Category Archive: Freedom

Celebration and Supplication

As we celebrate America’s freedom today, I pray we will put aside our differences and thank God for this country.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson

Yesterday we enjoyed a wonderful outdoor church service, with bunting strung along the tent and church. We thanked God for the freedoms we experience in this country. And we were reminded to look to Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, Berean Study Bible) for our confidence and hope.

Christina’s dance of praise

Christina shared her testimony of God’s faithfulness. Two years ago she was declared cancer free after having Stage 2 breast cancer. “I am so thankful. And that is why I dance.” We saw her gratitude in the beautiful routine she performed to the worship song, “From the rising sun to the setting same, I will praise your name. Great is your faithfulness to me.”

After church, we enjoyed hot dogs and tacos, snow cones, games for the children, a bounce house, and face painting. Most of us stayed for at least two hours before going home. Don and I enjoyed visiting with different friends and watching the fellowship around us. We were family, delighting in hanging out together. And yes, I got some face paint!

When I was in turmoil over the hostility present in our country, one of our pastors reminded me, “I have never relied on the government for my security. Governments change, leaders change. My faith is in Jesus Christ.”

So, as we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as a nation, as we pray for change in the areas where it is badly needed, let us also remember that Jesus Christ, our hope, is over and above all.

man holding bible
Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:1, 13

Light in the Darkness

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

Isaiah 9:2 NLT

This scripture was the theme of our West Coast Christian Writers’ conference last weekend. And I thought how meaningful this verse is at this time in our world. Some of you know my family, and Don’s, emigrated from Ukraine in 1929 (mine) and 1874 (Don’s) in order to pursue freedom of worship and from oppression.

With Mom at great-grandfather’s grave (Abram Frose, later changed to Froese) in Ukraine

I looked through a powerpoint presentation I made after my Mother and I visited Ukraine on a Mennonite Heritage Cruise in 2006, when we were both widowed. A wealth of memories and emotions flooded back, and I wanted to share some of these with you. Most of Ukraine’s people eagerly hold onto their independence (despite those Russia-backed separatist groups Putin is now recognizing). I hope these photos will help put a face to the people and land of Ukraine as we pray for them.

At right is a photo I took of my great-grandfather’s house, with his initials, “AF”, still present in wrought-iron at the peak of the house.

This is the entrance to a root cellar, which became the children’s hiding place when bandits attacked the Mennonite Villages.

Original home of Franz Isaac

At right, a group of six who traveled to my father’s village of Schoeneberg. Our tour leader, Olga Toews, is on the left. This was the home of the grandparents of the two gentlemen in the back, and the woman in babushka and apron was kind enough to invite us in, and to assure the brothers the floor was still solid. Most of these homes had been divided into two or three units by 2006.

Mom and I, along with cousins Irene and Peter Prieb (at right) met two of my father’s cousins for the first time, the women on Mom’s left and right in the photo above. The man behind me is the son of one of these 80-something physicians. Their father had married a Ukrainian woman and so, never left the country. He was later executed.

Amazing variety

Mom and I traveled by boat to a fishermen’s village, where our host and hostess had stayed up all night to prepare an amazing feast for us – traditional vereneki (cottage cheese dumplings), sausage, meatballs, parsley potatoes, cheese herb bread, and much more. Mom got sick on the fruit punch. Perhaps we should have tasted the vodka instead!

According to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, “For churches and humanitarian aid workers, the echoes of 2014 and 2015 still haunt {the Ukrainians}. In the last outbreak of violence, ‘We saw more than a million people [displaced],’ Father Vitaliy Novak  remembered. Based on that, he worries, this conflict ‘will be, I think, much more, a bigger size.’ With the clock ticking, he and other organizations are desperately trying to get their hands on medical supplies, clothes, extra food. “We pray to God it [doesn’t] happen,” he said, because for now, “we don’t have any resource[s].”

The New York Times 2/21/22 stated, “While Mr. Putin’s ultimate plans remain a mystery, a full invasion would constitute the largest military action in Europe since World War II.”

