Monthly Archives: January 2012

Stormi

As promised I am sending an excerpt from a letter that was recently sent to the ministry. This woman was one of the first ladies we ministered to at McCracken County Jail over twelve years ago. When we met her she kept her eyes on the ground barely lifting her shoulders even to walk. She would take a seat in the back of the room just sitting and staring. After a few visits she began to open up to one of our volunteers. Her life was riddled with tragedy, drug use and abuse. All had taken their toll on her. She was not clean or even coherent at some points. She admitted to us she had gotten involved in witchcraft, which she practiced regularly. When we encouraged her to accept Christ as her personal Savior and leave evil worship behind she expressed extreme anxiety. She simply shook her head at us and said she couldn’t. We were finally able to drag out of her what was causing this strong emotion. She told us she had experienced a horrible nightmare in which Satan had visited her and told her if she ever gave her life to Christ that he would never allow her children to survive. This fear had paralyzed this woman.

Stormi kept coming to the classes and eventually she turned her life over to Christ and began to trust Our Great God. It has been a long road for this woman but as you can see from the note below, she has begun a new life in Christ and is living in our society free from abuse, drug use and witchcraft. She is now a mother and grandmother living her dream. It is more than she could have ever hoped for.

This is a sample of the things that Our Lord has revealed to us over the years. We don’t always know just what He is doing but from time to time He reveals snippets of goodness to refresh and revive us as we march in the mission field week in and week out.

From Stormi December 2011

“Yes, Christmas was good. All my girls and grandkids are in Paducah now.”

I do hope you know how much that class has helped the people at MCCJ. It’s made a difference in many lives and even in the jail itself. While the ladies go to the class, they feel more for each other and work towards a better tomorrow.

“My life has become ALMOST everything I ever dreamed it could be. Last summer we bought a little pool for the grandkids, with toys and had a cook out. My yard was FULL of our kids and grandkids. It was the moment I realized things were almost perfect…I was as close to being like my grandmother as I think I could ever be. I had reached Nirvana.”

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Set your captive free

Jesus GAVE himself up FOR you. If Jesus wanted to be selfish he could have denied the road to the cross; instead he freely traveled the road to death. He was willing to trust His Father even when things did not look good. He could have gotten defiant like children sometimes do. He could have stomped his foot and said “No, I will go this far but no further!”

This picture of my Savior walking the road to certain doom convicts me when I am tempted to withhold forgiveness from a fellow Christian, co-worker or any person who has wronged me. Jesus held on to what he knew about his Father even when he was tempted, beaten and ridiculed. He decided not to look at the environment around him allowing his emotions to take over. Jesus decided to trust His Father.

Jesus GAVE himself FOR you and for me. God’s Son endured the cross of Calvary where they hung him up to die! He experienced separation from his beloved Father in heaven for us. He GAVE himself FOR us. He FORGAVE us then GAVE his life FOR us.

Doesn’t it seem like a small thing to erase a transgression in light of all we have been offered? Next time you are tempted to hold a person hostage for their sin towards you, won’t you think about Jesus? Release your captive, let them go, you will be glad you did.

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Don’t give up!

Has there ever been a time that you wondered if God was giving up on you? Philippians 1:6 says: For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. In other words, if you are a believer in Christ, He will not let you down. He will continue to refine that good work He has started in you until the day of Christ Jesus. His intention will be to stir in you the desire to discipline yourself to follow after Christ, no matter the cost.

Will you have days of despair, discouragement and depression? Yes, of course! It is necessary to feel the pressure, and the natural inclination for most humans will be to give up, throw in the towel or return to the old habits. Don’t despair, He is only showing you how helpless you are without Him. What a joy to know that He won’t let any of us down and will come to our rescue right when we think all is lost. He is faithful. If God is for us who can be against us? He will finish what He starts!

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Fashion Statement

Each prison population has a designated color assigned to them. Each uniform for that prison is exactly the same color and style. Even their undergarments are all the same. Once a person is incarcerated they will wear the same outfit every day. The only personal item that is different among the population is their shoes.

As I stand in front of the prison population each week I am often struck by this sea of color. Females, as you might imagine, are not at all happy about this fashion trend. They desire to be individuals and work hard to create their own sense of style with these shapeless cotton garments that are assigned to them. It can be amusing to see what they can do to create a fashion statement with so little to work with. No matter how hard they try they are still swallowed up in the sea of sameness when they are assembled together.

