Liberty

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This past weekend I had the privilege of staying on a military base. Each time I heard Reveille and Retreat being broadcast over the speakers, I thought about the Liberty Bell.

In 1751, a 2, 080 lb. bell was ordered for the Statehouse of Pennsylvania from England. When it arrived, everyone was excited, but when the bell was rung for the first time, it cracked. A couple of Philadelphia foundry workers melted and recast the bell, however, the copper they added gave it an unpleasant tone.

But its lack of musical quality didn’t keep in from ringing out sounds of freedom.

The bell was rung for assemblies and for special announcements and events. Traditionally, it is believed that it even tolled for such American milestones as the First Continental Congress, and  for the Declaration of Independence.

In 1837, the bell became a symbol for abolitionists and was renamed the Liberty Bell. After the Civil War, the Liberty Bell became a symbol of unity for a fractured nation, and starting in the 1880s, it was taken throughout the land proclaiming liberty to all.

Historians tell us that the last time the Liberty Bell physically rang was for Washington’s Birthday in 1846. As it rang, it developed a large crack. Although, that day the bell might have lost its tone, its sound of freedom would continue to ring on through the centuries—as it would become a symbol of hope.

In 1915, a replica of the Liberty Bell, with its clapper chained to its side, traveled the country promoting the women’s suffrage movement. It was rung for the first time when women won the right to vote.

Along with the American Flag, the Liberty Bell continues to be a symbol of freedom today. Freedom that has been fought for…Freedom that has cost many their lives…Freedom that is costly but priceless.

Tomorrow, as you and I celebrate our Independence, I pray that we would thank God for our freedom. Our great country might have a few cracks, but the sound of freedom still continues to go forth throughout the world from her shores.

I am thankful for America and for the men and women in the military who are paying the cost to keep her ringing.

The scripture on the Liberty Bell says it all: Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof Lev. XXV X.”

Truly words of Freedom from the One who came to set all of us free!

May the Lord abundantly bless you!

Jeannie

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Historical Info from H http://www.ushistory.org/libertybell/

The Other Mother

Happy Mother’s Day!

Since Mother’s Day was yesterday, it might seem as though I am late in wishing all the Moms Happy Mother’s Day. But truth be told, motherhood should be celebrated every day.

The card I sent my daughter on Mother’s Day reminded me of this: The outside of the card was optimistic: It’s mothers day and you have earned a quiet, relaxing, unstressful day. The inside of the card was realistic: You may not get, it but you sure deserve it.

Being a mom is not easy, but it is rewarding. In the midst of dirty diapers, peanut butter and jelly smeared faces, and unwelcome Crayola art exhibits on the walls, are toothless smiles, lots of impromptu hugs and kisses, and wilted bouquets of floral weeds snatched from the ground-just for Mom.

As a young mom with four children under six years of age, I often remember feeling more like a mother duck trying to keep my ducklings in line than feeling like a woman with true needs and desires. Most days I celebrated my children. I taught them, played with them, sang with them and prayed with them. But then there were those days when I felt like the worst mother on the face of the earth. I wanted to run away. Those were the days when my last bit of patience was gone, and I had to force myself to be kind. Those were the days when I wanted to wring my children’s necks instead of hugging them.

I loved my children dearly. I still do. But when I was raising them I often found myself scolding them more than celebrating them.  Sometimes, when I was singing them to sleep, I would think about the times I had lost my temper and yelled at them, and feared that I was going to permanently damage them.  Instead of being the mother I so desperately wanted to be, I feared I was becoming other mother –the one I was afraid of exposing. The mother full of fear and frustration, who merely survived each day.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of hearing from my four amazing children.  I am happy to say that through the grace of God, in spite of all of my shortcomings, they all survived me and are doing quite well. I also had the privilege of reading some of my mother’s journals. I loved my Mom and am thankful for her. She taught us about Jesus, sang to us, and invested her time and talents in her family. She was a prayer warrior. She was an amazing woman, but like the rest of us, she was not perfect. I saw incredible strength in my mother. But I also saw fear, confusion, and enabling-all things to which she wouldn’t admit.

As I read mom’s journals, I got to know my mother through different lenses-not through the eyes of a child with lots of questions, but through the eyes of a fellow mother, who had traveled the road of raising children in the midst of difficult situations. Mom’s struggles, her fears, and her frustrations opened my eyes to the other mother I had not known. The mother whose spoken words often didn’t acknowledge what was going on in her heart. The woman whose faith and trust was challenged just like the rest of us. The woman who adored her children, but also was, at times, overwhelmed. The woman who in a lot of ways was just like me.

