Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘prison’

prisonThe story of Joseph and how he was sold into slavery by his brothers is a popular Sunday School tale. This, along with his “technicolor dreamcoat,” have been repeated over and over again. Joseph was wonderful; his brother were not so wonderful, but God blessed Joseph and the paybacks were sweet. But is that all of the story?

But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. [Genesis 40:14, NIV]

Despite Joseph’s favor with God and being the favorite of his own birth father, he was sold, enslaved, raised up, imprisoned, and raised up with the prison walls, and forgotten (again and again). Yes, Joseph received favor in his circumstances and yes, apparently Joseph had a great work ethic, but Joseph also knew he was captive to the whims and control of others.

He was not his own man. He was dependent and I believe this is the lesson he needed to learn.

Joseph may have been a man of integrity and all of that, but until he walked the challenges of being in the lowest place could he be elevated to the highest.

Jesus tells a parable with a similar message in Luke 14:7-11.
“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”Minolta DSC

This is the message of the old Joseph story for me today. Joseph was proud of his many dreams that showed his family bowing down to him. He inadvertently, through a bit of gloating, set a major set of circumstances into motion.

Beware, I say to myself, beware of pride and judgment. God will teach in a variety of ways. In God’s time, there is no time, only the lesson that must be learned.

Read Full Post »

I was thinking today about the feelings and thoughts of someone on death row. And I wondered how I missed the similarities between myself, while I was still isolated away from God/Spirit/Yahweh, while swimming in a sea of self-manufactured detritus. The sentence is the same. The mega-tube slide relentlessly taking me downhill.

break freeI sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.  [Psalm 34-4-7, NIV]

Once an inmate is on death row, there is no action that can be done on one’s own to stay the sentence. The “help” must come from the outside, others who plead one’s case, a judge who might rule in the inmate’s case, a government official who might vacate the sentence. Salvation is offered. The inmate must choose to accept.

I just say “choose” because it’s not always the case that a person wants to live and it could be that the restraints on that “life” may not be acceptable. You see, despite the reprieve, a convicted criminal who somehow receives clemency will still be bound by a system of checks and balances. Each day and each morning, calls for a choice, to live.

There is a good reason that Moses writes, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” [Deuteronomy 30:19-20a]

This morning, I attended a prayer breakfast sponsored by our city’s Chamber of Commerce. I find this event so very puzzling as many people attend out of some kind of civic obligation or opportunity for networking and not necessarily for prayer or religious instruction. And yet, the speaker is always clear on the message: God in Christ, the Way, the answer, the hope. It is not watered down. The speaker today was no different from years past. In fact, he called his chance to speak for what it was, “crossover evangelism.” I had never heard the term, but it reminded me of Christian artists who had crossed over into the secular market or country singers who achieved crossover into rock ‘n roll. He was reaching a group that may not have heard a message of reprieve from a life in emotional, relational, or financial chains in such a way.

The speaker, Robert Kossack, is the founder of an organization called Project Crossroad, an organization whose sole mission is to aid youth as they come to one of those many crossroads in life. (Of course, these crossroads happen all along our lives and not just in our teens or twenties.) Kossack spoke passionately and from the heart about his own crossroads and how his choices put him in prison. He, too, was on one of those rapid rides downhill. But through circumstances and epiphany, he chose life in the Spirit of Christ Jesus. And in this place, stopped the spiral downward. My favorite part of his story was when he told of the “walk” he took with a guard in the last minutes of incarceration, a long walk designed for him to remember that place and all that it held (chains and cells and barbed wire and strip searches). The guard insured that Kossack saw these things one more time and told him to “never forget.” And finally, when he had reached the area called R&D (Receiving and Discharge), his family waited for him on the other side. He could see them through the doors. Kossack wanted the guard to remove his chains before he stepped through the door, but the guard commanded him to step aside. And the revelation occurred to him, that the door to the outside would not open until the door to the inside was closed. The only thing that stood in the way was he, himself.

This is so for all of us. Reprieve is offered and we tend to stand in the way of it. We say we want help but then stand in the way of its offer. I am guilty of the same.

The promise is that God will deliver us from our fears and from our prisons. That promise is faithful and true but it is we ourselves who may be missing it. Stand aside for the power of God. Accept reprieve, immunity, and forgiveness.

Choose life.

Read Full Post »

cup runs overJoseph got tagged by Pharaoh for one reason only: Joseph was identified as a man of God. That was his bio in short. He had no interview and no references. Pharaoh did not ask him about his five-year plan or to discuss his strengths and weaknesses. Joseph took hold of an opportunity. He put all his eggs in one basket, God’s basket.

Genesis 41:39-40

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

I am pretty sure, if Pharaoh would not have found Joseph’s dream interpretation pleasing, he would have had Joseph executed. That’s how it worked back then. But the truth resonated and so Pharaoh took pendulum and swung it the other way. Joseph was not looking for fame and fortune even. He just wanted out of prison. He got much more than he had bargained for. But all the same, he stepped up.

Have I missed these opportunities? Have I been aware of them at all? And I’m not talking about looking for a promotion. I’ve done that plenty of times. I’ve calculated what impact my work might have and would I be noticed. That’s not the way it works for the people of God. I should know that by now.

Instead, we are asked to simply be the mouthpiece of God in a particular situation, to speak with authority, but without pride, to speak with intent but without ulterior motives.

Pharaoh could have heard the interpretation of Joseph’s dream and then sent him back to prison. But Pharaoh had the power to change Joseph’s life and he did so. That’s all. It was a God moment.

And what about me? Have I ever had the power to change someone else’s life because of my position, my authority? Maybe. Maybe. Something to ponder.

Perhaps it’s time, at my age, to stop worrying about my next promotion (in either secular or spiritual worlds) and simply give promotions to others. Give a level cup of praise or hope or love. Give more than is required. Give abundantly. Give as a pharaoh to a prisoner. Give what I do have.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: