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.

I am sitting in the small food court area of Midland International Airport drinking coffee and eating a smores cookie. I am also currently reading a small book by Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son.  The book is only 150 pages and normally would be a quick read by me.  Surprisingly, I have been working on it for about a week.  I read a few pages, think and pray.  It is challenging me in a wonderful way.  It comes with my stamp of approval.

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