Christian Living

Free to Fly

How was everybody’s Thanksgiving? I really love the idea that we can set ourselves up for success! Like I talked about last week with using Thanksgiving to set up our holidays. I guess it’s because my schedule tends toward the packed side and my health tends towards exhaustion and my stress level tends towards more than I want it to be. There’s so much I can’t control. The idea that I can hook myself into a railroad track that will carry me the direction I want to head is music to my soul.

On our podcast, Epic Every Day, we introduce it by saying it’s designed for busy, overwhelmed Christians who want to move towards freedom, abundance, and peace. Those concepts have been my goals for the past several years.

In Gal. 5:1 Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” It’s easy to forget how amazing that is in the daily grind of life. Unless I’m reminded, I don’t think about freedom when I’m in the middle of school or housekeeping or even writing and podcasting. But we can’t take it for granted. Paul continues by saying, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (NIV). We’re designed to fly, but so often we hang around on the ground.

I’m reminded of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. They were so used to working 7 days a week that they went out to gather manna, even though God (via Moses) told them not to. He reinstated the Sabbath but their train tracks were to work 7 days.

Our natural tendency is to live in bondage. It might be the bondage of fear/worry. Or maybe it’s bondage to an addiction. Or bondage to stress. Or bondage to jealousy or envy. Or maybe it’s bondage to the past–carrying regret or being unable to forgive yourself. Maybe it’s bondage to people-pleasing or trying to control things in your life. Or, like Paul talks about, maybe it’s bondage to rules–trying to earn salvation. We all lived in bondage before Jesus saved us. For me, I had so much fear wrapped up in my PTSD. Years of therapy and personal work, by God’s grace, have brought freedom that I never thought possible. Sometimes I notice it in little things, like being able to watch my kids chew gum without having a panic attack. Or sometimes it’s in big things like sleeping through the night consistently for the first time in my life.

We all have some kind of bondage. The question is what we’re going to do about it. We can stay trapped. One of the most insidious traps is to be stuck in “someday”–“Someday I’ll address that bondage.” “Someday my life circumstances will be different and my heart issues will go away by themselves.” “Someday I’ll have time to inventory where I’m in bondage.”

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts…” (Heb. 3:7-8)

There’s no time to wait for someday. And, as I’ve talked about before, we can’t apply a circumstance solution to a heart problem. The heart problem will be there until we fix the heart problem. Freedom is internal before it shows up externally. We’re so blessed because we don’t have to earn our salvation! We have a loving heavenly Father who gives us good gifts that are perfectly individualized for each of us (James 1:17). We have the Holy Spirit to work the fruit of the Spirit in us when we surrender–so many of which are the antidote to bondage. We don’t have to live in bondage–we choose to live in it.

So where don’t you have freedom? And what’s stopping you from getting it?

Copy of Blog_ Using Thanksgiving as a springboard

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Christian Living

Abundant Redemption

Today I had a fairly lengthy conversation with one of my daughters about treating each time someone wrongs us as if it were the first time. It’s ironic because we’ve been talking about being complete on our podcast this week, Epic Every Day. Part of being a complete person is living in the present instead of hanging onto things from the past or sending your mind into the future.

Obviously, if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a passionate believer in the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation–forgiveness is a heart issue and something between you and God; reconciliation requires both parties to acknowledge their wrongs and work to make sure the problem doesn’t occur again.

The only way we can treat someone’s wrongs as though it were the first time they’ve wronged us is if we are steeped in the Gospel. See, the Gospel says that God redeems all the sins that affect us–both those we commit and those that are done to us. Sometimes it’s easy to get so focused on His future redemption (in the new heaven and new earth) that we forget about the now. I love in Psalm 27 where David* says “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Redemption isn’t just a future thing.

It’s amazing how much freedom has come into my life via that one concept. I love that I can stop beating myself up for things I’ve done in the past. It allows me to let go of my past baggage and press into the now. It wasn’t until I started Tapping/EFT on some of my past mistakes that I really felt how much of myself was trapped in the past. I really felt that I deserved to be punished–which is true, we do deserve death for our sin. Fortunately, that’s not the whole truth. Redemption means God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103). Basically, they’re an infinity away from us. And He’s given us Jesus’ clean record. So, punishing myself is actually contrary to the Gospel of grace. In essence, it’s saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough.

I don’t know if you have anything like that in your past, but I can tell you that it’s exhausting to never let yourself off the hook for something you did in the past. I was constantly weighed down by shame and regret. Mental energy went towards either avoiding thinking about it or wishing I’d done something different/figuring out what I should have done. Time went into running away from my past. Carrying that maelstrom around took a lot of work!

