The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners.  Isaiah 61:1

I’ve been away from my blog for too long—but I’ve been busy for the cause!

Yes, my sacrifice for the sake of scouting out national parks was to go to Hawaii. Such a hardship. You’ll be reading about the life lessons I learned at the parks there in future posts.

For now, though, I bring you news about an exciting celebration happening tomorrow, Friday, a little closer to home. The Statue of Liberty is celebrating its 125th anniversary!

Morning festivities include a citizenship ceremony (for a little insight into what that’s like, see the article I wrote for USA Today), music, readings and a “water parade” in New York harbor, all presided over by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. A new “torch webcam” will begin operation, offering bird’s-eye views from Lady Liberty’s torch 24/7. The day ends with a bang—literally—with fireworks, which will be streamed live over the website.

All these events mirror the dedication of the Statue on October 28, 1886, when President Grover Cleveland dedicated “Liberty Enlightening the World,” a gift of friendship from the people of France. A fireworks display topped that day, too, along with a flotilla of ships, and New York City held its first ever ticker tape parade.

I was just reminiscing with a friend about how we celebrated the Statue’s centennial in July, 1986. Joe and I had scored three free tickets to a concert to be held at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, right across the harbor from Lady Liberty (she actually is closer to New Jersey than New York; unfortunately, her, uh, backside is to us. No Jersey jokes please…). So the two of us and a friend made our way over there on July 3. I had just found out I was pregnant, which added to the excitement.

What I remember most from that night was that it was very windy, and the organizers had worked out this elaborate but terribly inefficient system of having us concertgoers park far away, and then transporting us by bus to the actual concert site. Needless to say, it was a madhouse afterwards, and we didn’t get home until early morning of the next day.

That evening, Joe thought it would be fun if we went up to the top of the tower at the college where he worked in Jersey City, which would offer a great view of the New York/New Jersey harbor (this is also where he watched the World Trade Center towers burn and collapse years later). We’d be able to see the relighting of the torch, which had just been refurbished, and the accompanying fireworks.

Problem was, the way up there is…a challenge. It involves climbing two vertical ladders, crouching along an attic walkway, and ends in an awkward scramble to the roof. We had invited another couple, who brought along their baby. Hauling him up was quite a feat.

Once we got situated (in chairs that Joe brought up), we quickly became chilly, because it was still very windy, so Joe traipsed back down to the theatre’s costume shop and got us some warmer clothes. We listened to the ceremonies on the radio (which Joe also carried up), and when President Reagan threw the switch for the torch, we oohed and aahed. And boy, did Joe pick a good spot for the fireworks!

Getting back down was downright scary. You have to make a small leap from the roof to the first ladder, and our friends were beside themselves trying to figure out how to do it with their son. Finally, Joe lashed the baby to himself with some of the costume shop clothes, and bounded over to the ladder (he brought him down the second ladder the same way). And did I mention I was six weeks pregnant?

But I digress.

Liberty is an overarching theme in Scripture. The verse I quoted at the beginning describes the ministry of the Messiah in a nutshell, prophesized by Isaiah some 700 years before Jesus’ birth. In the gospel of Luke, the writer relates the story of the day when Jesus entered the synagogue, was handed the book of Isaiah, and read that same passage. “He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:16-20).

Let’s just say that all the good feelings they had for Him before (vv. 15, 22) quickly dissipated (vv. 28, 29). How dare He make that claim!

Ah, but it’s true:

–“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2)

–“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36)

–“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Don’t believe the lie that Christianity is merely a set of do’s and don’ts, a long list of “thou shalt nots,” of rules and regulations not relevant or applicable to modern times. The problems of yesterday are the problems we still face today—worry, fear, grief, loneliness, trying to figure out what life’s all about—and the Bible addresses them all. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus tenderly pleads in Matthew 11:28-30. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.

This “perfect law, the law of liberty” (James 1:25, 2:12) is freely available for all who believe in Jesus, God’s Son (John 1:12, 8:31). There are no ladders to climb, nothing to do but take a (yes, sometimes scary) leap of faith. Jesus has already done all the heavy lifting and made provision for every need.

But I promise you (and more importantly, God promises you—2 Peter 1:4, 3:13) that the result is really worth it.


  1. Pete Huddy says:

    Another good liberty verse is the one Charleton Heston speaks at the end to “The Ten Commandments” (as Moses, of course): “Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof!!…) Deuteronomy, I believe… (Roll credits!)

  2. Amy Schlaf says:

    A GREAT Blog, Penny, I’m glad I did not know you were doing all this while you were pregnant!!!! MOM

  3. Your good big brother says:


    Truth be told, such adventure runs in the family.

    Penny got “baptized” even before birth. Our family was vacationing in Michigan when Mom was pregnant with Penny. At one point, Mom and I, I being all of five years old, were in a boat on a lake there and both at a loss as to what we were doing. As the boat drifted from the dock, we both kind of panicked.

    Mom told me to grab the dock, but I was too scared/confused as to what was happening and just froze. Mom then leaned out, despite not knowing how to swim, and grabbed the last piling of the dock and hauled us back.

    In doing so, her pregnant belly hit the water, so, in a way, Penny got “baptized” four or five months before she was born.

    In retrospect, it all could have easily turned out tragically, but we were blessed.

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