{re}fresh

Month: July, 2016

I Hope You Dance

by Rob Dunne

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woman-dancing freely by good to go health flickr.com/photos/73162816@N08/_CC BY-ND 2.0

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Our bright red blanket provided dramatic contrast to the beige sand of Dennis beach. Fortune smiled on us as the normally crowded shore lay virtually barren. The late Spring sun did its best to provide warmth as moderate temperatures and strong winds tried to chill our bones. Unusually small waves provided a soft whooshing sound as they gently crashed upon the land. The distinct smell of sea water scented the air.

We took a short walk along the beach. Our solitude was interrupted as a woman danced on the sand. It was difficult to tell if it was choreographed or impromptu. The delight on her face made that inconsequential. When we got within an earshot of one another, I asked her what I owed her for the performance. “Was it good?” she asked. I assured her it was and she thanked me. She took dance as a child and loved it. She said it brought God delight to watch her dancing so freely.

Life has a way of changing us. We allow what other people think about us to influence how we behave. The goal is to fit in and be “normal”. Rather than dance freely on the beach without a care in the world, we feel self-conscious that others may be looking and laughing at us. There is so much restriction in that.

Jesus went down to the Jordan River and was baptized by His cousin John. As He came up out of the water, God audibly spoke and said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” In that moment, the Father solidified Jesus’ identity for Him. You are the Son of God. Immediately, that identity came under attack. Satan tried to get Jesus to question His identity. “If you are the Son of God, then…” Fortunately, Jesus didn’t fall for the devil’s trickery. He was supremely secure in who He was and nothing or no one was going to take that away from Him – not even the devil.

The born again experience is an exchange. God gives us a brand new spirit with a new nature. This ushers us in to His kingdom and He calls us sons and daughters. The rest of our lives are spent drawing that new nature out of our spirits and in to our hearts and minds. The bible tells us who we are and what we have in Christ. As we put faith in what God’s Word says and believe it in our hearts, we are transformed and become everything that He created us to be. The more secure we become in that new identity, the more freedom we experience in our everyday lives.

There was a part of me that desperately wanted to join the woman dancing on the beach. The idea of being that free to dance like no one was watching appealed to me. That reserved self-conscious part of me has not been fully renewed yet. So I sat and watched and imagined myself twirling beside her. Maybe next time I will join her.

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“He Would Have.”

by Wendy

by bp6316_93/365_Flickr.com_3410006685_3064e380a5_z.jpg_CC BY 2.0

by bp6316_93/365_Flickr.com_3410006685_3064e380a5_z.jpg_CC BY 2.0

 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Prov 25:11, ESV

“He would have, you know.”

It was a soft comment, but I felt its weight.  As usual, Jesus’ voice  surprised me.

I was trying, hard, to burrow into the root of an issue.  Once again life’s daily tumbles had triggered me into shame, anger, worthlessness and ultimately, despair.  For weeks I’d skirted the problem but couldn’t make progress.  Now, finally, curled up on my bed, I found my voice – and His – and watched Him point the way.

As usual, the problem originated long ago in childhood.  “There was no one to protect me, no one to stand up for me or advocate FOR me,” I whispered to Jesus.  I could “see” His eyes; in my imagination they were warm and kind, encouraging me to continue.

looked far back and found a few places of victory – times when my kind father saved me from fears or taunts. He was so dear and I cherished those few memories. My mind ran over those crystal-smooth surfaces again and again, but I knew those times were rare. My feelings ran deep, but they stayed inside and he did not know them.

Warfare he understood, but emotions, not so much. I was a tender little girl, a being totally unfamiliar to him, and with very strange needs. Most times he backed away to let my mother and grandmother fight my battles.

Unfortunately, like so many other strong mothers of their generation, they fought me instead of my battles.  Intimidated, I gave up and became the victim of my peers.  Not once did I learn how to handle a bully, and there were many.

“I wanted him to protect me,” I admitted to Jesus and that’s when I heard His quiet response.

“He would have?”  My eyebrows pulled together as I tried to understand Jesus’ words.

“He would – he wanted to – but he didn’t know how,” Jesus replied.  Oh! My father would have protected me if he had the right tools and answers.  I imagined how he might look in heaven – strong, confident, able to teach me to stand even amid hurled threats and shoves that left my heart cringing and trembling in the corner.

“He WOULD have!” I thought with relief, and suddenly Jesus’ three words filled in holes I didn’t know were there.  The “he didn’t” pain was replaced with Jesus’ strong arms and impenetrable back, showing me what my father would have done. if he could have.

Three words and a lifetime of healing in three seconds.