Redemption also means we can let go of what other people have done to us. We can trust God to heal us and to work out their sin for our benefit. It’s a mind-boggling idea. I will freely admit that there are things that don’t feel like they can be turned to good, and I think it’s worth noting that God only promises this for believers. People who don’t know Jesus don’t have the same promise, and I know I struggle with watching the evil in their lives apparently consuming them. The world is broken. God will definitely bring glory to Himself through every person, but He only promises “to work all things out for the good of those who love Him” (NIV, emphasis mine).

So, if you are someone who loves Jesus, no matter what has happened in your life, God can work it out for your good. Which means you can forgive people, no matter what they’ve done to you. It’s not easy, but it is freeing and better in the long run.

Psalm 130: 7 ~ O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption (NASB).

Blog_ Abundant Redemption

Movies

Frozen

Last week we took our girls to see Disney’s Frozen for Christmas and I loved it! As in, I told my husband I want my own copy so the girls can’t take it with them when they get old enough to move out. If I had the chance, I think I’d watch this one more times in theater than I did The Matrix (8 times). This movie had good music and good acting, but if you’re like me, what you really care about are the redemptive themes. Frozen more than delivered in that respect! It had some amazing themes in it and has sparked some great conversations with our children. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know what happens, go see it and then read this ūüôā

One of my favorite things was how the Frozen folks defined love in this movie: sacrificing for someone else, whether that’s in the context of romantic relationships or anywhere else, and then they showed it with Kristoff, Olaf, Anna, and Elsa. The trolls talked about how you can’t really change people, but when you love them, they change themselves–and they talked about how we need this kind of love from family and friends and in the context of romance; we’re all “fixer-uppers.” We regularly talk to our girls about how humans are incapable of loving on their own (1 John 4:19; Galatians 5:22-23). God initiates love and that transforms us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we pass along God’s love and others are transformed. And then, of course, Disney hit the sacrificial love that saves Anna at the end, just as Christ’s sacrifice saves us. Love transforms us as we are loved AND as we love. So beautiful!

I also loved how Elsa’s parents thought they were protecting her (and everyone else) by isolating her and teaching “conceal, don’t feel” her magic, but at the end Elsa discovers love is what protects people. She’s trying so hard to control things. We had a great conversation with our daughters about how feelings are like that. When you lock them up inside you, they explode out and end up hurting people at some point. Instead we need to love and then share our feelings in the context of relationship. I could also really relate with the family dynamics of keeping secrets as a self/others-protective mechanism that ends up sucking the life out of and isolating those involved in the secret. Love is where it’s at.

Another amazing theme was freedom. Elsa feels trapped in her room/her power (or as she calls it, her “curse”) and then she sings about how she’s finally free when she goes up on the mountain alone and can let that part of herself out. She is free in the sense that she is finally using her power, similarly to how she used it in her childhood. She’s no longer pretending to be someone she isn’t and it changes her. I love how Disney visually showed this by switching up Elsa’s costume from a very straight-laced look to very flowey hair and dress. By changing her circumstances, it provides her with outward freedom to be herself, which is a step in the right direction, but later she realizes she’s not really free there either because she brought her own internal storm with her. It’s only once she learns to love and be loved that she’s really free. So beautiful to see a Disney film talk about how circumstances don’t determine our happiness, peace, etc.–that freedom is about being free from our own personal demons. And then combining that with her honesty about herself–Elsa ends up free because she lives out who she is AND deals with her internal storm. She lives a wide open life in a spacious place. I was really convicted by this theme. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about how people can’t see what God is doing in us if we don’t live wide open lives. But it takes having time to be anchored in the reality of who we are. I’m not sure that Elsa would have been able to handle things as well if she hadn’t had that time alone where she was exploring her power. I have a short memory so I need time every single day to be alone, to sit in God’s presence and know who I am and who He is, to re-create that space in my soul. Only then am I able to love in truth. Otherwise I’m hemmed in on every side with no margin.

The Frozen folks also addressed fear and control and how the opposite of fear is love. Elsa and her parents are motivated by fear after the accident with Anna. Fear causes them to focus on control. They think they’re loving Anna and others by living out of fear, but as I said before, at the end Elsa discovers love is what protects people. I thought Disney did a great job of juxtaposing fear and love and how control is an illusion. Control promises to fix things, but all it does is hide the problems. And once you have some control you end up needing more and more to deal with the problem… it becomes a never-ending cycle. As a person with PTSD, this is a lesson I feel like I need to hear every single day. My natural response is to run to control because it seems like it’s the road to security, but I’ve learned that my heart is the problem.

