Listening to my life…….

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He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. Isaiah 42:3

I have abstained from writing about all the current events because I wanted to let my thoughts settle. Listening to all the recent events my mind has felt like an unsettled pond and at the end of a long work week I feel like I can finally take a deep breath and let it settle somewhat. Between the horrific events involving the Islamic militants, Robin Williams, and Ferguson, Mo. it was like my mind just couldn’t keep up. There were plenty of other better writers and bloggers editorializing and I didn’t feel like I wanted to throw my voice into the ring. The ring was noisy and crowded and so was my mind.

Sometimes a writer has to know when it’s right to jump into the ring of fire or stay on the perimeter looking in for a while.

Last night we had one of our summer storms that are common for Arizona but never common for me. Storms are natures way of breaking loose, of showing us we are not in control. I went out to the freeway just before it hit and took a few shots and felt rewarded. I found the Superstitions veiled in a cloak of dust and clouds and God’s promise.

On the other side of the overpass, the sun was making her exit amidst the backdrop of clouds………

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When I got home my Dad called, “I was reading Listening to Your Life, he said, do you have it?” I said yes……..then he paused and said, “I wonder if any of us really understands the Bible? We think we do, but sometimes I don’t think we have a clue what it means.” He went on the describe the passage he had read from the entry on February 8 and when I hung up I read it. Here is a partial reading:

When you find something in a human face that calls out to you, not just for help but in some sense for yourself, how far do you go in answering that call, how far can you go, seeing that you have your own life to get on with as much as he has his?

I thought of the sermon by Charles Stanley that I listened to that morning. He was talking about missed opportunities and how many pass us by each day. Then he went on to talk about Peter and how he could easily have said no thank you to Jesus offer to follow Him. After all, he had a livelihood, he had a life, he had a family to support. But something about Jesus made him realize that this offer was not like any other. As a result, Peter is one we recognize as being one of Jesus closest friends and followers. The rock on which the Church was built.

Parallel his life to that of the rich young ruler who had everything. He clung to his life and turned down Jesus’ offer. We never hear what happened to him but the Bible never says anything more about his life.

I believe it pays to listen to those closest to Heaven, children and old people. It pays to listen to your life and those around you. I am listening to mine today as I ask myself how far I am willing to go for Jesus. I give my allotted time and money and sometimes not even that. I don’t always focus on Him while I pray, I miss the Holy moments far too often and I tend to avoid people if I have a choice.

I am that weakest reed, that flickering candle. But my prayer today is “Thank you God, for not letting me go.”

Despite everything, He loves me. He strives with me. He sees me, the girl who gazes on His world with wonder and it makes Him smile that I notice.

God keeps a tally, the scales of justice are in His hands. He’s the one who will set things right ultimately, and that’s a promise. It doesn’t mean we stand back and do nothing, but it does mean that we can’t fix everything. Maybe we just fight the injustice in our own little corners for a start.

As for me, I went as far as that windy street corner up around 120th street and Broadway, and I can see him standing there as in some way he is standing there still. He is alone and making the best of it with his thin, church rummage overcoat flapping around his legs. His one free hand is raised in the air to wave goodbye. It was the last time. “Here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves,” Tillich said, “is a new Creation.” This side of glory, maybe that is the best we can hope for. Frederich Buechner, Listening to Your Life.

I did not make it, but it is making me……….

I believe in God the Father
Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried

I believe that He who suffered was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and on the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven where He sits at God’s mighty right hand
I believe that He’s returning
To judge the quick and the dead of the sons of men

I believe in God the Father
Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord
I believe in the Holy Spirit
One Holy Church
The communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends

And I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
I did not make it, no it is making me
I said I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man

As I came in from prayer I put this song on today……..Creed by Rich Mullins. It’s taken from the Nicene Creed which is the profession of faith or creed that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It forms the mainstream definition of Christianity for most Christians. It’s what unifies us all into One pure and undefiled church. Yes, one body made up of people from all over the world. All of us imperfect, many of us broken, all of us walking the same road toward the One we keep saying yes to, day after day.

My mind and heart goes to those Christians who have lost everything right now. In the past few months alone ISIS groups have gone door to door rounding up Christians along with other groups, herding them into trucks where they are driven off, killed and dumped in ditches. The same thing has happened in Kenya and Syria. For the first time in over a thousand years, church bells are silent in Mosul.

