“Why do you come in here to be with us and teach us about Jesus when you could do that outside?” one prisoner asked during a meal on the prison retreat.
“I do teach about Jesus to people out there.”
“Why do you come in here?”
A few months ago, I would have said it was because my sister started getting involved in prison ministry. Or that I became interested when a priest I had known for a long time became the prison chaplain. Yet neither of those things really answers the question of why I keep coming back.
“Because I find God in here,” I said. “I guess it is actually a selfish reason.”
He looked at me, a bit taken aback. “You find God in prison?”
Continue reading “I Find God Here”
In our culture’s mad rush to start the Christmas season, I am left feeling a bit Scrooge-like. I like Advent. The anticipation that gradually builds as candle after candle are lit on the Advent wreath adds to the beauty of Christmas when it finally arrives. If we jump headlong into Christmas right after Thanksgiving, I believe we miss part of the joy of the season. Waiting has a sweet longing to it and I want that sweetness for as long as I can have it.
As a child, I remember the eagerness as I would watch the presents beneath the tree grow as time passed. My younger sister and I would check to find the ones with our names and then try to analyze what was inside. It was tempting to tear the wrapping off, but we didn’t. The soft, foldable presents were obviously clothes. Yet the ones in boxes? Those were unidentifiable. We would give them a light shake and then simply wonder about what lay nestled inside for us to discover. The waiting was half the fun. Even if I wanted to figure out what the present was before Christmas (my competitive nature desired to win), I also wanted to be surprised.
I won’t argue that I’m extremely patient, however I appreciate waiting for something good. When I get my mail, I am excited if I find a letter from a friend or a package that I ordered. Yet I generally open the less fun things first, allowing the excitement and longing for the most desired thing to build. After trick-or-treating at Halloween when I was a kid, I tried to eat my least favorite candies first, saving the best for last. Even now, I often find myself saving a bite of the best part of the meal for the end, as if to end the meal on a good note. Waiting doesn’t change the contents of the letter or the taste of the food, but it seems to add a bit of sweetness as I anticipate what is to come. Continue reading “Advent: What Lies Ahead”
After finishing a silent retreat, I opened my Bible to where I had some papers sticking out. I had marked this section because of the first three verses of Isaiah 61. They were the Scripture verses my college women’s group considered “our” passage. While they speak beautifully about the Spirit of the Lord and how it works in us, my attention was attracted to the following verse.
“They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.”
For the first time, I read this verse and realized the great hope attached to it. I look at the world around me and I see a lot of things falling into ruin. This isn’t the result of one generation but of many generations over the years, the buildup of human sin over the course of human history. Yet here in Isaiah, the Lord is promising to re-build that which is ruined. And Isaiah isn’t saying the Lord is going to do this all apart from us, but rather that He will use us to re-build and raise up new things.
I cannot help but think that this new life will come from the way the Spirit of the Lord will move.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn…
When we allow the Spirit of the Lord to work in and through us, He will re-build the broken world in which we live. I see it already happening in small ways. On the silent retreat, I was primarily surrounded by moms, several of them visibly pregnant with another child. It is beautiful to think of how families will be strengthened and renewed simply by their mother’s dedication to her faith. Continue reading “Build Up the Ancient Ruins”