He does that, you know, with just a few words.  He undoes time and pain and winds them backward, resetting who we are in the process and transforming us more and more into who He created us to be.  Prison doors drop open and we walk away, released.

What words do we need today from the One who would set us free?

Unshackled

by Dawn Aldrich

Prisoner Shackles by Jonathan Dresner flickr.com_3072374801_db98b198a7_CC BY-ND 2.0

Prisoner Shackles by Jonathan Dresner
flickr.com_3072374801_db98b198a7_CC BY-ND 2.0

“But I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists.” Jeremiah 40:4a

Tommy walked outside the iron gates a free man, carrying all he owned inside a crisp manila envelope – life simplified. Endless possibilities stretched out before him promised life renewed, but somehow life got crazy on the outside, his past hijacked him and freedom didn’t seem so rich or desirable, after all (from the movie, Crazy on the Outside, 2010, starring Tim Allen).

Sometimes we’re a lot like Tommy. We find ourselves suddenly unshackled – finally free from our past – and yet we bend down and pick up our own manila envelopes. We peek inside at the past, at the little life we own and suddenly our dreams and desires skew; they veer way off the freedom road.

It’s an old, old story and the ending remains the same: Only God frees

Throughout history God said, leave everything behind – all your possessions, your little life and all it’s gods – and follow Me.

Live life unshackled.

And when we do:

God builds us up, prospers us

God plants us, establishes deep roots

God stays with us, protects and guides us

God restores us, brings health and healing

What’s inside your manila envelope? Are you willing to leave it at the curb, walk away and follow God on the freedom road? I know, it’s easier hanging onto what we know rather than hoping in what we can’t see. Hope goes against everything we are, but dig deep and scream, “Help!” He’ll come alongside and show you the way – that’s the kind of God He is. He’s living and breathing and always there when we call. His greatest desire is to free us, restore us to who He created us to be. 

Father, it’s so hard to leave behind what we know and walk towards hope in what we cannot see, but today we cry out, “Help!” and take that first step toward freedom – trusting you.  

Liar, liar! Pants on fire.

by kerriebutterfield

Lie Ct by Daniel Olnes Flickr.com_8124959044_798a18ebb6_z.jpg CC BY -ND 4.0

Lie Ct by Daniel Olnes_Flickr.com_8124959044_798a18ebb6_z.jpg_CC BY -ND 4.0

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16

Do not bear false witness against your neighbor? I had never thought of myself as a liar. I mean, I value truth telling. I’ve always thought this commandment was for children, court cases, or people who struggle to tell the truth. Imagine my chagrin, when I realized it applied to me! I had been lying to myself… about other people!

During the retelling of a conflict I can sometimes create a narrative in which I’m the victim (right) and they are the villain (wrong). We all do it at times. This is bearing false witness. I know I’ve done this at times in interpersonal conflicts. I gave myself the benefit of having the best of intentions, and distrusted the intent of others.

Can you relate? I think we all may have done this at least once. But, whether our intentions are good or not, and if we want to grow honor in our culture, a necessary ingredient is believing the best about people even when they show us their worst. This is how “You shall not bear false testimony…” moves from the court room into the family room and gets real.

I’ve had to learn to exercise self-control in my thinking when I have been hurt by someone so that I don’t think and behave dishonorably. I’ve developed a few principles to guard my heart against bearing false witness against others.

1. There are no villains or victims in conflict among friends/family. I trust the person loves me, and is for me, and I reassure them that I love them, and I am for them. We are on the same team. When someone hurts/offends me, I don’t tell a story of why they did what they did, and I refuse to build a case against them, or make accusations about their motives.

2. Apologize first. Because being right ISN’T more important than relationship.

3. Never do conflict via email, phone , or text. Facing one another allows us to hear and understand each other, say we love each other, and hug afterwards. I endeavor wrap my communication up in love and show mercy, not judgement.

4. Break the cycle of sensitivity and insensitivity. What does that mean? Rather than becoming offended when someone hurts me or insensitive when I hurt someone, I chose to listen empathetically. Ask, “How does my behavior impact others?” and engage in healthy conflict resolution. This can also look like be easily offended by others, or being offended when they tell me, my actions hurt them. I choose to stay “unoffended” to protect the relationship, and LISTEN.

Jesus knew we’d mess up in our relationships. He actually said it’s unavoidable. He instructs us to be relentless forgivers. In Luke 17:4, Jesus says, ‘and if he sins against you seven times in the day and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

He invites us into healthy relationships. Not by being sin-free, but by being relentless forgivers. May we become a family of love-filled truth tellers who forgive often.

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