Bondage

PrisonIt’s one thing to feel a little distressed or stuck.  Jordan was way past that.  Jordan’s soul was imprisoned, and he saw no way out.  His winsome smile and kind eyes belied the addictive behavior that Jordan was powerless to control.

Haley had a soul prison of her own. Her chains bore the marks of a woman who felt completely alone and desperate for connection – any connection.  Her life zigged and zagged from trying too hard to living as a virtual recluse.

For Joni, the imprisoned soul took the form of simply assuming that her life would always be this way.  Her dreams long dead, Joni spends her days going through the motions of a life stuck in mindless ruts from which there is no escape.

How about you?  How free are you to dream, to feel, to choose? Do you have the power to choose joy, love, or paths to fulfillment? Do you still believe, with conviction, that it’s possible to live the live you have imagined, not just the hand you’ve been dealt?  If the answers to those questions are, well, questionable, maybe you, too, have an imprisoned soul. [click to continue…]

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No one prepared me for how empty the Emptiness could be…
How vain the attempts would be
To fill it with things and times and feelings
That were never designed to satisfy.
It was like dropping feathers into the Grand Canyon…
Always wishing for a little more time and a little less wind.
(A few more feathers would be nice, too.)
But I would never have known the deep satisfaction
That only Your love could provide,
Had I not known the void created by a life
I tried to fill on my own terms.
But I know now I’m loved
With a love that fills deeply and completely.
And in this satisfied life… I’ve been blessed. [click to continue…]

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This may be a leap, but let’s assume for a minute that you know what it is you want, and you’re pursuing it.  I don’t mean what you’re conquering in your search for lunch.  I’m talking destiny, journey-of-desire stuff.  Maybe it’s to influence or gain the approval of someone.  Maybe it’s wisdom to make good choices or the ability to do something that’s hard or impossible for you right now.

Regardless, have you ever noticed that sometimes getting there feels like an eight-lane highway?  And other times, the minute you start moving in that direction it feels like you just turned onto a muddy jungle trail?

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the journey launches like gangbusters, but then stalls or stagnates?

Chances are, you came to a fork in the road and made a wrong turn.

Robert Frost was right in his famous poem about the two roads and choosing the one less traveled by.  What he failed to mention was that life or any worthwhile pursuit is a series of forks in the road, not just one.  One road leads to a path that makes it easier to pursue your dreams; the other leads to mediocrity, failure, and defeat.

Appearances are Deceptive

Paths that lead to mediocrity and failure are well-worn and popular.  They require the least mental effort or “soul work.”  But what starts off as the path of least resistance quickly turns to the path of resistance-beats-my-brains-out.

Other paths may appear to require a lot of work or may leave you feeling isolated and alone.  But somewhere in that spiritual, emotional, and mental work you activate forces that begin to carry your load, increase your speed, and move you in the direction of your truest desires.

The other tricky part about these forks in the road: [click to continue…]

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Brad is a living legend… at the local bar.  At first his mostly-daily trips were his way of unwinding after a stressful workday.  But over the years, one painful situation after another brought Brad to the point where he lives pretty much continuously between buzz and stupor.  Offering the standard denials and predictable claims that he can quit anytime, Brad has long ago crossed the line between soothing his nerves and declaring war on his soul.

Sandy is a shell of the girl she once was.  The once-vivacious high school and college student now sits in her immaculate apartment, trying to stay busy enough to avoid the reminders of how alone she is.  Estranged from her family, deeply disappointed by marriage and even motherhood, Sandy has never let go of the bitterness that ultimately seeped into every corner of her life.  To a stranger, Sandy is a hard-working professional with impeccable taste in decorating and fashion.  But the excellent exterior hides a war-ravaged soul. [click to continue…]

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This has been a season for sinking souls.

In California, two very dear friends are facing their second-greatest fear as their son is deployed with the Marines to Afghanistan.  They know the promises of God.  They know full-well that every other military parent or spouse has walked this same path.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the emotions are more than they bargained for.  Tossed about and beat up, their souls are sinking.

Here in Lubbock, a bright young professional had launched a successful and lucrative career when his work was upended by petty, jealous people.  He lost his job and another significant source of income.  And though he was innocent of the lies told against him, and though he has bounced back in a different setting, he still retreats to an emotional cave of isolation, as if he were totally guilty.  Broken, bewildered, and just going through the motions, his soul is sinking.

In my home state, a once-confident, faith-filled woman lives in the wake of one of the most grotesque griefs of all – the death of a dream.  Sure she had heard from the Lord about her future, and bold in her expectations of how He would order her steps, nothing has turned out as expected.  First the heartbreak.  Then the waiting.  Then more disappointment.  Now rudderless and aimless, she feels powerless to choose any direction… her soul is sinking.

However committed or expectant you or I are, none of us is immune to the sinking of the soul. [click to continue…]

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“If only I could build an exit ramp.  Something that would allow me to escape the rules and the never-ending expectations.  Why doesn’t he realize that I’m just not cut out for this kind of life?  That he and I would both be happier if I were on my own?” 

Sound familiar?  It should.  Thoughts like that are repeated daily, as people try to define freedom in their own terms. 

We all long for authentic freedom – the power to make choices yourself, and joyfully live with the consequences.  The good news of our relationship with Christ is that He came to set captives free! Unfortunately, many believers fail to experience that freedom because they pursue a counterfeit form of it in one of two directions

In one of the most often-repeated stories in the Bible, Jesus reveals God’s heart toward His children.  It’s the story of a father with two sons – an older one who served faithfully for many years, and a younger son who longed to be “funky and free.”  Each son pursued and believed in his passion.  Neither understood the life of joy and abundance their father wanted to give them because each pursued passion in his own terms.  One sought it through pleasure, the other through outward performance.  To the younger son, freedom meant license to do what he pleased.  To the older brother, freedom meant legalistic obedience to the rules. 

At any given time, you, too, can be a Prodigal or a Pharisee.  All it takes is a desire to find freedom apart from an intimate love relationship with God.  [click to continue…]

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This is about asking yourself a simple, but profound question about choices and consequences and serving.  Choose well, you’ll live well.  Choose poorly, and you will serve the consequences of those choices.  

Moses understood that.  Just before his death, he called an assembly of Israelis and reframed all the things that God had taught him.  We call it, “Deuteronomy.”  Here’s what Moses had to say as he was wrapping things up:

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land (Deuteronomy 30:19-20, NIV).

There’s one example of the diagnostic question:  Am I choosing life or death?  It’s a powerful question about the path we are on.  A friend of mine has started using this to frame his everyday decisions – what he eats, his business decisions, his family relationships. 

Jesus offered another way to frame your choices. [click to continue…]

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ball-and-chainThe Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (Isaiah 61:1, ESV)

There’s something you should know, though I’m not very proud to say it.

I’m an ex-con.

Ex-convict?  No.

Ex-condemned?  You betcha.

Ex-consequences?  Uh huh.

Ex-con man?  ‘Fraid so.

I lived on the wrong side of a legal system for a long time, and wound up in prison.  But don’t go looking for my name in some Federal or state criminal records.  I haven’t messed with Texas that much. [click to continue…]

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