It seems that there are a number of Christians who have awesome hearts and a lot of love and think their highest calling is to show up for Church services, sing the songs, take the sacraments, read their Bible, and bring a prayer list to God on a regular basis. It also seems that there is some sort of unwritten rule that mission is done as group project and witnessing is telling others that Jesus wants them to come to Him and go to Church services, sing songs…well, you know the rest.

They are amazed and fascinated at ministries that feed the homeless or preach to inmates or have after school programs. They’re impressed by the people that give their lives to these big outreaches. These ministries are needed and they need help in the form of funds and volunteers. The Kingdom advances through these ministries.

I submit though that the impact of Christ and His Kingdom is stronger in the small touches we make as we move throughout each day. It’s the simple things we do that could and do make a difference in this world. Christ reveals His Love and Presence to others by showing His Grace through us. What we do is much louder than what we say. It can resonate deep within someone and echo in their souls.

I get to build kinship with a number of people that are ignored and on the margins of our little town because of our small ministry. However, some of the most precious moments for me are while I’m standing in the check out line at WalMart.

Two stories:

First one…I was behind a young mother and her baby and she was having a problem deciding what not to buy. She apparently did not have enough money and was short about $3.00. Her choices were either a gallon of milk or a carton of cigarettes.

I could have said, “You know, you need to put the cigarettes back and go ahead and get the milk.” I could have even gotten snotty about it. Instead, it seemed that maybe Jesus in me wanted to handle it differently so I said, “Excuse me, would you let me pay for the milk? That’s a good looking baby you have.”

She said said, “Sure.” And so I did. I asked her name and we talked for just a moment and as she walked away I said, “God Bless you.” I didn’t think being another poke-her-in-the-chest-and-tell-her-how-to-live Christian was needed right then.

We only have one Walmart in our town and everyone goes there constantly. I have had several opportunities to see her shopping and I always say hello. She smiles and says hello back and we talk for a little while. I always get to say “God Bless you” or “Jesus Loves you, you know.” She knows. We smile and say “See you later” and I look forward to the next time we meet.

I don’t know why she had a hard decision between milk and cigarettes. Maybe they weren’t for her. Maybe they were for someone who might have gotten angry if she came home without them. Maybe there might be bad consequences if she didn’t buy them. Maybe they were for her. I don’t know and for me it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we can now talk and we have started more than a relationship…it’s like a kinship and our Friend and Brother Jesus is in it.

Second story happened this week. I was in the check out line behind a grandmother and her 6 year old grandson. Same problem. More stuff in the buggy than money in the purse. This time cigarettes weren’t in the mix. It was a six pack of orange juice and a box of Apple Jacks cereal. The grandmother was handing them back to the cashier and I said, “Hang on. I think Jesus wants this young man to have those things. Would you let me get them for him?”

The grandmother looked startled and the young man looked happy. She smiled too and said, “Well if that’s what Jesus wants…” So I did.

By the way, there were others involved in these stories. The cashiers and anyone within several feet of us. For those that don’t know me I can be rather loud.

I wonder how everyone’s day went after that. Last Sunday someone in our Bible study said “Kindness is Contagious.”

Here’s a truth, more people don’t attend church in our little town than do. What we do outside that building for the Lord may be more important that what we do inside the building for ourselves. The challenge is to live intentionally alert to opportunities that reveal God’s Kindness. That’s what leads to changed lives. Make the little things count.

Four years ago my wife and I along with a couple of friends traveled to the Texas Hill Country and as is our habit we searched for interesting local food establishments. On Highway 306 between Gruene and Canyon Lake we came across a small building with the sign “Mrs. Bush’s Pie Shop.” We swerved into the gravel parking lot, jumped out of the car, and rushed in with high expectations of pie-ness. Our expectations turned out to be exceedingly small in comparison to who we encountered.

The small bakery had scrap paper and torn cardboard writings all around the shop. Someone had written Bible scriptures and spiritual/soul encouragements on them. It seemed reasonable to ask about this stuff and Mrs. Bush, aka Pie Lady to us, began to tell us her story. Our friend Joni started recording her talk and Pie Lady kept us enraptured for almost an hour.

