Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Conferences are awesome.  You are put in a room full of generally like minded people, coming together to solve problems, network, gain information and exchange knowledge.  They serve so many wonderful purposes and I have the privilege of attending Prison Fellowship Ministry's Out4Life Conference in San Antonio, TX!

But unlike other conferences, this one has one up on most!  God is here!  He's here and He's working miracles!  And today I was able to witness a miracle right as it was happening!

Last night, this conference was televised on the local news.  That's a pretty common practice, right?  Large group of folks gather for an interesting topic like prison ministry and the news decided to take a moment, no doubt for a "feel good" piece to round out the daily reporting of more negative newsworthy items.  That's pretty awesome in itself.

But what is more awesome is how God works when His children gather and seekers seek Him.

Unknown to all of us at the conference, an ex-offender in the area, struggling and scared, was watching the news and came across the conference.  God raised up in him the courage to find his way (by foot) to the Double Tree Hotel in north San Antonio, walk in to a roomful of people, not knowing what he might find or how me might be received, and simply ask for help.

He has now been connected with over a dozen folks who are working with him on housing, employment, legal and other immediate needs issues and it happened within minutes.   Folks gathered around him to pray and then God's army of servants went to work to start finding him the support he needs to stay Out4Life!

If nothing else happens in this conference, and trust me, alot already has....witnessing our living, working, involved God in action in those moments made the whole trip worth while.

Tonight, when you lay your head down to sleep, pray for Daniel and the many men and women who seek God and are often rejected by the world, even the church!  Praise God that Daniel was loved, embraced and is going to be cared for in the way the church is called to operate!  And then thank God that He's there for you and your family and that you have a God that moves and acts and loves us so well!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Love, God

Last night I talked to Juanita, the mother of an ex offender, out on parole. This strong, multi-lingual woman has taken herself from first generation American to impressive female business owner who has supported her two children through opening and running an English as a second language school in Mesquite, Texas. She has worked hard and earned her way. She is a Christ believing, spirit filled mother who for years has been tormented by her children's choices.

You see, both her son and daugther have chosen a life of drugs, night clubs, partying, laziness and fast money schemes.

Her daugther, the one with whom I was calling to inquire about was in WILCO with me back in '07. She was one of several who would spend their nights up reading Christian teaching books, the Bible and praying together. As the days passed, she was sentenced to 5 years TDC and was paroled out in February of 2008. I had picked her up from the Gatesville Unit and spent the day delivering her to her parole officer, and then to her family for a reunion that brought a lump in my throat.

During Monica's stay in TDC, I began vising her monthly to encourage her to continue her walk with Christ and to create after release plans that included church attendance, bible study and a real reconciliation with her mother most of all.

Juanita was so pleased to hear from me last night though she had nothing positive to report on her daughter She has no idea where she is living or working or how she is making her money. The only reason she knows she is still alive is because of the cell phone on their family plan that Monica uses; and when she doesn't receive Monica's payment for her portion, Mom, utilizing boundaries with her children, cuts off her phone which always prompts a call from daughter. But as she said, at least then I know she is still alive; otherwise I would have no idea is she is okay.

Juanita is tired, she is sad and yet she is also determined that strong boundaries with her children are the only thing she can do to remain focused on taking care of herself; because worrying and rescuing her children was literally killing her. What Juanita does know of her daughter's life is that she was going to the methadone clinic but back using heroine as well. She knows her daughter is always broke and always calling to beg for money which she will not supply. She knows she is struggling and lost again to "the world" that quickly drug her back from a jail saved seeker of Christ into a living in the flesh lost soul.

But here's the real tragedy and here is where I believe some real blame lays. The week I made arrangements to pick Monica up from her release, I had arranged to deliver her to parole and then to bring her from Mesquite to Georgetown to spend two weeks or so with myself and Pastor Joy (the same woman who walked me to my decision for Christ) to gird her up in her faith and spend some time outside the prison walls in a God centered friendship and fellowship. Parole agreed.....

until we arrived there in Mesquite and suddenly they decided they had several "classes" and appointments she needed to attend. None of which helped to encourage her faith or give her solid resources to lean upon until she could find a strong support system outside! Now I know that day I was much inconvenienced by all the driving but I didn't mind. Monica and I had a chance to enjoy a meal together, talk for the several hour drive to her home and for a time with her family as they just basked in the reunion!

The problem, however, was the lack of support by parole and their own bureaucracy to consider solutions outside their box. Faith based programs are showing the highest rate of success and yet secular systems such as probation and parole are not yet fully embracing these options.

Could this have made a difference in her life and her choices since release? The answer is obviously yes, it could have! It is a guarantee? Of course not. We are fallible, flawed humans who are always free to continue making bad choices. But when options are closed to us during those vital first days of transition, when direct discipleship is mandated as a "no go" for reasons that are legalistic, secular stubborness then a grave injustice has contributed to the problem rather than supporting solutions.

I am searching for Monica, hoping to find her and get a chance to remind her of our spirit filled days in F5. I know if God put her in my mind and heart, then He has a reason. Experience shows us that those who are faithfully discipled upon release have a far greater chance at success than those that don't. Changes must be made to insure that Godly relationships are not disrupted or interfered with by over zealous, under discipled authority.

Yes, as I reflect on my conversation with Juanita, I am infuriated that another child is lost to the world for the time being and that hands in authority in our secular world had a part in that.

There are no easy answers but to again, as always, rest in God and pray fervently for each and every woman He places on our hearts. "Monica, I'm here for you. Love, God"

Monday, June 21, 2010

I might be a little sleepy but God has other plans.

When God moves in our lives its kind of hard to ignore.

You do things totally out of character. People respond to you in totally new ways. Closed doors open and open doors just slam shut. Energy levels go through the roof and things that have been weighing you down are checked off your "to do" list because they just magically get done and you stand back thinking "I' put that off for that long why?? That took me all of ten minutes!"

Okay, well maybe that's how God works in the world of the great procrastinators like myself and He probably works differently in your life! But the end result is just the same. Stuff gets done!!!!!!!!

Good stuff.

Exciting stuff.

I have to admit that last night as I saw the clock tick toward 1 AM I was hesitant to get to bed. Why? Because that meant Monday and a deskload of promises were all set before me that I had put off for too many days to count now. I slept late and I finally got nudged out of bed by my adorable husband who asked "Is it getting out of bed today or just hiding?" Like any good procrastinator I wanted to hide. Hiding is warm because you are still in your jammies, cuddled in the little nook of blankets you've wound around yourself and you can still play
"Leslie in wonderland" in your twilight dreams when you aren't quite awake and you aren't quite asleep. But alas Mark was headed out the door and I really was awake no matter how cozy I was so time was a ticking on by.

But lo and behold the minute I got my eyeglasses on my face and listened to my voice mail God sprang me out of bed and into action. By the time I sat down to lunch I was praising God and thanking Him for working so miraculously in my life, always in ways I would not have done or even thought of myself.

God is my God, my miracle worker and His Son, Jesus Christ, is my personal savior to whom I owe all glory and praise. It may sound trite and over used but without Him I am nothing and without the infusion of the Holy Spirit in my life I can do nothing. I am excited to be His and to watch Him work in my life, an ordinary life He makes extraordinary with each passing day He allows me to again be His servant.

My reach expands to new seeking women and the doors that are opened are the ones I know should be opened. I am victorious in all things and happy in heart and spirit that no man can touch! God has much to do and I am ever so grateful He is using me in His plans. I may get sleepy, I be tired; and I know when I lay my head down to rest, God smiles at His child sleeping so peacefully as I did when watching my own children sleep...but its now Monday morning and God has other plans.

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