Do Unto Others…

My040 Do Unto Others

Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Did you honor your mother? I made sure to send cards to the three mothers in my life – my mother, my wife and my sister and I also called.  I did this because I love them and it’s that feeling of love that brought me to contemplate what love is in Biblical terms.

The greatest commandment is to love God wholly and the second is to love others as you love yourself. I’ve been struggling with this second commandment a lot lately.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of people in prison that are not nice. It’s these people I’m having trouble “loving.”  They’re selfish, rude, inconsiderate and disrespectful – not much to love, right?

So, I set about discovering what was meant by “love others as you love yourself.” This effort took me throughout the Bible; yet it is was John’s three letters, along with the Holy Spirit, that helped me to see what it means to love others as I love myself.

Now, it must be said that I have no emotion I’d label as love for myself, at least not like I feel for my wife, mother or sister.  For me, I connected love with an emotion – and admittedly the emotion I feel for others in prison is NOT love.  It is discouraging trying to love others and feeling all sorts of emotions other than love.

So, I meditated on it and I listened for the Holy Spirit to talk to me and He did. The Holy Spirit told me to read the Bible! But wasn’t that what I was already doing? I felt a little let down by this direction as what I’d read provided no particular concept on love when it’s hard.

I’m reading the Bible from cover to cover right now. I’d just finished 2Peter when the Holy Spirit said to read the Bible and so as I continued reading, the next three books were John’s three letters. They’re like little gems in the Bible and are quick, easy reads. Yet they held for me, the answer to what it means to love others as I love myself and it gave new meaning to the phrase, “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

What I learned is that love can be an emotion, an action or both but that they are not necessarily connected. What drove this home for me was John’s constant talk of taking action to show love and his admonishment to love one another. For example, in 1John 4:9, we are told that God showed His love for us by sending His only Son into the world for us. Yes, God was reacting to an emotion of love that He felt for us but just as importantly He took action.  Again, in 3John 1:5-8, a letter to Gaius, John talks of showing hospitality to strangers and then sending them on their way in a manner that honors God. John was telling Gaius to take action, not to have love as an emotion for these strangers and it hit me…

I don’t need to feel the emotion of love in order for me to show love.

I need simply to act.

Perhaps this is obvious to you, but it was a revelation for me! It changes everything about how I interact with those whose personalities and actions are challenging – I can act in a loving way and thus fulfill the second greatest commandment.  Just as I don’t feel the emotion of love towards myself I try to treat myself in a loving way and it’s that manner of treatment that God wants us to share and so, “do unto others…”

So I’m trying to put this into practice. It’s not always easy, as kindness is often taken as weakness inside these walls; and once you’re seen as weak you become a target for all sorts of abuses. But I’m trying none the less. I’m saying excuse me when others bump into me. I’m giving the beggar of coffee a spoonful of my instant and I’m listening to the “whiner” when he needs an ear – and other things as well.

Read the three letters of John (they’re brief and can be read in less than 30 minutes) and find your own blueprint for love.

~jdoe

Done. And Done.

My040 Done and Done

Two posts ago, in Decisions, Decisions (Life On The Inside – Part 4), I shared that I had a decision to make concerning a program offered at another institution.  When I wrote that posting I said I’d have made my decision by the time you read the post.  That turned out to be wrong.  Today, April 15, I made the decision.  Why did it take so long to make my decision?  Reservations on my part mostly having to do with things other than the program.

My biggest reservation has to do with the fact that it has taken my two years to carve out a ‘life’ within this institution.  Putting together a circle of acquaintances and friends is not easy for me.  I’m introverted, and I am not the one to walk up to someone and introduce myself and then make small talk which would lead to making a new acquaintance or friend.  When I think of my small circle of people here they are primarily those who either approached me or introduced me to someone with whom I might share something in common.

Next is a fear that I will be put into an unsatisfactory living situation.  When I first came where I am today I was placed in a cube with a ‘hater’ who also happened to be the primary drug supplier for my housing unit.  A ‘hater’ is someone who, because of your crime, hates on you with verbal abuse and, in extreme cases, physical assault.  The one I was placed with was verbally abusive and threatened to have me beat up by those in the unit who relied on him for their drug fix.  Of course, I alerted the unit counselor of the situation asking him to move me before anything happened but he left me there for a month to the day.  During that month I lived in fear for my safety while putting up with name calling and insults as well as the exclamations of hatred and predicted harm if I didn’t move out.  That experience has kind of scared me.  (You can read more about that situation in Love Thy Enemy and Love Thy Enemy – Concludes.)