Elaine and I have been back to that area several times each year, wanted to see her but we’re always there when the shop is closed. Last week though while in the area, her shop was open and we stopped.

When we came in the Pie Lady came to the counter with a somewhat furrowed brow when she saw us. We introduced ourselves but before we could say much she lit up and said she remembered us. That was thrill enough and we spent the next part of an hour catching up. We agreed we would meet the next morning. I wanted to record part of her story and share it.

Here it is and I pray you enjoy it and are encouraged with Hope for how Our Father works for those who seem…seem…insignificant but are in reality the Apple of His Eye. His Love is the Best Love and the only Love that counts.

I attended the commencement ceremony of four amazing women from a Christian women’s facility this week.  I’m not sure how many are there at any given time but it might run into the dozens and they can bring along children under 12.  They voluntarily come in for a number of reasons but all are looking for a better life…a fixed life…and they know they cannot fix themselves…they learn that only Jesus can fix them.  The following is from one of the graduates.  This is her commencement address and it needs to be shared to those that are in an abusive relationship, to those who know someone in an abusive relationship, and to those who don’t know that they may know someone in an abusive relationship.  This is a compelling story that ends in hope:

It’s no coincidence that October also happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Domestic violence is a silent killer. Over time, it slowly chips away at your inner most being. It strips away your thoughts. It skews reality and the ability to define what is right from wrong. It manipulates you to fit its agenda. It isolates you from those you love the most; your family, your friends and even your own children. It hurts those around you. It consumes you. It brainwashes you. It demands power and control. It intimidates you. Your days operate on auto pilot. You have no healthy emotions. You are a robot. It steals your identity, time, values, dreams, visions, passions and soul. It comes in all shapes, styles and schemes and can be physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, mental and spiritual.

You begin to ask yourself, “Who am I? How did I get here?” You are so far from the person you once were. You feel different. You feel awkward. You feel like you don’t fit in and you don’t belong. You have no self-worth. You don’t deserve happiness. You used to be outgoing and confident; now you are an introvert, lost, confused and insecure. You question your ability to be the mother you desire and should be. You are a failure. You become the sounding board to some of the ones who have been hurt around you. They don’t understand. They feel abandoned, betrayed and unloved by you. You question what your purpose is. You are afraid (the only emotion you can feel) and you don’t know where to turn or who to turn to. You don’t know who to trust. “How could you allow this to happen?” “Why didn’t you do something  sooner, before you lost so much?” “Why did you stay?”

You believe lies about yourself. You downplay and find ways to justify the situation or your actions. You stay because “through thick and thin, in sickness and in health”. You stay because you don’t want to split your family apart, but in reality, you already are. You believe “I’m the problem.” “I can change it.” “If I just do this or if I just do that, it will all be fixed.”

You make poor choices. You alienate yourself. Your friends, family and even your children become your acquaintances. In the depths of despair, some victims try to numb the pain by burying themselves in their career; others succumb to alcohol, illegal/prescription drugs, or sex/pornography to cope. In extreme domestic violence situations, victims operate under severe threats, including but not limited to, threats of harm to them, their children, close family, friends or coworkers.

In all cases, Satan is evil, wicked and deceitful. His only mission is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

August 25, 2017, I finally chose to seek help after enduring 8 years of domestic violence. It was a split-second decision; or should I say years in the making; but fear crippled me. I didn’t have it all figured out and I wasn’t prepared. It was a moment when I knew in my heart, I just couldn’t deal with it anymore and I chose to act on it rather than just think about it. As I walked with my 13-month-old son in his stroller to pick up my 6-year-old son from school, I prayed and cried out to God. “God, if I’m to go back home, lead me to the door to pick up my son. “If I’m to change the course of my life today, lead me to the front of the school where I can cry out for help.” I went to the counselor’s office and sought the help and protection I so desperately needed and wanted. It was the scariest moment of my life.

