After all this time I still think it belongs to me.

I went with Jerry to see his probation officer.  While we were there she explained his situation more clearly.  Jerry is on the sex offender list from a crime he committed in 1989.   Almost every thing that he has gotten in trouble for over the past 20 years has been related to that.  I learned yesterday from his probation officer that he has spent almost 3 years in prison since then for violating laws associated with the Sex Offender Registry (SOR).

In 2006 he went to jail for getting behind on his fees.  When he went to jail, his status with the SOR changed to “inactive”.  When he was let out 3 weeks later, no one told him that he needed to re-regisiter to change the status back to “active.”  So..48 hours later, another warrant was issued for his arrest.  He was sentenced to 2 years in prison for not re-registering and changing his status.

Every year he has to pay $150 registration fee.  Last year he was paying his fees every month to his probation officer.  She told him that his $150 fee will come out of those payments first.

We made is PO check the computer to see if it needed to still be paid.  She clearly did not want to bother with it.  “I’m sure it’s paid”, she said.

She came back to tell us that the SOR did not have it marked as paid.  What no one told him (I don’t even think they knew) is that unless he pays $150 in one lump payment, it does not get sent over to the SOR.  So there is $150 sitting in an account earmarked for his fee, but the SOR till showed that he did not pay it.

Here is the kicker…since this is his third SOR offense he would get a minimum of 6 years.  That’s right 6 years.

We told her that we would get it paid as soon as possible.

I told Jerry on the way home that I couldn’t afford to give him the money right now, but I could possibly find some work for him.  I talked to a friend who graciously gave him a few hours work.  He came back but had only earned about $40.  He asked me if he could borrow the rest.  I told him that I would try to get him more work.

Today I was reading Ed Dobson’s book The Year of Living Like Jesus.  He talked about how he had come across a man who was homeless and had asked him for money.  He remembered how Jesus says to give to the one who asks.  He turned around and gave the man money simply because he asked for it.

He says, “It’s as simple as that – give to the one who asks.  He asked.  I had an obligation to give…I knew he’d probably use it to buy more alcohol and that I probably hadn’t made the wisest choice.  And I also know that a dollar wasn’t really going to help him.  But I had no other choice.  He asked and I was obligated.”

I gave Jerry the money and he paid his fee.  I did not want to give to Jerry.  I was thinking of moving and jobs and houses.  But that is because I think my money belongs to me.  How is $150 worth 6 years of a man’s life?  What is wrong with me?  I gave because he asked, although clearly my heart was not in a giving spirit.

I want God to change this crippling idea in me that I somehow own what God has entrusted to me.  I have been given to give, changed to bring change, blessed to be a blessing.

I love the lyrics by Aaron Niequist:

We have been saved – We’re gonna shout about the savior

We have been found – We’re gonna turn over every stone

We’ve been empowered – To love the world to Heaven

We have been changed – To bring change, to bring change

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Today I was sitting with an amazing group of friends.

One in particular is a man that always has my admiration.  He is stronger than me in every way.

He was a Master Sergeant and a 20 year veteran of the United States Army. For over 15 years he served as a “Green Beret” with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) throughout the Middle East and Africa .

He has seen combat during the Gulf War, Somalia , Haiti , Afghanistan , and two tours in Iraq . His service awards and decorations number over 60 including, three Bronze Stars for valor or service, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge (2nd Award), Static Line and Military Freefall Jump Master Badges, and numerous other United States and Foreign Decorations.

He now travels the country speaking about how God miraculously saved him when he almost died in an explosion.  He is confident, honest, and sure of God’s love.

I was surprised to listen to him tell of how tired he was.  He said that lately he had been feeling himself getting frustrated quicker and that he was feeling worn down.  He went to a counselor and she told him that he was carrying too much.  He thought she was talking about how he was fixing up a house and working too many hours.  But she corrected him.

She said that he carries too much of others burdens without having anyone pour into him.  He realized that he has been pouring out all of himself and no one is building up strength in him.

I realized how true this is.  I had never thought of giving to him or that he needed me in any way.  I had always assumed that he was stronger than me so he didn’t need anything from me.

I came home and thought of people in my life that I take for granted.  People who I watch give and give and give and never ask for anything in return.  I thought of people who I have always assumed could handle it because they look as though they are stronger than anyone else.

I sent out a little gift in the mail for one of them thanking them for what they are doing.  Then I prayed for them.  I want to make an effort to pour into people who don’t look like they need it.  I don’t know if it will help or even if they need it, but I hope so.

I am not doing very well at this.

Today Jerry called and asked if I could take him around to put in applications.  We have a meeting with his probation officer again tomorrow and it is not looking good for him.  We are hoping that by getting enough applications filled out, we can show her that he is trying.

I did not want to go do this at all.  I really just wanted to relax and watch a movie.  Regardless, I pulled myself up and headed out to pick him up.  We stopped at every place that was open along Gallatin Road, the main road by his house.  After several apps, we made it to Subway.  I decided we should chill out and have some lunch together. I knew I needed to give today, so it might as well be now – you know, kill two birds with one stone.

