Responsible Freedom

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I’ll be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want.” What budding young adult upon first striking out on their own, or dreaming of doing so, has not had that thought or something very similar? Children too, fret at times under the authority of their parents or others.

I can remember similar thoughts of my own and I see in my mind’s eye that eighteen-year-old me as she headed off to college. Admittedly, there was a little anxiety as well. Though I was “on my own” I did not leave all behind nor dump what had been instilled in me for the previous eighteen years. I brought with me my faith, my values, life’s teachings, and lessons learned from my parents and others. I realized that with this newfound freedom, there was also great responsibility.

As unfinished and developing human beings, we allow our thoughts, emotions, and actions to drive how we react to others. The familiar, “He (or she) hit me first” of children is echoed in many forms for we adults. We justify ourselves by placing blame and by not recognizing our own responsibilities within our freedom to choose.

Paul said this well in his first letter to the church in Corinth. I like that my Bible titles this section as “The Believer’s Freedom.” He said, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. *

Wow! That was pretty radical and certainly not something usually promoted, including today. Two words that stood out for me in Paul’s statement are “beneficial” and “constructive.” Not everything that we have the freedom to do results in good. Not everything we have the freedom to do serves a useful purpose or builds up others. While this freedom may be related to written laws or practices it is much more than that. This freedom has to do with personal character and integrity. It has everything to do with personal faith and commitment. Tied into all of this is compassion, love and care for others, and mutual respect.

That doesn’t make it right” is a common response to the child’s declaration of “He (or she) hit me first!” What are our thoughts, our reactions, or our words to everyday situations? Do they reflect responsible freedom? Do they shine Christ’s light? This is a challenge for us all, I think.

I pray that I will better walk the path of responsible freedom. May we all seek and follow that path, ever striving for that which is beneficial and that which is constructive. All praise and thanks to God who draws His children closer to Him.

*1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Windows of Our Hearts

fan electric_by Roy Muz_Unsplash

The hum of the big exhaust fan in the window of our upstairs hallway signaled the beginning of another summer evening. As night drew closer, the familiar voices and sounds of my family about the house or in the yard were comforting and familiar. In those days of yesteryear, I see myself stretched out on my bed or curled up on my window seat reading a good book or just watching life from my bedroom window. To this day these same things in my own home bring contentment and peace.

We always closed the windows and retreated to the cooler lower floor during the day as summer’s heat began to build around mid-morning. Then, as evening’s cool touch came, the windows were opened, and the fans began to draw out the warm air that had built up in our upstairs rooms through the day. I remember breathing deeply of the cool night’s air as it was drawn in and listening to the sounds of life… the voices of insects, tree frogs, and owls and the rhythm of our small-town. The refreshing coolness brought a sense of peace and renewal, especially if the day had been long or difficult.

The windows of our hearts can be like those rooms on hot summer days. Sometimes we close them – perhaps due to doubt, anger, or fear – as we seek to guard ourselves or to declare our own will. I know that when I am hurt, let down, angry, or disappointed I too tend to withdraw and shut off as much as possible from its source. This may bring some relief for a time, until there is room for healing and the opening of those windows.

As we beat against the ills we see, so that our ears are deafened to all else, God’s cool healing breath washes over our world. May we not fail to see and feel it! There is injustice in this world, but there is also the breath of God. Like those fans, as we open our hearts to God, His breath fills us and draws from us that which is stale and stifling… that which has caused hurt.

Have you considered the breath of God? As in the beginning of time, “then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” *

We are living beings, whom God loves, and He said it was very good. *

My prayer for our world is that we will know God’s refreshing and renewing breath. I pray that He will draw from us that which is stale and stifling, driven by hurt, and fill us with the hope of His Spirit.

* Genesis 1:31, 2:7

Trust Fully

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At dawn’s breaking, day’s nooning
Eve’s dawning, night’s sighing
What message sending
… trust fully

When rising in doubt, so restless foreboding
Or lonely now stressing, growing angry or fearful
When foremost is … self
Trust fully

What attitude taken, what visions or angst
When anxious or doubting, ‘I deserve’ and ‘why me’s’
Spreading discontent’s seeds
So hard to trust fully

Not foolish naive, of life’s follies and stress
Walk slowly take courage; run swiftly, greet confidence
Still self; be assured
And trust fully

Are you pointing to … Him, God’s hand held each day
Thoughts that are fruitful, for others to know
Nourishing lifting
… trust fully

