freedom stories – Dublin

tozer quote

When real Freedom Comes.

I’m learning to walk in a freedom that the Bible talks about endlessly. I only really discovered this particular freedom myself several years ago. It took me a while to learn how to walk in it and I’ve a long way to go. What is this freedom that I’m talking about? I’m going to call it “Kingdom Freedom”. In the Lords Prayer there’s a mention of “God’s Kingdom coming and His will being carried out on earth just as it is in Heaven”. Can you picture that? Heaven on earth – now that’s freedom right there. Several years ago I began to grasp this reality and ever since I’ve tried to apply pulling the kingdom of heaven down on earth just as the Lord’s prayer mentions. When we live in this mindset a freedom is released to ourselves and others while ALL glory is given to God.

AW Tozer wrote “Let a man set his heart only on doing the will of God and he is instantly free.

There are many times when we set our hearts on doing something for someone else that in principal is a thoughtful idea and seems good to do but it may not necessarily be the will of God. We can know if it’s the will of God by testing our motive! When we set our hearts to do something for someone else do we want others to know we’re doing it and enjoy the praise we get for doing it? If this is the case this unfortunately isn’t the will of God because is doesn’t give him an ounce of glory and it doesn’t enable pulling the kingdom of heaven down on earth. It is in fact “good works based Christianity” and leaves no room for God to truly work. When we take on an act of love we should always check our motives. Is it God’s will? Will it glorify him? Will it impact the receivers life? Does it unleash heaven on earth? Unfortunately many times we can have the best of intentions to bless, give or walk with a kingdom mindset but the enemy will always come along and try to stop heaven coming to earth and he will do anything in his power to stop God from receiving glory.

Allow me to give you an example of this.

Matthew chapter 6 verse 3

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 

I recently came across a man that was to have a minor medical procedure. This man loves to help others – He spends many weekends serving in his local church, giving to those who haven’t much and reaching the poor and needy. This man also works extremely hard to earn his keep. He cannot claim social welfare when he goes to have this procedure because he is self employed. So God put it on some hearts to anonymously bless this man. God made it clear it would need to be done in secret because this man would find it hard to be blessed if he knew who was blessing him. In other words this man needed God to bless him and not man! A typed envelope and a bankers draft so that the man couldn’t work out who it could be from became the vision. The idea was put to 3 groups of people that knew and loved this man. The response was very disheartening. You see the first group of people couldn’t apply the verse above. They had a need for praise. They felt if they gave in the secret they wouldn’t get any praise. So they came up with their own plan instead. They decided to present him openly with a donation. The man was overwhelmed and felt indebted to them. The second group of people was the church in which this man has faithfully served in for years. When the idea was put to the pastor the pastor interpreted the vision and idea as a financial request and burden for the church. A long explanation about all the unemployed this church provides for was given. Again this group missed the point and decided they would present this man with a small donation but the man would need to join them on a walk in order for this donation to be made. They too wanted to see his reaction and take the praise away from God.

The third group of people were used to practicing walking in Kingdom freedom. They grasped the concept and understood the impact. They had spent many times randomly and anonymously blessing others. Honouring, blessing, providing and reaching others in the secret brought glory to God and allowed the kingdom of heaven to touch the receivers life so much more than a public and open act such as the ones that took place above. A public and open act rarely brings glory to God but will always give man short lived praise. Sadly there is no real freedom in this. Real freedom comes when motives are right. Real freedom comes when God is glorified. Real freedom comes when heaven gets pulled down onto earth. Real freedom comes when it’s done in the secret place.

Anonymous, Dublin

freedom stories – D & D

prison

Him – There are different types of freedom. When you are locked up freedom is doing what you want to do. When you are younger you think life is forever. The older you get you realise how short life is. The last time I was locked up was before my first child.

At that time you were getting into trouble because you were trying to fit in with people. Freedom was a matter of “fuck you” about the consequences. You don’t need to fit anymore. The only time you feel free when you are locked up is for recreation. Then you are locked up again. If you wanted to go to the toilet you had to ring a bell and it might be an hour before you might go. At that time you had no telly.

I remember when I was locked up I couldn’t read or write. When I was in I learned how to read and write. The very first book I read was A Sense of Freedom by Jimmy Boyle. Now he is a TD. You find that words that you don’t know at the start of it, they come into place by the end of it. That’s how I learned to read. All the years I was in school I couldn’t read a thing. When I learned to read I could do couriering and could get a job out of that. I couldn’t go for a job because I couldn’t read and write. When I learned I got my first a job.

