Love Thy Enemy

Love Thy Enemy?! 

Sounds crazy to us today, imagine when Jesus said it over 2000 years ago.

When I landed in my first Federal cell after the move from County Jail holding, I was fortunate (yes, I see it as being fortunate – now) enough to be placed with Ed, The Contraband King and His Sidekick, Frank.  Ed was also the worst of the worst ‘haters’ for people with my charge.  The night I arrived he pulled me aside within five minutes of arrival and said I had to move.  As a first timer this scared me deeply.  In the end, it took a month to the day for me to be moved (others in similar situations were moving within a single day!) I’d probably still be there had I not learned the lesson of “Love Thy Enemy”

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British and German soldiers fraternizing at Ploegsteert, Belgium, on Christmas Day 1914, front of 11th Brigade, 4th Division.

I mediated at great length on what I was to learn from Ed’s behaviors and continuous, non-stop harassment.  First, I looked for The Joy In The Tribulation, that is always my first thought now as I’m faced with a new, or renewed, trial.  I determined, through conversations with the Holy Spirit, that the Joy was in being given an opportunity to grow in my faith.  Okay, sounds simple and straight forward, right?  Not if you were faced with that type of situation. What growth would you think you’re to experience?  I thought patience, tolerance, perseverance and suffering without complaint (Romans 5:3) as well as “Turn The Other Cheek.”  So I worked at these things and at night as I prayed after lights out, I’d offer up my experiences and sacrifices as testimony of my growth and go on the next day with exercising these things.  I DO believe these are/were things I was to live in this way, even though I’d tried outside.  The big difference though is outside I could walk away from the persecution; in here it follows me.  Ed was everywhere as himself and embodied in others.  It dawned on me that Ed was simply God’s vessel for direct interaction but was/is in reality His one person to represent a much larger body of hate.  This revelation lead to a new question: “What Dear God, am I really supposed to learn?”  It was obvious to me that all those other lessons were either preparation for, or benefits of, some other more significant teaching.  So back to my medications after lights out and during my walks.

One night, as I drifted off to sleep I heard the Holy Spirit again and these are His words, “What are the greatest commandments?”  I snapped awake with this thought, “Oh My God, I have to love this man?!” 

Mark 12:29-31 “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 

My first reaction was, honestly, “UGH”

In the morning I began searching scripture to find out what I was to do!  What I found was: “Love your enemy.”  So I determined to figure out what that might mean in my situation. 

There is so much more to this experience, please come back for Part 2 next week. ~jdoe

Photo Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205247304

The Road To Hell…

My wife, jane, came to visit me in April for the first time.  It had been over seven months since we said our goodbyes outside the courtroom and our first time since my sentencing in February seeing each other without tears of sadness filling our eyes and pain rending our hearts.   What follows are my self-examinations and learnings as written in a letter to my sister.  ~jdoe

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I wish I could express my joy in seeing, touching, jane after 7 ½ months.  I’d forgotten how holistically beautiful she is.  How I love her heart.  It confirmed what I know: All I need in life is God, jane, family, food, and shelter.  Life is simpler than we make it,  you know?

Life Should Be Simple

Yes, I know “life” is out there:  kids with swimming, bills to pay, dogs to nurse, chickens to quiet (lol), etc. but really – if all of these are done to glorify Him in these basic categories they become basic!  How I wish I’d known this simple truth decades ago.  Imagine the wonders He would have shown me – and will show anyone who lives this way.  I know I lived this way in many ways but it was, truthfully, almost accidental,  you know?  “Be good to others,” “If you can’t say anything nice…,” “Treat others as…,” “Remember what you learned in kindergarten…,” lived as a collection of adages – not a collection of truths or graces as told in God’s word, The Bible, and available by living with Christ as Lord and Savior. 

