Freedom to love

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Happy 4th July! A day synonymous with friends, flags, fireworks  and of course, freedom.

We all desire freedom don’t we? The freedom to choose our own path, make our own decisions, and live our lives where and however we please. Since the beginning of time freedom has been an integral part of our human experience, a desire ingrained into the very fabric of our existence. Wars have been fought over it, heavy sacrifices have been made for it, individually and as a nation. And  now that it is ours we have a choice to make — what are are going to do with it?

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Nelson Mandela.

As children of God our freedom—bought with a price by the blood of Christ—also comes with great responsibility.

Make sure you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do… Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” Galatians 5:13-15 MSG.

How relevant these words of truth are today— to a selfish, self seeking world tearing itself apart. A world that thinks it is free but is in actual fact still very much held captive.

As we celebrate our freedom today, as a nation and in Christ, let us be reminded of the calling this freedom entails. To live selfless, humble lives with love as the goal. Unflinching, unquestioning love, free from  condemnation and judgement. Love that offers light and hope to a dark, hurting world, and leads people to Christ to find the freedom He has promised for themselves.

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Counting on your comrades

BB0541B6-936A-40E2-AD08-D3F9AC0CAD1C.jpegWho is standing with you on the battlefield?

It may seem an odd question to ask. Especially to those of us living out sheltered suburban lives, far removed from the everyday horrors of war. And yet as daughters of the King this is the reality that we face. A life lived on hostile territory, behind enemy lines. Vulnerable to attack.

Oh you may not see them, in a physical sense at least. For this is a battle with the unseen forces of darkness. They can be wily, strategic and subtle. They may be playing the long game. But do not be complacent or deceived lovely one—they are relentless in their pursuit, capable of striking the most devastating blows, and shaking our faith to its core.

Be prepared,” Paul warns us in Ephesians 6:13. “You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own…Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”

We are in the fight of our lives. A cosmic battle for our very souls—and we cannot do it alone. We need comrades. Those willing to line up alongside us on the battlefield and stare down the Enemy, swords drawn, as the arrows fly. Prayer warriors who will literally hunt us down to pray on our behalf (I won’t name names but you know who you are! 😉). Leaders, mentors, and friends who counsel us with wisdom, discernment and truth. Who help us strategize and regroup when the plan goes off course, and lead us back on the field when we want to walk away. Who strengthen, support, and encourage when our resolve is weak, and celebrate with us with every little victory.

The battle may already be won but the war is not yet over. There’s a lot of work still left to do. It’s time to get battle ready— and decide who is going to be standing with you.

It’s all in the attitude

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“I wish September would just get here already!”

One week in and it was safe to say the summer holidays were not going all that well. Despite my best intentions we had still spent much of the week in the same exhausting cycle. Fighting, tantrums, discipline, and a worn out, stressed out defeated mom at the end of the day. Not exactly the fairytale summer we had all been hoping for…

But if I’m being honest, it wasn’t so much their behavior that needed a reset, but mine. That is, my attitude. It wasn’t all that positive from the get go. Instead of embracing the possibility of a more flexible routine, i was anticipating a frustrating, difficult ten weeks, and dreading the months that lay ahead.

And then I saw the shoes. Two small pairs of water shoes drying outside on the front step.

Shoes still soaking from a spontaneous morning spent paddling in a stream. A morning full of giggles and excitement and childhood adventuring. A morning to treasure, certainly not wish away.

It was the jolt I needed to wake me up from my pity party and see the blessings right in front of me: Two happy, healthy, fun loving little girls to parent and love, and the health, the means and the opportunity to enjoy a long lazy summer with them.

Perspective really is everything, isn’t it.

“Do everything without grumbling or complaining” we are told in Philippians 2:14, choosing instead to give thanks, rejoice, and pray (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Oh how might my summer be different if I followed this advice from Scripture!

One day these little shoes will no longer be drying on the front step. And I know, in spite of my new found flexibility and freedom, I will miss them. Miss the sticky, grimy, sunscreen soaked little bodies that once wore those shoes, and the long, lazy summer days I once wished away.

So today I will try again. To count my blessings and live in the moment. To look beyond the moments of frustration and exhaustion and choose joy. To be thankful for today—the day that the Lord has made, and the memories it will one day hold.

Raising a hallelujah- even when you don’t want to…

DCBA0A0F-E737-4D9C-9673-C9A2A8BB37B5“I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies,

I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief,

I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody,

I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me.

I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm,

Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar,

Up from the ashes, hope will arise,

Death is defeated, the King is alive!”

~Bethel Music

I screamed today. Out loud, at no one in particular. The culmination of a mind-numbing, frustrating, demoralizing day refereeing my two daughters— behaving today more like savage cage fighting animals than the cuties they may appear to be on social media!

I needed an outlet— and I screamed.  I hated my extreme reaction immediately. This is not the mom I aspire to be. Overcome by fits of temper, unable to keep my anger and frustrations from boiling over and my emotions in check. On day three of the school holidays no less. 🙈 I should have behaved so differently— and raised a hallelujah Instead of a scream.

I didn’t feel like it at the time, but then we seldom do in the midst of our day to day battles. And yet that is exactly what we’ve been called to do, whether our circumstances reflect it or otherwise.

 “I will praise the Lord no matter what happens” (Psalm 34:1). 

