It continues to amaze me how God can (and will) use the most ordinary thing to stir something in my Spirit that, I believe, He is wanting me to share with others. Last Wednesday morning was another great example.
My husband and I receive a monthly prayer calendar from We Care. The We Care calendar has specific things or people to pray for each day of the month. January is dedicated to people and/or items concerning ReNew Hope. On January 11th, we were asked to pray for “Donors, Prayer Intercessors and their families”. A simple enough request, right? Yet, something began to stir in my Spirit and it didn’t go away, so here I am trying my best to share what I believe God wants me to share.
What comes to your mind when you think of a mission trip? Africa? Nicaragua? Tibet? Ecuador? China? Russia? Haiti? The Outback of Australia? Prison?
When we were asked to pray for the donors, prayer intercessors and their families, it made me think of all the churches who go on mission trips to other countries every year; but, how many, if any, sponsor a mission trip to a prison yard?
Every year, during the last week of January, an organization called the We Care Program conducts a “mission trip” of sorts. It is called ReNew Hope and people come from all over the United States, Canada and other countries to spend a week in Alabama and take the love of Jesus into the prison mission field. Many of these people are using the only week of vacation they receive from their every day job to do this, not to mention it costs them money to come and participate. These people have a true calling from the Lord to do this and they are blessed for it. They are blessed most when they are given the privilege of seeing a lost soul come to Jesus for the first time or when one returns home (comes back to Jesus), like the prodigal son. If you haven’t already signed up, it is too late to participate in this year’s ReNew Hope. However, if you feel like this is something God is calling you to do, you should go to the website for We Care (click on the name and it will take you there) and get more information. Maybe you can join in next year. If your church participates in mission trips, maybe you could talk to them about supporting a mission trip to the prisons in Alabama (and one in Florida) next year.
I realize we aren’t all called to go to on mission trips – abroad or at home – but, we can be called to help those who are. If you don’t feel called to go, you should not go; but, if you are called to help others go, you should help in any way you can – whether that be financially or through prayer.
I believe the prisons are some of the biggest mission fields today that are lacking the most in missionaries to cover it. This is due, in part, to the fact there aren’t many willing to go into this mission field and partly due to the fact those willing to go have a hard time raising the funds allowing them to go.
My husband, along with other We Care Chaplains, goes into, what some would call, one of those most dangerous mission fields on a daily basis – not just once a year. He goes into prisons. He goes in to share the hope of Jesus, to share his own story of what God did and continues to do in his life and to let the men there know He can, will and wants to do the same for them, if they will allow it. He does this under the umbrella of the “We Care Program”. We Care does not contribute to his salary; but, forwards to him funds that are given for his support, in the form of wages. He receives 100% of the money donated to him, unless it is donated with a credit/debit card. If a card is used, a small percentage goes to cover administration fees collected by the company associated with the card. If you would like to become a partner with us, or any other chaplain with We Care, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to share with you the information on how to do that.
I would like to give a little more information about the We Care Program, for those who aren’t familiar with it. We Care’s vision statement is: “To see the redemptive power of Jesus Christ become evident in the lives of inmates as they grow and make disciples in prison and beyond.” Their mission is “to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ through chaplaincy in the correctional setting” and their core values are Biblical foundation, daily discipleship and caring ministry.
I challenge each one who has read this far to be in prayer for the over 400 people coming together next week for this mission trip. I further challenge you to be in much prayer about it this year and see how God would like to use YOU on this mission trip next year – as an active participant, a financial participant (helping or sponsoring someone else who wants to be an active participant) or as a mighty prayer warrior. All three are equally important and vital to growing the Kingdom of God.
The men and women in prison, in God’s eyes, are no different than you and I. They made wrong choices and are paying the consequences of those choices; but, they are still men and women created by God and He will welcome any man or woman into His Kingdom when they confess their sin to Him, turn from their wicked ways and do their best to live daily for Him – even if it’s from a prison yard. Think about this: there are many prisoners who have been truly born again and are living a much freer life than some of us on the “outside”.