I also liked that the bad guy didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Usually you can guess who it is from the get go, but the sudden reverse of Hans provided a great opportunity to talk to our girls about giving people time to show who they really are. Maybe it’s my background, but I think it’s important to teach kids to be wise in who they trust–obviously, it’s important not to swing to the side of teaching them to fear. Hans is also a great opportunity to talk about how having a hungry soul makes you vulnerable. He even tells Anna that he was able to fool her because she was so desperate for love. It’s sad, but she practically fools herself. I’m not saying that her situation didn’t come into play; obviously the fact that she was alone for years was a big part of why she was willing to give herself to whomever came along. However, from a spiritual perspective, having a satisfied soul is a great way to safeguard oneself from bad relationships, bad choices, and the like.

I think it’s very telling that Frozen did so well in box offices. When a storyteller connects with the themes of God’s bigger story and the way He made the world to work, people connect with it on a heart level. Suddenly they can picture themselves as this character or that character (and I think it’s very telling to see which characters they relate with–my daughters each picked a different character as their favorite, one that matched up well with where they’re at!). So, if you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to watch this beautiful story and think about who you are.

Uncategorized

Independence Day

Today I’ve been thinking about how individualistic our society in the US is. I was talking to someone last night who said they weren’t sure if they’d celebrate the 4th at all because they don’t have anyone to celebrate it with. It made me really sad. But that’s sort of how we view our independence–it means we don’t need anyone. I fall into that trap all the time. I want to be healthy so that I won’t need people to help me with housecleaning and childcare and whatever else on the days I don’t feel well. We even want to be independent of God.

It’s so twisted! We can be independent of God and slaves to sin, or we can be slaves to God and free from sin. I like breaking it down into those two choices. It helps me a lot on the days when I am just plain sick and tired of doing things God’s way. Independence from God means death and loads of pain from consequences in the meantime. Not worth it.

I am really thankful that we live in a country where we can follow God, and, as a military brat, I’m extremely thankful for all the service men and women who have given their time, energy, and lives to keep us a free nation.

I hope we can celebrate our independence as a nation and simultaneously celebrate our desperate dependence on God today. Happy Independence Day!

Uncategorized

Freedom to Fail

So if you have small children, you’ve probably been introduced to Laurie Berkner (and if you haven’t, you should be). Her music is complex enough not to feel your own brains dribbling out of your head while you’re listening to it, yet bouncy and designed for kids. The lyrics are fun, but often teach something. My girls listen to her Rocketship Run album quite a bit. Enough that the songs get stuck in my head, which is sometimes ok with me and sometimes not.

Anyway! I’ve been doing some thinking about failure this past week. It started whilst reading Making Small Groups Work: What Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In there they talk about one of the benefits of a small group is that the members “treat their failures as opportunities to learn instead of toxic opportunities to feel guilty, ashamed, or ‘less than.'” (p. 36) I’m always struck by the idea that failure is necessary for growth. Part of my upbringing was an¬†aversion to failure because of what it said about you as a person. But that’s not the way failure should be. Failure should be an opportunity to learn. But, as Love and Logic parenting teaches, we can only learn from our failures if we feel secure (hence, the need for a safe, loving environment, like a healthy family or a small group).

In the midst of this I’ve had a Laurie Berkner song running through my head off and on. It’s called “Balance Beam” You can listen to the whole thing here. The pertinent lyrics for our discussion are: “I might trip and I might fall and that’s ok cuz after all I can get back up when I hear the call of my balance, balance beam… I might trip and I might fall and that’s ok cuz after all¬†mom and dad will love me through it all on my balance, balance beam… ”

As Christians, we have that safety net to trip and fall, not because of who we are, but because of who our heavenly Father is. God calls us to be perfect as He is perfect, but Jesus came to give us a perfect record. When God looks at us, He sees Jesus’ perfection, rather than our imperfections. When Jesus died, He bought up all our sin and all the consequences of that sin–He works our failures into something beautiful and good, something that’s for our best. I realize that we’re not supposed to emulate the Romans where Paul talks about them sinning so that grace can abound, however, I’m a little jealous of that gung ho confidence that my sin and failures can be good.

We know that God uses our failures. We know that He loves us and will love us even when we fail (while we were still sinners, Christ died for us-Rom 5:8). We know that He sees our frailty, our penchant to sin and make mistakes; He knows that we are dust and has compassion on us as a father has compassion on his children. We have the security necessary to fail and the knowledge that failure is not life-threatening (as I once believed).

It’s so interesting, isn’t it? The world sees Christians as uptight and full of rules, yet, as children of God, we are more free to fail than anyone else.