Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Kindness Club

My wife, who is a Registered Nurse, referred to me, her loving husband, a patient of hers who for reasons I won't go into couldn't get transportation to the doctor.  So I took this woman to her doctor's appointment, which is some 70 miles away from her residence.  As is my habit, I brought along a book to read while waiting in the waiting room.  Lately I've been reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas whose link is here: .  I'll be posting my reflections on the book, a very engrossing and captivating read, in the days to come.  But I digress.  

While I was in the doctor's waiting room, I was asked by a woman patient, "who's that on the cover on that book?"     

"Bonhoeffer.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Do you know who he was?" I asked her kindly. 

"Was he Russian or something?" she replied.

"No, he was German," I answered back. 

"Oh, what kind of German?" she inquired. 

"The kind who gave up his life to be against Hitler and the Third Reich," I matter of factly stated. 

A long pause ensued.

"So Hitler killed him?" she timidly exclaimed.

"Those under his authority, yes," I answered calmly.  He was executed in prison weeks before the Allies had a chance to find him and to set him free."

Another long pause ensued.

"Who wrote the book?" she asked.

"Eric Metaxas," I replied.  He's a guy the late Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship mentored, who now shares the commentator duties like Chuck did on the Breakpoint program found on the radio and the Internet."

"Charles Colson?" she excitedly exclaimed.  "Prison Fellowship?"  Her eyes grew wider and her expression of recognizing a friend was unmistakable. 

"Yes, Charles Colson of Watergate fame and Prison Fellowship Ministries.  You've heard of him?" I asked.

"Oh, I certainly have!" she exuded.  "I have a son who is a young adult in State prison in Delano."  I gave a sad looking look of recognizance in reply.

She gave her story of woe to me about her son.  Long story short, she is concerned that he will reoffend again and break the law, landing himself in prison once again, becoming an habitual offender and be locked away for years. . . maybe decades.  His heart is not at peace with God, and even though he has watched the thought provoking film The Shawshank Redemption over and over while in prison, is in contact with the chaplain there and sees Prison Fellowship volunteers, he has yet to truly give up control of his life and turn the control over his life to God.  This is the stark reality he is in in the midst of the extreme lack of privacy and the confinement prison affords.

Funny that my employment happens to be behind bars these days as an education professional. . . well, no.  Serendipitous, actually.  The Lord knows what he is doing, and placed such a one as this mother in my purview while I was waiting for the one in their doctor's care.  Get this: seated right next to this woman was another lady, whose husband is locked up in prison for a longer period - decades, from what I heard.  In his case, he has made his reconciliation with God and has received forgiveness for his many sins, and though he is a prisoner and locked up for many more years, the Lord has truly set him free in his heart and spirit!  Across the aisle, yet another woman knew of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship. . . I don't remember any of her other details right now.  Was this a God moment or what?

The most natural thing to do in a moment like this, after our first lady poured our her heart concerning her fears about what could happen to her son, and seeing the literal "cloud of witnesses" that shared in her suffering and related to her situation. . . was to pray.  I led us in doing so, all of us holding hands right there under the watch of the medical office's receptionist, who I suppose didn't bat an eye!  (smile)  Tears of joy were shed at the end, and warm hugs as well.  

This kind of moment I'll call "The Kindness Club."  To become a member of it, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew so well, one must endure suffering.  But not suffering alone. . . hope is present as well.  Hope in the things of Eternity, where there is no prison except in Hell. . .  and we shall feast at His table, rejoicing at what the Lord Jesus did for us in remitting our many sins. The Apostle Paul knew of suffering and its connection with hope, to wit:  

(Romans 5:3-5, ESV)

  3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

James also knew of trials and suffering through the testing of one's faith, and its response in (unnatural from the world's perspective) joy:

(James 1:2-4, NASB)

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various [a]trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces [b] endurance. 4 And let [c] endurance have its perfect [d]result, so that you may be [e] perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

John records Jesus saying these immortal words on our subject:

(John 16:33, ESV)

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John, later in his life, undoubtably reflected some more on these words of our Lord in this part of his letter (1 John 5:4, ESV):

4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith.

Hence the title from the old Gospel hymn, "Faith is the Victory!"  I love indeed the refrain from that song so much. . . in fact, the whole song.  Here it is:

Wonderful to see folks from the United Arab Emirates who are - I take it - literate or becoming literate in English partaking of the Christian faith and singing this marvelous, uplifting old Ira Sankey hymn.  This is how I learned the words to 1 John 5:4. . . and how you can too!  It is part of the "music rumbling through my head," as I mentioned awhile back in a previous post. 

It's not how polished you are in singing it - or living out your faith.  It's about taking His hand and letting him completing the journey with you, taking his yoke upon you, and having a lighter burden, since you allow Jesus to carry the load.  Trusting Jesus, walking with Jesus. . . all the way.  That's how to have true freedom in a place like prison, my friends!  Out of prison too. . .   Until next time. . .


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