Please join us in praying that light might be seen in this very dark situation; and that God’s people will have strength and God’s grace to endure through conflict.

Purge of Terror – Again?

close up of wheat
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February, 1929. Ninety-three years ago Joseph Stalin began a policy focused against Ukraine, requiring all landowners to transfer their farms and cattle to the State (collectivization). He then increased grain quotas so that farmers were unable to fulfill them, resulting in a mass genocide during Holodomor (1932-33), where about five million Ukrainians died of starvation, often putting one foot in front of the other until they fell where they stood.

While the famine also caused mass starvation in the grain-growing areas of Soviet Russia and Kazakhstan, political decrees and decisions were aimed mostly or only at Ukraine, causing more deaths there.

people from village walking in field in winter time
Photo by Plato Terentev on Pexels.com

Stalin’s purge of terror is well remembered in the Ukrainian psyche, resulting in a passion for independence and a strong sense of nationalism. When my mother and I visited Ukraine in 2006, people were proud that they were again using the Ukrainian language rather than Russian. We saw the house that had been my great grandfather’s, with his initials, “AF”, in wrought iron at the peak of the house front.

I saw the graves of some of my ancestors, and met first cousins of my dad’s who never left Ukraine. Since their father married a Ukrainian woman, he stayed–and was later executed by the Soviets. It was wonderful to meet them, and fun to communicate as best we could. I know a bit of German, which these eighty-something women knew. Mom could understand and speak the language more fluently than I, and saw a picture they brought of my father playing with these women when they were children. Oh, how she longed to take that picture home–she had none of Dad as a child, since he was twelve when his family was granted exit visas.

lady of justice statue under blue sky
Photo by Mohannad Marashdeh on Pexels.com – Statue of Mother Russia
map showing european countries
Photo by Anthony Beck on Pexels.com

February 2022. Today Ukraine is again being threatened by neighboring Russia and Belarus, with a possible invasion beginning within a week. I pray for these people who have suffered greatly under Communist oppression.

One man said “We’ve been under this threat for eight years. We will fight back.” May God give them hope, and be with them as they fight to retain their independence.

You’re Free

I was driving down the Grapevine between Los Angeles and San Jose. It was late, dark out, and I was alone. We didn’t have cell phones at that time. With little traffic on the highway, I was making good time. Without warning, a car on the side of the road burst into flames. Not just the engine–the whole car!

flame digital wallpaper
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Stunned, I didn’t know what to do–and by now I had passed the car, which was still burning. Were there people inside? Could I do anything to help in the middle of a fireball?

There was nowhere nearby to stop and call for help. I prayed and kept driving. That was about thirty-five years ago, and while it hasn’t consciously been on my mind since, the scene and the horror I felt have stayed in my book of memories.

So the last four weeks I’ve taken a Community Emergency Response Team training course–“CERT”. Two hours on zoom, Tuesday and Thursday nights for three weeks, then an all-day hands-on training Saturday. I have learned so much about very basic triage, getting under rubble to release trapped people, and checking vital signs before the professionals arrive. Don and I volunteered to be part of The Villages Emergency Preparedness Committee, which led to this further training for me. While my knowledge base is still small, I know a bit more about what to do as “first steps,” in the event of a major earthquake or fire. CERT is nationwide, and the link to the San Jose program is https://www.sanjoseca.gov/your-government/departments/emergency-management/be-trained/community-emergency-response-team-training. The training was well worth the time invested, both for responding personally (i.e. family and home) and within a local community.

ethnic man fastening boxing gloves on woman
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We had several work stations yesterday–triage, building checks, fire safety, immobilizing broken limbs, and removing debris to do light rescue. At the fire station we learned to aim the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire. I’ve never actually used an extinguisher and it felt good to feel the pressure and feel confident using one. After we practiced putting out our “garbage can fire”, I said I’d always wondered what happened with that car fire I saw years ago. The instructor said there was nothing I could have done as a person alone, except become a victim myself.

I thanked him, and a young woman near me put her hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re free.”