All because they have believed these words that I printed above, not only that, they have lived these words and paid the ultimate price. But also a key point not to overlook; not only have these radical Muslims killed and persecuted Christians, they have persecuted and killed their own people as well. They have no qualms about it. This is what I find most appalling. It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany. If you didn’t pay homage to Hitler it didn’t matter if you were of German descent, you were considered a threat and imprisoned or killed.

This world is in a mess and it will get worse before it gets better, the Bible promises that. So what does that mean here in America where so many times, it’s not just Jesus, it’s Jesus plus my job security, Jesus plus my car, Jesus plus my family, Jesus plus my two glasses of wine at night, Jesus plus my 401K. It means we realize that when it all comes down to it. It has to be Jesus plus nothing.

That doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for what we have, it just means we remember who it really belongs to, and above all, if everything we had were stripped away, we would still have Him (and when we have Him we have everything we need.) What it means for me personally is that I have to loosen my grip on the things of the world and live each day with eternity before my eyes.

Please join me in prayer today for this world, a world that needs Jesus more and more. I know where my home is. I know where I am going. Our borders here in the US are crumbling and there is much I am not happy with. I feel like I am watching my own nation change into something I don’t recognize anymore.

But the anger over what I can’t change has dissolved. In its place, the Lord has put peace. Current events have caused me to reflect more, pray more. And that is never a bad thing. And today, I read Job 38 and once again, it brought tears to my eyes…………He is in control folks. Not to fear.

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To the White Mustang

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I saw the White Mustang fly by us and I knew exactly what he was going to do. We all did. I say “he” but it could have easily been a “she.” It was 5:15 and we were all in line to get on the freeway. We were waiting our turn like all law abiding citizens. The light was green and we had just started to move, when he sped by on the right and butted in line ahead of everyone.

Brake lights flashed, I fumed.

I hit my horn out of frustration and said a prayer that the person behind me was paying attention. They were, thankfully. When we finally got on the freeway the White Mustang screeched around and sped down the fast lane and I wished, I wished I wished……I hoped to see him stopped on the side of the road behind some red and blue flashing lights.

This kind of thing happens everyday. Just like people crowding ahead at the grocery store, or climbing over you at the theater. Rudeness is everywhere. You can’t escape it, but you can choose to deal with it in a healthy way. I don’t know why it got to me this morning. I guess something within us all wants to see someone get what they deserve. We want justice…..but at the same time, we want to escape it ourselves.

We breathe a sigh of relief when we get away with going over the speed limit when we are late for work. We want others to be punished but we want a “get out of jail free card.”

There have been many times where I didn’t get what I deserved, Instead I got a big helping of GRACE.

A little helping of grace goes a long way. And when we extend it to others, we are helping ourselves too. It’s like healing from the inside out. When we offer up God’s grace to others, even in small ways, we offer up the Grace of the Cross.

When we forgive, we become a living testimony because in the physical act of forgiveness we demonstrate that we remember what He did and what He continues to do for us every single day.

Maybe it’s someone else you need to forgive today, or maybe it’s yourself. Whoever it is, take a deep breath and give them a pass. Your heart will love you for it.

When it’s easier to label someone than help

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Hey you, man on the side of the freeway with a sign.

What are you?

A fake, a phoney?

Are you playing us for a fool or are you really homeless?

Really poor?

Really a disabled veteran?

I want you to know, you haunt me.

Driving by later at night, I see you are no longer at your usual post by the freeway exit and neither is your friend.

The one whose turn it is to hold the sign while you wait in the shade.

I wonder, where do you sleep?

Where are you right this minute?

And is it my job to judge whether you are really what you say you are?

You shame me.

You teach me how far I still have to go in my faith journey.

I see you everywhere, and everywhere I wonder.

What…..who…..how you are and how you ended up there.

I just want you to know……

You haunt me.

And I am thinking that Jesus probably haunted a few people too.

