A New Year, new beginnings–Freedom, Life and Peace

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 (The two pictures today are from my nightly walks.)

As I ponder a new year, I want there to be more freedom–more grace–more life, for me and for my sweet friends.

I ask you, humbly today, to bear with a ramble of thoughts and words, for so it is.

Being immersed in beauty, pink sunsets, crisp breezes blowing in the trees, walking in the quiet of my mountains is almost a craving, a necessity of my soul. Free-spirited from birth, I love the wild, the vast color of God in creation. It matches my personality and suits my soul. I have to get away from the grasp that culture sometimes has on me,  to be able to breathe in God’s presence.

Nearing 60, I am reflecting more on what really matters in life and reflect on what is really true.

Today in church, I spent half of my time making faces at the baby in front of me in the arms of a parent to see if I could keep her happy–her little smiles gave me such pleasure.

A few days ago, I came upon an unsuspecting child of mine who was singing at lung-tops and dancing around the living room–I joined in enthusiastically.

As I  survey the landscape of people I have known, very few really seem to have stilled their soul enough before Him to be amazed, and to live in the freedom and generous love He provides every day–to have that excitement bubbling up because of the fun, life, beauty that comes from knowing Him and living fully alive in His creation.

To dance, sing, laugh uncontrollably, to love deeply, to drink from the pleasure of life He has allowed, even in the midst of the fallen places-this is to know Him and His presence every day.

Yet, surrounded by people who know how to be good but who seem uptight and judgmental, kills my soul; who know many rules they live by and talk about them; who pressure their children to behave by forcing themselves upon them because they are bigger–but these parents seem to lose their children’s hearts or neglect to enjoy the antics of their childish personalities. The priority, instead, is to have their children fit into the box of their preconceived expectations–and that just does not work.

Some define themselves by the name of their church, but Jesus will define them by how much they loved.

These, who energetically espouse what their brand of Christianity is; or the boxes they live by; or stand in judgment the people that don’t live by their rules,

condemning the lost for being lost, when only God can do so–

I have been there, done that–but legalism kills the heart and spirit of life. Rules are broken because we can never be perfect–and neither can anyone that we love, be perfect.

So living by works, and then the circle of disappointment that ensues, only creates more of a sense of failure and hopelessness.

But I long to be with those who live in mystery and have learned a little about it over the years. The mystery of His infinite wisdom, glory, power, and willingness to do miracles through those who are looking and listening for Him. This is what I love, long for and wanted to pass to my own children-

not laws about Him, but the Love, wisdom and beauty that moves Him.

I do not look at limited me–but I live, as His toddler, growing little by little, and knowing He will hold me, protect me, love me, because it is His nature and he is  a good Father who will see to the well-being of his immature toddler.

Religion does not satisfy

But, really, no wonder Christianity has not had an impact in our generation–we are offering a religion but not a person; things to do, but not one who transforms and heals hearts.

What a waste of time. God is not impressed by how well we know the rules or by how hard we try to keep the law. He came so that we did not have to strive so hard, because He knew we would never succeed in life without His power and redemption.

But, when I am in the presence of one who has been with Him, whose life has been changed by His unconditional, gentle, generous love, then my soul is fueled to be in that company. 

When one has walked in the presence of the Servant King and been loved and served by Him, one is different.

When I am in the presence of one who is filled with His life, it causes a burning and excitement in my own soul.

What troubles my heart greatly…….

However, I am deeply troubled by the people I am surrounded by who seem to live in bondage–unnecessary bondage of inadequacy, and always feeling the weight of their own shortcomings and sin upon their own back.

Bondage of fear of what might happen in life, or to children, or to finances.

Bondage to flesh–trying to put more effort into doing it right, striving to achieve a holy life, trying to be a perfect mom or wife or friend and failing again and again.

Bondage of the expectations of others–performing by other’s standards and boxes and opinions or the bitterness of others who have wounded them.

Such a waste of energy and life for precious people who do not have to live that way.

And living in the bondage of performance and works makes living through marriage, friendship, mothering children–from young, teens to adulthood, impossibly difficult, because there is no formula that covers all the possibilities, temptations and experiences, so formulas and rules will always disappoint and confuse. 

It is only faith in the One who knows, that gives freedom to live apart from bondage.

Jesus just does not want us to live in defeat.

At 60, I I know more than ever before, I still can’t be perfect–but I am more grateful for His provision and love and seek to live in His grace and deep gratitude for what He gives.

All of these things flurry around and create voices in our heads and weigh down souls and leave darkness, unless we choose to live in the light.

