Carol's blog

10 Apr

Visiting My Son in Prison

Published by Carol

I was sitting in the visitation room, picking at the broken tabletop as I talked to my son. At that time, we were approaching sixteen years of visiting Jason, both in jail and in multiple prisons. I asked him, “What is the single most important thing—besides Jesus— that helps you keep your sanity in this place?"

Before he could answer, my finger dislodged a piece of someone’s dried-out, leftover food from the tabletop. “This is so disgusting!” I blurted out, referring to the crud on the table. Then I realized it was even more revolting that I was picking at it with my own fingers!

I laughed out loud as I realized how it would have bothered me to be assigned a seat at that table in my B.P. (Before Prison) years. Now, A.P., I’m more focused on the person I’m visiting, rather than the furniture or décor in the room.

To answer my question, Jason said, “Visits are one of the most important things anyone can do for an inmate.” I asked him if he would write out some insights on the importance of visitation so I could share them with you. He mailed me handwritten notes that read:

Visitation is the only time when a prisoner can count on getting to physically touch (albeit very briefly) those he loves. Our visitors are also our connection to the outside world with its life, freedom, taste of fresh air, and hope. Getting to talk face-to-face, share a meal together, and simply hold hands means more than I can say.

Prison is a very lonely place and it’s inherently alienating from the life we all previously knew. Any connection through letters, phone calls, and visits shared together is a deep encouragement and reconnects us to those we love. Friends who come remind us that we aren’t forgotten and they’re comforting to the soul.

People on both sides of the fence desperately need that contact. You realize in here how very important relationships are and how much you miss everyone that you may have previously taken for granted.

Visits can also be emotionally charged and stressful—but what is the alternative? We can either choose a slow loss of connection and experience broken relationships, or embrace the risk and the opportunity of seeing each other regularly—even with the myriad of restrictions, personal misunderstandings, and hurdles of prison rules.

I encourage everyone to take a chance and visit those they care about behind prison walls. Letters and phone calls are valuable, but an actual visit in the flesh is truly priceless. It makes us know you care.

Many people have told me how hard it is to visit their incarcerated loved one.  Here’s why I go:

  • God tells us that when we visit someone in prison, it is as if we are visiting Him (see Matthew 25:34–40).
  • Visiting my son gives me a chance to know him more personally. When all we can do is talk, we often discuss important things. We also resolve weightier family issues more easily than in fifteen-minute phone calls with an automatic cutoff.
  • Visitation provides an opportunity for me to meet other prisoners’ family members, both adults and children. Waiting in long lines together gives us a chance to brainstorm about ideas for helping each other and advocating for our inmate loved ones.
  • By caring for my son, I’m able to follow God’s example . . . because He doesn’t forget us. “See,” He says, “I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).

Visiting my son regularly brings joy, healing, even laughter into a very dark environment. Jason and I find comfort in discussing creative ways to show compassion to inmates and their families, followed by sharing prayer needs and praying out loud for each other. Philippians 2:3 –4 says, “In humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.”

His Words Over You

“I hear the voices of those in need. Remember those who are in prison as if you were there with them. Overflow more and more with love for each other and keep growing in spiritual knowledge and insight.”

Based on Psalm 69:33, Hebrews 13:3, and Philippians 1:9

Question:  What hard thing has God asked you to do and how has your obedience brought unexpected joy to your life?  (You can pre-order Carol’s newest book, Waiting Together: Hope and Healing for Families of Prisoners, on Amazon.

 

13 Sep

Hello, Beauty Full

Published by Carol

It’s always a privilege to recommend outstanding books to my readers.  My friend, Elisa Morgan, is currently the host of the syndicated radio program, “Discover the Word” and she is the much-loved former CEO of MOPS International.  Her latest book is titled Hello, Beauty Full and I highly recommend it.  Here, in Elisa’s own words, you’ll learn more about this excellent new resource:

Most of us don’t think we’re beautiful. In fact, a recent poll revealed that 96% of women globally would never use the word beautiful to describe themselves.[i]

Even women who know they are made in the image of God. Women like you and me. Beautiful? No…instead we feel not enough. Not pretty enough. Not smart enough. Not strong enough. Not spiritual enough. I know. What I see is not beauty but the world of ugly within.

I say, “I’ll pray!” and I don’t. I forget about the suffering in the world, even after I’ve seen suffering up close and personal. And then I go ahead and buy another purse, pair of shoes, trinket for my home. I wake up in the middle of the night and worry. I think I’m better than others when my life goes well, even though I know full well that I’m not…I assume I’m the only one.

The only lonely one. The only depressed one. The only one who doesn’t know the answers. The only one who feels like a failure. I don’t like my body. I like some people more than others—a lot more than others. I pretend to be interested when I’m not.  I’m jealous when someone’s life goes better than mine. I want to just stay in bed on some days. I’m ugly. At least there are plenty of ugly parts of me. “Beautiful?” HA…

Hello, Beauty Full.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who pushes away God’s pronouncement of personal value. Likely you do too. Likely you embrace the ugly and discard the beauty in yourself. And likely you feel incredibly inadequate, stuck, and even alone.

