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And I’m proud to be an American

On Sunday night Sweet William and I attended a concert at the mega church in our area with some friends. It was in honor of America’s birthday.

There was a full orchestra and a one-hundred voice men’s choir who performed over a dozen songs and medleys. As the instruments tuned up, I was enraptured from my seat in the balcony. I love to be where the music is, and this was an occasion to celebrate.

The concert was themed One Nation Under God, and I pray we still are.

The performers played and sang songs like “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” “Washington Post March,” “God Bless America,” and of course, “The Star Spangled Banner.” I couldn’t help myself. Sometimes I sang along.

One song brought tears to my eyes, “Bring Him Home.” I thought of a young man I knew who was killed in the line of duty a number of years ago. He did not come home. There are many others. Families are devastated by such heartbreak, and yet this is the cost of freedom.  The cost of my freedom.

We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our 200 plus years as a nation, but this is still the best country in the world, the place where others want to escape to, the nation that offers liberty and justice for all.

Though we are divided in many ways today, we still live free. And this freedom is the gift we treasure.

Freedom is never completely free. It costs someone. Freedom is my treasure, my pride in the US of A, my privilege in living my life here.

I am proud to be an American. At the concert, I tapped my food, clapped my hands, and sang along. At the end I felt so patriotic, honored to live in this great country.

I dare not forget how blessed I am. Truly God shed His grace on thee, my United States of America.

Let freedom ring long and loud. And let us live honoring the freedom we have been given.

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For Memorial Day

Memorial: preserving the memory of a person or thing; commemorative.

Memorial Day is not just the beginning of the summer holidays. It’s not just another three-day weekend when we get to sleep in or catch up on yard work. It’s not just a time to gather with friends and family for a cookout.

It’s about remembering. Remembering how much our freedom cost. Because freedom is never free.  It is costly, expensive. Its price is the lives of men and women who laid down their all.

My grandfather was a World War 1 veteran. My father and my father-in-law spent years overseas during World War 2. People I know were soldiers in Korea and Veitnam. Family members and friends served in other foreign lands. One young woman’s life was changed forever when she became a widow of a soldier. I know the stories of sacrifice, of being away from home and hearth and all that is familiar, of experiences that cannot be put into words.

I’ve seen the flag-covered casket rolled into the room where mourners were gathered to pay their last respects. How much did I consider that this life was an exchange for mine?

Soldiers and veterans march in parades, stand to salute the flag, and I admire them as tears often fill my eyes. They have sacrificed in ways I am not acquainted.

This morning I sit in my home with the freedom to choose how I will spend this day. I am not concerned that military forces are coming to take me captive. I can travel through multiple states to visit my family. I can attend the church of my choice. I can vote my conscience.  I can carry a weapon to defend myself. I can work and earn a wage.  I can go to college and pursue my calling and my dreams. I can shop where I choose. I can get to a doctor or a hospital and expect good treatment. I can write words on the world-wide web.

My freedom is precious. I value living in the United States of America. She has her problems, no doubt, but her flag still waves over the home of the brave and the free because of people who gave the ultimate for me. The living and the dead. They served their country. They served me.

And I will not forget.

God bless America. You have spread your grace on us.

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America

God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above.

Sometimes it feels like night in my beloved country. We are fighting for our existence. We are in debt up to our ears, drowning in it. Our freedoms seem to be melting away like ice on a summer day.

There is fighting within our borders. The streets in our cities are fraught with violence. Our resources and beauty are sucked up by so-called progress. Our babies, our next generation, die at the hands of their mothers by choice. Fathers forsake their children and leave them for the state to provide. Drugs and alcohol drive people to do the unthinkable.

We are weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Father, forgive us for we have sinned.

And yet . . .

Grace abounds. Grace always abounds.

We are the most blessed nation in the world. Our land overflows with bounty. Freedom still rings loudly. Peoples from around the world desire to come to America because of what we can offer. The gospel is still preached on our soil. We still send out missionaries.

We have been given much and much will be required.

Father, show us the way. Light the path in the dark.

God bless America.

Sunday grace

Sometimes I forget how heavy it is to carry around old hurts, like that extra twenty pounds I am always wanting to lose.  It impedes my progress.  It also blocks my vision and troubles my spirit.

Jesus came to set me free from the guilt and condemnation of my own past.  It is for freedom that I have been set free.  To walk in the beauty of grace unencumbered.

Then why do I hold onto offenses, nurse unforgiveness, and let things fester too long?  I don’t know why.  What I do know is freedom from guilt and freeing others from my own expectations lighten my load so that I can walk unfettered along my journey.

So this morning, as the Word speaks truth to me and I bow my head to pray, I do what I have done so many times before. I repent.  And I forgive.  They go together.

It is for freedom I have been set free.  I want to walk in it every day.  My path will be straighter, my vision clear, my load lighter.

Sunday grace, friends.

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Life, death, and freedom

I grew up going to funeral visitations and funeral services.  It seemed normal to me.

My mother and my aunt sang together from their youth.  Being preacher’s kids, they often sang for the funerals where their father officiated.  When they married and had families of their own, they continued to minister through their music wherever they could.