Even though they hate the lack of individuality this provides it gives me great comfort and encouragement. When I look out over them and their uniformity I am reminded that the very thing they despise is what I love. Their uniform reminds me that God sees us all the same. He doesn’t look down from heaven and say “Oh there is my upper class citizen, and there are my poor pitiful poverty stricken people.” God’s people all look the same to Him, He loves us all the same!!! It is not a beauty contest. What we would consider our flaws are actually beauty marks from our creator. We are all individual to God and yet all the same. We have a wonderful loving God who has created us in His image. So, you see we all look like Him if we are truly His child. He then gives His children individual talents and traits that set us apart from others (tennis shoes). God is an amazing complex God who hasn’t neglected a single detail.

I am praying the next time you look into the mirror you will see God’s creativity smiling back at you instead of the perceived inadequacies you have convinced yourself of. Then put your shoes on and see where He leads.

 

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I just can’t forgive myself!

Do you have trouble forgiving yourself? Have you done something that you believe is so terrible that you can’t stop condemning yourself for it? Do you consistently bring it up to God? What if I told you that what you are trying to do is a sin?

God gave the Son of Man the authority on earth to forgive sins. (Mathew 9:6) Jesus hung on the cross, endured a horrible death to redeem you from your sin. Once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior you are saved. Your sins are forgiven because He took them on himself. You cannot forgive yourself because you do not have the authority from heaven to do so.

This issue if you will? is a classic female malady. Women consistently tell me “I just can’t forgive myself.” I say “No you cannot, you do not have the authority to do that.” God gave the authority to our Savior, His Son, to do that. By expressing your inability to be unable to forgive yourself you are in effect saying you are suffering from the sin of unbelief or lack of faith or both. In truth, pride is probably the biggest demon here.

Since the beginning of time Satan has been twisting God’s Word just a little to trip us up or keep us hand cuffed to our past. By doing so, we become ineffective for Christ, we can’t walk in freedom. If you are suffering from this chronic problem can I offer you some relief? May I gently remind you that you are not in control? Take your burden to the cross for the last time. Ask the Great I AM to forgive you for your sin of pride, unbelief or lack of faith and step into the Promised Land with no baggage. Learn to embrace the new creation you are in Christ. Accept this free gift and wear it every day from now on.

Just imagine with me if all those reading this were able to let go of the past and walk in freedom from this day forward how much work would get done for the Kingdom? Go ahead, take the key God has given you and unlock the handcuffs.

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Need Peace?

I am powerless at my home when it comes to the television. I never have the remote in my hand and as a result I can barely operate the talking beast that lives in one corner of my living room. Growing up in a home with 3 older brothers where the three channels we enjoyed were 3, 6 & 12 meant I was the remote and never chose any program I might have enjoyed. It didn’t take me long to discover books! Reading allowed me to control the volume, tone and content of the programming filtering through my mind. No big brothers to invade my space with their sports programs and game shows they never seemed to tire of.

Our world today is louder than ever with thousands of electronic options (channels) as it clamors for our attention waiting to assault our minds with its logic hoping to gain our loyalty. Television, internet, theatre and radio are just a few sources we are constantly tempted by. God gave us our mind to think on things above. Romans 8:6 says “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”

As an adult, I still love books; I love to read anything that I can learn from especially the WORD. It has brought this once powerless little girl into a woman who depends on it for her every need. The things of this world can be harsh and harmful to our minds leaving imprints than can be hard to erase. We should take great care as to what and where we choose to allow our minds to go. Sin always starts in the mind and once it does it usually tries to escape!

Need some peace? Open up the WORD and enjoy some much needed rest from the world today.

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Joshua or not

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9) Ok, if God needs to say “DO NOT be afraid or dismayed” then there must have been a good reason to believe that Joshua was going to feel that way very soon! As I read this scripture and meditated on it I wondered “Am I sure what dismayed means?” Definitely not a word I hear often. I also noticed that different words that we get use to reading or saying in scripture are no longer considered everyday words in the 21st century.

I am a fan of the Webster’s dictionary in the hard copy if you know what I mean. I love to look up words and ponder their meanings. We can all expand our vocabulary every day if we want to. It just seems that we no longer have the want to. We just read over words thinking we grasp their meaning without really knowing how to define it completely. (Youngest daughter are you listening?)

So, let’s see what this word “dismayed” really means or meant in context to this scripture. Dismay implies that one is at a loss as to how to deal about something. Specifically for this passage it means, a sudden disappointment or sudden loss of courage. At the beginning of the passage God asks Joshua a question. “Have I not commanded you?” My paraphrase would be “Haven’t I already told you this?” I am giving you a warning that what you are about to see or experience is not exactly what you were thinking and it might cause you to suddenly lose your courage and become afraid and disappointed.” God was letting Joshua know in advance that he might be coming up against something that would create a deep despair and a sudden urge to give up! Joshua would need to remain strong and hold onto his courage.

