Liberty

liberty – the quality or state of being free  

It’s that time of year again, when we celebrate our freedom with barbecues, watermelon, and fireworks. As I admire the crisp, red, white and blue flag proudly flying at our camp in Liberty, Mississippi, I can’t help thinking about freedom and wondering–what does it mean to be free?

I am an American citizen. That means I am privileged to live in a country that “hold[s] these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Yet, the most patriotic American can live a long life in pursuit of happiness but never be truly free. They might feel happy and free, but never know true freedom.

Many centuries ago, Jesus said to the Jews who had “believed” Him that if they would hold to His teaching they would find true freedom (see John 8:31-32). Yet, shortly after hearing Jesus say these things, they mocked Him and tried to stone Him. These were religious people, but religious people can fail to be truly free!

Even someone who really does hold to Jesus’ teachings can live without knowing what it means to be free. Shame from one’s past mistakes, regret over choices one made, dysfunctional relationships, etc., can leave a person feeling anything but free!

For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 2 Peter  2:19b

Every human being, regardless of their citizenship, is born a slave. That’s right. We are enslaved to our own selfish desires. We are wretched creatures who need rescuing in the worst way! Thankfully, God has provided a way for us to be free–the blood of Jesus Christ, who loves us, frees all true believers from slavery to sin! (Rev 1:5)

For us to know true freedom, we must intentionally set our minds on God. See life with eternal perspective!

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

I’m asking Him to show me areas in my life that I’m still behaving like a slave instead of walking in the freedom He has provided to me. I want to know what it means to be truly free.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

 

A Beautiful Life

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When the new year rolled in, I realized it would usher me into a year of many changes. One of those changes being the end of another decade of my life and the beginning of an entirely new one. I know age is just a number, but this decade is the one in which I will have the honor of becoming a senior citizen. I will soon be able to get a discount at restaurants because of my age. How nice.

I am already experiencing some of the consequences of living for a long time. Gravity and I fight for control over my skin, and some hormones have reached their life’s quoto and don’t want to contribute anymore–making the natural aging process evident in my life. Sometimes I question why I am here and wonder if I have anything left to give others. Sometimes I have caught myself feeling tired, worn out, old. I wonder if I would feel this way if life’s circumstances were different. I’ve had a difficult year, after all, full of unusually tense situations. No doubt, life seems harder now than it did in my youth.

Time keeps rolling on, and it’s now springtime. I’ve had the pleasure of watching trees bud and flowers blossom. Each colorful bloom seems to sing with joy as it radiates such beauty in its season.

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In all their glory, flowers often remind me of how short life is, cautioning me to make the most of every fleeting moment. One day they are brilliantly bright. Soon, they wither and are gone, always leaving me sad in their absence. (When I was a little girl I always got so sad about Delta Dawn’s faded rose from days gone by.)

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This Spring, the fading flowers taught me a new lesson. I was admiring a wisteria vine at sunset when I noticed some of its petals had already fallen to the ground. At  the end of the flowers’ existence, they gleamed magnificently in the setting sun. I quickly looked up at the vine and back down at the fallen petals, realizing the dying petals were more beautiful than their fully alive sisters still hanging on the vine.

I was instantly encouraged and challenged by the example of the wisteria. Society unintentionally sends the message that aging is bad, that we somehow lose our worth as we lose our youthfulness. When someone would tease my grandfather about getting old, he would respond, “You’ve got to live to get old.” He was right.

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These tiny wisteria petals, iridescent in the fading sunlight, are as magnificent as a colorful sunset. They compel me to run my race well and live a full, beautiful life, reflecting the glory of my Creator to the very end.

Tami

Jesus encouraged his followers to consider the lilies. Read His words here.

Boundary Lines

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6 NIV

A friend was travelling in Europe when he spotted a sheep with its head caught in a fence. I suppose the sheep thought the grass was greener on the other side. People are a lot like sheep.

As I’ve thought about the sheep stuck in the fence, I’ve considered the boundary lines that govern my own existence, like those David mentioned in Psalm 16:6.  Can I honestly claim, as David did, that I find the boundary lines in my life pleasant?

It depends on what the boundaries are, of course.

My community experienced a thousand year flood a few months ago. The rivers and drainage ditches left their boundaries and trespassed into thousands of homes in a massive, nine parish area. This unruly water destroyed some of my most valued, sentimental possessions and left me feeling as though I no longer belonged here. It’s as if when the river rushed in and crept out, it somehow ushered me into a place without defined borders–a no man’s land. Limbo.

For the first time in my life, I’m beginning to really understand that one’s life does not consist in the abundance of her possessions (Luke 12:15), and I’m not supposed to feel completely at home here (Philippians 3:20).

A few weeks ago, my sister’s lifelong friend suddenly died of an aneurysm. As she lay there dying, unable to speak goodbyes to her loving friends and family gathered at her bedside, I wondered what she was thinking. The doctors said she could hear everything; she just could not respond. How difficult that must have been for her. I kept wanting to say to her, If you hear Jesus calling you, and you see Jesus standing there, run to Him! Run as fast as you can! 

Her death hit many people very hard. She was “so full of life.”

Once again, I’ve thought about that sheep with his head stuck in the fence and I wonder about this friend. When she lay there dying, was she like the sheep, stuck between two worlds? How are those left behind supposed to understand and accept a life like hers cut so short?

I’ve tried to explain to my grieving sister that we need to view life and death with a wide lens. We cannot simply look at the time a person spends between their birth and their death as all there is. There is so much more to our existence than a simple lifespan on this planet. It’s how we live this life that determines how we will spend eternity. The sole purpose of this life can be summed up in Solomon’s words recorded in Ecclesiastes 12:13.

“…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

If you hear Jesus calling, run to Him! Run as fast as you can! Don’t wait.

Perhaps we should look at birth and death as boundary lines. Truly, a lifespan is nothing compared to eternity. This life isn’t meant to be all there is. We instinctively know there has to be more. We can be surrounded by loved ones, with every physical need met, and still find our souls longing for something more. Those who follow Jesus will one day see their longing for greener pastures fulfilled–beyond their ability to even comprehend!

THE BOUNDARY LINES HAVE FALLEN FOR ME IN PLEASANT PLACES;
SURELY I HAVE A DELIGHTFUL INHERITANCE. PSALM 16:6 NIV