After this come the more minor fears such as finding a decent job in the new institution, learning the policies and procedures, using the showers per inmate standards, finding radio stations and programs, establishing an exercise routine, and the list goes on.

Imagine being plucked from the society in which you now live and being dropped into a whole new society, culture, and geography.  If you sat and contemplated this in its fullest measure you’d have an idea of what an inmate faces when changing institutions.

Having said all this, you might think I’ve decided against applying for the program – but no, I’m turning in my application this coming Wednesday, the 18th.  Why did I decide to do this?

In talking about the program and its benefits with my wife, while also sharing my reservations and fears, she said she’d support me whatever I chose to do.  However, she also shared a perspective I had not considered:  Maybe I was actually more afraid of change in general.  I had to admit to myself that yes, change does frighten me because with change comes some loss of control and comfort borne of familiarity.  She also pointed out that my Parole Officer may look on someone coming out of the program more favorably than someone coming out of general population who hadn’t made the effort to better themselves.  My wife is wise and observant.

Secondly, I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to talk to me and give me guidance in my decision, and I believe it has come in two ways.

The first way is through my study Bible.  I’m reading Colossians and the way my Bible is laid out is the top half of the page is the Bible passages and the bottom half is made up of teaching notes about the verses above.  Well, the teaching notes recently have been about trusting God and knowing that through Him all things are possible.  So, I’ve decided to put it in God’s hands because there’s a chance I won’t be accepted.

The second way happened yesterday as I walked the track.  I was walking along contemplating my decision and literally asking for the Holy Spirit to talk to me; to make it obvious to me what I was to do.  As I thought this, a guy I know only by sight and name came up behind me and put his arm around me.  As he did this he said, “Have you put your name in for the Life Connection Program yet?”  I was dumb founded.  I asked him how he knew I was thinking about it and he said, “I didn’t but you’re a spiritual person, so I figured you’d be interested.”  I’ve spoke to this guy maybe a half dozen times and there he was, putting his arm around me, and in essence, telling me to do it – in fact his last comment was, “Better pull the trigger on that,” as he walked away.  Couldn’t be more obvious could it?  Doesn’t that sound like the Holy Spirit speaking to me through others?

Finally, making this move would put me within a half hour of my two oldest children, within two hours of my youngest child and shave three hours off my wife and mother’s drive to visit me, while also saving money in travel expenses.  Sadly, it will add three hours onto my sister’s drive to see me which does sadden me for she’ll go from half a day’s drive to all day.

So there you have it, my process for making my decision.  I’d be interested in your stories of difficult decision making and whether you felt God had interceded by given you a sign in some form.

As things progress around this I’ll keep you informed.

My advice:  Listen, for God does speak to you.

~jdoe

Make Room

My040 Make Room

As I cast about looking for the words to this Christmas post I found myself at a loss for what to say.  I  mean, everything I wrote down had been said before, and often by more insightful and wiser persons than I.  Instead I decided to write about how I wanted Christmas to be different for me this year.

Think about it … I can’t buy and send home a bunch of presents.  I can’t help my wife decorate the tree.  I can’t visit the local assisted living centers to sing carols.  In fact, the only things I can do are send out cards and call people with best wishes.  And while these things mean a great deal to me I still felt that they’re not quite what my heart was looking for.

Christmas for me has always been about family, and I feel good about that.  God blessed me with a wonderful family and I am truly thankful; yet I didn’t make Christmas about Christ really.  Christmas was something that, more or less, happened to me, for me, and around me and when I realized that I decided I wanted Christmas to happen with me as a full participant. 

How to do that?

I wasn’t sure how to even go about answering that question so I decided to sit down and start writing in the hope that the Holy Spirit would guide me to the words and thus my answer.  And I go exactly…

Nothing!

I walked the track thinking about it and again was rewarded with nothing.

So I turned to my last resort – meditation.  When I mediate I often hear the Holy Spirit and this time I was rewarded with …

“Listen to the radio.”

That’s it.

What was i to do with that?!

I took it literally and tuned into a local station that plays Christmas music 24/7 from Thanksgiving through Christmas day.  I listened for days and didn’t hear anything that felt like the answer.  I was expecting to hear some wisdom from a DJ or talk show host, but I got nothing;  until one night while falling asleep with the Christmas music playing in my head. 

Then I got it!