But thanks be to God, Who gives us the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ I Corinthians 15:57
After reading my devotions this morning, as I do every morning, I began to write in my prayer journal. I say it has turned into more of my “thanksgiving journal” than my prayer journal because, most days, I’m simply thanking Him for various things. Lately, most of my actual prayers are not written – for a few different reasons. This morning, however, turned out to be a little different. Oh, it started out the same – my usual “Good morning Father! Thank You for waking me this morning” then I wrote the words “Christmas Eve” and, after that, I really didn’t even know what I was writing until I finished and read back over it. I felt I should share it and I hope it will touch at least one person’s heart and/or life. I am going to simply share exactly what is written in my journal:
Christmas Eve – the day before we celebrate the day of Your earthly birth – when You chose to put aside Your glory and Your Heavenly home to come and dwell among us AS one of us! My mind is hard-pressed to even BEGIN to comprehend the depth of Your love for ME! There are no words and, even if there were, I don’t know that I would be able to get them down on paper. I feel so inadequate and extremely unqualified to even try – so I pray and I ask You to help me live my life in a way that portrays and conveys what there are no words for – a love with no explanation – a love that can not be explained – a love that only You can give! I want my life to be a life that points others to You and honors You in a way no words can and a life that brings glory to Your Name! Without You, I am nothing and worth nothing; but, WITH YOU, I am unstoppable!
Help me to share the TRUE gift of Christmas every minute of my life – every second You give me breath; for I can not even take a breath without You filling my lungs with air! Help me to remember every day I have is a rare and precious gift FROM You and how I choose to use it is my gift TO You. I want to always be able to give You a lovely gift at the end of every day and, without Your help, even that isn’t possible.
My heart is truly overflowing this morning as I look back over this past year and remember all the wonderful “gifts” You have given me:
- time spent with family & friends
- growing love from & for my husband
- a daughter making her way back to You
- FREEDOM from my fears
and so many more! With You in my life, I truly can have Christmas every day, as can anyone else!
Thank You for all You have spoken to my heart this morning and, for all I have asked this morning, I ask it in the Precious, Holy Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth! I love You 🙂
Part IV – THE END – or is it really just the beginning?
Truly, I don’t understand why the rest of this is to be shared. Since it is on my heart to share it, however, I will. If it is only meant to be shared for one person to read it and get something from it, then it was worth it. Actually, if no one gets anything from it, it was still worth it because I am being obedient in writing it. So, if it is only about my obedience, I’m okay with that, too. As you read on, understand I am only sharing what God used to get MY attention to make me realize how I have been coming up short in my walk with Him. Now, on to Part IV. . .
Then came Friday, June 26th and the Supreme Court’s ruling. When I saw the breaking news on my phone and read their decision, it wasn’t only my heart that felt broken. I felt completely broken on the inside for our country, for the lost souls, for so many things. It was as if someone flipped a switch inside me and all I could do was cry. In fact, I did cry outwardly a little, but I was at work, so I had to try to keep myself together. I wanted to cry out to my Father loudly; but, I had to do my best to keep calm. I wanted to get somewhere and pray in earnest; but, I could only lift up silent prayers at the time.
This feeling of brokenness stayed with me the rest of Friday on into Saturday and Sunday. To be honest, I am still feeling it, although in a different sort of way. Now it’s as if it is there just enough to remind me how serious things truly are. If this decision is what it took for God to get my attention and make me realize how I had been neglecting a major part of my responsibility as His Child, it worked. I will never be the same again, I know that. I never want to be the same again!
