Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Year of the Unfettered Heart

"All things are permissible for me, but not all things are profitable; all things are permissible for me, but not everything is constructive.  --1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)

"...[They] were so busy trying to figure out whether or not they could that they never stopped to consider whether or not they should!"  --Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park

I wish Roman Emperor Constantine (336 AD) could have meditated freely and long on both those quotes before he made some of his decrees, but that's a blog for another day. In the more recent past decade, it's become a familiar occurrence--not a "tradition" mind you, as it's by no will or power of our own, but definitely an occurrence--that we can summarize a year's worth of life-changing lessons with nothing more than a succinct theme.  As I said, this isn't something we do--we've never tried to prophetically discern ahead of time nor look back over the year and come up with our own theme; rather, the Lord has given them to us. Sometimes He's revealed a theme late in the year, mid-Fall or so, as we were about to write our family letter.  Other years it's come in early Spring, and we've been encouraged and blessed as we've watched Him fulfill a "prophecy" outside our ability to conceive. This year He went even further outside of the little box we unknowingly try to keep Him in, in that He didn't give us our theme during 2008 at all! This year it popped out at me in early December 2007, right off the page of a book from Jan Karon's Mitford series. I can't find it now, but I was thinking it was from Book 6, titled A Common Life, in which Father Tim Kavanagh, sixty-two year old Episcopal priest in the hospitable small town of Mitford, finally takes a bride. What I remember of the scene is Father Tim resting reflectively when his attention is suddenly captured by a wild songbird singing with "an unfettered heart."

An unfettered heart...  Someone recently asked me what unfettered means.  It means: "unrestrained, uninhibited, uncontrolled." Or more straightforwardly, "free." So then, what in the world does that have to do with us? We live in the "land of the free"--how much freer can you get? What are we to be unfettered from? ...What holds us in bondage?

In John 8:33, some men asked Christ the same question: "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'?"

They sound a bit testy to me.  I think they're reacting to what Christ said just before that: 

"If you abide in my word you are my disciples...and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."  --NKJV, bolding mine

The ultimate job of our US Constitution is to protect our freedom, and after a lot of research I believe its construction was ordained and ordered by God. It is a replica of the free choice our Heavenly Father gives to all mankind to choose Him (life), or not (death). We need to realize, though, that one of the biggest strengths and weaknesses of free choice is that we are free to believe truth as well as lies, and the God who created and loves us is not the father of lies. Rather, the father of lies is His enemy, who seeks to deceive, lead away, imprison, and destroy us--all for our Father's sake. If believing a lie was just a short stop on our journey toward truth, that would be one thing--each of us is "in process," and there's a good chance we'll never know all truth anyway, since that would make us God! But in addition to our freedom to believe lies, we are also free to operate in and even manufacture and propagate them. And we do. And that sets us apart from God. He can only be, tell, and operate in truth. He IS truth, so if we're not agreeing with Him, then no matter how reasonable we think we're being, and no matter how much sense we think we make, we're opposing truth--completely separate from Him. Separate from the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Way, the Truth, the Life... Going in a direction our Creator says is not the way we were created to go, a direction that eventually leads to break-downs and destruction...  

And that is bondage. Believing and operating in our own "truths" is bondage. So while our Constitution protects our freedom, it also protects our right to choose bondage and death! While it offers us opportunity and has potential to be used wisely, it does not offer us life. Especially when it is interpreted and used by people who have chosen to separate themselves from God. Therefore, let us not worship our country or its constitution. While our leaders and defenders should be honored (i.e., promoted for their betterment) as the authority and servants they are, they are only a part of the body of humanity. While America is in many respects a nice place to live, the best place to live is wherever God wants us. While the Constitution is a powerful structure from which to build, we must choose safe boundaries for ourselves based on wisdom, sober judgement, and discipline. 

And where do these things come from???

If God is truth, love, justice, and wisdom, and if He offers Himself to us freely, then wouldn't our wisest course of action be to submit our freedom right back to Him?