You see, more than a decade ago I heard a Christmas song that moved me deeply.  Thanks to the internet I was able to track down the artist and lyrics and I committed those lyrics to memory.  As I lay there going through the message of the song it dawned on me how Christmas could happen with me as a full participant.

Below are the lyrics to the song, “My Heart is Bethlehem.”  I hope you’ll find in it the same thing I do … that within you is the secret of how to bring Christ into your life not only on Christmas day but every day of every year.

May the joy of Christmas fill you every day and deliver to you all that is important in your life.  Please remember our Savior on Christmas day and commit some time in thanks to God the Father for His gift to all mankind.

Peace ~jdoe

Click and Listen to John Barry sing as you read the lyrics.

My Heart Is Bethlehem

Eternity stepped into time,
And drew a mortal breath.
Mystery so clearly seen
The world could not forget
That in the town of Bethlehem,
In the most unlikely place,
God, the father wore
A child’s face.

There’s something in the heart of God,
So purely meek and mild
That finds its best expression in
The longings of a child.

For every child’s heart is hungry,
To be found and loved and known
A someone who would make their heart a home.

My heart is Bethlehem
I will make room for him.
This humble dwelling place
Made worthy by his grace.

This child is still adored,
Because he still is born
Deep in the hearts of men,
(To love and not condemn)
My heart is Bethlehem

I wish for you this Christmas Eve,
That you would find true peace.
But silent nights are holy nights
And wonders never cease.

There’s no remembering,
The ghost of Christmas past
For God’s forgiveness finds your heart at last.

Living Consumed

My wife recently sent an email with a quote she found on the internet (she always sends me great quotes and scripture!).  The quote reads:

“What consumes your mind controls your life” – unknown

My040 Living Consumed

I’ve been on a trip of life changes and so I took time to ponder how I measure myself against this quote.

On the surface it is easy to say that the wisdom within this quote is obvious, and perhaps it is.  It was when I was honest with myself that I found I wasn’t consuming my mind with the best things.

I’d allowed myself to let anxieties and fears over the future to replace much of my time in God’s Word.  I haven’t been keeping my promise to God to read his word every day.

I chose other compensatory behaviors:  Reading western novels (Hey don’t judge me Ha! Ha! Ha!) and ‘napping’ for hours.  Both allowed me escape the relatives of my exile.  Instead, I should have been losing myself in scripture to reinforce God’s love and protection.  If you’re going to distract yourself with something, be sure it’s a healthy something, right?

I’m not saying that I shouldn’t lead a balanced a life as possible.  I still read novels (I’ve now branched out into thrillers and mysteries!) and nap (for 20 to 30 minutes) but I find that bringing God’s Word back into my daily life brings a comfort I’d forgotten.

I’ve also begun to consider daily how I measure up against that quote and I’ve been surprised at how easy it is to become consumed with life’s little things.  For me, some of life’s little things here in prison can be daunting.  Things like guys spitting on the sidewalk instead of the grass and not holding doors open for the physically challenged and talking loudly in the library and and and… Things that in reality are annoyances that I can deal with by ignoring.   Those behaviors, after-all, they don’t directly impact me.

The most surprising thing to come of living by that quote is how much more pleasant and easy life is.  Eliminating the negative and replacing it with the positive is empowering.

Be empowered!  Join me in living consumed by the Spirit.

~jdoe

Living In Exile – part 4

Gosh, that’s a lot so to summarize:

Settle down and be happy because it’s okay to do so; build houses of faith; plant seeds of faith and live life “faithful in all (God’s) my house.”  In these, and from these, the exiles – and we inmates – will find freedom within and after captivity and peace and happiness within captivity.

Some may ask, “Does this mean I have to become a zealot proclaiming God’s word on the compound?”

Absolutely not.

Faith comes in many forms: a smile, a bit of food for the indigent inmate, a sincere ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ an ear for the broken, returning love for hate, holding a door open – infinite ways but unless we sow these seeds we cannot eat the crop.  Imagine when that ‘hater’ says, “Excuse me,” when he bumps into you all because you’ve said it to him even when you weren’t at fault for the contact.  And the reward?  Eternal freedom in God’s house and if we continue to live in our house of faith after incarceration, physical freedom too and all the while planting seeds to keep God’s word eternal.

