danacox31

Hoping to share the love, joy, and grace I have received in my own life.

Freedom Through Christ

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” ~2 Peter 2:19

The world promises all kinds of things.  This example of a world’s promise for me is one that I haven’t shared much of.  Following Trevor’s death, although I was desperate for relief from the intense grief of burying my son, I denied taking prescription medication that was offered to me to help me “get through the coming days.”  I knew that not only would medication not take away the pain (it may mask it, but whenever I decided to stop medicating, I would have to face reality) but also that I needed and even wanted to feel the pain.  The grief was the only connection I had to Trevor.  I had memories, but without his physical presence here, the way I felt my son was through the crushing heartache.  I was smart enough to know there wasn’t a magic pill that could cure me, but did end up taking one sleeping pill on the second day to just finally get some sleep.

However, in the coming days, (I can’t tell you the exact amount of time, it may have been 6 months) I began to medicate myself with alcohol.  It started with a glass of wine.  Then became several glasses of wine.  The more I drank, I believed, helped to numb the pain that I was feeling.  After a considerable amount of time and an embarrassing display of stupidity, I came to the realization that I wasn’t at all benefiting from the alcohol.  Although alcohol can seem to be a stimulant after one glass of wine, drinking a bottle of wine causes it to become a depressant.  It took several months, but I realized that the alcohol was causing more pain than it was relieving.  I blame no one, but myself, for the horrible choices I was making, but many people encouraged this crazy train ride.

The world promises us things that look like freedom.  For me it was a freedom from the emotional and physical pain caused by grief.  I learned that the world and everything in it cannot free me from that.  Only God can do that.  The more I dug into the Bible and strengthened my relationship with Jesus, the more I realized that things of this world are NEVER going to relieve my pain of Trevor’s death, but God can certainly help me learn how to manage it.  He does.  Everyday I am reminded that the pains and struggles of this earth are temporary.  A life with a real relationship with Jesus gives me a happiness that cannot come from anything else.  It is an indescribable joy that I want everyone to experience.

1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial.  “I have the right to do anything” – but I will not be mastered by anything.

I am nowhere near where I want to be, but God is working in and through me.  I will always make mistakes and even some bad choices, but I know that the only way to redemption is through my relationship with Him.  We do have freedom to make our own choices, especially in our country.  We are a free people.  Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.  I can’t say I was a slave to alcohol.  I worked a full time job and took care of my family while I medicated my pain with wine.  I see now though that I was a slave to what my body wanted and when Jesus freed me from that, I knew that I needed to serve Him.  Joy is filling my life.  I still have grief.  I still drink a glass (or two) of wine.  I love life and love to have fun with family and friends.  My relationship with God comes first because that is the way I get through everything else in this world.

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Freedom to Serve

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. ~1 Peter 2:16

My goal to write seven consecutive daily devotions on freedom is complete today.  I’ve found it to be a help to me on my new journey and have decided I may be able to keep it up a little longer.

Today’s passage reminds us that although we are free (especially in our country) we need to be careful how we use our freedom.  Back on July 3rd, I mentioned how we serve one master, either God or sin.  In this first letter from Peter, although he is telling his readers to submit to the law of the land (at that time the Roman empire under Nero) Peter is clear to state that we are to live as servants of God. Earlier, in Acts 5:29, Peter stated with the other apostles that “We must obey God rather than human beings.”  In our country we are able to live according to the laws and at the same time to be obedient to God.  If there is something we are being persecuted for, as Christians, it should be for obeying God and not for breaking civil laws.

In looking at it this way, it could be said that we are enslaved to God.  Our freedom can be used as a tool for living a joyful, energetic life in His service.  God gives us these freedoms so that we can reach our highest potential.  We just need to choose to reach for the best God has for us and not be chained by religious rules and eternal guilt.  When we let go of our own desires and begin to answer the call that God makes on our lives, that is when we get to see the real freedom and joy that is available to us in this world through our relationship with Him.

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What sets people free?

Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. ~John 8:32

I wish I could really convey the freedom that comes from a relationship with Jesus.  I cannot explain in words how amazing it is to know that Jesus’ perfect truth frees us all to be exactly who God created us to be, if we just accept him.  Jesus is the truth that sets us free.  In the 8th chapter of John, when the Jews asked Jesus what he meant when he said they would be set free (they were Abraham’s descendants and hadn’t been slaves to anyone) Jesus replied, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  Jesus is the standard for what is right.  Freedom through Jesus is offered to keep us out of the hold of the slavery to sin, from deception by Satan, and from our own deception.  Jesus shows us the way to an eternal life with God.  Jesus doesn’t give us freedom to do whatever we want, but to follow God.

A new song comes to mind this morning as I type this devotion.  I want to share the lyrics with you.

The Gospel (written by Ryan Stevenson, Bryan Fowler, and Toby McKeehan)

A restless generation, we’re turning over every stone
Hoping to find salvation in a world that’s left us cold
Can we get back to the altar, back to the arms of our first love?
There’s only one way to the father and he’s calling out to us

To the captive it looks like freedom
To the orphan it feels like home
To the skeptic it might sound crazy
To believe in a God who loves
In a world where our hearts are breaking
And we’re lost in the mess we’ve made
Like a blinding light in the dead of night
It’s the Gospel, the Gospel that makes a way

It’s the cure for our condition, it’s the good news for us all

It’s greater than religion, it’s the power of the cross
So can we get back to the altar, back to the arms of our first love?
There’s only one way to the father and he’s calling out to us

To the captive it looks like freedom
To the orphan it feels like home
To the skeptic it might sound crazy
To believe in a God who loves
In a world where our hearts are breaking
And we’re lost in the mess we’ve made
Like a blinding light in the dead of night
It’s the Gospel, the Gospel that makes a way

In my own life it means forgiveness, when I know I deserved the fall
It called me out of my darkness, and carried me to the cross
In a moment my eyes were opened, in that moment my heart was changed
Like a blinding light in the dead of night it’s the gospel

To the captive it looks like freedom
To the orphan it feels like home
To the skeptic it might sound crazy
To believe in a God who loves
In a world where our hearts are breaking
And we’re lost in the mess we’ve made
Like a blinding light in the dead of night
It’s the Gospel, the gospel that makes a way

 

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Living in Freedom

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. ~Romans 8:2

Money had a hold on me and I know it is often a struggle for others.  It seems for the past several years my husband and I struggled so much to stay afloat and the financial burden was great.  I began praying about it and toward the end of winter we enrolled in a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class.  The difference that made in our financial situation helped to relieve us both of so much stress.  I literally felt like weight was lifted from me.  Through prayer, work, and guidance from those who knew the program, we were able to break free from the hold of money.  I was a slave to the money I had (and did not have) because I wasn’t managing it correctly.  The freedom that came from that class and the complete restructuring of how Jeff and I handle our finances broke chains that had held us for years.  That’s not all.  I have broken free from so many holds in this life and I know that because I am still in this world, there will be more holds to come.

But I also know to lean on God.  I talk to Jesus.  I love that the Holy Spirit that was present at the creation of the world* is available to guide me today and is responsible for the freedom and power we all need to live the Christian life.  I ask for the Holy Spirit to guide me out of any chains that try to hold me down.  Sometimes I am aware when the Holy Spirit is working around me.  Most often I feel it in worship or prayer.  That little brush of air, goosebumps on my arms, a warming in my body, or whispers to my heart are all ways that I am able to feel or experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.  How do you experience the Holy Spirit?  How are you (or not) living in freedom?  What has a hold on you today?

*Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.~Genesis 1:2

 

 

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Serving Others

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. ~Galatians 5:13

Paul is distinguishing between our freedom to sin and our freedom to serve.  The freedom to sin is really not a freedom at all, because it enslaves us to Satan, to others, or to our own sinful nature.  As Christians, we are free to do right and to glorify God through loving service to others.

The feeling we experience when we do something for someone else (without any expectation for repayment) is a wonderful feeling. It may cost a little money or a little time, but the reward is the great feeling that comes from serving others.  When we glorify God through helping someone else it opens the door to that person to receive God’s love, too.  You never know what small act of kindness might change a person’s outlook.  Often times, a smile and a friendly greeting can transform someone’s day.  It doesn’t take much to show we feel the love of God and are thankful for the freedom we have to share that love with others.  How can you serve someone today?

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We All Have a Master

But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification – and the outcome is eternal life. ~Romans 6:22

It’s true.  We all have a master – either God or sin.  I work hard not to judge others because they sin differently than I do and I admit that I catch myself falling into that particular sin (judgment) more than I would like to admit.  I am continually praying and working through that.

I do know there is no sin from which God can’t set you free.  As a child of God, we no longer have to be slaves to sin.  We belong to God.  We’re chained to him and the fruit of that becomes the sanctification* (the Holy Spirit’s  continual work in and through us as Christians) that allows for eternal life.  This is real freedom.

If we choose sin, eventually the result becomes death.  By choosing God, the blessing is eternal life that begins here on earth and continues forever.  The happiness found in choosing God and living for him is the most liberating choice I have ever made.

*For more on sanctifying grace, listen to Reverend Rob Hamilton’s July 2, 2017 message here . Pastor Rob’s message begins at the 29:40 mark.  On another note, my little brother, Jason, sings a song in the middle of Pastor’s message.  

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Where is freedom found?

