Letter 22


Letter 22

I have been a student of human behavior for most of my life. I find meaning in the unusual contradictions which often become apparent in the lives of others. In the Old Testament there is a story of one such person. If you look in the Book of Daniel you will find the reference for this letter. Daniel was a young Hebrew exile (captive) in the land of Babylon. Its king, Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful ruler of his day. In fact he was probably the most important historical person to have ruled up until the time of his reign. His life is a remarkable study in the human ability to deceive ourselves and hide from the truth which shines brightly all around us in the form of God’s word. What I learned from my Bible reading is that God is always trying to get our attention, though many times we miss the point He is trying to teach us at the moment.
Consider this king and his ways. Daniel was a slave in the king’s palace. He had an unusual ability to interpret dreams which he credited to his strong relationship with God. The king had a dream and no one on his staff could interpret it for him, so he was going to have them all killed. Not only did he want the dream interpreted, but he wanted the interpreter to tell him the dream he had so he knew that they were on the level. Since Daniel was on the king’s staff, he would have been executed. Daniel asked for time to pray about it and then came to the king and told him his dream and its interpretation. The dream was about his kingdom and the kingdom to follow his own. His kingdom was described as the head of gold. The following kingdoms were described with less glamour. The king was overwhelmed with Daniels interpretation and praised the Hebrew God.
Then after being touched by God the king went out and made a giant statute of gold and ordered everyone to worship it or they would be killed. In other words, the statute was in his own image and he was determined to get the people to worship this false image. You can read the story for yourself, but basically in his second encounter with God King Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and then he again praised the Hebrew God. You would think that by now he had learned his lesson. Not so.He was still caught up with his own importance and later while walking around his palace and its gardens he was telling himself that he was such a great man to have built all of these things. In a moment God took his kingdom away and he was reduced to living like an animal for seven years until he could recognize that everything that he had was a gift from God. Then when he humbled himself before God his kingdom was restored. As I read this Bible story I was struck by the similarity of my own life with the life of this king. Over and over again God has patiently taught me the same lessons so that I would finally come to recognize His hand upon my own life. And each time I would go off and try to find another way to prove that I was in charge of my own life. Finally I faced a six year prison sentence for my actions and I made the connection that God is truly in charge of all aspects of my life. That’s what it took for me to recognize that I had continually gotten the message wrong each time He had tried to correct me. In fact before my prison sentence I was living like an animal. Very similar to the king in this story. The prison sentence was my wake up call.
That’s what it took to get my attention. I guess that I am a pretty slow learner on God’s scale of learning. But I am grateful that I finally got it. The rest of my own story has been a long adventure in learning that God is sovereign in my life. I am here to do His will and every day of my life is a gift from Him. But it took years of painful encounters and misery to finally come to this realization. That is why I take the time to write to you each month. I am sure that God is trying to get your attention. I am sure that nothing happens by accident in our lives. All events serve His purposes in one way or another. If that is true, even your current circumstances can serve God’s ultimate will. You may not be able to see His hand directly at work in your life at this moment, but are you willing to trust Him and take Him at His word? He can redeem you from everything that has happened in your life. And He will if you ask Him to save you.By save you, I do not mean the immediate circumstances, but rather I am talking about eternity. Everyone on the face of this earth will eventually die, but where will each of us spend eternity. We are clearly told that there is an afterlife. So we are not without hope. Do I live out this life like there is nothing after death or do I accept my sinfulness and ask NOW for the forgiveness I need? Most of us who have wound up in prison have played the hand that we have been given very recklessly. But there is nothing that says you have to continue to play that hand day after day. You can ask God for a new hand. He will graciously answer that prayer and then begin to re-shape all the errors, sins and failures of your life to meet His own divine purposes. All it takes is a willing spirit to reach out to His and be honest in asking for His forgiveness. That is why the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ. To pay the price for all…yes all of our sins, if we ask Him in Jesus name. There are no tricks…no hype. Just love and forgiveness for everything that we have ever done wrong. We all hunger for love that is part of our human nature. Do not let Satan trick you into believing that you are eternally lost. That is a lie from the pit of hell. As long as you draw a breath, God has a purpose for your life. Satan’s primary tool that he has always used against human beings is deception. It can only work if you believe his lies. What are the incredible odds that you would be reading this letter from someone that you do not know telling you personally about God’s great love for you and His plan of salvation for your life? This meeting by mail is not an accident. There is a divine purpose that YOU have received this letter and are now reading it. Isn’t that evidence of His great love for you?
In life we can choose to do many things with our time, talents and treasure. I choose to write to you because I believe in the infinite value of your soul. In His eyes you are equally precious to Him as I am. Today can be the start of a brand new life in Him. Would you be willing to send your child to die for someone you knew was guilty? That is what God has done for you and me. His Son has paid the complete price for all of our sins and trespasses. Most of us have lived lives like the king described at the beginning of this letter. We have said “Yes, there is a God” at those moments when we have been humbled before Him. But then we have gone about living our lives as if there was no God. And we have done that over and over again, each time picking ourselves up off the floor and forgetting the lesson that we have learned over and over again. The fact
that you are reading these words means that it is not too late to turn and ask for His forgiveness.