Freedom is to get up in morning. To do what you want. To go to the shop when you want. When you are locked up you realise what your freedom really means to you. You take it for granted until your freedom is taken. Then you realise what you had and what you haven’t got. Jump on the bus. Walk in the park. Make a phone call. To look at the telly when you want.

Her – Freedom is also peace of mind. Not constantly worrying about someone. You know where they are and know when they are safe. I know where they are so my worry is over with them. The way I felt about my sister was always worry, worry, worry, worry. When she passed away she went into God’s arms. I couldn’t get over that we were there with her. When she was back on the street I never had that peace. Freedom is knowing she is back in the Lord’s hands. It is a weight lifted off. There is a great freedom to know she is safe. (His) ma was free when he was locked up because she knew he was safe at night.

Him – I would rather peace in my mind than not be locked up. When you are out you are done. If you have problems in your head that will last a life time. You never know when you will get put into a mental prison again. If you walk away in freedom you might be back in again in 6 months.

D & D

freedom stories – Emma

emmaFree For…

For a while I stopped believing that freedom existed. As soon as you attain the thing that you might call freedom, you immediately become entrapped by something new. I longed to be an independent adult when I was a child. I did not imagine that the price I would pay was the unutterable tedium of pricing broadband providers. I’ve had bosses who have made me long for freedom due to their ineptitude and unfairness. On the other hand, I’ve learned that the grass can be greener when I’ve found myself in charge of a project and felt responsibility weighing on me. Suddenly being someone’s under-appreciated minion becomes attractive again. At least I got to sleep at night.

I began to believe there was no such thing as freedom and that we are perpetually doomed to be out of control of our own lives. In physics class I learned that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only moves from state to state. I wondered if the same was true of entrapment. We feel oppressed and crushed by a set of expectations or circumstances and then a molecular shift happens and we find ourselves subject to a different set of expectations and circumstances. Instead of freedom we simply have a more favourable entrapment.

The freedom I believed in could not be. I thought freedom was a state of limitlessness. It meant nothing and nobody had the power to influence or affect you without your permission. We learned to think this way during the Enlightenment when we officially took God out of the centre of the universe and put ourselves there instead. It’s all about me, don’t tell me what to think. At university I felt this influence a lot as we congratulated ourselves on our liberal dialogue about self and “other”. We laughed at our ancestors who had “othered” blacks, women, gays and the poor and we patted each other on the back for our enlightened view of the equality and independence of humanity (conveniently forgetting that our being at university made us simultaneously the demographic most empowered to work for justice and at the same time the least likely to ever do anything about it). The point is, in most classes I was being taught to understand that the “self” had no right to tell the “other” who or what they were. We are free beings, and we determine our own lives as we float unconnected in a meaningless universe. Once you understand that, you may choose to have relationships with others in order to pass your meaningless life more pleasantly.

However, in one class in my final year I learned that I had simply gotten it wrong about freedom; it’s not that freedom doesn’t exist, I just didn’t know what it was. I had to write a paper about the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer for one class. While he is probably best known for his assassination attempt on Hitler, he really was quite a phenomenal theologian. On this subject, in Creation and Fall (1932) he wrote, “Because [Christ] does not retain his freedom for himself the concept of freedom only exists for us as ‘being free for’.” What this means is that freedom is not something to gain for ourselves, freedom exists to benefit others. Bonhoeffer also argued that the Self-Other relationship I had been learning about is a falsity. We are what he called “ethical boundaries” to each other. Instead of being unconnected to and independent of each other, we are the boundaries and limits to each other.   Freedom happens when you are free for God and for others. It’s when you try to be free by yourself that you become trapped; you are striving for the impossible.

For you were called to freedom brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honour everyone, love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the emperor. 1 Peter 2:16-17

A metaphor to finish. Imagine, if you will, a ballet dancer. Or Brian O’Driscoll. Someone with beautiful feet. If their feet were shackled together they would not be free. However, on being set free they will use their freedom to follow learned movements. Their steps are planned. Every footfall is the result and the reward of hours of disciplined training. When a dancer performs some choreographed piece or when a sportsman executes a rehearsed set-play we don’t think of them as trapped. Nor do we think of them as limitless and undirected. They use their freedom for something. They are beautifully free in conformity with a greater reality – a dance, a game that cannot be denied. The beauty is drawn out by the direction of a master. Who is yours?