We spent 3 weeks, homeless, afraid and unsure of what the future had in store for us. My church family rallied beside us, offered us shelter in their homes, loaned us a vehicle, put clothes on our backs and food in our mouths. Two weeks after we left, my husband was arrested, I retrieved our only vehicle from impound, gained access to our home and complete strangers from my church came to help us pack up all our belongings. God met every need we had.

I took a 6 month leave of absence from my 11-year career and the day before we were to come to Genesis, CPS stepped in and the boys were removed from my care. Because of the domestic violence in our home and the drugs my husband was involved with, CPS found it safer to take the boys from me temporarily. This was the 2nd time I had tried to escape, I went back the first time, despite my better judgment. I had to prove to them, and to myself, that I wasn’t turning back and that my boys were the most important thing to me. I also had to begin the journey of restoring my mind and my health before I could give them the attention and love they desperately needed. I continued moving forward.

Two families stepped up at my church, whom I didn’t personally know, and volunteered to keep my boys so they wouldn’t go into foster care and on September 19th, I walked through the doors of The Genesis Center, alone, confused, scared and emotionally exhausted.

From the very beginning, God’s footprints are all over my story. It took an army of His people to rescue me from the darkness, but, the hope on the other side of the traumatic start of this journey is that I’m finding healing and freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17 says: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Timothy 1:7 says: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 

God has a purpose for every mountain and valley. Our experiences, shape, mold, wake us up or throw us around, but they don’t define us. They break us down and for a few of us, they force us to hit rock bottom so that we learn to reach for the only One who can truly save us and turn our mess into a garden of beautiful flowers. He gives us the hope to keep moving forward despite how we feel or the circumstances that surround us. He shows us how to love ourselves again; you can’t open your heart to others unless you truly love yourself.

This journey has been painful and at times a very scary road to walk; but I’m recovering. I have faced resistance, criticism, skepticism, retaliation, rejection, confusion, doubt, fear, shame, guilt and anger, but I’m a survivor. I’m getting stronger every day and I’m rediscovering myself. I’m an overcomer. I know my identity. I know my worth. I no longer hold my head down. I’m taking care of me and I’m gaining confidence in myself again. I’m building new relationships and restoring others that are important to me; ones that build me up and encourage me, not tear down and drain me.

I know that God has a purpose for me, the three miracle children He has blessed me with, and our story. He will turn ashes into beauty. He will use all the pain, victories and miracles for His purpose and His Kingdom. I’m learning to forgive, and, in His timing, I will be forgiven by those who have been deeply hurt by the events and circumstances that have surrounded me.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says: He has made everything beautiful in its time. 

Our trials can also provide us the wisdom and the compassion to love, encourage and support others who are enduring similar circumstances – when we are ready and feel equipped to do so. To walk alongside them in the storm, hold their hand, hug their neck and offer a shoulder to cry on. To be someone who understands their pain because we’ve been there, done that.

Tragedies, tests and trials, if used correctly, can open doors to our purpose and our passion. He’s slowly revealing my purpose and placing desires, passions, dreams and visions in my heart; I’m just waiting, listening, and doing what I’m called to do. One of the messages I’ve heard loud and clear is that I am no longer called to be silent.

2 Timothy 4:17 says: But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me. 

My beautiful friend, Brenda, says it so perfectly: “Shame is a freedom stealer. It robs us of connection with others. It causes us to live in hiding, to put on masks, and to discount who we are. It’s a liar that tells us to build walls so that no one sees, and no one knows; but those same walls we build to protect ourselves become walls that imprison and isolate us. Speaking truth out loud takes away the ties that shame uses to bind…and it sets us free.”

I no longer want to be hiding and live in the shadows. I no longer want to be disconnected from those I love and care about. I no longer want unhealthy walls around my heart. I want freedom, restoration, joy and healthy relationships in my life. I want to strive for more. I want to be present when I’m with my loved ones, not lost in my own thoughts. I want to be able to enjoy life. I want to be more and reach for the woman, daughter, friend, and mother God made me to be; I deserve it and I’m worth it. 

Pastor Lonnie says it best: “Always more…never less!”

