Thursday, June 25, 2009

Seeing Jesus is REAL!!

Have you seen Jesus?

I can't say I have.

But I know someone who has!

His name is Isaiah. He is my son.
And he is only four!

Let me give you a really quick refresher before I go into the juicy details.

Last August Isaiah was admitted to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis with HUS, a complication associated with E Coli. He was intibated for six days and had a total stay in the hospital of 30 days. Thankfully we were fortunate enough to be able to take Isaiah home with us and today he is an average four year old with energy to burn. We knew he was a sick little boy, but apparently never realized how close we were to....JESUS!!

So, today, Isaiah and his mom and brother went swimming at his aunt Sissy's house. A fun filled day of swimming in the pool and running around the yard on a 90 degree day. The day was just like any other. And the hospital stay 10 months ago was the furthest thing from any one's mind.

Well, on the way home from Sissy's house Isaiah asked Anne, his mom, if the Easter Bunny was real.
She replied, "of course the Easter Bunny is real, why?"
He proceeded that at T-ball last night some of the other kids had told him the Easter Bunny was not real and that he still thought it was. Anne agreed and his beliefs were confirmed.

Then came the deepest question you can imagine a four year old to ask.
"Mom, do you think Jesus is real?"
To which Anne replied, "Of course he real? What do you think?"

The rest of this story is unbelievable. 100% true and amazing!

When posed with the question that was shot right back at him Isaiah didn't even hesitate.
He simply said, "Yes, Jesus is real. He was on my bed when I was in Minneapolis. He told me that I was safe and that he would always be around me."
Wow, was all Anne could think. Speechless at this point she managed to squeak out, "Did he tell you anything else?"
"Yes, He told me that I needed to go play with my friends some more!"
What can you possibly say to that?
Is there anything that proves that Jesus was right there with my little man more than that?
How can you argue the reality of Jesus being with us while we were in that hospital?
Isaiah is a pretty creative little four year old but would not be able to imagine a scenario like this.
I believe his story 100%.
However, it gives me chills to know that Jesus was really there talking to him and telling him to go play some more.
What does that mean?
Were we really that close to losing him? Was his body telling him that it couldn't fight anymore but something greater came and said "Yes, Go be a kid, you have so much more to do!"
The thought of it scares me. It brings me to my knees. It gives goosebumps all over my body.
It is a true story.
It is from the mouth of a four year old.
It is Jesus at his finest.
Thank you Jesus for the gift of allowing my son to play with his friends for a while longer. For allowing him to come back to his family and bring joy to all of us again. For allowing me and his mother the opportunity to watch him grow and help him become a faithful follower of your word. Thank you Jesus!!
Seeing Jesus is REAL!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Behind the Walls of Gladiator Camp

Are you ready to stand up and fight?

Don't Wimp Out!

Why are you here?

How are you going to respond?

These are just a few of the questions/statements that were posed at "Gladiator Camp" this past weekend. What is this "Gladiator Camp"? In short, it's a nickname given to the prison that twenty-some men and myself spent four jam packed days of "reality" in. The nickname was given to the prison due to the amount of fights and altercations between the offenders behind the walls. The average age inside the facility is around 24, so there are a lot of egos that need to be stroked, and to these young men fighting seems to be the best way to do just that.

Enough about the name though. Let's get to reality.

The purpose of the visit was to bring a program called, Brothers In Blue (BIB), into the system. BIB brings offenders and brothers from the outside world together to spend time worshiping Jesus and hopefully answering some questions and steering others in the right direction. It is a totally voluntary event for the offenders and a privilege for the brothers from the outside.

Starting on Thursday, our days began by entering the facility at 7am and walking out of the doors around 8pm. The time in between there was spent witnessing some of the greatest things my eyes have ever seen. Which was hard because I think my eyes were filled with tears for over half of the weekend.
I can't tell you what touched me the most or what stands out as the biggest event of the weekend. There were so many awesome things that happened to all of the men inside that gymnasium turned chapel. Inside the gym the offenders and outsiders were put into small groups. Within my group there were drug dealers, addicts, burglars and some that never even mentioned their crime. I didn't care. I didn't need to know. They knew that. They understood that I wasn't there to judge them. And in turn they weren't there to judge me. Inside that gymnasium we were on an even playing field.

I entered the weekend knowing as little about what would happen as they did. We were one in the same. By the end of the weekend we were even more of the same.

We cried together as my brother-in-law poured out his heart and talked about his likelihood of losing his vision. We cried even more as he was anointed for healing by one of the pastors on hand.

We hugged and sang our hearts out as we sang a popular Hispanic song worshiping Jesus.

We sat in awe as outsider after outsider dropped life lesson after life lesson on us. Some of the most unreal stories that left everyone in shock and tears.

We danced, and did little kid actions, to a song raising Jesus' name. This is probably one of the most memorable moments of the weekend for me. As this song played, thirty some of the most hardened men I have ever met danced and sang like school kids doing a performance for their families. They yelled, laughed, hugged and danced. All this as prisoners passing by the gym looked in the window with confused looks. INCREDIBLE!!

We witnessed a first ever baptism for the BIB at Gladiator Camp.

We were privileged to share the experience of asking Jesus into the lives of at least 5 offenders. WOW!!

We sat in disbelief as an offender ended the weekend with his testimony. He left the room speechless as he emptied his heart out and was then embraced by the men that he once hated. Amazing!!

You might notice that I started a lot of sentences with "WE". That is because it was a WE WEekend. My new brothers and I experienced all of God's glory together. And it was wild.

I can't begin to tell you how amazing it was, maybe you got a sense of it. But I have not even come close to doing it justice. I would love to share it all but it would be impossible and writing it here would diminish its power.

Behind those bars is a brotherhood that gets forgotten by most. WE drive past them and most give them no thought. I was apprehensive, scared, nervous and very leery when I entered those walls. I didn't know what to expect or who I could trust. I no longer care about any of that. I met some of the most amazing people I have ever known. I met kids that have never grown up and don't know how. I met men that are in search of something bigger and better than themselves. And some of them found HIM!!

I do have one confession to make though. As one pastor was giving a talk, my mind wandered. I couldn't pay attention. I had something weighing on me. I needed to write something down. So while he gave his 3o minute talk, I wrote. The following is what happened on paper.

Before I share that though I would like you to consider a few things:

Are you going to Wimp Out?

Why are you here?
How are you going to respond?

Are you ready to stand up and fight?

Brothers In Blue

Because you chose to be here

Right here in this place

Only you can make the decision

To feel God's Holy Grace

How much he really loves you

Even though it may not feel so

Really good things are all around you

So let the blessings flow

In life we have our obstacles,

and those things that hold us down

Now is your chance to stand up

and leave Jesus with your crown

Bring HIS message with you

Love, and what is Good

Unto you has been given a family

Enjoy your new brotherhood. (BIB, 2009)

Peace and Love.