Here’s what we need to know in order to live the lives we were made to live: God loves us. He sees us through Jesus: beauty full. He wants us to see ourselves the way he sees us. We struggle with embracing such a thing. But the truth is, when we don’t embrace how God sees us, we don’t embrace God. We miss out on the very lives he created us to enjoy—and died to make sure we could experience. When we do embrace how God sees us—beauty full—we are freed to live loved, and in so doing, we love God back.

Three words reveal how God sees us – through Jesus – and how he invites us to see ourselves.

Hello. Beauty. Full.

Yes, I am.  And yes, you are too. Hello, Beauty Full is available wherever books are sold.

From Carol:  If you’ve ever struggled with not feeling attractive enough or good enough—to others or even to God, I’d love to have you leave a comment.  What did you go through and where are you on this journey today?


[i] “Dove Real Beauty Sketches,” Dove, http://realbeautysketches. dove.us. 

06 Jul

Lazarus Awakening

Published by Carol

What an honor it is to tell you about the newest book, study guide, and DVD series by my friend, Joanna Weaver!  In Lazarus Awakening she reveals the profound love Jesus had for Lazarus and the shocking life-after-death-on-earth He lavished on His friend.  She skillfully points the reader to a vibrant choice—abundant life!  If you long to wake up to God’s unrestrictive mercy, unconditional love, and supernatural power, read this book.  It is an ideal small group Bible study choice, too.

Q & A with Joanna Weaver:

1.  In your first book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, you began teaching about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus 15 years ago. What has held your interest for so long about the three siblings from Bethany?

Well, to be honest, I never dreamed there would be three books! I thought I was done after the first one. Then the second one…and the third! I was all ready to write a completely different book when I was offered the chance to do the companion DVD Bible studies for the books. Lazarus Awakening is the final study of the series and “comes forth!” July 21st.  Though I look forward to writing on a different topic, I never get tired of talking about Mary and Martha and Lazarus. God continues to make their story fresh and alive to me.

2.  A main topic in Lazarus Awakening is living resurrected as Christians – shedding our graveclothes to live fully in our lives with Christ. What are some things that you think hold us back from living fully in our faith?

I’m not sure how it is for other people, but one of the things that consistently held me back as a young Christian was a sense of hopelessness at how far I still had to go. I expected a magic-wand transformation when I was saved – that somehow holiness would just happen to me and I’d suddenly be all I needed to be. More like Jesus and less like me!

But one of the most valuable things I’ve learned is that sanctification is a process. I don’t suddenly become like Jesus overnight – instead I am becoming like Him! And best of all, it’s not all up to me!

Just as Jesus called Lazarus out of his tomb, He’s calling us to leave our halfway living behind and the grave cloth patterns that keep tripping us up, so that, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can learn how to walk and live truly free.

Another thing that holds many of us back is the enemy’s lie that we’re hopeless and helpless – that true transformation can never be ours on earth. But, he is a liar! The same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, and that means resurrection life isn’t just for heaven.  Jesus wants to make us fully alive, right here and right now!

3.  You write, “If we embrace the process of crucifying our flesh, we’ll find the joy that Lazarus found.” Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?

As you study the New Testament, Christianity really comes down to this: are we willing to “lose” our lives in order to “find” them (Matthew 16:25)? Are we willing to die to self so that Jesus can live in us? I’m afraid that many of us spend our lives walking down the Via Dolorosa, but never allow ourselves to reach Golgotha. But that isn’t what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Follow me.”

4.  This new Lazarus Awakening DVD Study was filmed in Israel. What was it like to visit Bethany, the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus? And why did you decide to film the curriculum there?

After thirty years of ministry, my husband John and I took our first trip to Israel a few years ago.  It was incredible to say the least! We spent our first day in Bethany. After so many years of writing, speaking and thinking about Mary, Martha and Lazarus, to actually be in the spot – or very near the spot – where they’d lived brought tears to my eyes.

I had come to the Holy Land fully expecting to see the two sisters everywhere I went. But instead, it was Lazarus that I encountered over and over.  Spiritual correlations and teaching points filled my heart as we toured different locations. By the time we came home, I couldn’t imagine filming Lazarus Awakening any other place.

You can learn more about Joanna Weaver, her books and DVD studies at www.JoannaWeaverBooks.com.  The new companion DVD Bible study for Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God releases on July 21, 2015.

“There’s no tomb so deep or so dark that Jesus cannot open,” Joanna says. “We were made for resurrection life – a heart-pumping, deep-breathing, feet-running vitality that only comes from Jesus Christ.”

How has Jesus brought a fresh start to your life?  

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