Domestic violence awareness  matters, and I can’t possibly predict the sphere of influence my story may have for others. Besides, who am I to stop God’s work in me and those around me? I can no longer remain silent, especially if, through me, God chooses to reach someone else who’s hurting, someone who just might be my friend or family member. To keep the joy and freedom I’ve found and obtained all to myself would be stealing someone else’s potential for hope, healing and happiness.

I’m choosing to be brave and step outside my comfort zone; I’m choosing to listen and put faith in action and do what God is directing me to do. This isn’t about blasting my dirty side of the street or pointing fingers, it’s about choosing to be a voice for domestic violence. To what capacity this voice will have, is unknown at this time, but God knows and when He feels I’m ready, He will reveal it to me.

Psalm 18:2 says: The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the strength of my salvation, my stronghold. 

Am I perfect? No. Do I have it all figured out? No. Am I blameless? No. Do I own up to the harm I’ve caused and the mistakes I’ve made?  Absolutely. Do I have regrets?  Of course. I could stand here and continue to go down the path of “what if…”, “I wish I would have…”, “how could I have…”, or “why didn’t I…”, but that will only continue to stunt the growth and healing that is required to become the person I am striving to be.

In her book, She’s Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You by Chrystal Evans Hurst, she says:

“You can either take action or you can determine your reaction to the story that has unfolded thus far. If you have a sense of discomfort about your life, that is a gift. It is the call of the girl inside asking you not to give up and to fight forher. The mere fact that you have a sense of dis-ease about your life is a testament to the fact that you know deep down you were made for more.”

“…while you cannot control all your circumstances, every day you can choose beliefs, attitudes, and actions that honor the best of who you are and who you can become. Your belief will affect the attitudes you embrace and the lens through which you view your life. Your attitudes will steer your actions — what you say and what you do. What you say and do determines how you move from who you are today to who you will be tomorrow.”

“…if you choose to embrace your journey — even the parts that disappoint you, challenge you, or make you double over from the emotional weight of it all — you can one day look back and see your hard as a part of your life and not the definition of your life.” 

Pastor Nancy engraved on my heart: “I am blessed, highly favored and a daughter of the most-high King!” 

To each of my children, my 15-year old daughter, and sons ages 2 and 7, whom are too young to comprehend everything that has occurred:

I love you with all my heart, even though it’s been broken, tattered, shredded, stomped on and thrown around in the storm. During the last several years, I lost myself and I lost the ability to be there for you to the capacity I should have. I can’t get those years back. All I can do now is strive to make the years in front of us, better and brighter. You are worth every tear I’ve shed, every chain that’s been broken, every sleepless night and every ounce of fear I’ve had. I’m sorry for the things you have witnessed and the pain you have felt; for the anger, hurt, frustration, helplessness, uncertainty, insecurity and confusion that has been placed in your hearts, minds and souls. These feelings don’t just magically disappear, it takes hard work, it takes time and it takes a leap of faith.

Psalm 121:2 says: My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. 

God’s leading the way now and I look forward to the blessings that are just around the bend. Hold on tight to the promises of God, this is just the beginning of the beginning. 

To My Fellow Residents: The road you are on is hard and the path of unknowns can be daunting. The living quarters can be unbearable at times and the drama that comes with living with 40+ other woman and children can be comical, joyful, nerve-racking and down-right annoying. God has placed us at The Genesis Center for two reasons, to seek Him and His will for our life and to heal our brokenness.

If you’re a mother who is fighting for reunification, you will find yourself wanting to rush the process. I learned the time passes quickly, and this is quite possibly the only opportunity you will ever have in their young lives to spend the time investing in YOU; to heal your heart so that you can be the mother they need you to be. Be of good cheer, despite the circumstances. Dig into God’s word and enjoy the quiet time you have for yourself. Seek what God’s will is for you during this time and work on YOU as much as you possibly can.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 

The relationship you have with yourself is the foundation of everything you do in life. Love yourself completely and always be kind and loving with your words and actions. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first; as soon as your children are returned to you, you will have wished you did. When they are returned, you’ll spend your free time chasing them down the halls and negotiating with them at meal times. You’ll spend time building with Legos, blowing bubbles, playing cards, reading books and watching the same cartoons or movies repeatedly, while you nurture them back to health when you’re stuck in quarantine. You’ll even lose your bunk space as you all squeeze together night after night.