Where vision does take us, eyes do perceive us
Words spew or bear up; actions tear or build up
Ear shut out or listen
… ah, trust fully

Contentment and blessing, joy enriching,
Smiles bring laughter; peace offers comfort
God is present
… trust fully

Keep Your Heart

Heart made with stones_beach_by AnnaER_Pixabay

When I was a teen, I helped my neighbor clean her home on Saturday mornings. She was a retired teacher and the bit I earned gave me a little spending money. My parents had taught us the importance of keeping our own home as well. We were expected to clean our rooms each week and beds must be made before we went to school or did anything else for the day. Keeping our home clean, and helping outside the home as well, taught us the importance of caring for what we had. Some seasons or days were busier, but the established pattern of keeping our home in order helped ensure that we would catch up. Of course, a bit of prodding and reminders from our parents were sometimes needed!

There was much more involved in keeping a home than cleaning! My dad was a handyman and he made sure the house was cared for, involving all of us in that work as well. Maintaining a home was a continuing job and safety was important too. I remember always checking that the doors were secured each night.

Like keeping our home, keeping our heart is important too, and it impacts how we develop and grow as a person. For me, this is a life-long challenge! What we allow to come in – our thoughts, what we see, and what we listen to – has an effect for good or harm. A favorite verse in Proverbs says, “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” *

Good “heart care” prepares us to face temptations and difficulties in life. Leaving my “windows” wide open to negative or unhealthy influences when storms of life come or when things seem dark does not protect or keep my heart. Throwing open the doors to them allows the prowlers to come in. What situations are we putting ourselves in? What do we listen to each day? What are we watching? … I so need God to help me with this heart work!

God reminds us of the importance of examining our heart and allowing Him to guide and help us. I am thankful to Him for giving us positive influence and support of parents, mentors, friends, and Christian community. We can all help each other to “keep our heart” so that what flows from it is good and life-giving.

*Proverbs 4:23

flitter fly

swallows-2 flying_ by Capri23auto_pixabay

flitter fly
like birds in flight
a heart 
goes winging
as storm winds stir

beating upward
ever onward
anxious searching
currents lifting
gaining soaring

flitter fly
sunlight shines 
above the tempest
others joining
bringing comfort

rise together
light’s glow leading
strengthened carried
toward warmer climes
flitter flutter fly

Message of Light

sunrise and dark trees ground_spot edited out

Please leave a message… Message me… Our phone rings or lights up; our computer chimes. Flash, blink, music, or buzz.

In our world today, messages have never been easier to send, or to receive. Text messages, emails, and audio-video chats and messages are now the norm for communication. The word “message” itself has become a common verb.

Many of us battle overflowing emails addresses or have given up to overwhelm… either watching them pile up or deleting all indiscriminately. The deluge of information, requests, and offers may lead to “brain freeze” when it comes to discerning what is needed, important, or positive.

So, when we come to those times when our world slows or stills, that spinning churning chaos which has become such a part of our daily lives may need time to slow as well! It’s like stepping into a brightly lit room from a darkened hallway. We blink, breath, and refocus. Our brains gain time and space for deeper reflection.

Whether a slow down time or a shift in normal routine is a result of conscious decision or thrust upon us unexpectedly, it presents a good opportunity. I am thankful for moments where I am able to better see and to receive the positive. Despite the stresses around me, it is like a pocket of calm in the tumble of activity.

I am reminded of Paul in the book of Acts as he stood before King Agrippa. He shared his story of meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus and reminded Agrippa of the words of the prophets and Moses, that the Messiah would suffer, would rise from the dead, and would bring the message of light to all people. * What a gift that message of light is! Just as we enter into a brightly lit room and pause to blink and refocus in order to better see what that light reveals around us… so do our times of reflection and thought allow us to settle closer to God, to receive His reassurance, presence, and peace… and to think of the great price He paid for it and the great love He has for us.

The people living in darkness have seen a great light! **

My prayer for us this week is that we would draw close to God, take notice of that incoming message of light, and be strengthened and comforted to meet the days ahead.

