Freedom to walk, run, or crawl

When my oldest was little she was a big fan of the army crawl.

First she rolled everywhere she needed to go, then she got determined enough to put elbows to carpet and chug along. Being a very new mom I had no idea this phenomenon existed. My husband and I would stand there cradling our mugs of some warm beverage and watch just for entertainment. She didn’t crawl in the traditional way for months. Who needs knees, when you can use your core and have abs of steel, right?

What struck me most in all this was her determination. She was undaunted.

She didn’t want help. She wanted freedom.

Freedom to roam.

Freedom to try and fail.

Freedom to use some grit.

Freedom to journey in her own way.

People have all kinds of opinions about how we should get to where we are going, don’t they? Our journey on Earth rarely looks like someone else’s but we all sure try to get there by someone else’s methods all the time.

Paul reminds the Galatians that they are Free with a capital F. Their freedom comes from God, not from man, not from manuals that tell them the “right way to do it,” not from generations of tradition, but from a God who loves, who forgives, who holds.

Paul proclaims to the Galatians in Galatians 5:7-8 –

 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.

Who cut in on you?

Whether it’s others or our own expectations, the “shoulds” of life, or persuasion from others, ideas of rightness – the freedom to fall flat on our faces and get up again comes from God and God alone.

He calls us to this life.

He calls us to walk, to run, or to crawl in this journey, and he calls all three of them Good in Christ.

Paul brings a little more insight and a little more wisdom in Galatians 5:16-18:

 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 

“You were running, walking is good too,” Paul says, “but remember that all of it is done in the Spirit.” (Heidi’s paraphrase)

Why are we so convinced that we need to run, when God is telling us, “Go ahead and walk, sweet child”?

Why are we so convinced that we need to do it the right way, the non-existent and evasive only way, someone else’s way?

Whether these ideas are put on us by others or well up in our own hearts and minds to yoke us up, they aren’t from the One who called us, but Paul also tells us that the Spirit is alive and well.

Acts 17:27-28 is so reassuring I think we should post it on our foreheads for one another:

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

He is not far. He put Himself inside of us in His Holy Spirit. He lives there. He moves there. His desires begin to mesh with ours in a way that we can’t quite fathom. And when we mess up, when we yoke ourselves to those earthly desires, when we walk contrary, He doesn’t desert us. He doesn’t leave us on a whim. He watches us army crawl, and gently guides us away from the giant electrical sockets of life, sometimes letting us get that little jolt first, for useful teaching later.

I honestly think crawling is better. It gets us to that place of humility where Christ does His best work. The sting of pain, the consequences of failure, bring us before His feet, resting our burdens before Him, where they were intended to be anyway.

The freedom to crawl, to do life the imperfect way, sets our hearts on fire with grace and forgiveness in a way that propels us into a run, a sprint, a marathon, a good race in His love and His mercy in this abundant life.

So run, walk, crawl, or do it any other way knowing that the Spirit is alive, well, and active in your soul this day and every day.

Free in Christ!


Discussion questions:

What strange methods of crawling have you seen?

What places do crawling, walking, and running have in our faith walk?

When have you found God lifting you up in your journey to propel forward when you thought you were too tired, or you wanted to give up?

Refusing slavery, acting like sons

Slavery is a real thing.

It’s disgusting and it needs to end.

We fancy it up with complex names like human trafficking, but it is the same horrible system which existed before the American Civil War, before William Wilberforce boldly spoke out in England, and during the Roman Empire at the time of Paul.

Galatians Chapter Four opens with Paul’s well-known argument against slavery, not on the massive oppressive scale, but individually, the kind we submit ourselves to. Slavery is devastating and we should fight with all our might against it. The devil’s brand of slavery is eternally devastating, and it requires a fight too. We need a Savior in this, more than ever.

Paul uses the language of slavery because, I think, one of his main points throughout Galatians is a very simple:

“Why would you want that?!”

Given the option, real options, no one chooses slavery. Would you ever want to be a slave? No.

Read Galatians 4:1-7 and ask yourself this question:

Where in my life am I submitting to slavery that God did not intend for me?

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principleof the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

You are not a slave, but a son.

Through the Word, through Sunday School, through the Body of Christ, and through the Holy Spirit we know this. God lifts the scales from our eyes, and we know about Jesus. We know what He gives us. Praise the Lord! Now…

it’s time to grow up.

I mean this in love.

Paul means this in love.

This is sweet Gospel, friend. This is not the weight of law the Judaizers were handing out.

We need Christ and we need one another. We can know something so well that we become a slave to the knowledge of it. We let knowledge rule and forget that we were meant to grow. We let knowledge take the place of real and true intimate relationship with God. We stop at elementary principles (v.3), content to be a slave, rather than sitting in our true role as heir, son, letting God mold and shape us in back-and-forth relationship, conversing with Him in His Love and Truth each day.

This may seem far removed from human trafficking, but it unfortunately isn’t. Satan uses our desire to remain children in the faith, in so many ways in life.

When my faith remains only as knowledge, it is difficult for my soul to be touched by the struggle around me. My eyes remain closed to people, including modern slavery, broken marriages, and all hurting faces of different griefs.

The beauty is, God loves children too. He doesn’t love us less when we’re immature or more when we’re grown.

God through Paul assures us that we do have relationship with God, no matter what Satan would say. We can cry out –

“Abba! Father!”

It doesn’t completely make sense, this growing up, this moving past elementary principles and into deep and meaningful relationship with God, but it’s not necessarily supposed to. There’s the freedom in that too.

“Abba! Father!”

You take the reins, dear Savior. I am no longer a slave, but Your child, I give You control to maneuver this ship that is my life. Free me a little more each day, to continue living in this growing relationship with You. 

