Fullness of Life Through Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” 

If you’ve ever seen the movie Braveheart, the first image likely to come into your mind is  Mel Gibson’s blue painted face screaming, “FRRREEEEEEDDDOOOMMM!” as he rides into battle to bravely defend Scotland.  And if you’re a proud American, you likely proclaim that our country is great because it is free.  Our beautiful National Anthem even resounds this triumph with the concluding words, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  No matter how many times I’ve heard it, those majestic lyrics are enough to bring me (or any other patriot) to tears.  

It’s amazing how much strong emotion is brought on by the word and concept of freedom.  And rightly so- for it is the inborn desire of every person to be free. We yearn for the ability to think, speak, and act without hinderance or restraint; to not be governed by a foreign entity; and to not be imprisoned or enslaved to any person or thing.  

The quest for freedom takes form in many aspects of our lives.  This is evidenced by advertisements aimed at helping us find financial freedom, or advertisements informing us how working at home allows freedom in schedule setting or travel.  We even seek freedom in our physical appearance, choosing clothing, accessories, and hairstyles that reflect who we are as a person. And when it comes to relationships (or even our appearance), we might lean into phrases like, “I’m free to be me.”  We go after freedom in every category of life because it brings relief, joy, and peace.  Some might even say freedom is the foundation for life itself.  

As much as I enjoy the freedoms of this country, or believe in the benefits of financial freedom, or value the right to self-expression and healthy relationships, the truth is, these are not the freedoms I really need.  They are the freedoms I love and enjoy…but they cannot save my soul.  

Galatians 5:1 tells us it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  This freedom is twofold: 1)Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are forgiven. Meaning, no longer can Satan (or anyone else for that matter) accuse us before God.  Our sins have been paid for in full, and for those who are in Christ, we can stand before God Almighty, uncondemned, covered in His grace. And 2) We are no longer slaves to sin; sin has been dethroned as our master!  Instead, we become servants to Christ. If you find this unsettling or confusing, take comfort in Romans 6:22 which says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”  

It may seem paradoxical, but a life lived in service to the Savior of the world is the life of true freedom.  There is no lasting joy to be had when we are in slavery to our sin- for this is a slavery that leads to death.  There is however, infinite and eternal joy found in living obediently to Christ- for this is a servitude that leads to life.  

Indeed, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  This freedom is the entire theme of this website as well as my book, Remade: Living Free.  I humbly invite you to join with me in the pursuit of understanding the depths of this freedom given to us by the God who loves us immeasurably.    

Mission Statement

A few nights ago I had the privledge of speaking at our local Gideon’s meeting.  During those 15 minutes of allotted time I shared my testimony of God’s grace and mercy- of how I came to know Christ and how this writing endeavor resulted from an answered prayer for a right and renewed spirit.

This God has done, first and foremost, by His Word and His Spirit.  However, He has also chosen to accomplish this work through the written words of fellow brothers in Christ.  The writings of Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, Ryle, Tozer, and Sproul have been the catalysts for much spiritual growth in my life!  In turn, I have been better equipped to wade into the ministry of writing.   While my words pale in comparison to those just listed, I have been humbled by even the small measure of gifting God has entrusted to me.  

Over the last four years He has given me grace to write about His Word and what I pray have been works that point others to Him.  Thinking about the continuation of this unexpected ministry, I’ve reflected on its overall purpose.  I’ve many times asked, “What is my aim and intention with all that I write?”   

Try as I might, I have have found it exceedingly difficult to write in a breezy and charming manner- and harder still to write about light and easy topics.  While those styles and content are certainly helpful and undoubtedly needed, what I’ve come to realize is this: that is not how- and what- God has called me to write. 

And so, after much thought, prayer, and consideration, I’ve come to rest on the following mission statement from Colossians 1:18 and 4:12.  It reads: 

Remade Living Free is a ministry dedicated to the spiritual growth of followers of Christ. It is my prayer that those affected by this ministry will bear fruit, increase in the knowledge of God, and grow in maturity and assurance in the will of God, for the glory of God.  

As I shared the testimony God has given me- of the means by which He has saved and sanctified me, and how He has used me to share the Gospel message – I did so with joy and awe.  For He has called us to bear witness to the great things He has done. To His glory, the things which only He can do.  

The Good Portion

*This piece was written for and published in the August issue of Faith on Every Corner Magazine (2022). I share it here as an encouragement to continuously seek the One who is our strength and portion.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

It’s been a busy summer for the Byrum household.  Ball games, golf matches, and swim meets combined with work, house projects, and family functions have kept us hopping!  Far too often my daily list of desired tasks to accomplish seems to exceed the number of hours in a day.  Consequently, I often find myself focusing on the details of the day and fussing about “getting it all done.”  However, it’s comforting to know that I am not alone in this- a very good friend of Jesus once felt this way as well.  In the busy moments of life, I come back to the words our Lord spoke to her:  “You are worried and distracted by many things; but only one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:41).  

