True Freedom—It Can Happen in a Moment and Last a Lifetime

by Texas Stready

I spent part of last weekend waiting for freedom from jail. Sad to say, I’m more familiar with the get-out-of-jail process then I’d like to be. What about you? Maybe you’ve never been arrested, but you’ve definitely been detained in one way or the other. We all have.

It’s easy to get stuck. A problem with your bank card or passport, a grocery line or traffic stop, or maybe you’ve found yourself taken hostage by a customer who asks too many questions or a clerk who has too many answers. Being held up doesn’t exactly promote feelings of joy. Not usually, but my latest trip to the pokey still has me dancing a jig.

Sweet Freedom

Never thought I’d be happy to go to jail. Happy? The sound of the steel door’s ominous welcome always dismissed any form of cheer. But not this trip. “They can’t keep me here.” That’s all I could think.

Ecstatic. That’s a better description. Even now, the recollection brings a rush no clever word can illustrate. There’s been nothing like it. Not in my whole life. Enlightening experience. A bitter reminder of entrapment and a beautiful revelation of freedom—all in the same glance.

All Jails Look Alike

Incarceration. The end of the line. As an addict, it’s like being held for ransom by a second kidnapper. No matter where you are, you’re not really free. Crazy but true. In one instant you’re scared of what you could do, and in the next your horrified by what you can’t.

It’s a been-there-done-that, kinda thing. I know what inmates wear, what they eat, how they talk, and how they think. Nothing’s changed. Nothing but me. I discovered a new fact. Remaining free brings purpose. It builds a relevant platform you can use to share your heart. A hopeful light at the end of someone else’s tunnel. Sweet! 

Know Your Role

I suppose I’ll never see things like the average person does, but some things are true no matter who you are or where you’ve been. The need for different always demands effort, but in and of ourselves we’re incapable of lasting change. This is always true.

Most of us care way too much about things that matter way too little. We deplete our power resource by focusing on what we can’t accomplish. God has given the appropriate amount of get-up-and-go to each of us. (Romans 12:3 VOICE) Faith is not given so we can get up and go our own way, but so we have the strength to do it His way.

And I’m doing it. That’s why when they handed me the mic, I had no fear or reservation. I knew what to say to make them laugh. I knew what to say to make them cry. Not because I’m a fabulous performer, because I’m living proof. If broke-down, busted, can’t be trusted Texas made it out—so can you.

It’s All Relevant

Change. No matter how you view it, it’s an essential part of healthy living. Maybe you’ve heard it said, “God uses everything.” Well this word-picture gained sharp clarity as I traveled with Jack Murphy, into the jails of Orlando, as an advocate of grace.

The Inmate Encounter—Hit Squad (as I call them)—are people who have made the change. Or maybe I should say exchange. They’ve let go of regret and shame and picked up forgiveness and mercy. Swapped humiliation for healing, and traded their past for His future.

Proud to announce they’ve invited me to be a sharpshooter on their leadership team. What?

The Second Act

Are you feeling the resistance of change? Emotions rarely point us in the right direction, yet our nature rebels when we feel suppressed. I think it’s safe to say, no one wants to be forced to do anything. Although God has the power to enforce whatever He wants, He doesn’t get-down like that. Submission. An unexpected and ingenious escape plan.

No matter where you are in the struggle, true freedom is available. It can happen in a moment and last a lifetime. If you let it. You see, the final production isn’t dependent on us. Yeah, we play the lead role in our life story but the world renowned Director is pure perfection. Literally. Recognizing this removes hesitation and replaces insecurity. It develops the beauty of our artistry and frees us up to do our thing.

This show is turning out to be quite the blockbuster. It is. Hard to believe God wrote this spectacular part specifically with me in mind. Amazed. That’s what I am. And I pray daily that I’ll remain forever starstruck by the character of Jesus Christ.

No one knows you better than your Creator, and He has cast you in a part that suits you alone. The time has come to pick up your script, and learn your role in the greatest story ever experienced. Yours.

Lights. Camera. Action.