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But where He is, there is light. He came because the people living in darkness needed a great light.

He is the light of the world.

I call the Christians who live by so many rules and isms and pressure, the ones in the Christian Bubble.

My children have laughed at me this week because they noticed so often I say, “I just hate the bubble.” and they know what I mean.

So, though I could write volumes and thousands of words some day and be more organized with these thoughts, but I am off to celebrate life with my girlies who are home.

But this year, this new year,  I wish you, and pray for you peace–rest–grace–freedom.

I am going to spend some time today putting my finger on those things that steal my joy, that take from my love, faith and freedom and then make a new plan to be in the mystery and glory of His presence and joy more often every day, so that when people are in my presence, they may draw from Him who is there, alive and fresh and powerful and mysterious.

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“It was for freedom that Christ has set us free, therefore keep standing firm that you may not be subject to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

May this new year, mark a beginning of a new time, when you and I invest in Him, and in the reality of His kingdom. And daily may we celebrate His magnificent love, that others may be blessed in the shadow of our lives that crosses their paths

And stand firm in the freedom that we were meant to experience.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for sharing sweet truth, Sally. God has been revealing things to me about these things for the past several years. Are we really LIVING a relationship with Him, or just trying to check all the boxes of what a Christian is “supposed to” look like? Thank you for your refreshing perspective, and Happy New Year!

    Jeanette

  2. Becca says

    I got big crocodile tears from reading that. It could be pregnancy hormones, but it could be God stirring up something in me. Praise the One who speaks through you Sally C!!!

  3. says

    Goodness, just when I’m feeling in the dark and ‘boxed in’, your words are like a sign-post showing me the way to a glorious party. Thank you for taking the time to share.

    Susan

  4. Elaine says

    I have experienced his love and felt him carry me and,I do walk with him in a free open manner now, since my last child was born and God gave his mercy to all of us. I’m not good at putting the words together as you are, you are gifted. I will just say… Yes, what she said!

  5. Abby says

    I needed this today! I have been guilty of getting caught up in all of the “rules” of Christianity this past year, and it really will steal your joy. The word “freedom” has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m thankful for the freedom I have in Christ and THAT is what I want to focus on this year!

    Thank you for your words, they were truly what I needed this morning!

  6. says

    Oh my word. Amen, Sally, amen! You don’t know how much this ministers to me…I was JUST talking about some of this with some friends who are struggling and I encouraged them that when I feel weighed down it usually because I stopped comparing myself to Jesus and starting comparing myself to others. I have a LONG way to go, but oh how grateful I am that the Lord has been helping my heart open up and be willing to receive this truth and LET GO of crazy, unimportant things!!! And to live filled to the brim with His joy! THANK YOU!

  7. Jessica says

    AMEN, Sally! As always, thank you for your words of encouragement and exhortation…He is using you greatly in the lives of younger moms like me!!!

  8. says

    Sally~ I live in with people who are “in the bubble”…it truly is draining of joy and GRACE that HE offered us….I think I’m going to print this post off and leave it somewhere for a family member to “find”… my life may never be one of complete freedom from “bondage”, but when the”conviction burden” I agree to carry for someone else in my life becomes too heavy, I KNOW Jesus gave me the GRACE to put it down (even though it causes trials)… I just LOVE YOU SALLY! You have touched my life and given me HOPE that I can be ME in Christ and it’s ok…THANK YOU and God BLESSINGS to you…(I’m getting “older” too- sad to have lived my life in the “bubble” for so long…but makes the “freedom” even better though in my 40′s LOL)

  9. anuradha says

    Happy New Year Mrs. Clarkson! I am an Indian mother, a Hindu by birth and a lover of God and I am also so happy Jesus came into this world! Thank you, for your accepting words reach out to all of us, for after all, all living beings carry the light of God within them, big or small, whether born in America or Africa or China or India, whatever language we may speak, whatever traditions we practice. So let’s all learn to love and communicate with each other, and care for our planet, and live simply, and trust and forgive. Your words have helped my self-confidence and I think this is very important as a mom of two Indian-German boys full of questions and curiosity, and a whole lot of wild boy energy! May 2013 be a year filled with peace and blessings for the whole world!

  10. Victoria Cusack says

    After writing out my final page in my 2012 journal and reflecting on a very difficult year in which God showed Himself faithful through it all and His message to me was “stand firm” . I opended up my email to your post today and was so overwhelmed by His confirmation through your words and testimony! Thank you for so lovingly sharing your heart and shining the light….I’ve been blessed by your presence and by the power that shines through you from Him who lives in you! Blessings to you and your family for the coming year!