It’s a familiar story, Martha busily preparing her home for Jesus and the many guests who were sure to accompany him.  I can almost see her in my mind scurrying about the kitchen and living space, trying to make sure all was just as it should be for entertaining.  Likely she was playing the gracious host, ensuring her guests had all they needed.  After all, she had Jesus in her home!  Given the situation, it makes sense that her heart became angry when she saw her sister, Mary, sitting at the Master’s feet.  As you or I may have done, she indignantly asked Jesus if he would tell Mary to come help her. 

To the benefit of everyone who has ever read this recorded story, Jesus did not oblige.  Instead, he calmly told Martha that she had been distracted and that only one thing was needed.  He then said, “Mary has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).  

I often wondered what happened next.  Did Martha hang her head as she whispered a soft apology?  Or, in silence, did she quickly take a seat next to her sister? As verse 42 is the end of the story, we will have to wait to receive the details in heaven!  But if I were to guess, I’d bet that Martha never forgot those words.   

It’s easy to be a Martha, to be worried and distracted with tasks, serving, and wanting everything to be just right.  But Martha’s lesson is for us as well: Jesus is the good portion.  He is the one necessity in our everyday lives; the source of everything we need.  As Acts 17:28 and Colossians 3:11 remind us, in him we live and move and have our being and He alone is all in all.      

Whatever our day holds, be it child-rearing, meetings, or checking off countless items on our to-do list, nothing we can accomplish in a day compares to sitting at the feet of Jesus.  He is our highest treasure and our great inheritance.  He is the One who never fails us.  The psalmist reflected this truth when he wrote, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

As we continue to live in the chaos and business of our schedules; when we find ourselves fretting about how to “do it all,” let us remember that only one thing is necessary.  Like Mary, let us choose the good portion.      

The Ransomed Captives

I’ve heard O Come O Come Emmanuel more times than I could possibly count in my lifetime.  But at a concert a few nights ago I heard it for the first time: “O Come O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”  For some reason it clicked: Israel was a captive in need of ransoming.  How were those words just now piercing my heart?  

For days now, I’ve been replaying that lyric in my mind and thinking through the history:  Long before Israel had been promised a Savior- before Israel even existed- the promise of a Savior was given to our first parents in the Garden of Eden:  “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).  

Scripture tells us that before the foundation of the world, God chose the way of redemption for mankind (1 Peter 1:20, Ephesians 1:4-14).  This way was through the life, death, and resurrection of His only begotten Son whom He would send into the world through the creation of a nation, Israel.  

Beginning with a covenant with Abraham, the plan began to unfold.  The seed of Abraham would grow into a great nation through whom the Messiah would come.     

As generations upon generations unfolded, more became known about the coming Messiah.  He would open the eyes of the blind and set the captives free.  And yet, the captives included Israel.  Though Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles and was the one through whom the Messiah would come, she had lost her way; for time and time again, she willingly whored after false gods and idols.  She, like the rest of the Gentile world, was in need of rescue from her captivity to sin. 

At the time of Jesus’ arrival, many in Israel believed the Messiah would come to rescue them from the tyranny of Roman occupation.  They recognized the need for a savior from an oppressive government but failed to see that their greatest captor was sin.  Truly, their deepest need was spiritual- not governmental, financial, or physical.  

Yet, Christ himself told them why he had come:  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).  He had come to ransom sinners, to buy back those he loved.      

And so, obedient to the Father’s plan, Christ gave his life in exchange for a lost lot of rebels- sinners and idolaters of every kind.  Taking the punishment for sin upon himself, he purchased his bride’s freedom from captivity.  As the Apostle Peter wrote, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19).  

Amazingly, this redemption is also for us.  For like Israel, apart from a Savior we are captive to our sin, a people in need of ransoming.  

And ransom us he did!  The Light born through Israel came into this world so that the world might be saved through him, first for the Jew then for the Gentile (John 3:17, Romans 1:16).  Those who trust in Christ alone are counted as Abraham’s seed and are heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:29).  Grafted into the family of God, they are adopted children, fully ransomed sons and daughters.  In Christ, this is what we are! 

Our great Savior has truly ransomed us- not with a canceled debt, but with a debt paid in full with his own blood.  He has purchased our freedom and crushed the head of the serpent.  This Christmas, as we again hear O Come O Come Emmanuel, may we rejoice in him, the King of kings, the only One who sets the captives, free.   

Dear Friend

To the one persevering through the courageous process of healing: 

Dear Friend, 

I know this journey can be a weary one, that heaviness inevitably intermixes with progress; that common moments of second guessing the worthwhileness of it all will come.  To self-protect, the tendency will be to hit the breaks, to back away, to not look there.  Please know, you are brave.  And you are not alone.        

Sometimes healing looks like pauses and may feel as though growth has become stagnant.  How often we wish we could rush the process, to leap to the end when we feel better.  This is an encouragement to be patient, an invitation to be tender toward yourself.  Please remember, there is no “right pace” for healing.  Embrace where you are as you continue to move forward. 

And in those moments when peace seems illusive, when the hardness of it all feels unceasing- please know, you have permission to let it be hard.  Because sometimes, that’s all it can be.  Allow yourself to weep, to feel what feels unbearable, to rest in the difficult.  It will not be comfortable, but in time, it will be good.     

