Category Archives: RELATIONSHIPS

When I was in prison, you visited Me.

prison guard with keys outside dark prison cell

Hi, This is Tex.  My calling is discipleship: knowing, being, making and teaching others to make disciples for Jesus.  A big part of being a disciple is in being involved with “extra-church” activities, where you develop relationships with people who are NOT your garden variety church-goers.  Prison ministry is one of those activities.  I’ve been involved in prison ministry for about 16 years now, and the Holy Spirit moves in prisons in a way He hardly ever moves in traditional church.  Below is a letter from Jim, a brother of mine in the Jubilee Prison Ministry.  This story is about a prison ministry weekend that happened a few weeks ago near Houston.

I have been serving in prison on Jubilee or Kairos weekends for 17 years.  Many of you have supported my efforts over the years  (thank you!) and have often asked me what happens on these weekends.  So I thought you might enjoy the following story – I’m a CFO, cynic and pessimist but this story is miraculous (or very close to it).

I was the leader of Jubilee #1 at the Scott unit in Angleton 3 weeks ago.  One of my jobs was to assign the 25 or so talks to our volunteers.  Most of the Scott #1 volunteers were new, so I didn’t know them – so had little insight to help assign the right talk to the “right” person.  So I asked God to somehow intervene as I made “random” talk assignments.  I assigned the “Forgiving Others” talk to Joseph, one of 3 volunteers who came from San Antonio to serve.  Joseph is a relatively new Christian, and is also an ex offender, so when he heard about Jubilee he believed God had called him  and agreed to participate.  Our weekend started early Friday morning.  Joseph’s talk occurred Saturday afternoon.  Here is a summary of his talk:

“My little brother was murdered on April 1st.   I was very close to him, and was unbelievably upset, angry and full of hatred at the man who killed him.  I started planning my revenge – when, where and how I was going to kill the man who murdered my little brother.   But then I agreed to serve on this Jubilee weekend.  Continue reading

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UNDERSTATEMENT.030216

Isaac Newton       [From a letter to my kids]

I read somewhere that if you are asked to tell something about yourself, it is always better to say as little as possible.  If there is something about you that’s worth telling, somebody else can tell it, and it will sound a whole lot better coming from them than from you.

And if you are supposed to get an award for something you’ve done, make it a point to give all the credit to someone else.  Like your husband or your wife, or momma or daddy, or your teacher or boss or mentor.  Like Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the sholders of Giants.”  It’s especially neat if you can give the credit to the little people; like people who work for you; or your kids.  If you hunt a little, you can always find the right person or people to give the credit to.  If you’ll humble yourself, the Lord’s gonna lift you up. (James 4:10)

Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln (both of them) said that when you give a speech in English, use English (Anglo-Saxon) words, like hit, or run, or eat, or bite, or talk, or feel, or love, instead of long French-Latin based words like masticate, or orate, or agitate, or literate.  The short words have more meaning, more impact, and they stay with you longer.  In this case, as with the other, less is more.

As far as I know, the art of ‘kidding’, as taught by our forbears, is mostly the art of understatement; saying something is less than it is, just for fun and just for effect.  With folks that like to talk as much as we do, it’s hard not to talk, so it really is good to use the art of understatement.  As you know, I have a hard time doing it, but as I get older, I try a little more each day.  It’s not so much thinking about every word you say as it is a feeling in your heart.  If you humble yourself, the Lord will give you the right words to say. (1 Pet 5:6)

Talking about Talking: 030116

Happy portrait of grandparents and granddaughter“A man’s words are a mirror to his soul.” Unknown. 

“It is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles them.  .  . but what comes out of their mouth that defiles them.” Jesus of Nazareth, Matt 15:10; (paraphrase)

[From a letter to my kids, 1995]

“I just don’t know what to do with people that won’t talk. It’s hard for me to deal with them. People that talk a lot, which includes most everybody in my family, are easy to read. They tell you a lot about themselves.  If they’re not talking, they must be sick, or mad at somebody. 

“There is nothing more fun and pleasurable than spending an afternoon or evening solving the world’s problems with somebody who enjoys talking and listening. It helps your mental, emotional health. When necessary, it’s a legitimate and inexpensive alternative to a psychiatrist or psychologist.  Personally, I enjoy a ‘highball of an evening’, with my talking companions, but the highball is not required.  Tea, cokes, or red Koolaid will substitute nicely.