 

*Acts 26:22-23, **Matthew 4:15-16, Isaiah 9:2

Reflections on Toilet Paper

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• Cherish the moments you have each day
• Unfulfilled need is a deep distress
• We need each other to clean up messes
• Soft and comforting words bring relief
• Absorb the good qualities of others in your life
• Consider the commonplace to gain appreciation
• Recognize what is important before it is gone
• Knowing we are useful gives us confidence
• Extend your vision and respect each other
• Inner quality brings joy and contentment
• Chewing on worries only creates new worries
• Look to the Maker and know He is close at hand

Flash! Crackle! Boom! Crash!

lightning-1056419_1280 WikimediaImages from Pixabay _cropped

The child that was me clutched the covers tightly around her shoulders, her frightened eyes wide in the night. The summer storm roared in as rain pounded the metal roof above her head. Wind rattled the tree limbs outside and buffeted the house.

Sizzle! Bang!

Springing from her bed, she raced to the top of the stairs, calling, “Daddy! Daddy!” … and she heard his reassuring voice above the sound of the tempest outside. His footsteps sounded on the stairs and then he was beside her, comforting her.

… I well remember that long-ago night. Staying with me until the storm passed, calming and reassuring me, my father’s presence brought safety and security. The rumbles of thunder slowly grew distant and the flashes of lightning gradually ceased.

There have been many more storms since then, storms of life, tempest tossed. The faith that was instilled in me as a child revealed our Father God, though sometimes the pounding storms distracted me. The dark has a way of intensifying things doesn’t it? Where is hope in the middle of our storms?! It is difficult to hear God’s voice above stress and pain and His footsteps have gone unnoticed or forgotten.

A browned, slightly wrinkled piece of paper is a remnant of one of those stormy seasons of my life. It reads, “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still” (Psalm 107:29). Posted in my kitchen all these years, it is still a daily reminder that God is always with me, reassuring me and calming the storms.

Even after my father returned to his own room, his presence lingered in my mind. I knew that he was close by. I knew that he loved me, demonstrated by sacrificing his own sleep even though he was exhausted after a long day of work. My family was around me and we had survived the storm together!

Psalm 107 says so much about the storms of life. Wandering in the desert, hungry and thirsty, trouble, and darkness… We encounter and struggle with all of these. In times of distress, we can have hope and reassurance that we don’t face that alone. God delivers us. He brings us through, and His love is steadfast. I’m so thankful for that!

Just as the child that was me heaved a sigh of peace and drifted off to sleep, so can we all rest secure in God’s presence. He holds life in His hands and He’s always close by.

“He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” … a reminder and a promise for us all. “Peace, be still!” *

*Psalm 107, Mark 4:39

Lententide

trees sunset Light snow Feb 2020

A hint, a tease
Sparkle of light now lingers
‘Midst winter’s chill
Grows ‘lencten’ time

Our heralds the robins
Passing through
Foretell the coming
Of March’s springtide

Prepare, prepare
In contemplation
Sorrow for wrongs
Renewing of hearts

Chill winds still nip and
In dark nights howl
Where is the light which
Warms life and earth

Now one and two
Slow steps to forty
From ashes and regret
To new life springing forth

Come join that journey
Drawn to the source
In quiet solitude
This Lententide

Wintery Places

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A dark night, I draw into my coat against the freezing wind and biting chill. My head aches from the cold air I draw in through my reddening nose. Memories of warmth and light seem dim, as does the path ahead…

Haven’t we all faced similar scenes in life’s journey?! Sometimes our dark nights come gradually, perhaps painfully, as those we love slowly leave us … whether through increasingly debilitating illness, addictions, mental or emotional challenges, or any number of things which result in that withdrawal. Other times we are slammed abruptly by a flying boulder which smashes all that we care about into a pile of unrecognizable debris. We are left feeling numb, angry, or broken.

How do we face life’s times of loss and the resulting debris left behind? It can be a long, cold, and lonely journey. God, who faithfully walks with me and carries me, gives me hope. Through Him, that sometimes-dimming light can grow brighter. He touches me with the joy of His presence.

I’m reminded of some favorite verses in the Song of Solomon. What a wonderful reminder this little-quoted and sometimes misunderstood book of the Bible is! God’s love poem to us!

For lo, the winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. *

Like a warm scarf, God’s love wraps around me. I blink at the light shining through breaking clouds and find shelter from the driving wind. There is delight in the sparkle of new snow and clinging icicles. Friends and family bring comfort and fellowship. Warmth welcomes.

Through Jeremiah, God spoke a promise for us all:

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again, I will build you and you shall be rebuilt… *

May we find in God’s love poem and His words of promise, comfort in our wintery places. Be encouraged.

*Song of Solomon 2:11-12; Jeremiah 31:3-4a