Sweet Freedom

freedom1As I waited for my computer’s antivirus software to grab another little chunk from my credit card, I thought about all the preventative measures we take. It’s a part of life to line up protection for gadgets, homes, cars, etc. We spend a ridiculous amount of cash to keep stuff (and ourselves) safe.

We live in a fallen world and the weight of evil can be overwhelming. Moaning under the burden, we may ask why?

It all comes back to what we celebrate this week.

Freedom.  Continue reading

Dear America


freedom3My Dear Country,

Today, on your birthday, I want to say thank you. You are truly a land of opportunity—a place of freedom to live, work, worship, and raise a family.

You are a land of dreams—fertile soil for those with plans and vision. A springboard for reaching beyond ourselves and seeking God’s best.

Within your borders are the extraordinary: pastors, teachers, counselors, firefighters, law enforcement, scientists, artists, athletes, architects, doctors, researchers, designers, engineers, technicians, businessmen, students, and so much more. Continue reading

Staying Between the Lines


I was recently reminded of how thankful I am for boundaries.

The road in front of our home was repaved. And for three weeks, no lines.

You would think there would be a sense of freedom without lines. But to be honest, I was a nervous wreck.

There was a feeling of anything goes…drive wherever you like, as fast as you like. I couldn’t trust other cars to stay on their side of the road (and I barely trusted myself to remain on my side). Continue reading

America–Sweet Land of Liberty


My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrim’s pride!
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love.
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture fills
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom’s song.
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our father’s God to, Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

by Samuel Francis Smith

Father God, thank you for the amazing gift of freedom. Thank you for those who have served, sacrificed, and died that we may have life. And Father, we praise You for the gift of Your Son, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the ultimate gift—freedom from a life without You. Thank you, Jesus. We love and praise You.

An Open Letter to My College Kid


Hi, Sweetheart. Mom here.

It’s that time of year and I’m feeling it—that uncomfortable heart-squeeze from the effort of letting you go. Again.

You would think it gets easier, but um…it doesn’t. So with that in mind, there are a few things I would like to say. None of this is new to you—but humor me. Sometimes a mom needs to “put it all out there.” (We tend to worry about gaps in your life-education.)

So, here goes…

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Utter Foolishness

“They must be really good people—to be able to offer forgiveness like that.”

Usually poised and articulate, the news commentator was flustered and stumbled over his words. “I don’t know what to say…it just doesn’t make sense.”

The world is confused.

They just witnessed family and friends of those slain in Charleston stand and offer forgiveness to their loved one’s killer.

These broken people are supposed to be screaming for revenge. We expect them to cry out demanding blood. They are in anguish—surely they are not capable of rational thought.

Where is the rioting? The finger-pointing?

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Come to the Mountain

The mountain-top experience…

For a few moments or days you’re transported above the everyday-ness of life to a place of worship, praise, and new perspective. Communion with God is over-the-top real and vibrant. You want to linger over His Word as His gentle whisper reaches to the corners of your heart. The weight of burdens and responsibilities ever-so-briefly fall away, giving freedom to lift tired hands in expressions of thanksgiving and praise. You have the longing to stay in these moments just a little bit longer…IMG_2759

This past week at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference was a glorious blur of like-hearted creative souls coming together to grow, learn, and share—with the ultimate purpose of fine-tuning our skills to glorify God through the written word. Friendships were formed and strengthened. Encouragement rained down from faculty, staff, and other attendees. To put it simply—it was fun.

Then came the time to say goodbye, with myriad promises to keep in touch and to hold each other accountable in the days ahead. We walked away from the mountain with fresh resolve—and perhaps, a bit of trepidation: Uh, Lord, I’m not sure about this…I felt so strong this week, but now I will be alone…

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The Best Gift EVER

It had to be a humiliating experience.

Caught in the act of adultery. Grabbed by angry, self-righteous hands and cast into the midst of a shocked and angry crowd. Thrown before a little-known prophet. Bared body, soul and spirit, and certain of only one thing: imminent punishment.

 Never mind that someone else is just as guilty, for she has not acted alone. The man has slipped away quietly, but she is here, in the dusty street, at the mercy of her accusers.

On the surface it seems to be a hopeless situation for there is nowhere to hide, no possible escape. But then the unforeseen happens. This man, this prophet looks deep into her eyes, into the long forgotten recesses of her heart and offers a gift.


There is no condemnation but there is accountability, and a choice.  The simple but powerful words, “go and sin no more…” offer this broken woman a glorious hope. Scripture doesn’t tell us, but we wonder. What does she choose? Does she return to a world of darkness and shame or does she take that first trembling step of faith toward the light of Christ?

At the feet of Jesus we, like the adulteress, have a decision to make. We can continue in sin, succumbing to its decay and destruction.

Or we can reach for dusty sandals and nail-scarred hands.

Only by realizing there is no hope without Him can we confidently choose the life He offers. Saying “yes” to Jesus is a rebirth, and the beginning of a journey to inner beauty and holiness.

Oh Father,  thank you for the gifts of grace and forgiveness.  Help me to turn from the world and its ways and to reach for You. Let me shout with joy, I choose Jesus!

…and Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.      John 8:11 KJV

2 List-Making Habits Guaranteed to Shrink Your Soul


So and so didn’t speak to me at church yesterday…she didn’t even make eye contact!    

I can’t believe she said that…my feelings were really hurt…

Well, back in 1992, he was a real pain to work with…

I remember how she lived back in high school…

Believe me, he can’t be trusted…

It’s real and it’s dangerous. That soul-shrinking habit of keeping track of the offenses of others, and in the process, hanging on to unforgiveness.

