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What if you knew?

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

What if you knew me, really knew me? Would you approve? What if you knew my past as well as my present, would you be appalled at my imperfections or could you overlook my failures, those things I try to carefully conceal? Would you still love me or even like me?

These are questions author Jamie Ivey seemed to struggle with as she grew from teen to young adult and even into her married and family life.

We women are masters of cover up. We learn to dress and highlight the positive while camouflaging the other, what we see as less than. We add make up to our faces and highlights to our hair in hopes we look better. Sometimes we wear a smile that hides the internal struggle.

Jamie Ivey wrote a memoir revealing her whole truth. Jamie is creator and host of The Happy Hour podcast where she interviews people, asking questions that call for real conversations, encouraging truthfulness and authenticity.

Her book, If You Only Knew, My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free, is a candid look at her past mistakes, failures, sins, and how she tried to hide in order to maintain the “good Christian” persona. As she admits, it was a hard act to keep playing.

 

Ivey’s writing style is conversational. She leaves no stone unturned in telling the truth of the life she lived while trying to get to freedom in Christ. She discovered – or at least finally believed –  that Christ loves us even when we fall down, again and again, that His mercies endure forever, that His forgiveness knows no end.

Today she is a pastor’s wife. She ministers to women in prison offering hope beyond their failures. She urges women to be open with one another, to share struggles and quit acting like we have it all together. She assures us when we are vulnerable with each other, we invite others to be vulnerable too. Hiding ourselves is exhausting. Freedom is beautiful.

 

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NOTE:   I received a copy of If You Only Knew, by Jamie Ivey provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own.

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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.

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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