Yea though I walk through the valley

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“Amazing grace how sweet the sound
It covers every part of me
My soul is silent
I am found
And it’s a beautiful sound

It’s a beautiful, beautiful sound

You were healing in the pain
You were shelter in the storm
Hallelujah You restore my soul”

Thank you Josh Calhoun and Ben Calhoun of Citizen Way for writing such beautiful lyrics to the song How Sweet The Sound.  My brother chose to share this song with you this week because it has helped him through many valleys, and hopes that it helps even just one person out there get through theirs. 

The official lyric video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_3bEERZ3a0

But It Is Personal

I wrote the following after being pent up in a county jail for six months without seeing the light of day, or the dark of night for that matter, literally.  I’d arrived here in my present location and the first four days it snowed.  It didn’t snow much, maybe an inch or two each day, yet it gave me the season I’d missed while in county jail – winter.  Winter is not my favorite season but I did miss going outside in the cool, crisp air. As I was able to finally go out and experience it I’d leave the housing unit every chance I was given.  I listened to other’s complaints about the snow, wind, jackets and boots and I could think was,

“God’s doing this for me!”

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That same day, as I lay in bed after lights out, I thanked God for winter.  I told him I knew it wasn’t for me personally but I was deeply appreciative anyway and I heard The Holy Spirit say, “But It Is Personal.”  As I considered that revelation I had to change my perspective.  What follows are my reflections, a wish for you and a contemplative question for all to consider.  (Psalms 30:5b) ~jdoe

     I look at so much as a new part of my personal relationship with God.  As I move through my days – physically and spiritually – I can now see and know so much in my heart that I missed in life.  It’s like being a child again, back when clouds were a mysterious wonder that looked like angles, dinosaurs, and Abraham Lincoln.  When the breeze, or wind, was something you looked into to blow your hair back while closing your eyes and enjoying its feel on your cheeks.  When birds represented your every dream – to fly and look down on this earth as you broke the bonds of whatever it was that held you earthbound.  When digging in the sand lead to China and other faraway lands.  When ice on the sidewalk was for crunching.  When the moon still looked like a face and was a companion you dreamed of visiting.  When you looked up as much as down.  When everything was new, fresh, clean and yours for the picking, reaping.  When it was all an experience and exploration.  When anything was possible.  When a rainbow was still a mystery and promise.  It’s so sad I had to come here to rediscover so many freedoms and God’s hand and love. 

     I wish everyone could feel as I do in these times, it’s so easy really.  Stand still someday in the middle of your yard, a park, the street you walk – anywhere in God’s creation – and listen, look up, clear your mind and heart and look, listen, feel as you did as a child.  If you’ve forgotten how – watch a child at a playground, your own kids or grandkids – and ask them what they see in clouds, feel in the wind, wish when a bird flies by, or know when they look at a rainbow.  No one should be in captivity before realizing God put it all here for you to experience, own, and keep your entire earthly life.  Maybe, just maybe, this would help others, all, to find their own joys in the tribulation they face or suffer.  How amazing it feels to smile walking across the compound of a prison – imagine walking across the parking lot of Wal-Mart on a busy, raining, windy, traffic jammed day.  It’s all nothing if you walk in God’s Heavens here on earth with childlike wonder, right?

     Let me close with this: We may have been exiled from Eden, but isn’t what was left truly beautiful?

Psalms 30:5b

Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

Lost … Chains … Prison

My brother has been in a battle all his life with his mental illness, and most recently it has been winning.  It has drained him of any desire to write.

A photo by Luis Llerena. unsplash.com/photos/MZx2uowz-o0

There will be a new blog post next week, until then we discussed sharing a song that has touched us deeply.  Moved his soul, and has turned into a daily prayer.  May it move you in a similar way.

Chain Breaker  By: Zach Williams

 

Baptism By Fire

This came in the most recent letter …

I believe baptism comes in several forms.  Through the Bible we hear, read, of baptism by water.  It’s the symbolic washing away of sins and the death to sin of the old self and birth to righteousness of a new self.  It is by its very nature a cleansing and a leaving behind.  I’ve come to understand though that what we read in the bible is symbolic of something bigger and that there is at least one other type of baptism.  

Baptism by Fire. 

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It’s a sad and unfortunate thing that I had to come to prison to experience it because I think it’s an experience everyone should have.  So what does it consist of and why should all experience it?