Matthew 25:35-40

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:35-40

photo credit: creative commons via flickr Ed Yourdon

Jesus with a cane

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“Let’s turn down this street,” she said, “I want to show you someone’s house and I won’t even have to tell you which one it is.” First of all, I need to preface this by saying the lady is of German descent. Now, I was raised in a town pretty made up of Germans from North Dakota and one of their characteristics was extreme cleanliness. In the days before all the water restrictions they would hose their driveways and sidewalks until they glistened. That goes for the garage too. I am pretty sure some of these people watched out the window for stray leaves that never had a chance to land on the perfectly sculpted lawns.

Anyway, I digress and she was right. I picked out the house right away. Nary a rock out-of-place. (Not many lawns here)

On the way home, we passed a man leaning on a cane talking on a cell phone. Before I go any further, I must tell you that my friend is like a dolphin when it comes to finding people who need help. She has a built-in radar for people and situations that others just never take the time to see. I can’t tell you how many times we have been to the store and she asks me, “Did you see that lady? She looks confused, I think she might have lost her car.”

My answer is usually, “Let’s do another loop around the lot. We’ll see if she finds it, or him, or whatever it is she lost.”

So last night she said, “Should I ask him if he’s alright?” I said, “Well, he was talking to someone on a cell phone.” We drove back by and she asked him if he was okay. He said, “Well, I was trying to decide whether to go to Home Depot, I have something I need to fix on my house. I am okay right now.”

She drove off, but uneasily. By this time it was getting dark, and me, the ever observant one, was still not getting why she was so conflicted about leaving. After all, he had a cell phone and we could hear the other person talking to him. As we drove down the road a ways, she said, “That street is no place for a blind person to be after dark.”

Me: “He’s BLIND???”

Her: “Yeaaaaa. That’s what the white cane with the red tip means.”

Me: “Ohhhhhh, no wonder you were worried!”

Her: “Did you think I was just stalking him?”

Then it struck us funny. By this time, he was tap, tap, tapping down Broadway at a pretty good clip. I had looked up the non-emergency police number and the dispatcher said they would send someone right out. We sat at a stop sign while we waited, holding our breath at the light while he crossed. Around 6 minutes later the police came and pulled over next to him. We watched as the cop helped the man into the back seat.

We proceeded to follow them to Wal-Mart where we stopped to talk to the patrolman that picked him up. He was very nice and explained that the guy wanted to buy some door-knobs for his house which he was trying to fix up. And he thanked us for calling them.

As we drove off, we wondered out loud how someone blind would go about repairs on a house.

She said, “What if that man were Jesus?”

I said, “That means that I flunked the test and you passed.”

She said, “No, you passed too because you did the right thing, that is after you figured out he was blind.”

Personally, I think she is cutting me some slack there, I should have noticed right away that he was blind, except my stomach was growling and my mind was fixated on the fish tacos waiting at home.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Been thinking about…..

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Lately I’ve been thinking about those who went to Africa and met so many orphans. Orphans to whom books, shoes, school, soccer balls are treasures. In many cases kids who had to become heads of households. And I use the term “households” loosely, since many have no homes.

I have been wondering how it would feel to have no one to belong to. Having to go from place to place begging for food, searching, hoping for kindness from strangers.

What did I do to deserve living here in this place, with all my relatives trailing behind me on both sides. I know who I am because of all the stories passed down from one to another. Someone decided it was important to remember, so records were kept. Somehow on the dusty prairie of North Dakota, pictures were taken…..and from that, a colorful quilt of heritage was woven warmly around me.

I can scarcely imagine what it took for my Great-great Grandpa Jakob to pack up his family and flee from Russia. I wonder what wonderful things he heard about America. He must have held that dream for a better life until he could hold it no longer and then they all set sail across the water. My Grandmother at six months old almost didn’t make it.

On my Dad’s side they hailed from England close to where Robinhood and his band of merry men hung out. I have seen pictures of Lincolnshire, its stunning. They must have had some motivation to leave and start a Blacksmith shop in America. It couldn’t have been easy.

All this to say that they had a choice. They had somewhere to flee to. Somewhere to go. And as a result, I have a place of belonging. I know who I am and where I come from, it’s humbling. Because others have been robbed of something they never knew they had.

If I had one thing to say to those precious little ones I would say this. Once upon a time you had a Mom and a Dad. And they had stories, talents, things that made them unique in all the world. You had Aunties and Uncles too and they all had gifts which they passed down to you, even though you may not have known them. I am so sorry you never knew them, that you never got to see that tapestry they might have woven into your life.