Treasure your ME time, the friendships you’re making, the confidence you’re gaining and the safe sanctuary you are blessed to call home. I guarantee you, there are many things you will begin to miss once this chapter is behind you.

Proverbs 3:13-17 says: Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. 

In closing, you may have noticed the Forget-Me-Nots displayed on my table. I was born in Anchorage, Alaska where I spent the first 29 years of my life. The Forget-Me-Not is the state flower, so it has a special place in my heart, but it also symbolizes some important truths:

Forget not to be patient with yourself

Forget not the difference between good sacrifice and foolish sacrifice

Forgot not to be happy NOW

Forget not the WHY of the Gospel

and

Forget not that the Lord LOVES you

Isaiah 49:15-16 says, “…Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…” 

Whenever you think God has forgotten you, your prayers and your requests to Him, remember the little Forget-Me-Not flower and say, “God, forget-me-not.”

LOVE YOU ALL!

Some of you know B.B. some of you don’t but he came to me a couple of months ago begging to get in a residential program somewhere…anywhere. I called several places and one of them told me they had a bed available. I told B.B. to meet me at 8 o’clock the next morning and then didn’t see him for several weeks.

I don’t go looking for guys that don’t keep their appointments and when I see them again I don’t talk about it unless they do. This is their choice and when they’re ready then it’s between them and the Lord.

So B.B. has been on the street for several months since then. He has shown up occasionally and nothing has changed. He still mingled on The Block. He still disappeared with a select few for days at a time. No job. No hope. No future.

He started hanging out again a week ago on a more regular basis and we got to talk a little more. He kept telling me he had to leave. He had to get away from the drugs and his friends.

This past Sunday he showed up at church. He went with several of us to lunch afterwards and pulled me aside and said Pastor Harris was going to call me about helping him…meaning B.B.

Pastor did call that afternoon and told me B.B. wanted help with a bus ticket to Michigan and Pastor said, “I just blurted out that I would. I don’t know why. I just did. I told him we would do what we could but I needed to talk to you.”

Pastor wanted to know if this guy was legit and if we could split the cost. I told him I would get with B.B. to get the real story. Or as “real” as I could.

B.B.s aunt in Ann Arbor told him he could come and stay with them and she could get him a job. He lived there before and he stayed clean. They are a Christian family and want the best for him.

So yesterday morning I dropped B.B. off at the Greyhound Station in Dallas with a ticket to Ann Arbor along with $40 for food on the road. He left at 1 yesterday afternoon and will arrive there late this afternoon. 27 hours on a bus.

Pastor Harris has a good heart and I am so grateful that the Spirit of God blurted out of Pastor’s mouth, “I’ll help.”

I pray for my friend B.B. I pray he finds the peace he has searched for in drugs and alcohol. I pray he finds Life in our Lord. I pray he finds Real Joy in the embrace of our Father. I pray we’ll all be vulnerable to the point of blurting out “I’ll help” when the need arises.

20 We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. 2 Corinthians 5:20 | MSG

A young woman named Stephani gave me permission to share her story on how Jesus led her out of the darkness of death into Life. Thank you Stephani for this raw and very real journey.  You are one of my heros.

I started iv drug use in 2000 but it wasn’t until 2007 is when I started “fighting ” this battle. When I say fighting I am referring to the first time I actually started realizing that I had become very addicted to opiates and my life was very unmanageable. But after many many failed attempts at staying clean, I always ran back to what I felt comfortable in. My “norm” per say. Then there Id go.

I’d stay out for months, years, I’d get arrested, lose custody of my kids, lost sooo much in life. Surely I hit my bottom right? Nope! Let’s see how much lower I could go. I’d overdose, wake up in hospitals. But instead of it being a wake up call…. It made me even go harder, because I was a beast! Nothing could kill me! ….smh….

It wasn’t until this last relapse that everything I’ve heard before … people sharing how they are “so grateful for the gift of desperation “, “you got to be really done and willing to go any length”, “get out of your own way “and “if it wasn’t for their higher power they would still be out there., in jail or dead.”