Emma Rothwell

sight is a superpower

Cătălin Oae Photograpyphoto courtesy of Cătălin Oae Photography

Sight is a superpower. It can bring truth to distorted perceptions and reveal glimpses of eternal realities. It can bring us back to life again.

A couple of years ago Dove put out a moving video of a forensic artist who drew women from two different perspectives: the way they would describe themselves and the way someone else would describe them. In every example used, it was the stranger’s description that was always the most accurate, the most beautiful. While the video was focusing on outward beauty, it hones in on something so much deeper – the need for others to help us see ourselves.

Our eyes only see a limited perspective and as much as a picture is worth a thousand words, most pictures only go skin deep. Sight becomes a superpower when it begins to observe the invisible potential locked inside the tangible present.

I met Cătălin first in Vienna and then again in Romania last month. He is helping deliver a resiliency programme to teens in schools. As I got to know him he began to show me some of the photography he has done. I was struck with his ability to take pictures of his city and make them come alive. His photos make you feel something – a love for his beautiful city. He brings the strong heart of the people who make up the city and delivers it to us in images of streets and buildings. He sees what the naked eye cannot on its own and transfers that knowledge into a photo.

He uses this sight as he interacts with youth in the schools. He cares about them deeply and is helping them to see themselves through his eyes. His Facebook site for his photos is called Craiova My Beautiful City. His work with the Heroes programme each day comes from the same impassioned heart’s cry: Craiova My Beautiful City.

Breathe deep and look again. Look past the storm clouds and see the light play off the shadows. Look past the creases of anger on someone’s forehead and see the eternal worth of their soul. Take the time, always, and look again. Then tell somebody what you see.

children of the towns and cities

In the garden we pause a moment to appreciate the beauty. The flowers are planted for enjoyment, relaxation and appreciation. Garden’s aren’t for plowing through but for taking a moment of satisfied reflection. As far as I’m concerned, the whole earth is a garden. It is meant to be enjoyed completely and fully no matter where we are going and what we are doing.

During this time in Canada I have been attempting to discover the unique beauty along the road and in the towns and communities I visit. Each site becomes a picture to hold in my hand and discover, giving thanks for the smallest treasure. There has been a series of very unique treasures that I have come across … sometimes they would be really easy to miss because there is so much else to focus attention on. But when I take a minute to really look, to really listen, then I realise the gift that each one gives me. They are the children in the towns and cities.

Her hands busy at work with her rainbow loom, a daughter of friends sat silently as her parents and I shared about our lives. She had been busy all night, her ears open while she worked away. I minded my words knowing that she was probably picking up on everything. What would she learn from our conversation about God, the world and how we live well? Before I left she handed me the creation that she had made for me while we talked – a beautiful, colourful bracelet named starburst. She offered her gift. She offered what she loved and what was in her ability to give.

With big eyes and at a loss for words, the seven year old boy stood waiting his turn to speak to me after the church service. I was in the middle of a conversation so I told him quickly that I would find him as soon as I was done. He nodded and turned around to find his lunch in the next room where an array of home cooked food was ready for all who came. After filling my plate I sat in the empty seat next to him. His mom helped explain that he wanted to ask what he needed to do to be a missionary. It is what he has wanted to do for a couple of years now. Never stop talking to God – that’s my best advice. He will always lead you where you need to go.

A small girl with short dark hair looked at me until I spotted her. She smiled and waved before shyly looking away and running off. Before leaving, she came back and stood two meters away until I spotted her again. I smiled at her and she lifted one hand to wave before quickly turning and running down the stairs.

“It’s the cousin! It’s the cousin!” My cousin’s young children would announce my arrival upstairs in the morning. They taught me about Police World and came on adventures with me to Telus World of Science and Fort Edmonton. Climbing onto the Ferris wheel I realised my fear of heights as soon as the bar came down. I didn’t want to teach this fear to my cousin’s daughter so started to play a game as we went up … and down … and up … and down.

With wide eyes, two boys shook my hand, “Hello, Liesel Reimer.” They have been praying for me and supporting me as a Sunday School for a couple of years now. At their home they introduced me to the things they love and welcomed me to play a game of chutes and ladders with them. Their invitation to return is an important one!