That you will never have the luxury of complaining about your family and how they drive you crazy.

But here’s the thing. You do have a family. A heritage, and its one with Royal blood lines. And you are part of it. You have a Father in Heaven who loves you even more than your real Mama and Daddy ever could have.

And in the meantime, I hope all the people here and now who are wrapping their arms around you will let a little hope leak through to let you know you are you are very much not alone. And that you can dreams and that maybe they can even come true.

“Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds……rejoice before him—his name is the Lord. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing…….Psalm 68:4-6

Click here to see what some are doing to help give hope (and a place) to some very special kids today. See how you can also help!

Hope with a big “H”

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We sat there, all of us potential jurors. There were about 100 of us who drew the short straws, whose group was not ticked off the list. I sat with my Kleenex and stuffy nose and heard others hack and cough. There was one loud talker, as it seems there always is. He sat in the front row and we heard his whole life story told to the hapless man next to him. Maybe it started with a comment, and that was all it took to throw open the gateway of conversation, albeit one-sided. But that was okay, he gave us all something to listen to as the minutes ticked by.

The clerk came in and we all watched a video about what an honor it is to serve on a jury. And really, it is. And yes, I do take it for granted. We all do. I complained about going, I got up early on my day off. I put makeup on, selected a nice outfit and drove the 30 minutes to a small town east of me. A depressing town, really. The main source of work are the several prisons there. Yet on the perimeter of my heart the question taunted me, haunted me really. What if it was someone I loved on trail? What if it was me? What if there were no one to stand for you? What if you were innocent? What if you weren’t?

When we finally got up to the courtroom they began the selection process. One by one names were called. Down to the last 26. I wasn’t among them. The rest of us sighed almost collectively when the last name was called. Now began the questions. We weren’t off the hook yet. We all sat through several rounds of questions given to the 26 selected. A few were eliminated, so three more names were called from our group to replace them. Still wasn’t me.

Then came questions from prosecution……then defense.

We heard stories, lots of them from the prospective jurors. Things came out. One woman found it hard to talk when she was asked if she had ever known anyone personally who had been arrested. She had to put a restraining order out on her abusive husband. And he came for her and held her at gunpoint. The SWAT team had to be called. I could tell it all came back to her…….all that heartache.

What I came away with was this:

All this procedure for a theft. And yes, it is right. It is just. It is how we do things in our country. It’s how we do justice.

But for many in other countries, and this one too, there is no justice at all. I am thinking about the African Bloggers today. I am thinking of the things they have seen over there. The people they have met. Where is the justice for all those children who have no parents. Who stood for them when their parents were mercilessly killed? Who stands for them now? Where is the justice for the 1,000,000 who were murdered? Who will stand up for them? Well, I can tell you there are people who stand for them now, who want to make a difference, who are making a difference. Read about one such group right here. Read all their updates, I know you will be moved.

Someone has given these precious children in Africa Hope. Hope with a big “H.” For the first time in their lives, they have a heritage. They have a family.They know that someone cares very much what happened to their parents, for He was watching, and He will never forget. And when He hands out justice, it will be swift. It will be right. It will be final.

Someone is also giving them Hope so they in turn can give that Hope to others. Now they know they have a Dad who is so big that He can swallow up all the sorrow they ever held. For good.

There are all kinds of unfair things that happen everyday. Maybe you are one to whom life has been very unfair. I can tell you one thing that will make a big difference if you accept it. There was one very unfair thing that happened around 2000 years ago. The King of Kings willingly died a criminal death. He was put on a trial that wasn’t even a real trial. There was no jury selection of His peers. You would have had to call down Angels for that. Yes, God Himself was there, and the Holy Spirit was uttering the few Words He would say then. But no words could have ever saved Him.

He died so that we might have the justice that we don’t deserve. He died and rose again so that we might receive new life and a new heritage. And life with Him forever for in a perfect world, a world very unlike this one. Read Romans 5:6-10

Amidst the turbulence and heartache everywhere, there is One who embodies Hope. That’s our story, that’s our message. Blogging and writing is our way of holding up the light of Jesus to a weary world who needs Him more than ever.