Please take heart in knowing that your tears are not without purpose and restoration is at hand.   Keep going. Keep breathing.  Keep looking ahead.  Above all, hold this close as a promised hope: Though sorrow lasts for a season, there will be joy again.  


The one cheering you on 

40 and Counting

As I write these words I have five more days to just be 4-0 before I officially start my climb up the 40’s ladder.  But if the next 9 years are anything like my first year in this new-to-me decade, I would truly be thrilled!  Forty has been one of the best years of my life.   

There are many things I’ve loved about this past year, including the ages of our kids.  

Part of me wishes they could stay 11 and 13 indefinitely!  They are so much fun and are just wonderful people.  I also loved our 2 week family vacation together out west this summer.  Additionally, this year has brought some great times with family and friends, and Greg and I have been blessed to enjoy all of these blessings together.  My job at Cornerstone has been going well and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to continue my writing endeavors.  And yet, for all of those wonderful aspects of the past year, there is another reason it has been my favorite. 

On January 1, 2022 I decided to read through the book of Proverbs each month this year, reading 1 chapter per day.  (As there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, this works out almost perfectly!)  I also decided to read a Gospel each month, again, reading one chapter per day.  (The 4 Gospels have 28, 16, 24, and 21 chapters each.  When I finished one Gospel I would then read an epistle of the New Testament through the end of the month. Then, on the 1st of the next month I would start the next Gospel.)

Under this reading plan I read the book of Proverbs 12 times, each Gospel 3 times, and most of the epistles.  Although in years past I have been intentional to consistently read the Bible, this is the first year in which I read the Bible every single day.  

Please know that I say none of this to boast.  In fact, it is only the grace of God that enabled me to do this.  But the interesting thing about this year of Bible reading is how much I began to look forward to this daily reading time.  The more I read, the more I want to read!  I have come to love the book of Proverbs and its teaching on godly humility and wisdom.  Proverbs also taught me about the power of the tongue, the value of self-control, and the sovereignty of God.  Additionally, each month I was challenged, convicted, and encouraged by Proverbs 31, that famous chapter about the character of a godly woman.  

With each Gospel reading, I saw more and more of who Jesus is.  I saw his love and compassion as well as his boldness in speaking truth and calling out sin.  Reading a monthly Gospel was also a continuous reminder of the great price paid for my redemption.  Each month as the chapters built to the crucifixion, I felt myself experiencing a sense of sorrow and tension- and equally, a feeling of relief when I read the resurrection chapters.  And while I loved reading the great letters of Paul, those rich writings unpacking the depth of the gospel, I found myself looking forward to again opening Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.  I wanted to keep reading the actions and words of Jesus, to be reminded again and again of his purpose in coming to earth.  

By the power of the Holy Spirit, this past year in the Word has yielded fruit.  I have felt more consistently patient and joyful and have earnestly prayed to bear the fruits of the Spirit.  Additionally, I have a deeper love for Scripture, prayer, and God’s people than I ever have before.  Certainly, my sin is more distressing to me and I have come to a greater realization of my daily need for Him.  And while I see this growth, I yearn for more, knowing very well that I have so much growing yet to do.  

All of this is why the year of 40 has been my favorite.  I share this post both to give testimony to the power of God’s Word and to encourage you to seek this discipline in your own life.  Truly, there is no better way to know our God and Savior.  And not only that, but His Word does not return empty, for it will accomplish all that He purposes (Isaiah 55:11).  Because of this truth we can be assured that through His Word we will be sanctified, and that in all He will be glorified.  

And so, I look forward to 41; to pruning and growth, to diving deeper into the Word, for another year of walking in light (1 John 1:7).   

The Surrendered Life

Control.  That’s a topic that’s been coming up a lot lately in therapy sessions with my clients…enough that it got me thinking I should write about it.  While it’s impossible for me to cover all aspects and considerations connected to control within the confines of a blog post, I, at least in part, wanted to write some brief reflections on the subject.  And so, this piece before you is my attempt at processing this weighty subject through the written word.    

Let’s start with the actual word.  For the purposes of this piece, I will define control in this way: “To determine the behavior or supervise the running of.”  It’s what is meant by the governing of someone or something- be it others, ourselves, or any other material object or situation.   However, before we get too far, I want to first make clear that control in and of itself- and properly exercised- is not only necessary, but good!  We should have a degree of control over our homes and of our own selves.  

At creation, God set forth the family order by instructing Adam and Eve to multiply.  As Scripture continues, we see the generation of families (and subsequently nations) and the command to raise children in the way of the Lord, teaching and instructing the commandments of God.  As children are under the authority of their parents, the fifth commandment states that children are to obey their parents in the Lord.  And yet, we also see  boundaries within parental authority as Scripture instructs fathers to not exasperate their children.  Husbands and wives who strive to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church in their marriage and who bring up their children according to God’s Word demonstrate God’s good design for the proper governing of the home.   

