Fear and discouragement inevitably knock on the door of my future dreams. When I answer, I politely welcome them in, acknowledge their presence, but then escort them out before they invade my refrigerator and linger on my couch.

I tell them that I have God’s business to attend to, and that they don’t have any business tending to me. Instead, I can lean entirely on God’s abilities, which are perfect and never-ending.

To prevent crippling fear from creeping in sometimes, I do an exercise called “Fear Setting:”

1. Write down one goal that you are afraid of in the form of a question.

2. Now, make a list of every fear you can think of as it relates to this goal. These can be realistic, highly irrational, or dramatic. Write down any and every little thing you can think of that could go wrong. This is not a time to be judgmental toward yourself or your fears. The more you write down, the better.

3. Then make a list of ways that you can prevent some of these realistic concerns from occurring. This is a great place to work on your brainstorming abilities and problem-solving skills.

4. Finally, if some of your fears do come true, list ways you can repair your life and recover from them.

Even with this soothing exercise in reach, there are some days when fear can be so paralyzing that moving forward feels more like navigating the forceful hands of quicksand.

On days like those, I refer to the basics: What does God say about fear?

I look in the concordance of my Bible and then read each recommended Scripture.

I read them aloud to myself, pacing around the room, desperate for peace.

Eventually, I’ll be so filled with the Holy Spirit that hearing God’s Word becomes an expression of my excitement rather than something to dread.

Graduating from a fear-based mindset to a faith-based one has been the most liberating and useful thing I’ve done these days. Maybe “graduating” isn’t the best word to use because it’s more like studying.

It’s an ongoing process. But it’s influencing everything—how I listen to God in my prayer life, who I call for help, and how authentically I try to parent, live, and work.

I don’t know anyone who lives without fear, not truly.

But the skill I’m trying to master lately—I’m calling it a skill because it takes practice—is to welcome that fear, sit with it, pray through it, and then do the thing anyway. This skill has the power to change the course of my life if I let it.

It’s entirely challenging, but I’m building childlike faith in the process. I’m gaining spiritual muscle by spending time reading my Bible and praying every day. With this newfound perspective—this shift from fear to faith—my mindset grows stronger with experience and repetition.

Faith wouldn’t be required if I knew all the answers ahead of time.

It’s okay. I’m starting to appreciate that, or at the very least, I’ve become more used to it. Now, when God speaks, I jump with what appears to be a hard landing and no net. Then, like Superman, He catches me at the very last second, easing my anxious mind and glorifying Himself in the process. “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8).

Fear might stop by to say, “Hello,” from time to time, but it no longer stays the night.

*For further reflection, listen to James 4 today.

  1. James 4

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

Too often, I end up in front of a computer screen, a TV screen, or the screen on my phone.

While waiting for my kids to come out of practice, I scroll.

When the day has sucked my energy and I’m counting the minutes till I can shut my eyes, I scroll. At the dentist’s office, in order to avoid eye contact with other strangers in the room, I scroll.

And after all that scrolling, I am still tired, worn, sapped, and empty.

What if we quit mindless scrolling?

I decided to give it a try recently. Here’s what I started doing:

After the kids get on the bus in the morning, I check my email, respond to messages, and then I quit scrolling, so I am ready for my date with God before heading to work. In a short time, I’ve read through almost half of the New Testament. As I read, I underlined what I think are the main points. I put a box around words that stick out. I pray.

Instead of scrolling while waiting for one of my kids to come out of practice or work, I pray for that particular child. I pray for his or her health. I pray the Lord helps them stand strong in the culture. I pray they walk with God all their days. I pray God molds and fashions that child into an instrument used for His glory.

At the end of the day, instead of scrolling, I go to my room and read. Not only do I get time with good books, but sometimes my husband and teenage children seek me out. In the quietness of zero screens, we talk and laugh.

And when I stopped scrolling, I noticed how many people still were.

We scroll at red lights. We scroll while shopping with our daughter, who is only ten, and ask if this dress is better than this one. We scroll while the old lady in the waiting room, who is alone all day, watches, wishing someone would notice and talk to her.

While we scroll, time passes that we can’t get back.

