Tuesday, November 30, 2010

11/30/10 Tuesday
I’m going to pack a lot into this day, Lord willing. First I run to Odessa to meet Ron for breakfast and then take him to GLC television. I greatly regret that I won’t be able to stay and listen to his teaching for Ricardo said he planned on coming to the house with his plumber friend so we can continue working on the bathroom. We desperately want our bathroom back in working order and I need to be there. They are sacrificing to help us so I must sacrifice too. But the other obligation I have is one I see as more important than the others. That is to continue teaching the new child of God at the Stanton jail. Of all things he is most important, a life that is in my hands, so to speak. When I mentioned this to Ron, he didn’t hesitate in saying this was my priority.

This parable, found in Mathew 13 explains this importance
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear." 10 The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" 11 He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. 18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

Gotta run.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Next step in the information age

11/27/10 Saturday
I guess we’ve made the next step into the information age. Cherie and I both got smart phones yesterday. The phones were free, it will just cost us a few more dollars a month to have them. They are “Droid” phones, something I see lots of ads about on TV. So we were both up at 2:30 this morning, I had to get up and put more wood on the fire and Cherie had to use the bathroom. Next thing I know is we both have our freshly charged new phones out exploring all the features and setting up things like email accounts. There’s so much to learn again, always with every piece of new technology. Basically this thing is like a miniature computer in your hands. That can be good or bad, depends on me and my level of self discipline. Lots of time burner stuff here. Meantime, one of the hinges broke on my laptop. I’ve had it for almost five years now and installed a new screen, motherboard, hard drive, and battery, so have been nursing it along for quite a while now. Eventually I’ll have to get another one. The battery won’t charge so it has to always be plugged in and now the top is held on with just one hinge. Perhaps I find one that doesn’t have a hard drive in it for cheap, and just move the hard drive over.

It’s 6:00 in the morning now. Cherie fell back asleep and I’m still wide awake. She was up at 4:00 in the morning yesterday, to go do that black Friday shopping thing. That’s an insanity I am happy to avoid, but she found deals we need. No Christmas shopping for us this year, budgets way to tight, so it’s all practical stuff. Not sure how practical the phones are but she’s been needing a new phone ever since stepping on her other one and the whole smart phone thing has been a draw for quite some time.

We went to the widow’s house yesterday. She’d called and said she made turkey soup for us and asked what time we would be coming over. Oops, I’d forgotten. The day before Cherie and I had both gone over so I could do some work around her house and Mrs. G. mentioned making the soup and we mentioned it sounded good. That constituted a dinner date but we weren’t terribly cognizant of that. So it was “Cherie, we’ve got to go to Mrs. G.’s” time. The turkey soup was great and Mrs. G. sure loved the company, and we loved fellowshipping with her. There are so many people in this world who do so much good, simply because they care, and go unrecognized for it. She tells us stories of the children she cares for through the grandmother program, and it’s sad to learn of the brokenness that exists in families out there. Mothers becoming homeless and parents in prison are part of the burden these children are saddled with, along with drug and alcohol abuse. So she loves the children as best she can, unable, by law, to tell the kids or parents about Jesus, the answer to their problems.
This is cute. While tearing out the old drywall in the bathroom I find this old hand saw my grandfather had left in it maybe fifty years ago. He loved his beer so I can only imagine him dry walling this in and wondering where it went

Today I will continue to work on the bathroom. Tomorrow Ron comes in from India, so I will pick him up at the airport. His wife, Paula, told me that he is exhausted from his endeavors so would probably appreciate just getting some sleep. After that I’m at his beck and call till he’s off again. I think he’s going to South America with his son to build an orphanage.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No dinner on Thanksgiving, helping someone out

11/25/10 Thursday
People keep asking “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”. My reply seems to throw them off “We’re not doing anything”. Here at Westbrook Farms there isn’t a whole lot of tradition. We are thankful for sure, for many, many things. Thankful for life and for how God has restored our marriage and so much else. Sure there are difficulties in our day to day life, but we’ve been enduring hardships for as long as we’ve lived here. This morning Cherie went to take a shower at the Stripes gas station/truck stop, because our bathroom is totally destroyed right now and taking a bath in the kitchen sink doesn’t work. This adds to Cherie’s stress level, already high with starting a new job and dealing with a friends erratic and unstable behavior.

So the idea of cooking a big turkey, or even chicken, dinner just for the two of us just doesn’t make sense. We don’t have lots of close friends and any family we have is hundreds of miles away so there’s no invitations to go anywhere. We are kind of looking forward to a nice quiet day together.

I did call the widow to check on her this morning. Mrs. G. has been sick lately. Her hip developed a hairline fracture and that certainly slowed her down. It adds to the already high pain levels she has with a bad shoulder and other areas. She had also come down with a nasty flu, of course right after her flu shot. Folks, don’t take flu shots. There is NO medical evidence they prevent anything and lots of medical documentation regarding the extensive problems they cause. Of course all of that information is suppressed by the billion dollar vaccine industry and their FDA lackeys.

Of course she asked “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” and I told her “nothing”. Her response was that if she’d known that she would have cooked a big turkey dinner and had us over. She’s such a sweetheart and probably would have done just that despite the intense pain and difficulties she has. She will be going over to a friends house for lunch. In the conversation I learned that she was unable to get her garden hoses in and also forgot to buy the protective cups to put over her outdoor water spigots.

Tonight it’s going down to 16 or 19 degrees, depending on which weather report you hear. I asked Mrs. G. to call me when she comes home from her friends. Cherie and I will run over there when she does. That way I can work to winterize her home as Cherie visits with her. I’ll take some duct tape and rags to wrap her faucets with. Won’t look pretty but should keep them from freezing. There are some trees and rose bushes she wants pruned back so I’ll possibly do that as well.

I’ve already protected all of our outdoor faucets and turned the water off to the irrigation systems. With temperatures falling into the teens comes another problem. Right now we’ve gotten by with just having the one space heater in the bedroom and dressing warm in the house, but that won’t cut it with a strong cold front blowing in out of the north. It’s already cold here in the house, cold enough that my feet are numb. So I will have to clear all the stuff from around the wood burner and fire that up for the first time this year.

This whole bathroom thing is a momentary fiasco. Part of that I see as the fruit from someone who is actively rebelling against God, and trying to do as many good things as she can to cover for it. Her desire to help us was good, but her methods of getting others to do so was so wrong. Telling them that we did not even have a working bathroom was a lie, and a lie is no way to start a good work. Now we have a totally torn out bathroom that indeed doesn’t work, with the exception of the toilet. That toilet I’ve protected diligently as we have no desire to use a bucket, as we had to when we first moved in. Ricardo never returned with his plumber friend, in fact he never returned at all. He’s a busy man who owns a company that requires his time, so what he has done so far has been a sacrifice for sure. I understand this and therefore am not upset that he hasn’t come. The plumber friend also has obligations and was going to donate his time despite having never met me, so I also do not judge him in this. Plus it’s the Thanksgiving holiday, a time of families getting together and practicing their traditions of fellowship and I certainly don’t expect anyone to disrupt that for us. The bathroom will get done, one way or the other.

I do wonder at this time, how my family is doing. I wonder about my sister, mother, and brother. Are they getting together today? Will they be having turkey dinner? I have no clue. I occasionally send an email and less occasionally my sister and mom reply. My brother doesn’t reply.

Then I wonder about the two boys I raised. Their mom I don’t wonder about at all. She made her bed many times and it’s the one she prefers to sleep in, but the boys are different. I raised them, in my inept way. Did the best I could despite the drugs and alcohol that ruled my life. I keep up kind of, through their facebook pages. There I can see from a distance, glimpses of their life. There is no response to my reaching out but this too I understand. Can’t change the past so I must live for the future, and the fact I have a future at all is a miracle and what I am the most thankful for.

So that’s it for now. I must clear out the area and bring in firewood. Then it’s back to working on the bathroom till Mrs. G. calls and we can run over there. I can’t think of a better thing to do on Thanksgiving, helping someone else out.

God Versus Science, is there a God?

Someone emailed this too me recently. It is a wonderful, intelligent, short conversation that actually happened about ninety years ago. For me, with my logical analytical mind, that at one time denied the existence of God, it explains that which is hard to explain, and does it very well. Part of the wonder was discovering who this student was.

"Let me explain the problem science has with religion."
The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

'You're a Christian, aren't you, son?'

'Yes sir,' the student says.

'So you believe in God?'

'Absolutely '

'Is God good?'

'Sure! God's good.'

'Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?'


'Are you good or evil?'

'The Bible says I'm evil.'

The professor grins knowingly. 'Aha! The Bible! He considers for a moment. 'Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?'

'Yes sir, I would.'

'So you're good...!'

'I wouldn't say that.'

'But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't.'

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. 'He doesn't, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Can you answer that one?'

The student remains silent. 'No, you can't, can you?' the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax. 'Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?'

'Er..yes,' the student says.

'Is Satan good?'

The student doesn't hesitate on this one.. 'No.'

'Then where does Satan come from?'

The student falters. 'From God'

'That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything, correct?'


'So who created evil?' The professor continued, 'If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.'

Again, the student has no answer. 'Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?'

The student squirms on his feet. 'Yes.'

'So who created them ?'

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. 'Who created them?' There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. 'Tell me,' he continues onto another student. 'Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?'

The student's voice betrays him and cracks. 'Yes, professor, I do.'

The old man stops pacing. 'Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?'

'No sir. I've never seen Him.'

'Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?'

'No, sir, I have not.'

'Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?'

'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't.'

'Yet you still believe in him?'


'According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist... What do you say to that, son?'

'Nothing,' the student replies.. 'I only have my faith.'

'Yes, faith,' the professor repeats. 'And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.'

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His own. 'Professor, is there such thing as heat? '

' Yes.

'And is there such a thing as cold?'

'Yes, son, there's cold too.'

'No sir, there isn't.'

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. 'You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit down to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy.. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold.. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.'

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

'What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?'

'Yes,' the professor replies without hesitation. 'What is night if it isn't darkness?'

'You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?'

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. 'So what point are you making, young man?'

'Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.'

The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. 'Flawed? Can you explain how?'