Well, I can’t imagine why Joshua would be afraid; I mean becoming the leader of 2 million people and then crossing the Jordan River with them to the long awaited Promised Land. No problem, right? This new job was going to require great faith and Joshua was going to want to quit. The good news is that God says He will be with Joshua wherever he sends him.

I love this scripture; I keep it close so I can remind myself that God is with me and I can’t do any of this without HIM and I don’t need to be afraid. Life is a series of sudden disappointments, fears and frustrations that can really make us wonder what we are doing here. What I believe God was really trying to do was build a trust relationship between Himself and Joshua. If Joshua could learn to rely on God completely during those moments of extreme fear or when he became dismayed they could be great companions. Joshua would then become a vessel through which God could do great works for His kingdom. Joshua did learn it but God had to remind him a few more times to be strong and hold onto his courage. I think I have been Joshua a time or two how about you?

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THE WORD

John 1:1- In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God, and Word was God. Therein lays the simplest vocabulary the New Testament has to offer. Yet, this short sentence provokes deep thought about the WORD.

It is amazing how God had John pen these words to illustrate the completeness of His WORD. The WORD has always been in existence. The WORD has walked among us; The WORD is now complete in its written form and free to communicate to us through God, Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit.

That is indeed a lot to consider from the simplest vocabulary. God has provided us not only, His Son’s death and resurrection to cover our sins but the person of Holy Spirit to dwell within if we believe in Him causing a communion that testifies to us thereby allowing The WORD to do the work God intended it to do.

Sometimes the simplest things can be the hardest. All of us would do well to return to the beginning and review our elementary truths from time to time. They are filled with power and truth giving us strength for every day. In the beginning was the WORD and it still is….

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Love letters

My administrative assistant has a daughter preparing for college. This young lady has made it her business to see how many scholarship offers she can get. She has recently been waiting for a letter from a certain university to arrive by the old fashioned snail mail. This university doesn’t know it but they are in the running for the number one spot. She is excited and so are her parents for obvious reasons. The family made a pact that she would not open this precious piece of mail until they could all be together. The university has added some hype by sending their target an electronic temptation. They let her know the letter was on the way.

Now I know letters by the US postal service aren’t the norm anymore. We enjoy quick communication and have come to expect it, even demand it. But… consider the anticipation of this young woman as she stares at her envelope wondering what is inside. She is about to find out what God has in store for her future. She is anxious and fearful all at the same time. The best part about the letter will be that she can keep it forever. No accidental delete button to destroy this message.

For twelve years, I have been receiving different types of encouragements from the female inmates I minister to. These letters have been collected and stored neatly in a file for years and years. Each time I receive one of these prayers, drawings or poems I read it and carefully then placed it among the others. Over time I have grown so accustomed to this practice that I admit I haven’t enjoyed them as I should have.

Not long ago a voice on the answering machine at the ministry office was asking for a poem they had written for me over a year ago. The paper copy had been given to me and the owner had lost her original copy. She was asking if we could locate the copy she had given me and return it to her. The staff looked at me bewildered.

I smiled knowing exactly where that precious piece of paper was. The file was removed from its comfortable perch on the rails of the file drawer. I was amazed at how thick it had become. So bulky it needed two hands to protect the contents from scattering. Some were long and descriptive. Most filled with scripture. God was speaking to me through those forgotten notes. HE was reminding me of the mission He has called me to. The women professed their love to God and to me. I found the missing poem in a matter of minutes but I took my time browsing through the rest of the folder savoring the musty smell of the prison paper knowing how much God loves those women.

How incredibly loving of Our God to send not one but hundreds of love letters to a tired missionary. These letters were very near me every day but I was so busy with day to day tasks I didn’t bother to look at them. I am not ready to return the folder to its home just yet. I plan to post some of the notes or phrases in the next few weeks. I pray you will receive a blessing from them.

A copy of the young woman’s paper was returned by the US postal service for her to keep forever.

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There’s a war going on!

Spiritual warfare is real and all around us.  I have learned this in a very upclose and personal way since I began ministering to female inmates.  Satan has worked hard to derail this ministry and its volunteers. I often say “the visual for the mission of this ministry is going to edge of hell and grabbing hold of these women by their ankles and pulling them back from the fire!”

Mission work is hard.  Getting in the trenches is tiring and mentally exhausting, it will keep you up at night, it brings tears of frustration and days when you feel completely defeated.

When I am feeling that way I turn my eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face and the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!  Those old hymns help me so much, they remind me that I am not the first nor the last to spread the good news on the front lines and that Jesus has sent me a Helper.

Today, if you are struggling with defeat let me encourage you to turn your eyes upon Jesus!  Let his glory envelope you and chase away the darkness.  He has plenty to go around.

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