Conversations that would have encouraged and blessed us don’t happen. Relationships deteriorate. Prayers we haven’t murmured aren’t answered. Spiritual growth that would have helped us navigate what is ahead hasn’t happened.

There’s a better way. It’s totally doable, and the payoff is substantial. Scroll less, and live more starting today.

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3

*For further information, listen to Jeremiah 33.

  1. Jeremiah 33

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

In order to reset your life, you need to understand, down to your core, that the pause is the start of the work.

If we really want to make long-lasting changes in our lives, we have to stop before we start.

We’ve got to stop and listen to what God is saying, what He wants to do, and where He wants to take us.

We need to stop make sure we’re in step with Him before we go, because He knows best who we are, how we’re doing, what we need, and what it looks like for us to run this race well.


In short, we’ve got to take the time to hit pause and tune in to Him.

We have to stop so we can start well.

Both psychology and spirituality research testify to the power of the pause: the practice of stopping, of silencing the noise and tuning in to what God is saying and what He wants to do.

Being still gives your body and mind a chance to recalibrate—to literally reset.

Science shows us that when you take the time to pause and rest your brain from all the noise, your brain is doing some much-needed processing work. It’s doing some serious healing that it can’t otherwise accomplish while you’re in active mode.

It’s no wonder God specifically tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10) We often read this verse as a compassionate suggestion from God, such as “Why don’t you take a minute to relax?” But it’s not a suggestion. It’s much stronger, bolder, and more candid than that. The Hebrew word here isn’t a suggestion as much as it is a command.

Take the time to pause.

We can’t start if we’ve never taken the time to stop. So, pause for a moment and listen.

Hear exactly what God wants you to change in the present, understand where you’ve made mistakes in the past, and see what you’re being called to do as you look to the future.

Learn to stop before you start. And give your brain the jump-start it needs to prepare for the process of healing.

*For further reflection, listen to Psalm 46 today.

  1. Psalm 46

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

I’ve been a ‘baseball wife’ for over 35 years.

My husband is a professional baseball coach, and I’ve juggled the ups and downs, keeping it all together in this crazy baseball life.

At one point in my life, I fell into a deep spiritual monotony after all of the pressures, because of my negative thoughts. I sat down and began writing about these thoughts.

I saw a disturbing list:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I don’t belong.
  • I’m a failure.
  • I’m unlovable.
  • I’m a horrible person.

Finally, I realized I was my biggest bully. 

No one on earth speaks to me the way I do. I certainly do not speak to anyone the way I speak to myself.

Anxiety, fear, and other toxic emotional barriers left me unsettled. Worry became my crutch. My self-limiting beliefs, or emotional toxins, stem from my mind.

All of this emotional clutter kept me from connecting to Jesus, hearing His voice, and realizing God’s best for me.

I needed to DETOX from emotional toxins in order to connect with God’s voice over me.

Here is how to DETOX your thoughts: 

  • Determine the toxins. Observe what you’re thinking about. What are the toxins that keep you stuck?
  • Evaluate your emotions. Remember that the bonds of deception keep you from all that God desires to do in and through our lives. How do your thoughts make you feel? Do you want to stay there? 
  • Terminate the toxins Once you release the toxin, you can understand the freedom God desires for you. You then replace those deceptions listed with the truth from Scripture. What are your toxic thoughts that oppose God’s Word?
  • Outline a planListen for God’s guidance. Make a plan to stop each negative thought at its source and replace it with the truth immediately. When are you most vulnerable to toxic lies? How can you actively replace them with God’s truth? 
  • eXecute the plan. Take the first step of faith in the direction God is leading, one step at a time and one day at a time. Who can you ask for support on this daily journey?

We can overcome negative thoughts and be all God calls us to be.

“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” Galatians 5:1

*For further reflection, listen to Galatians 5.

  1. Galatians 5

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

Growing up, I was very harsh and critical of myself.

When my parents divorced, my relationship with my mom was loving but detached. Even though my mom and I talked throughout my life, it felt more like catching up with someone than a loving connection. In fact, as a teenager, I didn’t really feel that I needed or wanted a mom.

I never seemed to feel comfortable around girls, and even as an adult, I was never the girl with a long list of girlfriends. But as I got older, something in me yearned for close friends. About five years ago, my mom was without a home. Suddenly, I was faced with the real possibility of living with my mom again after being separated for over three decades.

