Wednesday, April 15, 2015

4 Things I Learned in Prison | Hope

You have nothing to say. There's no way she'll relate to you. Can grace really be this deep?

This voice in my spirit would not relent. I don't know if it was my own doubts or some outside source, but it was ugly and mean.

The Word of God is sharper than any double edged sword, I spit back. Greater is HE that is in me than He that is in the world, I repeated it to myself over and over again.

I shook my hands out and bent my knees. I felt like I was going to buckle amidst my group of women.

He came to seek out and save the lost. I was lost and so was she. He came for me and her.

Sarah* was probably the seventh or eighth girl out the big metal door. She shuffled her white sneakers down the ramp and onto the cold damp concrete.

One thing I noticed right away was the two different style of shoes the girls had on. Clean white sneakers and black cloth slip ons with rubber soles. That's interesting, I thought to myself.

As she started looking around, I walked up to her and introduced myself. "Hi, I'm Jules. What's your name?"

"I'm Sarah," she said and as she did her eyes lit up and the corners of her mouth began to widen. Most of these women were numbers. Identity was considered a privilege they didn't have.

The program started and we all sat on the cold hard concrete as the speaker told us her story of brokenness, abuse, and addiction. Sarah sat next to me.

"Do you ever get tired of doing this?" the speaker asked. "Do you ever get tired of running and surviving?" Some of the women answered verbally and others just with their brows and nods.

"Then listen to me, there is rest for you today. Jesus said, 'Come to ME and I will give you rest."

Wiping the tears from my own welling eyes, I glanced at Sarah. Then I looked to my left, behind me, and in front of me and I saw it. I saw the walls cracking and heart gates opening. I saw women, just like you and me, sitting in what looked like an elementary school yard, feel the pain and the loss and the fear.

I saw, old ones and young ones alike, covering their mouths with their sleeves because this woman told them we loved them.

It was obvious they'd never heard that before, or if they did it was followed with a broken promise.

"These women," the speaker continued, "They came here from all over the country just for you."

We huddled into groups of five or six and Sarah, wiping her eyes and a little worried about her makeup, scooted into my group. We talked through the message of the Gospel and then the flood gates opened. It started with Sarah.

"I've been here for 15 years," she said, "and I've got 10 more before I'm even up for parole. My youngest son is in his 20's and I never saw him grow up. I have five grand babies I've never even met. Every day I wake up and ask God why He's keeping me alive. How do I keep the faith with something like that?"

Remember how I noticed the two different styles of shoes? The girls who were in for a short-term didn't waste their commissary money on shoes. They'd get by with the cheap ones. But the sneakers, the clean white crisp sneakers, those girls had lost all hope.

There it was again, that voice. You're in way over your head.

With tears streaming down my face, I leaned in, looked her straight in the eyes and replied, "I have no idea. I have no idea what it's like for you. But I do know this: the God you pray to every morning, if it's the same God I talk to everyday, He is in the business of redemption."

"Even for someone like me?" she asked.

Yes, absolutely yes.

- - - - - - - - - -
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."
He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied. Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you."

Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
Luke 18:35-43

Wholeness, healing, redemption; all things I tend to put subconscious guidelines on. For instance, it'll only come to situations like this and people like that. It's never too radical but definitely not impossible. 

My finite mind has tried so hard to grasp the vast concept of grace and salvation, the undying hope of the world, but it was a pair of crisp white sneakers that made it click for me.

Hope is for everyone. Everyone. There is no limit on God's redemption plan. 

This weekend Sarah was confronted with the same question Jesus asked the blind man, What do you want me to do for you? 

And she answered, "Hope. I want you to give me hope."

*Names changed to protect identity
This post is part of a four part series. Did you miss Part One?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

4 Things I Learned in Prison | Faith

We drove up to the back entrance, on the back end of a car line filled with old Cadillacs and soccer mom SUV's. My hands were sweating and my body aching as we pulled into our parking space.

I thought I knew what I was doing, but it turns out I had no idea what I was getting into. This was the kind of thing you can prepare for in theory, but until you do it, your mind grasps desperately for something predictable.

Nothing about this was predictable to me.

As we walked towards the crowd, my manila packet in hand and name badge pinned securely to my black leather jacket, I prayed unbeautiful prayers that sounded more like stuttering than actual supplication.

Help me, I'm not sure, what am I doing? How, how, how did I ever think I could make a difference here?

Yet, regardless of what I thought I should or shouldn't be doing, there I was, walking myself alongside an army of grandmothers, mothers, recovering addicts, widows and a few college girls into a small door on the corner of what can only be described as the Jericho of chain link fences.

We had come to prison.

And I was terrified.

But not of them. Of me.