Suddenly being an exile – inmate – in captivity becomes bearable and in an odd way, a worthy effort for God and ourselves universally.

my040_living_in_exile

~jdoe

Living In Exile – part 3

Time to look at the meaning behind Jeremiah 29:5, “Build Houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit;” for prisoners.

my040_living_in_exile_jer29-5

There are many references to houses in the Bible.  It’s evident that both the structure and concept are of vital importance to God.  Let’s look at a few verses that best illustrate the idea of a house with Jeremiah 29:5.

In Numbers 12:7-8 we’re told God speaks face-to-face with Moses because Moses is “Faithful in all My house.”  That must mean beyond the Tent of meeting, right?  So what then is “all My house”?  It means in all ways and all things. [But recall, Moses didn’t start out that way – he made a choice – he opened his eyes and came out of darkness.]  Here we understand that when “Faithful in all” God’s “house,” He will meet us face-to-face.  God’s “house” therefore is more than a structure.

In Joshua 24:15, Joshua says we must make a choice and in Joshua’s household they will serve the Lord.  Again – a choice and a concept of a house that reaches beyond the physical structure.  Joshua is saying that wherever he or his family may be, they will serve the Lord.  Joshua’s house reaches as far as his family, not the walls inside of which he resides.

Solomon says in Psalm 127:1 that, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”  This seems to contradict Jeremiah 29:5, however it does not.  It says that we have a choice: To build with God or without.  Jeremiah 29:5 clearly says to build with God!  And as we learned previously, God, through Solomon, is again telling us His house surpasses any physical structure.

There are more by my point is made – for we inmates, God is asking us to build houses beyond physical structures.  Our houses may be things like continuing to be a husband, father, son, brother, or friend.  Joining in a church sincerely or perhaps loving the unlovable.  Suddenly, we’re building houses of faith within God’s house and for God’s command to be, “Faithful in all My house.”  Imagine the power of every inmate – as well as every person walking the street – building a house of faith instead of brick.  No wonder Jesus’ church was built upon a single rock – no physical building could ever encompass God’s earthly house.

Now we’re left with understanding that it means to plant crops and eat the reap.  Crops begin with seeds, right?  Let’s look at scripture around “seeds.”

In Matthew 13:2-8 Jesus tells the parable of seeds scattered by a farmer.  We know he was not being literal; it’s a parable after all.  So what then?  Obviously it’s seeds of faith.  So in telling the exiles, and by extension we inmates to plant seeds, He’s telling everyone we can.  Also, as in Matthew 13:8 we will be, and by extension He will be, blessed with a crop, “A hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”  How wonderful to be a farmer of faith.  This is then confirmed in Matthew 13:23, “He who hears the word and understands it (sic) is the one who produces a crop…”  Looking further, Matthew 13:43 explains who we become if we successfully plant the seeds: the righteous!  We can also look at Matthew 13:31-32 and see God ask that we plant a seed as tiny as a mustard seed and gain a tree for birds – other inmates – to perch in.  So it’s vitally important for inmates, as it was with the exiles, to understand what God meant in Jeremiah 29:5.

Finally, the strongest scripture, 1 Peter 1:23-25; Here we are told that we are born of “imperishable seed… through the living and enduring word of God.  For all the people are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”  Sounds dismal in a way.  The exiles, and by extension we inmates, wither and die but through them- and we inmates – God’s word lives – by the seeds we sow and the ongoing crop produced.

my040_living_in_exile_jer29-5

jdoe

Living In Exile – part 2

Continuing on with a look at Jeremiah 29:5 from last week, Living In Exile – part 1

“Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.”  What?  I can’t do that literally.  So what do these commands mean?  To understand these I had to think back on scripture I had read in relation to prisoners – inmates – exiles.  Because the answer to this question is paramount to understanding Jeremiah 29:5 and 29:7’s link to inmates.

Why are prisoners special to God?

my_040-psalms-107-v1-0-16

In Psalm 107 we see God’s blessing of rescue for those who were rebellious but turned back to Him; focus here on verses 10 through 16 and again a choice is given: turn to Him and be rescued or live in darkness.  In Psalm 68:6b,c we see that God gives prisoners a choice: be lead out with singing or live in a sun-scorched land.  In Psalm 146:7 we see God upholds the cause of the oppressed and sets prisoners free but only if they chose (choice again) to be bowed down.  In Psalm 79:11 God is asked to heal the moans of prisoners.  Finally, in Isaiah 42:5a and Isaiah 42:7 we have, “This is what God the Lord says…open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness,” – again a choice: open your eyes and be freed or remain blind in captivity.

my_040-isiah-42-v5a-6-7

So why are prisoners special to God?

