Do we know true freedom?

With all that is happening here and abroad, I’ve struggled for days, wondering what to say. My words can never come up to what was written over 2000 years ago to folks in Galatia.

It still rings true.

I cannot change the world — only what I choose. I believe our choices can be the pebble in the pond, with ever widening ripples of healing love and restoration.
 

Gulf of Mexico dolphin crossing
 
 

lighthouse in Bahamas
 
 

Bahamas shoreline on Atlantic Ocean
 
 

What is your response?

The big choice

It’s been a hard week. The death of a dear young person close by, along with a poorly handled health crisis of a son-in-law, so far away in.Switzerland, who had a second, more aggressive surgery today that shouldn’t have been necessary, the shootings and reactive killings across our country, and terrorism throughout the world have roiled over me. I’ve spent a lot of my nights praying, and a somber cloud has shadowed my days.

It’s not a lack of faith. I know who is in charge, the Alpha and Omega. I know how the story ends. I know evil will not ultimately triumph.

Not even death.

But as I drifted off to sleep last night I realized I don’t want just a glimpse of peace.

I want peace in huge gulps, big armloads, total immersion.

I wondered, have I been so focused on the aches and pains of others–I really do care and often feel led to intercede—that it’s all I see, the dark side of life?

Does this view diminish the colors of everything else?

Maybe it is a daily question, which starts with The Big Choice, then must be chosen afresh every morning.

Maggie Valley

Do I choose life?

Or will I follow the pain? Dwell in the grief? In the gray place? Look no further than this side of the glass darkly?

Some of you are natural optimists (how often I’d like to trade places!). If you are still reading, you may be wondering what the issue is. Make the choice and get on with it, you say.

But I wonder if sometimes you roll right past the hurt and needs of those around you. (There is a reason the world is populated with both types of people. We need visionaries and optimists who will launch projects and lead the way. But we also need those who can’t help feeling trauma, confusion or fear in another person and want to make a difference, either directly, or by lifting that person to the One who Heals.)

I circle back, content with who I am — my place in the world.

And, once again, I choose life.

Even when there is pain I will look for the colors.

I’ll be more intentional about enjoying the flowers, the sunsets, a bird’s wing, laughter, the voice of a little girl with every reason to cry, singing, “Amazing Grace.”

red flowers driftwood on Dry TortugasCelery Fields, Sarasota, FLstar white flowerSarasota Sunset

It’s all right here for the choosing.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” I Cor 13:12,13

What is all this freedom for?

Our country, our world, is full of anger. Groups rise up to strike those they believe have deprived them. Demand rights. Claim freedom from constraints that feel like shackles. Individuals flare up with road rage, domestic abuse, even mass murder. As I hung our American flag today I wondered, what is all this freedom for? American Flag
The people who worked and died to found our country had a vision for a freedom based on sacrifice. When they declared independence and battled to procure it, some lost their lives or the lives of their sons. Many lost homes and property.

How did we gravitate to the point that one man takes another’s life or dignity in the name of freedom? Where the rights of one person negate the lives of thousands? Where freedom is only allowed for “me, myself and I” and those who agree with me?

Today I salute the flag, and am grateful for a country where I can still worship, speak, and write in freedom. (And I pray these freedoms continue, no matter who disagrees with me.) I am indebted to those who fought to maintain freedom here and around the world, as well as those who stand guard today, not knowing where the next suicide bomber will appear.

But I can’t help wondering, with so much hatred, anger and animosity, what is all this freedom for?

Though burdened with the pain and suffering of those close and far, I circle back to the One who guides my life, who said,

“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look:

‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere?

Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it.
If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back,
giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.

And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.
No more tit-for-tat stuff.

Live generously.

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’

I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies.

Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.

When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.

This is what God does.

He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.

If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.

If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?
Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

In a word, what I’m saying is,

Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it.

Live out your God-created identity.

Live generously and graciously toward others,

the way God lives toward you.”

Matt 5 38-48 MSG
photo by Jack H Thompson, Jr, Ft Jefferson, Dry Tortuguas

Have you found that sweet space, even if for a moment, when you know you are working out of your true self, your God-created self?