Cartwheels in the park and paper airplanes with my niece and nephew. “I’m so glad you came to visit,” my nephew said on the way to bed one evening … “you live far away.”

He was silent on the group climb up the lush mountain side but the geocache find at the top won me an unexpected instant friendship with this older boy. For the entire return journey he talked my ear off telling me about all the things he loves! His trust and enthusiasm for life was his gift.

These are the treasures that I keep when I stop to smell the roses. Processed with Rookie

one lenten journey

With eagerness she sat with hands upturned, smile on her face, waiting to see what God would fill her with in the immediate moment. B. grew up in a Catholic home and had a deep sense of intimacy and relationship with the Holy Spirit. She welcomed his presence in her life and the good things that he had for her. Having recently started coming to our church she watched as her husband and sister-in-law begin to learn more and grow in faith through the Alpha course. At the point of her desire to have something just for her, we advertised the Lenten small group. Her joy filled the house where we met. Her desire to know more and experience more of the God of her faith was inspiring.

As a group we waded through the deep waters of challenge that Mark’s gospel sent our way. It began with throwing off everything that could weigh us down and prevent us from truly living and seeing God’s kingdom come in our lives and in our communities. We were challenged to let these words really take root in our lives – not just sit there as theoretical concepts. We were comforted by Jesus’ response to the tenacity of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. We were in awe of Jesus’ ability to calm the storm with a couple of words. The moment that stands out for me was when Jesus spoke about binding up the strong man and plundering his house (speaking not of people but of the enemy of our souls). The richness of the daily readings made Lent seem like a very long time this year but we were in it for the long haul.

As Easter approached there was an invitation given to the church for people to be baptised. In Ireland most people are baptised as an infant into either the Catholic Church or the Church of Ireland. Confirmation of faith comes around like a ritual and rite of passage from primary school into secondary. These are the natural and culturally accepted faith practices. Being baptised at any other time is a public declaration: I chose Jesus. I need a Saviour and I chose him.

On Easter Sunday the church gathered around our small circular pool in the centre of the building. People gathered around the balcony to get a better view. B., her husband and her sister-in-law each stepped into the water that day, honouring their parents for the choice they had made for them before they could speak for themselves, and publicly announcing that faith in Jesus for salvation and life was how they chose to live.

Faith in God is more than just spiritual connection – it is walking daily with him, accepting his grace over and over again – this forgiveness and freedom from guilt and shame that we so desperately long for. It is allowing our lives and our decisions to be shaped by a truth outside of ourselves. This is where we see glimmers of what life was intended to be.

Every path He guides us on is fragrant with His loving kindness. ~ Psalm 25:10

Glendalough in August (4)

made of courage and hope

20140405-004313.jpg

On the long padded benches of McDonald’s on O’Connell Street I quizzed M. about teen culture in the area of Dublin known locally as “town”, more commonly recognised by outsiders as the inner-city.  She told me about their pride in fashion, mobile phones and shoes – those blinding, neon Nikes. With articulate grace she spoke about her hopes and dreams. With calm confidence she spoke about her plans of opening her own beauty salon, having her own flat and one day (a good few years from now) her own family.

We sipped our milkshakes as she continued to help me on this little project. She probably didn’t know this, but I couldn’t help but be filled with all sorts of pride for her. Sure, I took in what she was telling me about teen culture but I was secretly distracted by thoughts of what an incredible young woman she has become. I was there since before M.’s first communion. On occasion I was even one of the privileged few that she let babysit her. I was there as she entered her teen years. And now here she was, a beautiful young woman exuding so much courage and hope about reaching whatever dream that she wanted. At one stage she looked over at me and said, “I don’t remember a time in my life when you weren’t around.” I’ve always known welcome in her home. Her mam made sure of that, always making sure that I had all I ever needed. When going to study in Canada she even gave me an Ireland necklace so that I wouldn’t forget where I came from. She has been a true friend all these years.

In our conversation M. proved that she see’s town realistically – the strengths and the challenges. She’s also aware of the stereotypes but they are merely a passing thought that she counts as ridiculous to base life around. She has pride in where she comes from and in her community. She finds her value and worth in who she is and the choices she can make.

M.’s eyes were alight as she graciously answered all my questions over a couple of hours. She has influenced me for the better, reminding me of all that is good in the world. She is a picture of resilience that I hang in the gallery of my soul.