Level Ground

I've lost track of the day/month/year I became involved in jail ministry and as close as I can tell it's somewhere in the 15- 17 year range.  There have been many Sundays like today, that I wake feeling inadequate, unprepared, and ill-equipped to make the hours drive to the facility where I serve and meet with women who may or may not want to see or hear the Word I come bearing.

I'm ok with that.  I do and don't go for them.  I do go to share the message of Christ -  of hope, healing, and restoration through the Gospel message, and I don't go expecting anything from them.  I care, but I'm not emotional about it.  It's about being faithful, not about acceptance or rejection.

I've made the drive some days for naught -  turned away because of an outbreak of head lice or women with no appetite for spiritual things.  Some days I quality time with one or two hungry souls.  Other days I leave spent and drained after pouring the Word into multiple cells with multiple hungry hearts and a zillion questions.

I love it.  I never know what to expect except that God is in control. Over the years I've been privileged to include almost my entire immediate family, my mom and even inlaws in aspects of the ministry.  Administrations have come and gone, buildings have gone up, dogs, protocols and rules have been added, but at the end of the day, it's still about sitting across from each other and opening the Scriptures.

These women, these amazing, beautiful, women, for the most part are no different than I.  Yes, they've been involved with things that got them in trouble.  Most are sins of the flesh that got the best of them.  Some are nothing more than stupid irresponsibility.  Only a very few are downright evil.   Many know and have a genuine love for God.  Many more have begun their spiritual journey in that direction.

Today was special.  It was one of those rare days we got down and dirty with the raw truth of how ugly sin is and were lifted up with the glorious truth of our Savior's power to overcome sin, hell, death and the grave.  We enjoyed fellowship, laughed, anguished, counseled and cried together.  When I left we embraced in prayer looking forward to doing it again in heaven.

I've heard people say, "There, but for the grace of God, go I" in regard to those who have stumbled or are less fortunate.  I've come to dislike that statement.  God's grace doesn't make me better than anyone else.  I may have better circumstances, but I'm not loved any more than they are.  The sacrifice of Calvary is there to cover their failures every bit as much as my own.

That being said,  jail is a special place for me and even on mornings like today life wouldn't be the same without "doing my time".  There is no pretending, no posturing, and no agendas.  Just women trying to help each other get through a tough time and meeting together on the level ground at the foot of the Cross where we're all sinners in need.


Good Saint Nic

LIFE!  I thought it was supposed to slow down as you approached retirement age but that doesn't seem to be the case here.  Recently I realized that I need to re-do my bucket list because there are still so many things I want to do!

But that's another lament for another time.  At this moment I just want to put down for posterity another beautiful treasure I found this week in the pages of that dusty old book called the Bible.  Here goes!

There's this guy named Leroy.  We share a ride to or from our closest large city every now and again.  He's an elderly gentleman who drives slow and enjoys good conversation. He's sharp and loves to talk about the Bible and things in Scripture.  It's always an enjoyable ride.

Last week we chanced to be together again and got to talking about Nicodemus.  If you're not familiar Nicodemus is the guy who came to Jesus by night asking (my paraphrase) "WHO are you???" It was blowing the old teachers mind that this young roughneck was doing such miracles.  Plus I think he remembered a 12 year old boy who was left at the temple by some neglectful parents some years before and wondered if it was the same guy.   Whether by omnipotence or memory or both, Jesus obviously knew who he was. . . . all speculation on my part but the the pieces fit the puzzle.  Regardless, that question started the conversation that led to the most famous verse in the Bible:  John 3:16.

I have long believed from Nic's actions following that encounter that he truly came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. One of the reasons is that he so tenderly and lavishly cared for the body of our Lord after the crucifixion.  Seriously.  Who dresses the wounds of a dead man??  They didn't have open casket funerals back then.  The best you could do was slow down the smell long enough to get them sealed up or buried.

So when I was studying some stuff putting together a children's lesson I bumped into a fascinating message about the immutability of God. Immutability is that characteristic where God Never Changes.  Even if He changes his mind about something, it will be in keeping with His character.

Anyway . . . Acts 2:24   . . . "Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it." Why would Peter say it was impossible for Jesus not to raise from the dead?  Because the Bible had already said it!  Psalm 16:10: " For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."  That verse was a statement of God's character, a prophecy and a promise.  My paraphrase again:  "you're not going to leave me in the grave just like you're not going to let your Holy One rot in a grave!"