Bring Him into your daily mess. Nothing scares Him.

Photo source: http://worldhelp.net/missionaries-build-cathedrals-not-strip-malls/

A Home for Adeline

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I was in my warm bed when I read the story thumbing through Facebook,  first at Sandra’s place, then at Jennifer’s, whose compassionate heart birthed a daring idea. That she could do something out of the ordinary. Something big. Something crazy. Something God-sized. And that maybe we could all join together and help out. I think our best strength as women is how we can be standing in line at the store and make a new friend, just like that.

And when I read about Adeline, I felt like I had met a new friend who I just couldn’t forget. You see, we all know there are millions of people like her, but if no one ever puts a name to a face and tells their story, they all just become something like a great mass of humanity and how in the world can we help them?

As I snuggled inside my big fluffy robe and put off going out to pray in the chilled air, I thought of Adeline again. And as I wandered from room to room in my “down-sized” home, it felt like a mansion. I had rooms…..space. And to be honest, this down-sized place is where I have felt more at home than any other. And this is my fifth. She just wants a room that doesn’t leak.

The custom home was a dream, something I never thought I’d have. Just one decision involved the size and shape of sink-bowls. That alone took up about 30 minutes and a lot of laughter, I might add. I had no idea there were that many colors, shapes, sizes, materials. Of sinks!

As I sat to pray, I lit my candle and looked around at my “little” shop. It is probably bigger than Adeline’s house. The one that’s falling down around her. I looked around and I couldn’t really pray. I just sat there thinking of her smiling face in the picture on Jennifer’s site. With the rain washing away her walls. I wished I could give her a place as solid as the little shop I was sitting in.

So I am going to help, I’m gonna do what I can. It might be small, but I believe when we add all those small things together they become miracles.

My prayers will be going with Jennifer when she goes to Haiti to see Adeline and her family. And I hope she can give her good news. Bless her. Bless them all. And bless you too.

If you want to help, go to ViBella Jewelry and put in the code “newhouse” when you order. Thirty percent of sales will go to a new home for Adeline.

When the Son sets in our hearts

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“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” James 4:1,2

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9,10

For the first time this morning I was able to pray minus the sound of gunfire from the dove hunters out in the desert. It has disrupted my morning peace for two days now. My brother and I were both complaining about it on opening day which was September first. He’d gone out to his driveway with his mug of coffee as he usually does when he is home and was looking forward to listening to his doves cooing from the trees in his yard. Now he is worried about the wild turkeys they have all enjoyed watching come through in the evenings.

We both decided we would put out some wild feed to keep a few close.

The staccato sound of the guns made me think of what is going on half a world away, in Syria. They say around 2 million Syrian people are now refugees and around half of these are women and children. Unrest is the state of the world today.

All my life, I have sat in church hearing of a time when there will be “wars and rumors of wars.” It was just a Bible verse and a time somewhere in the future, but real war was never anything that touched me. It was never something that surprised me or factored into my life in any way at all. It was just a part of what I heard in church or on TV.

But how many people around the world today must live, pray and sleep to the sound of gunfire and shelling? Living and breathing with fear and the possible loss of their own life or the life of their children. Knowing that any moment, they will lose what little shelter they have, grabbing what little they own and heading across the border to somewhere else.

Our world is getting crazier every day. There is no doubt we are in the last days, but who knows how long these last days will stretch out?

There is only one thing that will ever stop war for good and the truth is, not one of us is willing to do what it takes to stop it. Until we each settle the war in our own hearts, war will never end. The war in our hearts will only end when we invite Jesus in.

And I am not talking about lip service but life change. There is a tired, old argument that people use over and over. In fact, I heard it again on the radio just Sunday morning. A talk show host said: “I hate religion because more wars have been caused by religion than anything else.” And while I can understand why they make that claim, it’s still as wrong as wrong can be.

Guns don’t kill people and religion doesn’t cause wars. All wars start as a result of the evil in the confines of the human heart, and just because something is done in God’s name, doesn’t mean God is in favor of it.

When someone is truly transformed by the love of Christ, it will show by how eager they are to strive for peace, not war.

