Thursday, July 4, 2019

Proclaim Liberty


"Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof."


Those words from Leviticus 25 are inscribed on a bell we have come to know as the Liberty Bell, originally cast in the Whitechapel Foundry in East London, England, and now housed at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
 
Today we celebrate liberty. We celebrate our nation's independence. July 4, 1776 was the date of the signing of our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, and we celebrate every year on this day.
 
But our independence, our freedom, is about more than a one-day-a-year celebration. It's about more than picnics and parades. It's about more than fireworks and flag-waving and funnel cakes. No matter how you choose to celebrate today, keep in mind the reason for the celebration!

We celebrate today because a group of men gathered together on this date in 1776 to sign a document proclaiming our independence from Great Britain. We celebrate because there were men willing to risk all they had to fight for that independence. We celebrate because, in that year and in all the years since, men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States of America have dedicated themselves to protecting our freedom. We celebrate because we are a free people, with rights and privileges only dreamed of by many around the world.

Our freedom as Americans is something to celebrate every day of the year, not just on one day in the middle of summer. It's something to be cherished and protected. It's something we must never take for granted, but continually be thankful for.
Our freedom as Americans is a precious thing that must be guarded and defended. Just the verse on the Liberty Bell reminds us, we must "proclaim liberty throughout the land"!

And if that is true of our freedom as Americans, how much more is all that true of our freedom in Christ! Freedom in Christ isn't something just to be celebrated once a week on Sundays, but to be celebrated and cherished and treasured and proclaimed every day! Because "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!"  (John 8:36 ESV)


"For freedom Christ has set us free."  (Galatians 5:1 ESV)



"For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."  (Romans 8:2 ESV)



[Jesus said] "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  (John 8:32 ESV)



Free indeed!  Free in Christ Jesus! Our freedom in Christ is not dependent on political parties or political correctness or political whim. That freedom is all and only in and through Christ Jesus! 


Free indeed! Proclaim that freedom "throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof"!



"Let Freedom Ring" - The Gaither Vocal Band:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVVbSXz7jaU

Monday, July 1, 2019

Refreshed

It has been said that all good things must come to an end. That is certainly true of vacations. Today is back to reality. But even as I am experiencing the "reentry" that comes after a vacation, I am feeling renewed and refreshed.


What a relaxing week it was. No particular agenda. No appointments or doctor visits that had to be kept. No chores to be done.

Just relaxing. Laughing. Talking. Making memories together. A week of giggles and snorts and belly laughs. The sounds of love. The sounds of family.

Now it's back to "real" life! Yet even as I'm faced with unpacking and sorting laundry and putting things away, there's a smile on my face. 

Relaxed.  Refreshed.  Renewed.

It wasn't just about the location. It was about the people.

It was smiles and giggles and laughter. It was conversation. It was together. It was the sounds of family.

Family. One of life's greatest blessings.

The vacation is over. But the memories will last a lifetime.

More happy than my heart can hold.



"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name."  
(Psalm 103:1 ESV)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Another Anniversary

Anniversary week continues. Monday was our 47th wedding anniversary. Today marks another anniversary. On this date, ten years ago, I got the phone call. 

It's hard to believe that ten years have passed since Daddy died. On that Saturday morning, life was normal. And then it wasn't.

Brandon, Stephanie, and AJ were visiting for the weekend. We were making plans for our day. Then the phone rang and all our plans were changed.

If Daddy and I could have had one more conversation, I wonder what he might have said. If you knew you were leaving this world, what would you say to those you love most? 

We didn't get to have that conversation. And so I remember previous conversations we had.

He often would say He that tooteth not his own horn heareth not the sound thereof.  He always said that with a twinkle in his eye!

When talking about money, he would say things like You need to diminish your wants or augment your means.  Or he would say You're old enough for your wants not to hurt you.

He said things like Top 'o the mornin' to ya! and Can't never could!

He loved to talk about baseball and poetry and politics. And he loved to tell jokes. Oh, how he loved to tell jokes!

The last time we talked on the phone, a couple of days before his passing, he said, "I know you don't want to talk about it, but I'm ready to go. I've got my bags all packed and ready."


When I got to Daddy's house on that Saturday afternoon after "the phone call", I found his Bible and devotional book open to the passage he had read the previous morning, Colossians 3:1-3, before the heart attack took his life.

There's a sense in which these are Daddy's final words to me. And to my brother. Because, in his own words, I believe this is what Daddy would have said to us if he had known he was leaving that day.  This is how he lived, and this is how he wanted us to live too.



"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."  (Colossians 3:1-3 KJV)




Saturday, June 8, 2019

Happy Anniversary!

It was a beautiful summer day, not too hot. There had been a shower of rain late in the morning, just enough for things to be refreshed.

The ceremony was held at eight o'clock in the evening, the perfect time of day to get just the right amount of evening sun through the stained glass windows of the church.

The church was full of family and friends. The music was perfect. There were flowers. And candles.

So began our life together as husband and wife. 

There was a reception following the ceremony. It was a simple affair with punch and cake, held in the church fellowship hall.

Afterward, we drove away from the church listening to the Carpenters singing We've Only Just Begun.

That was our song then. It is our song today. 

On June 10, 1972, we began our journey through life together as husband and wife. Neither of us had any idea what a journey it would be!

Who knew back then that we would live in six different states, at nineteen different addresses? Who knew that we would travel together all over the world? Who knew all the mountaintops and valleys, smooth roads and potholes, all the adventures this journey would hold for us?

God knew. He knew exactly what He had planned for us, even though we had no idea. This has been quite a journey. Richer and poorer. Sickness and health. And the journey continues. We've only just begun!

