My chains are gone…

Have you ever had a song that you LOVED, but didn’t know half the words? I remember loving it when this one song would come on the radio – years ago. Funny thing is – I had NO CLUE what the words were (other than “Chain, chain, cha-a-a-ain”), until today. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even know the title.
 
“Chain of Fools”, by Aretha Franklin….
“Chain, chain, chain  (Chain, chain, chain)  
Chain…, chain, chain  (Chain, chain, chain)  
Chain of fools  
For five long years  
I thought you were my man  
But I found out  
I’m just a link in your chain  
You got me where you want me  
I ain’t nothin’ but your fool  
You treated me mean  
Oh you treated me cruel”
 
How can this song – one that has such a good beat, be filled with such a sad message? I am so grateful that we are meant to be  SO MUCH MORE than a weak link in someone’s chain/life.
Actually, there are probably many songs that I mumble through,  but THESE words I DO know….

“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

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.” ~ Psalm 118:5

“I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” ~Psalm 34:4

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

HE is the ONLY one who can set you free….

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood, His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace. “ ~ “Amazing Grace” (Chris Tomlin)

It all started with a child’s picture….

Image

I was reading my devotions this afternoon (same book that I have read out of for about 3 years),  and all of a sudden it hit me what happened exactly a year ago. Shocking – especially when I can’t recall what I did the day before yesterday. Ha-ha! I shared the following story on FB on July 14, 2012. Have to admit,  that day was a turning point in my life – in my faith. There’s not a better feeling then when you realize how real God is, and that He uses people around you to speak to you – if you allow Him.

This is SO cool. Yesterday at work, the court reporter’s 9-year-old granddaughter was in our office. She was looking for something to do while she waited for Kathy, so I asked her if she liked to draw. There is like absolutely NOTHING exciting to do in our office, other than work. Ha! She told me that she liked to draw all kinds of things. So, I asked her if she would draw me a picture. She wanted to know EXACTLY what I wanted, so I suggested a picture of a house with flowers, sun, etc.. She came back later with the sweetest picture, with one added detail. She had two small people at the beginning of what I thought was the sidewalk, but she labeled it “the path”. At the end of the path (she explained) was a buried treasure. Little did that sweet little girl know that she was drawing a picture that illustrated my devotions this morning. In Jesus Calling, it says “Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you. Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to My heart. I could instantly grant you the spiritual riches you desire, but that is not My way for you. Together we will forge a pathway up the high mountain. The journey is arduous at times, and you are weak. (How true!) Someday you will dance light-footed on the high peaks; but for now, your walk is often plodding and heavy. All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction. Though the path is difficult and the scenery dull at the moment, there are sparkling surprises just around the bend. Stay on the path I have selected for you. It is truly the path of Life.” What a promise! What a picture. Annie, thank you so much for your picture!

 

 

….”And a little child will lead them.” ~ Isaiah 11:6

After being a pastor’s wife for many years, I guess I’ve become sensitive to what people have to say about their church experience. Over the years I’ve heard many complain about the lack of programs, leadership, commitment or involvement of others (in various churches – all over).

I’ve watched people leave a church (forever) because it was always too cold, they didn’t like the music, didn’t agree with the changes, thought the preacher was always preaching about money, or because they disliked some of the people in it.

Their time of worship became a time of turmoil – filled with mostly negative thoughts. Been there?

I understand that sometimes there ARE good reasons to move on, but sometimes I think we lose sight of WHY we are even going. Because of that, I want to share what happened one afternoon in Costa Rica. It was an experience that made me realize the key to loving church – where ever it may be for you. Hopefully this experience will help someone else who is struggling with this issue today.

It was raining, so we got all the adults and kids on the bus and finished VBS! It wasn’t convenient, and it was sweaty HOT, but we managed to complete what we felt God wanted us to do. Needless to say, the next day when it rained, we were THRILLED when we learned that our interpreter somehow obtained a key to a church down the road.

After seeing other church buildings in CR that were similar to what you would see here in the USA, I was a little shocked as I realized that the small building that we were approaching was indeed the church.

It didn’t have stained glass windows, pictures, paintings, an altar, a piano, a baptismal, coffee station, a kitchen, meet and greet area, a bookstore, classrooms, a nursery, a restroom OR electricity. (I’m not knocking those things – just trying to make a point.)

I did discover several things inside that were more important. The pews were FILLED with hearts of appreciation, and there were people who had a desire to learn about God. The building was filled with people who were excited about teaching others about the love of Christ and Salvation. The room was filled with joy as we attempted to sing a song, then laughed at each other’s attempted actions to the song.

No, nothing was perfect about it, but the (right) attitudes made it a joy to be there.

If you are struggling with church, please take some time and refocus….and don’t forget to check YOUR heart and YOUR intentions, rather than focusing on everyone else’s. Remember to hold on to and appreciate His unconditional love, grace, and forgiveness – those things that are of eternal value. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” ~ Proverbs 4:23

Costa Rica 2013 with Greenwood Christian Church 139