And so this Year of the Unfettered Heart has been for us a year of shedding deception, of "abiding in His word" and asking the Lord to reveal to us lies we've believed, and replace them with His mind--truth--on those matters. You may be surprised that we would either bother or feel free to share our mistakes/God's corrections here, as it leaves us vulnerable to "I told you so's" and various other unpleasant repercussions. But one thing I love about God is that when He shines a light into an area of darkness in our lives, He does so lovingly, to free us from captivity--never to shame us. We're so grateful for the freedom! We share our lessons for His glory, and also in case you may be able to relate and benefit from our journey. So here is a recap, with a short description and link to each lesson I was privileged to share since I started blogging in July:
  • My first blog post is titled Welcome to My Window. Though I feel "born to write" and for much of my life have harbored the dream to be published, I lack a lot of necessary components for that to become a reality. Most of the time I'm content working "behind-the-scenes" while I wait for God's timing. However, blogging does not seem so "behind-the-scenes" to me, and I felt reluctant and vulnerable about it. I felt like a chick kicked out of the nest the day I became an "accidental blogger." I got "tricked" into it when I felt compelled to leave a comment on a blog posted by a missionary friend. I had to set up my own account first, and couldn't quite grasp all the directions. Once I started blogging, though, I felt great satisfaction. It's a great outlet for me, and also pushes/allows me to keep refining/editing my essays. And they're "out there" for God to do whatever He wants and others to glean from, so I guess I AM published, aren't I?!
  • In my second post, My Favorite Thing, I shared a lighter aspect of my penchant for truth.
  • August began with Peace & Prosperity, a discussion of the truth that our peace is not necessarily found where we expect it (for me, this especially meant the freedom to take long, hot bubble baths every afternoon while our kids were in public school for a year!); rather, it can be in the midst of big unknowns and things we never thought we could or would want to do. This post also includes the answer to our most F.A.Q.: "Why are you home schooling again this year?"
  • Poster Child is a short but humbling post amidst a busy week, about the truth that there's nothing new under the sun--not even my "own" thoughts!
  • The Paris Party is about learning to speak the language of Love to give purpose and bridge gaps as we gather for an extended-family birthday celebration with loved ones who hold different worldviews.
  • During seasons of loss I've often felt abandoned, as though God has left me alone In the Desert. Over the years I've found surprising treasure even in the midst of my husband's occupational traveling (loss of proximity) and other losses.
  • Dressing Hair is about a delightful evening of proximity for our daughter and I, during which we each discovered something we were missing: the joy of spontaneous with-ship.
  • As we prepared to take our children on a vacation through ten western states that have impacted their heritage, the personal item my husband needed most was new hiking shoes. Used Shoes is a fun testimony of how God met both of us exactly where we were, provided my husband's need, and illustrated yet again how available and perfect His love for us is.
  • In 5,017!, we're back from our trip and grateful for we-don't-even-know-what-all yet! Let the processing begin...
  • Evidence is my first post about lessons from our trip. It's about admiring the Creator through His creation, and is transcribed from notes I felt compelled to make while summiting the Rockies in the back seat of a minivan. It is based on Romans 1:18-20, which starts "...That which is known about God is evident..."
  • After crossing the Rockies, the Salt Flats, and the Great Basin in something of a hurry, we were blessed to slow our pace as we met up with my parents and relived some of their fondest memories, enjoyed visiting relatives who made extra effort to come see us by winding their way around routes that were closed due to wildfires, and toured the old stomping grounds and resting gardens of my grandparents in Reunion and Renewal.
  • At the beginning of October my focus switched temporarily from our vacation to repainting our garage. Is it possible to paint masterpieces in the rain? See if you agree with my answer in Painting in the Rain.