I teared up at her sweet gesture, and thought, isn’t that just what Jesus does for us? When we confess the ways we’ve pushed him away, the times we’ve walked away from him, and ask his forgiveness, he is right there to say, “You’re free. Your sins are gone. The past is wiped clean.”

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

James 1:25

What a gift! “You’re free!” I’m thankful for the young woman who expressed that to me, and reminded me of even greater freedom in Christ Jesus.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

II Cor 3:17

I pray you and I will live in freedom this week!

post by carolnl | | Closed

Set Free … by Music

Georg Friedrich Händel was born in 1685 in Brandenburg-Prussia.

At the tender age of nine years, Handel began composing church services for voice and instruments every week for three years. As he grew and his talent developed, he worked as a composer in Italy and then England, becoming a German-British Baroque composer well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. 

Handel became a very successful composer of big, bold musical arias and operas for London society. At that time, going to an opera was not the semi-formal, reverent event it is today. Instead, listeners walked about, eating and drinking, spitting, booing, and sometimes rioting if they didn’t like the song. Handel even started three commercial opera companies to supply Italian opera to the English nobility.

in 1737, exhausted by stress, Handel suffered what appears to have been a mild stroke which impaired the movement of his right hand. Fans thought he might never compose again. However, after a six-week course of treatment in Germany he returned to London to continue composing. Six years later he suffered another stroke. Again, Handel’s audience thought he would no longer write but, once again, he stunned them with a quick recovery.

Handel did quite well with his big, bold music until that style went out of favor. He lost everything and went bankrupt. He is said to have suffered from anxiety and depression. One of his friends, Charles Jennens, sent him a letter filled with Bible references about the Messiah, the Chosen One God would send to redeem His people. Not being a religious man, he set these aside for a time. But when he picked them up and read of the promised Messiah in Isaiah, the coming of the King in Revelation, he locked himself in his study for twenty-four days straight, hardly eating or drinking, to complete this oratorio.

After twenty-four days Handel’s servant heard weeping behind the door. Forcing it open, he found Handel inside, tears streaming down his face. “I think I did see all heaven open before me, and the great God Himself,” he said. He determined to conduct the premier performance of THE MESSIAH in Dublin around Easter of 1742, with the goal of freeing many locked in prison for debts they could not pay. The oratorio received rave reviews and exceeded expectations, raising 400 pounds and paying the debts of between 142 and 157 prisoners.

Imagine those 150-ish men and women bending over, leaving their cells, bodies likely stiff from lack of exercise, as they walked through a low-arched stone passageway into the outside air. Glimpse their joy as their debts were pardoned and they returned to their families to start anew.

This is what Jesus Christ came to give us–new life, hope, peace, love, and purpose.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10, ESV

What a picture of the redemption Christ offers us. For a sin debt we cannot pay, the penalty of which is death, He came to earth, born and placed in a lowly manger, and grew up to show us God’s character. He, the one person born without sin, then gave His life as a ransom for all who would receive this free gift.

So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son, does not have life.

I John 5:12, TLB

Handel continued to share this oratorio, donating significantly to the London Foundling Hospital for abandoned children and infants.

Throughout his life he was known as a generous man. Never married, his will divided his assets among his servants and several charities, including the Foundling Hospital. And to prevent his loved ones from bearing the cost of burying him, Handel donated the money to pay for his own funeral. He was buried in Westminster Abbey a week after his death. 

It is said that when England’s King George first heard THE MESSIAH, and its closing Chorus, he stood in awe of the King of Kings. That began the tradition of standing during the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus.

In 2010 the Philadelphia Opera Company gathered 650 vocalists (in guise as shoppers) at the heart of a three-story Macy’s which had a large pipe organ installed in the center of the store. As the organ began the introduction to THE MESSIAH, the singers joined in for a fabulous flash mob. I hope you’ll take the six minutes to watch this, look at the faces of those who stop to listen, the hands raised in praise, the cameras taking in the sight and sound of this “Random Act of Culture”. I found it extremely uplifting, and hope you will too.

May you rejoice in the coming of Messiah, once as we celebrate Christmas and the babe born in a manger; and with the promise of His return in the future.

And He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!