As we walked along the freshly cut grass of the maximum security women's only prison, and into a gym that steamed of clorox and lemon, I thought, "What exactly am I going to say to  a woman who was incarcerated for things I can't even dream up??" A lot of these women were here for life.

Who was I, this girl with standard life, to tell them about joy and freedom and redemption?

I doubted God's move on this one, but promised I would keep my heart and my eyes and my ears open to hear from Him and seek out hopelessness.

Unfortunately, I didn't have to look far.

As we walked through their dorms, toward the backlot where we'd have our gathering, I could have cried, seeing the vast pendelum of reactions when a dozen women walked through their "home" smiling and greeting them with all warmness and care.

Some were furious. Some were confused. And some lit up like a child on Christmas morning.

They looked at us like we weren't real.

Hopelessness wasn't far off.

- - - - - -

What do you do when God calls you to something you feel completely and utterly inadequate to accomplish?

What do you do when you have no concrete idea what you're actually supposed to be doing? 

I had a lot of questions and about 7 minutes to discern an answer. Or so I thought. For most of the morning, I thought I needed the entire roadmap to be effective. I needed to see the destination and work backwards in order to not end up off roading or stuck in a ditch I couldn't get out of. 

Nevertheless, I had a gut wrenching feeling God was going to do, once again, what He'd been faithful to do all my life:

God was going to guide my steps. Not give me a full delineation of the game plan.  

In other words, I had to move, walk, step instead of sitting in the paralyzing planning phase of the moment. 

Reason is knowing and trusting a proven God. Faith is super scary movement based on reason. 

So I walked. Right up to a beautiful woman named Sarah.*

To be continued.
*Names have been changed to protect identity. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mystery Of Love | Shoreline Music

This song was written weeks before we live recorded this album. Chris Sligh walked into work one day and said, Guys, we have another song to add to the list.

WTH! Was what was probably going through the majority of our minds because we'd already recorded, demo'd, set up and re-setup everything one needs for recording day. Adding another song to our already full album set list seemed ludicrous. (And I'm not talking trash on the rapper.) 

He sat down at the grand piano in our worship suite, played through this song and almost instantly we all fell in love with it. Not just for the practicality of it, singable, accessible, phenomenal message, and catchy melodies. 

We fell in love with the spirit of this song. We knew this is exactly what our church needed in this season. 

The night of live recording, the entire band left stage while Skip Downey played on that same exact grand piano and led a room full of worshippers into a last minute song they'd never heard before. 

And they sang. They sang at the tops of their lungs. For us, that's a miracle straight from the Lord Himself. It's like He prepped them, before they ever walked through those doors, to sing along with words and melodies their hearts had been yearning for all week. 

Another piece of heaven fell upon our corner of the world that night and we hope you're as blessed by the song as we are. 

- - - - - - - - - -
Song: Mystery of Love
Band: Shoreline Music
Worship Leader: Skip Downey
Find chord charts and more videos on our Facebook.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Fear May Nag Us in Every Season

Sometimes there's seasons where I'm grinding through so much, I can't write it all down quick enough. And when I do find time to get something on paper or in this blog, it doesn't quite make sense. 

At least not yet. 

So that's where I'm sitting at the moment. In my apartment, windows open, babe asleep and dish washer running, and waiting. I'm waiting for it to make sense. 

There's so much to celebrate right now and yet my mind keep gravitating towards the fear. Fear of what could be's or what should be's

Will I ever get a hold of fear? 
Will I ever be able to hold it in my fists, look it in the eye and have the last word? 
Is it always elusive or can it be conquered to the point of dissipation? 

Maybe this is why my friend Paul from the first century Church said
"This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, [fearful], grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children." (Romans 8:15 MSG)
Maybe, just maybe in these moments of this life, the existence of fear is my reality because I cannot see the entire storyline. If I could, I'd have no need for fear. 

Maybe, I have the question wrong. 

Maybe it isn't, "When will fear cease," but rather, "How deep does my trust go for the One who conquers it?"

This is tough stuff.

It makes our T-shirt Christianity feel a little flimsy at times, eh?  You know you wore them too: WWJD (what would Jesus do?), FROG (fully rely on God), LGLG (Let go, Let God). 

Fear may nag us in every season, but at the end of the day, we can rest in this:

He who began in a good work in you (and me) will be faithful to see it to full completion.

And if we hold fast to God, as a child clings to her Father, our race will not be in vain.

There is nothing, no man or woman, no circumstance or trial, no sin or amount of shame that can keep the love of God from enveloping us. Forever.
Faith. Hope. Love, and the greatest of these is love

Fear will always lose to love.

- - - - - - - - - -
"We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less." 2 Corinthians 5 
^^^Opinions, two-cents, questions and ramblings are welcome. And go above. Go ahead. Try it.

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