Reading Mom’s journals, brought back memories from my childhood. Her journals also gave me clarity and answered some questions I have had for many years. I realized that most, if not all mothers, have another side they don’t share with their children. For some, it may be the hurt little girl they are hiding. For others, it might be the person they are afraid of becoming. Being introduced to my mom’s other mother reminded me of my own journey.

If you sometimes feel like a failure at motherhood, realize that you are not alone. Being a mother is not easy. But it is rewarding. You have nothing to fear. God knows all your thoughts. He loves you! He sees the mother you are on the outside and He knows about all your fears, frustrations, and questions on the inside. And He understands both. Embrace the Lord and embrace motherhood. You don’t have to be perfect. Jesus is the only perfect one. Just keep your eyes on Jesus and walk with Him daily in the beautiful journey He has blessed you with. The journey of motherhood.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

Heaven’s Glory

There have been times in my life where heaven has seemed so close that I felt as if I could touch it. Once was when I was a child. I was suffering from a terrible reaction to the stings from a swarm of yellow jackets. I was dreaming that I was dying. I literally felt like my spirit was leaving my body. But it jumped back in when I was jerked awake by my mother. She had been praying and was calling my name. “Jeannie, I thought I had lost you!” She almost shouted, “You are burning up!” I don’t remember responding before I fell back to sleep. When I awoke the next morning, I had ice wrapped rags on my head and on my horribly swollen hand. Mom was still next to me. She told me I that I had been delirious, but that the fever was now gone and I would be OK. I don’t ever remember talking about it, but in my heart, I knew that I had been a moment away from Heaven’s glory.

My next almost in Heaven experience was when I was in my mid-twenties. I had been praying for hours and worshipping. As I stood with my hands raised, once again surrendering all to God, I felt as if Heaven was filling the room. I sank to the floor, overwhelmed by the weight of God’s glory. I remember saying, “Lord, are you taking me home?” I didn’t go home that day but I felt so empowered by His glory that I ran to my neighbor’s apartment. As usual, she answered the door shaking because she had once again mixed alcohol with Xanax. I stepped into the room almost shouting, “Do you feel that!” God immediately touched her and she quit shaking. She responded, “Yes, I have goose bumps!” We ended up worshiping the Lord and basking in His glory. A short while later, God empowered her to walk away from her addictions.

Since that day, I have had many experiences (sometimes alone and sometimes with others) where the presence of the Lord has filled the room with the glory of God. My pastors call this experiencing Heaven on earth. But the experience that was unlike all of the others was the night my baby brother died.

For a year and a half, I had watched as cancer destroyed my brother’s body. At the end, his 180 lb muscular frame had been reduced to a mere 60 lbs. The doctors had tried everything, and friends and loved ones had prayed everything they knew how to pray. My brother was so convinced that he would live, he didn’t even make a will. My family had experienced so many miracles we all held on to the hope that God would raise him up.

The morning I got the call that he was non-responsive and en-route to the hospital, my heart sank. With tears streaming down my face I hurried to the bathroom to get dressed. Many people say that when people get close to death their spirits can visit loved ones. I can’t definitely say that is what happened, but as I was brushing my hair I heard Mark’s voice, “It’s Okay, Sis. It’s Okay.” My tears instantly dried up and peace filled my soul.

Mark was suffering so much when we arrived at the hospital, it was hard to stay in the room. As I and other family members stood next to his bed, I placed my hand on his head and prayed and sang to him.

Mark was one of those rare guys who had never met a stranger. He was also a wonderful father and had raised his two now late teen children pretty much alone. Even though Mark spent his life serving others, I was deeply concerned about whether he had had a relationship with the Lord.

My family decided to move Mark to the hospice unit where we had moved my mother a week before. As we waited for the ambulance, a dear friend of Mark’s pulled me aside. She told me that Mark had somehow managed to drive to her work the night before. In spite of his frail condition and attached oxygen tank, they had gone to see the movie God’s Not Dead. Since cancer had destroyed Mark’s ability to speak, when the movie ended, he had texted her I’m ready to go be with Jesus. My heart swelled with joy, and I hugged her.

That night, I stayed at the hospice unit with Mom and Mark, going back and forth across the hall praying and singing over them. Up until 2 a.m., a friend stayed with me. Somewhere between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. I fell asleep in a chair in Mark’s room. I dreamed that Mark was in his hospital bed on a stage in a church. In my dream, the tumors on his body disappeared and he regained his weight and became muscular and strong. He then jumped out of bed and began running around the room. As I sat in the church watching the whole thing I said over and over again, “He is healed but he is not healed. He is healed but he is not healed.” Then I suddenly woke up.