Likewise, we are called to self-control- which also happens to be one of the nine fruits of the Spirit (1 Peter 5:8, Galatians 5:22-23).  Rather than gratifying our every fleshly desire, in obedience to Christ, we are to die to ourselves and act instead in the way of righteousness.  Scripture gives us a vivid description of the destruction that comes with a lack of self control:  “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).  Clearly, that is not what we want for our own lives!  We must instead pursue self-control through a life lived in the Spirit.     

Now that we’ve seen a few examples of the righteous ways in which we are called to exercise control, we turn now to the problems that arise when control controls us.  Because sin (and the consequences of sin) distorts and destroys that which God has created good,  we must ask these questions regarding control:  When and why does control become problematic? What are the effects of problematic control? And lastly, how do we redeem control? 

First, the when.  At the beginning of this piece I defined control as the governing of oneself, others, or even of objects and situations.  I would argue then that problematic control can be defined as an obsession or compulsion to gain control (of another person, oneself, or a situation), through the use of unhealthy or unethical means.  For example, this may look like trying to control one’s weight by severely restricting food intake or attempting to control others’ actions through the use of emotional manipulation.  Other examples of problematic control may include compulsive cleaning and an obsession with orderliness, or, as discussed in a previous blog, using perfectionism to gain control of one’s life (https://wordpress.com/post/nicolebyrum.com/707).  

There are many reasons we are drawn to problematic control, and it is helpful to uncover at least some of these reasons for ourselves.  Alas, the why of it all.  First, we must consider that we are fallen human beings with a sin nature.  We like things the way we like them!  And often, we strongly believe that our way of doing things or thinking of things is the best way!  To be sure, the presence of pride is a factor we always want to examine in our daily lives.  We can ask, “Is any part of my behavior driven by pride?  By my belief that I know better than anyone else in this situation?  By my desire to be better than others?” 

Personality may also be a contributing factor to problematic control.  Some people naturally enjoy being in charge while others do not!  Likewise, some enjoy orderliness while others are less concerned with this and aren’t the least bit bothered with a messy space.  Of course, there are many factors to consider when thinking about the development of personality- but in the interest of time this piece will not go into all of those!  Suffice to say, there are strengths and weaknesses to every personality which require us to work towards a balance.  For example, if you’re a take-charge person it’s likely you will have to work on listening to others, learning when to speak and when to be silent.  Similarly, if you’re a very orderly person your challenge in life might be learning to become flexible.         

The last piece I’ll include in this “why” section has to do with trauma.  For many, traumatic experiences (especially those in childhood and adolescence) leave one with an extraordinarily strong desire for control.  This control is a way to obtain peace, safety, security, or even a sense of power.  Those who have experienced trauma know all too well the feeling of powerlessness.  Consequently, “One of the most crucial effects of experiencing chronic powerlessness is an overwhelming urge to exert control at every turn,” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stress-fracture/202203/how-chronic-trauma-can-make-person-controlling).  

Before we go on, I wanted to briefly touch on some personal effects of problematic control.  Ironically, the more we exercise control the less in control we often feel.  As I stated in my aforementioned post, Chasing Perfection, “Our ability to have control in life to the degree we desire is limited.”  This means we inevitably chase something that we ultimately cannot attain.  And not only that, but when we do achieve a degree of control, rarely is it “enough.”  There is always a desire for more.  The result?  We feel empty and unsatisfied, and/or anxious and unable to relax.  This may lend itself to panic attacks, poor sleep and a poor appetite.       

Relational effects of problematic control may include conflict and feelings of anger, frustration, and resentment.  As a general rule, where problematic control increases, freedom decreases.  Consequently, relationships suffer- often resulting in further (failed) attempts of gaining control.         

Additionally, any time we use unhealthy or sinful means to gain control, more problems will be created.  A great biblical example of this is that of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar.  Instead of waiting on God’s timing for the promised child, Abraham and Sarah took control by involving Hagar in the child producing process.  This came with grave consequences in the lives of the women (namely, jealousy, hatred, and isolation), and resulted in the child, Ishmael, living apart from his father.  This family tension would continue in history as Ishmael’s descendants became the Arab nations- nations which have had long standing conflict with the nation of Israel.  A sober warning indeed for us to consider our ways.   

If problematic control has been something you’ve been struggling with (or if you’re uncertain it’s problematic), take time to pray.  First, ask God to show you if (and how) control has been controlling you.  Then, pray about the why: ask God to help you see if your behaviors are a result of pride and/or where balance might be needed in your personality.  Ask him to show you any lingering wounds from past traumatic experiences. 

It’s important to gain insight into the why of control and to recognize the signs that your control is “out of control.”  In some cases, talking to someone about these issues may be helpful and a means of healing.  Take time to prayerfully consider the possibility of seeking professional and Godly counsel.  In the meantime, let’s now consider the role of surrender in restoring God-ordained control.  

Surrender.  This is the opposite of control as it means to cease resistance and submit to an authority.  Not an easy task!  At best, surrender is uncomfortable- at worst, it is fear producing.  As any change (even good change) is difficult, it’s okay to acknowledge the discomfort and fear that comes with surrender!  But we must be very clear about who we are surrendering our problematic control to– because this makes all the difference.             

