What is freedom?

My new routine in the morning has me up, pets fed and out, by about 5:15 in the morning. Still dark, and pretty cold in the lower level of the house, I then like to curl up in a really fuzzy blanket, hop on the couch, and pray for a bit to start my day. Now granted, not every morning starts like this (especially NOT the ones where I forget I have a 6am meeting and have decided to “sleep in” til 5:30. Those are a bit more rushed!)

Anyway.. this morning I grabbed my daughter’s old bible and flipped to Corinthians. The verse they had circled and highlighted to focus on was one that brought to mind an old worship song:

2 Cor 3:17 “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”

I thought… yes… how true I have found that to be.

But my next though was how I could say that only because I had experienced it in my own life. How would someone who had never experienced the freedom of God read this? Yet I know we do this sometimes, don’t we? Its easy to read a verse you have read before and maybe mentally acknowledge it, yet never really GET it.

Kind of like the treasure in the field that Jesus talked about. You have to dig. You have to want it and set out to find it, and when you do, its fully your choice to find yourself back at that place.

So what was Paul talking about when he said there is freedom where the Spirit of the Lord is? Freedom from what? I’m not sure he was talking about strictly salvation.

In this same passage Paul is talking about how people can often have veils over their eyes or their hearts to understand the message that God wants to share with them. He is specifically speaking about the Jews hearing the message of Jesus, but think about this in your own life: haven’t there been times when you have just felt blind to spiritual truths or things about God that you didn’t get, and then something happened or you went through an experience and all of a sudden you feel like your eyes were opened to understand something new?

So think about the idea of freedom in this context. Whether its a veil over our understanding of God, or a wall we put up holding him at arms length – it’s to this place I think what Paul said made the most sense:

When you are in a place where God’s Spirit is, there is freedom:

– freedom to admit you don’t have it all together, and let Him hold you and bring His peace

– freedom to let go of an image you feel you have to uphold for other people

– freedom to ask questions you are too afraid to put into words

– freedom to set down burdens and guilt you have been carrying, and receive His mercy

– freedom to not have to be the one in charge any more, and breathe in His strength

– freedom to be who you were called to be, without any competing voices

– freedom to laugh and find joy in the face of circumstances that shout “you can’t have that now!”

– freedom to climb up into the arms of One who loves you no matter how big your daddy/mommy/abandonment/identity issues are, and no matter who thinks you are nuts for still believing in a God that is able to love this deeply

The most beautiful truth about this? God’s spirit is ever present. Yes, there are times when it might be more evident, like in a time of worship or silent reverence, but its also found in those deep conversations between friends. Or in places of natural beauty that iPhones and cameras strain to capture.

This time of year, as all sorts of voices shout at you for all sorts of reasons, I hope that you take time to remember it was a pretty dark and ugly world that Jesus stepped into… kind of like ours today. I also hope you can believe that part of His purpose was to bring your heart and your soul out of the darkness that it might find itself in from time to time.

So let his light shine for you today, and welcome His Spirit, as much as you can grasp, that you might be able to find some places of freedom this season!

The best is yet to come?

I read a verse a while ago where the Lord told Israel “I will only ever want good for you”. Of course now I cannot find it underlined anywhere in the 5 different bibles I have laying scattered around…but I know I wrote it down somewhere..

Anyway.

In reading that verse it struck me, that no one has ever run across that before, or, if they did, they ran past it and didn’t pay much attention. At this place in my life, and with so many people struggling with the idea that God is good, I wonder why this particular “word from God” is never mentioned?

I have been reading a lot of the old testament lately, and what stands out to me is that in spite of how unfaithful Israel was to the Lord, he constantly has a voice of justice, of love, and of defense of who they are. He always draws them to life, always challenges them to better, always points them to something in the future. On this side of things, we know that one of those “better” things was Jesus, the One that would forever change our fear of what God thinks of us.

When things are going well for us in life, it’s easy to say that we are blessed and that we are confident in God’s love for us and that He is good and wants good for us. Yet I am keenly aware it’s not like that for everyone. It hasn’t always been like that for me either. So the challenge in the walk of faith is to hold on to the belief that it’s true, that God actually DOES want good for us — even in spite of hard things.