A couple of years before, the Lord had stirred my spirit to pray for my mother to breath when she had been on life support. At that moment my mother had started breathing on her own and declared, “God still has things for me to do!” The doctor who had told us to make her funeral arrangements and the rest of the hospital staff were astounded.

I thought my dream meant that God was going to raise my brother up like He had Mom. I walked over to his bed and stood over him, getting ready to declare, “In the name of Jesus breath!” When God stopped me with a firm, No. I was perplexed. “But God, You promise us the desires of our hearts, and Mark’s desire has been to see his kids grow up and to have grandchildren!”

The Lord’s answer to me was so unexpected and so comforting it stopped all other questions: I have changed his heart’s desires. All I could think of was that Mark must have already seen Jesus.

I sat back down in the chair. I could feel the glory of the Lord fill the room.

I know this sounds far-fetched, but I saw angels. They weren’t like the warring angels I had seen before. It’s as if part of the room faded away and they were in another realm. They were laughing and singing and making preparation for my brother. The vision, or whatever it was, vanished, but the glory lingered.

I can honestly say that I have never felt more peace and joy than I did that morning. My brother went to heaven shortly afterward, My Mom joined him the next night while I was preparing for my brother’s family memorial.

It has now been three years since Mark and Mama went home to be with Jesus, and I have rarely shed a tear over their passing. Maybe this is partly due to the fact that I had watched them suffer so much. But mostly, I think it is because whenever I think about them, my heart is filled with the joy I felt the morning the glory of God filled my brother’s room. The glory I now know that they experience continuously! Whenever I think about them, I don’t see them emaciated and dying, instead, I see them whole and healthy and full of joy, dancing in Heaven’s glory.

Isaiah 60:19 “The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you, But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory.”

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

The Gate

Today’s post is about an inspiring encounter my dear friend Brandilynn had this Easter weekend. 

As I drove towards Tarpley, Texas on Easter weekend; an overwhelming sense of emptiness filled my heart. Like an empty cup turned upside down; I felt nothing left. I was excited for the weekend, yet felt afraid I wouldn’t fit in with the group. They all knew each other well and I was just new to this church group. They were like one big happy family that joked and bantered back and forth with inside stories I had yet to understand. The old familiar thoughts entered in. Was I good enough? Could I measure up? Would I be on the sidelines looking in? Could I make a difference? I asked God to equip me as I rounded the corner to “The Gate” that would forever change my life. I sat in front of this huge black iron gate that towered above me. As I entered the code and the gate opened; I couldn’t shake a sense of something great is about to happen.

 

I quickly unpacked my bags and got settled in. Everyone began arriving at the second of two cabins on the Lake Front Hill Country Getaway. …and so began my journey to receiving the greatest fulfillment in a group setting I can remember. This group is different I told myself. Everyone busily got situated into both cabins and later that night we sat around eating burgers and listening to Pastor Mark share a message on what it means for God to get the glory in your life. He shared that this weekend was about focusing on the Lord and leaving the worldly cares behind. We delved into discussions about God and Jesus in a way that felt different. James had been discussing feelings of LACK in the previous church meetings.He shared to take those feelings and just ask God…  “Hey, what is this Lord”?!  It amazed me that it could be simplified so easily into one action.

Problem: Feeling lack (of any kind)
Solution: Holding that up to God and asking him about it

Pretty easy concept! How I missed it all these years is beyond me.

That night, I had a lot of time to think about what God was doing in my life and in the lives of others around me. I woke up the next morning with only a few hours of sleep. I felt strangely energized as I met up with the others in the group. The day unfolded perfectly as we talked around the picnic table. Later we hiked a mountain that later became known as “Won Shoe Mountain” and at night sat around the fire in God’s presence. We laughed and cried and sang and talked. A sense of wonderment came over me when I realized that in our group of twelve. Like the disciples, Jesus sat among us! I could feel his presence like never before. I could feel LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, JOY, HONOR, HUMILITY, COMPASSION, FAITHFULNESS, COMMITMENT, ANOINTING, GENTLENESS, ENCOURAGEMENT, and DISCERNMENT, to name a few. I was amazed to hear, as we went around the campfire; the thoughts that others had formed about me. Nothing but the love of Jesus could allow them to see into my heart that way. As each person took their turn my mind ceased to function and my soul leaped forward. I realized this is a taste of heaven on earth, as I felt unending love in that moment. A sneak peak into the UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that God has in store for us all as we (in time) enter into the heavenly gates.

