Freedom from Identity: Swings, Freedom, and Touching the Sky

When I was 8 years old, all I wanted to do was swing.

I ran to the swings on the playground when the recess bell rang. I spent hours seeing how high I could go on my swing set at home. When I was sad, I let the swing rock me gently.  When I was happy, I imagined I could swing to reach up and touch a cloud and grab it, just for the joy of it. When I was bored, I imagined that the swing was an airplane, taking me on travels far and wide.

When I sat on a swing, I was free.

When I sat on a swing, the world was lovely.

Then I started to grow up, and there was less recess and more responsibilities.

I looked around the world and instead of seeing lovely, I saw loneliness. I saw disconnection. Worse than anything, I saw prejudice and I saw hate. I saw people excluded because of their race, or because of what part of town they lived in. I had friends who were talked down to, or who talked down to others, because they weren’t part of “the cool kids.”

The swing couldn’t bring the same relief. Hate, in particular prejudice, is a weight too heavy for any child’s heart to bear.

Paul felt the weight of prejudice, on behalf of the Galatians too.

Read Galatians 2:1-6 and see if you can identify all the “players” in the story Paul recounts:

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 

Except that this account was all too real. Imagine Paul’s struggle. Notice how many times he uses the words we, us, and our. These were people he was deeply connected to.

Sometimes,  because many of us live in a free country, we often forget that we are easily enslaved. We become so entrapped by our “identities”- the particular groups we are in, the heritage we have, our personal individuality – that we miss that these things can wrap themselves around our throats and choke the life out of us.

The Judaizers wanted the Gentile believers to be circumcised, to be branded with Israel as Jewish converts, before they could be considered “real believers.”

Notice how many things I have put in quotation marks so far in this study post! One of Paul’s lessons throughout the book of Galatians is this:

These aren’t even real things! They are just things we throw our identities in. They may look and feel real to us, but at best they are abstract ideas, race, cultural heritage, cliques, and groups, and at worst they only stand to separate us from who we are together…

Created Children of God.

That is our identity.

We have one identity and one identity alone worth reporting – who the Gospel of Christ Jesus has made us.

Free. Loved. Alive. Worthy. Held.

And as Paul says, now we go about preserving that Gospel so that everyone would know that freedom. Christ Jesus came to save sinners. The last time I checked, that was every single one of us.

Our hearts would burst out of us if we didn’t get to tell them about His great love – whether circumcised or uncircumcised, wearing boxer briefs or girly underwear, eating burgers or grape leaves, black, white, or pink with flamingo wings. I say that tongue in cheek, but

who, who would we want to miss Him?

Not one.

Knowing Jesus – it’s like sitting on a swing, as the wind rushes through your ears, hair flying, heart pounding, feet almost touching the skies where the Most High dwells, catching a cloud, thanking Him for every day we can live a little bit freer than the last, because of His cross.

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

Discussion questions:

What was your favorite thing to do at recess when you were a kid?

What “identities” have you claimed or wanted in your life- ethnic, racial, team related, groups, etc.?

What is it about our identities in Christ that surpasses all that other stuff? Why is the impact so huge?

How have you seen Christ cross ethnic, cultural, racial, and other divides?


Jesus in Everything: Pringles and Faith

There once was a boy who loved Pringles.

He loved them so much he would save up money to buy them, alongside his hot wheel cars.

When he got married his wife failed to understand his obsession with Pringles, but out of love and care, she faithfully bought him cans of stacked potato chips for his stocking every Christmas and his easter basket every Easter.

But this isn’t a blog about love and marriage, it’s a blog about disappointment, and more than that about faith and genuineness.

I shattered Dave’s world one day when I checked out a series called “How It’s Made” from our local library. In one episode, they show the making of Pringles from start to finish. I remember Dave jumping up from the couch…

“They’re powdered potatoes???!!!”

