Thank God It’s Friday!  Hello to my RedState friends (and curious bystanders!), and may today be the best day of your life!  Welcome to Friday’s Water Cooler, always an Open Thread (a place where comments on any subject are encouraged and do not need to relate to the author’s or any other topic).  What would you like to share?

Prelude

Years ago, I had explicitly cut God from my life and moved on.  Of course, in a time of extreme crisis I called out for help.  And then He answered.  While it is great to get saved, it threw a wrench in my whole worldview.  I had to reconsider the facts, and reconsidering started a process that led me humbly back to my Father.  One thing led to another.  First, being saved made me less hostile and more open to what God might be doing.  Next, I accepted an invite to church, attended, and knew I was home.  Later, I went through a book study with a few brothers – The Good Life by Charles Colson, which had a huge impact on me internally, and planted the seed for service.  And this last weekend, I found a beautiful flower where the seed once lay.

Charles Colson’s story started long ago, in a possibly mythical time where even the big fish, the politically well-connected could be sent to prison <gasp!> and do time for crimes they committed – even if they were part of the majority party!  He was an insider in the Nixon White House, and was sentenced to prison for his role in the cover-up of the Watergate break-in.  From wikipedia:

The scandal also resulted in the indictment of 69 people, with trials or pleas resulting in 48 being found guilty, many of whom were top Nixon officials.

Can you imagine?  Top White House officials being found guilty in a court, and sent to prison?!? – but I digress.  Charles Colson served as Special Counsel to President Nixon, went to prison for a crime, and…was forever changed by his experience.  He left politics and spent the rest of his life in prison ministry.  I felt his love for the prisoners, and I noticed that I had a heart for them as well.

The Relentless Pursuit of a Loving Father

Over time, I would be in church when someone would talk about prison ministry.  I would hear about it on the radio.  We would donate gifts to go to families of those incarcerated at Christmas.  Finally, this love came to a head with my getting several signs in short succession.  The breaking point was greeting a few people around me at a church service and finding Emily Colson, Charles’ daughter, in the seat in front of me.  She lives on the East Coast, but was in front of me that day.  It was clear God was trying to get my attention, and I answered – I sent notes to everyone I thought may have ever mentioned prison ministry, and one of those connected me to a Kairos group that serves Folsom Prison near where I live.  I told the Kairos group that God was sending me for some reason.  I was added to the list of participants for a Kairos Weekend, where we would go into the prison for 4 consecutive days, share the gospel, and encourage and love on those that we met.  We trained over a few months, got our background and health checks, completed security training, and then…

My Time Behind Bars

This last weekend I had the honor to serve on a team of about 40 beautiful children of God, representing many many local churches.  United by Christ, many have done this over and over over many years, only because God asked (Matthew 25:31-36; Hebrews 13:3).  Six of us were new.  I met individuals who had worked for years just to open the door for this program.  Individuals who spent many days preparing and serving as the “inside team”.  Individuals who supported us as the “outside team” – taking care of us in our training sessions and before and after the days in Folsom.  Cooking food, making sure we had everything we needed, and unceasing prayer.

Each day we would go into the prison, share the good news, listen, listen, love, love the inmates that were participating in the program, and we would have frank discussions with them about things that had happened in our lives, how we were learning to make better choices, and how God makes this all possible.  We did not ask what they had done or why they were there.  We simply wanted to show them love and open them to a better way forward.  We could see the effect that the weekend was having on the inmates – the spreading of the good news, and the spreading of hope.  They were amazed that strangers would spend their time coming in to see them.  Further, the prisoners were amazed to hear stories of pain and brokenness coming from the visitors, they thought we never had anything difficult to deal with.  But this time the dark stories that the inmates heard were accompanied with the testimony and praise of how God is healing the hurt.  All of us were united by our wounds and our struggle to find the way to peace.  Yes, we could see the effect we were having on the inmates, but we could also see the effect that the weekend was having on us – God is so good to let us participate in the work of his kingdom.  Never forget this.

This is The Church, and it is a beautiful thing to behold.