  11. Joan Girkins says

    You communicate this issue so well and with such grace, Sally! It is so sad to see people shriveling up spiritually because they are trying to live their lives in their own strength; that is exactly what they are doing when they cling to the law. God’s purpose of the law was to show us the exact opposite~that we CAN’T live the Christian life ourselves, by a bunch of rules. But the law was to show us that we are living in bondage and to point us to Christ who will set us free! Living life with Christ is such an adventure; it brings such joy! Thank you for sharing your hear with us!

    “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

  12. heartkeeper says

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU Sally, for saying these things – so VERY rare to hear any of this! So VERY encouraging to hear it. You are such a warm mentor to me from afar. I am so thankful for your heart.

  13. Grace says

    Much love to you, Sally! I read this right after my new year’s meditation from Matthew 4-5 and jotting it down in my journal. Your words are in sync with the thoughts and desires that He has given to me for this coming year. It thrilled my heart to know that I’m following the path of a godly woman who strives to know Him more.

  14. ~Lynn says

    “I call the Christians who live by so many rules and isms and pressure, the ones in the Christian Bubble.” ~Sally Clarkson
    “My children have laughed at me this week because they noticed so often I say, “I just hate the bubble.” and they know what I mean.” ~Sally Clarkson
    ________________
    Sally,
    I like your article and agree with the direction of thought for the most part. What I don’t agree with though is the mocking or how can I say it, the non-loving, full of no-grace towards…. those who are different. Isn’t that exactly what your article was about? I know from whence I speak. I have read on another blog about a year or more ago, a ‘christian’ woman, full of grace…. mocking christian women who wear jean jumpers and in a big way, putting them down as if they weren’t good enough. How hurtful that must have been to the women who wear jean jumpers and love their lifestyle. Are we just putting on a pedestal, our way of thinking, exalting the scriptures that give us ‘Let’s claim this mountain, chest beating rights’? Or…. should we practice that grace that we so readily speak of, promote and write about? Shouldn’t we carry and use it as a soothing balm to the masses of hurting, bleeding and wounded souls? Shouldn’t we apply the grace, the love and the mercy we so much need ourselves if we were truthful? Ladies who wear jean jumpers! Hey ladies….! YOU are welcome here! You are welcome here with your choices that others mock! Hey you ‘Bubble Christians’! YOU are welcome here too, with all your rules and laws, chosen by free will, to apply to your life. Because Christ has room for ALL! The true body of Christ looks beyond and doesn’t mock, the exterior of the christians and the non christians alike. But welcomes them to sit at His feet and breaks out the soothing balm of Gilead to soothe the wounds of life that come about just by living.
    Who are any of us to Judge? Oh I know… “He that is spiritual, judge….”. I think we should best leave it up to the pastors to take care of their individual flocks. But we christians…. how many of us will rescue or even stretch out a kind hand to a living soul, no matter what their beliefs, and offer them a cool cup of water? Kind, Christlike words and acceptance can melt the hardest soul and can mend the most wounded spirit.
    Bubble christians…? Jean jumper ladies….?
    Shouldn’t it be, “You are always welcomed under grace.” “You are always welcomed and accepted in Christ’s Love.” HE loves you… and WE love you!
    - By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves]. John 13:35 (AMP)

    • Sally says

      Thanks for commenting, but I fear you missed the focus of my article. I never named who the Christian bubble was–I am friends and companions with women who wear jumpers (I have worn jumpers!)–not sure where you picked up this one?! and ones who don’t. I have friends on every side of the issues and feel that when all of us fall before the feet of Christ, we will all be humbled and in awe. I don’t believe that I ever said anything about clothing. Having worked in most of the continents of the world, I have broadened my views of God as I don’t think he is just American or that he prefers my denomination, though it is the one where I worship. Every country I have worked in has a different history, different clothing, different ways of living life and prefer different food and hold church services differently–but those who are filled with love and passion for Christ and who have compassion for the lost, stir my own heart for Christ. But my article is about those who live in bondage and impose those standards on others and create strife because of their heart attitude.
      I also hate to see young women suffering under the bondage of legalism—laws that they and their children will never be able to live up to. I see defeat, insecurity, critical attitudes, fear, harshness, lack of love, scars, rebellion in so many places because of those who were bound to rules but never met or offered Christ. I totally agree with you that those in the world will know that we are Christ’s disciples by our love for one another. To me, the ones in the bubble are those who live for their philosophy but not for the king or the kingdom. I embrace and hold hands with many of different backgrounds and values–but I weep at the destruction, in the name of Christ, that comes from works oriented philosophies which separate and alienate so many from what scripture says.