NO LACK existed!

The next morning I awoke feeling satisfied that I had opened my heart, mind, soul, body to God in a way that surpassed previous moments. I felt closer to God than ever before in a way that humbled; yet excited me. I drove out and back up to the gate with new purpose and an overflowing cup. I sat in front of the Gate for a moment… NOT wanting to leave.

I understand now entering the code to the gate…. symbolic for saying, God, I am here… ready to be in your presence. I leave everything behind at the gate entrance and enter into your kingdom and majesty and righteousness. I realized I had left ALL worldly things at the front of the gate. We can’t bring those things into his presence.

In closing, leaving you with one final thought. When you are sitting in front of that Gate… staring up and deciding whether to enter…  or sit back in the worldly things… will you decide to enter into God’s presence and feel his majesty and love surround you and change you in a profound way. Letting the world fall away off of you… your body, your mind, your heart, your soul. To renew and bask in the presence of God that seems to change you down to the very cells of your body… to fill your heart so full it is bursting with Love, Adoration, Kindness, and Acceptance for everyone and everything around you. …but even greater still a deepening love of the Lord your Father in heaven that cannot be contained or explained.

…as I drove out the gate… I looked on the side of the road and could see the worldly cares I had left when entering, still sitting piled up; that I had dumped right outside the gate. I paused for a split second in thought as my eyes welled up with tears of joy. I drove away… leaving the pile still sitting there. I won’t be needing those again I thought as sweet tears began flowing down my cheeks. A sense of an atmosphere shift lingered with me in the car. A heart overflowing and a feeling of pure love beyond measure.

To those that don’t know God….  the code you enter to “The Gate” is Jesus. Ask Jesus into your heart and the gate will open for anyone who will ask.

All the love in the world to you.

-Brandilynn Edgerton

The Good Friday Journey

I haven’t yet had the privilege of walking where Jesus walked, but the contributor of today’s testimony has. I pray you will be blessed as you read  Mary Zatkalik’s eye-witness account of a “Good Friday” celebration in Jerusalem.

I will never forget my three-week stay in Israel and specifically, the time spent in Jerusalem.  My husband and I chose the Windmill Hotel because it offered a Seder experience at sunset on Passover.  Also, we could walk to the Old City of Jerusalem, just blocks from the hotel, and sightsee.

The Old City boasts of archaeological history and its narrow streets feature vendors selling beautiful gifts, colorful fresh produce and braids of freshly baked bread.  We learned where the various gates to the city were located to allow us entrance, and we prayed at the Western Wall.

I will forever remember the Friday afternoon which happened to also be Good Friday.  After lunch in the hotel, we meandered over to the Old City where we entered through the gate and immediately we were swept up into a whirlwind.  I felt out of control when my feet barely touched the ground because a mass of people carried me with them to their destination.  I still remember the panic on my husband’s face because he, too, was taken away by the crowd but at least it looked like we were headed in the same direction.

The event taking place, “The Way of the Cross,” sometimes refers to the “Stations of the Cross.”  A fancier name, the “Via Dolorosa,” depicts the suffering journey of Jesus as He walked down those narrow streets of Jerusalem to face his crucifixion and death on the cross for the sins of mankind.

Catholic churches offer the Stations of the Cross in their Good Friday services.  As a child, I remember the quiet reflection and prayer times with my mom where we physically moved from one station to the next within the sanctuary of the church meditating on the journey Jesus took from The Last Supper to His death and burial.

For clarity, these are the Biblical meditations:

  • Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples
  • Jesus in the garden
  • Jesus betrayed by Judas, then arrested
  • Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin
  • Jesus denied [by Peter]
  • Jesus judged by Pilate [sent to Herod Antipas, then returned to Pilate]
  • Jesus scourged
  • Jesus took His cross
  • Jesus helped by Simon
  • Jesus crucified
  • Jesus [temporarily] prepared for burial
  • Jesus placed in the tomb

It’s one thing to sit in a quiet church and recite prayers at each station, but it’s a whole different experience to be there with passionate believers where history approximately took place about 2000 years ago.  I heard the sounds of voices crying out in worship and I stared at the cross carried vertically above the crowd.  My heart gripped with emotion that Good Friday.

I am ecstatic to have had the experience of being a part of that passionate movement that day.    I tasted the excitement of Via Dolorosa.  The roar of a crowd at each “station” gave me an appreciation of not only the scene but the original journey on that road to Calvary.  I am not only thankful to have participated, but thankful that I survived!

Mary Zatkalik