Free the Prisoner!

prison photo

Do you check the news headlines as you drink your morning coffee?  Or do you avoid it and head straight to social media and friendly faces?  I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to start the day with distressing news from around the world.  Besides the ongoing war in Ukraine, people are in the streets risking their lives by protesting the government in China (unheard of just a few years ago!) and in Iran.  In Haiti and El Salvador, gangs rule the streets and people are afraid to leave their homes.  Even when they stay at home, they risk being attacked and raped or murdered.  In some countries in South and Central America, crime is rampant. These are just a few of the hotspots in our troubled world.

People all over this world, people everywhere, are becoming frustrated and weary of being imprisoned, either by Covid restrictions, by government regulations, by crime or by too much materialism.  Here in the USA, we are mostly blind to our situation, but many are prisoners, some are prisoners to possessions, jobs,  image, social media or technology while others have become prisoners of drugs, violent video games, or computer porn. We are all in many ways prisoners.  The hardest prisons to see are the ones hiding in our thoughts and feelings, but they are the ones that keep us behind the strongest bars, the bars of fear, worry, anger, covetousness, etc.

May those prison doors be loosed!  God says that He hears the groaning of the prisoners.  He hears our cries for help.  He told us that thousands of years ago, but we have failed to believe it.  Thousands of years ago, King David was in real trouble.  In his aching distress, he cried out to the Lord and wrote Psalm 102.  His plea for help so many years ago sounds just like the cries of people nowadays who are tired of being controlled by one thing or another.  Then in verse 19 of the same psalm, Almighty God calls down from His spectacular heaven and answers the plea. “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.”  Years after King David laid bare his soul’s cry, Isaiah prophesied of a future time of freedom.  Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,”  More years passed and a man named Jesus said, This is that day!  He went to the local synagogue and opened the Scriptures to the very roll where Isaiah had prophesied.  Luke 4:18, 19 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”  He quietly put the book down and simply said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  The people in attendance that day were stunned.  What?!  How can this be?!  He was just the guy they knew as Jesus.  Yes, just Jesus, beautiful, pure, true, holy Jesus.

Maybe we are still stunned by that statement, but Jesus was once a man just like us.  He understands us.  He can relate to us.  Jesus has the key to our prisons.  He knows what is holding us in them and preventing us from being free.  He is the key. He can free us from the deepest hell.  He is the most beautiful being, stunning beyond words, and yet he gets us. If we read his story and do our best to live out his truth, we will be free indeed. Know the truth and the truth will make you free.  Jesus is the truth. 

“I am the way and the truth and the life.”

Be free!

prison with keys

“The way of truth and love have always won.” Gandhi

Someone read this quote to me recently along with other Gandhi quotes about truth.  I found them very comforting in this time of trouble that we live in.  I hope you appreciate them as well.

Mahatma Gandhi Quote: “When I despair, I remember that all through history  the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants a...”

Mahatma Gandhi Quote: “Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept  away before the tide of time. I must continue to bear testimony to t...”

A beautiful and always encouraging song: “It is well with my soul.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbNm_Kdez8o

God speaks to our soul, individually and forever kindly

This morning I was looking into the author of the book, Banhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  His name is Eric Metaxas and I found this amazing video of his testimony.  It’s only 3:19 minutes long and is well worth a watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2p2EhwbVyg

Eric talks about a dream that God gave him and how that dream led him to believe in Jesus.  The main point that he wanted to make in publishing his testimony is that God speaks to each one of us in a way that only we can understand and relate to.  That has huge meaning to each one of us because that means that this enormous God, the God of every man, woman and child who has ever lived, knows each one of us individually, completely and intimately.  He knows what we like and don’t like.  He knows how we think, and He’s not disturbed by it.  He wants to help us to change the way we think (and act) and in order to do so, He is willing to relate to us in a way that we will understand Him, in the deepest language of our heart and soul.  He knows what will touch us.  He loves each one of us uniquely.