'You are working on the premise of duality,' the student explains.. 'You argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought.' 'It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.' 'Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?'

'If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.'

'Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?'

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

'Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?'

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided. 'To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.' The student looks around the room. 'Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain?' The class breaks out into laughter. 'Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain? No one appears to have done so.. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.' 'So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?'

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers.. 'I Guess you'll have to take them on faith.'

'Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,' the student continues. 'Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?' Now uncertain, the professor responds, 'Of course, there is. We see it Everyday. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in The multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world.. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.'

To this the student replied, 'Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God.. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.'

The professor sat down.

If you read it all the way through and had a smile on your face when you finished, mail to your friends and family with the title 'God vs. Science'

PS: The student was Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein wrote a book titled 'God vs. Science' in 1921.....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How it went at the jail

It's a bright new day, with a future to look forward too, when you accept Jesus as your Lord and all your sins have been forgiven. There is life instead of death ahead.

It’s a little after 3:00 now, 3:09 to be exact. I’m not moving very fast at the moment. Kind of at the shuffle mode I hit when tired and the pain level is up. Doesn’t seem like I’ve done that much but sure feel like it. Spent two hours at the jail this morning. There is only one guy left there now, the other one was released Saturday. I got his phone number from J., the prisoner who was still there. Right now R (the released one) is in Ft Stockton helping his dad with a job. This in itself is good news and an answer to prayer. Last week R expressed his anguish at not being able to help his father, who has serious health issues, along with concern regarding being able to see his children before the ex wife moved to another state. So we prayed that God would work it out. Fact is R still had something like 180 days left on his sentence so there’s no doubt in my mind that God answered the prayer. My concern is that R gets established in a church and follows through on his decision to be a Christian so I’ll give him a call.

J. and I had quite a long talk. I had asked the sheriff to go ahead and lock me in the cell block with him, instead of my talking outside through the bars. He’d checked to see if that was ok and I was allowed to do so. This was great and made it much easier to communicate. I had prepared a bible study for them and it sure helped to sit at a table and spread it out with our bibles open. J. is hungry to know about God. His upbringing involved very little contact with the catholic religion his family accepted, and most of that was during early childhood. So he really didn’t know much about God at all. He knew that he was tired of the life he’s lived and not happy with the consequences of that life, so had been seeking for answers even before I showed up. Last week I had explained the basics of why Jesus came to earth and was crucified, told J. that God loved him and that Jesus died in order to give him eternal life, that basically Jesus paid the price and did the time for every wrong thing he had ever done. The easy part is that all J. had to do was accept that gift by turning away from those wrong things and believe in Jesus, making Him Lord of his life. Both J. and R. did so last week.

I began to explain the basics to J. He had started studying his bible at the Gospel of John, where I’d suggested he start. The first verse says “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

I took J. to the first verse in Genesis and showed him that Jesus has always been, and that He was there during the creation of this world. I explained that Jesus is God and got into the mystery of the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a hard concept for many to understand.

I also talked to J. about how he was “born again” when he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, explaining how every bad thing he has ever done was washed clean the moment he believed and thus he was starting out life with a clean slate. But like any baby, this means I have a responsibility to care for him. I must teach J. how to walk, how to grow, and how to feed himself with the words of the bible. It is so thrilling to see how hungry he is to learn, to accept and strive for this new life he has been given. J. understands many things and the short time we had together helped him with a lot of questions he had. He desires to take this knowledge to his family now. His son had Leukemia as a child and that was cured through treatments and bone marrow transplants, but recently he became epileptic, with severe and multiple seizures. We prayed for him from the jail, prayed that God heal the boy completely in such a way that all will know it is a miracle of God. I look forward to hearing later that his son is completely free of this.

I’m walking better now and the pain level has dropped down. Need to finish working on the water system. Dug up the pipes that head to the house to put the valve in so they are exposed now, and it might drop down to below freezing tonight. Last thing I need is a main pipe to freeze and burst.

New believers to be taught

11/23/10 Tuesday
It was an interesting day, yesterday. I don’t get “words from the Lord” like some people seem to get on a regular basis, but on occasion things come to me while I’m in prayer. I am always real careful with that, due in part to the many abuses of this I’ve seen in my life. There have been some who always said “God told me” this and that and in the final analysis it would be clear that what they heard wasn’t from God, it was from their imagination. I have no desire to fall into that trap, where I accept my imagination as words from God, so walk very carefully. However I did have a burden for a friend come over me, and with it a revelation of things that were happening in her life immediately, as well as things that were to come. So I prayed. I prayed for her regularly from that time on and waited for the correct time to tell her what was on my mind. I wanted to be sure and do this with others around who are spiritually mature but it seemed that suddenly this friend avoided me or was unavailable. The opportunity did come in a kind of strange way.

I don’t guess it was too strange, just not how I would have thought. She told me “I have a job for you” and when I asked what it was she told me she wanted me to “baby sit” a young woman who would be getting out of prison soon. All kinds of red flags came up on that one. “We need to talk” was my response as we were in the midst of church and she was heading out the door. There’s no way I’m going to put myself in such a compromising position, where I’m alone and responsible for a single woman who has been locked up for an unknown period of time. This revealed a surprising lack of judgment on her part, something she knows better than to ask of anyone. In the course of conversation, that included our pastor, it came out she had been sick and fighting off some form of scarlet fever, so we prayed for her, that she would be healed. It was then I told her that it had been shown to me that Satan was at the door waiting to pounce, and that she had been making compromises in her life, and those compromises were giving the enemy opportunity. She didn’t like or accept that at all, announcing that she was doing exactly what God wanted her to do. From that moment on there was a definite wall up, and this friend we had helped so much now actively avoided contact. Come to find out there has been a personality change with her at work and great friction as a result. In addition to this friend being a brain injury survivor, she has also just entered that change of life all women must endure as they age, and there are a host of other things going on in her life that add up to a lot of pressure. So pray for her if you could. I can’t say more than this about it.

Meantime, on the farm, I’ll continue working on the bathroom. I never got around to installing a cut off valve for the water and still need to cap the lines coming in to the bathtub and sink. But first things first. Tuesday is my jail day, when I visit the guys in the Stanton jail. I got an easier to read and understand bible to the one prisoner yesterday, left it at the front desk. Today I start teaching a bible study designed for new believers to them, covering the basics of our faith. Being born again means that they are both babies and need to be taught how to walk, and how not to.

Later on today Ricardo will come over with the plumber he knows. Then we’ll have a better idea of what needs to be done. No time to waste so that’s it for this morning.

Rascal, inspecting the changes

Monday, November 22, 2010

Another balancing act

This morning there was 93% humidity and a misty fog blanketing the ground in a neat looking layer.

11/22/10 Monday
Today Cherie starts her new job. Sure there are the jitters that come with any change, with the unknown, but we know this is God’s provision. What we also know is that our enemy will work to disrupt our lives anywhere he can, so I understand when problems arise. There are some who seem to think that being a Christian means you don’t have any problems, and if you do it’s your fault, you must not be right with God. Idiots. I know that “All who live Godly, in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” so if you don’t have any problems there is something wrong. At the same time, if you are practicing things that are not pleasing to God, He will try to get your attention, try to bring you back to the right path. God is a Father, the ultimate Father, and as such He will spank us when we need it.

This is the oil well across the street. Just as this fog hides the details of the well so do others hide their hearts and sins, fearing exposure. But God sees it all and the time will come when all that is done in darkness will be exposed.

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Today will be another balancing act, the ever going contests of what is more important to do, what can be delayed, what can’t. There are walls to tear out, there are bible studies to be created for the two new believers at the jail, there are plants drying up outside that will die if not put in the ground, and there’s a letter I need to write, one I’ve been putting off for quite some time now. Plus I need to figure out the best way to shut the water off to the bathroom. That’s not going to be easy and has the greatest potential for disaster. It will require me crawling back underneath the house after I turn the well off.

Pastor Jannie just called to let me know she has found two bibles that are written in easier language to understand than the King James versions they have at the jail, so I’ll pick those up today. It’s hard to believe how fast time is flying by this morning. Already 10:40.
Here's where the old tub was. All of these walls must be torn out and replaced.
By the way, things went ok at the Stanton thanksgiving church thing. Some were surprised to see me and I held my tongue well. When one came up and said he was glad to see me I came close to being a problem by replying “Really?”. The pastor told me he was glad to see me and I just said “Ok”, resisting the urge to say “I’m sorry, Shouldn’t you be shaking the dust off your feet!” referring to his statements, and literal actions, in a previous conversation. I was a little late so sat in the most available spot, on a pew with only a single woman on it. I still don’t recognize faces and she turned out to be my cousin’s wife. He returned and sat next to her, helping me realize who she was. My cousin didn’t say a word to me, no surprise, and avoided even looking in my direction, but his wife was gracious and spoke to me after the service had ended. That was nice, and a little refreshing. I still pray for them all, pray that they learn the truth, that they learn what it really means when Jesus instructed them to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. What I know is that God has seen this all and desires change, desires to see all of His children acting out of love and forgiving one another.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rebuilding bathroom and life

11/21/10 Sunday
Church was good. But it’s always good to go to church. We were busy Saturday working on the bathroom. That tub ended up being one of those old cast iron ones and, man, was it heavy. We had torn out the rest of the wall, except a small part where the toilet is sitting, and cut out the two by fours that won’t be needed. This exposed the end of the tub and revealed it was cast iron. Ricardo went and gave it a big yank and it didn’t budge. We went outside and found a five foot long steel bar I had to use to pry the tub up. We pried and pried but that bad boy wasn’t coming up. I went out and got my big hydraulic car jack. It’s rated for five tons so there’s no doubt it can move this tub. It moved it for sure but there was still something holding it where we couldn’t pull the whole tub out. It was the drain so I had to crawl under the house and figure it out.

