“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

Independence Day.  The 4th of July. Fireworks, BBQs, potato-macaroni salads, Red-White-Blue desserts, friends, and family.
 There is something special about our nation’s birthday – it’s one of the few parties that most people enjoy attending.  Whether celebrating with neighbors, friends, relatives, and even strangers, something about it changes us – if even for a moment.  We relax a little more, smile a little bigger, and laugh a little louder – we share an experience that reminds us what freedomis all about.
But what if every day were like that?  What if we lived each moment of our lives carefree – trusting that there is One who really has it all under control?  Not actinglike there is nothing wrong, but accepting life as an experience.  What would we experience if we relinquished our control – or the control we think we have?  Jesus came so we might have life – and live it to the full! He came to bind up the broken-hearted and to set the captives free!  To set us free from our sin, from the bondage of our shame and guilt.  He died for our sins and rose again so we could know and share a relationship with God unlike any other.
I don’t know where you are at this moment in your life.  I know there are loved ones around me who have experienced great loss, and loved ones around me who are left without answers and confused.  I know there is pain, anger, hate, sorrow, loneliness, and malice in this world, but I also know there is One who overcame the world!  He is greater still. 
God sees us in our pain and in our muck, in our sorrow and in our joy.  He knows the moments when we are ready to “throw in the towel” and call it quits, and He shares in the moments of our greatest achievements.  He smiles when we smile, and aches when we ache.  I imagine what we feel is nothing compared to what God feels for us.  Maybe, just maybe, He allows us to experience things that make us feel, so we can begin to know Him.  Maybe He walks with us through those difficult moments, because He knows it will keep us raw and real.  Maybe those moments are what experiencing life is all about. Maybe we are the ones losing when we try to stifle our emotions and experiences; losing a sense of why we are here. 
Life does not come without challenges, but even with those challenges there is growth. And if there is growth there must be life and hope.  That’s the glory of Jesus!  He came to wrap up and mend our broken hearts; if we’d never experienced the pain of a broken heart, how would we ever be able to know the wonder of His healing love?  If we’d never experienced the weight of bondage, how would we know the joy that comes from being made free? 
My “birthday wish” on this 4th of July is for each of us to rest in that carefree moment.  To take in the joy and laughter of friends and family – ourselves – and even the awe of fireworks, and trust that God has something even greater – a freedom that extends beyond that moment and challenges us to live life to the full.
Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for my freedom. I know that it was bought at a price – the price of your precious son.  Please help me to remember that, not only today, but every day.  Help my words to be kind and uplifting, Jesus, and help me to remember that all things pass through Your hands, even when I don’t understand why. 
I love you.

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