    • Sally says

      I so appreciate all of your thoughts. Thanks for commenting, but I fear you missed the focus of my article. I never named who the Christian bubble was–I am friends and companions with women who wear jumpers (I have worn jumpers!)–not sure where you picked up this one?! and ones who don’t. I have friends on every side of the issues and feel that when all of us fall before the feet of Christ, we will all be humbled and in awe. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. I don’t believe that I ever said anything about clothing. Having worked in most of the continents of the world, I have broadened my views of God as I don’t think he is just American or that he prefers my denomination, though it is the one where I choose to worship. Every country I have worked in has a different history, different clothing, different ways of living life and prefer different food and hold church services differently–

      but those who are filled with love and passion for Christ and who have compassion for the lost, stir my own heart for Christ. But my article, and the Christian bubble, is about those who live in bondage and impose those standards on others and create strife because of their heart attitude.

      I also hate to see young women suffering under the bondage of legalism—laws that they and their children will never be able to live up to. I see defeat, insecurity, critical attitudes, fear, harshness, lack of love, scars, rebellion in so many places because of those who were bound to rules, but never met or offered Christ.
      I totally agree with you and with scripture, that those in the world will know that we are Christ’s disciples by our love for one another. To me, the ones in the bubble are those who live for their philosophy, and in the pompousness of their box, feel free to judge others, but they do not live by Christ’s ways of Matthew 5-7, and for the king or the kingdom. I embrace and hold hands with many of different backgrounds and values–but I weep at the destruction, in the name of Christ, that comes from works oriented philosophies which separate and alienate so many from what scripture says and the harsh ways of human judgment, which in scripture says must be left in the hands of God.

  15. says

    Amen! Beautifully said!

    The last Sunday Afternoon Tea post I wrote before taking a short blog break was about “Why I Celebrate Christmas”. I knew I’d step on a few toes when I talked about legalism (although I only lost one Follower, I didn’t check any other numbers).

    As I mentioned in that post, I have never known anyone who came to Christ because of rules. I’ve known many who left the Church, Christ, and the Christian Walk because of unnecessary rules.

  16. Amber says

    Hi Sally….
    You have described me perfectly (the one living trying to be perfect, feeling weighted down by my own sin, trying to get my kids to live up by those rules too…..not enjoying their antics….etc). I have wanted so long to be different, and I don’t know how to stop being this person that I am. I continue to pray for the Lord to change me. I can see the tiniest of improvements, but it never feels like it is enough or soon enough. I have been reading your blog for a while and I can’t tell you how much I encouragment, hope and inspiration it gives me. Thank you. I have a ticket to attend your conference in CA, and I am so looking forward to it. Would you please please please please please please please pray for those of us “in the bubble” who so want to be set free from it???? I want to live in that glorious freedom that Christ came to give us. I get so close sometimes and then I’m back in my old self, living by the law. My head knows it, but my heart doesn’t seem to get it. Even when I read the gospels (except for John….I’m reading there right now and it is encouraging me)…….but the other gospels often leave me feeling like Jesus just gave me a new set of rules to live by…..and he seeemd harsh at times with the disciples. I just struggle so much with law vs. grace. Again, my head knows it, but I want TO LIVE IN GRACE AND FREEDOM…..JUST LIKE YOU DESCRIBED!!!!!
    PLEASE PRAY FOR ME!!!! May 2013 be the year he sets me free. I look forward to meeting you in CA. Thank you again for ALL you do and the inspiration that you are!

  17. Cheryl Johnson says

    I find so many of your posts inspiring and this one definitely is. I’m a mom who struggles with forcing my kids to do what I want. I struggle with living with love and laughter and grace. Thank you, thank you for your constant reminders. I really do appreciate what you do. You radiate a peace and warmth that truly is inspiring to me. Thank you.

  18. Lynn says

    Sally,
    I am not sure if my ‘reply back’ email was removed or just didn’t go through.

    I feel it’s only fair for me to clarify what I perceive was misunderstood.

    The issue wasn’t clothing I was referring to, although I mentioned jean jumpers. It is the ‘labeling’ of other christians who may not believe like ourselves. It just goes against everything I know Christ to be. Love for all will always be the defining measurement of all people when we stand before Christ.

    God Bless You.

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