Crawling under the house isn’t easy. The hatch is only thirteen inches by sixteen inches long, if long is the right word. Thank God I live and work on this farm for I sure have lost weight and am more trim than I was when we moved here. Despite that it was a squeeze getting into the crawl space and once down it was still tight. Just rolling over was a chore as I worked to get my shoulder past the floor joist. A big concern was that in order to crawl to where the tub drain was I had to go over the PVC pipes and because they weren’t flat on the ground there was the possibility that my two hundred plus pounds could break one. I had Ricardo run out and locate a piece of plywood I could lay on top of the pipes to spread out my weight. That worked. No broken pipes. So I unhooked the drain and thus freed the tub, more or less. In the end I had to punch out the drain using the five foot steel bar to free the tub. With great effort we both lifted one end of the tub and set it on end. Then we were able to get the two wheeled dolly under it and carefully maneuvered it out of the house. I’m guessing that bad boy weighed about three hundred pounds. It will become a planter now. Don’t know what I’ll grow in it but where it’s at is where it will stay. If I have to move it I’ll hook up chains to the tractor and drag it.

Looking at all the pipes and things it was clear that neither Ricardo nor I have the expertise to know what we needed to hook up the new tub or move the toilet. He knows a plumber who is a good Christian too so gave him a call. He will make time to come out and look at the situation Monday or Tuesday, and give us the advice we need. Meantime I’ll work on tearing out old floor and removing the drywall, much of which is trashed anyway. There’s a lot of water damage from the leaking pipes. Part of the floor is in bad shape but most of it is old wooden flooring and pretty tough, not as susceptible to water damage as plywood is. The toilet goes into an old cast iron fitting and that sucker is not moving anywhere. It goes straight into the ground and I’m sure runs out to the old cesspool.

I need to install cut off valves into the system so we can turn the water off. While under the house I examined where the water line comes in from the well. That doesn’t look very good. The line coming in is steel and highly rusted and was mated to PVC pipe. My grandfather did a lot of southern engineering when he rebuilt this house, that had burned down about sixty years ago, and added to it a couple of times. I’ll ask the plumber his opinion but right now am inclined to leave this alone. To replace it means to dig up the line where it comes into the house from the well, and that’s a lot of digging as it runs across the driveway from where the old well used to be. The present well is a half mile away on the far corner of our property. But progress is being made. Hallelujah! For now things are at a standstill till we have a better understanding of what needs to be done.

Today I seem to be unusually tired and physically weak. Don’t know why, just making note of it. I removed some two by fours we had bought to build the new wall with from Cherie’s truck and had a hard time lifting more than two at a time. I burned some weeds and did a little work outside after church, and it’s like I worked all day long. So I came and am laying down now, writing this so at least I’m not wasting any time. This evening there is an interfaith thanksgiving service at the Baptist church. I am conflicted about going for here I am sure to meet some of those who have treated us so badly in the past. If I go, will I be seen as a trouble maker? Will my very presence be seen as an offence? I don’t know, but am inclined to not let fear motivate my decision. If I go, I go to represent my church and to represent my God, who loves me no matter what I’ve done. Cherie has no interest in going and I completely understand that, so won’t encourage her to do so. She’s gone through enough without having once again to endure the cold rejection of hypocrites and be reminded of the stabbing pain gossip causes.

Someone thanked our pastor for taking in all those that they, at their church, didn’t want. I don’t know what church it was and it doesn’t matter. It saddened me greatly to hear this and it illustrates so well a cancer that infects churches throughout the world. And it’s nothing new. This was exactly what James was referring to when he wrote in James 2:2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

How is it that those, who call themselves Christians, can so completely misunderstand the heart of God? Jesus himself set the example, showed us how to act, during His short time with us on earth. Mathew 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Jesus loved the unlovable, cared for those not cared about by the world. It was the destitute, the downtrodden, the rejected, whom He reached out to. The ones He had the greatest problem with was the elite, those who thought so much of themselves and presumed to be religious, thinking they were loved of God and the rest were not. It was for them Jesus had the harshest words.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wanna come to my party?

Our soon to be redone bathroom

11/19/10 Friday
I’m going to try and pack a lot into this day. So much to do and so little time. Tomorrow morning we attack the bathroom and I want to get a head start on that. I’ll cut a new access to the crawl space but doing that requires I move a ton of stuff out of the way to start with. Then I’ll crawl under the house with a cordless drill and tape measure to identify where to cut the floor out. Haven’t seen the honey bees lately so hope they are gone, but with the cool weather they might just not be active. If there are no bees on the old hive I can cut it out and thus, hopefully, reduce or eliminate future swarms from taking up residence under the house. While under the house I can make note of the existing plumbing and get a better idea of what we’ll need to do.

Here's the new tub and shower. The wall you see will be torn out with a support beam needing to be installed in it's place as this had once been the outside wall of the house. On the other side is the present bathroom

Then I plan on tearing down the wall. Once that’s done using the bathroom becomes a whole new concept, an open air experience so to speak. We plan on moving the toilet to a new location, not far, only a few inches facing a different direction. When we do it means the water must be shut off and there will be no toilet available for use. We can deal with that no problem for when we first moved into the house there was no water at all so we used a bucket. If things go right the water won’t be cut off but for a short time while we rush to attach the new pipes.

Remodeling the bathroom involves mysteries yet to be found. We don’t know the condition of the floor so are unsure if it will all need to be replaced or not. I went to Lowe’s yesterday to get advice and an idea of prices. There I learned about the types of drywall and flooring needed, along with a few other details that helps me get a better handle on what to do and how to do it.

I don’t have an idea if we will have any help showing up or not. It may just be Ricardo and me though I sent out an open invitation to any who might want to show up and pitch in. We plan on having food for sure, I think Cherie said she’d cook up some chili or something. There was a whole list of stuff she mentioned and of course I don’t remember it all. So we will be prepared for a group and of course if anyone wants they can bring food as well. As a visionary person I always see things as they can be so imagine a large crowd of friendly people showing up, laughing and enjoying their fellowship in the Lord as they all pitch in to accomplish something good. I understand that kind of thing generally doesn’t happen without lots of planning and promotion so in reality it might not work out that way. Regardless, our church budgeted us five hundred dollars for the project and even if it’s just me and Ricardo we are blessed and will have a new bathroom and be able to take showers.
Note how the door hits the toilet. This is definitely a one person at a time bathroom for now. We look forward to the new toilet that will flush without the help this one needs (Keep a container full of water to assist each flush presently)

The old cesspool, with its’ collapsing walls, is a problem that we’ll attack later. There is a septic tank we can have for free but it’s concrete and buried in the ground so requires a backhoe to remove and bring here. I’m willing to dig the hole for it by hand, though everyone tells me I’m nuts. I do the best I can with what I have and we don’t have a lot. Meantime the cesspool still works, though I’ve noticed that the surface soil stays wet lately near the holes where it’s collapsed so wonder what that means. Don’t worry about it for I know that God meets our needs and always has out of the blue.

Stupid computer. Just lost a couple of paragraphs of writing because the power cord worked it’s way out again. Fortunately it had auto saved most of today’s post, everything up to this point, so I didn’t lose it all. Oh well, life goes on and in the realm of things it’s just a frustration. I’m blessed to have this laptop period, despite the fact it’s cobbled together, it still works, just a little delicate.

So back to rewriting what I wrote before.

Speaking of God meeting our needs I now have permission to tell of what God has done for Cherie. Wasn’t allowed to speak of it before and I’ve learned to respect my wife’s wishes, along with learning constraint when it comes to what I post. I will practice constraint in this portion for sure.

Cherie loved her job at the church she worked at. Loved it and imagined this was where she would work till she retired. There was a new pastor there and he showered Cherie with praise, expressing his appreciation for the quality of work she did. Then they hired a new youth pastor. He was an old friend of the new pastor. With any change there is always a disruption of things. Sometimes that is good, and sometimes it is not. Cherie used to love her job, to come home happy and fulfilled, but I noticed a change. She told me once that now she often cried all the way home. As she shared the change in attitude that occurred with this new guy I resisted the urge to march in there and express myself, resisted that urge many times. Now nothing she did was satisfactory and the new youth pastor seemed more interested in doing Cherie’s job than in doing anything with the kids. He quibbled over commas and took from her tasks she had been doing, trashing her ideas and in the process her self esteem.

Cherie hung in there the best she could. I prayed for her every day and worked hard to build her up but it was trying. It seems that this new guys attitude, his spirit I will say, infected others, particularly his friend, the pastor. Everything changed in the office, the whole atmosphere became different. The good days were the ones where these two were gone and the dreaded days were the ones that both were present in. I pray hard about this. In this world of life and death, this struggle against compromise and complacency, there is such need and it is in the midst of this need that there should be those who are beacons of light showing the way. But for many in the ministry it has just become a job, a paycheck, and their heart is no longer in it. They often become just babysitters for Christ, doing no more than they have too and distancing themselves from concern, from caring and loving those in need.

I see great distress for many ahead…I see so much yet hesitate to reveal it. Why do I hesitate? Because I know what will happen, what will be said and the reactions of those who desire not to be exposed, who run from the truth and live a lie. How long must I keep this to myself? I debate within about this, wondering “what am I supposed to do?”. There is a time coming when I will be flung into the spotlight, then I will stir things up, then I will speak the words of God and dismay many. Till that time I will serve, I will do the best I can for those put in my path.

Anyway, listen to how Big God is, to how He provides even before we know we have a need. Someone we know went through similar disruptions at her workplace and Godcidently (There’s my new word again) met someone starting a new company, in the same field she was in. So our friend got a job at this new company and they Godcidently need someone with the same skills that Cherie has so started reaching out, offering Cherie a position with an increase in pay. Incidentally the new publishing programs and abilities that Cherie had to learn at the church are precisely what’s needed at this new company. So Cherie starts her new job, at the new company, with owners that are very much Christian, Monday. There are no accidents here, none whatsoever. The timing and everything connected with it are way too much to be called a coincidence, thus it’s another one of the many Godcidences that have made up our life since I woke from the coma.

