What Did I Expect?

I expect to find sinners in jail.

As a volunteer jail chaplain, I met women inmates who were prostitutes, thieves, drug addicts and dealers. And yet, I was not repelled by their crimes, or hedonistic acts.

God gave me a heart for these women.

My fearful personality morphed into boldness when I sat among women inmates behind bolted, metal doors. For I loved telling them about God’s redeeming love. I also loved watching God work in their lives.

WHY do I react differently when overt sinners, Outside of Jail, cross my path?

Recently, I left my Christian bubble and ventured beyond the comfort zone of my small hometown.

20141016_112316I wasn’t in jail. I was in a high-class hotel in the heart of Chicago’s business district.

I wasn’t with criminals. I was surrounded by well-educated men and women, wearing power suits and Rolex watches, who climb the ladder of success regardless of the collateral damage they cause on the way up.

Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I knew “I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.” Nonetheless, my skin crawled when someone blatantly sinned, and then I overheard the crude comments and laughter of people who observed it.

The Pharisee rose within me. I wanted to cast stones, and avoid these sinners who felt no shame.  Then again, what did I expect…surrounded by lost souls?

Earlier that day, I asked the Lord to give me His eyes and ears as I walked the streets of Chicago. Throughout the day, random strangers returned my smiles, exchanged friendly conversation, and showed me acts of kindness I did not expect in a bustling city where skyscrapers like Trump Plaza block heaven’s view.

So my joy took a nosedive that evening when the eyes and ears God gave me, allowed me to witness a….

  • World where sin reigns in the hearts of people who reject Him.
  • World which prefers darkness instead of the Light.
  • World that God so loved that He sent His only begotten Son, ….to seek and save the lost…that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

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Yes, leaving my Christian bubble to visit Chicago opened my eyes. However, years in jail ministry showed me three things that remain true:

  • NO ONE is beyond God’s grace. Not a criminal, not a millionaire in a power suit,..not even me.
  • RELATIONSHIP with unsaved people does more than Bible thumping to open hearts to hear the Gospel.
  • THE HOLY SPIRIT does the work of salvation. 

I can plant seeds of faith and water them faithfully as opportunity allows. I cannot control who is saved, or when and how it happens.

I can only control how I respond to each person, saved or not, that crosses my path.

Will I love them like Jesus, friend of sinners?

Will I point them to Jesus instead of pointing fingers at them?

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans  5:8)

Ever Feel Lukewarm?

Empty nest and letting go was the subject of my previous post. Granted my home is quieter, but the house doesn’t feel as empty as my soul.

It’s like God moved away and didn’t leave a forwarding address. And I can’t muster the energy to seek Him.

empty white room backgroundnovember 2011 recruiterpoet blog xeh5ufu5 November 2011 Recruiterpoet BlogTell me you’ve been there too because admitting I’m spiritually lukewarm and lethargic isn’t a piece of cake.

After all, I write about seeing the Lord in my everyday circumstances, and wanting more of Him. So how can I write when I’m unable to experience the reality of His presence?

More important, how can I live well and be in God’s will without seeking His presence?

I know that nothing can separate me from the love of God.

I’m not depressed. I’m not bored. If anything, I’ve allowed busyness and frivolity to fill the void of God’s absence.

And yet, what did I expect would happen? Who moved away from whom?

Earlier this year, I had a forever friend who gave me the silent treatment. She didn’t return my phone texts. She was unavailable to meet with me. I finally confronted her, “What have I done to make you pull away?”

Her response, “I’m hurt. I don’t want to be somebody you meet on occasion before you’re off to the next person or thing. When did I become an obligation instead of someone you want to be with?”

Her words struck a chord. For I was guilty of indifference; taking our friendship for granted.

Perhaps I’m guilty again.

  •        Have I taken my relationship with the Lord for granted? Or do I remember I’m not my own. I was bought with a price, Christ’s precious blood.  (1 Corinthians 6:20).
  • Is my worship of God, Almighty a morning discipline or my heart’s desire?
  • Have I’ve neglected to meet with the Lord because I’m pursuing other things: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life? (1 John 2:16)

I only know I can’t go for very long before I miss the Lord.

He alone can restore to me the joy of His salvation (Psalm 51:12).

For in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

I know because I have been there. I’ve tasted and seen the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)

And I’m selfish enough to want to go there again.

What Reputation Precedes You?

Wearing a navy blue cap and gown, my son strutted across the stage to receive his high school diploma last week. All I could see through misty eyes was a bundle of joy wrapped in a blue blanket that lay in my arms eighteen years earlier.

Memory is a marvelous thing.

And yet, there are things I wish I could forget. The pain I’ve caused others, grievances I’ve harbored against someone who hurt me or mine.

Memories… good and bad…appeared in my mind’s eye when other graduate names were announced that evening. Their reputation, some tarnished by previous poor choices, accompanied them. And because I fail to forget….my impression of some students has remained skewed.

“Character is what you are. Reputation is what people think you are,” said Henry H. Aunderson.

Even if it’s not true, excellent, or worthy of praise.

“Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep ’til noon.” ~~Mark Twain.