I have to tell a story about my life here as well.  I was studying in another country during my junior year abroad in college.  One morning I was sitting on a bench in the hallway at the university before class.  As a teenager, I was a shy person and had a lot of self pity, but I was feeling lonely on that day being so far from home.  Down the hallway, there were some girls that were arriving for class.  They had all traveled to that country as a group from a university in Florida, whereas I just went there by myself.  That morning, they were all greeting each other and smiling and chatting.  In my mind I was envying them and yet at the same time thinking I was better than them.  At that very moment, a very loud voice in my head said to me, “If you want to have friends, you have to smile!”  I looked around wondering if anyone else had heard that as well since it was so loud, but no one flinched or moved a muscle.  It truly shook me.  I couldn’t deny what I heard or what He had said.  How could anyone know me so completely and know exactly what I had been thinking and feeling?!  The voice did not speak to me angrily in spite of my envy and arrogance, but it was just very matter of fact and completely accurate.  The accuracy absolutely blew me away, but it also caused me to see myself the way others might see me.  Who wants to start up a chat with someone who always has such a sad face?  A revelation about my attitude and behavior was born.  Slowly but surely, that voice changed my life.  I had just met God my Savior.  He saved me from myself, brought me up out of a deep pit and set me up on His mountaintop.

Our Father is such a loving and kind father to each one of us.  He only wants us to search for Him and find Him.  The instant we do, He pours out His love and leads us ever close to Him, not at all as He leads others, but in a way that is unique to us, so that each one of us can know Him and come to love Him.  It is not always an easy path.  Nowadays when I sometimes find myself slipping back into a moment of self pity, in His kindness, He brings me out of it and reminds me of His infinite love.  He shows me that He can only allow something to happen if it will somehow help me, even if it’s just in some small way, to know Him better.  I grew up thinking that He was a very angry God.  He may sometimes have to speak difficult truths to us, but there is no anger in Him ever.  

He does that for each and every one of us.  Every day.  He is just amazing.  The best.  The only.  Our one true constantly loving Father.

Jeremish 31:3  The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

God is what we need

Shocking.  Distressing.  Grievous.  Deplorable.  Another mass shooting.  Our national news has been disheartening lately.  Why?

We are a murdering nation.  Episode after episode of multiple deaths in shootings.  When will we stand up to it?  Why are we as a nation allowing this to happen?

We are a murdering nation. On June 25th, 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court said that school sponsored prayer in public schools was unconstitutional, effectively kicking God out of schools.  Since that time, God has been progressively shut out of our communities.  We have murdered God.  Then, in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade.  Since that time, millions of innocent unborn babies have been murdered.  Even with the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, the fight concerning abortion has not ended.  In fact, it has split our country even further.  I understand that some women are faced with dire situations in their pregnancies for a variety of reasons.  I don’t feel that I can speak to their pain or tell them what to do.  However, those situations do not account for the more than half a million abortions performed per year.

Is it any wonder that a spirit of mass murder has taken over our country?  We can’t blame God for this catastrophe.  This is completely on us.  We can only blame ourselves and, like righteous Daniel, confess our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness.

Da 9:4, 5  And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, Keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments.

The father of a teenager murdered in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 wrote a touching poem.

Your laws ignore our deepest needs,

Your words are empty air.

You’ve stripped away our heritage,

You’ve outlawed simple prayer.

Now gunshots fill our classrooms,

And precious children die.

You seek for answers everywhere,

And ask the question “Why?”

You regulate restrictive laws,

Through legislative creed,

And yet you fail to understand,

That God is what we need!

Well said, Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Joy Scott.  God is what we need.

God in a heart

Sing a Grateful Song — On Scripture

This beautiful post is being reposted from a blog called On Scripture by Lisa Urbani. We are so grateful for God’s neverending love and for those in this world who love Him.

Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. Proverbs 30:4 KJV We who are saints, the set-apart people of Yehovah, should live in a way that reflects the fact that we have been redeemed from the grasp of the enemy. We can sing a new song. […]

Sing a Grateful Song — On Scripture

Fret not yourself because of evildoers. Ps 37:1

 

I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.  Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.