There is a difference and it matters

The issue with living life through adages (and I’m not dismissing them as most are rephrases of Bible scripture) is you pick and choose and develop a man-based, worldly, definition of life and behaviors which must, by definition, fall short of what we’re meant to be.  And where does that lead?  For me, prison; but with God’s Word leading me, hopefully Heaven in the end.  For others… well… it can’t end well in eternity.  The sad thing is – for the masses of the world – it leaves them wondering, unsure, and saying, “I live as a good person and that’s what God wants,” no dear friend, He wants more.  Or they point at great accomplishments like: “I raised four wonderful kids and had a great career and ran my church choir and was a coach for little league and…”  Sound familiar?  It’s me in case you missed it… God didn’t.  Because it all allows you to hide your sins – from man alone.  We can rewrite one old adage as,

“The road to hell is paved with good adages.”

Psalm 71:20

Joy In The Tribulation (part 2 of 2)

This is part of a post begun last week (But It’s Snowing! (part 1 of 2)).  Without further delay… here you’ll read of my first revelation around finding Joy In The Tribulation.  Later posts will expand on this mantra in my life.

I was meditating on “Joys In The Tribulations” since God’s Word (The Bible) tells us we have to find the Joy In The Tribulation.  I was wondering how on earth I could find joy in my cell issue, captivity, etc.  As I lay there I heard the Holy Spirit say, “You have to acknowledge them, not seek them.”  It was profound!  That’s why we suffer so much.  We refuse to acknowledge what’s already in front of us.  So acknowledging God’s glory in this out-of-doors moves me from hating the fence to appreciating what cannot be taken from me – God’s Heavens!  And my cell issue moves me to appreciate God’s wish and desire for my growth and giving Him glory in my tribulations because it makes the future that  much more valuable!  I suppose it sounds “preachy” but if only people who have never had literally everything taken from them could feel these things; it would be a very different world.  Imagine finding joy in a traffic jam or while on hold with the cable company, and without complaint.  It is possible if we acknowledge that the tribulations we find ourselves in are supposed to be joy inducing.  Am I this good about all of it?  No way.  Am I working to be?  Absolutely.  Now I see that so much of the suffering I did was my fault and unnecessary.  How much life I lost and/or wasted when I think about all the times I blew up over the smallest things – ugh- I have so many regrets now. 

We’re not meant to have regrets.  But I’m sure everyone reading this, like me, does.  God forgives and forgets.  (Psalms 103:12, Isaiah 43:25 NKJV)  Regrets are so often self-impressed and based on fears that man, our loved ones, or society can’t forgive us when really we need only the forgiveness of God and ourselves.  Those who truly love us on earth have already forgiven us or soon will.  Forgive yourself.   ~ jdoe

my040_40rgedforgiven_joy_in_the_tribulation

But It’s Snowing! (part 1 of 2)

Welcome!

I arrived at my current Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) on March 8th, 2016.  Previous to that date I’d spent six months to the day in a county jail.  While in the county jail I almost literally never saw the light of day, or for that matter, the dark of night.  I missed the entire season of winter – one of my favorites to avoid anyway so I wasn’t crushed by missing it.  I did feel something missing though in not going outside.  When I arrived at the FCI the grass was clear and even green on March 8th!  Somewhat unusual for the Midwest.  So when snow arrived on April 3rd you can imagine my wonder.  What was wondrous for me follows as an excerpt from a letter to my sister…  oh yeah, spoiler alert: cliffhanger ahead!

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Surprise!  We have an inch of snow and cold, windy weather.  On my way to breakfast (actually a fasting day but I do drink the milk) the sky was again so beautiful.  The sunrises have been so awesome because of the clouds combined with clear skies overhead.  I see them as blessings.  And since I was stuck inside all winter in the county jail,  I think the snow and cold are blessings as well.  Six months isolated from the outdoors is way too long.  Each day I get outside is a moving experience.  I want to feel that way for the rest of my life.  God’s nature is inspiring.  I’ve learned so much by having been stripped of everything; and the isolation has brought such appreciation for – well- all things.  As I change my views of things like rain, wind, snow, cold/heat, clouds, skies, sun/moon, gads – all of it, I find standing outside in the weather waiting for medications or meals is, in reality, energizing and invigorating.  I think I complained about this in an earlier letter, however the revelation of acknowledging blessings in all of the adversity (Bible “Tribulations”) has moved me to a whole different place.  Hmm… maybe I should write about my blessings revelation so here it is… 

Until next week, jdoe