I could not shake the feeling that I needed to be in the altar, crying out to my Father for forgiveness – forgiveness for my laziness in my prayers. Sunday morning I didn’t want to attend ‘just another church service’. I wanted to spend the time in prayer – and that’s what I did. The church we attended Sunday morning has a prayer room that is open during the morning service for anyone to go in and pray. I spent the worship time in the prayer room. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be praying for, specifically. I just started praying and asked Him to show me. In fact, I prayed Jeremiah 33:3 again, asking Him what it was He wanted to show me. I began praying for the service going on in the sanctuary, I prayed for lost loved ones and then I began to pray for my husband and myself. We both have a tendency, every now and then, to let the enemy ‘beat us up’ about things we did in our past and allow ourselves to fall for his lies about how we can’t be used by God because we aren’t good enough or smart enough or because of our past. Suddenly, I was praying against those spirits of confusion, doubt and self-condemnation, telling them they had to go in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and asking God to replace them with His Spirit of order, clarity and virtue. Recognizing we don’t get our identity from our past, but we get our identity through His Son, Jesus Christ! I then began to ask Him to give me scriptures to remind us WHO we get our identity from and the thought came to me, ‘just get your Bible and see where it falls open’. No, I didn’t want to get scriptures ‘by chance’ – I wanted to “know that I know” the scriptures were the exact ones HE wanted us to meditate on. Like the way He led me to Jeremiah 33:3 last week and reinforced it to me over and over. I wanted to know with that kind of knowing. I prayed a while longer and then I felt I was released to go back to the sanctuary for the last few minutes of the service.
And, BAM! There it was – EXACTLY what I had been praying about. (Just a note here: The service is not ‘wired in’ to the prayer room and, while I could hear the preacher talking, I could not understand anything he was saying.) It absolutely blew me away when I walked into the service and heard him speaking on our identity and the fact we get our identity from Christ! He was giving and reading scripture and talking and, suddenly, I realized this was exactly what I had just been asking for and, “I need to be writing this down!” I even took a picture of the slide that was showing on the screen:
Needless to say, I came away feeling absolutely energized by Him and what He had done in me that morning. I have no idea where He intends to take me on this journey. I only pray I can keep up – I don’t want to lag behind Him and I don’t want to run ahead of Him. I just want to be right by His side, in step with Him and doing what He calls me to do – whenever and wherever that may be! Oh! And how cool is it that He also put this picture back in front of me this week – one I made a while back and very fitting for this particular time:
While this is the end of this ‘series’, it is far from the end of what He has started and is doing in me. I have no idea what might be coming next; but, rest assured, if He tells me to share it here, I will. Even if it’s just for the practice of being obedient to Him and is meant for nothing else, I will share.
I wanted so much to write about it that very day. I wasn’t able to – not only because of other things needing to be done; but, because I had no idea how to put it into words. I asked Him to help me get it down, so I wouldn’t forget and so I would have it to look back on later, as I felt He was going to begin to do more and more and I wanted to remember when and where it started. He never gave me the words to write about it, though, until today – four weeks later – and I’m still not sure I did it justice. I only know I felt it was time, because I had so much more to add now. I had no idea it had already been four weeks since my “unquiet, quiet time” until I sat down to write and looked in my prayer journal to get the date. I truly was thinking it had only been a couple of Sundays ago.
On Sunday, June 21, 2015, He led me to a verse I had already been praying quite often lately. I felt Him leading me to focus on praying that verse more. “Ask Me and I will tell you, Frank & Kathryn, remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come” – Jeremiah 33:3 (Yes, I have learned to always personalize the scriptures – especially when I am praying them). A little back-story here: My husband and I have been praying scriptures for God to show us what He wants to do about our house situation. We discovered we have Chinese drywall and it seems to be the culprit of keeping my husband so sick with his sinuses, etc. We know God doesn’t intend for us to live in a house that keeps either one of us sick, so we have been praying and asking Him to show us what we need to do. Jeremiah 33:3 is one of several verses He gave us to be praying through all this.
