Nov 20, 2013

On the Freedom of Love (Part 2)

If you missed yesterday's Part 1 on Freedom, I suggest you read it first. Now on to today's post:

I enjoyed Veterans Day this year.  I went to the zoo for a fun day with the kids.  Does anyone else find it ironic that I spent a day celebrating the people who gave us freedom in a place filled with cages? I mean, I'm just sayin'. OK, that was just an awkward side note.

 However, I did have the presence of mind before we left the house to grab the flag and take a picture of my kids holding it.  We all know why they can hold it up proudly.  Because of the veterans and troops today that have protected it.  I sent it as a text message thank you to all the veterans in my family.    Ok, pretty lame, but it was the best I could do upon waking up and remembering why the mail hadn't come.  Wait, I just sounded even lamer considering. They gave something that took quite a bit of sacrifice on their faith that our country and it's freedoms are worth it.

Yesterday, I finished up my post on freedom with the words:

"What does this new (free) life look like? It's not slavery to sin. It's a freedom from laws. It's good. It's life. But it's not works we do. How exactly does that fit together?  Glad you asked."

Actually, you probably didn't ask, but I'm still going to write this post, mkay?

So today, my thoughts are flipping to the book of Hebrews before I return to Ephesians and Galations from yesterday.
In Hebrews, there's this neat little chapter about those who had faith and are a good example of faith.  So if I want to know what faith looks like, I should look at this neat little example left for us here. It's very inspiring as the author was trying to pump up whoever the reader was to keep chugging forward in their faith. In Hebrews 11, there is the list of all the people in Old Testament and what they did by faith.  So it's an example of those who were called to action by faith because they realized God and the new life and freedom He offers is worth everything.
You know, kinda like on Veterans Day, we celebrate those who were called to action to promote freedom because they thought it was worth everything.  So we have parades, speeches, flags, animals in cages (K, that last one was just me this year).

That being said, we also are told in the Bible that it's not the things we do (works) that save us but faith. (Ephesians 2:9)

So huh? I just read a big ol' Biblical parade about all the things these people did out of faith.  What for? Gosh, for years I was so confused about how this fit together.

A little phrase in Galations 5:6 sums it up.  "faith working through love."
This is what faith looks like.  It's the love.  It is a call to action, but not a call to follow a bunch of religious laws.  It's certainly not obeying a list of laws to gain favor. That is not freedom.  That's trading one form of slavery for another.

Galations 5:13-14,16,18
"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.......But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law."

 Cue an Ah-Ha moment. It's not the freedom to go back to former bondage of sin, but rather that we finally do have the power to choose love instead of sin.  And that ability to choose love is freedom.  Not only that, but I have the Spirit of God dwelling in me.  That power now breathes new life.  All the qualities of God (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law - Gal. 5:22-23) are available to me.

As our church likes to say, if you're just caught up in religion but fail to grasp this idea of freedom, you will fall into "try hard, do good, fail.  Try harder, do good, fail. Try harder, do good, fail, burn out, give up - syndrome".   It's a deathly disease in church's today.

It's not about trying hard and being "good".  It's about grasping the freedom of love.  We can never "try hard" enough to love the people around us.  We'll fail.  Daily, I fail.  My kids and husband will attest to that.  But I can attest, that each and every time I have the choice to dig into love and the source is not from me.  I can always look to the source.

I used to fall into "should" syndrome.  You know..."I should do this, I should do that...."  It's not a very free way to live.  I would much rather live each moment as a prompting to accept the freedom to love at that moment.  I might not make that right choice, but at least I have a choice, and the source for the power to make the right one lives right in me.  

God doesn't demand the perfection of your life, but the direction.  It starts with digging deep into the character and personhood of God with time spent at the source.  Little by little, bit by bit, the direction is turned as I learn to choose the freedom of loving and turn away from my old master, sin.

As James 2 says, "Faith without works is dead."  That doesn't mean that I have to try hard and save myself by my works.  No, no.  James is not saying we have to work to get our salvation. Here is what he is saying:   If you cannot choose love, the question begs, aren't you still a slave to the old master sin?  Are you really free?  Have you found freedom?  Freedom means that we can start choosing a different way of living that was cut off from us before.  It is now open to us.
James 2:26 "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."
I mean if you aren't going to start exercising your freedom, then you are showing that you are still dead on the inside, in slavery.  Choosing to stay in that zoo cage when the door has been left wide open.

So, get out of the zoo.