We grabbed an application from the manager and ordered our lunch.  As we sat eating, Jerry was filling out his application.  I started to feel very proud of myself.  I started to think that Jerry couldn’t have done any of this without me.  I even took some pride in thinking that he couldn’t spell that well, and so I was being “patient” with him by teaching him at the same time.  I thought of how sacrificial I had been by even getting up and coming today.

Ha! It sounds ridiculous now.  I am supposed to be using this time to learn how to give of myself, not for myself.

I need God to wash me of this pride.  I cannot do it alone.

I know that it is shameful, but today I did laundry for the first time in a very long time.

As I was shoving the hangers closer together to lodge one more shirt in between, I realized that I have way to many clothes.  I thought that this should be my give today.  I should give away some clothes.  But I have tried this before.

I go through and pull out the ones I’ll never wear.  The shirts with the stretched out bottom or the pants that are just a tad too short.  But I keep the ones that I “will need later”.

Since I know my own greedy heart, I decided to make a structured plan and stick to it.  I added up all my shirts and pants, divided them in half, and that is the number to give away.  I had 38 shirts.  Why do I need 38 shirts?  19 gone.  I had only 6 pants, so 3 gone.

I was stressed out.  I did not want to give away those last few shirts.  But for some reason I feel lighter now.

I took the shirts over to the men’s house of the rehab place Xena is staying.  I could not believe how excited they were to get them.  I have had them in my closet collecting dust all this time.  I guess I aways figured that no one would really want my clothes.

I think the real issue here is that I have not been around need.  In the past I would have taken them to a local thrift store, which is not a bad thing, it just shows that I did not know anyone in need.

If I do not know anyone right now who needs anything it is not because no one is in need, it is because I hang out only with people just like me.

I wanted to post this poem my wife wrote about Xena before she came to our house.  I think it is amazing.

XENA

She walked with bouncy curls and a black leather jacket
Seeking out services to trade
“I’ll feed your depravity, you feed mine.”
The customers aren’t few
And she gets to go back to the-house-across-the-street.

I love her laugh-it still has joy of innocence
Despite.

She doesn’t speak of what’s been done to her,
She doesn’t want pity.
She speaks of only her love for god and hatred of the cycle:
Loving God-
Loving crack.

Her bible is more worn than mine,
More notes in the margins
Reminding her of who he was, why he came-for her.

It’s who she is that there is no reminder
I suppose that’s why there is no change
Change to what?

If she were to stop, then what?
She would still be the person she was when she took her first hit-
Looking and searching for a way out of herself.
She’d stumble, seek and find,
Like she did before.

When she got out of the car she was cordial
She’s very normal like that-
Normal on crack, normal with a body to trade.

God told me he missed her and that why he sent us to her
I thought it was to rescue her
But she doesn’t believe in rescues.
So that didn’t work.

Maybe it was enough for the moment just to be with each other-
Creator and beloved.
That’s what I believed as I watched her walk away.

I knew that today was coming.

I’ve known since the beginning of this that God eventually wanted me to give this gift.  I knew that He has wanted to walk through this with me.  Although it only cost me $12.99, it is clearly the one that has caused me to dig the deepest and pull out some junk that I have submerged deep inside me.

It is simply a gift for one of my best friends in the world, Matt Carter.  Matt is an amazing person who humbly and passionately seeks Jesus.  He and his wife, Candice, have become like family to Brittney and I.  The gift is no more, materially speaking, than a set of  “NFL Colts Infant Snap Front Sleep ‘N Play, 3-6 Months” (as it is officially named), or simply – Indianapolis Colts baby pajamas.

During the last six months, the four of us have met and become friends with another couple that I wrote about earlier, Jay and Heather.  There is a uniqueness to our relationship that only God could have weaved.

When we met Jay and Heather, they had just recently gone through an extreme loss.  The first time we heard them tell of their pain, I listened with an understanding that they were experiencing a loss to which I could not relate or even fathom.  Over five months into their pregnancy, they miscarried their twin boys.  I could feel the agony in their voices as they told of how the boys looked just like Jay, but had Heather’s feet.  Heather carries their names, Shalom and Legend, on her wrists engraved on bracelets.

So much joy turned to pain.  So much hope turned to loss.  So much future turned to past.

At the very same time we learned that Matt and Candice are expecting; it was a joyous time of celebration.  Candice is now only a couple of months from having the baby.

As we all try to experience and empathize with each other’s situations, Brittney and I add an entirely different chapter to the story in that we are unable to get pregnant and have our own children.  Our friends have been lovely and gracious to us.  They have walked through this sorrow with us and they hurt for us deeply.

It has been a story that only God could weave.  Three couples living out very different experiences; yet so similar.  I have hurt for Matt and Candice during this time.  I can see them holding back certain things and feelings in order to not hurt their friends.  I wish Matt had a different close friend who was also having a child and they could talk and dream about what fatherhood will be like.

