Prison | Part 2

Why me? Why little, insignificant me? I don’t have experience. I don’t have the words to say. I don’t have the understanding to relate to them or their circumstances and pasts…

In preparing for the prison Journey I felt the weight of this awesome privilege – a God sized work that little me felt so unworthy and inadequate to partake in. And yet there was His overwhelming reassurance that it is the weakest, lowest, smallest ones He so desires to use. He doesn’t ask me to be big enough, strong enough, or good enough. Only that in the greatness of my weak and sinful state, I humbly acknowledge that I am nothing – and that He is everything.

SEVERAL HAVE ASKED ME WHAT I CAME AWAY WITH, AND WHAT IT IS THAT FATHER TAUGHT ME THROUGH this TIME OF MINISTERING IN THE PRISONS.

Who He is

I would have to say first and foremost that my Father not only stretched my faith {as I asked Him to do from the very beginning}, but He opened my eyes to see His very person and nature in a whole new way. Oh how selfish and me-centered I am! Oh how very much I focus on material, earthly things – my desires, my goals, the things that I want, the relationships I do and don’t enjoy, the plans that I have for my future, etc. when there is so very much to be accomplished and lived out for His Kingdom and for His glory. As He moved in a mighty and powerful way each of those 9 days, I found myself overwhelmed by His holiness, righteousness, awesomeness! And yet He desires and cares to have an intimate, personal love-relationship with little selfishinsignificant me!

To be like Him

Coming home I have been praying earnestly and fervently that He would strip me and break me and crush me of my pride and selfishness. Oh that I would have no will of my own – but only His will. That I would desire nothing, but to be like Jesus Christ. That I would live every moment of every day aware of His presence, leading and guiding me. That I would be so attentive and in tune to His Holy Spirit’s promptings and that my gaze would be fixed on Him. I want others to see only Jesus in me – not the sinful, selfish, proud person that I am. I desire to live for Him, to answer His every call no matter what my feelings tell me. To say always, Yes Father – I will. To commune and fellowship with Him no matter what I’m doing or where I am – because He is my best friend, my Heavenly Father, my Saviour and Redeemer, my Abba.

Truly, nothing else matters! What are all the little dreams we dream and plans we plan and thoughts we think? In the light of eternity, little of what we deem so important actually matters. Oh to be conformed to the image of Christ – to be more and more like Him; to live fully surrendered and obedient, humbly at His service.

Sometimes it takes being confined inside the walls of a prison to grasp this reality. When everything you care about and love is taken away and there is nothing left but to turn to Jesus; when your family is falling apart and your past is a tragedy to think upon, and the future seems bleak and hopeless. At times like this the schedule doesn’t matter… work tasks and sports events and whether or not a friend still thinks highly of you, are of little or no importance… another task checked off, the latest greatest thing you want to possess, whether or not you have the home or car or lifestyle that you’ve always dreamed of.

When my focus is me, I miss out on the fulfilling, satisfying, purposeful life that Jesus Christ is.

His greater love

He has given me such a deep love and appreciation for the broken, hurting, and shattered ones. Those who have nothing and are at the lowest of the low – lost in sin and darkness. They are the ones He came to save. They are the ones so totally in need of Him – and very often they are the ones who are now realizing that Jesus is all they have, and Jesus is all that they need {as was the case with many of these women}. They are the ones who need to learn that there is always a great ministry to be born out of their darkness. Today, here and now, there is a purpose and a calling despite the circumstances and difficulties that surround. There is work to be done, a life to be lived for Christ.

He does all things well

If He does it or allows it, it will be a part of His perfect plan. These women saw that. Many rejoiced throughout the week that they were in prison. They shared testimonies about how if they had not come to prison they would never have found Jesus. They would never have been made alive. They were so happy, so privileged to be there – and our prayer became, “Father, whatever it takes…” Now I find myself thinking about this more and more – I am challenged deeply to realize that my feelings will almost always betray me. His love is usually the opposite of what I perceive to be love. And yet His ways are perfect and His plans are best. Whatever He does or allows in my life, I can know with all confidence and complete trust that He is good. And He does all things well.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many grateful people in one place, at one time. I’ll admit that I was tempted to feel discouraged as I heard their stories. 10 year, 20 years, a lifetime? Some of these women may never see their children again. As they shared their stories and expressed their fears,  my heart went out to them. But again and again and again I heard their testimonies – they expressed thanksgiving. “If I had not come to prison, I never would have found Jesus…” And through this I was reminded yet again that true happiness and joy do not depend on the circumstances we face. Christ Jesus has given us the power to rise above, and live victoriously for so much more. Now these women are making prison their ministries. They have already planned out weekly meetings to review the materials from our heart Journey. They have agreed to keep each other accountable, to seek God in His Word daily, and to begin discipling and sharing the truths of God’s Word with the other inmates who have not heard about His redeeming love.

Blessed

I love these women. I long to be back with them, simply because of what HE did in and through them, and how very much they blessed my life. I went to serve them, and oh how He touched my heart through their smiles, their testimonies, their excitement over a Bible verse or prompting from the Lord. Oh how He proved me so little of faith as I prayed for many things and saw Him work again and again in ways far greater than I had imagined.  It is a beautiful thing to see Christ enter into broken lives and make them whole and alive. His joy spills out, His love flows through. His peace brings healing. He is good, and He does ALL things well.

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{With Bethany and Amy … last day at camp}

SISTERS

This morning I woke up and looked at the picture taken in our prison {each prison group had their own picture taken}… the crowd of smiling inmates dressed in blue, a dozen or two of us young ladies mixed in throughout. Today I am reminded that I have friends in Florida; sisters in Christ; sweet, precious women who love Jesus and are living out their sentences with a higher goal of becoming more and more like Jesus, and of investing in and reaching out to the other inmates who have not yet found their lives {or purposes} inside that prison. I hope to write them letters, to continue to love and serve them with the compassion and kindness of my Abba Father. My desire is to faithfully share the truths of God’s Word with them, that they might walk victoriously in the light of His Word, and become His ambassadors – to share the love of God with those who are in darkness. Even the ones that have gone through much of what they have gone through – the ones that perhaps you and I will never be able to reach.

Most of us will never realize that Jesus is all we need, until Jesus is all that we have. The question is, what will it take for you? for me?

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