“In Ireland of old, next to the kings, the persons held in highest esteem were the bards, who were the government supported combination priests, historians, and storytellers. Some say that the oldest uninterrupted literary tradition in Europe was the orally maintained and transmitted stories of the Celtic Bards. Those folks raised talking to the level of an art, a science, almost a religion. That’s where we came from, a long and uninterrupted line of talkers. Talking is in our blood, so in choosing what you want to do in your life, find something that involves talking. You’ll enjoy it, you’ll be good at it, because you’ve got it in you.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but talkers get extra attention, and they often end up being leaders, because they don’t mind telling people what they think.  It is a big responsibility, so don’t take it lightly. You have a lot of influence just because you talk, as long as you know what you’re talking about, and you have love in your heart. Always remember to use your influence for good. Really, that just sorta happens, because that love in your heart comes out.

“Talking is one of my favorite pastimes. It’s good cheap entertainment. You can do it anytime, any place. You can even talk to yourself.” 

ROLES NOT GOALS. PURPOSE.022916

stone faced            “God has a purpose for your life.  All you’ve got to do is figure out what it is.”            [This is from a letter to my ‘young-adult’ kids in 1995]  “I used to wonder what I was doing here.  Sometimes I even wondered what you were doing here.  I finally got the message.  God has a plan for my life.  Actually, I think He has a plan for every person’s life, but some folks never figure out what it is.

“When I was a kid I bought into the idea that goal setting and goal pursuing and goal orientation were the way to achieve everything I wanted in life, and happiness too!  When I was 15 I wanted $1 million by the time I was 30.  I focused a lot of attention on it.  I read the right books and tried to practice what they preached.  But somehow it never worked for me.  I guess I just didn’t want it bad enough.  I just couldn’t get motivated enough.  I had a lot of other things on my mind.  Looking back, maybe God didn’t want me to be a millionaire.

“After I got baptized in the Holy Spirit, I started seeing differently.  I decided that God had a purpose for my life, a destiny.  Somehow, I got the message that God has a role (really a bunch of roles) for me to play in my life.  In fact each of us is given a number of readymade roles to play when we’re born.  Like the role of a son or a daughter, the role of brother or sister.  Then pretty soon you get the role of student, then later employee, then girlfriend or boyfriend, then husband or wife, then father or mother, then maybe employer, or doctor or lawyer, or teacher, or preacher, or seeker or finder.  What fulfills your destiny, and God’s purpose, is for you to be the very best you can at whatever role God has given you for that time.  And what’s really neat is that this will make you happy.  Seems to me that chasing a goal is not very fulfilling, but being best in your role is very fulfilling, and with your role you fit into God’s plan perfectly.  Just remember when you can’t figure out what you’re doing here, or where you’re going, or why; focus on being that person, that character, the very best you possibly can.  You’ll be surprised how happy it will make you.

“The thing that separates the exceptional people in the world, the 2-3%, and the rest of the folks, is that the 2-3% have realized that God has a grand design for their lives.  (Here again, a lot of people call it a lifetime goal, which is OK with me.)  Many people spend all their time just living from day to day, so they never have time to fulfill that grand design.  Eating and sleeping, working and raising kids may be enough for most folks, but it’s not enough for me.  I may never amount to a hill of beans, but it won’t be because I didn’t try.  Oh, and by the way, I still think that grand design is about the role you play in your life with other people; not so much about making a million dollars, or being the President, or climbing the highest mountain, or building the biggest building, even though those are perfectly OK things to aspire to.  (Heck, if you don’t aspire to something, you’ll never amount to anything.)

“But in the end, the best way to help other people is to get in tune with God’s purpose for our lives, and focus our attention on fulfilling His grand design for us. In the meantime we will still have time to eat and sleep and play and have fun and raise kids, just like everybody else. And we may do something truly memorable.”

IN THE BEGINNING.011716

skyI’m always fascinated with Genesis 1:1.  It says so much.  I keep learning more and more, both from research about the meanings, and from revelations that God gives me.  Just this week I’ve been reading the Amplified Version, and I love the points the explanatory notes make.  Here’s what it says;

“In the beginning God created [by forming from nothing] the heavens and the earth.”

Just a few comments. 1] ‘In the beginning’: Before anything else existed except God; the very beginning.  God, the Pre-existent One.

