Restoring Belief: It’s right in front of you

Have you ever tried to get a van full of kids to school on time? Every day? For, like, 152 days out of the year?

Have you ever attempted to get someone under the age of 8 to a doctor’s appointment at a specific time when the receptionist already gave you a hard time for “fitting you into the schedule?”

About twice a week I have this conversation:

Child: Where are my shoes?

Me: Right there.

Child: Wait, where?

Me: Right by the shoe bucket.

Child: Where are my shoes?

Me: (Picking up single shoe from the pair) Right here.

Child: (Looking in the opposite direction at a Star Wars guy or the dog or cheese) I don’t see them.

Me: RIGHT HERE!!!!!

Children have a hard time seeing things, even when they are literally right in front of their face.

Literally…right there.

We aren’t much different though, at times, and the Galatians along with us.

Galatians 6:11 leaves me to imagine Paul, sitting down to pen the conclusion of the letter, with parental strokes of purpose:

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

Large letters, right here, Galatians. Pay attention. This is stuff that matters. Focus.

We aren’t really sure why Paul wrote in large letters. Commentators tend to differ on the explanation for this verse. It was customary for Paul to use a scribe, or the fancy word for scribe, an amanuensis – the word manuscript comes from the same root in Latin – someone who takes dictation.

We find a similar verse in 1 Corinthians 16:21:

 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.

The scribe would normally have written the letters as Paul spoke, but it is unclear whether Paul wrote Galatians out as a whole himself, or whether he ended the letter in his own pen, which was more clearly true in other epistles, like Corinthians above, Colossians 4:18, and 2 Thessalonians 3:17.

Do we just follow what’s the norm for Paul? Is it possible that Paul wanted to write to the Galatians himself in particular? Does it matter?

I’m not sure it does, but it’s fun to contemplate. More importantly, when do we need things written in large letters?

To some degree, I think the Galatians, just like us, needed Paul to get in their face, to hold their cheeks in his hands, so to speak, look directly in their eyes and say –

This is the Gospel. Right here. Right in front of you.

Don’t miss it for all the other junk laying around. Don’t be distracted by the Star Wars guys and the cheese of today. Shift your eyes a little to the left and you’ll see freedom was there all along.

You see, the Galatians never lost their freedom. God’s freedom just is. God’s Gospel is reality for the believer.

But in our frantic search for what to believe, we can miss what God has already given us.

The Gospel is simple. This is belief:

Jesus saves. Jesus frees.

Mark 16 finds a group of women, standing before a tomb they thought had sucked up their freedom. Lord have mercy, it makes me weep to read about it. Mark 16:6-7:

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Don’t be alarmed. He is not here. He has risen!

He was risen, even when they failed to see it. The angel wrote in large letters for them, “He told you so.”

Freedom is the same. He told us so:

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:31-32) 

 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever…(John 14:16)

Take these verses and tuck them into your heart.

You are free.

His promises are right in front of our faces.

Rejoice in the One who sets you free indeed! Walk out that door, two shoes on your feet or barefoot and too slap happy with freedom to notice. Freedom reigns in your heart, and in your lives.

See what large letters I write this to you:

You are free. 

Discussion questions:

What do you or your children usually miss that is right in front of your face?

Who in your life reminds you most often of freedom, rather overtly or by the freedom they live in each day?

Which Bible verse speaks freedom into your life (from any in this study or another in your heart)?

Walk barefoot on the pavement and take a moment to praise God for eyes-wide-open, large-letter freedom.

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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?

For every Lutheran teacher – Thank You!

Kindergarten is a big transition for any kid. For our littlest, it was an epic transition.

I’m not sure who was more scared- me or him. But, you know, some things in life you bite the big one and suck it up. You hold on to your hats and pack that Star Wars backpack and say jolly things like,

“It’ll be great!”

“You’ll make so many friends!”

“I hear there are markers, and snacks, and three recesses!”

You’re over-happy-words fall flat, receiving only the grouchy look of a 5-year-old barely containing his rage at a world that is too noisy, too scratchy, and just a lot of work.

Enter Ms. Tinkey, and Mr. Kumm, and Mrs. Leonard, and Mrs. Baer and all the people who make the world a better place to be, one child at a time.

Zeke wasn’t just unsure of new places and new faces. For him, this was torture. Going to a new place, having a new routine, was like signing up to listen to nails scraping down the walls of the chalkboard, the sound of dial up internet stinging your eardrums, every moment, every day for the first month and a half of school.

This is sensory overload on steroids.

And I came with my delightful checklist.

“So, he’s gluten free and we try to avoid food dyes, especially the red ones. Sorry.”

“He hates holding a pencil, so if there’s an assignment he can use a marker on sometimes, that helps a lot. Sorry.”

“Sometimes he just needs a moment. Or 12 moments. Or 42 moments. I’m so sorry.”

And to everything I recited, Ms. Tinkey smiled and said, “Yes! We can work on that!” with actual joy. Not just fake niceties, but compassion and perseverance shining through. You see, some kids don’t receive services or have special classrooms, but they need a little extra touch of care. Teachers and helpers throughout the building made it their personal mission to turn that scared, grouchy face into a smiling, happy boy, who wanted to be there. A smile, a high five, the ability to turn down a high five if desired, persistent affection…all these things go a long way for spectrum kids, indeed, for any kid.

This, my friends, is the Lutheran School difference. The staff at Zeke’s school don’t get up to teach and shape the world every day.

They get up to show Jesus to every child every day as well. 

I’m pretty sure that they get tired. I’m sure they get frustrated. I’m sure they wonder if it makes any difference at all.

This blog would simply like to say yes, yes it does.

Your work in reaching in to little hearts, to growing hearts, is vital for my family and for countless other families out there. The world is a better place not because you showed up to work, but because you showed up in their lives. You are woven into the fabric of who they are becoming as teachers and leaders and workers in the kingdom of God and the body of Christ.

You make an eternal mark by being you.

Thank you.

A special kindergarten teacher once taught us this fun little song, that fits perfectly here…

Keep loving on those kids. Keep supporting those families. Keep sharing Jesus. Keep being you.

Happy National Lutheran School’s Week!
*as always, no Zeke’s were hurt in the making of this blog. His permission was asked and granted to share his story.