Dig into the source.  You can have freedom to choose love over self.  True love comes from the source, and points to the source.

  While by no means perfect, I'm out of the zoo, and it's very very freeing.

Nov 19, 2013

On Freedom (Part 1)

So Hunter was just introduced to the wonderful world of Tolkien.  Yes, my nerdy passion for all things Tolkien was just passed down to my son this month who I deemed worthy (old enough) to join this "club" with me.  For the record, Tone has not joined this fan club despite all my best efforts.  It's just not his "thing".  Whatever that means....because Tolkien's world just sucks you in to a fascinating world of elves, hobbits, orcs and wizards with a great adventure at every turn.  I'm not understanding how it wouldn't.  But the sad fact is, that for Tone, it doesn't. When we were first married, the movie series was just coming out and so for my birthday, Tone bought me the map of Middle Earth which I framed and proudly hung over my craft table (next to my map of Narnia of course). You are free to let the mocking commence.  I realize...I'm in deep. Even though Tone does not share this love of Tolkien, he loves me, and fed this obsession.  But now that Hunter is ready for Tolkien...oh boy! I've moved on in my recruiting to focus this on my child.  It's a Mama's right.

Hunter devoured it.

Several late nights in row, we finally finished up the series and my buddy and I are anxiously waiting for the next installment of "The Hobbit".

In the middle of introducing Hunter to Tolkien, I have also been reading through the New Testament.  I was reading Romans, Ephesians, and Galations the week we watched "The Lord of Rings" series.  We were also celebrating Veterans Day.  I think the trifecta of Tolkien, Romans, and Veteran's Day helped me think through some thoughts on freedom.  Oddly, in the chaos that sorts itself into impressions in my brain, they ended up making connections for me.

While we were watching the movies, it was the Orcs that left a great impression on the mind of Hunter.
Peter Jackson did a great job of giving viewers the heeby-jeebies and helping the viewer feel sufficiently scared and creeped out as you watched.  I was rather worried Hunter would maybe have some nightmares after watching.  Uh, he may or may not have slept in my bed after one particularly late night of Tolkien viewing. The orcs were shown as being slaves to Sauron and all decisions they made were under his complete control.   Hey, I've read the books a million times and watched the movies, but  every time I see them, I still get a fun little shiver of fear running down my spine. It's thrilling.

So upon thinking of Orcs....and their slavery to Sauron....

One of the problems people have said they have with Christianity is that they are afraid that they will feel like they are slaves to a system of rules and laws.  Unfortunately, this couldn't be more opposite.  I suppose some churches do try to trap people into this false brand of religion, but this is far from the truth of walking with Jesus.

I would like to point out that BEFORE Christ, we are actually the slaves.   We were slaves to sin.  We were like the Orcs on the inside.  Truly that bad.  Or worse. And while we lived, moved and breathed in apparent freedom throughout our lives, in actuality, there was no life in us.  We were masters to sin and helpless.  Oh sure, there are many "good" people who do wonderful things for the world...but whatever those deeds are, they were only a shadow of true good.  True good is doing something as praise and glory to God as His created beings.  True good points to God.  A good person who doesn't point to God with their goodness is pointing right back at themselves, and therefore, that's not true goodness.

The Orcs, I'm sure, could have done something good as they traipsed across the land, but the reality wouldn't have changed that they were still under the ownership of Sauron.  So likewise, people can do good things, but it doesn't change the fact that they are under the ownership of sin and selfishness. In fact, we are told we were dead.  Goodness that doesn't point to the source (God) counts for nothing.  It's a dead goodness.  Can I get super nerdy on you?  It's kinda like in the Tolkien books, the Orcs were created as a knock-off to make a mockery of the beautiful, free elves.  Whoa, yeah.  You know who knows her middle earth Tolkien history?  This girl.

Ephesians 2:1
"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (Satan), of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."

Can a dead person actually make ANY choices, good or bad?  Nope. That is not good news for "good" people.

But someone might argue:
So in Christianity, does one just trade one set of slavery for another set of rules and regulations?   No!

I will ask you to think of it this way:

Freedom means we are free to do the good we were created to do.  

We now have the freedom to not sin.  Only God has ever been completely free to not sin and do good.

Galations 5:1 "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be a subject again to a yoke of slavery."

So we are free!  We are free to choose from right and wrong. And when we choose right, it is the true right as God intended - it always points to Him. It is not about following a bunch of laws, being perfect, or earning our way there.
Read on:

Galations 5:4 "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace."

