Posts Tagged ‘Thin’

The Thin Line

Posted: August 29, 2010 in Moments of God
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Kristine and I just returned from an evening that left both of us introspectively contemplating life at a whole new level. We joined our friends and ministry partners at the women’s prison in Gig Harbor to listen in on a choir concert being given by about fifteen of the inmates. We knew the moment would be very special for our friends, she had done time in this prison a few years ago and he had been out of prison for just a couple of years too. So returning to the other side of the razor wire was a big deal to both of them, more than we know.

As we entered the secure campus through a series of sealed doors and hallways the moment became acutely surreal. This “house” had three areas, minimum security to maximum security all surrounded with rolls and rolls of razor wire and 15 foot fences.

Through another door, down a passage and into a courtyard brought us to a garden with flowers and vegetables. Several of the female inmates loitered just beyond a couple of fences as we turned and entered the little white chapel situated next to the concrete block walls of maximum security.

We sat down in the audience with about 40 others from several different churches and soon we were introduced to the night by Frank who leads the ministry in the prison, himself being out of prison just ten years.

The sound of women’s voices came in the back door as fifteen ladies entered and took their places in the front, following a very energetic African American lady who directed them.

Instantly I started to cry. God showed these ladies entering this building as 3 year old girls, innocent and pure, smiles and pretty dresses and now many years later they are standing front of us with a red choir robe covering their institution issued grey sweat shirt and pants, smiles but their innocence and purity has been taken.

It was extremely hard for us to process as we realized that the difference between Kristine and I and these ladies was an extremely thin line. As they sang “Amazing Grace” and “Our God is Sovereign” and many other songs that lifted praise to God for his goodness, care and love we saw women, young and old, who looked no different from a selected group of women from church. They didn’t look like harden criminals who have no soul. They are our mothers, sisters and daughters.

The only difference…they were serving years for a crime…drugs, prostitution, robbery, extortion, violence and murder. Their forgiveness is the same as the forgiveness that we experience from God. He loves them as much as he loves us. Their sins are forgotten as are ours. They are paying the human penalty for the wrong they have done. But the wrongs they have committed have originated from choices they have made, which have come from past experiences and abuses and often atrocities that have occurred against them as little girls.

I have wrestling emotions as my heart goes out to them, but knowing if the victim of the crime they had committed sat next to me my heart would also go out to them. In the madness and chaos of this sinful world people are crippled by the choice to seek after self with no thought of the pain it will cause others and inside of the one criminal act possibly hundreds are affected and humans on both sides of the equation cry out to God for justice and healing.

My heart breaks for them, but rejoices at the same time. They have surrendered to God and have chosen transformation (possibly). Some of them I am sure will return to a life of crime when they are released. Others will return to the streets of Seattle, namely one Aurora Avenue, maybe in our back yard. They will return with little ability to cope or live in life on the “outside.” They will return years from incarceration to streets and life that have changed and they will have no friends and often no family.

“Lord will you place us in their path, to be their family when they arrive back on the streets?” Many will gravitate to North Seattle and find themselves in the cheap motels trying to scrounge up enough money for one more night. In these motels they will quickly return to their past experiences and be sucked back into the enemies clutches. Unless there is a thriving church where they can find a family who will love them.

There is a thin line that separates us. Many of us know the line is only as thin as the fact that they were caught and we weren’t. Or the fact that every sin carries the penalty of death in God’s eyes, and since we all have fallen short of God’s glory we are just as guilty as these women. But it is God’s forgiveness that make these ladies our sisters.

At the end of the night Kristine and I got to walk out of the 15 foot fences encircled with razor wire with our friends, who understood the freedom even more, and drove the miles north to our homes, where our family waits with hugs and warm soft beds welcome and embrace us.

We will go to sleep tonight praising God for freedom, in life and in Christ.

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Thin

Posted: November 15, 2007 in Seattle Church Plant
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“I feel… thin. Sort of stretched, like… butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday. A very long holiday. And I don’t expect I shall return. In fact I mean not to.”

Bilbo Baggins

I’ve got to admit, I do feel “…thin. Sort of stretched…” I am sure nothing like Bilbo felt in those final days with the Ring. But I am definitely finding out that my days have to be stretched and my time has to be maximized to be able to carry out the work that has been set before me. But what I am finding out is that even though my physical being feels “thin” my spirit is on a high, possibly even fat. God has me right in the middle of where my strengths lie and I get the incredible opportunity to be a small part of a big thing. I must trust in God to strengthen my physical world so I am not spread to thin.

The stretch – figuring out how to do four full time jobs with excellence. My primary focus in life since I put the ring of marriage on my finger has been my family. Starting with Kristine and now our four quickly maturing boys. The desire to make my family first is easily squeezed out of the top position by employment, or what’s better known as “funding the primary focus,” only to have it become the primary focus. Beyond the work for money world ministry is all consuming, because it is not a 9-5 job and no matter what boundaries are implemented pastors are “on” 24/7.

Along with my family and ministry we added being a landlord into the mix a few years ago. We needed something that would be an investment since at the age of 31 we had no investments of any kind and were not on the road financially to create any wealth in near future, (the next 50 yrs). Real estate seemed like a great venture especially since I have been in and out of the construction trade over the years. The only downfall it was another full-time job.

And now we are off and running in the direction of following the “Call” of planting a church. Little did I know that this process would create yet another full-time position that I have to fill with only a quarter of my time.

Am I whining? Not at all! Kristine and I and the rest of the Seattle Church Planting team are sitting on the front row to see the most incredible miracles of our lives. #1 God has been stretching time. i.e. I have been getting everything done. My promise to Pleasant Valley Church, where I serve as the Young Adult and Missions Pastor, is that I will not quit working until after we relocate in Seattle. I am committed to build into this ministry at the same rate if not more as I have over the past ten years. And with God’s grace I can do that and I believe, am doing it for this is definitely the greatest year we have every had! At the same time we are selling off our properties, one down and three to go. Between selling and continuing being a property owner takes an amazing amount of time, but God is making time work in and through it all.

#2 We will get to see miracles – Because of the place God is calling us too. Seattle is incredibly expensive! A modest house is going to cost us nothing shy of $500k not to mention the time to find it, making multiple trips to Seattle to get things ready, to create a network and to discover the city. I continue to tell those who ask how we are going to pay for all of this and then raise $500k/year budget, for the first three years, that God has brought us to this point and I am confident that he will bring us through it. He does not bring someone to a place and then drop them.

#3 We will get the beautiful opportunity to witness life transformation in our team and our own personal lives. We have already gotten to see life change as we meet once a week, becoming a family and ministry partners. We are all transforming.

Am I feeling thin? Absolutely! I could sit and talk for hours about all the things that are happening. Sometimes I feel like Stretch Armstrong Stretch Armstrongbeing pulled in so many directions, but honestly that is only in my body. God is sustaining my soul, he’s increasing my faith and I am growing stronger in my spirit man.

I’m sure Bilbo Baggins was ready to be finished with life at the ripe old age of 111, I pray that God gives me that much time to be his servant and with the energy to go with it.