We are not surrendering control to an unpredictable, selfish, or sinful human being.  On the contrary, we are surrendering our problematic control to the Most High God, the Creator of all things.  He is the holy and righteous One, the One worthy of all praise, worship, and adoration.  The one worthy of our trust and obedience.  To that point, let’s briefly examine two attributes of God that help us in our surrendering of control to Him.  

Goodness. We know that God can only act in accordance with His character.  And Scripture tells us that God is good.  This means there is no evil or malice in Him.  None!  As A.W. Pink stated, “All that emanates from God- His decrees, His creation, His laws, His providences- cannot be otherwise than good,” (The Attributes of God).  Psalm 107:1 says, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Similarly, Psalm 145:17 declares, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.”

Furthermore, He works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  Meaning, He works in such a way that even suffering and sin are used to bring about His glory and our sanctification.  Only God is capable of that kind of redemption! And still, as our Father, He desires to bless and reward His children.  In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer writes, “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men…by His nature He is included to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.”  Psalm 31:19a reminds us of this truth: “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you.”  

Sovereignty.  God is perfectly sovereign over all because He is the Creator of all.  There is nothing that is outside of His scope of power and authority.  As one of my favorite pastors and theologians so famously said, “There are no maverick molecules in the universe!”  All is under the divine authority of the triune God.  There is nothing that can thwart His plans.  Pink described God’s sovereignty in this way: “Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things after the counsel of His own will,”  (A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God).  Tozer also pointed out that in order for God to be sovereign He must be all-knowing, all-powerful, and absolutely free,” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy).  The prophet Jeremiah expressed this point when he wrote, “‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you,” (Jeremiah 32:17) 

God’s goodness and sovereignty is a beautiful combination.  His goodness ensures that His divine omnipotence and will is only capable of benevolent and righteous deeds.  And His sovereignty ensures that the good He wills can, in fact, be carried out.  

So what does this mean for our lives?  How do we practically surrender to our good God?  Here are some considerations: 

  1.  At the heart of surrender is the daily acknowledgement of our need for God.  This calls for the dismantling of our pride and the laying down of our ways.  Consider beginning each day with a prayer, perhaps something like this: Dear God, I acknowledge my complete and utter need for you.  Rid me of my pride that I may seek your ways.  Help me to remember that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are your ways than my ways, your thoughts than my thoughts. 
  1. Surrender is also an admission of trust.  When we meditate on the attributes of God we see that our God is worthy of our trust.  And not only that, He knows all of our needs!  As Jesus said in Matthew 6:8, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”  The Apostle Paul also recorded this glorious promise: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  As part of the daily prayer above, add:  I surrender this (person, situation, and/or myself) to you. Help me to trust you to provide all that I need.  
  1.  As we surrender our ways, the need for flexibility will increase.  While order, structure, and routine are all good things, we must recognize the value of flexibility.  Flexibility gives us breathing room to take care of ourselves and to prioritize connection with those in our homes.  If we can’t get all the items on our checklist done in the timeframe in which we expected or hoped…it truly will be okay.  Now, these undone tasks may leave you feeling annoyed or uncomfortable- but those feelings are survivable.  As part of prayer, ask God to help you embrace the value of being flexible and to recognize opportunities to practice flexibility.
  1.  Part of surrender also includes accepting influence from others and recognizing their strengths.  It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that we always “know best.”  While we certainly may have productive ways or ideas, it’s important to recognize that others (such as our spouse or co-workers) do too!  In other words, surrender includes humility.  As we stated above, acknowledging our need for God requires us to humble ourselves- but this also applies to other relationships as well.  Ask yourself who’s influence you might need to work on accepting- then pray for a humble spirit that you might carry this out.  
  1.  Practice stillness.  Often those who struggle with control have difficulty being still.  Chaos and busyness, though exhausting, can feel comforting- especially to those who have experienced trauma.  Surrender requires letting go of the chaos and learning to be content in the peace.  This is difficult, but practice is the key.  

Commit to learning to be still.  For 5 minutes a day get alone with no noise and no distraction.  Simply sit in silence.  Breathe slowly and deeply and sit alone with your thoughts.  As this becomes easier, extend the time.  Once this becomes more comfortable, consider picking 1-2 Bible verses to meditate on during your time of stillness.  (For more on this topic, check out my blog post, “Breathe, Stretch…Meditate?” here: https://nicolebyrum.com/2022/10/11/breathe-stretch-meditate/)      

  1.  Pray for wisdom to discern between righteous control and problematic control.  Remember, we want to lean into the righteous ways God has commanded us to exercise control!  Through prayer and time in the Word, ask God to show you how to lead your family and how to train your children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).  Pray for the Spirit to produce in you the fruit of self-control that you might live a life pleasing to your heavenly Father. 

As we seek to live a surrendered life, problematic control- and all of its consequences- will decrease.  In its place will be freedom that is only possible through a life continuously yielded to the sovereignty and goodness of God.  Freedom that results in restored relationships and a sound mind.   

Breathe, Stretch…Meditate?

Every single time I run I feel a tightness in my left hamstring.  And every single time I have the exact same thought: I really need to be better about regular stretching.  But do I ever stretch?  Nope.  This singular thought has yet to result in action.

At this same time in my life, I’ve also been contemplating the need to slow down and really take in the message of what I’m reading- especially when it comes to rich theological books.  In my excitement for reading, I have a tendency to focus on getting through material quickly so that I can get to the rest of the books on my ever-growing “to read” list.  And while I’ve gained so much from reading, both in terms of knowledge and personal spiritual growth, I know I could benefit even more from slowing my pace- especially when it comes to reading Scripture.    

I love reading God’s Word and over the years I’ve developed some solid reading/studying habits.  But I don’t know that I have intentionally meditated on the Word.  In fact, and this is a bit vulnerable, I’m not sure that I know how.  To that end I’ve been reading articles on this topic, learning what biblical meditation means and practical ways to do it.  In the past I’ve also shied away from meditation because of its new age connotation and association with yoga.  Which, speaking of, is the last piece of this puzzle I’ve been crafting.       

Several years ago I began attending a yoga class at my local ymca.  The instructor is a wonderful Christian woman whom I’ve known for a long time and there was much about the experience that I enjoyed.  Namely, increased flexibility and muscle stability, and the overall feeling of relaxation.  However, over the last few years, I’ve learned more about the practice and origin of yoga and have come to the conviction that it’s not something I personally wish to continue.  Yet, per my earlier statement, I do need more stretching and physical flexibility in my life!       

Because I love efficiency and making the most of my time, I wondered what it would be like to combine Scripture meditation with stretching and breathing.  So on a random Thursday morning I brought myself and my Bible to the middle of my living room floor.  Stretching my arms overhead I took a deep breath and reached for my toes.  Holding the stretch I read John 5:24, the verse we were challenged to memorize at our Wednesday night Bible study.  I repeated this process with a few other standing stretches before taking a seat on the ground. 

Moving through a variety of lower-body stretches I continued to take deep breaths, reading the verse repeatedly.  I then closed my eyes and repeated the verse in my mind.  During this time of stretching, breathing, and reading, I began to pray, asking God to imprint His Word on my heart.  As I meditated on the meaning of the verse, the last sentence began to stand out: “He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”  Has passed from death to life. This is the present tense!  I was one way but am now another.

While continuing some tried and true running stretches, I breathed deeply as other verses about death and life came to mind.  You were darkness (Ephesians 5:8).  Death. Darkness. Judgment.  But what am I now?  I am alive, light, and an heir with Christ!  Moving to my knees, I read verses from Colossians, Ephesians, and 1 Peter- all which proclaim the richness of new life in Christ, who is himself the light and life of men (John 1:4).  I praised God for His most glorious salvation, for the security of eternal life in the future, and for abundant life in Christ now. Rising to my feet, I knew this was the beginning of something new and needed. 

As I’ve reflected on my time in the living room, it’s occurred to me that Scripture speaks about each of these components.  It’s good to care for our physical bodies, as they are part of God’s good creation (Genesis 1:31, 1 Timothy 4:8).  Physical activity and stretching are great ways to demonstrate this care!  Additionally, at creation God breathed the breath of life into Adam, giving him a spirit as well as literal breath.  Our respiratory systems are wonderfully made and taking time to pay attention to our breath is an awe-inspiring practice!  Finally, throughout Scripture we are commanded to meditate on God’s Word so that we will rejoice in Him and walk in the way of righteousness (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, Psalm 104:34, Psalm 119:15, 97). 

As I conclude, I encourage you (along with myself!) to begin a regular routine of stretching, breathing, and Scripture meditation.  The following steps are a  great way to start: 

  1. With your Bible in hand, pick a quiet/peaceful place 
  2. Pick a verse or short portion of Scripture on which to meditate  
  3. Take long, slow deep breaths as you slowly move through various stretches
  4.  Read the designated verse/passage of Scripture as you stretch  
  5. After reading the verse/passage of Scripture several times, close your eyes, breath, and repeat the verse in your head (or aloud) as you continue to stretch  
  6. Pray, asking God to illuminate His Word through the power of the Holy Spirit 

Starry Grief and Grace

Without a doubt, the worst part of writing is the start- dealing with that ever present question, “Where to begin?”  So rather than stare at my computer for the next 30 minutes thinking of the perfect introduction, I’m opting instead to start with the stars.  

But first, an honest moment: I can already tell that writing this piece will bring many tears.  But that’s okay, and even good, in fact.  As Mr. Hemingway said, “Writing is easy.  You just sit at your typewriter and bleed.”  Well, here I am, ready to bleed from a very personal vein. 

And so, the stars.  In early 2018 I was fresh off the boot and physical therapy and had been slowly getting back into running.  I had no idea what the rest of the year would look like in terms of racing, but as time passed, my chronic heel issue seemed to be at bay.  Slowly but surely my fitness improved, and by the summer, I was in pretty decent shape.  So much, in fact, that I began to train for the Columbus Marathon which takes place in mid October.  