See, when the pain of living another day consumes your mind, when you’re sleeping in the woods, abandoned homes, when you can’t think of ONE person to call who might give you something to eat or a place to shower even because your family is done with your bullshit and all your “friends” are either dead or dying a slow miserable death themselves. When you wake up in tears because you dreamt you were home with your babies but realize quickly, you chose this instead. When you come to realize (in your delusional mind) that you’re better off dead. I can’t think of anything more rock-bottom other than actually physically dying. You see, this last relapse did kill me, it killed me mentally, emotionally and any spirituality that I did have I couldn’t find it.

It wasn’t until the day I collapsed to my knees begging this all so mighty God to show me he was real and if he loved me then to take me! Don’t save me! Just take me out of this world! Because I completely give up, I can’t go on! It was that day, that all these things I’d heard before made sense. I was given the gift of desperation! I stopped fighting and surrendered. I got out of my own way and begged God to hear my cries and show me his power. Well, I got what I asked for and more! God took me alright…. He took me from death to LIFE! He FORGAVE ME, RESTORED ME AND LOVED ME IN A WAY IVE NEVER BEEN LOVED! I realized quickly, that love was what I was always missing. That relationship with my higher power who I call God.

So, yes… I’ve posted on facebook, publicly, even promised my family , told many times I’m going to stay on the right track just to fail miserably. And for those I personally affected, I’m sorry.

But you see, things are just…. Different this time. I’ve humbled myself. I’ve forgiven myself and others, my thinking has completely changed because… All because MY FAITH is soooo strong. I seek my God everyday, I find him more and more. I am so overwhelmed by his love. Jesus isn’t just guiding me down this right track. He’s the conductor!

Thank you Jesus for being so amazingly good to me, my family, and loving me in a way I’ve been yearning for! **Goodbye Addiction/Bondage 2000-2018…. Hello beautiful life 2018-Eternity **

A friend of mine tagged me on Facebook on this post. It was written by Rene Cobb Cornette from Harlan, Kentucky. It is spot on. “Where would Jesus be?” she asks and then answers.

Let’s talk about where Jesus would be at in Harlan if he were walking this earth today.

He’d be at the BP and commissary ministering to the people wandering around downtown trying to get their next fix.

He’d be at the carnival in the midst of all the cigarette smokers, with the loud, worldly music playing, ministering to those who are lost.

He’d be under the bridges with the people who’ve lost everything to their drug/alcohol abuse and now have nowhere else to go.

He’d be walking up and down 119 ministering to the women who have resorted to selling their bodies to support their habit. I imagine He would be standing right along side them never giving a second thought to who might be passing by and see Him.

Jesus would be everywhere in Harlan where good, going Christian church folk are scared of being caught. He wouldn’t care about His reputation because like the good Shepherd He is, He wouldn’t stop going after the 1 till they were back home. He’d care about bringing the dead back to life, the addict back to sober and the forsaken back to forgiven.

We talk so much about revival coming to Harlan and this is the thing. Revival in Harlan doesn’t look like a bunch of church people shouting and amening for a few nights in a row. Revival is going to the highway and the hedges. Revival is my four and no more attitudes abandoned. Revival is seeing the lost saved. Revival is repentance. Revival is transformation. Revival is you and it’s me losing our stinky attitudes to those who aren’t living the way we think they should and instead having a heart to see them saved and actually doing something about it. Revival starts with us. What are we doing?

Lord, help us.

Jesus is walking the earth today…in me and in all who claim to follow him.

I became a free Uber Driver and this is a story of one of the benefits.

Several months ago a friend from The Block called and wanted me to come and pick him up and bring him to Terrell so he could hang out with some other friends.  Just so you should know: 1. He lives 32 miles away, 2. He wasn’t coming here to hang out with me, 3. He was bored and unemployed, 4. He was not going to reimburse me for my gas.

