Beliefnet
Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Yesterday, I watched part of Director Comey’s testimony before Congress. It was fascinating.  As the hours wore on, he looked so weary and tired. I know this whole situation must be grueling. I prayed for him as he testified that God would give him wisdom and integrity.

I believe he is a good man put in an untenable spot. There was no way for him to win.  I don’t think the American people won, either.

And once again, we see how words make a difference.

We remember when Mr. Clinton testified about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky and said, “It depends on what your definition of “is” is.  It seemed laughable at the time. To parse words to such a degree… Now it happens again.

It depends on what “intent” means and how do you prove a person’s motive.  You can only look at surrounding circumstances and actions to get at an intent. The dictionary says the legal definition is, “the state of a person’s mind that directs his or her actions toward an objective”. Now how in the world can you determine that? You can’t.

But Director Comey seemed to think he could determine that Mrs. Clinton did not intend to be negligent in the handling of classified materials. Although he said she was careless and and ignorant technologically speaking. Well, I am too so I can understand her dilemma. However, I am not dealing with State secrets!

It is important to say what we mean and mean what we say. Let’s be people known for integrity.  That way there will be no need to having   hearings on our intentions.

We all need to pray for our leaders to be people of integrity that seek God’s wisdom not just each other’s.

 

I don’t know about you…but if I hear another poll number I may just scream. We are months away from the election so these polls don’t really mean anything. Many people haven’t decided who they plan to vote for and the way it is all going people may just decide not to vote.

By the way, I think that is an irresponsible decision. We have a great right and privilege to have our voice heard in this county. We are free to vote. I don’t take that lightly. (I know right now it doesn’t seem like our voice makes any difference – but it does.)

How can we forget the elections in Afghanistan. It was the first time they had that freedom and to show they voted the put their fingers in a gentian violet powder which satined their finger purple. They showed off their stained finger – so proud they had voted. No. We can’t take it for granted and if we don’t vote, one day that freedom might be taken from us.

Who to vote for? Well, I think that is a conundrum. There are good and godly people on both side of the aisle. It has been sad to see the ranker and anger boil up on each side. The name-calling! No statesmen. It’s more like watching gladiators being ripped to shreds by lions.

To be very candid…I wish we had term limits.

But that’s for another day…

This morning, I read this and thought I would pass it along. It’s from Justo L. Gonzalez: “Look again at your political commitments. If you belong to a particular party, make sure your loyalty to that party does not lead you to actions and attitudes contrary to your loyalty to God.”

And let’s wait until, at least, after the conventions to decide. Until then PRAY! God’s listening for our prayers. The Bible says He inclines His ear to us. The Great, Almighty, Eternal, Merciful, God is listening.

 

Lot, Abraham’s nephew, has something relevant to teach us. When Abraham left Ur to go the the land God promised him, Lot wisely chose to go with his uncle. Once there, they grew into a large company of people, livestock and tents. When a famine came Abraham decided they would go to Egypt to wait it out. To protect himself, he told his wife, Sarah to lie to Pharaoh – that she was his sister. She was a beautiful woman and Abraham feared he wold be killed and Pharaoh take her into his harem. (It was a half-lie since she was his half sister – but still a lie.) Not Abraham’s best moment.

When the famine was over they travelled back to Canaan – to Bethel the place of worship.

Abraham and Lot, through his proximity to Abraham, were blessed abundantly. Their flocks and possessions were so large the land could not sustain. Arguments arose between the two camps. Abraham, wisely, told Lot they needed to separate, Abraham, being the elder, had the right to choose where he wanted to live first but he gave Lot that right. Lot looked around and saw the beautiful, lush Jordan Valley,  chose it and moved near Sodom. He chose what looked good to him.

Once he left, God told Abraham,“Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants* as a permanent possession.  And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted!  Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17, NLT) Abraham let God make the choice. The first thing he dis was to build and altar and worship.

Eventually, there was a rebellion between regional kings and Sodom was in the path of destruction. Close to Sodom and no longer with Abraham or under his protection, Lot was captured when Sodom was overrun in the battle. His choice had cost him dearly.

