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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 34’

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.

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