Psalm 37:35, 36

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won.  There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.  Think of it – always.  Mahatma Gandhi

 

Ukranian flag

A fabulous hope

144,221 Bible Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from Dreamstime

https://dailyaudiobible.com/

As we close out this troubled year of 2021, I am also finishing up reading along with the Daily Audio Bible.  Reading through the Bible in one year is such an amazing experience.  It shows you God’s plan from start to finish.  The Bible starts off with God’s creation of a spectacularly beautiful paradise inhabited by a perfect but untested human being.  We know the story well.  From the moment Adam and Eve made that fateful choice through all of the stories of ancient times and the prophets, there seems to be nothing but trouble with just a few interludes of repentance and hope.  There is of course the awesome life of Jesus and the hope that He brought to our world, but even his flawless life is followed by much rejection and further predictions of judgment.  As one reads through chapter after chapter of trouble and judgments, it is sometimes difficult to carry on with the readings.  It’s helpful that each day’s readings end with something from the Psalms and Proverbs.

Then, as you approach the final days of the year in your Bible reading, you finally reach Revelation 21.  Here we are once again with two chapters showing God’s kingdom, the ultimate in beauty.  It becomes so clear to the reader that throughout history, God has constantly, without ever once losing His focus or momentum, been working towards this magnificent grande finale.  It’s incredibly amazing to end the year with such a hope, even as we see so much trouble in the world.  We can see that God begins His Book with a fabulous garden and yet He ends it with an even more glorious earth.  The magnificent man who at the start was beautiful, yet untested, has somehow produced many who have been tested and used their freewill to choose righteousness and the true life of the spirit over the naturally attractive life in the flesh.

It seems to me that this Book, God’s Bible, is really an invitation.  By living it, we can each accept our part in bringing in this new and more glorious creation.  Like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes, we can help our world rise above its troubled past (and present) simply by loving God our Father and putting His Word into practice in our lives.  It is clear that God’s heart is to save as many as He can and to restore this world, not just to its former beauty, but also to go far beyond even that, to make it a place where He Himself with all of His glory can feel comfortable to dwell.

Let’s not allow ourselves to be dragged down by the depression of our worldly circumstances or of the world and its circumstances.  We have a dazzling hope and whatever happens in 2022 can help us fan the flames of that hope and let it grow.

Best wishes for a beautiful, prayerful and hope filled new year!

Bitter in the midst of sweet

I wrote this post in early October, but was not ready to post it at that time. Not sure even now, but I think it’s a topic that we need to consider, not just for my own family’s example, but for many families. There are a lot of families affected in similar ways. As we approach Veterans’ Day, maybe our veterans face a lot of issues that we are unaware of. It’s to bring attention to them, our veterans and their families, that I’m writing this.

The summer of 2021 was a summer of highs and lows for my husband and I, a summer of beauty and peace in contrast with times of deep emotional upheaval. Unusual and thought provoking. Through it all, I felt the Lord’s presence very much and despite the difficult days, I knew that the Lord was letting me know in unique ways that everything would be okay. One of my daughters got married in May in Europe (on Zoom!). Due to Covid restrictions, we had not met her husband except on video calls. They (and my other daughter) arrived in July for a visit just about the time my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer even though he has never smoked in his life. So, on some days, the sweetness of getting to know a new son-in-law, being able to spend some time again with our daughters, and visiting my 100 year old dad swept dark and worrying thoughts far from us until finally we got His message and realized that God does not want us to worry about this. Simply trust Him. It was actually an awesome experience to see (and feel) how God sprinkled beauty and sweetness throughout the summer all the while we were experiencing something that we all dread to hear. Because of His kindness, we can say truly that we are not wallowing in self pity, but are simply praying for healing and trusting the way He is leading us. Pray and trust. The title of this post is “Bitter in the midst of sweet,” because the sweet truly does override the bitter. God’s kindness really does make that possible.

My dear husband is a veteran and has always loved our country. He was proud to serve in the army during the Vietnam war even though he came to the realization while in Vietnam that he didn’t agree with that war. Through the years, he has unceasingly continued to love our country, display the flag and attend patriotic events.

He still feels this way in spite of the fact that his doctors who are treating him at the VA are blaming his condition on Agent Orange. He always told me that he was in a very safe place while in Vietnam and was not exposed to anything bad. So, after one of his appointments, I looked it up. The modern miracle of google gives us a lot of information and it soon became clear that his base in Vietnam was definitely sprayed just before he arrived there. I saw old photos of his base online and not a blade of grass, nothing living could be seen. It looked like a desert, just sand colored buildings in the sand. This is in the midst of a jungle, where previously had stood a lush forest of rubber trees. I understand that his condition could also have been exacerbated by breathing in other things in the years since his service, but the VA is placing the blame on Agent Orange.