I must create some new believer bible studies for the two guys at the jail who gave their life to the Lord. There are only two guys in the jail, plus a third who is a trustee, and when I talked to them yesterday one said he would like to accept Jesus as his Lord and savior, so I prayed with him to do so. The other guy has been in and out of church his whole life and I presumed he was a Christian, but he asked that I lead him in a prayer for salvation too. Presuming is seldom a good thing. Now I have a responsibility, now I have to lives in my hands that I must care for. To lead someone to the Lord and just walk off like “it’s all ok now” is like leading a horse to water and not bothering to care for it afterwards, letting it die from a lack of nurture. Such a thing is common in the church and is so so wrong. Thus I have a job to do, a responsibility to finish what I started. Both of these guys are from out of town, one from Big Spring, and the other from Odessa. I need to make sure that I find good churches for them to go to when they get out of jail. One will be out in two weeks and the other isn’t sure when he will get out. Both desire to change their lives and the Odessa guy has a history of alcohol abuse and perhaps drugs too, though I’m not clear on that. Regardless, what I know is that to change your life requires you change your friends, for the old crowd will gladly drag you back into that which destroys, the habits and practices that bring death instead of life.

It’s 10:13 already. Can’t believe I’ve been working on this for over two hours already. Writing takes time, especially when you must redo what you wrote previously. Lots to do and times a wasting. At 4:00 I must leave for the two hour trip to Ft Stockton, where I will visiting my brothers in white at the prison. Bye now. If you’d like to come to the house tomorrow and help, visit, or just give advice as we work on the bathroom you’re more than welcome. Drop me an email and I’ll give you directions. bobcarver2@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We will trust God

11/18/10 Thursday
The cold came. I tried to get some antifreeze into the tractor but wasn’t successful. When I went to start it I saw that diesel fuel has continued to leak into the oil, to the point it is coming out of the top of the dip stick. Really not good. I started it anyway in an attempt to circulate the water and it spewed diesel out of a vent tube that comes out of the top of the engine. I already knew that there was a break in a gasket or cracked block because the radiator pressurizes and there are lots of bubbles in the water as gas escapes. I asked some of the guys at church about the diesel fuel in the oil and they said it’s a sign of a bad fuel pump. The paranoid part of me wondered if someone was sneaking out and pouring diesel in the oil filler tube, because the fuel pump is external and I can’t see how it’d fill the crankcase with fuel. We’ve had dogs shot, Midnight poisoned, evidence of someone tampering with the water well (I’d marked the small screw plug that is removed when you need to pour something into the well, like I did with bleach when it was contaminated. The mark was rubbed off purposely, and not by me) so there is some basis for paranoia. There’s lots of other things that make me wonder but I recognize that it’s all speculation until I can learn something concrete.

Meantime I have a tractor that needs help. This is my most valuable tool, most needed resource when it comes to creating this farm, and I can’t afford any major repairs. That along with not really knowing a whole lot about tractors brings in a lot of uncertainty into the equation. One of the guys at church is a diesel mechanic so I plan on asking him to look at it and give me an idea of what I need to do and the cost. I have three months over winter to fix or figure out how to pay for it. It will work out.

Friday I go back down to the prison and meet with the guys. Catching a ride with Brice so that makes it easier. Saturday we are planning on finally putting in the bathroom but there’s work I need to do in preparation for that. First I must cut a new access hole into the floor so we can crawl under the house as the existing access is directly under where the new tub will go. Figuring out where to cut will take some doing. I think I’ll have to crawl underneath and drill holes to mark where the floor joists (is that the right word?) are so I cut the floor out in just the right spot.

If any of you want to come out and help us build a new bathroom we would welcome you. There will be food and fellowship for sure. Ricardo said he will bring some people he knows who have experience in plumbing and construction out. We must tear down a support wall, put in beams to support the roof, and build a new wall to expand the bathroom. Then we will install new flooring, something called “hardy board”? because I plan on putting in a tile floor, and the existing floor is a little soft in spots, probably due to water leaking over the decades. There’s a new sink we got dirt cheap because it was damaged that will go in and the old tub must be removed. So there’s plenty to do for sure.

I get so frustrated at this laptop. Heard the dogs barking outside so set it down to see what was going on. Unfortunately the power cord had once again worked loose so it lost power. I’ve rebuilt it several times, putting in a new hard drive, mother board, screen, and other parts to keep it alive but never could figure out how to fix the battery. It’s got a new battery I bought but doesn’t seem to charge up so the battery doesn’t do any good. When I lost the power I lost everything I’d just written so now am rewriting it all. The dogs were just barking at a pickup that pulled in across the street for it’s daily check of the oil well. They got yelled at for making me run outside for nothing.
All this corn will get mowed down and turned into mulch

I intend to work hard at being prepared for spring, harder than I did last year for I was way unprepared when it became planting time. I have to first of all remove all of this years plants and place them in compost, then start preparing the beds with composted horse manure and stuff. I will do this despite the fact that the VA seized all of our funds, the funds that had been earmarked to buy seed, starter plants, fertilizers, organic pesticides and herbicides. We have faith that God will supply all of our needs and I will proceed based on that faith, believing that when we need it the means to get it will be there.

There’s lots to do but I will start my day by going to the jail and ministering to the guys there. Time’s a wasting so see ya later.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Winterizing the farm

11/15/10 Monday
It’s gonna be a busy day. Time to start winterizing everything. Need to drain water from swamp cooler and put the cover on, then turn the water off leading to it. I also must cover the exposed faucets with insulation and put the plastic drums I cut in half over the tops of them, along with some heavy bricks and rocks so the wind doesn’t blow them away.

There are lots of things on my mind. People we know who are making bad choices but turn a deaf ear to advice or help. I pray for them, not much else I can do. We need to get this bathroom finished and that’s a major project that developed issues related to people who don’t hear when you try to talk.

Yesterday we visited our old Sunday school group in Midland. It was good to see everyone but sad at the same time. Sad for we know we will not see them every week like we used to. It’s good to be missed, and everyone welcomed us, telling how they missed our presence and input in class. How torn I am, knowing we are needed at the Stanton church and confident that God has a reason for us to be there, but at the same time missing everyone in Midland. But it’s ok, we will see them and through the internet are able to keep in touch despite the distance. Plus Wally has made the sacrifice of coming out to visit and Don said he looked forward to doing that when he’s able to once again drive. We caught up on how folks are doing, the struggles and illnesses they are dealing with, along with the joys.

It’s a cold windy day today. Hard freeze coming Thursday morning. We are using space heaters to keep the bedroom warm and to warm up the bathroom when used. Other than that we wear warm clothes in the house and must until this bathroom project is done, for until then we are unable to fire up the wood stove. Actually I might be able too but it will require moving piles of stuff from one area and piling them up in another.

That’s it for now. I need to run a virus scan as this laptop is acting funny. Probably nothing but any changes make me suspicious. That’s it for now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The anguish of caring

(Click to enlarge) Here's a picture of all the Kairos participants

11/14/10 Sunday
Yesterday was my youngest son’s birthday. I sent him a card. Don’t know if he got it or appreciated it. This is an anguish I find that I share with many of those in prison, that I visited with Friday and Saturday. They too are distanced from their loved ones through circumstances that include prison and lifestyle choices made in the past. We all have made mistakes in our past. Some of us deal with it and some do not, hardening their hearts and moving on, choosing to not care. Several of the guys at the prison have been motivated to write their family and ask for forgiveness of the things they have done, through the revelations of Jesus and His love brought to them through the Kairos ministry.

It was so good to see my brothers in white again, to learn of the impact Kairos has had on their lives. With that comes an increasing awareness of my responsibility for them, of the power I have, through Jesus, to change and mold lives, to do good and remove evil. It is a burden I choose to take on, one that I know will bring great joy and occasional sorrow. Such is the path of life, joys and sorrows will ever be a part of it. When we chose to adopt and care for the stray dogs that came our way, and in the process love them, with that came great sorrow and pain when they were killed, or in the case of Midnight, died. But there were so many joys in that path, so much pleasure in loving them and providing for their needs, and the reward of knowing we gave them the best years of their lives. Not to compare our brothers in white with dogs, don’t get me wrong on that. It’s just a good way to illustrate this basic truth in life, love comes with pain, or as the song says “Love hurts”.

One of the guys said that he has removed the word love from his dictionary. It’s a word he refuses to use, at least up to now. There is so much healing going on down at the prison now. Lives are changing. That I have anything to do with it is humbling to say the least. And it’s important that I maintain that attitude, for I’ve seen the damage that pride does in the lives of others, of the inflated ego and how distasteful those who puff themselves up become.

Today we will visit our friends at the First Baptist church in Midland. I had contacted Ed regarding getting Gideon bibles for the Stanton jail and he told me that the church is holding a luncheon for those in prison and jail ministry so he invited us to come. That’s as good an excuse as any to see those we’ve grown so close too over the last couple of years. We are both looking forward to that.

Coming home to Cherie is such a joy. Love seeing her smiling face and getting that huge "You've been gone too long" hug. She is a constant reminder of the power of God to restore and recover that which was lost. I will always be grateful and intend to stay amazed by this miracle.

We had our freeze while I was in Fort Stockton. Everything is pretty much gone as far as the garden is concerned. There were four watermelon left so I picked them. We’ll take two to the Sunday school class at First Baptist to give to our friends and another to our Stanton church. The other one we’ll eat, though Cherie isn’t a big watermelon person so I’ll end up eating most of it. I saved seeds from it to plant next year. There are still lots of JalapeƱo peppers on the plants so I’ll pick them today. Don’t know for sure but I think they’re still good despite the freeze. There are probably some tomatoes we can recover as well though I didn’t check those plants while I was out there. The Christmas corn is gone, but that’s a chance I knew I was taking when I planted it.

I have lots of work to do now that winter is here. The water system needs to be drained for one. I was anxious when I went out to check on it for I was in Fort Stockton when the freeze hit. Woke up at 3:40 this morning, because I went to bed at 7:00 last night for I was so drained from the Kairos weekend, and that’s when I thought about it. There are fifteen or more plastic faucet heads, each over a foot off the ground, so if any of them had cracked from the freeze they could be spewing water all over the place. Fortunately that didn’t happen but it’s important I take care of this before it does. Then there are weeds to hoe down and burn along with the start of preparing for an early spring planting. We’ll have to scratch to find the money to buy seeds with because of the Treasury Department seizing our CRP payment and income tax refunds. Appealing and fixing all of that mess is still an ongoing process and may take years.

