Friday, March 25, 2011

Freedom To Be Yourself!

I checked my last entry and discovered that it has been a month since I wrote anything!! How could that happen. When I was a kid and everyone else was older than me (even the thirteen-year-olds), the really old people would sometimes talk about how time had just flown by. Guess what? I'm much older, but not yet ready to declare myself one of the really old people, and time really does fly by!!
Last night I was at a fund-raising banquet for one of the ministries that are dear to my heart: Prison Prevention Ministries, which is right here in the Chattanooga area. To those of you that know me, the reason ought to be obvious. But for the rest, I am an active volunteer in a few prison ministries and cannot seem to stay out of confinement. Well, at as a volunteer anyway. PPM offers two vital areas of prevention. One is on the youth side where they take at-risk young people on prison tours. The event usually is reported to be "life-changing" by the youth involved. We heard many testimonies to that effect last night. The ministry then follows up with visits and mentoring. That's the key, I believe. The other prevention tool is where I come in. Several volunteers get inside the area prisons and teach the inmates Bible seminars in hopes of having a positive impact on their lives and thereby preventing them from returning upon their release. Got it? Okay.
So, last night at my table, sat a young man and his younger sister. I told them my name and his first question was: "Do you have a relationship with Jesus?" Thankfully I was able to answer in the positive and the three of us began talking. Apprarently this young man and his sister had been on separate prison tours with PPM and were positively impacted by their experience. It was delightful to listen to their life changes and I soon discovered that this eighteen-year-old youth was so impressed with his prison tour that his life goal was to become a prison chaplain! Imagine my excitement as I shared my experience in that ministry.
So, my point? At an early age this youth discovered that he was going to do something that would change his life and the lives of so many others, without any concern about what others thought. With his faith in God at such an early age, he was realizing that he was free to be himself. Wow, would that I was so confident and bold as a senior in high school! I told him about this blog and after asking me about Facebook, I told him to look me up so I could be there to give him some encouragement.
Encounters like this cause me to look at my life and ask some tough questions. The most prominent being: Am I free to be myself? For me, it has taken many years to come close to sensing that freedom. It reminds me of a line in that great Gospel hymn Amazing Grace, that goes like this: "Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come..." The struggles and trials that I have endured as a man of faith have taught me to be free to be the man God wants me to be. I often tell the guys in prison that it's like walking in faith and watching the pieces of the "old man" fall off as God wants to create a "new man" in you. Sometimes it's painful, but we must resist the temptation to turn back around and retrieve those old-man pieces.
So, am I free to be myself? I'm getting there, slowly, but surely. How about you? Are you free? Are you moving in that direction? I really hope so.
Until next time.
God bless you,