Alternate Ascension Day [SSL 298]

Today, I’ll bring a little something from my own experience and a theologian of the last century, Sergius N. Bulgakov regarding the coming of the Kingdom. 

There’s a lot more at the companion page so don’t miss that. companion page (PART 2)

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Soul School-Lesson 57: The Prisoner Prayer

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Today on Soul School I am sharing a version of a presentation on prayer that I gave to the inmates at Federal Prison FCI Schuylkill who (voluntarily) attend ongoing LIFE Ministry (Christian) classes.

My book on prayer is called LIFE AS PRAYER:

My book was inspired by Brother Lawrence and this book:

The Letters of Brother Lawrence

Brother Lawrence was a man of humble beginnings who discovered the greatest secret of living in the kingdom of God while serving as a brother in a monastery near Paris. For Lawrence his life was involved the art of “practicing the presence of God in one single act that does not end.” Lawerence often stated that it is God who paints Himself in the depths of our soul. We must only open our hearts to receive God and God’s loving presence. For nearly 300 years this unparalleled classic (which is mainly a collection of letters from him and remembrances of him) has given both blessing and instruction to those who can be content with nothing less than knowing God presence in all God’s majesty and feeling God’s loving presence throughout each simple day.

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Dispatch from Prison (Ministry): how to inject HOPE

inmatereading   Again, last night I heard from a man about my age whose been locked up for more than 20 years. Plenty of the men I encounter have spent more time behind bars than outside them.

PLEASE, try to imagine that for a moment.

  Want the truth? For some, the thought of going back “to the streets” as they call it, fills them with true dread and anxiety. The world outside of prison is full of unknowns and it’s absent of structure (like 3 meals a day, concrete expectations, and consistent scheduling). There are hazards and temptations, and of course, a bleak outlook employment for future employment. They have little or no ways for doing legitimate work. (Would YOU hire a felon?) Some inmates are so fearful of the outside and paralyzed by their prospects that they will purposefully break rules, hurt others, or commit crimes in prison to lengthen their sentence.

Imagine picking to be in prison rather that choosing to start over anew in freedom.

It seems insane, perhaps, until you realize the terrific poignancy:

Captivity is primarily is located in the mind.

This is just as true for non felons. • Too many of us walk around is prisons of our own making.  We see closed doors instead of open ones. We let our past tell us a story about ourselves that can continue to enact. We feel trapped or confined with no way to truly free ourselves. We stay oppressed by sin, soul sickness, and slow forms of dying.

We all need healing to find the fruition of Justice.

True justice involves restoration and rehabilitation for re-entry into community and renewed relationships.

Even the Federal Government realizes this. Prisoners need to prepare ahead of time for release and transform their ways of thinking and doing things. New programs have launched that focus on acquiring skills and tools for successful re-entry into communities were a return to crime and old ways becomes less probable. Building more prisons isn’t working. Many of these re-entry programs focus on drawing from a deeper spiritual place and making choices based on the highest of morals to ensure that the best outcomes are the result. They rely on volunteers to help. Amazing that more resources aren’t carved out for something so important, huh? As a volunteer, I’m working multiple times per week teaching and guiding inmates to prepare them for their eventual release.

But God has put something else on my heart.

• I want my brothers behind bars to be missionaries to fellow-inmates. • I want them to be lights in that dark place.   • I want them to pray for others and be sources of support and encouragement. • I want them to be vehicles of God’s love and rays of hope for everyone they encounter. Last night, I told them out loud. As I shared my vision with them, the excitement was palpable. They started smiling. They nodded in agreement. Some laughed because they had been thinking the same thing. God has been at work long before I showed up. They want to be a part of what God is doing. They want to be a part of something bigger in the family of God, now, and in the Kingdom of God past, present, and future. It’s a kingdom that was inaugurated fully with Jesus the King more than 2,000 years. It’s a Kingdom that will continue, as is has all over the world, all the way into eternity. Forever and ever, Amen.

In sharing a vision, where others can use their gifts and talents for a greater purpose, we inject meaning and hope. What power that has!

These men are men who are having their hope renewed.

Would you like to help?

Click here to learn more or volunteer. Click here to help me continue this ministry.

An Inmate’s Mission (dispatches from Prison Ministry)

FCI schuylkillAs some of you know, I’m ministering at the Federal Prison: FCI Schuylkill. 

1,330 male inmates. Our class has 31.

I gain so many insights from my brothers there. So, it seems a terrible waste not to share some of them here.

We just finished up on lesson on Finding Your Mission.

We talked about what Jesus’ mission was. We talked about our own missions.

Some of them hadn’t thought of the concept and surely didn’t like it apply to them behind bars.

… if you are in prison, it’s really high time you find your mission…

But, that’s true for all of us. 

I’m learning right along with them. The pressure is higher to learn lessons to help and heal you when you live behind bars, but the lessons themselves tend to be quite the same.

So far, the ground is fertile and the spiritual thirst is fervent!

The hearts of the those who choose to come on Monday’s is “the good soil”!

(If it was half of this at church the world WOULD be on fire with it!)

MISSION for inmates?

In reading the verse that is essentially Jesus’ mission statement (and also a prophecy from Isaiah) I realized that I have the same mission. It came into sharp focus.

“I’m setting literal captives free with the Good News.”

Jesus came, taught, brought and lived the Good News, died, rose, and then…left.

He didn’t stay where everyone would surely try to force him to be king (or pope, or whatever). Everyone still wanted to be free of the Romans. Except for a few of his students and friends and a few family members, everyone would be missing the point.

The Jews were captives of the Romans. That didn’t change when Jesus was here or after he left.

The Kingdom of God doesn’t free you in that way.

The invitation was (and is) to be free from the captivity of sin and death and the mindsets that keep us imprisoned (or in the case of my brothers…it puts you in an actual prison).

The Good News was and is the hope, the reality, the plan fulfilled: that God came to reconcile us to him, forgive us, and make things right. Little by little we carry it out and remake the world.

Little by little we provide the impact of authentic justice in the world.

It starts, for me, in jail along side my brothers. As these men transform, so will their world and the world, at large.

What a joy it was to tell my brothers that they are truly missionaries with a genuine mission behind the bars!

They are light in a dark place.

No time is wasted.

They are NOT just doing their time; The are making up for wasting it.

Their mission has begun, and no one can stop it. Once you’ve been set free, you are free indeed!

Jesus is our model and so is his mission.

Are you doing time too? Or are you on your mission?

Luke 4:14 

Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region.

15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.

17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,     for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,     that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.[f]

20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently.

21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

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