I can’t think of anything else to write for now so that’s it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can't fire the woodburner so it's cold

Yesterday's sunrise (I think, or the day before)

11/12/10 Friday
A cold front just blew in. We can’t fire up the wood burner because all of the disarray piled up around it in preparation for the new bathroom we haven’t put in yet. I put that off twice now in order to go to Fort Stockton with Kairos. Talked to the pastor about it, wanting to get a clearer idea of what the church wanted to do. She came out with some people who do work for her, people who have construction experience, in order to have them give her a quote. In the process I learn that someone had misled the church regarding our bathroom, had given them the idea that things were much worse than they actually are. The contractors were surprised to see we had running water at all. What they had heard was that we had a garden hose running through the bathroom window for water, not quite true. I explained that the cold water side of the bathtub was plugged with mineral deposits so we only had hot water and would pour a bath and wait till it cooled off enough to get in.

I was anxious now to talk with the pastor and makes sure she knew we didn’t mislead her, it wasn’t our doing. I love the lady who got this all going, who told the church we had a need and convinced them to help, but…well she oversold the need. She’s a sweetheart who loves God and loves to help others. What I also know and recognize is that she too has suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and this overselling is actually a common problem with TBI survivors. Part of it is a tendency to confabulate, to fill in the blanks that often occur with short term memory loss. Often TBI survivors don’t even realize they are doing this, and it can be quite confusing, along with causing some problems.

Anyway, the contractors came up with a quote for the pastor. Five thousand dollars but because of the circumstances he said he would do it for $3700. She called me to say that this was beyond what the church could do, and that’s fine because I’m confident we could buy the material for a several hundred dollars, it’s just a matter of labor and the skills to do it right. So we have a budget of five hundred dollars, and that works well, because I know what we have to work with and can plan accordingly.

Meantime, today I prepare to go back to Fort Stockton for two days. We decided we can afford for me to stay at a hotel overnight, that this would be better than coming back and catching a ride with someone the next morning at 6:00 in the morning or so. I’ll have to make sure things are taken care of here on the farm. With the cold front came wind, has the curtains blowing despite the windows being closed as I sit here and watch the bedroom windows. Doesn’t help it stay warm for sure. Extreme home makeover is coming to the area to do what they do for their television show. I daydreamed for a moment that they would do our house but then forced myself back to reality.

It would be sweet but what I’d like most is to be able to see my vision for the farm come about. Then we’d have greenhouses, orchards, and mostly could create jobs to help others in need. With that there would be a business that would create income that allows us to fix up this old house, make the improvements it needs. It will happen. I have a dream, and it’s a good one, but mostly I have a God who can do miracles. I just need a little help, to find others who want to share in this dream, for it’s not something I can do by myself. It’s quite frustrating for me to still have to fight the results of my brain injury and to see how it has hindered progress in pursuing this dream. I know what I need to do but in the daily tempest of activity so many things don’t get done. The difficulty completing tasks is another common problem with TBI’s, along with a need to be organized.

I have much to do before leaving for the prison. First there are four letters I’ve been meaning to answer from the guys at Lynaugh prison, letters I’ve been meaning to write for over a week now. I wanted to get them done and out so the guys would have them by the time we got there. See!!! This is just another example of me not accomplishing what I wish. So many things that just don’t get done, but I don’t spend my days sitting on my ass, I stay busy but don’t do what I need to do.

On that note I’ll quite writing this post and get to writing the letters. Need to be at Cherie’s work by 4:30 to catch a ride with Dave to the prison. I know that if I walk outside to do stuff I’ll once again forget to write the letters so must stay focused.

Midnight, at the grave of Ben and Gretchen.

Just a note, something to share with y’all. We are much more protective of Rascal and Trixie now, after losing all the other dogs. When we let them out in the morning we check on them often and make sure they don’t wander far. They pretty much stay on the farm but with two dogs shot and one poisoned I feel better keeping them in sight. They are both on the bed with me now, laid out in comfort as we listen to the wind blow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Great internal conflict

11/10/10 Wednesday
This is a morning of great internal conflict. So many questions once again rise up, and with them a repeat of doubts I wrestle with. There is so much I see that bothers me, people who talk out of one side of their mouth about God and being Christian, yet with the other side deny that belief with both their words and their life. Is everyone a liar? Do all just pretend to believe with the false hope that pretending some how will buy their ticket to heaven? Don’t get me wrong, there are those I’ve met who are true to what they say they believe, but they are a precious few in the midst of all the masses and shine like jewels in a sea o mud. It’s such a paradox, how so many in Islam are out there willing to die for their belief, and do so, yet so many who wear the label of Christian are unwilling to surrender the smallest of luxury or put themselves out in anyway for Christ. Anytime being a Christian is inconvenient they choose convenience.

ABC news ran a story yesterday regarding the growing number of those in the ministry who no longer believe. They interviewed some of them with their face and voice disguised in order to protect their identity. I was already aware of a study that showed ten percent of those surveyed had lost their faith. These are all people still active in the ministry, pastors and priests, but despite the fact they no longer believe in God they still remain in the ministry, essentially living a lie. Why do they do this? It’s their source of income and to quote one of the ones interviewed on ABC “I have no other marketable skills” so he didn’t know how to do much else.

One of the guys interviewed is a Southern Baptist preacher and he told the interviewer that even his wife did not know he had lost his faith. Wow! What a lie he is living, not even confiding in his wife. The source of his unbelief comes from the bible, which is actually the source of my belief. His doubts come from things like the story of Noah’s ark and the flood and some other seeming contradictory things he found. I’ve wrestled with many of these things as well, but in the end what I see is the truth of what the bible says about the future, which is happening today, even as I write this. Here’s my opinion. Anything that the hand of man touches is prone to corruption and such is true of what we call the bible today. Throughout the centuries there have been many who have sought to put their thoughts and influence into the bible and how we believe. Some have succeeded to one degree or another and many have failed. So is the bible the “Perfect Word of God” as some say, in the sense that every word came out of the mouth of God? Not quite. Again, this is my opinion. (I already know that this statement will cause some to rise up in arms, mortified that I would say such a thing and calling me a heretic) The bible was written by many men over the course of thousands of years and in many cases is clearly influenced by the culture and beliefs of the day that a particular person wrote. Case in point is when Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:12 “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” He went on to explain that it was Eve who was first deceived in the garden of Eden to justify this. Fact is there were powerful women on the old testament who were clearly used of God and placed by Him in positions of authority, and in fact were prophets.

I choose to believe. Choose it despite all the doubts thrown in my direction, because I’ve seen and experienced the truth of the power of God in my life and the life of others I’ve known. I choose to not let the hypocrisy of those who deny their faith by the life they live cause me to waver. For to allow that means I become like they are, and that is unacceptable to me. I will not become what I despise in others. I will be true to what I believe and always have been. If you go back and read this blog, that goes back to 2005, you will find that honesty I hold so dear. I refused to represent what I didn’t have faith in, and in the early years, after I woke from the coma, I doubted the existence of God and didn’t hide the fact. So unlike some in the ministry, who have over the years lost their faith and in the process become increasing liars both to themselves and those around, I have come to know God is and that He is active in our life and a rewarder of those who love Him.

One of the hypocrites called me a prophet as we tried to work through problems that arose when he didn’t practice what he professed, when it became evident that his words were empty. I found that strange and told him “I’m no prophet. I don’t hear God’s voice like the prophets did”. His reply was that I wrote like a prophet. I don’t know about that, I just know what I see, and know the results of the directions some choose to go. It will be sad to watch because they choose not to listen to truths they don’t want to hear or acknowledge.

I’m watering and fertilizing the corn this morning. Plan on making some hot sauce with our real hot peppers and tomatoes. Will certainly wear gloves this time. There are bible studies I need to write and work to do on the farm, another conflict. What to do? What to make important? If I neglect the farm weeds grow and plants die, but it I neglect the studies and writing there are lives I fail to touch. In a way they are the same for with the lives I sow, plant, water, and fertilize truths in the soil of their heart, and if I fail weeds of doubt and temptation grow and choke out the words I sowed in the soil of their heart.

It is time for me to get out and sow more. Time for me to offer myself up, to tell of what God has done in our life, to speak of His love and mercy. Let me know if you’d like me to speak at your church or group.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Kairos, freedom in prison, here's what happened

Wow!!! It’s over, the Kairos walk is finished, at least the four day event is completed. This is one of those things that will never have an ending, at least not until Jesus returns. Lives have been touched and the seeds that have been planted will grow in time. What they will grow into will vary from individual to individual, depending on the water and nourishment they receive and the quality of the soil. I hope to make my way down there every Friday to teach and help with that nourishment.

We were talked to about the mountain top experience, how coming down from the mountain and returning to the daily walk of life would come with temptations and frustrations. Today is our first day back. There’s a lot of catching up to do and I am tired for sure. I have lots of writing to do, need to record these events while they are still fresh in my mind.

So let me describe as best I can how these four days went. On day one we all arrived at the church that is being used as the central staging area of this event. Cherie and I got there a half hour later than we wanted but with plenty of time to get ready and head out with everyone else. The church is a small downtown fellowship that meets in a store front. They have installed a commercial kitchen that is a blessing to say the least considering we fix meals for all forty two of the men in white who have been chosen to take part in the Kairos walk. The term “men in white” is how we refer to the inmates, because of the all white prison uniforms they wear. It’s a lot nicer and more uplifting than calling them inmates or convicts. On top of that are 32 to 34 of us who are going into the prison and then a host of “servants”. The servants are fellow inmates who have successfully completed a previous Kairos walk. So that’s a lot of food to fix as we serve them both lunch and dinner, plus the outside Kairos folks fix us breakfast in the morning before we head out to the prison.

We walk in the church and are warmly greeted. A big surprise was to see the toothless grin of Chuck as he ran up to say Hi. The last time I’d seen him was at the Lynaugh prison during the first Kairos I’d ever participated in. He had been the brother in white I was assigned as a “Sponsor” for so my task was to keep up with him and make sure things were going well. We hit it off right away and shared much together, creating a bond. I’d not done well at following up so did not even know he was out of prison. He’d been out 31 days and went way out of his way to be here and help out with this Kairos. Just one of many WOW!’s there would be. There was a general meeting as the days agenda was discussed after an opening prayer. Then those who were to give talks that day went to the chapel area where we all prayed over them. With that it was time to load the trucks with the tons of supplies and stuff we needed to set up for the event. We all left in a caravan of vehicles to the prison.

