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On Wednesday we set off for our day out and went to Seaham. Once we arrived we decided to see as much of the places of interest as we could, but ended up with a very pleasant stroll around the sea front, followed by sandwiches in the car. On the way home we followed the coast road and visited places we hadn't been to before. The journey led us to the places we do know well and like visiting, Hartlepool then Seaton. What was special about the day was that we set off with a specific destination then enjoyed the freedom to explore and wander!!

In many ways this thought of freedom to explore has been in my mind over the last few days. I sometimes feel that our Christian lives can lack freedom. Sometimes we are so caught up in what we should be doing and what we should be like that we can lose sight of where it may be that the Spirit is leading us.

If religious traditions and dogma get in the way of me expressing my faith rather then forming a foundation for my faith then I have lost my freedom to be open to the Holy Spirit. The freedom to wander and explore through life's many different experiences some good and some demanding.

How we judge those around us and the demands we may make upon them may be as a result of us trying to force on to them our ideas and concepts.

Is this the way to bring people to faith? What kind of image do we give to people outside the church, the people we may see regularly and feel we want to bring to faith?

Rev Martin Ramsden in answer to my question, What is Evangelism? Said it is being a friend. How right he was and is!!  To be myself is important, to wander where the Spirit bids rather then being tied by those conventions and traditions, is the way I want to go. However sometimes I find it hard to stop being the person I think I should be rather than being the person I want to be, because this is how I see the Holy Spirit guiding me.

I admire some of my friends who are so 'laid back' who accept what life brings to them, who don't judge others, who are not in a rush to make things happen. I know a few people like this and they do gain my envy and admiration. To be able to amble and explore yet still be grounded in the teachings of our faith is so special

In the days of no church worship maybe some of us found a new way of worshipping God which wasn't dependant on time or place or order of service. Maybe we were able to worship God in a new way in which we felt more freedom to listen to God and to be moved by the Spirit.

Of course I have to be honest, I love leading and /or being part of worship, having a great sing, being inspired by great preaching. However when we return so much will be different. Will we be free enough in the new normal to still be inspired and moved by the fellowship and the prayerfulness of the experience?

Jesus did bring freedom to people he healed them and took away their illness, he forgave them and so they had freedom from sin. He taught them how to love and so find freedom from all the negative aspects of human relationships.

Look at the Parable of the Lost Son in Luke ch 15 we know it so well. Ask yourself what is the freedom the father is giving to the returning son, and what is the freedom the son's repentance is giving to his father?  

John Wesley was well aware of the theology of being a Christian he had all the knowledge of what he should do, but something was missing. He looked at other Christians who he met and admired their faith. He knew he didn't have that freedom from sin that assurance of God's love. At his conversion experience he suddenly found freedom from all those doubts. The hymn I have chosen is 'And can it be?' especially for that verse which says; 'My chains fell off my heart was free I rose went forth and followed thee'

Keep safe and keep praying

Dave Elliott

Thought for the week - compiled