So, when He led me back to that verse on the 21st, I thought it was because maybe He was getting ready to show us something about the house situation. Now I’m not so sure that had anything to do with it. On Monday, June 22nd, He reinforced that scripture to me – remember, in Part I, I shared that I write the time down when I begin to write in my prayer journal. I think you could look through my prayer journals, covering the last few years and you would never see a time entry the same as the one last Monday morning, June 22nd. When I began to write in my prayer journal, I looked at the clock on my computer to get the time and it was 3:33 a.m.! WOW! I knew that was no accident or ‘coincidence’ – I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in GODincidence!
On Tuesday, June 23rd, He reinforced it again when I merely glanced down at my “miles left on this tank of gas” gauge, as I do from time to time and it read 333!
I tell you these things to share why I had truly been focusing on praying that verse and to share with you, when you pray in earnest and you are truly serious about what you are praying, GOD LISTENS!!! You may be thinking He wants to show you something about one situation, yet, He will use that to get your attention and then answer your prayer by showing you something entirely different!
Tomorrow I will share with you what happened next 🙂
Remember me saying how I try to be EXTREMELY quiet during my quiet time? Even as I began to pray, without writing, I was trying to pray quietly; but, that didn’t last long. I had my elbows resting on my desk with my hands up to my Father, praying and praying, thanking Him and thanking Him. I began crying and began to roll my desk chair further away from the desk, while keeping my elbows on the desk and my hands in the air, until I could no longer sit in the chair. I found myself on my knees, weeping uncontrollably, and crying out to my Father. Even that wasn’t enough, before I knew what was going on, I was stretched out, flat on my face before my Father. I knew I was no longer in control. All I could do was weep and pray. I have no idea what I was praying – no, I wasn’t praying in tongues, or at least not what most would consider praying in tongues. I know I was saying “Thank You, Jesus” over and over; but I was also hearing deep, guttural sounds and I have no idea what that was all about. I was praying and weeping from a place deep within my soul like I’ve never done before.
I would come to a place where I wasn’t weeping and I would think I was done. I can even remember thinking during those times, ‘I’m going to wake up the whole house. The dogs are going to start pitching a fit to go out, Frank is going to get up and wonder what is going on in here (remember, I was supposed to wake him up at 6 and I had no idea what time it was); but, I had no control over what was going on and, remarkably, I never heard the dogs make a sound. It was as if they couldn’t hear me. The minute I would start thinking those things, I would start weeping from that deep, deep place again. I could sense God was saying, ‘I’m doing something in you. I’m starting something and I’m not done yet. I will let you know when you are released.’ I didn’t hear that in an ‘audible’ voice, just felt it in my Spirit.
Later, I was still lying on the floor and the weeping had subsided. Then I began to chuckle a little bit until I was laughing – yes, LAUGHING! – and I heard my Father ask me, “Do you remember?’”
“Oh, yes, Father,” I answered, “I remember. I remember it well,” and He held me in His lap again, with His arms around me and allowed me to laugh and laugh again, just like He did a few years ago. (You can read about that here, if you haven’t read it before)
Not long after that, He allowed me to move to a sitting position. I was even able to reach up and open the door to the office, but I couldn’t get up just yet. I heard my husband up and taking care of the dogs; but, I still couldn’t get up from the floor. I felt…….I really don’t even know how to explain what I felt….spent and, at the same time, refreshed and renewed. Still a little confused, not knowing exactly what had just taken place. I know it’s hard to understand; but, it was a feeling of knowing and, yet, not knowing at the same time. I knew one thing for sure – God had done something that morning and, I believe, it was just the beginning of far more to come.
You would think that was the “end of the story”, right? Not yet – stay tuned for Part III 🙂
I come quietly out of the bedroom, easing the door closed behind me, and walk as lightly and gingerly as possible through the living room, past the doggy crates, so as not to wake them, as I make my way to my office. Once safely inside, with the door closed behind me, I turn on the light and get my devotional book, Bible and prayer journal. I always read my short devotion and then proceed to start writing my prayer in my journal. Keep in mind, I am always striving to be as quiet as I can – even when shuffling the books around, so as not to wake the husband or doggies.
