freedom stories – (insert your name here)

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1, 4-5

What a terrifying day it must have been when Jesus seemed to have disappeared! Even more terrifying was when he started visiting people!! It should be a little terrifying, even today. Rising from the dead. Miracles that we cannot explain. Death and darkness defeated. It is something we dream about for this world. Suffering gone. Hurt gone. Hope restored. And yet Jesus’ brand of freedom can seem like a tough pill to swallow. He calls us to a radical life of giving up our personal brand of freedom and exchanging it for his – one that is powered by his Spirit living in us. When looking at the life of Jesus, who wouldn’t want to have his spirit of compassion, wisdom, truth, justice, love …? Somehow we have subtly shifted the definition of freedom in everyday language to more closely resemble the definition of anarchy: my personal freedom with no interference from authority (anyone else telling me how I should live my life or what is right and what is wrong for me).

My church will be in full celebration mode shortly!! A risen Jesus – a promise that death has no power and that we can share in life because the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us!! Hopelessness has no power. Even when all the world around us seems to shatter to pieces we will not collapse along with it because our hope is built on something that fortifies us with strength! The pressure is off. We don’t have to build our own little governments and come up with all the best ways to live. We have a God whose name is love and rules in justice. All barriers are gone and we are welcome to speak with him face to face with courage. We are forgiven and when we accept that then shame will only ever pass over us like water making its way to the ground. We can live lives of love because we are loved. Yes, this is terrifying!!! It means that we have to give up our ideas of ourselves and what is right. We have to give up our anarchy and submit to an authority that we cannot see with our eyes. Freedom is not what we offer. No human being can fully sum it up or lead you to it. Only God can and his doors are wide open for us to go directly to him for your answers. So here I give you an offering of what I have tested and tried in pursuit of truth and have found strong. I introduce to you Jesus. This conversation is now between you and him (and by the way, he can take your anger, your questions, your disbelief and your hurt! If you need to yell and shout at him, do).

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

Galatians 5:13-18

He is risen! (He is risen indeed!)

If you have a freedom story that you would like to share from the past couple of months, I encourage you to comment below and share it. Thank you for taking this journey with me during Lent 2015.

freedom stories – lent 2015

freedom stories
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. ~ Galatians 5:1

Freedom. When was the last time you thought about the freedom you have?

Last year I was really struck by the types of freedom that are celebrated in Ireland at Easter.

Firstly, it is about Jesus’ rising from the dead. His defeat of death and promise of freedom to all people who believe in him and accept their need for him. This is the first Easter story of freedom, which is why we have a national holiday dedicated to it. Everything else has tried to move with the momentum that Jesus’ resurrection had – laying down his life for the purest freedom that lasts forever.

The second Easter freedom story is that of Patrick when he lit a fire on the Hill of Slane, opposing the gods and goddesses of the Druids and High King of Ireland. The opportunity to experience personal freedom in Jesus throughout Ireland is a result of that event on Easter in 433 AD – a fire is still lit on the Hill of Slane every year at Easter in remembrance.

The third freedom is the Easter Rising. Carefully orchestrated on the freedom holiday 99 years ago, Ireland finally busted open the 800 years of oppression from the British. This happened on Easter with the purpose of obtaining freedom. Shortly after, the Republic of Ireland was born. As the 100 year anniversary is on our doorstep, I am becoming more and more aware of the mixed emotions people have about it.

There is something that triggers the spirit-heart of Ireland that cries out loudly for freedom – sometimes in whatever means possible for mere illusions of freedom, as was seen during the Celtic Tiger (hint: freedom is not found in wealth). Lent begins today and thousands of people around Ireland will be giving things up for 40 days. My neighbour in pilates class will be giving up everything (bad). She normally can’t give any of it up but for some reason is able to live free of those things over Lent every year. It is within this context that I plan on thinking about freedom this Lenten season – a lot! What does it mean to be free?

When we really think about it, freedom is deeply emotional. Freedom is sometimes taken away from us and returned to us. Often, someone has paid a price along the way so that we could be as free as we are, whether we agree with their methods or not. There are also some freedoms that we  find only when we are willing to lay down our own lives, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually. Sometimes freedom is uncomfortable.

So, I have asked friends from around the country to write a bit about what freedom means to them. I’ve left it wide open for response! There will be different voices, different backgrounds and different types of freedom represented. As citizens of Ireland, they all have lived in political freedom. They have also been exposed to and experienced measures of freedom because of Jesus.

Join me each Wednesday and Saturday during Lent for Freedom Stories and Thoughts on Freedom.

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)

death for the life of me

On street lights across the city there are posters inviting the nation to join in remembrance of the 1916 Easter Rising. Follow the route from the centre of the fight to the Garden of Remembrance. It is when a group of Irish saw that fighting and possible death might be the only way to gain freedom from British rule. Although it wasn’t exactly successful, the uprising on Easter 1916 is one of the reasons I hold a passport that now says I am a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. That is what we do around the world with the people who fight for freedom: remember, even if the history is messy … and Ireland’s history is messy!

Sometimes I wonder if the Easter Rising was ever intended to symbolize the possibility of a nation’s hope that came from the first Easter Rising – when Jesus died so we could live? When Jesus took on the old rule so that we can live as free citizens of his eternal kingdom? Now that history is messy! The details of what exactly happened (historically speaking) are put to debate. Yet here we are, this spiritual freedom is hard to explain. There is no passport or government document with my name signed and stamped that says I now come under the protection and the laws of a new nation. What is citizenship if not a heart welcome from the authorities of a country that is merely represented by a document? Because of Jesus, I am welcomed to live free to love all and be loved fully. I don’t always take  advantage of that freedom and instead live as if I cannot help but do what is logical to me that will ensure my own happiness.

Good Friday is a day remembering death. It is remembering why we need freedom. It is remembering that things were not good enough – because we are not good enough or strong enough to obtain our freedom ourselves. We remember as we walk through the Garden of Gethsemane to the culmination of the conflict at the cross. We were living under a citizenship that bound us in chains of hurt and pain in ourselves and for each other. On Good Friday we remember that Jesus died so that we would could be free of that.

This Easter, remember Jesus.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him (Christ) so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. ~ Romans 6:5-8

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