Friday, April 12, 2013

Locked Up! (a Freedom Friday post)

To continue the “unveiling” of some new blog themes I’m going to try for awhile (to aid in accountability with consistent posting, among other things)…welcome to Freedom Friday! I hope you were able to visit this past week for my first Makeover Monday and again on Whimsical Wednesday. Today…I return to a more life application/devotional type posting. That’s “Christianese-speak” for I’ve experienced a LOT of junk in life, and I’m still here to tell about it. Maybe you can relate?

Prison Pic

I’ve been in prison.

Whoa…wait…don’t run away. Let me explain.

I’ve not been in the type of prison you might be picturing…the one in the movies with the “bad guys” behind heavy steel bars wearing orange jumpsuits. Although, in many respects, my prison experience might have been just as bad. No – I’m certainly not trying to diminish life behind those “real” bars. I have come to love some precious women friends that I correspond with, on occasion, who are living in very real prisons as a result of some mistakes they’ve made along life’s journey. Their prison experience is nothing to belittle. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It’s real.

But, I’ve allowed myself to be locked up…in my own self-made prison. The one I’ve crawled into with every life-altering, life-damaging, difficult situation I’ve ever endured. At times, I’ve served a longer sentence than at other times. My prison became a place of refuge…a place of escape in all actuality. I didn’t have to face the situation that ushered me there…I just had to “do my time”. The “punishment” may have been self-imposed, at times, feeling like I deserved it. However, there were many other times where I was thrust into a prison – NOT of my own choosing – by circumstances out of my control. In either scenario…my response to the “prison-induced punishment” was my own.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve endured some pretty shocking…let’s just call it “yuck”…in my life. You know the kind…stuff you might see in a Lifetime movie or daytime soap opera but don’t personally ever have to confront in “real life”. Then again, there are many of you that have walked paths much more horrific than mine. I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter the level of difficulty in the grand scheme of things…what matters is our response to it and our ability to allow ourselves to be healed from the damage that resulted from it.

Let me introduce you to a couple of men that I’ve come to call “friends” although I’ve never personally met them (yet)…their names, Paul and Silas.

Paul and Silas were unfairly imprisoned…they were stripped, severely beaten and then thrown into the INNER prison with their feet fastened in stocks. But…it’s what happens next that makes me smile…that makes me want to jump up and down, wildly clapping and hollering for joy…

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” ~Acts 16:25-26, ESV

Did you notice what happened? AS they were praying and singing to God…they were set FREE! God didn’t set them free and then they chose to offer up praise to Him…it was while they were in the thick of it. I love those guys! It was their actions that I read about many years ago, coupled with the grace, love, and mercy of Jesus Christ that enabled God to set me free from several of my own prison experiences!

When my previous husband passed away…I entered another prison, of sorts. I grieved in that prison…HARD! But, at the beginning of my prison experience…within minutes of learning my husband had passed away…I CHOSE to offer up praise to God. I vividly remember sobbing and saying, “I still praise you God…I still praise you anyway.”

I had many dark, dark days…but, I still prayed…I still praised. Was it easy? Not. In. The. Least. But, I wanted to be well…and, I knew that if God could free Paul and Silas in the miraculous way that he did…He could certainly do that for me.

One day…He did! He unlocked my chains, and I began to walk in freedom. I stumbled at first…sometimes I even attempted to crawl back to prison, but I could almost hear Abba say, “No Leah. You can’t go there. I set you free, remember? Keep walking with me, and you’ll feel the effects of that freedom soon.” It took a little time, but I did just that.

I allowed God to shower me with grace and mercy.

I allowed God to heal me.

I allowed him to set me free!

Father, I lift up all my blog friends and readers to You right now. I pray and ask You to set free any of them that are still “locked up” in prisons for “time” You’ve never asked them to serve. I pray You would stir their hearts for the desire to have freedom…TRUE freedom that can only come from You. Show them how to pray again…show them how to praise again…or perhaps for the first time. Pour out Your love so deeply upon them that they can feel their chains loosening and eventually falling at their feet. Thank You, Lord, for setting us eternally free through the redemptive death of your Son, my Savior, Jesus. And…it’s in His name, I pray. Amen!

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