Oh, how we love to keep those lists! That good ‘ole running-tally of the mistakes and perceived slights of those around us.  thQJ0BPS20We know that God calls us to forgive, but what if the offender is never sorry for what they’ve done? Shouldn’t we make sure they know how offended we are? What if they don’t deserve forgiveness?

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:3-4 NIV)

When I read this verse, I feel so foolish hanging on to unforgiveness. Can you even imagine having to bear the weight of every sin we’ve ever committed?

Did Jesus die for everyone…except for that one person who drives us crazy?

Check out this next verse. I LOVE how it reads from The Message:

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. (Galatians 6:1,2)

Are we keeping a running-tally on anyone?

Has any bitterness taken root in our heart?

Don’t we want to be free of it, so we can lay claim to that abundant life we’re always hearing about?

Another equally dangerous list-making habit involves keeping track of our own offenses. You know, those dreaded regrets…I’ve done this, and I’ll always be defined by it. God could never use me because of my past…thGF1I5YOH

So, what are we actually saying?

Lord, I really appreciate what you did on the cross and all, but it wasn’t quite enough to cover ____________ (you fill in the blank).

Satan loves to point fingers and to remind us of past mistakes. When he does, we need to remind him of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.

1 John 1:9 (ESV) reads, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we confess…He is faithful.

Once more—If we confess…He is faithful.

Getting back to Psalm 130, God wants to lift from our shoulders (and hearts), the weight of living with condemnation and regrets. But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

Freedom to serve the One who removes our chains—what a gift!

So the next time we feel offended, or we’re struggling under the weight of regret, let’s add a couple of names to a list that’s sure to shake the foundations of hell and cause our souls to soar:

A list of burdened hearts to take before the Throne of Grace.

How Do You Measure Up? Take the Quiz…

As a teenager, I loved taking quizzes and working from a checklist. No, not the Math/English/Science variety. The good kind. You know, the ones designed to provide insight into your very soul.

1277TIGERBEATSTARMSMO120810 Pouring over the latest teen magazines, I could feel my heart-rate increase as my friends and I would devour every page, knowing there would be at least one feature entitled, What Kind of Man Will You Marry? How Cool Will You Be in High School? Are You a Good Kisser? What is Your Body Type? What Type of Boyfriend is Best for You?

The kind that asked 10 simple questions, directed you to tally up your A’s, B’s, and C’s, then revealed—with incredible insight, I might add—everything a young seeking heart needed to know.

It was from this source of wisdom that I knew I would marry a dark-haired prince, have 6.7 children (whatever that means), and maintain a svelte size 6 for the duration of my life.

I did, indeed, marry a dark-haired prince. The others? Not so much.

As we grow older and wiser, and leave Teen Beat and Seventeen behind, it’s easy to continue having a checklist mentality. And if we’re talking about our schedules or a grocery list, then it’s all good.  The problem comes when our quiz/checklist goes something like this:

I attend church at least three times a month…checkthDIU5XLFK
I had my devotional time this morning…check
I’ve memorized scripture this week…um, not quite
I gave an offering last Sunday…um, I will this week
I’ve cooked a meal for someone in need…groan
I have prayed for the needs of others…yes!
I have visited someone in the nursing home or hospital…check
I have not gossiped this week…sigh.

8 Checks – Wow, I’m amazing…running on all cylinders and impressing God big-time.  (Well, maybe next week…)
5-7 Checks – I’m getting there… No one’s perfect anyway (Said in a really whiny voice)
0-4 Checks – (This is my score again?!) God must be furious with me. I need to work harder to get back into His favor!

So, what’s the big deal? We’re busy caring for our families, working long hours, and staying active in church. And we’re placing as much energy as possible into pursuing that vague, elusive thing called happiness…because, well, that’s what we’re supposed to be about, right?

Sanctified, justified, gloriously happy Christians.

But sometimes, we cling to unhealthy habits at the expense of our inner spirit—that mysterious place that our Creator wants to nurture and grow in His likeness. Keeping a checklist for the purpose of pleasing God can be a suffocating habit. It’s also a huge soul-shrinker and can lead to lack of peace and frustration with what we’re told the Christ-like life should be.

When we live by a checklist (or by tallying a quiz), we reduce our lives to a works-based faith. We are trying to earn God’s pleasure…and it can be exhausting!

In the book, Restless, Jennie Allen writes, “Because of grace, we have nothing to prove.”

Oh, the truth of this!    Cross-Paid_in_Full-300x300

In Ephesians 1:4-6 (The Message), we read, Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

We are bought with His blood on the cross. We belong to Him!

It’s all about that GRACE, ‘bout that Grace, no devil… (Sorry, that wasn’t original, saw it somewhere and it made me laugh)

GRACE–Undeserved, unmerited favor.

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:39 (The Message)

When we grab hold of this—that nothing can separate us from the love of God—something amazing happens…

We experience a freedom like no other! We are then compelled to do some of the things on our lists because we love Him. Instead of serving to earn brownie points or to retain favor, we serve as an act of worship—to show our love and adoration to the One who made us. Service becomes relational—we’re on mission with God.

I want my children to call or visit me because they love me—not because they think I’m keeping a tally on them. And when they’re little, don’t we want those sweet chubby arms around us from the simple joy of baby-love, not from a sense of duty?

Would God want anything less?

So, let’s put the quizzes and checklists away (I’m pretty sure my dark-haired prince is from the Lord, anyway).

After all, it’s all about that GRACE. 🙂