When I think of this, I wonder why my government would spray its own soldiers. I found one quote from those days that said that it didn’t matter if we sprayed the Vietnamese because they were our enemies. Gosh, I hope our enemies don’t treat us with so little respect. What about being part of the human family? We should go even beyond respect since we know that Jesus told us to love our enemies. However, our government sprayed this toxin in South Vietnam and they also sprayed our own bases because it was convenient. The vegetation was in the way, an inconvenience, a nuisance. They knew even then that the dioxin in Agent Orange was poisonous.

As I discovered these facts, I also discovered other travesties that have happened over the years. The soldiers in Vietnam were not the only ones to be exposed to toxins while serving their country. In Camp Lejeune in North Carolina anyone on the base was exposed to toxins from the drinking water. This exposure lasted for over thirty years, from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. The contamination came from a dry cleaning company through spills and improper disposal of chemicals. Obviously the dry cleaning facility was at fault, but wasn’t the water on the base ever tested during those thirty years? How can such a situation continue for over thirty years?

https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK215286/

Has it ended? Have we learned to prevent our soldiers from being exposed to lethal toxins? No, it continues on. Our soldiers are not only dying at the hands of our enemies, but also from continued exposure to toxins. It happened both in Iraq and Afghanistan. If anyone is reading from another country, I don’t think this problem is unique to the United States. Modern armies depend on weapons loaded with toxic chemicals.

https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/national-security/article250370986.html

Yesterday, I found this song done by The Piano Guys. They have dedicated it to families who sacrifice to preserve freedom. Thinking of our soldiers and the potential harm that they have been exposed to beyond the combat, I am feeling a kind of grief for them and I pray that they will be all right. I have seen many of them at the VA hospital and so many are in really rough shape. I am also praying that our government in the future will not bring a double dose of hazardous exposure on our boys’ heads. To send them into harms’ way is one thing, but to expose them further to poisonous toxins that could harm them years after their service is quite another. Bring Him Home (from Les Miserables) by The Piano Guys.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mJ08-pyDLg&list=RDCHV6BjuQOZQ&index=4

Bring them home, but bring them home safely. Our earth is not our enemy. We live on it. We breathe in its air. It gives us so much. Let’s treat it kindly no matter where we live. Pray for our soldiers. Treat them with respect. We don’t know what they have been through or what they may yet go through because of their service. As Veterans’ Day (formerly Armistice Day) approaches (11/11), let’s be grateful for our Veterans and pray for both them and their families. We can pray too that one day God will usher in His Kingdom where there will be no more wars.

Perfect peace?

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee.

Because I do not yet have grandchildren, I love to spend a little time with my grand nieces and nephew.  Taking them to their bus on Friday mornings is a great way to see them each week.  They go to two different magnet schools that are about a twenty minute drive away from our town (if traffic is good).  Last Friday, I did not have time to read a Scripture before leaving my house at 6:50 to get them to the bus stop on time, so my husband read one to me.  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee.”  One of my favorite ones!  Okay, Lord!  Yes! 

Several minutes later, after picking them up, we headed towards the high school parking lot where the busses would take them to their schools.  On the way up a hill, a large flatbed truck pulled up and began to back into a building with a very small door for such a large truck, blocking the road in both directions.  He backed up and pulled forward, backed up and pulled forward again.  On and on it went.  A worker in a yellow vest was making sure that all traffic was stopped.  Very quickly, I lost my cool.  I opened the window.  “I have to get these children to the bus stop!  They can’t be late for their bus!”  I knew that if they were late for their bus, I was in for a long drive and a big inconvenience to my busy day.  Inside, I was frantic.  Help!  Such a roadblock was not in my plans.  One driver somewhere in line behind me pulled around me and zoomed past both the traffic guy and the truck.  In order to do so, he even had to drive over the sidewalk.  He was clearly angry.  I tried to calm down and told the children that we would pray, but actually, I had already lost it.  In the end, after what seemed like an eternity, the truck finally pulled to the side of the road and let us go by.  Shortly afterwards, we arrived at the parking lot and …. the bus was late.