Counting the cost, I told him, “Sure, I’ll do it.”  I knew then that this was not going to be a one time thing and I was right.  It seems like every week I end up taking him to or from his house to here.  Some people let me know that he’s taking advantage of me like I don’t already know that.  I’ve known him for over two years and I really like the guy.  Even though he has no intention of hanging with me once I drop him off in town, I do get to visit with him for 30 minutes during the trip.  That becomes my opportunity to get to know him better.  He tells me about his family, his likes and dislikes.  I get to know what he likes to do.  I know a little about what his growing up was like. So in a sense I take advantage of him.

Most of our time is made up of small talk but this past Saturday was a little different.  He called and needed a ride home.  We set up a time and place to pick him up.  Once he was in the car he asked what I thought of the memorial services of Aretha Franklin and John McCain.  This was not going to be our regular type of conversation.  This was going to be a somber and serious talk.

We agreed that it was refreshing that two high profile individuals were remembered by so many diverse people as having lived respectable quality lives.  In a world where negative reputations surround so many, these two stand head and shoulders above most.  They each seemed to have navigated life so well that even those that disagreed with them or criticized them ended up sincerely speaking highly of them.  Everyone knew what it meant to respect them.

Our conversation neatly and comfortably turned to a discussion about the legacy we leave.  What is that will be said about each of us once we die? What will my family say?  Will it be unsupported flattering words because we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead or will it be a true positive picture of our lives and influence?

It became an opportunity for us both to face and reflect on what is it we want said at our funerals.  It became an opportunity to talk about the spiritual and Godly impact we want to leave.  I saw and heard that this caused my friend to consider choices he has made and is making.

He asked, “What do you want said about you?’

I told him my purpose in life is to reveal in action and words The Kingdom that in spite of what happens around me allows me to bring Heaven down to Earth.  I want people to say about me whenever my name comes up, “I believe that Don really believed what he said he believed because he lived what I believe he believed.”

I’ve know this friend for over two and a half years.  We have talked about God and His Son Jesus a number of times but I could tell this was a conversation that flipped a switch within him.  It was the kind of talk that seems to show up every now and then.  It’s neat, comfortable and yet just messy enough to change lives.  Both of us I think parted ways on Saturday a little bit changed by the Lord.  I left my friend in His Hands and trust our Father to continue His work in each of us.

I’ll continue to Uber drive for this kind of payment.

I went to Kaufman County Jail tonight to see my friend Clifford. The police picked him up two weeks ago on parole violation plus he had a baggie of powder on him. He originally went into prison at 19 and released on parole last year when he was 51. They sent him to a half way house in Dallas and at some point he left without permission and came to his home town of Terrell.

I originally met Clifford when a friend of his waved me down as I drove past an empty lot on the Southside. He introduced me to Clifford and told me he was hungry. I talked to him and ended up taking him to Serenity to get him food from our pantry.

Clifford made it known he wanted to get into a residential men’s program. I called several places but they were waiting for a bed to come available. This went on for about three weeks before he was arrested. During that time I got to know Clifford and began to hear his story. I have visited him in jail three times since his arrest.
In Matthew 25:36 Jesus said, “when I was in prison you came to see me.” I take that seriously and whenever possible I visit the guys I know who get locked up.

The first time I went to see Clifford he asked why did I come there. I told him that Jesus talked about a Kingdom that’s different than anything the world has ever seen before. It’s a Kingdom of Justice, Mercy, Peace, and so much more but it comes only to those who believe that Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead. By making that one confession we get the Spirit of Christ in us.

A prayer that Jesus told us to pray includes “let it be on earth as it is in heaven.” He also said the Kingdom is at hand or now. We don’t have to wait for it. So for those who have received His Spirit can now bring a little of Heaven to earth.
So tonight as we talked over the phone looking at each other through a thick sheet of glass he told me a story. And that’s why I wrote all this above. To qualify what he said.

He told me that he and another inmate read the Bible together each day and talk about that among other things. This friend of his would volunteer to wipe down the tables and the trays for other inmates. He was constantly looking for how he could help someone else.

However, Clifford saw his friend move another inmate’s belongings off a bunk and put his own stuff there because it was a better bunk than his. Not only did his friend take another’s bunk away but that other man was “special.” He couldn’t think straight and needed help understanding at times. Clifford’s friend had taken advantage of a weaker person.

