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Pictures of Freedom

To live fully — abundantly — is to live richly, with peace and joy and above all, freedom.

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“Mama, watch me twirl!” my daughter often calls out. “Oh, listen to the music! Can I dance?”

The truth is, she can’t help but dance. Even before she was born, Anne twirled and kicked and danced within me, and she hasn’t stopped in eight years. On stage or off, whether she’s practicing in the ballet studio or just telling me a story, Anne dances.

I love it. I love the beauty, the joy, the lightness that comes to her heart and the “at home” expression on her face when the music starts and the dance begins. I admire my daughter’s gift. It brings tears to my eyes. When I picture Anne dancing, twirling, arms out, eyes closed, face pointed to the sky as she spins, one word comes to mind: freedom. Anne dances because she is free.

I also picture freedom when I imagine, not my little girl, but a tall statesman — President Abraham Lincoln. What better symbol of freedom than a man who set thousands of slaves free? Nearly 150 years ago, on January 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring, “all persons held as slaves … shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

Forever free. Such life-changing, life-giving words to the slaves. Forever free to choose, to speak, to own possessions because they were no longer possessions themselves. All at once, with the stroke of a pen, men, women, boys, and girls moved from bondage to liberty.

I picture a young slave girl, around the age of my daughter. She had only ever known fear and labor and hardship, but on that Emancipation day, hope blossomed within her. She traded despair for joy, and a lightness came over her heart. I imagine that there were tears in her mama’s eyes when she explained, “Mr. Lincoln says we’re free.” Maybe the little girl even twirled. She danced because she was free.

I wish I could dance — that I could sway and leap and twirl. The truth is, I’m as awkward as my daughter is graceful. These two left feet of mine will never dance lightly across the stage, and there isn’t even the slightest hint of freedom of movement in my body. But what about in my spirit? Spiritually speaking, does my soul dance because it is free?

It should. Paul wrote, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). As a follower of Jesus, then, my soul should freely dance because God’s Spirit lives within me. And after all, isn’t freedom the very reason that Jesus came? “It is for freedom,” Paul also said, “that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). Jesus Christ freed me from sin and death, to live abundantly and eternally with Him.

[lead]Free from Death[/lead]

“I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross,” I sing in church. How true. I don’t understand what a gift freedom from sin really is. I simply can’t comprehend the enormous chasm Jesus closed to bring me to God. But I’m so grateful! I’m grateful that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy when He said:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)

Pictures of FreedomWhat great news Jesus proclaimed — that I’m forever free! Freedom from sin doesn’t just mean freedom from sin’s guilt. It also means that I can be free from the hold that sin and temptation have on me. Sin shouldn’t control or characterize me anymore. Things like fear, doubt, and anger, which normally weigh me down, may no longer oppress the heart that Jesus sets free.

And what peace is mine, knowing that death itself has been defeated!

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?… Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

Gray hair, illness, even death itself are powerless over the believer. When I am in Christ, death isn’t about defeat. It’s about victory. Death ends in triumph. My soul can dance into eternity, because I’m forever free.

[lead]Free to Live[/lead]

The freedom that Christ came to give goes beyond freedom from death. Not only does He set me free from sin, but He also makes me free to live. He has freed me to live abundantly right now, on earth, even before I reach the promises of heaven. “I have come that they may have life,” Jesus said, “and have it to the full” (John 10:10). To live fully — abundantly — is to live richly, with peace and joy and above all, freedom.

Jesus also set me free to live in friendship with my Creator — to enjoy an intimate relationship with the God of the universe! What a privilege to speak with Him through prayer and His Word. What an honor to know Him, and be known by Him. My closest friends will fail me, and even my devoted family members can’t completely satisfy the deepest parts of my soul. Only intimacy with my Savior reaches there, and I’m free to live life closely united with Him.

Finally, in Christ, I’m free to live in obedience. “Freedom” and “obedience” don’t seem to go together, but in a surprising paradox, freedom in Jesus motivates me to obey Him. When Jesus sets me free, I no longer live for myself. I live for God. Paul wrote, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). Obeying God isn’t a restrictive prison; it’s an adventurous journey. The psalmist wrote spoke of obedience this way, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32).

[lead]A Final Picture[/lead]

My daughter twirls on her toes because she is free, and a young slave girl danced in freedom when Abraham Lincoln set her forever free. A final picture reminds me of freedom: the image of a bride and her groom. In joyful anticipation, the bride has made herself ready for the adoring groom. The music begins, and she approaches him with beauty and lightness of heart. The couple sees no one but each other, and they thrill when their hands finally touch. They endure the wedding ceremony, ready to spend a lifetime dancing together. They want nothing more than to love deeply, and trust completely, and live freely.

And so it is with Jesus. I, the Bride, make myself ready for Him (Revelation 19:7), and He is enthralled by my beauty (Psalm 45:11). He has set me free from sin and death. I am free to belong to Him, love Him, and dance freely with Him. I dance because He has set me forever free.

[This article is drawn from our archives. It first appeared here on Ungrind on June 30, 2009.]

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Amy Storms is a wife, mom, and writer in Joplin, Missouri. An Oklahoma girl at heart, she lives with her pastor-husband Andy, their kids Nathan, Anne, and Molly, and about a hundred other "sons" in a dorm at her beloved alma mater, Ozark Christian College. Along with guacamole and Dr. Pepper, words are some of her very favorite things. She loves to read words, craft them on the page, and, of course, say them. Too many of them.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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Pictures of Freedom

by Amy Storms time to read: 5 min
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