Frankly, at this point, I might have said, “Good riddance. He chose to live in Sodom; he took the best looking land and look where it got him.” But Abraham wasn’t that kind of man. He gathered up 318 armed, trained men and went after Lot. The Bible says, “he mobilized the 318 trained men who had been born into his household. Then he pursued Kedorlaomer’s army until he caught up with them at Dan. There he divided his men and attacked during the night. Kedorlaomer’s army fled, but Abram chased them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus.  Abram recovered all the goods that had been taken, and he brought back his nephew Lot with his possessions and all the women and other captives.” (Gen. 14:14-16, NLT)

It was after this that Abraham was met by the King of Salem, a “priest of God Most High”. There is no mention of Lot – maybe he’s back in Sodom unpacking his things. Lot was a leader in Sodom – or at least a respected figure since he was sitting in the gate, a place honor in Genesis chapter) The King of Salem offered Abraham all the spoils of war but Abraham didn’t want anyone to get the credit for his success except God. Abraham had integrity and put God first in all things.

It’s a very interesting history but several things to take note of: Lot did leave his home with Abraham and as long as he stayed near Abraham, he prospered. Lot chose for himself what looked good to him – Abraham took what God promised him. Lot moved closer to pleasures of Sodom than to Abraham which put himself and his family in physical, moral and spiritual danger.  Though Lot made foolish, selfish choices, Abraham chose to go after him and rescue him. Lot was a prisoner, in many ways, by his own choices. It was Abraham’s grace that motivated his choice to go after his nephew.

In II Peter 2:7, Lot is referred to as a “righteous” man. From what we know about Lot, I wouldn’t call him a righteous man. But it gives me so much hope! You see God sees Lot through the righteousness of Christ. He didn’t see his selfish, foolish, sinful choices. God sees Lot with eyes of love and grace. Lot is washed clean by Christ’s blood. Did he deserve it? No. Nor do I.

As a child of His, God looks at me as He does Lot – through the righteousness of Jesus. That’s my only hope. I am flawed. As sinful or more so, than Lot. I made foolish, selfish, sinful choices but God has forgiven me of all. I stand redeemed in His righteousness.

“You were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (I Corinthians 6:11)

 

 

 

 

The idea of prison has always given me the willies. People in cages, no freedom seems unbearable to me. I think that is the point…that if people thought about being in jail they wouldn’t do the crime  – it is to be a deterrent. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way – our prisons and jails are over-crowded. But, to be honest, I don’t know how to suggest a solution. Nor does, it seem, do the politicians.

The one person who seemed to have figured it out was Burl Cain, former warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary. But, like so much that is wrong with our government’s bureaucracy, not many listened to him.

But that is not what this blog is about.

I am acquainted with a young woman who was in a terrible car crash – she was intoxicated. Her 3 year-old son was killed. She was tried and sentenced to 10 years in prison – tell me what good that does!  She is under a life-sentence.  Knowing she was responsible for the death of her little boy is a terrible thing to carry for the rest of her life. But she will.

Wanting to be an encouragement to her I try to go each week to visit her in the jail before they transfer her to prison.  Because I am ordained I can go in regularly. She amazes me with her bright outlook and hope. We only have about 20 minutes each visit but she is ready with a laugh and sparkle in her eyes. We talk through a thick glass by telephone receiver – I am quite sure our conversations are monitored.

She had a copy of the KJV of the Bible so I sent her a paperback copy of the New Living Translation. (It had to be in paperback for jail to let her have it.) It is so very readable. Each week I try to find a particular Psalm then ask questions about it as it applies to her life.  It helps steer our conversations but sometimes I think she gets tired of my questions!

Anyway, I see so many mothers and father, aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers waiting to go in to visit their loved one. I can’t help but wonder what their story is. No mother looks at their newborn baby and thinks one day she will visit him or her in prison. That is not part of their plans and dreams for this baby. But life went terribly wrong somewhere.

And that is certainly subject we don’t discuss in church. At least not churches that I know. We would never want people to know – so we hide behind our mask in fear that someone will find out our secret shame. How grateful I am that Carol Kent is open about her son’s conviction for murder and how she and her husband struggled to get their mind around it and their arms around him. Such a heartbreaking story – but God has redeemed it for Himself. What an encouragement she is to so many suffering in that way. You can read it in: I Lay My Isaac Down. I encourage you todo so. My sister is open about her two sons who have been incarcerated and I applaud her – she also talks about her arrest and night in jail.

Incarcerated is not an “acceptable” place to be and not a subject we talk about. How can we change the atmosphere in churches to be more welcoming to those that face such a trauma? Jesus understood there are those in prison…(Matthew 25:36) He encouraged us to visit them. Now, I realize it isn’t always possible because of regulations and credentials. But we can support those that do go into prisons: Prison Fellowship, Good News Ministry or local ministry teams. I am quite sure volunteers are always need to help drive, stuff envelops, encourage… Or we could come alongside of someone who has a loved one in jail or prison – just to be a friend, listening ear, hand to hold, wipe a tear… It all ministers greatly. No, we can’t fix it but we can help.