Dave’s whole life he thought Pringles were the world’s most carefully cut potatoes. Then one day he learned, they’re kind of fake…artificial…not what he thought at all.

We laugh about it. It’s a funny story and you’ll really want to hear Dave talk about his chip struggles in the podcast, but what matters more than the humor of it all is that small things, like this in life, teach us about a bigger picture.

There are so many everyday things that can point us to something bigger if we just let them, if we let our minds wander to the eternal, rather than settle for the here and now.

In John 3, a man named Nicodemus asks Jesus a very complicated question about belief and faith. Jesus answers about being born again. Nicodemus asks another question, based on his limited perceptions and biases-

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Like you and I, Nicodemus thinks about things in a very narrow way. Birth means one thing to him in this story until Jesus reveals to him the bigger picture.

Jesus says “new life” and we think “isn’t there only one life?”

Jesus says “family” and we think “people we live with.”

Jesus says “taco” and we think “Mexican.”

Ok, so Jesus never said taco or Mexican, but the idea for chips and salsa came from somewhere, and I’m pretty sure that’s why God makes tomatoes grow on a vine. 😉

There is a myriad of things in everyday life that can point us, and others, to Christ, if we let them.

At I Love My Shepherd one of our core values is Jesus in Everything. We believe that all things in creation, all of life’s relationships, all of life’s challenges, are best when we let them give us a little more perspective and understanding into who He is.

So, welcome to our new podcast series, Jesus in Everything –

Grounded in the Word, found in the everyday.

Today’s episode is indeed about Pringles and genuineness – how Dave learned that being the most genuine form of ourselves is important and showing people the most genuine and truthful version of Jesus is important too, all through a potato chip.

Where do you see Jesus in your everyday life? Tell us more! We’d love to hear your suggestions for future episodes! Send them to us in the comments below or on social media:

YouTube – I Love My Shepherd

Facebook – @ilovemyshepherd

Twitter – @ilovemyshepherd

Instagram – @ilovemyshepherdministries

Jesus in Everything: Pringles

PS This is not a op-ed about Pringles as a product. They are, and continue to remain, delicious. Dave simply prefers kettle cooked chips with the skins clearly visible, at this point in his potato chip journey.

As mentioned in the podcast – Christ is the Unseen Guest art by Pure Joy Creative

I Love My Shepherd: The Podcast

Releasing today Thursday, May 18th –

I Love My Shepherd: The Podcast!

The goal of the I Love My Shepherd podcast is to get the Word into your life by offering our resources to you in short listenable segments. The podcast will include discussions of some of the articles and topics you find on the blog, very short audio segments of the online Bible studies, and special episode series like:

Written in Iron Ink: Ministry Stories – hear from people in the trenches of life together, sharing the Word and the work of our Savior every day, from their context and their perspective. Normalize some of the struggles of life lived in ministry and with God’s people, rejoice in the victory of God’s work and testimony through unique settings, trial, and restoration. Some of the interviews we’ll do include topics like individuality, diversity, cancer, leadership, infant loss, and more!

Ministry Moments – ideas, ideas, and more ideas. We’ll share usable ideas and thoughts for reaching out with Hope and Word into the lives of those around us.

Stuff that matters – genuineness and authenticity, mental health, building community, marriage, friendship, all those big words that are on the fringes of theology and spirituality but have a practical understanding as well.

Look to subscribe on iTunes by searching I Love My Shepherd. Look for the album art with the I Love My Shepherd script logo and the green border. Send a review our way (pretty please!), and share and comment away! You will be able to subscribe on Stitcher soon as well. When you comment, review, or share, not only am I encouraged, but others are much more likely to find us to hear our message of Hope, and find our articles and resources about all that good stuff that matters.

Here’s a preview of Episode 1: What is I Love My Shepherd?

This is what I Love My Shepherd is all about…

Intensely theological, while intensely practical

One more woman in the Word every day

Jesus in everything

People matter more

Hear more on Episode 1 today!

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