I am talking about a relationship here, not a religion. That’s what makes Christianity different from any other on the face of the earth. And when He comes in and makes a home in our hearts, peace reigns. Note that I didn’t say perfection, I said peace.

War is caused by the selfish desire to get what we want when we want it. Nothing more. And when power and money are added in to the mix it just gets bigger because more is at stake. Sometimes war is unavoidable. When the end result means peace for the world, then I believe it is just.

Universally though, the hope of this world, more than ever, is Jesus. Jesus, only and ever Jesus.

You might wonder why then, does Jesus say this?

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

In light of all the talk about peace, it doesn’t seem to make any sense, until you understand that while a relationship with Jesus most certainly brings peace to the individual heart and life, it doesn’t necessarily bring peace to the world. That’s because of one simple aspect of human nature.

We still want our way, not His way. When Jesus said that, it was with perfect understanding that He knows what we are made of.

When Jesus was born, King Herod was so threatened by the rumor of a new King, he had all Jewish babies living in Egypt two years and under slaughtered. And right before He was crucified, the religious leaders of the day were so threatened by Jesus popularity with the people, and by their loss of power, security and position, they had to put together a mock trial complete with false testimony in order to sentence Him to death.

And yet, He reaches for us still.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. John 3:16-19

I pray for our world today. I pray it finds Jesus. You might think that it looks pretty bleak and that there is really nothing we can do as an individual. But there is always something we can do. We can all shine the light of truth and love brightly, each in our own corner.

Right where we are. And pray.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

If I could reach behind those prison walls……

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“This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
    to free captives from prison
    and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

Isaiah 42:6,7

I don’t know what you did to get you where you are, in prison or jail. And it really doesn’t matter. I’m not here to debate your guilt or innocence today. Just share hope. I am here to tell you that the playing field is equal at the foot of the cross. That, my friends is good news. It’s the good news the early Church was so excited about. And it’s what I am excited about today. You’re in good company. Just about every hero of the Bible was in prison at one time or another. Back then, being a believer got you prison or death. In some parts of the world it still does.

They felt the weight of the iron chains and they heard the same slam of those iron bars. I never have and I never want to. But I want to tell you that if you have heard them, and that’s where you are right now, hope is not out of your grasp.

You might have thought it was over when you entered that cell. And let me tell you, most people will applaud the fact that you are there. They might even want you there for good or dead. And if you have done something to deserve it, then I don’t feel bad you are there either. But I do feel very bad about the prison your soul is in if you don’t know Christ.

But I do feel bad for your eternal state if you have never felt the love His redemption brings.

All is not lost. The hope that the early church had can be yours too. None of us is too far out of the reach of His love. His love is like the sun, it’s everywhere. The hope that modern-day believers have even as they are facing prison or death in China, In Indonesia, and many other parts of the world can be yours too. They have hope because burning in their hearts is the knowledge that they know this prison is temporary. They have something worth sharing. And they won’t stop, even it means loss of their physical freedom here on earth.

You say, well I don’t want to be here at all. I want to be out there. I want to be free. There is only one person who can truly make us free.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:1,2

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11

Listen, there are all kinds of prisons in this world, prisons of illness, prisons in our minds, prisons of addiction. Everyday I see people walking around in the free light of day, imprisoned. I can see it in their faces, they have no hope. Jesus saw it too and moved with compassion, He said, “they are like sheep without a shepherd.”

But I am here to tell you that the most dangerous prison in the world is the one you don’t know you’re in. You can’t ignore yours, they can. I can.

There are many people living the good life, flying here and there, surrounding themselves with the best this life has to offer. And you might want what they have, sometimes I  do too, but don’t. Their prison might look a lot better than the one you’re in, but the bars are just as solid. And if they have never taken that step of faith that God requires, they need deliverance just as much as you.

I am not saying prison is easy or admirable, or good. I am sure it’s terrible.

But much more terrible is the eternal sentence we face without Jesus’ pardon. It’s something we all have to decide.

My prayers are with you. My hope is that you will listen to the people who come in with the Good Word. Don’t close your ears. Don’t scoff. Don’t make others feel weak if they go to those meetings. I know they have them there.

It’s freedom they’ve found.

And you can find it too.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Rejoicing in my freedom today.

Photo credit flickr: Some rights reserved, by Janrito Karamazov