Broken Chains

Oh, the inspiration and the irony. The past few days have been full of both. Normandy, France, was to me…a piece of history. That is…until yesterday when I experienced this place of beauty and blood-stained sand–where a decade before I was born something happened that continues to affect my life today.


I reflected on the lives of the young men and boys who landed on those pristine beaches over 70 years ago at the “beginning of the end” of World War II. I watched  videos of survivors describe that fateful day when many of their “band of brothers” fell. Preserved in a museum, their belongings tell their stories. I heard those stories, told and untold. My heart felt sad, full, grateful, and inspired as I walked among the 10,000 white crosses commemorating men whose bodies never made it home. I saw name after name of men who once lived and walked as I imagined the futures they never lived. In my mind’s eye I saw the tears their families cried. They fought for my liberation and I left inspired. 20150428_122259

As irony would have it, today I am in Berlin, Germany–once home to “the enemy.”  I greeted two of my friends and colleagues, one who is German and one who is French. My French friend shared that his father-in-law, who lives in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, where the bloody D-Day battle was fought, was sixteen years old when the invasion came. Tears welled in his eyes as he spoke of stories his father-in-law had shared with him. I needed to hear those stories…to learn of the past that changed my present and future. 20150427_161849

My mind goes back to a sculpture in Sainte-Mere-Eglise that stirred my soul. It’s entitled, “The Day They Came.”  20150427_110537 (1)Once-chained hands reach upward..but the chains depicted were broken chains.

As a women’s minister I am often with fellow Christians. I spend time teaching and listening…and learning. I marvel at ways I see God at work. This past Sunday was a glorious and historic day in Paris, as four elders were appointed in the growing, loving, and lively church there. That same week four Parisians (college, high school, single, and adult) experienced “broken chains” as they were baptized into Christ. Tomorrow I will be with numerous Europeans while we learn from the Bible during the Spring gathering of the European Bible School. The fellowship will be sweet and the bonds tight. Cooperation and unity will continue to be forged–as they are essential for showing Jesus to the continent. French, German, British, Canadian, American, and more…all will be there–united in purpose and filled with deep and meaningful love for each other. This is all because many years ago someone came and paid the price required to break the chains of our own (my own) pride, selfishness, and everything else opposing God’s loving plan.

I’m reminded of the words of President Reagan at the 40th anniversary celebration of D-Day.”If we forget what we did, we forget who we are.”  In the spiritual realm (which is the part of us that can’t be buried under a tombstone) I’d change one word.  “If we ever forget what HE did, we forget who we are.”

And that’s the truth. The sculpture of the broken chains would read…”The Day He Came.”

That day changed everything…and he is still the only who can break the personal chains that embitter and enslave us…and the social chains of hate, prejudice,and entitlement that separate us. We are all level at the foot of the cross of Jesus.  If we ever forget what he did, we forget who we are.

We aren’t meant to be chained. We are loved, valued…and because of his amazing grace…worth his unthinkable sacrifice. Thank God for broken chains.

Tomorrow, as I stand arm-in-arm with dear friends, fellow workers, spiritual brothers and sisters–my allies.,.the ground will be level, as it is always is at the foot of the cross. I will stand grateful for what Jesus did. Because of that, I know who I am.

“Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” as arranged by Chris Tomlin

     Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
     ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
     My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
     The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
     My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
     The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Will be forever mine.
You are forever mine.

Can A Truck Say “Choo-Choo”?

My two 2-year- old grandchildren were having a discussion this morning.  My daughter summed up the context of their debate.   Lexi was trying to convince Micah that trucks could say “choo-choo”.  Micah was countering that only trains could say “choo-choo”.  That sound was not for trucks, but reserved for trains.  After some friendly bantering, they both agreed to disagree and moved on to their next game of taking “pretend naps” on the floor.

I thought about this discussion and smiled at their imagination.  I could picture them and each of the trucks and trains in play, along with the corresponding sounds they would make while playing.  Some of these particular trucks have seen a lot of play and actually talk quite a lot.  This one drives me crazy sometimes, barking out “Caterpillar Power”  just when I think it is fast asleep in the toybox.  I can tend to personalize toys.  I still take care putting the baby dolls away.  I want them to be warm and comfortable 🙂

So, can a truck say “choo-choo”?   I suppose,… but I think it would be  better said by the train. We are each created with different strengths.   I’m often struck by how similar but different each one of us is. We each have specific  ways we can particularly and uniquely use our experiences and gifts.

I love God’s church and the way he puts all her parts together.  Like an orchestra, when each part is doing what it does best and is working together – the resulting harmony  is stunning.  Everyone is important, everyone is needed.  Our differences teach us how to honor one another.  We are not meant to function as a church of one.  God has put us together for a reason.  We need each other.  God has planned and designed for us to function together as a body, a family, a household…his church.  We are meant to love each other and belong to each other.

Romans 12:1, 3-10

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship…

    For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. [4] Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, [5] so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. [6] We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. [7] If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; [8] if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

    [9] Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. [10] Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Today I am so grateful for the ways I see those in the church around me devote themselves and offer themselves – to God’s service and to the service of “one another”.    Like the truck, I will likely do best when I “vroom, vroom” rather than “choo-choo.”  However, I desperately need the “choo-choos” surrounding me.  We all need each other’s uniqueness amidst our unity in conviction and purpose.   May we each wholeheartedly offer ourselves – and what we uniquely contribute to God’s church.