BAM!  There you go!  Nick knew that verse.  The old teacher guy who had taught the Old Testament all his life knew that body wasn't going to stay there cause God had said so years before and Nic knew God meant exactly what He said.

I didn't know all that during the drive with Leroy.  We had to agree that my belief about Nicodemus  was a personal conclusion since it wasn't specifically spelled out in the Bible.

But I've got the goods now and I can't WAIT to ride with him again and share this!


How many fingers am I holding up?

I've been at this jail ministry thing for a good 15+ years now.  It does not get old, it does not become boring.  Every visit is brand new and every Sunday, no matter how many crazy things you've seen or experienced, is different.  Different people, different needs, even I am different than when I first started.

Today we examined some topics from the book of Proverbs. LOVE Proverbs.  So much WISDOM.  Today was different though . .  I realized that most of these women, while they understood that wisdom was good and something they needed, had no clue what wisdom really was.  Thankfully I have a wise pastor, and have read other wise pastors who's definitions on "Bible words" I've collected over the years for this very reason.

There were other words we dealt with too . . . "understanding" being one of them.  The best way I could explain it was "insight", seeing beyond the obvious.  So I held up four fingers and asked them how many I was holding up.

The scene where Harold Gould did the same to Robin Williams in Patch Adams was profound for me.  "Eight fingers" turned out to be a wonderful way of approaching life and even a teaching tool as I prepared my children for adulthood.  And it was the best way I could approach developing insight to the women I spent this morning with.  The fingers can be anything -  walls people put up around them, social/racial/gender identity, solitude from hiding the pain . . .

So without further adieu, I hope this means as much to you as it does to me:


Sisters in Shame

This morning over breakfast the hubs told me about a book coming out that may or may not affect the outcome of our current presidential election.  It's called Crisis of Character and is a first hand account of experience with the past  Clinton administration.  It contains previously unknown information about the scandal that rocked the nation.

No political commentary here.  If you want to know more get the book and form your own opinions.

Let's talk about Monica Lewinsky.  What do you think of when you hear her name?  I know.  It's ugly, disgusting, or even funny if you are warped.  Mostly it's sad.  Because a foolish young woman made a very common mistake young women sometimes make and she's living the rest of her life as the poster child for in-discrimination.  People still publicly snicker at her.

She's not the first woman in history to endure such.  King David had a wife like that.  Despite his making Bathsheba an honest woman by marrying her and their son even sitting her on a throne beside him, history STILL sees her as the woman on her back shaming a kingdom.  Ask most any preacher about her. The first thing he tells is not that she was an excellent wife, raised the wisest man in history or was the role model that Proverbs 31 was written about. No, he'll tell you that she helped bring a kingdom to its knees.  Never mind that God/Scripture/Nathan and David himself cleared her name.  She's still getting the Lewinsky treatment.

Never met Monica.  Know one person that saw her at a restaurant once.  But I like her. Why?  She's using her pain and her shame to help others.  Don't believe me?  Check out her Ted Talk.  This is not a person in hiding.  This is a person out there trying to do some good with what's left of her life.  This is something to be admired, and should she choose to trust Jesus (and I truly hope and pray so!) some day, like Bathsheba, I'll be able to tell her how much I respect and admire the person she became.


Too little for too long

My poor blog.

I just checked in and realized how TERRIBLY long it's been since I shared something of this crazy farm /ministry/diy kind of life I live.  Truly terrible.

It's not that there has been nothing to say, indeed there's lot to chat about, ponder, meditate on and explore.  I've just not done it publicly, at least in this venue.

There's really no catching up on (ahem)-teen months of silence, neglect, busyness, so I'm not going to try.

What I am going to do is look at my day.  Today.  I've got 13 minutes before its over in this time zone so here goes.

Prison ministry was GREAT this morning.  Getting there and leaving much earlier under the new guidelines, but that's good.  Still LOVE ministering to women.  Love those women.  I relate to them more than should be admitted.

Got pulled over on the way back.  Trooper.  Blue lights flashing.  Really nice guy.  66 in a 45.  I don't understand why he let me off with only a warning but he did.  Thankful for mercy and grace.

Good sermon at church. Trooper told me better to arrive late than not at all so late, but that's not unusual for the Mr. or I.  Enjoyed the service.

