ask Him where He wants you to intentionally work in your life this week and how He wants you to do it.

Feel free to tell me (or a trusted friend) what the thing you are to do is — now, do it!


It was my intention to roll out the Bible study in 9 weeks.  I need a week to pause and reflect on self-control.  Well, I’ll need a lifetime to reflect on all of this — but a week to formulate this summer’s week spent on self-control.

Wait with me?

And, pray for me.

Thank you friends.