I am just like you. I have caused the death of unborn babies, either through my reckless sexuality or by paying for abortions. There is no difference in God’s eyes about our guilt. Yet in my heart I know that I have been forgiven and that He has given me a new purpose in this life. He has taken away my guilt and shame and given me a new life filled with forgiveness and purpose. God is not a respecter of persons, what He has done for me He will also do for you. I could fill these pages with story after story about His redeeming love, but until you taste of that precious fruit, you will never really know what it is all about. It is a terrible burden to carry the shame and stigma of a poorly lived past life. What is also unfortunate is the fact that every Christian wants to be forgiven for past sins, but may not be willing to give the same forgiveness to others. We are called to live out our Christian life in all aspects of our lives.
I do not know about you, but I tend to fail on a regular basis. I am not a perfect person, nor do I keep God’s laws as I should. But I am always mindful that I can come into a relationship with Him and ask Him to forgive my sins and trespasses. He never holds my failures over my head in a threatening fashion. In fact He delights in my ability to recognize my failures and then approach Him for forgiveness. I had that experience this morning with my wife, when I asked her to pray with me about some challenges that were going on in my life. Rather than keep these things to myself, I approached her as my helpmate and we prayed together. Satan tries to tell me to keep my failures hidden, but if I choose that way, then he beats me up for my un-Christian behaviors. Over time I have learned to trust in God. He has always been faithful and will continue to honor His word in my life. He will do the same thing in your life that is His nature.
To have a truly open and intimate relationship with another human being is one of the great gifts that has been given to us. I am talking about being able to just be yourself with one other person without fear of being judged. Is there anybody in your life who truly knows you? Is there anybody who would accept you with all of your faults and failures? Or do you have to put on the mask for everyone you meet? If you have never had this experience in life then please let me encourage you to take the time to write back. Your letter will be answered. Everyone deserves the privilege of being accepted for who they are….warts and all! Sometimes we are surrounded in life by those who think that they can best show their love for us by criticizing us for our failures. They do not know any better because that is probably how they were raised as children. But you are now in a position to choose a different pathway in life. I do not believe that it is some kind of coincidence that you happen to be reading this letter. Could it be that the small, still voice of the Holy Spirit is speaking into your life at this very moment? I know from my own personal experiences that God is in the business of redeeming lost lives for His honor and glory. What He has done for me, He will also do for you. That is why I write to you each month, because of His love and His faithfulness. He never gave up on me, nor will He give up on you.
The first phase of recovery is awareness of our spiritual condition. Many will read these words and either scoff at the notion of a need for God’s grace or will see themselves as beyond His reach. Both of these extremes are traps that Satan lays for every human being that has ever lived. I have found that once I recognized my dependence upon God’s grace I am confronted with the reality of evil in my own life. I have also noted that over a lifetime of working with others, few individuals are readily willing to acknowledge their own personal encounters with evil. There are a number of reasons for this strange spirit of disengagement, but eventually they all become barriers to moving beyond guilt and shame. It is only in embracing our own personal histories that we find the freedom to become spiritually transparent in a world of masked evil men and women. As I start to separate myself from what I have been in the past, it is important to distinguish myself from those ill-informed choices and embrace a new way of living through God’s grace and mercy. So I shed all deceptive practices about the life I have previously lived and I have become willing to openly shoulder that burden as a public display of God’s ability to redeem my soul. It is a bold undertaking and many will tell you that you are crazy to embrace this course of action. But what it amazing is the fact that God comes alongside and starts to shoulder that heavy burden that we have been carrying alone for years.
I am willing to engage in a personal conversation with anyone who has the desire to abstractly or openly discuss the reality of evil in their lives. In doing so I am not interested in the gory details of one’s crimes or sinful activities, but rather the nature of carrying such a burden alone and the consequences which you have sustained as a result of embracing past evil. I see great hope in turning that incredible burden loose and sharing it with another human being. That is the true nature of intimacy. To share each other’s burdens is the essence of spiritual fellowship. I correspond with a number of individuals and I have no desire to know personal details about their crimes. We have all committed crimes against a loving God. But I am focused upon helping those seeking some spiritual relief who are interested in having a comforting relationship with another human being who has failed in many areas of my own life.
I know about sin and failure. It had been my legacy for a good portion of my life, until I found that there was another way of living. In discovering God’s unique capacity to forgive all of my sins and crimes I have come to a point where I have been able to share the deepest and darkest, take it to the grace secrets of my life to another human being. What came out of those encounters was the gift of personal freedom and loving acceptance. Now I pass that gift along freely to others by providing a connection focused upon spiritual reconciliation with God and humanity. I am NOT suggesting that you sit down and write a letter confessing to crimes unless that is something that has been part of your criminal conviction process. There are a number of ways to engage in this process without exposing yourself to further prosecutions and possible legal consequences. If you find yourself in a place where you are hungry for real human connection that is based upon your worth in God’s eyes, then I would encourage you to explore your options through an exchange of letters. I am pretty good at reading between the lines and I know that I am not fit to judge anyone else regarding their life
choices.Perhaps through the freedom which personal acceptance brings, you will find other doors opening in your life. My goal is to recognize your dignity and humanity by opening the door to meaningful dialogue with someone who cares. You can establish the boundaries if you feel that there is a need to guard yourself. I just want to leave the door open so that you can consider your options and establish a comfort zone.