Prison! Oh the memories and thoughts that rise up every time I pass by one. We roll past the groves of pecan trees of one of, if not the, largest pecan orchards in the state of Texas and Lynaugh Unit comes into sight. All the buildings are a uniform grayish color that I can’t find a name for and are surrounded by ten or twelve foot high chain link fences with rows of unrolled razor sharp Constantine wire lining the tops. On all but the first day it’s still dark with the sun just thinking of coming up so the lights are on everywhere. So many lights that there is no place for a shadow to hide. I remember when I came here the first time, six months ago. Everyone kept asking me “Are you alright?” and “How are you handling it?” for they were genuinely concerned. They all knew I’d spent a lot of time behind bars and some of them also knew about my brain injury and the effect stress can have on me. I was unsure myself about how I would handle walking into a prison again that first time, but it wasn’t a problem, not even a little one. I knew I could walk out of the prison at the end of the day and besides that I know God is with me wherever I go so there is no need for fear.

Getting into the prison is a process similar to boarding a plane these days. Names had to be checked on the list of those approved to enter, ID’s checked to insure I was who I said I was, and then it’s belts off, shoes off, pockets emptied, no cell phones, no money, nothing that could be contraband or turned into a weapon. A once over with the metal detector and then a pat down and we were good to go. Only five at a time through the door and “Wait for the escort” before we head to the main building. The first trip included all the food and items we were taking with us. Seems some of the overhead projector laptop stuff hadn’t gotten on the list so it wasn’t allowed in, at least not at first.

It was so good to see many of the ones who were in the group I was privileged to be a part of when I did my first Kairos six months ago. They had been given the honor of being servants during this Kairos. When I walked into the gym Louis was the first one to run up and greet me with a hug. Then there was T…, V..., J... (All names withheld due to security and privacy policies), and others I’d had the honor of being with six months earlier. I asked about another one of them, a man who had given his life to Christ, for I didn’t see him and knew he had a hard road to go. They assured me he was…doing ok, but like I said I knew it would be hard. It was good to hear he hadn’t fallen away and that they continued to help him. He had been blessed by being removed from the tougher higher security area he had been housed in so that was good.

With the initial brief introductions done it was time to get to business. Chairs had been arranged for the opening ceremony, around the gym and facing each other. As the men in white came in their name was called along with the name of which one of us was that individuals sponsor. My guy’s name was J… so when I heard his name I rushed forward with his name tag in hand. I asked permission to put it around his neck, an important step for we must be careful and respectful when it comes to any thing that might be construed as invading their space. This I have an intimate understanding of due to the worlds I’ve lived in. Some of these men have violent pasts, coming from worlds of gangs, drugs, and other criminal activity. Even if they hadn’t been involved with that in the “Free world” (the term used to refer to the realm outside of prison by those behind the walls) life inside of prison is a dangerous one, full of rivalries and intimidations. Cherie has learned that in a restaurant or other public places that I desire to sit where I can see who’s coming and where my back is protected. It’s not too bad these days but there was a time when I was unable to be comfortable in any public setting. And someone reaching out to touch me raised all kinds of red flags inside as I position myself to catch a knife or punch being thrown, reflexes ready to spring to action.

J… did indeed come from such a past. I can’t reveal too much about him out of respect for his privacy but do wish to convey who he is in a general way. He is intensely tattooed from his face to his hands, all that was visible and not covered with clothing. There was a definite proximity defensiveness so I let him put the name tag on himself. The name tags are about eight by four inches with a yarn lanyard that goes around the neck so it hangs chest high, with the names printed in large letters under the banner of “Lynaugh Kairos #24”. We had name tags on as well, but of a different color to identify us as being a part of the Kairos team.

I asked J… if I could get him some coffee, lemonade, or cookies, and upon his reply led him to where they were being served and got them for him. This is the start of his being treated very different from what he’s accustomed to in the prison environment. Our motto is “Love, Love, Listen, Listen”. In general these guys are told what to do, when to do it, and exactly how to do it from authority figures who will reinforce their demands with punishment if not complied with. But we are here to serve them, to represent Jesus Christ and His love. Jesus gave the example Himself when he washed the apostles feet, and that was just one of many instances of His practicing the humility he preached.

With cookies and coffee in hand we went to find a seat. They were filling up fast for sure so we had to squeeze in a spot. The guy next to us wore a Wiccan star along with a scowl. I made note of that and you’ll hear more about him later. Now it’s time to get to know our guests, to strike up a conversation with this stranger we have never seen before. I’m not a social person to start with, partly due to the brain injury but also just because I’m seldom comfortable with strangers anyway, but this is different. This is working for the Lord so requires me to get out of my comfort zone. Among the questions we are told not to ask are “Why are you in prison?” or “How long will you be here?”. There are many others that we were told about during the two months of training I went through before this. But we can ask where they are from and stuff like what their job in the prison was. The whole idea is to get them comfortable and make sure they don’t feel pressured. J… opened up about his family and when I complimented him on his tattoos expressed his regret for them and the gang life that generated most of them. When asked why he came to Kairos he said he was looking for answers about life and hope for his children. That was a real positive response, a lot better than many others we’ve heard. He had questions and we believe we have answers.

Robert, our team leader, went to the mike and opened with prayer. Then he explained a little about Kairos, what our goals are and what to expect in the days to come. He asked that everyone have an open mind and a respectful or even reverent attitude, especially when we went to the area identified as the chapel. This was behind a fifty foot long banner that is ten foot high and stretched across the gym. On it are painted depictions of Jesus and the cross He was crucified on. That area we would all go to several times each day and there we would hear talks on a variety of subjects along with the public reading of prayers.

In fact shortly after Robert’s opening statements we went to the chapel for the first of these talks. Due to time constraints, caused in part by how long it took to get into the prison, we had to pack the talks in a little tighter than planned. The talks were titled “Know Yourself, I chose you, Prodigal son, and Night prayer”.

With those done and a short visitation time afterwards it was time to leave. The first day was done so we headed out and went back to the church. Driving up to the church we are greeted by the outside angels lining up on both sides of the door and hallway, extending well out the door. They begin clapping their hands in unison and sing “When the Saint’s come marching in” as we pass between them to go inside. What a welcome that is, what a rejuvenation of our spirits.

Once in we first settle down a bit and get blessed with a dinner the angels have prepared for us. When the meal is over we discuss who we met and what needs or problems we identified so these could be specifically prayed for by the prayer warriors who are such a vital part of this. Just as I was assigned a specific individual to be a sponsor for there are prayer warriors assigned to specific people. One of the things going on behind the scene, part of what is not seen and thus often not recognized, is that there are people around the world praying for this event. In fact there are people praying for this event around the clock in a prayer vigil that goes on 24 hours a day with every hour assigned for someone to pray in. You can feel this when we walk in the prison, a palpable presence of the Lord.

After all this and a closing prayer it’s time to head to the hotel and try to get some sleep. Cherie and I are so grateful for those who made this possible for us. It’s embarrassing often times to be poor, to struggle just to put food on the table. Many judge because of that, internally deciding that those who are not financially as well off as they must be lazy, not as “right with the Lord” as that person is, or some other disparaging thought, so it’s a hard thing for us to have to face. But we didn’t see that here. I don’t advertise our difficulties yet there are some who knew. Without asking our team fee was paid, someone gave us enough cash to pay for the gas for the 300 mile round trip, and our hotel room was supplied. Through the grace and love of others we were able to serve the Lord, and for that we are grateful and pray that those who gave receive a bountiful reward, a cup running over.

Cherie was so excited to be a part of this. She had made it to the closing for the last Kairos, the first one I’d attended, and was so touched by the power of God to change lives she decided to be involved with this one. So while I was at the prison she was back at the church, preparing food, praying, and attending many of the tasks needed to make this event possible. Plus she had a chance to meet and fellowship with the many “Outside angels” during this.

So now it’s time for us to unwind from the first day. Unwinding is hard to do despite being so tired from all the work and activity. We’re in an unfamiliar place, on an unfamiliar bed, far from home. We wonder how our dogs and cats are doing, if Linda had any problems getting Rascal and Trixie in and out of the house, and of course there are loads of other thoughts running through our heads. At the top of the list is Kairos. I tell Cherie of J… and the others we met. We prayed together and attempted to turn our minds off and go to sleep, with limited success.

Day Two

The alarm is set for five o’clock in the morning. We are expected to be at the church at 6:00 so it’s a rush to be sure. Of course we don’t quite make it there at 6:00 but we get there with plenty of time to eat the breakfast prepared by the outside angels, and to discuss the upcoming day’s activities along with the all important prayer. The three men who were to speak that day are set in chairs arranged in a semi circle and we all surround them, everyone touching the ones in front, who’s hands are laid on the recipients of this prayer. It’s not just one person praying and that’s it, many prayed, one at a time with all the rest agreeing with that individual’s prayer.

When all’s done it’s time to head out, but first we need to load the trucks with cookies and supplies. We might have taken the cookies the first day, I can’t remember clearly, but it doesn’t matter what day it was. That would be over one thousand five hundred plus dozens of cookies. Doing the math shows we had over 18,000 individual cookies. I know it filled the bed of a full sized pick up truck to the point they had to put many boxes in the cab for fear they would fly off the back of the truck. It’s still dark so we head out in that convoy to the prison.

At the prison it’s check in time, the same security procedures with minor variations depending on who’s in charge. Chaplain Raines is always there to help things go smoothly. I am quite impressed with this man, who does way more than the minimum required for his job, way more. It’s not just a paycheck to him, it’s truly a ministry where he understands he is saving lives from eternal hell, and he does it with enthusiasm and conviction.

From this point on things are arranged differently. There are seven tables set up, each with an apostles name on it. My table is the “Luke” table. Each table has six or seven men in white assigned to it, with their places marked by the name tags we handed out to them the day before. In addition to that are two or three of us, the Kairos volunteers, along with an ordained Clergyman, also one of the Kairos volunteers. This way if anyone at the table wishes to share information that might be compromising he can talk to the clergyman without worrying about it being relayed to law enforcement. It provides a sense of security that is of great value in this whole process.