Had a plate of ribs waiting for me at home compliments of a family friend.  Didn't really get to enjoy them till way late, but they were fabulous.  Also had a bushel of corn, a cooler of rhubarb and a truckload of dirty dishes to deal with.

A sweet puppy customer came with her adorable sons-  we spent 2 hours playing with  puppies on the screen porch as they decided which one to take home next week. 

And it rained.  So now my out of control yard will grow more out of control.  And the 0-turn has an engine problem and I don't know how we're going to handle that.

The hubs and friend finished dog beds for the kennels they started yesterday (the friend had to go and wanted to see the project finished -  sometimes you just have to suck it up.).  But it's done and oh so nice for the animals.

Just got in from giving meds to 9 sweet pups who got into something. Nothing serious but still has to be done.

Squirt - our miracle puppy weighed in at 870 grams before being tucked in.  The hamburger leftovers from the rib joint seem to be agreeing with him and he's up 70 grams from this morning.

Our guest almost convinced the Mr. to shoot a snake on the screen  porch late last night. The only reason he didn't was beause he didn't want to damage the floor or house at such close range or wake me up.  Today they wanted me to see it before they killed it - told me it was some kind of adder.  I told them it was plastic. A real snake would have put it's head down at least once in 12 hours.  I'm not making this up.

Didn't get to talk to any of the kids today but did see an adorable video of  EJ chatting it up in her car seat.  For FOUR WHOLE MINUTES.  She would do great in media or entertainment.  Especially comedy because this 2 1/2 year old has vocabulary, insight, observation skills, opinions about EVERYTHING and does not hold back. And drop dead gorgeous.  There's a video of her driving the tractor somewhere on Facebook if anyone can find it.  Look out world.

So it looks like I went 11 minutes over.  Oh well.  Happy Monday. 


Remembering Scout

This is such a joyous season of life.  In the past 20 months the hubs and I have been blessed with three beautiful grandchildren - babies we hoped in our hearts would would join us someday, and whom we knew would be greeted by joyous parents.  Two sweet little ones have joined us by birth and one little treasure joined us by adoption. 

As I write  little one #4 is due in a few days.  I find myself on pins and needles awaiting his arrival.   Later on this summer, another sweet child will be born,  making a family of three a family of four, and the eldest of the bunch will have a little sister.

My heart sings.

And my heart sings in a far away place too, because there's another one.

We never got to meet Scout.  Scout was in heaven before anyone knew God had created him or her. We won't know till we get there whether this child is even a boy or girl.  But that's ok.  Like all things our God does that is good and just and right, even the small flame of Scout's few days had purpose and meaning and was intended for greater than we could understand at the time.

So mingled with the joy, the laughter, first smiles, silly songs, blowing on bellies and this little piggies, there's a lullaby deep in my heart, a song waiting to be sung for the little one waiting on the other side.  Till then, I'm sure the angels are enjoying little Scout immensely.


Sleep Well

Sometime back I jotted down some thoughts about staying well.  I happily confess that except for a few brushes with the ickies, I've done very well this winter.  And I sadly confess that I left out one of the most important things you can do for yourself  -  Sleep.

Normally this is the part where I would post a nice photo, but alas -  I could not find any that adequately depicted my idea of a good sleep.  All the photos were beautiful younger people in white sheets shot in bright white light - NOT my idea of a good nights sleep.

In fact a good night's sleep is quite the the opposite.  Who cares what color the sheets are, because its supposed to be DARK.  And if you can't get the room dark, make yourself dark by using a sleep mask or covering your head with a blanket.  You just can't get a good rem sleep in the light.

I wasn't always this way, but after reading The Hibernation Diet, I came to realize that many factors affect our sleep, including how much light is in the room. Upon making a few changes I started sleeping sooooooooo much better.  And now that some years have passed I find good sleep to be increasingly important to function well.

And it also helps you STAY well.  When you get run down your immune system is more likely to become compromised.  And for me, when I feel that happening, sleep is my number one weapon against becoming sick.  Probably the most prominent experience happened while visiting our daughter late last year.  Sunday afternoon after a couple of wonderful days  found me coming down with something AWFUL.  Once we got home I hit the sack and slept most of fourteen hours.

Fourteen hours. And I felt fine the next day, and the day after that, and after that . . . .

So sleep. There is good reason the CDC considers sleep deprivation a public health epidemic.  Don't be a statistic.