September and October had been an incredible block of training and I was doing many of my runs in the dark early morning hours.  I grew to love running the quiet streets of my hometown before the bustle of the day came under way.  But most of all, I loved stepping out of my house and looking up to the stars and moon above.  It was a joy to run under their light, and without fail, every time I was reminded of God’s promise to Abraham when He told him his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.  Those were some of my most cherished runs.  

By God’s grace, not only was that season of training a time of physical and spiritual growth, but the race was as well.  On a very crisp October morning, I toed the line in Columbus and had one of the best races of my life.  It was such a gift to feel not only physically and mentally strong throughout, but to feel God’s presence with me.  I know it’s just running, and I know it may sound strange- but that race was such a gracious gift.  And I am so thankful for it.  

As I stepped into my driveway earlier this week, once again in the darkness of the morning, I looked up to those same stars and the same moon.  I smiled as I thought of Abraham, and as I started down the street it occurred to me that I was coming upon the 4 year anniversary of that race.  I simultaneously felt grief and gratitude.  

You see, 4 years ago I never could have imagined my life now: that my heel would not only not stay good, but that it would deteriorate to the point of limiting my runs to a few slow miles at a time.  Equally, and maybe even more astonishing, I could never have imagined being a writer.  

But first, the grief. 

As I moved slowly along, I felt the familiar pain at the back of my left heel.  The pain that quietly eked its way into my life 8 years ago has been a constant companion on the road.  Though for brief times it has been almost silenced, as of late, it has been oh so loud.  I thought, “I still can’t believe this has happened, that my running has been reduced to this.”  Though I am so thrilled to be able to do what I can even now, it’s almost impossible to not think about what once was…and to not think about what likely won’t be.  

I’ve struggled to even know how to pray about this, vacillating between asking God for complete healing and praying that He will give me contentment for what is.  Sometimes I’ve wondered if perhaps my faith has been weak; wondering if I haven’t fully trusted in His willingness to heal me (even though I in no way ascribe to the word of faith movement).  Countless times I’ve imagined what it would be like to see Jesus face to face, and like the accounts in the Gospels, to be healed by his touch or the power of his word.  

But he has given me more grace.      

The truth is, most of the time I’m okay with the status of this situation.  I still tear up every now and then, and writing this piece so far has been extremely emotional.  But I have so much gratitude for the gift of 28 years of running (20 years totally pain free).   I’ve also come to understand what a blessing it is to love something so deeply for such a long period of time; for not only did God give me the gift of the ability to run, He also gave me the gift of the love for it.  Now when the tears come, I view them as evidence of this love and of His great grace.   

But God’s grace has been more than even gratitude for the gift and love of the gift.  It would seem that this injury has been God’s providence for more blessings-  and in this light, the injury itself has been a measure of grace. 

And so, my gratitude increases.

Continuing to run under the starry sky, I was struck by a new thought: “2018…wow, that was before I even started writing.”   This thought led me to reflect on how much my life has changed in the last 4 years- and how thankful I am for this.  I began my writing journey in 2019 not knowing what it would become or what it would bring to my life.  And let me tell you, the blessings have been abundant.   

Over the last 3.5 years of writing, I have been driven deeper into God’s Word, which has by far been the most precious blessing of all.  Not only have I grown in my knowledge of God and His Word, but my love and affection for both have only increased all the more.  This in itself has not been without effect.  He has been transforming me by His truth, growing my love for prayer, the church, and His Word.  Even if nobody ever reads the words I have written, the many hours spent reading, studying, and typing on my computer have been nothing but a glorious spiritual gain.

I’ve also been blessed with the gift of new and beautiful friendships through the connections I have made through writing.  I never could have imagined this when I sat down to write my first piece in January of 2019!  The blessing of true fellowship with sisters in Christ is yet one more testament to the wisdom and goodness of God.         

In many ways, writing has been the most comparable to running as anything else I’ve experienced.  The spiritual formation, the experience of friendship, and the “feeling like me” feeling I get when I’m engaged in both are the marks of their similarities.  And still, God has given me not only ability, but the love of writing as well.  He has truly given me grace upon grace. 

I have no way to know, of course, if I would have begun my writing adventure without an injured heel.  However, I can clearly see how the presence of it allows time for me to write the words I feel God has given me to write; and how through this earthly trial He continues to mold me so that in all things He might be glorified.  Whatever the days ahead of me hold, whether on the road or not, it is my deep prayer and desire to minister to people through words.  Just as Paul prayed for the church at Colossae, so I pray that those who read my writing will bear fruit and increase in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10).  

As I came upon my driveway at the end of the run, I looked once more to the sky.  The light of day was just breaking through and the stars which reminded me of God’s promise could no longer be seen.  And yet, I knew that they had not moved.  Even more, I knew the God who had called them into existence is himself immovable and unchangeable.  This truth, along with the testimony of this written piece, continues to heal the vein that once was bleeding. 

He is Better

Over the last week or so I’ve been feeling increasingly uncertain about what the future holds for me as both a counselor and a writer.  For no real reason, doubtful thoughts and feelings of inadequacy have been a very real presence.  As I prayed over these things this morning, the answer I received was not in the form of specific directions or a miraculous revelation of what the future will bring.  Rather, by God’s grace I was reminded of the beautiful truth of the supremacy of Christ, that it is he who is better than anything. 

