I’ve never had occasion to have to defend my religion, so I often wonder, just how much do I believe? 

I am confident that God has watched over me throughout the years, and that everything that has happened, in some way fits snugly into His Grand Plan. We are told that we are of more value than sparrows and the lilies of the fields, so perhaps I shouldn’t worry…but I do.

For years I did my own thing – which I’m certain was not God’s thing. I had my own agenda and was sticking to it.

Today I am more content trying to be cognizant of others’ needs. Today it seems more important to look around me and be able to see what I can do for others.

Yet I continue to struggle. I do read the bible more often now, and I believe I am more aware. Jesus’ question, “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works?” has become a guideline by which I now choose to live.

But Jesus, help my unbelief!  I feel untested and weak. Am I a hypocrite because I doubt my value to others? How long would I stand for the Lord under duress? So many others seem to believe so much more strongly than I do! Yes, I feel I am among those who seem to be “of little faith.”

Recently, however, I was given a gift of hope. The men at the prison just completed their Keryx weekend. As one by one, they recounted their reactions to the weekend for our fellowship group, many were still glowing. One man stood up to tell us that, when someone believes in you and encourages you, you are able to keep going. Gradually, you then begin to believe in yourself. What a wonderful testimony! My guess is that many who are in prison simply have never had someone to believe in them or be a role model for them. The male volunteers who give of their time over the Keryx weekend often provide this kind of model.

I love being a part of this fellowship group. My hope is that if, by my faithful attendance and example, I can be the smallest of lights to someone who is still seeking his way, and provide encouragement, then perhaps I will make a difference and maybe even move a mountain or two.

That is my hope. With that, I am refreshed and renewed.

Pondering the Past

I’ve heard that hindsight is “twenty-twenty.” I’d concur with that because if we had the ability to have such insight ahead of time, we’d realize so much sooner that God really does have a Master Plan. Regardless of whether or not we see purpose in each day’s events, they do indeed seem to happen for a reason.

I saw a question posed recently that asked “which ten books have remained with you?” As my mind wandered around this question, I found myself pondering my job history as well and why they all happened. Books and jobs taught me so much about myself. They molded me into the person I am today.

The Diary of Anne Frank and several books by Dr. Thomas Dooley probably had the most impact on me early on. Each of those books opened my eyes to man’s inhumanity to man. I didn’t understand how our own species could treat other human beings so horribly. Growing up in the 1960’s I also saw prejudice and discrimination right in my own backyard, and I observed beggars on the streets of downtown – begging amidst the often unheeding bustle of businessmen and women and shoppers.

As my work history grew, I gained experience working with developmentally disabled, mentally ill, physically handicapped, drug users, patients in hospitals and nursing homes, the poor, and the homeless. Once again, within my immediate surroundings I encountered gay and lesbian individuals, the emotionally struggling, alcoholics, and others who were spiritually broken.

When I look back now, it seems to have been a very thorough education in Life and Brokenness. It also was great preparation for relating to prisoners who, in one way or another, have more than likely encountered at least one of those conditions. I may never have been a drug user, discriminated against,  hungry, or homeless but I now know people who were.

And now I worship with prisoners.

I’ve questioned myself, and God as well, wondering what I might have to offer prisoners? I think I now know the answer. I had great parents, a good education, and many positives in my life growing up. I have seen where those things lead, and where lives go without them. I enjoy getting to know peoples’ stories. I’m eager to listen, to encourage, and to believe in others. I have learned that, too often, that may have been all they ever needed…but never had. Whatever my presence lends to their lives, this journey has opened my eyes and my heart to so many – and my soul feeds on that!

I am thankful to have been shown life’s hills and valleys. I have been able to open my heart to many whose lives have been less satisfying and more challenging than mine. Best of all, I get to be a part of lives that have been discarded or rejected by others. Yes…God did indeed have a Master Plan, and He even provided a most thorough educational opportunity for me! I am indeed blessed.