From Fear to Freedom

istock_000021005318medium-1280x960Each year instead of making New Year’s resolutions I chose a word for the year.  This year’s word is freedom.  I’ve set some specific goals for things in my life that burden or imprison me that I want to experience freedom from and I am working toward those specific goals. But more than that, I continually work on pursuing an attitude and posture of living rooted in the truth that I am deeply loved by a God and God has set me free. It is an insult and, more importantly, it breaks God’s heart that I voluntarily return to captivity – whether to a way of living or to an attitude.  Most times the bondage I return to is at its core fear. Fear of failing, fear of disappointing, fear of things out of my control.

Sometimes the prison of fear is so powerful there’s no need to lock the cell doors. Your fear creates a willingness to self-imprison. Steve Maraboli

A song that has come to mean a lot to me is “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music. It is a powerful song with a repetitive chorus that says, “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.” I listen to it every day and I repeat that truth to myself throughout the day.

Because I am paying attention to the idea of freedom and the bondage of fear, I have been more aware this year just how much our culture is in bondage to fear and anxiety. Our conversations, our social media postings, our news cycles, and our economic and political rhetoric repeatedly come from a posture of fear. We look at neighbors and strangers with fear. We receive differing opinions as threats. We look around us without any sense of hope. And by “we” I mean followers of Jesus. The same Jesus who repeatedly tells us to not be afraid and to have courage.

What if faith, not fear, could be our default reaction when we feel threatened and vulnerable? What if the people of God could surrender our fears, insecurities and doubts and refuse to imprison ourselves anymore in order to live and love as the liberated people of God? What might God be able to do in our lives and in our world?

Galatians 5:1 says, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.”  Many of us fail to realize that we are the ones who have harnessed ourselves with slavery.

Fear is not from God. Slavery is not God’s plan.

May we live as the liberated people of God and may we use our liberation to be a light to a world desperate to be set free.

True Royals Fan

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The 2015 World Series Champions

I am not a die-hard Royals fan. (Please keep reading.) In fact, I’m not a die-hard fan of any sports team nor is there any sports team that I passionately hate. It isn’t because I detest sports. I actually enjoy sports. It is probably because I have a hard time choosing favorites. Unless the opponents are clear jerks, I always feel bad for the losers and wish everyone could win. So sports are hard for me because I have “all the feels.” Seriously, it is annoying.

But when a major sporting event is happening, I enjoy being a part of it. I love that something is happening that unites us rather than divides us. We need more of that. So whether it is the World Series, the World Cup, the Olympics, or the Super Bowl, there is this sense that we are together in this – in one big living room with foam fingers and heaping piles of processed foods. I love that.

Throughout the series, there have been a few jabs in person, statuses or tweets about “true Royal fans” versus bandwagon folks. True fans are those who have gone the distance; fans who remained faithful through the highs and the lows and the lowest of the lows. I totally get that. You deserve every bit of joy and every second of celebration. You are the heart of what it means to be Royal. You teach us what it means to be a true fan.

But surely there is room on the couch for those who maybe are just now understanding what you have always known. Surely we can warmly and genuinely invite newbies to stand next to us on the parade route so they might catch the Royal fever too.

Sometimes Christians have the same attitude about people who haven’t been through the religious trenches or who weren’t early adopters of Jesus. When individuals begin to seek, we want to regulate them to another, lesser group – a group undeserving of front rows seats, box tickets or the right or the left hand of Jesus. We box them out from the parade route because we were here first and deserve to see and be seen. Plus, we get first dibs on thrown candy. We are entitled to that as the chosen frozen ones.

Nothing is more contrary to Jesus than this attitude.

The bandwagon doesn’t have to be such a terrible thing. Who knows …. someone might just catch the fever and decide to stick around because of the hospitality and heart of true fans and the team they are devoted to.

Maybe I’m wrong but that sounds like the Royal thing to do.

A Prayer for a New School Year

back_schoolBlessed are You, O God, our Creator.

We thank you for the energy and the spirit that you renewed in us through the summer months.

We thank you for the time to enjoy our family and friends and to savor what is important in our lives.

Today is a new day and we come before You, the Author of new beginnings, asking your blessing on this new year.

Bless this community of administrators, educators, and staff as they prepare for the year ahead. Help them to inspire their students so that learning will not cease at the classroom door. Grant them an abundance of patience, compassion and wisdom. Give them a strong sense of mission that will sustain them through the demands and the challenges that lie ahead.

Bless the students throughout our community as they prepare for new beginnings. Calm their fears, nurture their hearts, and strengthen their courage. Help our students and our educators focus on what can be rather than what has been.

We are grateful, God, for new beginnings – both personally and professionally. Remind us to graciously extend them to others as You graciously extend them to us.

In the powerful name of Jesus, our great Teacher and Savior, we pray.