After much contemplation and prayer, I decided that my mom could move into the granny flat we had downstairs. For the first time, I had my mom and things were different.

She started asking me questions I would never think to ask anyone. I started wondering what my life would have been like if I’d come home every day to someone who was as interested in my emotions, my day, and my thoughts as she was now.

I started learning things I didn’t know—like how to move with gentleness and patience toward your child.

I struggled with this with my own children, especially when I was so harsh and critical toward myself.

She was gentle, kind, and nurturing, and to be honest, it made me pretty uncomfortable. Most of the time, it felt like too much. I felt like she gave me too much attention, too much serving, too much love, and too much availability. I wasn’t used to that, however, I slowly let myself be vulnerable before her. It felt like God brought her into my life for a healing purpose.

And now I began to feel what it was like to be truly seen, known, and loved unconditionally, not just by God but within a relationship I didn’t even know I needed deeply.

Time with her allowed me to see her vulnerability as well. Our time together also helped her heal from the shame she felt for not being present in my life. The daughter she believed she had lost could finally see, know, and love her.

Together, we learned how to stand without shame from the past. It didn’t happen in an instant, but it did happen, and it’s still happening today.

“Fear not, you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth.” Isaiah 54:4

Adapted from “She Speaks Fire: Battling Shame, Igniting Faith, and Claiming Purpose” with Nelson Books; Publishing February 13, 2024.

To hear more from Mariela, watch here here!

*For further reflection, listen to Isaiah 54.

  1. Isaiah 54

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

For nearly six years, my husband and I waited for our baby. We hoped and grieved, hoped and grieved, hoped and grieved, over and over and over again.

We longed.

And our longing led us straight to the middle of God’s heart.

God wants more than anything for us to get to know him. As our Creator, he knows all there is to know about us. The Lord holds our pasts, presents, and futures in his all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving hands.

But he gives us the choice to get to know him in return. And that choice is everything.

Getting to know God’s love is perhaps the easiest and most challenging thing you will ever do with your life, but it is also the very best thing you will ever do.

It is what your soul was made to do. It’s what your soul longs to do more than anything.

At the root of all longing is a longing for life, as God intended.

Before sin, Adam and Eve didn’t want for anything—they had no longings because all of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs were perfectly satisfied. Life, as God intended, was a perfect paradise void of sorrow, sickness, suffering, doubt, disappointment, and death. It was a perfect paradise where we walked and talked with God without shame, guilt, or fear.

But the moment sin entered the world, longing entered as well.

While we live on this earth, we will long. We will long for life over death, health over sickness, joy over sorrow, love over hate, peace over anxiety, abundance over lack, safety over insecurity, justice over injustice, good over evil, and right over wrong.

We all long, and all longing is really longing for life as God originally intended.

God will one day fully redeem this earth and all your longings will be satisfied in the fullness of his presence.

Until then, your soul will find fulfillment only in getting to know God—your Creator, Savior, Sustainer, and Satisfier.

“Oh God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirst for you; my whole body longs for you” (Psalm 63:1).

Excerpt from Asha’s book, This Hope: A Journey of Getting to Know God.

*For Further Reflection, listen to Psalm 63.

  1. Psalm 63

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

Have you found yourself wishing you could just be better?

If only I could run faster, smarter, and harder. If only I had more access, more training, and more resources.

On this journey called life, I’m tempted to think that my biggest problem is what’s outside of me, rather than what’s inside of me.

If the self-improvement game didn’t produce results, we wouldn’t be so obsessed with it as a culture. We want to be younger, faster, prettier, healthier, more well-liked, more strategic, and more effective. There’s no end to the ways we can try to better ourselves. (We can even attempt to defy the aging of our skin with the use of regenerating night creams.)

We are people obsessed with youth, and we often chase after it at all costs. “Be your best self! Forget your past! Remake yourself!”

But in the quiet corners of our lives, we’re confronted with the reality that no matter how many serums we use, we can’t turn back time.

Regardless of how hard we work to be the best version of ourselves right now, we can’t change the past.

There’s a limitation to self-improvement.