My mother was not one to leave her only child in someone else’s care, so I attended a lot of funerals.  But that didn’t have a negative impact on me.  It was the process of life.  Babies were born.  People lived their lives.  And then they died.  It was natural.

This week, Sweet William and I will have visited two families whose loved ones have died.  Funny how sometimes we say “he passed” or “she lost her loved one.”  We try to soften the hard blow of finality. Yet, there is nothing easy or soft about death.

Though it is a common and natural part of living life, it still moves my heart when people grieve.  Sweet William and I have grieved our own losses.  We weep with those who weep.

We don’t get a free pass to skip over death, loss and grief.  It comes to us all sooner or later.  For some it is the ending of a life lived long and fruitful, the aged body finally wearing out and returning to it’s Maker.  For others it is a life cut too short, leaving unanswered questions, too many “whys.”

I believe life was given as a gift in the beginning of creation, that man and woman were presented with a perfectly beautiful world to explore and enjoy, and then they were invited to be part of the creative process.   I wonder what they could have accomplished without the sin factor entering in and making it all so very different, so very difficult.

Life is a gift to be lived as beautifully as we can.  For some there are immense limitations and adversities to overcome.  For all of us there are challenges.  As Christians, we endeavor to live our lives with impact, shining a light that points people to Jesus.  We live with the end in sight.  We live with hope of something more, the perfection that was lost in Eden.

And we grieve with hope as well.

So then death becomes the gateway, the vehicle whereby we move from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality.  I should not dread it or fear it.  I should be ready for it, for it can come at any moment.

While I live my life here on earth as beautifully as I can, I do so with freedom because of Christ.  Freedom from fear of death.  Freedom purchased by grace.  For freedom is never free.  It is costly.  A high price is always paid for freedom.

This Fourth of July day, I celebrate my freedom as a citizen of the United States of America, purchased by the men and women who have fought for that freedom.  And I recognize with deep gravity that many of my Christian brothers and sisters around the world are not so free.  And yet, together we are free in spirit.  Free in Christ.  Free from the penalty of sin.  Free from guilt.  Free from the fear of tomorrow. Free to live as God gives us life.  For it is He and He alone who holds the keys to death.

And death will be a welcome relief, a door that opens into another world, a world as it was meant to be.

It is for freedom that we have been set free, brothers and sisters.  Live the life you have now as free children of grace.  Look forward to the freedom that will come to us when we have finished our course and kept the faith, when the Father calls our names and we will be set free.

For whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

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Walk in freedom!

Day 7 of 40 Days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Rejoice in the freedom you have been given in Christ – and walk like you are free!

Because whom the Son has set free is free indeed.

My sister-friend, Robin Howe, is guest posting today.  Go with me to IGetUpTooEarly and let us attend to her words.  I  need the admonition.  I am free.  I am Free.

I. Am. Free. In. Christ. Jesus.  It is done.

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The gift of choosing

I don’t remember the first time I voted in a state and national election.  Wish I did.  I wish I could remember how it felt at having reached the age where I could  make my voice be heard.

When our one and only son was on the precipice of turning 18 years old, he asked what was going to happen then. The unspoken message I heard was, “I’m getting ready to become an adult and I’m expecting to start making all my own decisions.  Right?”

No, not right.  He was still dependent on us, and we were still paying the bills.  He would still have a curfew and be expected to abide by our rules.  This is what I told him happens when you reach 18.  “You can be tried as an adult for a crime.  You can join the military.  And you can vote.”  Not exactly what the son was hoping to hear.

Yet, years later I contemplate the privilege of being allowed to choose.  It is not the norm in many countries.  In too many places, the choices are made for the people and they must then live with them, like it or not.

Sweet William and I got out early this morning and made our way to the voting booth, he in his wheelchair and me pushing him up the ramp.  Dispite the cold dark pre-dawn, it felt good and right to be there.  We were proud when we completed our task.

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The gift of being allowed to choose was put into effect by our founding fathers.  Did they see that same gift in the Holy Scriptures and pattern the plans for a brand new country after God’s example?  I wonder.

In a world gone terribly wrong, where disease is rampant and crime continues to rise and families are falling apart and we are wasting our resources and knowledge is increasing yet our children are being fed too many lies, we wonder why God allowed sin to come into the world at all.  Couldn’t he have just eliminated the opportunity to do wrong?  Couldn’t He have removed that one tree in the garden that was prohibited to Adam and Eve?  Why let that temptation even be there?

What God gave us all was the gift to choose.  He gave freedom.  As with any gift, it can be taken and cherished and used in the right way, or it can be abused or thrown aside as something with little value.  We see it all the time.

In God’s greater wisdom, He made a choice Himself, to give humans a right to choose Him or reject Him.

I am grateful to be an American.  With all of our problems, we are still the greatest nation on earth.  I pray for her, that the foundation upon which she was built will not crumble away.  I pray that her people will make wise and prudent choices when we stand at the election booth.  I hope we choose life over death for our nation.

May God help us.  May our flag of freedom yet wave.  And may we make choices that will honor the very God who gave us this right.

I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live and may love the Lord your God, obey His voice, and cling to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers . . . ”