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July 14, 2021

What does freedom mean to you? Freedom can mean so many things and can mean something different for each person. It can be physically being in handcuffs or leg cuffs and finally getting them off, it can mean getting out of a toxic relationship, a bad work situation… the list can go on and on.
Sometimes you forget about being in shackles or being imprisoned or walls seemingly closing in on you. The other day I heard Branded Man by Merle Haggard (who was also in prison and turned his life around). Part of the lyrics go like this: “When they let me out of prison, I held my head up high, determined I would rise above the shame. But no matter where I travel, the black mark follows me, I’m branded with a number on my name.” Wow, hearing that song brought back a lot of memories! A little while later I hear another favorite, L.A. Freeway. The song was written by Guy Clark and made popular by Jerry Jeff Walker. Part of the lyrics go like this: “If I can just get off of this L.A. freeway without getting killed or caught. We got somethin’ to believe in, don’t you think, it’s time we’re leavin’?”
A while back my cell phone rang but was not expecting the voice on the other end. It was a friend I had not heard from in a long time and had seen once in a long time. “Bud, how are you?” We chatted for a little bit and then the question came: “Bud, my daughter is getting married and she would like you to officiate. Is that possible?” I paused, thought, held back tears and continued the conversation. I was so honored. The date worked, the venue worked, everything was falling into place (like I should have doubted because I without a doubt know that it was a God thing). I met with the wonderful couple and there was no doubt it was meant to be. The special day came, the ceremony went well, and love was present and… well, it was all good 😊.
So, how was this different from other weddings that I have officiated? Because the chance of this wedding happening and me officiating was, well the odds would be tremendous. (Probably harder than the chances of the Vikings winning the Super Bowl ☹.) You see, the person that called me was someone I had been in prison with and to think that we would get this far in our lives… well, the odds, at times, seemed insurmountable. But when God is involved, you always have a chance.
There were times when we asked if we will ever get out of there without getting killed or caught but then we did have something to believe in and we finally did leave. When we got out of prison, we were determined we were going to put it behind us and be one of those few statistics who do not return. But it was not easy and there were times that we wanted to give up but God gave us strength.
All weddings are special but this one was the most special of all because, well, who would have thought it could happen. But God gave us a second chance. Christ says to us, regardless of our circumstances, new beginnings are possible. You do not have to be trapped by what happened to you in the past. In Christ, we are forgiven and given another chance.
I hope everyone can experience and understand the freedom and joy that comes from knowing that your debts have been paid in full. All our failures and imperfections and battles deep down in our souls that separate us from God – all those have been wiped away. We are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) True freedom and new life are possible if we give our lives to Jesus Christ. In him, we are set free.
Thanks, Merle, for reminding me. God bless and God’s got this!

About Rev. Bud Budzinski

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