And in relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, our Savior, we rest in our salvation, our relationship with Him, just enough to care about everyone else’s.

Freedom from slavery, freedom as children, freedom to grow.

I want all the freedom in Christ.

#lifetogether – Connect and send someone this week’s free downloadable Dear 52 card or order the whole set here

Discussion questions:

What do growth and knowledge have in common? What differences exist between growth and knowledge?

In what ways do you think knowledge of Christ gets in the way of relationship with Christ?

What “Abba, Father” concerns would you bring before God today in freedom?

Ministry Moment: Connecting Kids

Making church a place where kids find grace is a challenge.

We call church a holy place, a place set apart, a place of awe and, yes, reverence.

There’s a reason we don’t play tag by the altar (although my kids have tried!), we don’t wear sweatpants there (most of the time), and we don’t smash Cheetos in our hands and rub them in the carpet (again, we’ve tried this, it’s not a good idea).

We could do all those things, but we normally don’t.

For us, these concepts seem pretty straightforward, and have a lot of wiggle room, but for a kid, this might make the church seem full of a whole lot of rules, and more must’s and should’s than we really intended.

It doesn’t mean we should start holding relay races in the sanctuary (although you could), but it does mean that we can take an extra measure of care to help kids know that the place we call church is full of sweet gospel grace, a place they want to be, a place they can be themselves and be valued just as they are- tiny little sinner/saints.

So, beyond teaching children that the church is people, more than it’s a place, what can we do?*

Kids often want to see and do, and sometimes we just need ideas in order to help them do just that; to feel like a part of something, an honored member of our church culture, not a lesser member of the Body of Christ.

Today, we’re going to get into kids’ heads and think about what they would like, where we can intersect their lives with the Gospel message so that they can hear it with three simple hands-on ideas.

Idea #1 – The Luther Rose or Cross Lego Challenge

So, if you haven’t heard, it’s almost Reformation time. This year has the bonus of being the 500th anniversary, so there’s lots of celebrations happening. You don’t have to be Lutheran to appreciate Luther, who essentially founded the modern protestant church. Luther created this really cool symbol to give an accessible overview of his theology. It makes me think of modern day graphics we design, based on our church mission statements. You could also have kids design a lego cross of any kind and see the awesome ideas they come up with!

What kid doesn’t love legos? Any opportunity to use them at church is a good one. This also helps us not compartmentalize church and Jesus. When kids play with their toys while considering theology and Christ’s gifts to us, they also learn that Jesus doesn’t just exist in one place, but is in our whole lives.

This challenge is organized by making a sample, deciding on a time period for the Lego challenge, announcing the Lego challenge turn-in date, and creating a display area for everyone to see the cool creations the kids make. I would suggest a prize for participation that is also kid friendly – an ice cream coupon, hot cocoa and chips packet, or a devotional book and cool pens; Maybe the grand prize winner gets a graphic novel Bible or Christian T-shirt. Prizes aren’t necessary, but they say – “hey, you took time and effort in this, thank you.”

I’ll even write the announcement for you – “Hey kids! Can you make the Luther’s Rose with Legos? Can you design a bold and colorful cross to share the message of Jesus? Design and build the Luther’s Rose or your cross by (insert date) and bring it into the church office. We’ll display it (insert location), so that everyone can see and hear about God’s great love for them.”

Learn more about Luther’s Rose and see a sample here

This guy created a large template! That’s some cool dedication. I believe he also has a blog called Godbricks. Very fun.

Idea #2 – Design Your Own Church Building Challenge

Obviously I like challenges. 😉 Kids do too. They say action and excitement in their world, and even if they never turn a “product” in, they learn and grow in trying or in seeing others do it.

Every kid loves to create ideas of their “dream home.” Most contain exorbitant items like bowling alleys and olympic swimming pools. If you live at our house, Wookies would reside in your dream home basement.

Imagine if children were given the opportunity to tell you what they would love to see at church. There can be boundaries like “church must included crosses” or even “church must have room for lots of people to worship.” But this gives us the opportunity to talk about church as people, not a place, and how eclectic the place we call church could look, as well as what it’s purposes are.

Give every child who would like to participate a 16×20 piece of drawing paper or a cut from a giant drawing roll, so that everyone has the same supplies and it can easily be hung up. Ask them to turn them in by a certain date and have a family night to eat and celebrate the church, aka the kiddos and people who have creativity and love Jesus!

Idea #3 – The Sing-a-Song-of-Praise Video Challenge

Kids love music and song, almost universally. They can easily join in on hymns like, I Am Jesus Little Lamb and Christ the Lord is Risen Today, or praise songs like 10,000 Reasons and Beautiful Name, in worship. They can rock a VBS song at the top of their lungs and know it perfectly within three days. They can memorize huge segments of Scripture given a song and a chance to practice.

This challenge gives kids a platform to share some music. They can film themselves or ask mom and dad to it, they could make up a song, but they can just sing one of their favorite songs they learned from church. They can do it as a Sunday School class, or a family, or on their own. It is less intimidating than a solo or even group sing in front of the church. A video could be shared each week before the beginning of worship or when announcements are given.

This teaches kids that everyone has a gift to share and the language of praise is universal. It’s fun and wonderful to share songs, and we do it for God, not for people. It gives them the chance to give a small offering to their Savior and bless all of our worship as a side benefit.

Whatever you do – just love them.

Love them strong and love them hard. Give them grace and room to grow. Speak with empathy and compassion. These children, they are gifts from the Lord and where would our churches be without them?

*You can hear more on my theological and psychosocial perspective of kids in church in the podcast below, or subscribe to the I Love My Shepherd podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.