We often wear ourselves out trying to achieve freedom of our body, heart, or mind that we cannot achieve by trying harder.

Our constant efforts to fix what ails us come up short and leave us feeling defeated. We were made for much more than improvement or a little polishing up. Instead, we were made for a complete do-over, a new beginning, and a regeneration.

That is why Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “I tell you the truth: unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus was a religious man, an expert at keeping the Law and perfecting himself. And yet Jesus made it clear to him: All that looks great on the outside can never get us closer to the heart of God. We must be born again.

Long before Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, the prophet Ezekiel foretold how God would restore His people: “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations” (Ezekiel 36:26–27).

These words were for the Jews, God’s people, but because God’s promises extend to all of us through Christ, the hope of a new heart is for us too.

You see, our hearts are unaware of its deadness before the love of God causes us to surrender.  We’re unable to have hearts that beat for God and that are soft to his ways.

A few tweaks here and there won’t break a prisoner’s heart free from the shackles of their guilt, unworthiness, and sin.

It takes the work of the Holy Spirit in you, the Father’s love upon you, and the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus, for you.

Your new heart is straight from the intentional, loving heart of God. And guess what? Your new beginning isn’t temporary.

Remember your new heart, friend…when you’re ready to give up, when you feel like you’re not enough, when shame and regret creep in, when you fear what lies ahead and when it’s tempting to keep trying to fix yourself.

Your new heart is made to carry you for the journey Christ has set before you. It’s stronger than you think because it’s a new heart given by God Himself—not as a result of your attempts at trying harder to make yourself new.

So, weary friend, have you forgotten His promises to make you new from the inside out?

We were never meant to be sustained by anything other than a new spiritual heart—one that pumps God’s new life through our veins because of God’s grace.

If you are in Christ, you are born again. You are renewed.  You are a new creation. God’s divine power has given you everything you need for life and godliness. When we walk in the reality of this gift, we exercise the muscle of faith. Here, there is no looking back or covering up.

Instead, we experience a miracle we couldn’t know otherwise: We grow hearts that beat for God. With our new hearts, we have everything we need for our journey.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Ezekiel 36 today.

  1. Exodus 36

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

Adapted from Pilgrim:25 Ways God’s Character Moves Us Onward Pilgrim by Ruth Chou Simons (Harvest House).

I struggled with Bible reading for years, even though I was in full-time ministry. Not only was Scripture challenging to understand, but the challenge left me with a lack of desire.

Every day I felt defeated before I even started, and many days I didn’t start at all. Eventually, I learned I was making three primary mistakes that held me back from understanding and loving Scripture.

My first major mistake was looking for myself. I viewed the Bible as a big to-do list, and if I checked the right boxes, God would respond by fulfilling all my desires. I approached the Bible primarily to get my application points and feel like a good, moral person.

So I started asking myself a few questions to narrow my focus:

  • What does God say or do in this passage?
  • What does this reveal about what God loves?
  • What does this reveal about what God hates?
  • What does this reveal about what motivates God to do what He does?
  • In all of that, what attributes of God are displayed?

The questions we ask of the Bible impact the wisdom we glean from it.

Reading the Bible is an opportunity to behold the beauty of God and be drawn in by him.

My second major mistake stemmed from mistake number one. Since I was only looking for the steps I needed to take to have a perfect, joy-filled life, I hovered over the same passages of Scripture and disregarded the rest.

But my standard approach had me dropping down in the middle of a movie and staying for five minutes, with no real idea of the storyline or who the characters were, and hoping to understand it.

Not only is it impossible to understand something when you handle it that way, but it’s impossible to love it.

To correct that mistake, I read through Scripture chronologically, not from front to back. I wanted to see the overall storyline. So I began each book by identifying who, when, to whom, and what style they wrote it in.

Much to my initial dismay, the bulk of the Bible is not promises or action points. Instead, most of it tells a story about God and His unshakeable love for His people. Reading the story in order and paying attention to the context helped me make sense of verses that appear to contradict each other and how to sift through confusing passages to find God’s character.

My first two mistakes worked together to create my other major mistake: drawing conclusions about God before I read the whole Bible. 

That was a dangerous approach because I was tempted to build a theology around one verse without knowing what other verses had to say. I wanted quick answers and didn’t take the time to consider the context.

