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

Reflections on Bridges

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• Sometimes the way seems impossible
• By persevering we make a way for others
• We cross from one season of life to the next
• Some roads lead us over roaring torrents
• Other paths cross and meander over quiet ways
• Ways that meet can change the world
• Making bridges together forms strong bonds
• Reach and stretch to pursue positive goals
• Build what is good and strong and enduring
• Move forward with open eyes and positive perspective
• As you travel notice beauty around you and give thanks
• The Son is our greatest Bridge-maker

from “Reflections from the Everyday” by caallen

Windows of Our Hearts

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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

Reflections on Bullfrogs

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• Great leaps arise from great thought
• Dive into good tasks with all you have
• Jumping into things without thought can cause unwanted splashes
• Our voices are heard in community
• Speak with forethought as ears are listening
• Sometimes we bellow to draw attention
• Listening to constant bellowing can lead to depression
• Overwhelming others for the sake of gain will backlash
• Big eyes may cause us to overconsume
• When we all want something only for ourselves things can get violent
• The finest looking morsel can sour once gained
• Night can blind us to danger or cloak us in peace
• Wait and watch so you will be prepared
• Good change grows as our Creator works


from “Reflections from the Everyday” caallen

Reflections on Kudzu

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• Sometimes we feel swallowed by circumstances
• Too much of a good thing can bring dissatisfaction
• Getting carried away can result in more than expected
• Climbing over others can cause great harm to all
• Cooling off can put things into better perspective
• Good can be found in unexpected places
• Sinking our roots into good soil encourages growth
• Healing comes when we realize potential
• Tenacity can get us through difficult times
• The Vine is our source of strength and life

Pizza & Chicken Nuggets

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In my work with young children, I have found that most have one thing in common, their excitement and love of pizza and chicken nuggets. When talking about their favorite foods as a conversation starter, their eyes light up and they want to tell me all about it. Those children have tasted pizza and chicken nuggets. They know it tastes good and they look forward to having it again (and again) with the whole family, sharing a meal together and enjoying the food and the company.

Like those children, we enjoy good things. I was at a gathering recently and smiled to myself as the “roar of conversation” rose and fell as people welcomed others and passionately provided updates and expressed support. I think of how we as people of faith share our “pizza and chicken nuggets” moments, times when God has cheered us on in celebration and times when he has walked with us through grief and stress. Do our eyes light up when we talk about Him? Do we love Him that much and look forward to tasting Him, experiencing Him in our lives every day?

The psalmist said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him” and King David “first appointed the singing of praises to the Lord.” * He said, “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!’” * We rejoice because God’s love, forgiveness, and provision is exciting news and good to taste.

When God has walked with us through some difficulty or when we’ve experienced a special time of worship, heard a new song, or gained new understanding … we can offer encouragement to others. God works in us and through us each day and enjoys our thanks and excitement as we are filled. As we tell others, they too can experience and taste of a God who welcomes us to Him… Like pizza and chicken nuggets, we can be glad and rejoice in our faith, whatever life brings.

*Psalm 34:8, 1 Chronicles 16:7-36

 

Cling

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“Ahhhh!” Tearing plastic wrap off to place over a plate of food takes a knack! Have you ever wrestled with it, only to end up with a wadded mess or pulling out half the roll in attempts to get off a small piece?! After carefully pulling the mess apart or taking the whole roll out of the box and rolling some of it back up, the job is finally done.

I am reminded of a young child fearfully clinging to a parent when faced with a new situation or new people. It may take time to calm those fears as hands pat, kisses convey love, or words explain. That clinging speaks of a trust and a need which is basic for us all.

The psalmist spoke of clinging to God. “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” Like the child clinging to that source of security, when we hold determinedly to our source of help and strength we are comforted.

Likewise, when I climbed the ladder to the roof of our house to clean out the gutters (Yes, I did that!) …I clung to the ladder and to the snow guards, secure as the work was done.

We have that same security in God as we cling to Him and to His words. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, said to “cling to what is good.” Sometimes things may seem to be a wadded-up mess, but when we stick with God, He helps us work through our difficulties. Our lives reflect His presence… Because He is our help, we can sing, confident that His hand holds us up.