He is better.  I’ve learned this lesson many times over, but most significantly during my years at Huntington University.  In chapter 1 of my book, Remade: Living Free, I shared how God used a 2.5 year running trial to reveal that nothing compares to knowing Him.  Re-reading my own words and story reminded me that this truth has not changed.  I wrote: 

“As I sat back at the conclusion of that track season, I could hardly believe it.  Running had been so important to me all throughout my junior high and high school years, and I had wanted nothing more than to go to college and improve as a runner.  To have such a successful season after so much struggle was an incredible blessing and an amazing feeling. 

As I reflected on the season and thought about the races I had won, placing at Conference and Little State and that awesome run in Indy, I was struck with one very powerful thought- well, not really a thought from my own brain as much as I felt God speaking to my heart and saying, As great as all that felt, I am better than that.

While I absolutely will continue to pray for guidance and direction in all areas of my life, I am so thankful for the reminder that nothing this world offers compares to the satisfying love and joy that I have in my Heavenly Father through Christ.  As strange as it may seem, there is true comfort in knowing that no matter the outcome of my professional and personal endeavors, He will always be better.  

Only God knows what the future holds.  But in this present moment I do know this: when my mind is focused on Christ I have confidence in place of inadequacy and peace in the uncertainty.  A beautiful answer to prayer, indeed.   

The Great Multiplier

For the past few days I’ve had the privilege of vacationing in the beauty of the Missouri hills with extended family.  Writing this now from our cabin balcony, the view is spectacular: As far as the eye can see are blue skies and abundant sunshine- something my warm-weather loving heart can never get enough of.  The rolling green trees outlining the perimeter of the lake form a picturesque scene.  But even better than the scenery is the company.  I have truly been blessed with a family whose members are kind, thoughtful, intelligent, generous, and fun-loving.  Yet more than that, they are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  

During these beautiful vacation experiences I can’t help but wonder if this is a glimpse of what life will be like in the new heaven and the new earth.  With a finite mind, it’s difficult to imagine something better than my current here and now!  But like a child who can’t fathom how the ocean differs from a puddle they enjoy splashing about in, is my ability to imagine what God has in store for those who are His children.  But like a good Father, God, in His grace through His written Word, has been revealing to me His infinite generosity.  He indeed is the Great Multiplier. 

Multiplication was part of God’s plan from the beginning.  From the dust He created Adam, and from Adam’s rib, He brought forth Eve.  From there he gave the gift and command of multiplication to the first man and woman:  “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).  With this multiplication came the institution of the family, and with it, the creation of generations.  During this vacation I have been greatly reminded of the blessing of generations and the wisdom of God in His design!  What a blessing to belong to a family line, to learn from the older generation and to pass along that wisdom and faith to the younger.  

We see again a mighty multiplication in the establishment of the Church as new believers were added daily in great numbers (Acts 2:47, 16:5).  Inspired with boldness and guidance from the Holy Spirit, the new believers spoken of in the book of Acts could not contain their joy for their Savior!  And still, two thousand years later, the Church continues to grow through multiplication- from believers sharing the gospel message with those still dead in their sin.  Though salvation is from the Lord, what a privilege to be used by Him for the advancement of His kingdom!  What a blessing it is to go into all the world, to be a part of the multiplication of the body of Christ. 

As I thought of the beauty in God’s design of multiplication, I was reminded of the feedings of the 4,000 and 5,000 recorded in the Gospels.   Not once, but twice, did Jesus multiply a humble offering of loaves and fishes to more than satisfy the hungry crowds.  The 7 and 12 leftover baskets attest to this.  So great was our Lord’s multiplication that thousands of people were fed and completely satisfied!  While this was a demonstration of the infinite power of God, what strikes me is the motivation for his action- this was a multiplication fueled by compassion (Matthew 9:36).  As with the gifts of multiplication of familial generations and the church, this multiplication was an example of God’s desire to bless and care for His creation.  

Still, Psalm 40 speaks of another multiplication- how God has multiplied His wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us (Psalm 40:5).  Far too often I assume my heavenly Father looks upon me with displeasure or indifference.  And yet, this verse reminds me that His thoughts toward me are greater than I could possibly know.  Yes, He knows our sin.  But in Christ, we are forgiven and these sins are no longer counted against us.  Imagine: not only does He mercifully forgive, but our God multiplies His wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us.  This is all grace upon grace, totally unmerited and undeserved.  As His children, He lavishes His love upon us; a love that multiplies and never subtracts.  

In light of God as the Great Multiplier, I am filled with confidence in His goodness and loving kindness.  Truly, He delights in giving good gifts to those who can never be snatched from His hand, both in this age and in the age to come.  As I once again consider eternity in the new heaven and the new earth, I have a sure hope in the words of Scripture- that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us which is incomparable to anything we have heard or seen in this world.  There we will reign as heirs with Christ and bear witness to His glory unveiled.  For eternity we will be the recipients of grace multiplied.   

%d bloggers like this: