Readings: Isaiah 6:1-8, Revelation 1:4-6, Matthew 11:28-30
Over 30 years ago, Kevin and I decided to spend our anniversary at the romantic Gray Squirrel Cabin in the mountains near our home. We heard from a co-worker that it was a great get-away with cute cabins, a little dinner theater and nice hiking. We should have asked him what decade he last stayed there. The sloping floor in the dirty cabin gave us a running start into the bathroom, complete with a rusty clawfoot tub. The restaurant and theater were “dark” that weekend, as we found out at check-in instead of when we made the reservation, so no dinner and no community theater. No discount either. I was afraid to eat there anyway, considering the evidence we found in the cabin that the gray squirrel himself frequented the lodgings. It was too hot to hike much, but when we did we thought we heard laughing, probably from the proprietor of the inn as well as the gray squirrel. We tried to keep a good attitude about wasting time and money that were rare commodities for a young married couple working and going to college. This week’s sermon is about traveling light, and a light heart is just what we needed that weekend. Jesus said in Matthew 11, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” We find a gentle and humble heart in Christ, the rest for our souls… just what we need. We are celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary this week, and we’ve had plenty of gray squirrel-type adventures over the years. Mostly we’ve been able to travel light, even in the dark, through the power and grace of Jesus, “who loves us and has freed us from our sins” (Rev. 1) Gray squirrels come despite our perfect planning, but love never fails. —Tracy
Readings: Isaiah 53:1-6, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Mark 8:31-37
Freedom in the Cross
Do you feel free? Sometimes health issues or circumstances can make us feel trapped and burdened. Sometimes worry and anxiety spin our minds in circles and we feel we can't get free. We can be weighed down by the cross we carry. This week’s sermon is the message of the cross, with the hard truth that we need to take up our cross and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34-37). If we drag the cross along our own path, it’s too painful to endure, but when we take it up and follow the One who endured the cross for us, it can be liberating. Following Jesus can be full of surprise and delight, joy and peace, love and compassion. There’s such great freedom in His love. Do you feel it, know it, live in it? Sometimes, we hear the voice of a loved one or read just the right Scripture verse or hear the perfect song on the radio, and Christ calls out - Remember I set you free! I’m with you! I love you with an everlasting love! The Lord offers a spiritual freedom that can't be bound and can't be taken away. As we celebrate the wonderful freedom we have in America, remember to celebrate the ultimate freedom we have in Christ. Thank You, Lord, for helping us with the cross we carry, and freeing us to love and serve with You.
Readings: Jonah 1:1-17, II Corinthians 5:17-21, Luke 15:11-32
Protect Your Freedom
We were visiting the ranch where our daughter will be married, and we heard a chicken in the bushes in front of us. We’d met the friendly chickens before, while they were in the coop, but this one was loose now, and had many eggs in her hidden nest. Her clucking became louder until she was cluck-screaming at us as she ran out of the bush, feathers puffed up and head down, and chased us away from her nest. She was very protective of her freedom and eggs outside the coop. Inside the coop, you could take the eggs and get close to her, but the freedom changed her. Sometimes my day-to-day activities inside a usual week, like inside the coop, make me a little complacent, less diligent, and comfortable in the rut. The Lord has granted me contentment, but I never want to be so content that I’m apathetic or useless in His Kingdom. Some type of freedom or challenge changes me to be more observant, more aware and engaged in life. Freedom changes us in a good way. Paul, in II Corinthians 5:17 claims, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” and “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1) I need to ask the Holy Spirit to inspire and energize me more often, and He will, because His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23). We should consciously protect our freedom and defend it, like the hen in a way, and certainly not take it for granted. Our spiritual freedom is worth an aggressive defense! The devil likes us to behave as if we live in a coop; we’re quite easy to manage when we are confined and apathetic. Freedom changes us - praying we can hold on to that change and protect it - and live aware and engaged and alive in Christ. God grant it. Tracy