“That they may all be one… that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them…”
-Jesus, John 17:21-23
“One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
-The Pledge of Allegiance
Independence Day – A time to celebrate our abundant life in a country where the brave fought and died for our freedom from the British Empire. There was conflict, there was war, and then there was freedom. Thirteen colonies declared independence and a new country was born. Our new normal began in 1776 as The United States of America. I am always struck by the easily quotable, second sentence of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Self-evident truths. All created equal. Unalienable rights. Endowed by our Creator. Life. Liberty. Pursuit of happiness. Our country was founded by men who believed in God. They did not feel the need to prove anything about God, but firmly staked their claim of independence on the foundation of their faith. And this is where it must begin for me… Faith. Being firmly planted in self-evident truths. Staking my claim on Jesus for freedom. Every day.
Our country’s beginning did not begin in Eden, although it seems silly to point out such an obvious fact. But, my faith does begin there. In Eden, before the fall, before conflict began. “In the beginning God created…” Gen 1:1. My faith is rooted in a Creator who is good. And His creation was good. Is it still good? I know I am not the only one to get stuck right there. Many things in this life do not feel good at all. Sickness, betrayal, war, hurricanes… But, I must return to the self-evidence of truth, that I was created by God. And God is good.
Back to the story of independence and America. There was conflict, there was war, and then there was freedom. This blessed country I call home is good, even if the beginning was not. There is much goodness in the majestic mountains of Colorado, the mysterious swamps of Louisiana, and even more notable goodness in the freedom I have to be and do practically anything I want. Many countries and people do not have anything close to the life I enjoy. I try not to take this for granted, but it happens all the time. I go so fast on the track of freedom, that I forget there are many people who struggle more than I can imagine. More than I have ever struggled. And here I am again, questioning God’s goodness.
And then I remember what Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Peace is not in America, or in the world. Only in Jesus will I have peace.
He wants my heart. He offers eternal life. It is my duty and honor to live out these days with my eyes focused on truth. With my heart guarded and nourished by the good. I must keep my soul securely planted in the soil of God’s land. It is my duty to honor the men and women who serve to protect these freedoms I enjoy. And even more, to serve our great and good God and be united with others in the love Jesus died to give.
She looks out the window holding to hope
Another day unfolds
Sunshine rays of beaming light
Like a lifeline, hands to rope
The golden hues swirl and dance
Upon Spring flower blooms
Birds caress the wind with song
God gives another chance
Her heart is is full of love for Him
His grace is enough
To be the wife of soldier’s blood
She’d risk her life and limb
He stands for what he knows is right
His heart has been wounded
The scars burn too red sometimes
And healing trades for fight
Yet love from his wife’s fierce heart
Burns hotter still
She holds a yellow ribbon love
Vows held strong from the start
This ribbon speaks of sacrifice
Life given for all
Their Savior shows them how to love
Bought with the highest price
The ribbon too is held in view
To remind her of the hope
And when he turns home from battlefield
He will see her love like new.
I give the smile from my face to see the joy on yours
If you don’t respond may I still give you more
Not to find a reaction I need
Not to fill my own emptiness
But that I would give because I have been given
I am a recipient of joy
Joy that comes from being seen as I am
Love that came down from above
Not to fill me with pride that seeks
Not to bring me high standing
But that I would love to share my Jesus
I am a recipient of sacrifice
A gift that came wrapped in pain and tears
Offered to my heart without strings
Not to open and keep to myself
Not to hide it away
But to offer in love this beautiful treasure
My hands are outstretched to serve for the Kingdom
If you don’t accept may I still love you more
Not to make you feel guilty
Not to cover you with shame
But that you would open your eyes to forgiveness
I am a servant of grace.
He walked this world with skin like ours,
He felt our pain. He bears the scars.
To fathom God became a man-
How could this have been His plan?
One tiny life among the rest,
A baby born, God’s love shown best.
This man we’ve come to know as Christ,
Became the way. The truth. Our life.
He stood the brutal testing strong,
We were worth it all along.
His love and passion deeper still,
Than removing choice or our free will.
To let us choose to love and know,
Desires set within us flow.
Guided by our Father’s hands,
Our feet tread sure on rock, not sand.
Quiet down and close your eyes-
Breathe in the life where beauty lies.
Let go of all that weighs you down,
We are His love, creation crowned.
Don’t let your heart be dismayed,
We have the truth. The life. The Way.
“However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves. We are hedged in (pressed) on every side [troubled and oppressed in every way], but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair; We are pursued (persecuted and hard driven), but not deserted [to stand alone]; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed;”
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 AMPC
God did not choose to put his treasure into perfect vessels, but he chose us. In all of our imperfect ways. He put his only son on this earth to be a treasured find for us. He did not wait for us to get it all figured out before giving us this gift. The value of perfection is easily explained, but me? It is only through God’s perfect power that I am who I am today.
No matter what happens in the outside world or to our physical bodies, when we have Jesus we have an eternal (and internal) treasure. The fact that God loves me enough to give me this treasure amazes me every time I stop to really think about it. And I should think about it. Often. This reality forms a sort of force field on the inside that sheilds my heart from the debilitating effects of evil and affliction. I am not crushed or trapped in despair. I am not destroyed, but I am safe in love. I am rescued.
Lord, I am so grateful to be trusted to hold this beautiful treasure. Thank you for the love and salvation through your only son. Thank you for the sacrifice to save me. Thank you for being my knight in shining armor. I love you too. In Jesus’ name amen.
A wrestle in the darkness can feel a lonely thing
But when I trust in Jesus, there is a victory
Maybe not the way I wanted
Maybe there will still be pain
Maybe answers seem too distant
And maybe this is where I am supposed to be
When a struggle seems to be unending
There is strength building underneath
Maybe not in ways I notice
Maybe there are despairing days
Maybe freedom seems too obscure
And maybe here is where I find the key
When all else fails and I am empty
There is room for God to fill me fully
Maybe not with what I wanted
Maybe He knows a better way
Maybe His love is all I needed
To trust His hands with strength to carry
Burdens I bear can feel like safety
To lay them down seems an impossibility
Maybe not because I want them
Maybe I cannot trust in letting go
Maybe if I conquer the fear
Just maybe I will live the sweeter story here.
She was born with a dream
Full of life giving themes
A maiden in dresses
With curly brown tresses
A beautiful life it would seem
Yet as she would travel
Her life would unravel
Tearing apart at the seams
Her dresses were torn
By the roses with thorns
Still the scent of the flowers remained
As the sun rose above
Each new day filled with love
She gave what her heart still contained
By dusk she would find
Her heart empty of kind
Her dreams and her beauty were stained
The once young maiden
Now felt worn and heavy laden
She realized how much she had changed
She remembered the Hand
Who created this land
The life giving power above
Her God had been waiting
His love was not fading