I headed up to Woodman State Jail today and well, found out I wasn't scheduled to be there so the week kinda got messed up on me. The hard part of prison ministry is "getting into the prison" at times. The harder part is getting your heart to move the rest of your body when it doesn't want to go but it knows there are 40+ ladies depending on you! That's where I am in....in that mental place where its hard to do the right things because things aren't exactly going right your way!
Maybe you've experienced this? My heart knows I need to "feed" His sheep with as much teachings as I can while the pocket book smiles docilely up at you saying "gas money, no such thing here!" And you take a big deep breath, call each credit card to check for any open balances and then check your bank account one more time. And it's the holidays only you have no holiday spirit in you, just a lot of doldrums because like it or not, all you can think of is your own lousy situation.
Then you remember you're in ministry and you plant that fake smile on and you take out the last twenty from the "there's goes our Thanksgiving" envelope and you do what you know you should do! Go out and spend time with those so much less fortunate than we.
Because there are some. There are folks out there who have lost homes, family, their freedom, their ability to be with or call a relative. There are those who are listening not for car doors to let them know the family has arrived but for rocket fire above their heads. There are those who are behind bars who weather every storm with a Chaplain and a few clergy who give their time once or twice a week doing all we can to encourage, uplift, teach and share so that their lives might take a turn in a direction other than the one they walked in from, just this last time.
We know each of us can think of a reason to be sad, or feel less fortunate than another. We know we get covetous of friends or family who appear to have more. We get jealous at all those out during Black Friday who can afford to be there! Afford to be spending while we can't. And we begin to mope around like a baby, whining over little things and forgetting the big things.
Then I got home, to be greeted by a letter from "Rickey", an inmate on death row down in Florida. To say I had forgotten about him is a gross overstatement, I had not. To say it had been far too long since I've written him is a gross understatement! Rickey and I connected back in 2007 when he was sitting on death row for the murder consummated during a drug deal gone bad over 23 years ago. He was 18 at the time and was then in his early 40's. Today he's in his mid-40's and grateful for every day.
When I started writing Rickey he said he understood I was a good Christian woman and that was fine, he was just looking for someone to write to and a friend who would hear his story. Today, as he sits in county jail, facing over a two year battle there for a re-sentencing hearing, he talks about praising God and thanking God for each new day, another day he has been given.
You see, Rickey understands the joys of seeing a sunrise and knowing today is not "that day". He understands the value of a mailed letter with a story inside he can read and enjoy. He understands the value of a small gift of time or a few dollars on his books to buy pens and paper to keep up his own correspondence and he knows the joys of an extra dollar for a soda this month.
I think as I start out tomorrow and I think about our year, I'll think about that instead of the things I've been ticking off in my head of what I don't have. I think I'll reconsider my life in terms of his life and how sometimes I'm just a whiner, what God must think of that! Indeed!
Most of all, I'll look around the room and remember that though this may not be my perfect Thanksgiving, it is the one I have been given and I should be happy and rejoice in it.
There is joy everywhere if we just slow down, listen, wait and be amazed at it when it appears.
May God joyfully bless you this Season of Praise and be with you throughout the coming year.