After the children got on their busses, I had plenty of time to reflect about my attitude and actions.  Wow, it had not taken me long at all to throw everything out the window and basically freak out.  God was clearly showing me something that I need to work on.  It’s really true that I hate to be late, but keeping my mind stayed on God means that I trust Him whether it turns out positive or negative.  If I have to drive them to their schools, isn’t God big enough to arrange my day so that it works out?  There have been other times when I was somehow able to keep my mind on him and, as a result, felt that rare kind of peace that passes understanding.  That special variety of peace doesn’t make sense to our natural minds because it is in such complete opposition to the situation in which we find ourselves.  We cannot find that kind of peace in difficult circumstances on our own unless we truly are connected to Him.

When we dedicate our day to the Lord and tell Him that we love him, we can’t know ahead of time if a big truck (or some other obstacle) is going to interfere with our plans during that day, but we CAN pray for patience, wisdom and insight into what is happening to us.  We can make an effort to recognize the kinds of situations that give us the most trouble.  We can learn to count to ten, recite a Scripture, or do whatever it takes to maintain our calm and keep our mind on Him.  That’s how we know that we trust in Him.  We can make that connection with Him each morning and strive to maintain it so that He’s with us throughout the day.   That’s where such peace comes from – Him.

There really is a peace that passes understanding.  It doesn’t make sense to our natural mind because of the crazy situation that we may be in.  It’s a peace that comes from God our Father.  It’s His peace, and He will give it to us if we show that, no matter what the outcome of the situation, we trust in Him.

 

Isaiah 26:3  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Philippians 4:7  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 66:12 For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream

Why, Lord?

Recently, some difficult things have come into my life, as they do in all of our lives. The most recent event was the sudden death yesterday of my cousin’s 13 year old granddaughter in a mountain bike accident. The whole family is devastated as she was dearly beloved and had such a promising life ahead of her. Those closest to her immediate family are completely distraught.

With this tragic news and with so much difficult news all around the globe these days, I find myself feeling the questions of so many. “Why, God?” Why is this happening to us? Some may be angry at God for allowing hardship, but others may sincerely and deeply want to know why. When I ask God why He has allowed things in my own life, He often gives me an answer if I am sincere in my question. When we consider the difficulties of others, we cannot know the reason for each specific situation. It’s not ours to know, but overall there are some basic answers for all of us.

Since the days of Adam, we have all been placed in situations where we have to choose – good or evil? Adam and Eve chose and so it has gone on down through the generations. It is part of our free will. We often find ourselves in the middle, in a valley of decision. Sometimes we literally choose a good or evil object or situation, but other times the choice is in our attitude towards the situations we find ourselves in or towards the events that happen to us. Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and they seed may live:” God always wants us to choose the good and high road. Even in our grief, we can choose to love God, to continue on in faith and to know that somehow the things that He allows will draw us closer to Him.

Jeremiah 30:3 says, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” To me, those are some of the most beautiful words in the Bible. Everything God is allowing to happen in our lives, as difficult as it is, is drawing us closer to Him in some way. We may never be able to see those ways, but thankfully God has a higher perspective than we do.

I cannot begin to fathom the grief of my cousin’s son and his wife at the loss of their daughter. However, my faith says that somehow their daughter is okay. She is in God’s hands. Their grief will lead them on a long road and they will always miss her, but hopefully, in their grief, they will find God and when they do, they will also find His comfort and love. I don’t know why we as humans so often need tragedy to drive us into God’s arms. We often just live life and enjoy the pleasures of this earth and forget who gave them to us. Difficult circumstances and tragedy jolt us out of our everyday living and open our eyes to the greater purpose of life.

It sounds selfish of God to want us to love Him above all else, but that’s just our earthly point of view. I believe that His love is entirely selfless. He knows that when we love Him, He can lead us and draw us ever closer to Him and then one day, when we have continued to overcome up to our last breath here on earth, we can join Him in His heavens and be eternally useful to Him.

Today, I’m praying for my cousin’s family and for others who face unimaginable circumstances. Lord, let them find you through their tears and lead them to a higher place, Lord. Send them comfort and love and most of all, let them eventually find a greater love for you. And God, take care of Lily and keep her until someday (not too soon please) her family can join her.