And the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. ~2 Corinthians 3:17

When we trust Jesus to save us, he removes our burden of trying to please him and our guilt for failing to do so.  By trusting Jesus, we are loved, accepted, forgiven, and freed to live for him.  I make mistakes all the time.  I have done things in my past that I am not proud of.  Still when these things start to flood my mind, I remember that I have given them to God.  I no longer need to have the shame and guilt that comes from past transgressions because I know that he knows me.  He knows my heart.  He has heard my regret and reminded me that there is freedom where the Spirit of the Lord is.  The freedom he has given me releases the heavy burden of past regrets and reminds me that I am on a new path, a better path.  Although I might (will) still make mistakes, my relationship with him will remain constant.

I wish I could put into words the weight lifted from my shoulders with this freedom.  I had so much baggage from all of the mistakes in my life that it felt like I was wearing a robe of heavy chains.  I didn’t realize the weight or even that I wore that robe until it was lifted off of me.  My whole person has changed.  Life isn’t perfect.  Life happens, right?  Things aren’t always rainbows and unicorns, but the way that I manage the fires that come my way now has significantly changed the way I feel about whatever the issue is at hand.  Prayer works!  How wonderful it is to know that I can’t control everything and that I don’t need to.  That is God’s job.  Freedom is found in letting go of whatever it is that ties us down.  Freedom is found in trusting God, knowing Jesus, and letting the Holy Spirit work through me, in me, in this beautiful crazy life.

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Broken Chains

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. ~Galatians 5:1

I’m trying something new.  My goal is to do this everyday for one week (July 1st – 7th.)  If you aren’t interested in a short devotion each of these seven mornings, you don’t have to read further.

As we enter the month of July, independence immediately comes to mind.  I am thinking of how I have been set free from so much and (more importantly) that I never want to be chained to any of those things that bound me ever again.  Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

The first verse of the 5th chapter of Galatians starts with a clear statement of Christ’s will for our lives.  We don’t need to wonder or worry about Christ’s will for our lives.  Jesus died to set us free from sin but also free of the list of laws and regulations passed down through Moses.  This doesn’t mean that we are free to do whatever we want, however, because that would only lead us back into slavery.  Thanks to Christ, we are able to do what we weren’t able to do before…to live free of the weight of the yoke of slavery to whatever it is that held us.   I have broken so many chains, chains that I hope will never hold me again.  Because I have a personal relationship with Christ, I know that he has redeemed me and wants a relationship with me so that I am able to live in the light of his love and not tied down to addictions, grief, feelings of being “less than”, etc.

Our feelings of freedom are much more important to God than many of the daily decisions that we all seem to fret over.  Are you just as concerned about the command to enjoy your freedom as you are about other decisions in your life?  We have to exercise as much diligence in prayer and study to hold on to this freedom as we do about decisions regarding our home, our job, or our hobbies.  It is a concise and unconditional command: “Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” This is the will of God for you: your freedom…unshakable, tireless, unconquerable freedom. For our freedom, Christ died. For our freedom Christ rose again.  For our freedom he sent us his Spirit.  Freedom from sin, shame, guilt, addiction, abuse…it goes on and on.  The chains can be undone.  How amazing the independence feels when we accept it!

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Splendor of a Saturday Morning

Last Saturday, my husband and I decided to head out to a local wooded area to look for morel mushrooms.  We started out at a little after 6:30 that morning and got to see the glorious sunrise together.  Although we didn’t find what we were looking for, we had a wonderful time.  In fact, about 10 minutes into our walk, I had forgotten the reason we were there.  Besides the beautiful sunrise, we experienced animals waking up, as we were.  We listened for different birds.  We let the beauty of the woods and nature all around us just soak in.  We climbed hills.  (I might call them “steep cliffs”, but Jeff would tell you that I am being a little dramatic.)  In fact, at one point, I mentioned how this early morning exercise made my heart beat strong and energized me.  Jeff’s response, in his boisterous way, was- “Welcome to Jeff’s Wilderness Walk, a great adventure for all!”   Have I mentioned how much this man makes me laugh?  20170422_070948Anyway…a few really special things happened that morning.  If we would have been looking down at the ground, searching for mushrooms, it’s likely we would have missed what we were really suppose to witness that day.  Jeff showed me a huge rock and told me the story I have heard many times (but never enough) of he and Trevor climbing to the top of the rock several years ago.  I looked all around that rock and couldn’t imagine how they climbed it.  When we got around to the side so that Jeff could show me exactly where they went up, the sunshine fell perfectly among the trees, providing a radiant beam of light that warmed our hearts and soothed our souls.  Oh, how we miss our son!  We are so blessed with little reminders and signs of his life all around us.  20170422_070605.jpgThe only part of Saturday’s early morning walk in the woods that I might’ve forgotten (had I not found the beauty in it) was the fight against what we believe to be multi-flora rose bushes.  Sharp thorns scratched my arms and legs.  Avoiding them was next to impossible in some areas of the woods.  Just when I felt like my little Dana-drama-whine might start taking over, I realized that without those little daggers, roses wouldn’t flourish.  20170422_072410-2Isn’t that what our lives are like?  Thorns may stun us for a certain amount of time, but we push through the sticks and scratches and keep moving through to find the beauty that lies ahead.  And oh, there is so much beauty to behold if you take the time to notice it.  Looks like rain this weekend, so we may not get an early morning walk, but I’m sure God will find another way to show us something magnificent.