  • Thanks to God's appointed time for the Feast of the Fall (Feast of Tabernacles), we finished painting our garage and still had time to rake leaves, mulch shrubs, AND build and enjoy time in our first sukkah! Did you know the word that is commonly translated "stable" in the English account of Christ's birth in Luke 2 means the same thing as the word that is translated as "tent" in the Old Testament?  Christ could have actually been born in a tent during the Feast of Tabernacles, perhaps something like the one you can see in this post (because it's the post in which I finally learned how to post photos!).  ;~)
  • While I was on blogging hiatus to paint our garage, my friend Far Side of Fifty took advantage of my back being turned to "tag" me with a blogging game called a "meme" (another astute young friend--an English teacher--compelled me to look up the definition of "meme," and it means: an element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by nongenetic means, esp. imitation). For me this "fun game" was a horrible little exercise, but it stirred up a crisis of faith that had beautiful plunder. You can read all about it in Six Quirks & A Talent or Two.
  • I cried my eyes out the day I wrote Excellence in Excess. We took a field trip to watch the Golden Dragon Acrobats, and their performance was overwhelming!
  • If you're so inclined (i.e., not sick of hearing what everybody thinks about it yet), you can read my thoughts on the outcome of the presidential election at Not my will, but Thine...
  • Once all the fall chores, celebrating, and fall-out from the election were sorted out and put away, my focus swung back to our vacation. Common Decency highlights our experiences at the California coast, including a brief introduction to a lesson regarding intricate considerations and consequences of expressing love. I still have more about this cooking on the back burner in my mind--maybe it'll come out next year...
  • Several years ago, just before his marriage, my brother led me on an incredible, defining, 15-minute journey into my favorite waterfall. This past year as we left CA and began to tour the area where I grew up in OR, our children took a different but equally valuable natural object lesson from a similar experience. The Lord sets boundaries and establishes authority over us because He loves us. He has perfect plans to prosper us, not to harm us (Jer 29:11). Yet we sometimes (often?) distort what He sets up, expecting "prosperous" to look a certain way, or chaffing at being subject to an authority (any authority, but especially one we don't like!). We long to be "free and independent," especially if those over us abuse their authority rather than submit it back to God. The Watson Falls and Umbrella posts go together.
  • Magic Ice is a quick, in-the-moment piece about walking...well, and skating, too!--on the perfect ice we have this winter.  You'll prob'ly want to at least take a quick peek to see the photos...
Okay--are you getting tired?  I am, and so's Blogger's "Autosave" feature!  Uh-oh!  But we're up to December now, with only three posts to go:
  • The Walking Stick might be my favorite essay of the year... It's about the day my family accompanied me to fulfill another long-held dream. The summer after my senior year of high school the USFS was just beginning to build a new hiking trail into my favorite lake. That fall I left Oregon to go to college in Montana, wandered off on a tangent or two, and never made it back home at a time of year when I could accomplish the hike. On this day we not only made it to the lake, but found unexpected value in doing it together...
  • A "normal" MN winter finally arrives in Skates to Skis, and we're appreciating and pondering the power of God to direct all things.
  • And lastly, although we're not celebrating Christmas this year, we aren't disconnecting from everyone who is, either. We're so blessed to keep in touch via Christmas Letters.
During this past year we've been set free from many expectations, a few manmade traditions, and some lies. We've grown in freedom and health, and experienced much more than we even have time to share. Yes, I can see why God named it our Year of the Unfettered Heart! Some of our relatives and friends have been shocked at the changes we've gone through, and expressed great compassion and empathy.  (They've pretty much kept to themselves any disappointment they've felt!) And yes, sometimes growth is painful or unpredictable; on the other hand, for much of it there was really nothing we could do but hold on anyway (it's really not wise to jump off a roller coaster in the middle of the ride, right?!), and we found that if we can just hold on past the pain, God always has some great treasure waiting for us on the other side. 

So...onward!  Let's see what God has in store for us in 2009, eh?! 

And BTW, He hasn't given us a single inkling of next year's theme yet!  ;~)

1 comment:

Far Side of Fifty said...

Very nicely done Lattice! It sums up your year well! I do so appreciate your blogging! :)