When we zoom out and read the whole story, we see a line of grace, mercy, and rescue.

It required patience to hold my questions and conclusions with an open hand. Some of the questions I had in Leviticus weren’t answered until Hebrews.

But all good relationships require patience, and they develop over time. I spent years trying to build my life around a book I hadn’t read about a God I didn’t know.

Now that I know him, I want to help others know him better too!

*For further reflection, listen to Matthew 4 today.

  1. Matthew 4

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

I eagerly followed various schools of brightly colored fish as they darted in and out of coral reefs. That morning’s snorkeling adventure in Hawaii would definitely be remembered.

All of a sudden, I realized that I was tired. Incredibly tired. When I lifted my head from the water, I discovered I was much further from shore than I realized.

A second problem quickly emerged. I was all alone. While my friend had advised snorkeling with a buddy, I decided it was unnecessary. Now, I realized there was no one near to help.

As we emerge from the global crises of the past three years, many of us feel the same way. Adjusting to our new normal has left many of us weary and isolated.

Not only that, but when we do reach out to others for help, we often hear many voices all claiming to know how we should move forward.

We now wonder if truth is not accessible as we thought.  We’re  more skeptical, cynical, questioning and guarded.

 

The author of Hebrews writes, “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).

Increasingly, people are caught in the swift current of today’s spiritual drift. Scripture helps us not be carried away.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Be cautious of the drift toward accepting a promise of salvation whose author is not Jesus.

“Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Be cautious of the drift toward viewing Scripture as untrustworthy—a product of man instead of inspired and written by God.

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Be cautious of the drift toward elevating your ideas about God and drawing a picture of him that matches your likes and preferences.

We have a reliable Source!

Although the pandemic chaos led us to doubt whether we could know the truth, God encourages us to believe him: “And you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

*For further reflection, listen to John 14.

  1. John 14

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.

An adventure found me in 2007 when a door opened for me to study the Bible in Egypt and Israel. I went to Israel and discovered that God is better than I ever knew. Learning the biblical story in its original cultural context introduced me to an entirely different way of seeing, processing, and interpreting the Bible.

It’s something I call the “Middle Eastern lens.”

Psalm 19 describes the Scriptures as being sweeter than honey from the comb. The Jewish people are visual, and they take God at his Word.

When they read the Scriptures, they don’t passively philosophize about them; rather, they set out to do what they read.

For instance, in Jewish preschools where Torah—the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or Christian Old Testament—are being taught to children, rabbis come to visit, and upon reading Psalm 19, they pass around a small vat of honey, inviting the children to dip their pinkie finger into it and taste it.

Then the rabbis will tell the children, “This is what the Word of God tastes like. You take it in, and it is good for you. You let it do its work.”

Jewish people don’t so much view it as reading the Word of God; rather, they view it as eating the Word of God.

They consume it.

They let it do what it wants to do.

The weekly Bible reading for Jewish people is called a parashah—translated as “portion” in English. Each day, Jews eat their parashah, their portion of the Word of God, by taking it in and allowing it to do whatever is necessary inside of them.

This posture is fundamentally different from approaching the Scriptures with a mindset that says we must dig something out to feed ourselves. That’s the posture of an orphan, the fatherless, the one who has to contend for themselves.

When we come to the Scriptures as sons and daughters, we recognize that God is inviting us to come ready to receive, to be fed.

I believe the best meals we can eat are the ones we don’t have to cook! The Bible is a meal—a table of fellowship—prepared for us.

We come postured to receive, to hear from the Lord, to take in everything God wants to say and then act upon it.

There is a difference between leaning inward and going down compared to looking up and out. The latter keeps us buoyant, giving us vision and a gaze set on the Lord. After all, if we stare at ourselves long enough, we’ll get depressed!

The Bible was given for us to first eat communally and then let that inform us individually. We are hungry for the Word of God.

We open our mouths and our hearts wide to the living God. We want to be simple in the way Psalm 19:7 defines it: open.We want the cares of the world to fall away so we can be all in as we eat the Word. We want God to say and do as He desires.

*For further reflection, listen to Psalm 19 today.

  1. Psalm 19

Embed

Copy and paste this code to your site to embed.