J… is assigned to a different table than mine, probably on purpose, but I do make note of where he is seated. We greet the guys as they arrive at our table, making sure they feel welcome. This Kairos I’m designated as a table leader. That doesn’t really mean I run anything, it’s just my duty to insure that things go smoothly and to make sure that everyone gets to express themselves freely.

On each side of me are two older gentlemen, T… and J…, who just happened to both be from Chicago. It’s a small big world. Then there was G…, H…, A…, R…, seated at our table. We spend a lot of time just getting to know each other, making introductions and sizing each other up. I know it may sound strange, “Sizing each other up”, but that’s how it is in prison. They don’t know us and we don’t know them, though with my background and experience I may have a greater insight regarding the lives our brothers in white have experienced than some who’ve led a sheltered life. However, in the end it doesn’t matter, for I’ve seen the Holy Spirit put words in the mouths of our volunteers, heard them give advice that was beyond their experience or even age in it’s wisdom. Plus we have many volunteers who have walked in the same shoes our brothers in white have walked, so God has blessed this Kairos ministry with some powerful assets, those who are humble enough to be willing tools in the Masters hands.

So we’re started, learning to trust, learning who each other is, and learning about the love of God. What an assortment of people we have seated at the Luke table. Several already know about God, already are Christians to one degree or another, but one absolutely wasn’t. All this God stuff was new to him. Oh, he’d heard a little here and there but his life was a vicious one, with much hardship and anger. I watched him soften during those four days, and at the end he told me “I felt something I’ve never felt in my life, ever”. What was it? He felt love, it was a strange thing for him, a new sensation that he had to wrestle with to understand. H… told me some of what he has seen in life and now understands that God truly loves him and that there is a reason he lives. He was in a police chase that ended up on you tube as one of the most dangerous ever recorded. At the end there were over fifty bullet holes counted in his vehicle and all were amazed that not only was he alive but not a bullet touched him. He realizes that he is blessed to be alive and believes it was the hand of God that protected him. I believe that too as I can certainly relate and am blessed to be alive when by all rights I shouldn’t be.

G… was different from all the rest. I still have a hard time quite getting a handle on who he is from a spiritual standpoint. There is much conflict in him, such contradiction, if that’s the word to use. I will continue to pray for him. Either he is a prophet of old testament biblical caliber or quite deceived. Of all the people I met he was the only one I drew a blank on. If what he told me was the truth he foresaw the deaths of his uncle and others and also foresaw other events in people’s lives. His words to them came true in unmistakable ways so his words have power. He has a servants heart, working to help others and accepting ridicule and abuse when he doesn’t have to. There are other things he shared that I must not, but it revealed much to me. A refusal to accept money for his gift was one. But the hurt he carries deep inside only God can heal. G…’s statement to me was that he took the word “Love” out of his dictionary and it’s a word he no longer uses or believes in. Yet his actions, his personal sacrifice, are the definition of love. One thing he could, or would not do, was say “Jesus Christ is Lord”. He had many questions, many questions regarding what it takes to be saved and our relationship with God. In the end I could see a chipping away, a slow acceptance of the possibility that love might not be a bad word to have in your “dictionary”. I perceive powerful spiritual forces at work in this man’s life and with that a great need to pray that God’s Spirit overcomes all that is not of the Lord.

Always at all the tables there are plates of cookies, and sometimes plates of fresh fruit, or vegetables with a sauce to dip them in. This in itself is a treat, something these guys never see. For some it was the first banana or apple they have seen in years and the same holds true for the broccoli or other vegetables made available. Home made cookies are also something the men in white never see, you can’t get a package from home like the military guys overseas can. There’s no doubt that some sign up for Kairos for the food but they get fed something much greater than cookies. Our servers, the former Kairos graduates, are waiting on us hand and foot, constantly making sure our glasses are filled, cookies are available, and dirty dishes and napkins are removed. Any time there is a need they rush to take care of it.

After the initial time of relaxing and conversation as all of us chow down cookies (there’s no question that I will gain weight from all the food we ate) it’s time to head to the chapel. There is a prayer and then a talk called “3 encounters with Christ”. After that we all head back to our tables. There is some conversation before the first of the main talks. This one is called “Choices” and is a powerful message concerning the choices we have made and the choices we will make concerning who we decide to be. When the talk is done it’s time for us to discuss at the table what each person got out of it. This is not a time for me or the other volunteers to express our views, it’s time for the men in white. Our job is to guide and perhaps augment but it’s their time to open up about what they feel or their life and we are to give them the freedom to do that with no judgment of any kind. This will be the procedure during the rest of the event, chapel, talk, discussion, and at the end of each session we have the guys at the table draw up a poster that expresses what they received from it.

Creating the poster helps them all discuss among themselves their thoughts on the talks as decisions are made regarding what to draw or how to express their concepts. At first there was a universal agreement regarding who would be the artist as one of the guys has a reputation for creating artwork. It’s common to find some who have a talent for creating drawings and cards and use that as a means of earning commissary items for themselves. Eventually H…started doing a lot of the drawing. That showed how he was loosening up and getting involved with everything, a real good sign.

After the poster is made it was time for lunch to be served. This will be the first of many meals we would serve to our brothers in white, and another reason I suspect I gained a few pounds. A prayer to bless the food is made, actually it’s sung. The servants clear our tables, removing the trays of cookies, the notebooks everyone was issued to enable them to take notes of the lessons and events, and anything else in the way. Then they lay out the placemats. These are a special part of the program that deserve description. The placemats have been made by children in churches and organizations throughout the area that are supporters of Kairos. Some may even have been made in other countries as well. For each meal new placemats are put out. They often have the child who made the placemat’s name on them, written in their own hand, and sometimes even have their age down. This first meal is just the start of our brothers realizing just how many people around the world really care about them, just the start. The full impact of that message would be revealed towards the end of these four days.

I watch as our guys begin to examine these placemats. There is amazement and wonder on their faces as they look at the cute hand prints, made with tiny little hands, cleverly turned into little chickens. I’d have to draw it to help you understand and I won’t so you’ll have to use your imagination. This was just how the mats on our table were done for this first meal. Every mat was different and showed the ingenuity of those who helped these children create these masterpieces. Many of our men in white have children, some they haven’t seen in years, and some they have never seen in a few cases. All of them have families of one type or another and through the circumstances of the lives they’ve led, the lives that placed them in this prison, have left a wake of pain and unhappiness behind them. The impact of something as simple as a placemat made by a child, can never be fully known for it’s immensity and depth, when it comes to the lives of these men in white. I watched tears, smiles, incredulity, and all kinds of emotions on their faces as they looked at not just the placemat in front of them but all of the mats on the table. It’s just the start, the first meal, first of many firsts for these guys.

Then comes the meals. I don’t remember what they served, didn’t write it down, but it doesn’t take much to beat prison food. Not much at all. Just the cookies and fruit were a treat but now were getting to the food. It might have been hamburgers for that first meal. I know they served hamburgers for one of them and even something as simple as a hamburger can be an exceptional luxury in prison. Some of these guys have been locked up for ten or twenty years, and a few of them have little hope of ever seeing freedom, knowing that odds are they will die behind bars.

It is amazing at how quiet a gymnasium full of people can get. There was no talking as everyone focused on enjoying the meal set before them. The servants hustled to fill drinks and perhaps clean a mess that was made. They won’t eat till everyone else is done, truly putting others needs before their own. I hear an occasional “Wow” “Man this is good” but not much else as everyone chows down. It doesn’t take long before seconds are being served. That in itself is a blessing. In the prison chow hall you have only so long to eat your food and then it’s a rush to clear the table and head back to your cell so there is no such thing as a leisurely meal.

Like they say in the infomercials and sales programs on TV “But wait, There’s MORE”. The guys think they’ve had a great meal and are sitting back in gratitude when the servants start passing out dessert. Think the cookies were appreciated? Wait till they get dessert. What is it? ICE CREAM???? CHOCOLATE SAUCE ON IT????? NO WAY!!!!! Something else that is unheard of in prison, at least in this one. And there are even seconds served with this so when all is said and done everyone had their fill. What an honor to be a part of this it is for me, what a privilege.

Every time they prepare for serving meals there are small tickets placed at each setting. Each ticket says “You are not alone, I am praying for you and have been praying for you since I chose to provide food for you during your Kairos Weekend. I pray that it reminds you how very much Jesus Loves you and how He will always be there to provide for you. Ephesians 3:19”. On each ticket is the name of the person who purchased it along with the church they are from.

The impact of this grew with each meal. We had the guys, if they wished, write a thank you and short statement about what each meal meant to them. We offer these tickets for sale to the many churches and individuals who have a heart for this ministry. They provide a great source of financing the thousands of dollars in expenses we rack up for this ministry. But more importantly it allows people to reach out and touch someone for the Lord whom they have never met, and probably will never meet. One of the most powerful messages we can get across to these men in white is that they are not alone, that there are thousands of Christians who love them and care enough to be involved in some way, be it prayer, place mats, the Agape wall, buying meal tickets, or the many other ways we find to show love. For many, who are alone, have been abandoned by family and friends, and otherwise feeling rejected, sometimes even by God, this has an incredibly powerful effect.

We sing what will be the traditional song, a kind of closing thank you for food prayer set to music, after everyone is finished. It’s the same song we sang while I was going through my training for this event. Tables are cleared and it’s time to go to the chapel again. The tables are dismissed one at a time so each table is able to stay together, and we quietly file into the chapel.

Here we sing songs, lead by the very talented men in white who will be serving us with their skills on musical instruments and voice over the entire four day event. Then there are a series of bible lessons and meditations, interspersed with prayer. All of this is a well laid out and thought through plan designed to teach the truth about the love of God for us all, along with His desire and ability to forgive and set us free, to lead us on a path that gives life, not death.