2] God created: He formed it from nothing.  That’s what the Hebrew word ‘bara’ translated as ‘created’, means: ‘formed it from nothing’.  Reminds me of what it says in verse 3, “God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.”  He spoke the worlds into existence.  Actually, because Hebrew has words and tenses we don’t even have in English, as close as we can come to the word translated as ‘spoke’ is: “He willed it to exist.”

3] ‘the heavens and the earth’.  It’s all those galaxies out there in the universe, as well as this ‘blue dot’ among them.  God ‘spoke’ them all into existence, from absolutely nothing.

I’m glad we have God, who is so powerful and so gifted that He can do all that.  And if you read on down in the first chapter, He created all the rest of the stuff on the earth; plants, fish, birds, reptiles, mammals and finally men and women.  (and ultimately you and me).  He made each of us unique.  Look at the tip of your index finger on your right hand. There is a finger-print that is different from anyone else, anyone else who has ever lived or is living right now.  You are special. God made you special because He loves you, and He wants to have a relationship with you.  You in particular, not just as a member of the human race.  Whenever you’re ready, you can know Him for your very own self too, if you don’t already.

WHY GO TO CHURCH? 010816

group of people watching a screenHad an interesting conversation with a couple of brothers today.  One of them, call him Bill, along with his wife, has been searching for a new church home.  The church where they had been going for several years was changing.  Many of the couples they had relationships with had moved away, changed churches, or otherwise lost contact with them.  Several of their friends had gone to one particular church nearby, and they tried that church, but they didn’t like the preachers. The assistant preachers were younger than Bill and his wife, and in their sermons they told stories that were not relevant to Bill’s life.

So for several months (maybe even a year or more) they have been casting about for a ‘new’ church.  They have partially settled on a large church in the area (with an auditorium that seats about 3,000 people, which is filled every Sunday morning.  They like the preaching.  The preachers preach from the Bible and they expect the congregation to participate in application of what is preached to their lives.  And one of the primary reasons for their attendance there is that their 17-year-old son  knows several kids who attend church there and they’re all actively involved in the church activities.  In Bill’s words, “If my son is willing to get up and go to church regularly, then that’s the place for me.”  His wife is not yet so enamored of that church, so they have not yet made a commitment to join.  But they are going to worship services regularly.

I asked Bill if they were involved in any church activities besides attending worship services, and he said no.  He said they don’t say much about personal involvement with small groups in the church.  He said if you want to become involved in small groups you can locate them on their website.  He said at their old church the pastors spent a good deal of time during the worship services on Sunday morning talking about small groups, where they meet, what they’re into, and what they’re studying.  (He even mentioned the “motorcyclists for Jesus” group that meets on Sunday morning before or after church.)  He again mentioned that he and his wife had many friends at the church, but they’d all moved away.  He said that was a substantial difference between the ‘big’ church and their ‘old’ church.  Continue reading

ORPHANS AND WIDOWS.122815

Male hands with baby - parental love and careJames 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

What is this message?  Take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.  If you take care of the orphans and the widows, God will take care of you.  How do you do it?  There are several ways.  You can make their needs your needs.  You can give them food, shelter and money; and that is very important, considering that so many of them really don’t have enough. You can do what it says in this verse.  You can visit them.  You can become involved in their lives.  You can let them into your heart.  If you open the door just a little, they’ll come in, and your life will be changed. (forever)

Some people actually adopt children.  It’s a hard process, but so fulfilling if you just persevere.  There are many people out there who are actually called to be foster parents (like preachers are called to the ministry).  Some of them start out doing it for what little it pays; but more often than not, they too are changed.  It’s because of that love that God puts in our hearts.  But many kids stay in foster care until they ‘age out’, without ever being adopted.  Often it’s because of behavioral issues; or learning disabilities; or prenatal drug addiction.  Sometimes four or five kids from one family become orphans in one fateful accident.  CPS just can’t keep them all together, and they become ‘lost in the system’. (one by one)  There’s a group called ‘Foundation for Christian Adoptions’ whose mission is to find and help families who are willing to adopt sibling groups.  They do it in all kinds of ways; from making connections between the kids and the parents, to providing housing for such families.

The world is full of ways to help.  Get on the ‘Net and see. God is calling us all to come to the aid of our brothers and sisters in need, especially those who need a momma and a daddy to love them.