Thoughts on Turning 74

by Cathee Poulsen

“I have aged…My skin has the crinkled appearance of wax paper that someone has tried to flatten and reuse. My eyes fail me often—in the darkness, when headlights flash, when rain falls. It is unnerving, this new unreliability in my vision. Perhaps that’s why I find myself looking backward. The past has a clarity I can no longer see in the present.”  ~ The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

Last night as the timer lit the lights on the deck railing, the lavender twilight caught me away to a series of moments that brought both tears and laughter. I guess I’m getting a bit nostalgic as I turn 74 this month and I couldn’t help but linger on the richness of the life I’ve lived.

What are our lives except a series of experiences strung together in sequence, some of which we remember with shame or regret, but by far, ones we remember with joy and pride? At least those are the ones I choose to dwell on these days.

When I get fearful or things get complicated, I remind myself of this verse:

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).

Then I say, “It’s okay, Cathee. The Lord has brought you this far and He won’t quit now.

Looking Back with a Smile

May almost always recalls the hot morning near the end of sixth grade that I decided to pick a gardenia from the back yard and pin it to my white Peter Pan collar before I set out for school. I don’t remember any time before that day that I intentionally “dressed up” before school. The smell of gardenias never fails to bring forth that memory of me innocent and on the cusp of ending one season and crossing over that summer to another.

Walking into the chapel at Riverside Baptist Church, April 11 1959, to see the entire front by the platform covered wall to wall with flower arrangements for my sister’s funeral. My six young male friends the pallbearers, the man who led me to Christ – Dr. James Parrish – officiating, and my white pique dress. Everything else is a blur. I will always be a sister.

The first time Bob Poulsen kissed me and how different it was from what I’d expected. Four years older than me, a man about town of 20, and I only 16, I don’t know what I expected. It just wasn’t the very sweet tender kiss I received in the back seat of Dick Perkins Bonneville going over Biscayne Bay on the Venetian Causeway. I melted then. Still do.

Me at Florida State, in bed one night, all the lights out in Bryan Hall, when from down on the ground between the buildings, in perfect harmony, the male voices float up in the darkness to our window,

The girl of my dreams is the sweetest girl

Of all the girls I know…

The blue of her eye and the gold of her hair

Are a blend of the western sky

And the moonlight beams on the girl of my dreams

She’s the sweetheart of Sigma Chi

I never discovered who the lucky girl was they singled out that night, but the moment has lasted.

Three years later, Bob and I kneeling by our bed in the honeymoon suite at Key Biscayne Hotel, telling Jesus we wanted our lives to center around Him. That nothing else mattered more than that. And how we’ve kept that promise.

The morning I left the hospital in LaMirada California and they wheeled me by the nursery window. A nurse held up the bundle wrapped in soft pink. No name. Me shut down and bleeding inside, pretending I would be just fine. Wondering who would care for her. It’s one of those moments you never forget.

And then 20 months later holding a tiny newborn with light red fuzz all over his head, knowing no one would ever take him away from me. He got the love of two children and who knew someday they would be friends. How can one even imagine these things at the time?

O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways! (Romans 11:33).

Passing the academy recently where my kids went to school and feeling that deep ache rise in my heart. Such joy every morning when I dropped them off, Journey playing on the radio, them so excited to see friends, the basketball games. Before the hard days rolled in.

The memories crowd my thoughts like bees in the apple orchard at autumn, but time constraints limit the telling.  I’ll never run short of past experiences that still bring a smile, like walking into the lobby at Port of the Islands and pausing to listen to 150 women chattering away, enjoying their overnight for the women’s retreat, anticipating what the Lord will do over the next 24 hours. Knowing I envisioned this and now experiencing it.

Waiting at Southwest Regional Airport for the flight that would finally bring that first baby to my arms, after a 40 year separation, as one friend described “Imagine the racket in heaven Saturday night when angels fill the concourse, the din of flapping wings joining in hundred-part harmony of song, and it all rises from the ashes as Dori walks that birth canal between the plane and your arms.”