When it’s time we all head back to our tables. There’s a break time to take care of any necessary business and opportunity for more reflection on what we’ve heard. Seeing as how this is prison, there are often required interruptions for “Count time”, when the guards make sure everyone is where they should be, as well as calls for those with medical needs, such as diabetes, to get their required medication. Sometimes, when they can’t quite find someone, everything comes to a halt while they recount and verify everything. Not a big deal, just an inconvenience that we are aware of and learned to roll with. We are just as subjective to the guard’s wishes as the men in white are. It’s their prison and we are guests in their house. Besides that we, all the volunteers, need to show by example how to be subject to authority and to show them the respect they should be given. That respect has nothing to do with whether we agree with what’s going on or not, it has to do with who they are and what they represent. This is the same respect that we, as Christians, need to have for those in authority out in the free world.

After the break it’s time for our next talk. This one is on the Church. So many people have so many ideas about what the church is and isn’t, and so many of those ideas are based on wrongs done or the hypocrisy they’ve seen and experienced. In prison or out, it’s the same, it’s a shame, and often the reason people refuse to go to church or have anything to do with God. The talk makes clear that church is not a building, it’s the people. This talk ends with a series of rousing yells, when in response to the speakers question “Who is the church?” everyone says “WE ARE THE CHURCH”. It’s almost like a pep rally in it’s flavor and enthusiasm. Really stirs things up, in a good way. For a population that is often required to be subdued, and where group activities are carefully watched, and undue excitement seen as a potential sign of trouble, this is a moment of freedom that helps the soul.

After the talk it’s once again time to discuss what we heard. Again this is not a time that we, the volunteers, express our thoughts, but it’s the time for our brothers in white to talk. We hear of experiences they have had, or in some cases of the total lack of experience or contact with the church. I listen as other men in white counsel and advise their fellow brothers, giving them direction and comfort where needed. My only duty now is to insure that everyone has a chance to talk and encourage them to open up. This first full day many are reticent and not anxious to get involved, but we watch as that all changes over the course of this event. It’s a miracle, to watch hearts of stone turn into hearts of flesh, to see the hard exteriors breaking as the needs inside seek to come out, looking for that light of love we are there to shine.

Then it’s poster time. Sometimes it seems like we’ve only scratched the surface when the announcement comes that it’s time to make a poster. The servants pass out poster board and the bucket of markers and pens used to create these visual depictions of what is in the hearts of our men in white. “What do we draw?” is asked and others throw up ideas. Some still want to discuss the talk, to finish revealing their thoughts, so I try to direct that to creating the poster.

We have a time of singing and worship now, that lasts about fifteen minutes. During this time everyone is encouraged to stand and clap their hands, to physically take part in this. Many do and some do not, but that’s expected. The hardest have their image to protect and don’t want to be seen as weak. Some refuse to even stand up, remaining seated, drinking coffee and eating cookies, but all the time watching what’s going on around them. One caught himself tapping his hand on his leg in time to the music and forcibly stopped himself by grabbing the offending hand with his other hand. By the last day though, he was one of the miracles, set free to love God and renouncing the witchcraft he had been a part of for most of his life.

I have friends who are practicing pagans and witches and when I write this I worry that they will be offended. There is no offense intended, please understand that I only desire to present the truth I have found. One of them had been active in church, what church I have no idea, but had been hurt, rejected, or otherwise damaged by those who were supposed to be presenting the Love of Christ. This is a sad tale that I have heard time and again, and experienced myself. Folks, God is God, and people are generally a mess, so don’t judge God by what people do. God will judge them and hold them responsible for the hurt they have caused. So look past them to God, who loves you and holds His hand out to you, ready to forgive and restore all that has been lost. My prayer is that the deceiver, the one who hates and pretends to love, Lucifer, is shown for what he is and that you can see clearly the truth. Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of that way is death”. I have been dead but now live, and my desire is to share life with you, and the true joy that comes with knowing you are with God for eternity.

Anyway, with that said I suppose I need to get back to writing about Kairos. It’s only about 2:40 on the first full day, and there are two more days to go. So much has happened and we’ve barely gotten started. At this point one of our volunteers takes the mike and explains all the posters that have been being put up on the wall of the gym all morning. We call the “Agape Wall” of posters. Some are crudely drawn and some are works of art, but all of them are filled with signatures and little short messages from the signers. These posters come from all over the world and a majority of them are from prisons and Kairos groups in the prison. They contain many messages of hope and prayers for this particular Kairos at the Lynaugh unit. Part of the message is that “You are not alone”, that there are many throughout the state and around the world who understand what it means to be behind bars. Later I would watch as many studied these posters, looking at the names and messages, sometimes even finding someone they knew.

The next talk is “Opening the Door” and it also helps deal with problems and misconceptions people have regarding church and who God is, as well as what kind of relationship we can have with God. After the talk it was chapel time so we went straight to the chapel area. There was more prayer and a short lesson on spiritual counseling. With that done we returned to our tables and had a discussion on the talk with making a poster to follow.

Now it’s time for more singing and worship. It’s evident that people are becoming more comfortable and involved now. The singing is much more exuberant and so is the clapping. There is a marked improvement on the amount of joy in the room and this is just the start. Freedom is starting to creep in, freedom to express yourself, freedom to be happy and with it a release of all the anxiety that keeps many tied up inside.

We have more chapel times, cover more subjects that help our brothers in white understand who God is, and who He isn’t. There is dinner served next, and with each meal wonder grows. Wonder at the effort put into each meal, and the thought and care involved. Nothing is cheap and easy, it all comes from love and concern, with the realization that every bite served represents Jesus and His love. The next talk is on Accepting God’s Forgiveness, a vitally important subject for all of those who have lived the kind of life that leads to prison.

This ends the first full day. Saturday will follow the same format, talks, discussion, creating posters, chapel time, prayer, singing, and food, lots of food. I won’t go into a detailed run down of what happened Saturday, it’s taken me several days just to do this. What I do want to talk about now is what’s really important, how lives have been changed for Christ.

We watch as hard hearts are made soft, we watch as bad ideas and beliefs are examined in the light of Jesus and His word, and in some cases changed. There were Satanists who accepted the love of Christ, there was a witch who renounced his belief, announcing publicly he now knew what the truth was. On Sunday we have what we call “Closing”, which includes an open mike period where the brothers in white can tell everyone what’s on their heart. The first guy up was the leader of one of the main Mexican gangs and had been a major drug dealer, like real major. When he took the mike he started crying and had a hard time getting words out. The leader of another gang, Crips I believe, came up and gave him a hug to encourage him. This is unheard of, these guys would normally kill each other. But this is the power of God, the power of love, the power of forgiveness.

There are countless stories we have seen here, one was where a gang leader came to the mike and accepted Christ as his savior, knowing and stating as he did that this act would mark him for death. He is still alive and has become a powerful influence for Christ in the prison. There was a high ranking member of the Bandidos motorcycle gang, who also expected to be killed for becoming a Christian and rejecting the club. Through the intervention of Kairos members and the chaplain I heard that he only had a leg broken instead.

But the stories I know and watched are the gang leader who came to the mike, and many at my table who pulled me aside to talk and work through their issues and questions. I received letters from two of them just the other day and need to respond. One of the things we do is each of the Kairos volunteers writes 42 letters, one to each of the guys that attend the Kairos walk. We write them in advance, not knowing who will get them until the first day of Kairos, when a list is released of who is attending. These letters are sorted and handed out to the men while all of us volunteers remain separate in the chapel area. We can hear as they tear open envelopes, as they must for no unsealed letters are allowed out because of prison regulations. For some of these guys, these are the only letters they have ever received in prison. One of the guys at my table said he was only able to read one letter, then he started crying.

Another story I can tell involves one of the men who was at my table during the last Kairos. He had been a hardcase, as so many are to start with, but during the course of the Kairos opened up and asked for prayer for his son. As is so often the case in the world of drugs and crime, his family was broken and there was much hurt and pain. He told how his son was now in prison and expressed his concern for him, along with his feelings of guilt for being such a poor example and father. So we prayed. Prayed for reconciliation and for God to work in this situation, to put His hand on the son and show His love.

Guess what? His son was transferred to this prison, an amazing thing in itself, and the son put in a request to participate in this Kairos. Understand that some people must wait for years and put in repeated requests to be included in the 42 who are allowed to participate, but his son, new on the unit, was accepted. The father? Oh, he was one of the servants and when the draw was made ended up being assigned to serve the table his son was at. Now we are way beyond coincidence, we are at the Godcidence level of things. Godcidence is a word I’ve had to invent to use for the many things that happen in my life that defy all the odds. In the search I made to find the God I didn’t know, or wasn’t sure, existed, thing after thing happened that were beyond just happenstance.

So father and son did not talk, there was definite friction and old hard feelings involved, a history I don’t know all of but one full of bitterness for sure. Son has been in the system since he was ten years old, in and out of juvenile jail till he was old enough to graduate to adult prison. He’s big city, (Houston) hard and gang banging mean. Oh, he had respect, in the gang style, where you could tell folks knew not to mess with him or piss him off, and he knew they knew that. But that’s the world his dad came from too. They barely said a word to each other and the son barely tolerated his dad serving him his meals and drinks. We knew and we all prayed and made a point of making sure our prayer warriors kept this situation before God. Slowly we saw change, ever so slowly.

Then it happened. It was open mike time, one of the moments the brothers in white could express themselves. Son swaggered up to the mike, walking the in the manner required by who he is, and he said the words that made everyone’s heart drop. “I just want to shout out to my dad (Understand this is the first time the word “dad” came out of his mouth. Up till now it was always “my old man”) and say “I Love You”. His dad was in the back, in the area food was prepared, when this happened. Robert, our leader, rushed back there to see if dad had heard. Dad was standing there speechless, with a numb expression on his face. Robert goes “Did you hear?” and dad just nodded “yes”. Later on he was able to go up to his son and, for the first time, hug him and said “I love you too son”.

Just writing this brings tears to my eyes. I have two sons, whom I raised with my second wife, that the sin and bad choices of my life have put a great divide between us. That coupled with the vast distance between here in Texas, where I live, and Toledo Ohio, where they live, means there is little contact and much love that has been lost.

So that gives you an idea of Kairos, a snapshot so to speak of four days when the free world comes into a prison to show the Love of Christ and of those who are followers of Christ.