Baby Beadle Day #7:
Woke up this morning to the sound of my own bones creeping. Feeling too much like an older man today, but the strength was clearly not going to come from the coffee (even though I properly blessed it) but from somewhere else. You see, every morning for the first year of Lauren and I’s marriage, I committed myself to letting the words of the Lord’s Prayer be the first words out of my mouth, immediately followed by becoming aware of my breathe and repeating it again until I was aware of the presence of God. It was not so much because God needed to hear it, but because I did!
[Disclaimer: No, I’m not Catholic, I’m some sort of evangelical/radical-reformed/Anabaptist/Anglican fashion, treasuring the ancient confessions of the ante-Nicene fathers, the strong bible teaching of the evangelical church, the power of the Spirit in the Pentecostal tradition and the revival Fire found in the early Methodist fathers type of “mere” Christian. All in all, I’m a patchwork, and although I’ve predominantly identified as a charismatic my whole life, I married a Baptist girl. I promise I’m not confused, just curious.]
But today would be the first day I wouldn’t see my son since the day he was born. I went back to work and Lauren visited Declan in the hospital. It became just a normal day for a normal feeding. And it is in these routines, which fill our mundane days with life, we are reminded that every day is not going to be a high, and it’s up to us to be grateful for what God has done and keep believing for Him to do greater things.
Declan has gained one ounce since yesterday and his vitals look good. Although, I’m certain his new nickname will change from “Ducky” to “Neo” because he keeps ripping his IV’s out, they were forced to put the IV in his little head. I was crestfallen immediately after receiving the photo I’ve attached this message to, but the little dude keeps ripping the needle out! And once again, as much as it pains us, we have to keep accepting that this is for his good. [Disclaimer #2: Yes, Neo is a reference to the Matrix and if you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go watch it now. End transmission.]
The Lord’s Prayer can become very boring, but that is only if one thinks it is a request. It sounds like a request, but it isn’t. It is a full blown declaration of what has happened and is happening now. As Jesus said, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. “Force” in the Kingdom are not the tanks, artillery, bombs or the drones. The power is in the praying itself. When we call upon His name, amazing things happen and that “force” is a different kind of force. A love that wins, wins by healing both opponents, not simply aiding one.
Now, I know I’m getting a bit “preachy,” but I’ll ignore the impulse to tone it down to a tender 25-minutes-before-the-offering-is-taken-up and simply say this: Faith is not a feeling. Faith is trust. Trust is developed when times seem cold, and even when the rope we keep tugging on doesn’t sound the alarm, we still resolve ourselves to trust that what we know is more important than what we feel. And today we felt cold.
Instinct and the Spirit are not necessarily synonymous and we are learning to restrain the “feel” in order to access the “real.”
To be honest…
I was kicked out of a church when I was only 15 years old. It was a week long youth event and the pastor was frustrated that a bunch of teenagers would be leading worship for an event they were chatting through. After all, once the Word of God was opened, it was a holy moment, and talking would be equivalent to selling drugs. Consequently, we were asked nicely to leave.
That night, through tears, I heard the voice of God for the first time. It was in that place I learned the truth of who God was, even if Christ’s church didn’t carry out His heart to every rascal just waiting to be discipled! I have no problems with being myself; I just have what people have called a restless spirit. And how chilling to think that when we are disappointed, it is within those moments that something is about to happen that could be greater than expected, something like hearing a healing voice. Declan is back under the phototherapy lamp we thought he was previously released from, and although we don’t understand it, we keep trusting through the confusion, which we know is when it really counts.
In the midst of disappointment and some major recent heartache, we do what we know to do: breathe the Lord’s Prayer. We don’t necessarily say it every day, but Jesus didn’t ask us to say it word for word every single day, but to pray prayers that sounded like that one. Prayers that tugged on heaven and split earth at the seems, reveal a world beyond that which we didn’t have to die in order to access. A kingdom unshakeable and living in a Body that Jesus Himself promised to love and protect, even when we didn’t. But I did today what I normally do after I breath the Lord’s Prayer: I stand up and say, out loud, that God is in this place! Try it sometime; I know it will impact you. (All credit for this discipline goes to Dallas Willard)
Baby Beadle Day #8:
Declan is one week old today, and this marks one of the more terrifying weeks I’ve ever experienced, but at the same time one of the most surprising. Some people don’t like surprise parties, and in all of this, Declan didn’t give us an option to decide how we felt about it any way. Therefore, we chose to accept it anyway and love as though it was the greatest surprise in human history. When the whirlwind calmed down, it turned out to be an incredible and worthy experience.
I think we (Lauren and I) both had our expectations for how this whole “pregnancy” thing was going to go down, running over the different scenarios and coming up with possible solutions (none of which actually happened). As parents, we feel an immense level of responsibility but whenever the pressure begins to mount, all it takes is one look at Declan and it is enough. Suddenly, and without warning (like his birth), the strength to carry on is there.
Today did not begin as one of the best days, as I thought a lot on how responsible I might be for some of this. I mean, how many of us wonder, “was it my fault?” How responsible am I for this kids life, is at all me or some of me, or what if this all hinges on my effort? These questions plagued my, what Harper Lee calls in her new (old) novel, the watchman of my soul: the conscious.
We are so fond of declaring long religious platitudes that include a statement of how it’s all God and none of us at all. This is a favorite line of thought in American theology, which is hard to believe we actually believe in when one can clearly see the fruit of our “dependence” on God in this country: independence. But how much of it is us and how much of it is God?
I’m reminded of the story of the worship leader who, after leading an incredible time of corporate praise, was encouraged by the pastor for how good he was. After the pastors encouragement, the worship leader says, “Oh pastor, it’s not me. It’s all God.”
“Well son,” the pastor responded, “I didn’t say it was THAT good.”
The “no longer I” that the Apostle Paul speaks of is not alone or finished. Paul continues: “…but Christ who lives in me.” When we talk about God doing it, He isn’t doing anything alone, for this is the doctrine of the trinity, where God is acting in community always. And if the Holy Spirit is in us, it is not simply God alone, but God in community and then through Christ He includes us. When Jesus works, He works through us, as us and in us.
The “I” of the self is dead in Christ and a completely new person has arisen from the ashes of the cross, and the living out of that grace is what Paul called “glory.” It is no longer I, but the mystery revealed is Christ IN us, the very hope (expectation) of glory. And it is not simply a bunch of forgiven Christians that creation longs for to arise (Romans 8), but those forgiven to become sons (daughters) of glory.
What were we expecting with Declan? Today he went back under the lamp but as of tonight, he will be off the IV, and it will be a journey of gaining weight and then we get to finally take him home.
The great John Wesley once said that God does nothing apart from prayer, and even if none of us pray, Jesus would still be praying. So no, God does nothing apart from our prayers, and yet there would still be prayer if there never were.
Are you confused yet?
Lest we forget, this is how we govern: prayer. The governing body of God, otherwise known as the “church,” is learning to rule, but it’s not through coercion or force, but through love perfected in suffering.
Thank you for praying saints!
Baby Beadle Day #9:
Are we predicting the story?
I looked and waited to find a sanctuary, a pilgrimage I could go on, a lane I could merge onto that would bring me to the point of peace. After spending a bit of time looking, I realized the most remarkable thing: too often I have moved from place to place, in order to find something without doing what I should have done all along, which is stare at the issue full in the face.
Over the last week or so, there have many times where Lauren and I both felt helpless, disconnected and lost, and yet chose to trust in that Someone who is greater, and we found something entirely different, something more than a hand to hold: a trail to blaze. Declan is not a son of pain, he is a son of more and better.
We don’t believe that God caused Lauren to have a seizure in order to birth Declan early, we believe that God has brought something beautiful out of something that we felt was hopeless and certainly it was not harmless. This has been dangerous. But I think a somebody like the Creator of the heavens is not so much concerned with how easy we want it, after all, He made a universe that is so unsafe that half the time we don’t know what it is we are observing and in the end, the only response could be awe because there is no way to tame the universe. How could one tame a tornado, hurricane (hello Texas!), or sunset? The answer: we don’t. We simply embrace it and allow it to fill us.
With Declan, we have chosen to embrace it. We can’t tame it and the doctors can’t explain away how he has broken every expectation that has been put on him. Sure, a reasonable person could sit back and say, “Well, that is just how baby’s work, they surprise us,” but I see it like this: it is a mystery that is being impacted by prayer. And it is right here, in this moment, we are full of that Rabbi from Nazareth, and all of his teachings and doings, and we see them in that hospital room. Lauren and I are what one might call, “empty tombers, and ‘not’ empty nesters.”
There isn’t anything in that old tomb.
I know because I’ve been there myself, and it wasn’t that interesting. What I do find interesting is resurrection, but in order to get to Sunday, you have to go through Friday.
Finally, we feel like we are coming out of the whirlwind, and in spite of all of the people who are asking us, “What is next for the Beadles,” we are content in uncertainty, because we know that if we rest in that, the possibility of something greater can be created. Creation only ever comes form chaos, and if our world is so ordered to the most minuscule detail, there isn’t a chance for something interesting or even surprising to happen. God could very well have written probability into the universe, as well as chance. How many young couples do I know who long to be married, but they feel they must wait until that next big career move or opportunity to open up, almost as a sign that they should move forward. What I tell people like this is, what if this person whom you love dearly, for their own sake, is in your life to help accomplish those things. But you’ll never get there without them, so enjoy and commit.
Are we predicting the story? Instead of predicting, we have chosen to do something different: enjoyment. How many of us are stuck spiritually because we think that all God wants from us is a submissive robot? What if the majority of his attention is focused on a desire to enjoy us, and for us to enjoy Him? We all want our kids to carry the principles instilled in us, but what if our primary objective is to enjoy our children.
We think, feel, and believe something could happen, but often all we have to draw on are our old experiences. What God did with the Israelites during the wilderness years was fascinating: He let them camp out wherever the cloud appeared, but as if without warning, God would move the cloud and the people were forced to pick up everything and roam with God. The same is with us. We have an encounter or experience of God or something greater, and then we want to camp out in the knowledge that was gained from that experience rather than move forward to another place. And I believe this is at the heart of what Jesus means when He says, “Disciple.” We are all students, and sometimes it is better to be found yearning in expectation than full of certainty in yesterday’s stale revelation. We move forward, further up and further in.
Baby Beadle Day #10:
I wasn’t sure how to begin this entry, and compared to the other 9 glorious (just kidding) posts this is the latest offering I have to give, and hopefully those of you who are night owls will appreciate the chance to process my thoughts while the moon is out instead of the sun.
Declan is off the IV and fully able to eat and breathe on his own, so all it is now is a waiting game for him to gain weight. If he can sustain his own breathing while eating for another 24 hours, it looks as though we will be bringing him home as early as next week if he gains enough weight.
Now, this is where it gets difficult.
While I was at work today, a pain developed in my chest that felt like something close to an anxiety attack. The pressure in my chest began to intensify to such an extent that several times I had to stop working and just regulate my breathing. I didn’t know why, and it really wasn’t the appropriate time to be having a nervous breakdown, or an anxiety attack.
After I arrived home, Lauren was very gentle and attentive with me. She inquired as to how my day went and began to show me all of the newly arrived baby clothes. Just as she was showing me the 30th preemie one-piece, I began to tell her how there was this pain in the center of my chest all day, and it was like a flood poured out of me as this thought came out of her mouth: “Jon, I haven’t seen you even the slightest bit emotional this entire time.” And here I was thinking I was being strong and rational, passionate and put-together, a rock of support and a stronghold of safety for my family. But in the midst of that, I was suppressing something that was trying to get my attention. All too often, the mind is trying desperately to cover what the heart is trying to say.
It was as though the undertow immediately took me under, and it struck me: I’ve been trying to control everything. The need to make sure everything is in order, not just financially, but emotionally has been 100% my personal project, and just as I feel like I am stepping out of the whirlwind it was like I finally became aware of the wind. You see, all day I was struggling with anger. Anger at other people who have let me down over the years, anger at a former associate, anger at the situation and just generally feeling a heavy sense of injustice in many situations. But as soon as I opened up to Lauren, the realization burst forth that I was actually angry with myself, and no matter whom I spoke with, what I did or how I went about doing it, I could not have controlled the situation.
And after I confessed this to Lauren, something wonderful happened.
I remembered that when Jesus walked the earth, everyone was trying to control Him. Some wanted Him to get on board with their religious reformation of Judaism (the Pharisees) and some wanted Him to take up arms and commit him to leading a violent revolt against the Roman oppressors. Even when He was brought before Pontius Pilate to be judged, He resisted the need to defend Himself by only saying, “I am who you say I am (King of the Jews).” But here is the tricky part: Not only did Jesus not fall into anyone’s control, He himself didn’t try to control anyone or necessarily interrupt human history, He simply subjected Himself to an unjust authority and allowed Himself to pay the ultimate price, death, even death on a cross. And that cross is the ultimate conundrum, because how could a God who becomes man, in order to re-establish the Kingdom of David, try doing it without controlling people through coercive force? The short answer: love, not tolerance. Tolerance is the position of those in power and it is not as strong as love.
This is why I have personally rejected the heresy of “limited atonement,” because it makes God out to be this coercive force that is still utilizing the same methods the Roman empire used to create creatures of the state. But God speaks truth to the state! For His love was enough to confuse the greatest minds of the time and convert the hardest of hearts. And it is that God revealed in Jesus who never demonstrates control, because control can not coexist with love, but demonstrates His sacrificial love to us. This leads us into repentance because we recognize this message as good and desire to experience it as good the rest of our days and into eternity.
God is not in control, nor in coercive power of the earth, but God is in charge. He is in authority because only God is God, and there is no other. He is not insecure and is able to love without our permission or control.
I am learning to stop trying to control the flow of events in my families’ life and simply do what Jesus did: love. How many of us think worrying is the same as praying, and paranoia the same as discernment? Jesus doesn’t want to control and domestic us, He wants to be Lord and set us free! When it comes to my sweet baby boy, it hurts me to see him so small, because all I want for him is complete health. But I am that son who must learn to eat and walk in the way of wholeness in order to see others made whole.
Finally, it is in that freedom, true Kingdom freedom, that we are able to stand when it feels like the chaos around keeps spinning and gently, but sternly, declare: Jesus is Lord. That is our banner and red is the color I am nailing to the fence.
Baby Beadle Day #11:
“In order to think thoughts you’ve never thought before, you have to be willing to do things you’ve never done before.” -Graham Cooke
Nothing can stir a person to action like losing one’s faith. Have you ever known someone who lost their faith? I have, and at one point in my life it would have been the most traumatic incident to take place. Honestly, I lost my faith two years ago. It was a relatively normal Spring day, with a two hour window to think, and prepare for a talk I was to give to a radical group of Jesus people. The book I was reading was challenging me, asking questions I didn’t think one could ask outside of an apologetics satire, and yet, these questions struck me as true investigations. And then the frightful thought I had dreaded crossed my mind: “What if none of this is real, and I’ve spent the best years of my life worshipping a deity that is simply the product of a natural phenomenon?”
Fear struck my heart, and just when I was ready to make a move, I did the only thing I knew how to do…I prayed. “God, I’m not sure why I am having this crisis all of a sudden, or if I really believe, but could you somehow tell me what is going on right now?”
The answer was given but not in the way I had expected to hear it. What followed was a received understanding of a God who exists, but maybe the god I had made didn’t exist? What if the “god” many of my atheist friends didn’t believe, if once described, would show me that I didn’t believe in that kind of “god” either?
I realized that the problem wasn’t a lack of belief, but a lack of representation to the Jesus of the scriptures. The god of our own image was in fact dead (I’m inferring some of Nietzsche here), but the God of Israel was alive and well. And perhaps God was not as much of an evangelical as I would have liked Him to be.
Sometimes that faith, or that way of interacting in the world, doesn’t work anymore and a new way of understanding must take its place, and to be honest, most of us envision a god too small and a Jesus too narrow. The proof is in the vast amounts of posts that reflect a weary and worrisome people who don’t know how to see themselves as anything but a religious pre-occupation. But something fresh is being re-captured in our day, and I was excited to share these ideas with the group. I took this new way of interacting in the world to that young group later that night, after my two hour panic, and by the end of the night we were all in prayer asking for a faith that would know how to encounter God and understand our place in the real world.
As I stared at my son in the incubator this afternoon, the most amazing thing happened…he stared back. I don’t understand it, but whenever he would open his mouth to yawn, I immediately tried to stick my finger in between his tiny lips (don’t judge me!). My finger is not for his mouth, but the slightest bit of interaction stirred me to interact with him on his level, even if it didn’t make sense to me, it somehow connected and made sense to him. I believe that spiritual formation can lend itself to similar practices.
We start off with a way of interacting with God in the world, and at first it is good and it works, but after a while things happen and God is drawing into something greater. He was content to help us in that early stage in a way that made sense to us, but now he is calling us to a place that makes sense to Him. He began on our level with Jesus (the recognizable goodness of God), and now that we are in Christ, we learn to be on His level.
Therefore, there are only two real options:
- Live and breathe in a community that gets its strength from believing and affirming the same things Sunday after Sunday. This is a safe place, where faith can remain undisturbed. Unfortunately, faith rarely grows, but often shrinks as the conversations get more narrow and the lies we tell ourselves about the rest of the world become more true to us in this incubator religion.
- Allow your understanding of God to evolve and become more settled in His nature. Give into the mystery and trust in that love to see you through to a new reality.
I love getting to see my son wear diapers, but one day he will be older and nobody wants to see a teenager in diapers. It’s just silly, but I will hold onto one of his diapers to remind him how fragile life is when he gets old enough to understand. We may hold onto symbols that shaped us early in the process, but we must never camp out in those experiences. I think it is better to resolve oneself to move forward. Now, my question is this: Are you standing still, or have you chosen to keep moving forward?
I pray you choose the latter.
Baby Beadle Day #12:
Miracle territory is not usually fun territory. I was reminded of this by a pastor friend, who works amongst the forgotten and the destitute, today in a parking lot–where we just so happened to see each other. We laughed, traded a couple stories and the truth beneath all the glamour was revealed: it is hard work to trust.
We would not have believed that Declan was going to confuse the neonatal doctors with his progress when we found out we were going to parents two months ahead of schedule. All we could see was the whirlwind. Spinning and twisting, telling us to hold on or be destroyed. We chose to hold on but we barely seemed to make it. It was and is still hard, with the constant pumping (sorry Lauren) and the daily trips to the hospital, but somehow it has all pulled together. Even two days ago, we received a letter in the mail stating that Declan had been put on insurance and the first two weeks were going to be covered. Declan is now more alert and aware of of the sound of our voices, and of his own name, than ever before.
How did we ever anticipate this? The truth is, when it comes to miracles, they are instantaneous; therefore, do we really ever expect them? Miracles are not like being healed. Healing takes time and is often a process, which is why I always tell people that it is always God’s will to heal. Who of us doesn’t God want to be in healing relation with? And while miracles are in an instant, by the twinkling of an eye, healing are not. And we both need a bit of the latter, if I am being totally honest.
I’m sure if reality were peeled back for all of us to see, we wouldn’t understand it. When politicians decry the usefulness of a secular society, I sometimes wonder, “Is reality itself secular? Aren’t we to do our best to mirror or reflect a life as we believe it to really be?”
[My son is finally in his first onesie, and I thought I might never say something like this, but he pulls it off! Not to mention that the new Harper Lee novel is great, so go pick it up. Spoiler alert: Scout is now an angst-filled 26 year old, and Atticus is less than perfect.]
Okay, back to the point: If reality truly isn’t secular, then what is it? I believe it is sacred. All of life is either sacred or perversion of the sacred. It is not as though God and the satan are at war as equals, or that good and evil are in some cosmic battle for the rights to the sons of men, but the evil is parasitic on the good. All of creation was made to be good, and we, in our brokenness and desire for comfort, destroy the good for something else or something sub-par. It is like a child who is content to play in the playground when they have the open field, or a man who works a desk job when he is gifted enough to write a novel. In all of this, reality is calling us into the sacred, the beautiful and violently releasing us from the mundane and the ordinary.
When Declan lies down with his striped onesie, most people might see it as ordinary, but knowing the story I believe it is extraordinary. Knowing the context behind the picture may impact how we see things, and with an understanding that reality is sacred may make even the most mundane things we all have to do reverberate with wonder, and who knows, the miraculous may surprise us if we stay focused.
Baby Beadle Day #13:
Is today an unlucky day? Hotels that omit the 13th floor as an option for their visitors always fascinate me. It is as though they are saying, “We know this is ridiculous, but we want things to go as smoothly as possible with your stay.” One of my best friends has a Lucky 13 tattoo on is neck, and whenever he visited Ireland on a recent missions trip, the locals loved him for it, which is saying a lot for an American. I’m not a “luck” person, but when the doctor comes in and tells you that instead of getting your son home by next week, it may be another month, you feel unlucky.
Wait, I thought he was doing great. It’s as if everything we have been praying for was just shot down, like a little child running up to our massive balloon structure with needle in hand, and a smirk on his little face. Excuse me, you don’t get to waltz in here and pop my balloon. Why not? Because it is my pretty red balloon, and I blew it up myself. But when it comes to prayer, I don’t think we blow them up ourselves. After all, the only things need destroying are the towers of babel we have built on our own.
Declan is a product of prayer. Every wrinkle that moves; every time his little eyes open to a new world of wonder; every moment he sneezes; every time he yawns when I tickle him (still haven’t figured that one out); every blonde eye lash; every quick movement of his arms. He is the product of prayer, and especially when we don’t understand we trust.
Today was the first Sunday Lauren and I have gone to church together since Declan’s emergency C-section. We decided to visit a friend’s church that includes the Eucharist (communion) as the center of the service. In other words, mystery is placed at the center, where all of the congregants are invited to trust Jesus with all of the wreckage and beauty of life.
Growing up we were told that it was the table of remembrance, where we reflected on Jesus, but it really wasn’t that serious. I must admit that I kicked back that little grape juice cup like it was a shot on fire every time I had the chance. But my friend thinks that the Eucharist (he calls it this in his tradition) is something much deeper than a remembering party, or a moment where families pray together once a week–but the very presence of Jesus inhabits the moment we partake and receive of these gifts.
Lately, every day has felt like a constant ride, and we don’t really know when we will get a chance to get off (don’t remember handing the ticket to the guy at the gate!), so this was a chance for us to go the altar, kneel and receive the sacraments. I can’t explain it, but when the bread was placed in my hands, something happened. It was like hot liquid love poured into my chest and the Lord Jesus Himself was there, sitting with us, weeping for and with us. Lauren and I looked at each other and without any use of the English language to capture the moment; we simply knew we were okay.
Declan is teaching us patience, and to find joy in the simplest of things. May mystery and wonder be at the center of all we are, so that incredible things can happen.
Baby Beadle Day #14:
“Jon, you do know that the only reason he makes that smile shape with his face is because of gas and not because he is happy to see you?” Yes, Mrs. Co-worker, I do recognize that all he really knows how to do is react and respond to his most basic needs at the moment, but that doesn’t mean a guy can hope that his son is happy to see his daddy! Also, have you not considered that what is known, as “passing of the gas” can be a happy experience??
Folks, I have nothing but joy today. Declan is finally beyond his original birth weight, at a whopping 3 pounds, 3.9 ounces. Ounce by ounce, breath by breath, Declan is one step closer to coming home. It has felt like every step forward has gone on to yield to another step backward. But today is different. He is responding and God is in the midst of the situation, helping the healing take place.
Now, in light of this, I want to talk about Freedom. Often, when the word “freedom” is mentioned it has to do with the ability to choose. To choose a destiny, a path, a job, a spouse, a university, etc. Those are all the result of free choice but if the ability to do whatever one wants is freedom, then “freedom” needs scare quotes. Someone is only free because they choose freedom, because we can just as easily use our freedom to choose whatever shackles we admire best. Truly, we daily choose to be free.
I believe I am free, but every time I see a display of a semi-nude woman on a highway, or the picture displays in the mall, I avert my eyes. And I avert them because that is one area of my life where I am not free. It is an area of my life where I am still learning to choose freedom over slavery every time, and until I can choose, the eyes more follow somewhere else.
Little Ducky is trying to choose, in fact, he has to choose it. Freedom is the clearest option, but there will come a day when he is fully aware of what is at his fingertips and the choice will truly be great. The nurses have been putting milk on his pacifier so that he will eventually become acclimated to his mother’s breast, and the true miracle is that he loved it and took to it like he is supposed to. The feeding tube is potentially coming out soon and Declan has had no recent episodes of forgetting to breathe. Lauren asked what number he has to be to come out of the incubator and he is literally a day or two away from coming out, in faith.
At this point, not even the doctors are certain of their second predictions. We may be taking Declan home sooner than later.
In this generation, with our gadgets and gigabytes of flickering pixilation’s, we have choices within choices, begging us to take part in their liturgy. But it is now, when the greatest amount of choices are at our disposal, that the resounding choice of freedom in Christ will ring the clearest and perhaps the loudest it has ever rung.