Ouch. So actually, if you are doing everything you can to prove your salvation by following the law, you really are not free at all.  You are stuck under a very heavy burden.  The law itself is slavery.

So now what?
We are free from the slavery of sin, but we are not stuck under a slavery of following laws.  Why are there laws in the Bible then?  To simply point out that we are slaves and not good.

Ephesians 2:4-10
"But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast."

What does this new life look like?  It's not slavery to sin.  It's a freedom from laws.  It's good. It's life.  But it's not works we do. How exactly does that fit together?  Glad you asked.  Part 2 is being posted tomorrow.  Otherwise, this post will get much much much too long.
Tomorrow, grab your coffee and read along with me. Polka dot jammies are optional.  But I super dig mine.
I also recommend some Chai tea steeped in milk and a comfy chair.
And socks.  Definitely socks.
But I always have cold feet.

Nov 6, 2013

Thankful purging

Do you ever feel sabotaged by your own stuff? Things that you think should be blessings are actually the things that are sabotaging your joy?
As we are in the season of Thankfulness, one should be feeling more thankful.  
However, as I looked around my house today, I just felt overwhelmed by "stuff".  It seemed like every toy bin had thrown up it's contents. The sink was holding far too much in the way of dirty dishes. It seemed like organizing and containing the chaos could seize most of the day if I let it.  I wasn't thankful for any of this stuff.  I should have been because having it all is a gift.  Somehow, I'm just feeling more glutinous than joyful.   More stressed by possessions that blessed by them. Overwhelmed by keeping them, but reluctant to let them go.  Somehow, this blessing wasn't actually giving me a heart of peace, or praise, or thankfulness. Usually, I do feel it about this life I have been given. But I had turned a corner into disorder, and when that happens, I know I need to let "stuff" go.  
So I called for a purge.  We purged.  I asked the kids for toys that they no longer played with.  I got a few in a pile.  Then I sent them back for more. I looked at the pile ....and asked for more.  I went back to their rooms and looked around and it still looks like too much.  I seriously want to do a whole house attack.  I informed them tomorrow it is happening.  They went to bed in fear of what would be sent away.

My living room is in chaos with old toys thrown willy nilly where they were sorted and assessed.

And I'm wondering now.  Sitting here wondering where my balance should be.

As homeschoolers, we keep a lot.   My kids have a lot because this place is their home, school and world.  We spend all day everyday here.  This is their playground, their classroom, their experimental zone into art and play.  So we keep a lot.  There is the massive art area where the girls spend a good part of their day gluing, taping, cutting, coloring, etc.  We have scores of toys for imaginative play - which is dragged out all day every day.  I have toys for different ages and genders since we have a span living under this roof.  I want to give my kids the tools they need to explore and pretend and discover.  We are an extremely creative family and everything can be kept and used for some project or game - and it often is.

But I also feel that those "things" can become just possessions that trap us.  They rob us of joy and the delight of a life of simplicity.  The care and clean up can be time-suckers and joy-stealers.

I have to be honest, drawing a line can be hard. Finding that line is even harder. 
To sort it out, I have to go back to the drawing board.  What is most important?
To myself, I answer that by saying:
Children, whose hearts are uncluttered, full of love, learning to become all that the Father has created them to be.   

I have to find the line between a cluttered heart and a heart that has a place to explore and create and discover - because in this, we also find God.

So tomorrow, we purge.  We assess.  And hopefully, we find blessing in letting go. We find thankfulness for what has been given to us in abundance, and we find joy in the giving.
There is another lesson in giving.  My children went to bed in fear of what they will have to let go.  Tomorrow I get to lead them into a heart lesson.    There is fear in letting go.  There is joy and a lightness after you do it.  None of them will be asked to give up something very precious.  However, I do want to them to give up the "what if" things.  "What if" I want it later? "What if" I later find a use for it even though I don't right now?  "What if", "What if".

Don't we all do that?  On a grander scale, God provides for the now, we can trust Him for the future, and we don't need to worry about the "what if" of hoarding.  This is great season for learning to hold our possessions loosely.

So today was stressful.  Prying our hands open to give up our possessions is stressful.  Tomorrow may get worse.  Learning lessons in joy can first bring on stress because it is just that...a lesson that our hearts have to be bent to learn.
Lord, please bend us, break us, of the grip of possessions and let us learn to hold our possessions loosely and live a simple life, Amen.