I had no idea that all this would be part of my life journey, but I wouldn't want to do life with anyone else. And I would do it all again!

Happy Anniversary, sweetheart! I love you more!

 
"Grow old along with me!  The best is yet to be....."
(from "Rabbi Ben Ezra" by Robert Browning)

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Running With Endurance

    "let us run with endurance the race that is set before us........" (Hebrews 12:1b NASB)



This is one of my favorite verses and one I have been thinking about a lot over the past few days.  Maybe it's because we will soon celebrate our anniversary, one of the milestones of life that leads me to a time of reflection, of looking back and looking forward. Maybe it has to do with marking another year without any parents. I think of them often, but especially on anniversaries...their birthdays, their wedding anniversary, the anniversaries of their passing from this life to the next. Maybe it has to do with anticipating spending some time with family in a couple of weeks for one of those rare occasions when we are all together. 

Life has certainly been different for my sons than it was for me. I lived my entire life on the same street. We moved once, when I was two years old, to the house where my parents lived out the rest of their lives. It was next door to the house where I had spent my first two years. I grew up in a small town where everybody knew everybody. After I went to college (in a town about two hours away), I returned home for about a month and then got married. Al and I lived in the town where he grew up, just a few miles from his parents, for the first twelve years of our marriage. And then life changed!

In the years since, we moved a lot. A LOT! And that's where Hebrews 12 becomes part of the picture. This is not the life we had imagined. We never dreamed of living in so many different parts of the country, of meeting so many people, of traveling to so many places. But this is the path God laid before us, and so we are doing our best to follow that path, to "run with endurance".

It hasn't always been easy. It's hard to pull up stakes and move so often. It's hard to leave friends behind. It's hard sometimes to make new ones. And that seemed to get more difficult as we grew older. It wasn't always easy for us, and I'm sure it wasn't easy for our sons. While we have all had some wonderful experiences that we would never otherwise have had, we have all had our share of less-than-wonderful experiences as well. Al and I have were always aware of how hard it was for our boys, and did our best to smooth the bumps in the road for them. I'm not sure they always understood that. I remember one of them describing ours as a "transient" life which he also described as being "tossed from pillar to post", which makes him sound like an unwanted foster child, if you ask me!  Nothing could be farther from the truth!

I suppose that instead of moving around so much, we could have stayed in one place with no job and no means of support. I doubt that any of us would have liked that very much! So we followed the job, went where employment led us, and have done our best to live for Jesus wherever He led. We're still doing that. Doing our best to live for Jesus, to run our race (not somebody else's) with endurance. It wasn't always easy. But it has always been so worth it!

It may be thro' the shadows dim, or o'er the stormy sea,
I take my cross and follow Him, wherever He leadeth me.

My heart, my life, my all I bring to Christ who loves me so;
He is my Master, Lord, and King; wherever He leads, I'll go.

Wherever He leads I'll go; wherever He leads, I'll go;
I'll follow my Christ who loves me so; wherever He leads, I'll go.

                                                                                                       -B. B. McKinney

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Most Important Thing

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us….Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like." - A.W. Tozer


I recently came across a portion of this Tozer quote in a Bible study I'm involved in. This morning I went searching for the fuller quote. In this quote, there are four words that really grabbed my attention. These four words - the most important thing - have caused me to stop and think. To ponder, if you will.

You may be wondering about the author of this quote. Just who is he? A. W. Tozer was a  pastor in the Christian Missionary Alliance church and is perhaps best known to us for two of his books, both now considered classics in Christian literature, The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. My copies of these books are well-worn and well-highlighted, and have had quite an impact on my life.

Think with me about this quote. What do you consider the most important thing about yourself? Is it your physical appearance? Or your education? Or your job? Or where you live? Or your family? Or your political affiliations? Or your opinions? Or your loyalty to a particular sports team?

Have you ever stopped to consider that question? And have you ever paused to consider what Tozer said? Have you ever stopped to think about what you think about God?

What do you think about God? How well do you know Him? What is your view of God?

Isaiah had this to say about his view of God:

"In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, 'Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.' " (Isaiah 6:1-3)

That was Isaiah's view. What's yours?

How do we get to know God? How do we have a right view of Him?

Once we are in a faith relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, we come to know Him better through the pages of Scripture. As we read, and as we study, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to understand more and more about who God is, about His character and His ways.

Our right view of God is developed by time in His Word, and by spending time with Him in prayer.  And we express our right view of Him by how we live out our lives on a daily basis.

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."  (Romans 12:1-2 NASB)

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Welcome to June!

Today we turn the calendar page and welcome a new month. It's June already! Where does the time go?

I'm happy to welcome June. It's a month I look forward to each year.

This is a month of celebrations in our family. Toward the end of the month we will celebrate a son's birthday. Before that, we will celebrate our 47th wedding anniversary. I just love a good celebration, don't you?

June is also the month for our annual family vacation. Some years we have gone to the beach, and some years to the mountains. This year we're heading to Gatlinburg. No matter where we go, it's something I look forward to every year because it's a week of being with my family. All of us together in one place. It doesn't happen nearly often enough to suit me, so I'm excited to turn the page on the calendar and begin the countdown!

June marks the beginning of summer. Even for those of us who no longer mark time by the day school is out for summer, June is a time to look forward to a slower pace of life for a few months.  Peaches and watermelon. Sunshine and supper on the porch. Flowers blooming and birds singing.  All the simple joys of summer. One blessing after another.

According to the calendar, summer doesn't officially begin for about three more weeks, but in my mind, today's the day.

Welcome to June! Welcome to summer!


"From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another." 
(John 1:16 NIV)