The morning of May 31st was no different – until I started writing in my prayer journal. Some years back, I began writing the time down when I start my prayer and, this particular morning, I can look back and see I started writing my prayer at 4:46 a.m. I didn’t need to wake my husband up until 6:00, so I knew I would be done in plenty of time. But God……….He had other plans for me that morning. My prayer started out normal as usual, just thanking Him for different things. As this was the morning my husband would be giving the message on Life Row (yes, the Chaplains call it Life Row, not Death Row), I also began praying for him and the service he would be involved in later. I wrote a fairly lengthy paragraph and realized I could not write anymore! I felt, in my own words, from my entry that morning, “my heart is about to burst open right now!” I had to put the pen down so I could just continue to pray and PRAISE Him without writing. That’s when it happened.
Stay tuned for Part II – coming tomorrow 🙂
Today I was asked to find a poem for someone about Christ rising from the dead. So, of course, I went to Google and started searching. I found some nice ones, some really good ones, but they weren’t about Christ rising from the dead. After reading a few, I heard something and tried to dismiss it. Something – or should I say Someone – was telling me I could do this. I could write something, if I would just get quiet and listen. Search the scriptures and listen. So, I did – search the scriptures and listen, that is – and before too long, it was written. Little did I know it was only the beginning of something my Father wanted to show me.
I wanted to attend a Communion Service tonight because, frankly, it has been a while since I’ve taken Communion and I felt I needed it. I have to be honest, I believe this is the first time I have ever felt I needed it. Don’t get me wrong – I always love it when I get to share in Communion, but I think it was always just something I do because I’m a Christian. Yes, I know it is something to be done very reverently and in the right manner and attitude, but, at the same time, even though I thought I was partaking in the right manner and attitude before, I now know that I wasn’t. Do I feel ‘condemned’ about that? Absolutely not! Why? Because God knows my heart and He knows I was not aware of what I had been doing – until tonight. Tonight, He revealed to me something huge about my relationship with Him. It hurt me to realize what I had been doing and yet, even in His correction, which I was ready and willing to accept, I could feel His deep, deep love for me.
What is it that He showed me about my relationship with Him? He showed me, as much as I love Him and as much as I thought I had been honoring Him, I was wrong. He took me back and showed me I had become a little ‘too comfortable’. Yes, He loves me and yes, He tells me I can come to Him at any time with any problem, big or small; but, He also reminded me I still need to keep my awe and reverence for Him intact. I can’t let myself become so comfortable with Him that I forget what He did for me. How He sent His ONLY SON to die for ME! His Son didn’t just die for me – He died a horrible, gruesome, cruel death and He would have done it even if I had been the only person on earth!
Lately, I have started hurriedly reading through Bible passages, just so I could get done and say, ‘I did it! I got my Bible reading done! WOO HOO!” I get up on Sunday mornings and go to church because it is the ‘right’ thing to do and because I do enjoy worshipping my Father. However, even in that worship, I find my mind so easily drifting to other things and not staying focused on my Father. I know that is a tactic the enemy uses on many of us, but I am only speaking of myself here, because I am responsible for me. What I’m saying about me is I don’t even think I can blame my lack of focus on the enemy. I am the one who seems to have forgotten Who it is I am worshipping and how worthy of my awe, reverence and total focus He is!
All I could do tonight, as He was pointing these things out to me, was cry. I shed many tears of sorrow in the realization of what I have been doing. The whole time He was showing me what I needed to correct, He was also loving on me and, as I asked for His forgiveness, He was lavishly giving it, just as He promised He always would.
I know the change won’t happen overnight. My loss of awe and respect didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual change and one I didn’t even notice. I will be asking and seeking Him daily to help me regain that which I let slip away. I know He will be patient with me and help me regain the awe and reverence I lost.
All this because someone asked me to do a seemingly simple task. One thing I’m learning is to do my best to be aware when He is trying to get my attention. He got it today and then gave me that feeling of urgency to attend Communion tonight, where He knew I would be still, quiet and ready to listen to Him.