No matter what? Yes— because He is bigger than our what.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices and with my song I will praise Him” (Psalm 28:7).

There is always a reason to praise. To show our gratitude, to declare His glory, to raise our warrior cry, to plead for a miracle. Because of who He is, we can always find reason to sing. Paul and Silas certainly thought so, as they sang their songs of praise from the confines of their cell. And they were rewarded— with an earthquake, and their freedom.

And so with everything we have within us we have a choice. To scream a desperate, angry scream to no one in particular. Or to raise a hallelujah— to the God who hears us, loves us, and acts.

The Watchman

 

B2558676-33CC-4452-AD81-70C1BF04171C“Mama stay.”

At four years old, the night terrors have returned with a vengeance. Her bedroom, once cosy, familiar and safe, has become an unfamiliar landscape of lurking creatures and hidden shadows. Terrors of the Night. She is afraid to be alone.

Tonight I am her watchman. Standing guard over her bed like a sentinel, keeping her from harm, both real and imagined. Watching over her small, restless body and praying peace over her troubled soul. In my presence she finally feels safe. Her breathing slows, her body rests. The monsters of her mind no longer hers to fight. 

The night wears on and my human limitations become evident. I am tired, so tired —and the sweet allure of sleep is calling. I briefly succumb to temptation and snap awake, ashamed of my failings. For abandoning my post, and my little charge for even a second. She needs me, and yet even for her, I cannot fulfil the watchman’s duty.

She needs more than I can give. She needs Jesus.

 “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. “ 

~Psalm 121.

He is the true Watchman. The One who never tires, or abandons His post. Who overcomes all darkness and drives out all fear. Who has stood guard over her from the moment she was born and will continue to do so, all the days of her life.

The responsibility is not mine alone—He will be Watchman for both of us. For this weary mama and her frightened child there will be peace.

“In peace and with a tranquil heart I will lie down and sleep. For You alone Oh Lord, make me dwell in safety and absolute trust ” (Psalm 4:8, AMP)

Do you love me?

DE196E91-3724-4017-9701-E8A2BE2CE05A.jpegIt has only been a week since we celebrated Resurrection Sunday. When our churches were beyond capacity and the air electric. When we sang rousing songs about the cross and the grave— victory and life over darkness and death. When we raised our hands and declared it was indeed the Greatest Day in History. The day when everything changed.

And we meant it — we truly did. In that moment anyway. Yet here we are, almost a week after the exhilarating high of Easter and the world has moved on. Back to normality. To our non-stop, busy, stressful lives with very little room on the throne for a risen Savior.

Thankfully He isn’t ready for us to move on just yet. There is still some business to do. And so, with the events of Holy Week still so fresh, He stands before us with a question.

“Do you love me?”

The same question that He had for Peter— of all people. The disciple who had fallen so far in the space of just a week. Who, living with the shame of his denial, was back doing what he knew best, in his boat. Jesus, however, wasn’t prepared to leave him there.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked him. Three times.

He knew the answer, of course, but He needed Peter to know it too. To make a stand and replace His denial with a declaration of love. Without doubt, without fear. To declare it, believe it, and live it.

Do you love me?

Do you love me?

Do you love me?

He asks the same question of us today.

The events of Easter may be long behind us but we are not passive participants in the story. Because this is our story too, and we get a say in how it ends.

We can choose life— eternal life, and accept the gift of salvation that is offered freely but never forced. To make Him the King of our heart and live out our God-given purpose and vision and calling. To make Easter the beginning of our story, not the end, and choose Him.

Or we can return to our normality. The path of least resistance. To the person we were before, the life we once lived— without joy, without hope. Without Him. The choice is ours.

“Do you love me?”

Take your time. It will be the most important answer you ever give.  

 

In the shadow of the cross

3B6F05D0-ECD9-4A9F-B6E1-FE814DB6C6FESaturday — the day in-between. The no mans land between the horror and the hope. The ending and the beginning.

Here we are still reeling. The grief is raw. There is shock and disbelief— this was not how it was supposed to be.

He actually died. Despite everything He said, the claims He made, He was no different in the end. “It is finished,” He uttered as He gave up His spirit, and now it is. Three years of the most incredible  ministry, over in an instant. Now His broken lifeless body lies in a tomb and there is only silence. Our hope dead with Him.

Except it isn’t. See, unlike His shattered, distraught disciples, we have the benefit of perspective. We know the ending. We know that Sunday is coming. The day when His dead body breathed and there was no longer a body in the tomb. The day when Love vanquished death, Grace fell like rain and Hope for a broken world was born.

Yet many of us get stuck there – in the silence of Saturday. Reeling from circumstances almost impossible to fathom. That leave us numb with grief, paralyzed with pain. ‘How can this be happening God?’ We plead in our disbelief. ‘This is not how it was supposed to be. Where are your promises now?’

But thanks to Sunday, there is hope. The same God who resurrected Jesus of Nazareth can and will resurrect our lives too. Offering regeneration and redemption to shattered hearts and broken lives. Turning weeping to dancing, sorrow to joy. An eternal victory.

Our resurrection Sunday may not be tomorrow, but it is coming. Our God is not One who breaks His promises. And so here in the silence and suffering of Saturday, under the shadow of the cross, we can rest. We can trust, and we can hope.

Because the tomb was empty— and Jesus lives.