What about when you lose someone you love, or a family member ends up in the hospital and your world turns upside down scheduling life around their care? What about when you lose your job, your kids make choices that leave you wondering, or the marriage you thought would last forever seems it might not? What about when you feel alone? Or when the dreams you had don’t come to pass, or life hits in a zillion other ways, and you are not in control of the outcome?

Does God still want good for you in that?

I know that for some of us, believing that God can bring good out of hard things seems impossible.

Sometimes life leaves us picking up our crown, dusting it off, and declaring to whoever will listen: I AM NOT DONE YET!

You see, for me, this goes way deeper than the verse everyone tosses around – well meaning, of course: “God is able to use all things for the good of those who love him”. Why? Because in the midst of the struggle and pain of life, its hard to see that there is good to come, that life AFTER the loss or life AFTER the pieces are picked up could ever be better than what we had.

But what if we could hold onto that hope? That the best YOU, the best [whatever your challenge is], the best understanding of how God walks with you through it all, is YET to come? It seems impossible, I know.

Yet I can firmly say I have two living breathing daughters as proof.

Saying the best is yet to come for YOUR life, I believe, is casting hope and trust onto the very arms of Jesus and acknowledge that HE is the better treasure, and that whatever you are going through might not seem like part of “the best” right now….. but that what He sees of your life is beautiful, and in His eyes it will only grow to be even MORE beautiful.

That’s glory

Pea Soup

IMG_4694Earlier this week, I woke up one morning at 4:30. I had not planned on waking up that early, but I was wide awake – and for some reason I could not wait to get out for a run.

It was a cool morning – in the 50’s – and still completely dark, save the few street lights in our new neighborhood. As I turned the corner and headed out towards the new high school being built nearby, I realized it was foggy. Very foggy. It was so dense that all I could make out was the muted glow of the lights around the high school.

It was glorious.

Silence, all around, save the sound of the wind whipping the flag on the flagpole as I ran by.

I felt like I had entered sacred ground in a way, because across from the new high school was a huge plot of land that was not yet developed. There was a sidewalk on the outside edge, but behind that – nothing.

I had to stop and look at it for a minute, and stare into the thick nothingness that I could not see. This is the perfect picture of where I am and where I am headed, I thought. Fully confident of the presence of God, yet fully unaware of what waits beyond the next few steps in front of me.

I have come to love fog for that very reason – because it is such a perfect visual of what the presence of God is like – what it can seem like, I guess I should say – at different times in our lives, or even just at different times in worship. It is a reminder that we can breathe him in and stand in His very presence. It’s beautiful, mysterious, satisfying…and promised to us, if only we will pursue Him and do the work of waiting.  

The only thing I could see in the midst of the fog was the white line of the bike lane on the road, so of course I kept my eyes on it the whole time. It kept my footing sure and my path going the right direction, even though I still couldn’t see much.

Isn’t that just like faith? There are times in our lives where things get foggy, and the next steps are not always clear. Maybe we can barely see the road in front of us – or maybe we cannot see it at all – but as we all know, life doesn’t just stop. Neither does faith.  In fact, that’s the point of faith, to keep walking with God, knowing he is your plumbline, even when you don’t have directions and can’t see where you are going or what’s up next.

I like how The Message puts it: “… this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living…” (Heb 11:1) Other translations use words like “evidence of what we hope for” and “substance of things unseen”.  But you see, this isn’t just vague faith that eventually things will get better, or that things will work out.

Faith, grounded in the work of Jesus love for us on the cross and his ability to raise our lives from the dead even as we still walk this earth – that kind of faith is trusting He will never abandon you, even when things seem foggy. It’s holding to promises God has made of his provision, ability to comfort and counsel, even when evidence might seem to speak to the opposite.

Faith sometimes involves walking forward in the next thing without the daily reassurance that you made the right decision… but resting in the One that called and promises to go before you.

So today, I leave you with one of my new favorite songs, it’s called “Steady Heart” by Amanda Cook….. (but you can search for it yourself on YouTube or Spotify) 🙂