Before the absolute craziness of 2020, I was already weary of the shouting in the culture wars.
Imagine Kimberly taking to the streets, or social media, and acting on her instincts to protest against the protestors:
"Go teach a kid to read.
I know. I know. I am a sanctimonious old person now.
This angry attitude is what's kept me from writing any more posts or newsletters this year.
We're all tired of reading, and hearing, and talking about _____ (fill in the blank).
Writing these letters has kept my head on straight in the midst of all the noise. It's doing something that does make a change in the eventual success of losers once they get on the outside.
Yeah, I wrote that. LOSERS.
Felons are modern day LEPERS.
Think about that for a minute. It's an anthropologically valid noun.
So, writing letters not just encouraging them now, but it's effecting recidivism rates, reducing crime, and changing lives (apparently studies show, but I'm not going to bore you with that right now).
It's made me thankful every day that I've found a lane where I know these letters make a difference in suffering lives. Lives that, according to Scripture, matter.
"Remember the Lord’s people who are in jail and be concerned for them. Don’t forget those who are suffering, but imagine that you are there with them." - Hebrews 13:3
(And, by the way... a large percentage of those prisoners are black lives who matter.)
This year, in 2021 that lane got wider. I was no longer merely writing and putting stamps on envelopes. It's been up close and personal, almost daily.
Since the Spring I've spending a lot of time with a 59 year old black man who grew up in Chattanooga. He has spent much of his adult life in state prisons.
He's a month older than me.But we couldn't be more different in our life stories. I'm enjoying a season of growing older feeling content and safe having had a life well-lived and materially blessed. Mike on the other hand has a long list of challenges and an equally long list of former offenses and psychological trauma from his childhood, drug abuse, homelessness, and mental illness.
But, even in the midst of daily battle with the Enemy, my friend has hope and is moving incrementally in the right direction. He's trusting me, and trusting God, taking three steps forward and two steps back.
There are no easy answers for our neighbors who've grown up in systemic poverty. We want to help but it truly seems impossible. In the past it's been easier to say, "Nothing is impossible for God." Now, I can question that. Change has to be a big part miracle. Jim and I are depending on the Spirit's guidance for wisdom in what part of those challenges we can help.
With Jim's support, I'm in desperate dependence on the Lord for discernment and direction. My heart, my mind, my patience, and wallet keep getting stretched and poured out.
Mike is a big reason why I've not been writing much this year. Encouraging and supporting him is new territory for me. I've had a hard time putting it into words for my friends as I discover how badly the system is broken. Even with others (in addition to me) trying to help navigate it all, it's hard to not keep falling through the cracks.
There are a few positive things that have happened since Mike came back to Chattanooga. Divine appointments. I asked him to "trust me to introduce him to more people he can trust."
He's learning what it means to be trustworthy as well. That's a tall order for a person who's prefrontal cortex has never developed. God's grace, and encouragement are helping him grow in character. But the Enemy is positively livid about that! I've never experienced such warefare.
What I've known in my head forever, hadn't really touched my life:
There are no easy answers for our neighbors who've grown up in poverty, and trauma.
In 2021 I've learned this in my being. It physically hurts now just to type it for you, so that you will read it on your screen. I'm more thankful for believers who are social workers, or counselors. People who's work is to assist more than just one.
And I'm thankful for the ways my faith is stretching. With Mike, I MUST trust God every day for his presence, protection, and provision.
Pray for Mike.
Pray for all the people living in this world who like him have so so very much to overcome.
Thank you for loving and praying for me.