Who do people think I am, if they think of me at all? What is the reputation that precedes me? I cower to think my flaws and my past define me.   

Praise God for His tender mercies that are new every morning.

Praise God, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us….” Psalm 103:10-12

By God’s grace, may I learn to see people through my Benevolent Heavenly Father’s eyes so I can Forgive and FORGET.

What is Fear, but a lack of trust?

It was dusk when I walked the narrow path made of white butcher paper, marked with a male’s naked, red footprints.

High school students had transformed the school gymnasium to recreate a Journey to the Cross. It was an outreach to turn people’s hearts toward Jesus.

By God’s grace and the Holy Spirit, these hearts would be convicted and healed.

Instead of praying: Fix my problems. Show me the way.  

I asked God, Show me my SIN.

Show me what action or attitude within me, is offensive, or contrary to Your will.   

The very sin Christ bore as He died on the cross to set me free.

April 2014..Journey 118  

As I entered the gymnasium, somber music played from The Passion soundtrack. Black and burgundy cloth, hung from wires, subdivided the gym to create smaller rooms depicting Jesus’ betrayal, trial, scourging, death, and resurrection.

In one area, there was a sign: Take a black scrap of cloth and a piece of chalk. Write a sin, something you wrestle with….then nail it to the cross.

Of my many vices, FEAR surfaced. For what is fear, but a lack of trusting God?  

We can’t trust someone we don’t know.”

That’s what my friend, Loretta, told me years ago.

Since then, I’ve gone from head knowledge, knowing about God, to KNOWING HIM in a more intimate way that satisfies my heart.

And yet, FEAR remains my Achilles heel.

So I scribbled: FEAR; lack of trusting God.

Prior to writing those words, I had glanced inside a small nearby area designated “Prayer Room.” Since it was evening, the room was devoid of people, but I hesitated to enter. After God revealed my sin, this weakness that cripples my faith, I stepped inside.

Pillows and blankets lined the floor, tea lights in mason jars flickered, and white icicle lights hung overhead. I sat down to pray, but my jaw dropped. For next to my ankle was an index card with the word TRUST.

April 2014..Journey 121

I picked up the card, turned it over. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:4, 5

A few other cards were scattered on the floor. Different words, different verses. But TRUST was the word next to me, the first card that caught my attention.

Coincidence? That a student felt led to write TRUST, two days earlier?

Coincidence? That beckoned me into that prayer room, caused me to sit down in that exact spot?

Tears of joy, not condemnation, filled my eyes. How can I not love my Lord who reveals my sin, but then gently reminds me to TRUST.

  • Trust…the Lord with my life, and circumstances beyond my control.
  • Trust…the Lord loves me and died for me too.
  • Trust…the Lord that I’m forgiven and a new creature in Christ Jesus.

I nailed that scrap of black cloth to a large wooden cross. A cross blackened with the sins of teachers, students, and parents who had gone on this Journey before me.

And like the others, I wrote on a wall near the empty tomb,

April 2014..Journey 123

One of the many benefits that come when we’re Born Again, and our sins are forgiven: Peace, joy, gratitude, hope, love, victory, freedom, a new identity…..

journey 001

Have you trusted in Christ?

If so, have you told Him how much you love Him?

Comes Out Sideways

There’s a giant hole in my basement ceiling, situated below my kitchen. A plumber ripped out the drywall ceiling in search of a leaking pipe. Sure enough there was a plastic vent pipe with three holes, compliments of a rat we’d caught in the crawl space two years earlier.  

DSCN3014The plumber said we wouldn’t have known there were holes in the vent pipe, if it hadn’t been for a blockage in a different pipe.

Instead of the water backing up into the kitchen sink, it found the holes of least resistance and flooded the ceiling.

What does that scenario have to do with eternal significance?

Because the image of those exposed pipes in the ceiling flooded my heart, reminding me….

When I don’t deal with hidden sin in my heart, especially a grievance against someone, foul words will eventually pour out of my mouth.

The problem isn’t my lips or mouth, it’s my heart.

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” (Matthew 15:18)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Un-confessed sin towards others creates the perfect environment for bitterness to take root. Like the blockage in my water pipe, my thoughts and attitudes fester, clog my arteries. I may not be aware of my heart’s condition until, BAM!

Someone triggers my emotions.

Releasing a barrage of unkind words, or a barb.

Exposing my unhealed wounds like the holes in a pipe, and all because I had a blockage in my heart called un-forgiveness.

Once spoken, hateful words are like releasing a bag of feathers into the wind. There is no getting them back.

But sometimes, unkind words are subtle. People have to read between the lines.

 “Sideways,” a friend told me. “When we’re not forthright, everything comes out sideways.”

Like a verbal slap that comes from left field, but aimed to hit home.

Grumbling or murmuring behind someone’s back.

An “innocent” intentional action to make a point.

Passive aggressive is another label for not dealing honestly with others when we’re offended, or upset.

Fortunately, my heart was exposed last week along with my kitchen pipes. Now, everything is cleared, clean, in working order.

And the drywall man is here to repair the gutted ceiling.

Should I tell him what I learned, even in this?