Weekends on Little Marco Island, Kate lighting the kerosene lanterns along the screened-in hallway, the bonfire outside, us girls celebrating communion together, then enjoying a meal compared to no other because of our tropical setting at the island house.

The publication of my first book. Holding it in my hand, tears flowing. The first time Dori called me “Mom.” My 50th Anniversary party with everyone present.

Worshipping with 13,000 others in Gwinnett Arena at Catalyst. No sound like that one, joy rising as we sing “Oh, I’m running to Your arms…”

Texas standing in morning’s early light, holding a paper bag with her clothing in it, and Pierce, arms flung out as he runs to her, me knowing she is finally free, not only from the metal bars but her past.

Watching my three sons, each of them craftsmen in their own fields, do their work with such excellence it leaves me breathless.

And Now…

There is a sweetness as we age that softens the hard edges of our pain and loss. We are less likely to take things so seriously, things that never really mattered in the first place. And if we have matured in the love of Christ, knowing Him better, receiving His favor, we are able to bestow it on others with gladness.

I no longer fear getting older. My hair is almost gray now and I don’t look like I did at 16 or 25 or 40. I am not middle-aged. I am in the twilight of my life. And that’s where this very long trail of memories began.

May you find joy in what you have learned, the people you’ve met along the way, the friends who remain dear, the precious members of your family, and the experiences you’ve had with God. This life is not all there is, my friend. And the best wine is always saved until last.

True Relevance – Want Some?

by Texas Stready

I cracked the blinds Monday morning and was thrilled to see the sun shimmering off Lake Clay. At 10 AM I pulled on my bathing suit and headed towards the dock. Not for sun, but to begin my spring/summer swimming routine. When my feet hit the mucky bottom the smell of algae filled weeds slapped me square in the face. Ewww, is this really necessary?” I wondered.

By the time I reached the midway mark my arms were burning. Like every pain we encounter, the ache triggered an escape plan. “You’ve lost 45 pounds; swimming across this lake no longer has relevance.” Then a movement to my left interrupted that thought pattern. It was Christi, the friend I’d invited to swim with me. She’d been there all along, but because I was so focused on me, I practically forgot about her.

Where’s the Love?

Last year my grandson made a comment that swelled my skull. “Nonas know everything.” As I further considered his remark I realized, Pierce’s respect for my insight springs from my dedicated love for him, rather then my unmatched brainpower. This tells me, if I want to affect people’s lives I must first establish relationship with them.

I met Christi when she showed up in my family group telling a story that was similar to my own. Her car was hit by an eighteen wheeler a year prior, and what the downtime cost her most was muscle mass. Swimming’s a painless way to regain muscle and I know this first hand. That’s how I got her out here.

I know you seek importance too, but true relevance is only achieved when our choices are motivated from a heart of love.

Time spent with Christi has given us a love for each other. I’ve come to learn that physical pain is a constant since her wreck, and I want to help her make that different. That’s why I can’t turn back. You see, she’s horrified of gators and she’d never swim across this lake without me. Not Christi.

Relevance is More

People are a trip. We’re well rehearsed in “the arts”. The art of make-believe. The art of manipulation. The art of instant gratification. Like me, I’m sure you want to stop actively pursuing things that don’t bring beauty. Let’s work together on becoming the kind of people who lengthen our love stroke and broaden our spectrum of influence.

Want true relevance? Then find an artful way to effectively meet someone else’s needs.

At A Radical Difference, here’s what we believe is relevant:

★ Recognizing our significance to God is what gives us value

★ Listening to His whisper makes what we do beneficial

★ Seeking new insight enables us to clarify how to help others

These three things are about growing and changing. They’re a must if we hope to make a radical difference in the world we live in.

Actions and reactions determine our beliefs, and beliefs dictate what we categorize as relevant. Healthy living isn’t all about me. Once we learn to put self on a shelf, our behaviors take a new course. The Holy Spirit is our Swimming Coach, and paying attention to His constant direction gives every move we make true relevance.

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