A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9

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Seminary…WHAT?

I’m not sure where to begin.  This is such an important thing to share.  I am struggling to find the perfect words that allow you to hear the pure joy in my voice as you read this stale typed print.  In my head I am hearing the song “Day One” by Matthew West.  The chorus goes like this…

It’s day one of the rest of my life
It’s day one of the best of my life
I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
Day one

I had an experience just over a month ago that I’m sure I will share at some point.  Today, however, I want to share the outcome of that experience.  God brought me from a dark place of pain and loss to a place of peace and joy that is difficult to put into words, if I want to do the story any justice at all.  In the past when I reflected on my past I saw a whole lot of mistakes and disappointment and pain.  Don’t get me wrong, I have had much happiness in my life, too.  I have felt for years that I wasn’t on the right path…that I was a little lost, that something was off, not quite right.  After Trevor died that feeling intensified.  I’ve shared before that my dad’s boss/friend, Jack, gave Daddy and I both a copy of Adam Hamilton’s book, “Why?: Making Sense of God’s Will” the week following Trevor’s death.  Don’t let the title fool you.  I don’t believe that it was God’s will for Trevor to die.  (We have free will in this world and that’s a whole other topic I can address at a later time.  Bear with me.)  After reading that book in just a couple hours, I knew that I had work to do.  I shared with Pastor Kim, our pastor who was with us when Trevor died, that I was so angry with God.  Pastor Kim told me that my feelings were o.k. and that God was bigger than my anger and that I just needed to talk/yell at Him about it and just not give up or give in.

The book Jack shared and Kim’s response to my anger with God set me on a new path.  Although I began this new path blindly, I know now (somewhat) of where it is leading me and so much of all of the 47 years of my life are beginning to make sense.  I have a peace that I cannot explain…a peace that really and truly passes all understanding.  I have a joy that is so deep in my heart I feel like I am just going to burst if I don’t share my news.  I have decided to follow Jesus.  No…really.  I have decided to follow the call that I received 6 weeks ago.  With the help of special people in my life, I am discerning how to best use the gifts that God has given me to answer the call.  At this point, I am anticipating returning to school.  I am looking at seminary and considering working on a Master of Divinity.  I want to share with the world the joy and peace that have come following a life of all kinds of hurt, disappointments and shame, followed by tremendous grief and loss.  God is real.  He’s alive, present, and active today.

I will still blog about the grief of losing Trevor.  That will never leave me.  In fact, I still spend a great deal of time working with my grief.  I have learned it is a part of me.  This is nothing short of a miracle to me that God has pulled me from the deep dark crevice of grief, picked me up, dusted me off and set me back on solid ground.  I feel under-qualified and sometimes get overwhelmed, but where He leads, I will follow.  I was reminded during my devotion time this morning of a story that I can see myself in.  As Joshua was leading the Israelites to the Promised Land, God instructed that the priests carrying the ark of the covenant should go ahead of the people and that when they reached the Jordan they were to stand in it.  The priests did as instructed.  The water was cut off and the Israelites all walked across the Jordan River…in the middle of the Jordan River on dry ground.  Not only that, but once everyone had made it across, one man from each of the twelve tribes was instructed to go back into the middle of the Jordan River and pick up a stone to carry with them.  The stones would serve as reminders of the time that the Jordan River water was cut off for the Israelites to cross into the Promised Land.

OK…maybe my story isn’t quite on that scale, but I am putting my toes in the water.  I have faith that God does what He says He will do.  I have Trevor in my heart as my symbol, carrying him with me always, reminding me of how God never let me go.  God didn’t leave me, no matter how I was feeling toward Him.  He didn’t forsake me.  He loved me.  His mercy and grace saved me and I want to share that with anyone that will listen.  Faith isn’t a noun.  It isn’t something we just have.  Faith is something that we do.  I am not positive where God is leading me.  I am absolutely positive that I am following His lead.  I know it won’t be easy, but I know He will get the glory in whatever I do.  I hope you all will stick with me through this incredible journey.  God is so very, very good.  I hope to keep this blog going as a journal, of sorts.  I will still write about grief and loss.  I will write about surviving and new beginnings.  I will write about fun things my family is up to.  Mostly, I will write about God and how he pulled me from the fire of grief, dusted off the ashes, and is helping me change the definition of broken.

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