Clifford struggled with how to confront his friend and ended up talking to him right before lunch that day. He told him, “I saw what you did. You took that man’s bunk without asking. You let him walk around confused without talking to him. That was cruel and you need to make it right.”

I told him he did the right thing. Then Clifford said to me, “that’s what I learned from you. That I need to bring a little bit of Heaven to earth. In Heaven there’s no such thing as injustice. So I did my best to bring justice for that other man.”

Wow! That’s it! Being behind bars doesn’t keep God out. He moves into the hearts of those locked up and frees them to live as Christ would if He was the prisoner. Clifford showed more of Heaven in a hellish place than some Christians show in their freedom on the streets.

Where are the voices that will encourage the downcast? Where are the hands that will bring food to the hungry? Where are the feet of those that will go to the sick and imprisoned? Where are the arms that will embrace the addicted? Where are the tears that will weep in prayer for those lost in this world?

I met Chris two and a half years ago through my son and a mutual friend. He was a drug user and a very likable guy. He was spiritually inquisitive and also spiritually disoriented. He liked the ideas of several major world religions and blended them together like a soul stew. He started hanging out and really liked the whole Jesus thing and thought this was the missing seasoning for the pot.

Chris is not only likable but also highly intelligent. He has good reasoning skills and could see that all of us have a spiritual hunger and saw how the world religions could be combined into something harmonious. But the longer he looked at Christ he came to realize that there can only be One God. It seemed to be a smooth transition for him once he saw the choice.

It seemed comfortable for him to put the drugs behind him and let the Lord continue working on him. The Lord is much better in changing people than we are so we let Him do His work.

Chris became active and still is with Serenity Church Terrell along with a couple of other churches. He attends services and Bible studies at two congregations and is now working as an HVAC technician, met a beautiful young woman and married her.

He is also an artist. He paints in bold designs and colors and has agreed to do several paintings for us.

This is a poem Chris wrote. Like some of the Psalms, it is like a conversation between Chris and the Lord. I hope you enjoy it:

” Dear Heavenly Father
I want to thank you for Your patience
I am a child of yours subject to sin due to worldly ways
but with You I am set free each day
my choices become Your choices
Your will becomes my will
and it is only that which will break the chains
and restore this temple made in Your image
The enemy fears this due to what you have called me to do
They fear those lost will be found
Not only found but made new
Not a better version of what is
but a new creation
something this world has never seen
for the things I speak are heavenly
and cannot be obtained with money or knowledge
but by truth and wisdom on your Father in heaven
No one knows their father better than his child
Every child is special and one of a kind
So he or she is taught differently
And undergoes different obstacles
In order to gain understanding needed to grow
morally and spiritually
So look not to another child for your Father’s acceptance
but to Him directly
for it is only you that can determine His works for you
It is only you that can build the relationship
not your church
not you pastor
It is up to you
and the choices you make
So from this point on I choose You
At times the road may seem rough
Things are not always as they seem
for I send One before you to guide you along the path
for which I have prepared
So worry not My children
I am here both in Spirit and in Heart
so that you may live in peace and unity
With the Love of God
all is possible
even the impossible through faith”

I’m in West Texas with a friend and co-worker this week and we were talking about the terrain out here. It’s flat and non-spectacular in most respects. However, the ground houses a tremendous amount of oil and gas and available to those who are persistent and work hard to get to it. It’s treasure waiting to be found.

It got me thinking about other treasures hidden in the earth and how they seem to be in harsh environments, tough locations to get to, and areas that seem useless in appearance. Yet for those who know that gold, diamonds, silver and jewels are there if you look deep enough, they will reap abundant riches.

Did God purposely hide the most valuable things in these ugly remote places most of us avoid? It is only for the persistent and diligent to find?

Could it be that way with our greatest treasures in people as well? The richest finds for me may be hidden in those that I am not naturally drawn to. The most value for me may come from someone too quiet, too small, not the right looks, not the right economic level for my circle of friends.

Could it be that God has hidden wisdom in those I think foolish and strength in those I think are weak?

Maybe I should go mining more.