I have written this letter over the period of several days since I like to take time and reflect on what I have already written to you. I am just getting active again with regards to some writing I am currently working on. Among the tasks I have before me, is the completion of a book that I had planned two years ago. I did a fair amount of writing, but then put all of work away in a desktop file about a year ago. Now my interests have been revived and I want to finish this book by the end of the year. That seems like a reasonable goal at this time. My primary monthly writing project is focused on putting my thoughts to paper and sending you a monthly newsletter. That is the most meaningful aspect of all of my writing projects. When my letters produce a response that is an added bonus. In this way I have come to meet individuals who are just like me and I can appreciate their sincerity and honesty.
Spring has arrived in full bloom and the winds of West Texas stir the dust into clouds which darken the afternoon skies. There are times when I can hear the winds howling outside. But I find that my favorite times are either early in the morning (daybreak to sunrise) or late in the evening when the stars twinkle overhead. In those times I am able to reflect upon matters of importance and sometimes I catch a glimpse of hope that I might be able to touch someone else’s life for good. There is a place in each of our lives where some small memory of love and goodness hides in the shadows. It may be masked by brutality, pain and shame, but it is still there, just hidden from view. My wish is that those small private memories would blow through your cell in a mighty way and bring you some measure of joy. Just a private moment of pleasure, that no one can take away. If my words can evoke a fond hidden memory, than I am satisfied that I have accomplished my goal. Now I would suggest that you set your mind to thinking about what I have offered you in this letter. A small voice that affirms your life as valuable on the basis of God’s love for both of us. It is an awesome spiritual assertion from one soul to another soul. But what makes it really awesome, is the fact that it is based solely upon God’s promises to you and me.
MANGER LIVING
In a world fraught with an incredible number of choices available to guide our lives it is a tough sell to plead the case for spiritual simplicity. Yet the exquisite assortment of choices which shape our daily lives are laced with the hooks and barbs of painful experiences, trauma and meaningless existence. To establish our sense of personal worth based upon ownership or relationship is to invite an ever growing negative awareness that our sense of emotional balance is constantly in a precarious state of instability.
Knowing this and being able to detach from the illusions of stability are two separate pathways. Believing in the safety of these illusions eventually leads to crisis, loss and despair. While negotiating the pathway of detachment provides an enriched life experience and tools to negotiate the toughest challenges in life. One pathway leads to the existential anxiety of aloneness and uncertainty. The other pathway yields a sure knowledge and certainty that there is a divine plan for each life and meaning in every encounter we have with others.
The King of Kings chose a manger as His first earthly throne. To those who could grasp the significance of this gesture Jesus Christ invited them to seek out a relationship with His Father that was based upon simple truth. There is nothing complicated about the life of a Christian; which is not to say that we are not often faced with complicated situations. The essence of His message is summed up in a life committed to the concepts of Faith, Hope and Charity; three elegant concepts for transforming lives.
How to personally operationalize these concepts is the subject of this article. It is strictly an inside job which depends on the individual’s ability to be honest with themselves. The ability to transform our lives does not depend upon our religious fervor, nor does it rely upon our beliefs. The change starts with the realization that our efforts have not yielded a consistent sense of peace and joy. Somehow what we seek and obtain never yields the satisfaction we have been seeking. Instead we just continue the search in a different relationship, acquisition or arena of life.
If our current efforts have not produced the desired results, what direction should we pursue to obtain such a treasure and why should we negotiate a new life strategy?
So we have come to the end of this message. Every letter has its own message. I sincerely hope that you will take the time to verify what I have discussed in this letter against God’s word in the Bible. Check it out for yourself, don’t just take my word for it. Then you will know the strength of the spiritual bond that I have offered to you. It is a bond that you can build upon as you wish, if you wish. Every soul on earth deserves to be acknowledged, supported and encouraged in God’s love. No one on earth deserves heaven, but I am sure that you and I can get there with His help.
PRAYER: Help me Lord to distinguish between the real hopes and the false hopes. Help me to know You and Your will for my life. Please show me in some way that I can understand that You are real and that You love me and still want to use my life to glorify Your name. I am determined to follow where You lead me, comfort my fears, strengthen me lays to face what ahead. Let me know that I am not alone or abandoned. Help me Lord to have a relationship with You that will sustain me through every challenge I experience. Replace the heart of stone that I brought with me when I got here and give me something to hold on to tightly. You know me, You know my heart. I believe that even now You can lead me in green pastures and verdant valleys. All I have to offer is my heart. Please restore to me a heart of flesh and a desire to serve You all the days of my life. Kevin and Quinta

 
 

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