Two reasons: 1) They suffer and 2) They, like no other, have a choice.  Only those whose physical, mental, and emotional freedom is controlled by others can find the meaning of true and total freedom in God and His word!  Who among those walking freely in the world can feel or know what freedom is until first suffering in exile?  Who besides the prisoner can truly know the power of faith and God?  These are the reasons God’s greatest were pulled from among the worst of people – because in some form they were prisoners and suffering even if not evident to themselves.  They all were given a choice:  Remain blind or open their eyes and walk out of darkness to be set free both spiritually and physically – what better army can there be to spread God’s word?  Wasn’t the greatest contributor to the New Testament, Paul, a prisoner?  Yes!

And isn’t it now obvious why God also calls out widows and orphans and the poor and the disabled?  All are suffering in their own prisons and we have the ability and responsibility to open their eyes, bring them into the light and free them!

So when we combine our understanding of God’s love of prisoners with His command to live life while in exile, and it’s okay to find happiness there, we can see He is waiting for us to prosper (find peace) in captivity.

But how?  Next week I delve more specifically into Jeremiah 29:5, “Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.”

Blessings, jdoe

Living In Exile – part 1

When I started writing for this blog I said I would not attempt to convert anyone to any particular belief.  I also said I would not avoid talking about my place as a Christian.  And so it is that the coming posts contain numerous Bible scripture references.  To get the  most out of the coming posts it would be helpful for you to have a Bible available.  I used the NIV translation for my writings.

Over the next few weeks my sister will be posting my thoughts concerning the commandments God gave the Israelites for Living In Exile [Jeremiah 29:4-14].  The commandments were very specific about how they were to live while captives.  It is my belief that these same commandments apply to prisoners like me, or anyone in their own prison.

Let me explain…

I’ve been contemplating Jeremiah 29:4-14 and how I’m doing here in exile.  I keep asking myself how it is I’m to “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” [Jeremiah 29:5]  I’ve filled my locker with personal items I’ll need for my time here.  I’ve got my cell mate situation stable and I make my bed every morning.  Yet I do not feel “settled down.”

As I walked the track recently (summer took one last gasp of near 80 degree weather) things began to dawn on me; revelation is a strong word but I feel again that they Holy Spirit was talking with me.

The first thing to hit me was sparked by seeing two guys in their late teens to early twenties playing Frisbee.  They were shirtless and playing in a grassy part of the yard.  As they ran, laughing, the setting sun made their skin glow with youth and energy.  And for a moment I was transported to the edge of a beach watching people having fun.  It lasted only a moment yet in that moment I saw two people who had “settled down.”

“How,” I thought, “can they laugh and run so carefree?”  I actually had to stop walking because I heard a voice ask, “Where in Jeremiah 29 does God say to the exiles, through Jeremiah, that they should not or cannot be happy in captivity?”

I had no answer.

So I had to go back to the beginning and ask myself, “Why would God tell the exiled Israelites to settle down, build houses, plant gardens, eat and procreate?  Was it only to assure the survival of His people or was it more?”  Then the answer came to me in the form of Jeremiah 29:7.  God tells the exiles to pray for the prosperity of the city they’ve been sent to.  This amounts to praying for the prosperity of their captors!

my040_living_in_exile_jer29-7

Why?

Of course for their survival, but recall God cared for them in the wilderness by turning the exiles over to the care of others – so by telling them to pray for their captors’ prosperity (peace) He was assuring the best possible environment.  He was giving the exiles an implicit command that becomes apparent when combining Jeremiah 29:7 with Jeremiah 29:5: Be content, find happiness, survive emotionally – live life.  So I pray for the prosperity (peace) of my correctional institution.

“Okay,” I said to myself, “But what other truths exist in the parallelism between the exiled Israelites and we inmates?”

As I began to walk again I also began to see things like:  The exiles lived under foreign law and inmates live under foreign law; the exiles obeyed foreign masters and inmates obey foreign masters; the exiles lived in foreign (unfamiliar, strange, confined) lands and inmates live in foreign (unfamiliar, strange, confined) lands; the exiles created a culture and life within foreign powers, lands, and laws and God has commanded inmates to do the same.

Keep that thought and next week I’ll continue with my breakdown of Jeremiah 29:4-14

Happy New Year, ~ jdoe

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!”

my040_It_Is_Personal.jpg

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.

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. 

my040_baptized_by_fire

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