Once, during a period of exasperating insomnia, I watched a nature documentary, hoping it might put me to sleep. I was, at the time, frustrated with myself. It was a demanding era for me, requiring a great deal of personal discipline to complete my studies and carry on doing all the things that I needed to do to pay my bills.

Each day, I had the same relentless routine of studying, working, eating, cleaning, and preparing to do it all again.

My insomnia was merely the final stone in an avalanche of stress tumbling down the hill of my life. That night, I learned all about palm oil trees from the documentary.

Unlike me, apparently palm oil trees are very productive and make a lot of money. To maximize profits, the farmers created the conditions for this productivity by stripping away the many other seemingly useless plants from the jungle and planting endless, orderly lines of palm—and only palm—trees.


However, this process led to the diminishment of the area surrounding the palm oil trees—the same rich natural resources that caused the trees to be so productive in the first place.

As a result, while the farmers’ strict order produced an abundance of one kind of crop, it also started to destroy everything else in its path.

I saw myself as one of the palm oil trees. I was focused on only one purpose: to produce. I had cut and cleared the field of my life of anything that didn’t contribute to the productivity of my work.

And now, the forest of my life yielded less and less fruit. The world we live in has told us to make ourselves like palm oil trees,fit for producing and profiting. And the irony of this, of course, is that we often make ourselves much less “productive” in the process by depriving ourselves of those secret forms of nourishment.

Each day, a tree needs something slightly different: sunlight, shade, water, nutrients in the soil, and much more.

We are the same.

Sometimes it can be frightening when it feels like our effort or prayer hasn’t borne fruit. But remembering that you are like a tree can relieve some of this anxiety.

Even wintery seasons (as long as they feel) may be a time when our roots are growing deep. And our winter seasons precede the beautiful glory of spring. May we pay attention to what season we are in and embrace all that God gives us to grow and flourish.

We were made to do more than just produce.

“They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season” Psalm 1:1a.

*For further reflection, listen to Psalm 1.

  1. Psalm 1

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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

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It wasn’t just impossible; it was laughable.

Jesus and his disciples needed to feed a crowd of nearly 5,000 men plus women and children. Jesus asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5) But, of course, Jesus is God, and he didn’t need the answer.

He asked Philip anyway. And Philip dared to sarcastically talk back to the Creator, reminding Jesus that it would take more than half a year’s wages to fund such an endeavor. From there on, Jesus didn’t even attempt to explain himself to Philip. He just showed him instead.

During this season of transitioning from three to four kids, I’ve felt like Philip: annoyed, even angry at God that He would expect me to do something so impossible.

It honestly isn’t even the “being a mom” part. As hard as it is to live in a perpetually cluttered space, I love rising to the parenting challenges in New York City. I love catching those moments where my kids are actually hugging each other or dancing together instead of bickering. However, since my youngest was born, I’ve procrastinated multiple times on writing. Writing takes emotional strength. After spending all day with young kids, I often feel like I have nothing left to give of myself in writing.

God has been revealing that I get frustrated and overwhelmed because I place unrealistic expectations on myself that He never puts on me.

When my inner critic calls me a mediocre homemaker, God tells me I don’t need to cook a different home-cooked meal every night, nor do I need to keep the house clutter-free.

When my inner critic calls me a mediocre blogger, God reminds me that many bloggers whom I compare myself to have teams behind them helping them to post daily.

For the past six months, I’ve been trying to write in my power, not out of an overflow of my relationship with God. And to no surprise, I come up short every time.

When my inner critic calls me a mediocre blogger, God reminds me that many bloggers whom I compare myself to have teams behind them helping them to post daily. For the past six months, I’ve been trying to write in my power, not out of an overflow of my relationship with God. And again, to no surprise, I come up short every time.

After Philip reminds Jesus of the hopelessness of the situation of feeding the crowd, Jesus ignores his comment and essentially asks his other disciples, “Well, what do you have?”  Another disciple, Andrew, replies, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

God reminds me that when it is time to write something, the Holy Spirit will take over and give me what I need. He tells me that He will be faithful to renew my strength and give me the rest I need to deal with another day of dealing with the chaos of raising four young kids. God is faithful to use my “barley loaves and two fish” and, in His power, multiply it into something much more than I could have ever mustered up on my own.

May God do the same with you as you walk forward in his strength!

*For further reflection, listen to John 6.

  1. John 6

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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

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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

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When I turned 50, I said to myself, “I am not THAT old.” When I turned 60, my friends told me, “Sixty is the new forty.” Finally, when I turned 70, I admitted, “Seventy is THAT old!”

Now I am almost a decade older. I’ve written a book on aging. But I am still surprised by the experience of getting older.

My soul is growing as my body is aging.

To grow means to change. Paul wrote, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” (Ephesians 4:23). As we age, we are invited to allow the Holy Spirit to change the thoughts and attitudes we have held for decades. Some perspectives and spiritual disciplines that helped me when I was younger are no longer life-giving.

As my body ages, I have less energy and fewer opportunities. The Holy Spirit is changing my expectations and priorities.

I need to unlearn some of the things that I used to believe.

I used to feel responsible for many things. Now that I can do less, God is inviting me to think about my days in terms of fruitfulness rather than productivity.

The list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23 reminds me that it is more important to love others than to finish my “to-do” list.

I want to focus on the invitations God gives in my losses.

Jesus said,“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20). When I was younger, I had important jobs to do and places where I found significance. Now I am losing some of that sense of importance. Some days my spirit feels “poor” about all I have lost.

Jesus promises I will experience the Kingdom of God even as I experience this part of aging.

He said God’s Kingdom is like “a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.” (Mark 4:26-27)

What a comfort this is! I can toss seeds on the ground (when I have the energy!) and then go to bed. I don’t understand it, but whether I am asleep or awake, the seeds are growing.

I thank God for the fruit of this season of life.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Ephesians 4 today.

  1. Ephesians 4

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