It consists of having everything stripped from you so that only you, and you alone come out the other side.  I lost everything – career, material items, contact daily with loved ones, hopes, dreams, goals, the future I’d planned, my clothing – I literally stood naked.  I was forcibly washed of all earthly things.  I died to all sin out there and came up into that fire naked and unknowing of what the future would be.

I think of how the Apostles and Israelites must have felt when told to give up everything or have it taken away. 

How many questions they must have had:

“What now?”

“Who am I?”

“What am I worth?”

“What will become of me?”

Isn’t it amazing though that all of them also came out with the same bit of direction – the very direction I was left with? 

To follow God. 

I feel that God said, “If you won’t come willingly then I’ll take you forcibly but you must be cleaned, purged, washed first.”

I know I felt like a washcloth wrung of all water and laid aside to dry.  Everything but my essence was gone – or was it?  No, what was left was my purpose.  Like that cloth still damp, still fulfilling its purpose of sopping and holding moisture I was left with the Holy Spirit and purpose. 

So why do I think everyone should experience this loss?  To KNOW there’s a life without sin and pain or anchors or fear waiting for them.  You can go willingly or forcibly.  Go willingly and lose only the negative, those things holding you down or back.  Don’t wait, as I did, for the force – the fire – because you’ll lose the good with the bad.  Either way, you’ll be cleansed and left with purpose, God’s purpose and in the end that is all that matters anyway.  It’s what the Bible says and now I know it to be true – just as the Apostles and the Israelites learned. 

And if you’re already in a prison – mental illness, addiction, abusive relationship – it can be the first step out before, like me, your first step in.

~jdoe

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  ~ Matthew 3:11-12 NKJV

Love Thy Enemy – Concludes

Well, I left you hanging didn’t I?  And right at the part where I began to apply the Holy Spirit’s guidance!  Yes, it got you to come back but more importantly, I hope you walked away wondering how you’d handle Ed and Frank – Your Eds and Franks – we all have them…

If you missed part one, click here…  Love Thy Enemy

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

I began to observe, Ed’s, habits and words.  I also did this for my second cell mate as he’d jumped on the persecution wagon with one foot, meaning he was also being decent at times.  Frankly, his decent times existed when he wasn’t high on drugs; but I digress.  I learned Ed’s schedule and responded by offering to develop a schedule that met everyone’s needs for time alone in the cell.  Previously, I’d defend myself by pointing out when I was gone (almost all day) and telling them to deal with me being in the cell from 3:30 until dinner at 5:00pm.  Although he had the cell from 6:00am til 3:30pm and from 5:00pm until 8:30pm it caused tension; ‘He needed’ 3:30 until 4:00 and 4:30 until 5:00, so I began to be in the TV room or another cell at these times.  I also gave him daily updates on my efforts to relocate.  I stopped verbally responding to his verbal attacks and instead walked away.  In essence I accepted his hatred, and that I was in the way of his running his ‘business’ out of our cell and gave him what I’d want if I were him, selfish and hateful as he is and difficult as it is to think that way, I gave him space and time and returned love for his hate and persecution.  Where the other cellie, Frank, is concerned I noticed he was constantly asking people for sweetener packets at night for his evening coffee.  Since I don’t use the stuff I began bringing my two daily packets from breakfast to the cell and giving them to him- an act I still do.  Also, I found that he didn’t care if I was in the cell as long as I wasn’t listening to his conversations with his ‘business’ customers so I always worm my MP3 player after lights out – when his customers typically showed up.  Finally, I would speak kindly about differing subjects because I heard him tell someone that my giving him and Ed this ‘silent treatment’ was stressful for him.  Again, love for hate and persecution. 

Within 5 days of my behavior changes I was moved.

The outcomes:  Ed told a guy he thought I was, “A good dude” but that he couldn’t live with my offense. – HA! “A good dude”!  And Frank told me to my face he thought I was “Cool, I’d live with you if Ed could chillout.”  I’ve carried these lessons into my new cell and have continued my actions with Ed and Frank.  I guess God feels I’ve learned what I needed in my first cell and I’m continuing in those learnings.

I now see that you can indeed Love Your Enemy and suffer no real loss but instead gain so much.  I gained a peace spiritually and worldly both.  Imagine using love, not manipulations or defensiveness, as your shield in life as given by Jesus, our Lord and Savior!  God is great.

It’s not easy – do it anyway.  jdoe

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