This is why I bought the NFL pajamas.  Matt and I have always loved watching football together.  And I know that he will love watching football with his child.  He will teach him or her about Peyton Manning and the Colts precision offense, and why it is better to have smaller and quicker players for defense.

Matt and Candice have given up so much during this joyous time.  They have humbly and happily given up talking and dreaming about parenting with their friends.  But I have given up nothing.

I want those things too.  I want to put Patriots pajamas on my child and cheer with them when Tom Brady throws a touchdown pass.  I desire it so badly, and that will never go away. The pain I feel over this is real.  The pain of watching my wife touch Candice’s belly is real.  I can see deep into her eyes the longing to feel what Candice feels.  Her pain is real.

The pain on Heather’s face when we talk about Candice’s baby shower is real.

Pain is real.

But I have allowed this pain to hold back my love for my friend; my dear friend who I love as a brother.  Can I be joyful for him while still feeling my pain?  To this point I have only pushed my pain down in order to talk about what they are experiencing.  But this is not working.  This is not healing.

When I bought the pajamas today something different happened.  I realized that there is a peace that comes from God that allows us to enter into people’s stories.

I can be fully aware of my hurt and yet fully present in my friend’s joy.

Jesus said that he came that we may have life and have it to the full.  This does not mean that I have happiness and no pain.  That is not life.  This means that I can experience the fullness of him in every situation.  It is ok to feel the fullness of pain and the fullness of joy at the same time.

This journey of giving is taking me to places I never imagined, but now it is taking me to the depths of myself.  God is so much bigger and more holy than I can ever understand.  He can completely satisfy my soul.

If I will let him.

Yesterday Brittney and Xena decided to call around and try to find a program for rehab that Xena could check into.  They started calling around 10 am.

By 2 pm they were discouraged.  Almost no one answered, and the ones that did answer just told them that they were full and had a long wait list.   But our God is bigger than wait lists and voicemail.  Brittney called me at 3:30 and told me that Xena had an interview in an hour.  One of the best houses in Nashville just had an opening today and if Xena could get there right away, they would interview her first.

When we walked into the place I was amazed.  It was a beautiful large home with warm colors, a fire-place, and best of all, it smelled like home-cooking.  Greeting us at the door was a beautiful woman who looked to be in her mid-forties.  She was at least my height and looked as though she could easily take me, but she had a welcoming smile and a calming voice.  She greeted Brit and I and introduced herself as Karen, but quickly moved to Xena and hugged her.  She pulled her by the hand over to the couch.

We sat across the room and just watched this woman.  She started by telling Xena that she was an addict, 24 years clean.  She introduced the “house mom” who lives in the house with the girls and mentioned that she was an addict, 6 years clean.  Then she looked at Xena and began to ask her questions.  I watched Xena move from tense, to open, then relaxed as Karen used the “lingo” of addicts.  She was not surprised by Xena’s answers.  She didn’t judge her in any way. Crack.  Prostitution.  Each just making Karen hold Xena’s hand tighter and tighter.

After they had talked for a while, Karen explained the program.  She said that this was not a program to come and go, or just a place to stay.  This is a regimented program.  The first 30 days are intense.  Daily counseling, group meetings, and no leaving the house.  This was a program for those who are really ready to commit to change.  She told Xena that before she could come there, Xena would have to be ready to do “whatever it takes” to get clean and begin a new life.

She asked Xena what she thought.  Xena said she would have to think over it and call her in the morning.

Then Karen talked about the costs.  She said that it is $140 a week.  Karen also said that the girls cannot work for the first 30 days while in the program. This is an amazing price considering the program, but I knew that Xena did not have any money.

When we got home, we prayed with Xena and she wanted to go right to bed.  She said that she would make a decision in the morning.

I have to be honest.  I was a little sick to my stomach.  I am still such a greedy person.  I did not want to carry this burden.  We cannot afford to pay $140 this week, much less commit to 4 weeks of it.  We are supposed to be moving for school soon and my bathroom has mold in it still.  Brittney and I talked and prayed.  She of course did not understand the dilemma.  To her, it was simple.

It was as if God himself slapped me in the face.  It hit me that I think I am the provider.  Despite what I would tell people or teach or write, I believe in my heart that I am the one who earns the money, lays the plans, and provides the means.

I am not.

He is the one who provides.  Everything is His and for His purpose.  Me, my wife, our house, our plans, our money.  All His.  It is not a sacrifice to give what is not mine, it is obedience; it is love.

We decided that if Xena wanted to go in the morning we would make the commitment to pay for it.

Today when we woke up Xena told us that she was ready to change and had decided to go.  We packed up her stuff and headed over.  We got her checked in, got her some groceries and paid the first weeks bill.  She is so excited to be there.

I had no idea how we will pay for her to stay there.  But I know that it was exactly what God was providing for her.  He is her provider as much as he is mine.

Later today I was talking with Brian Lambert, an amazing friend of mine, about the whole situation.  Without even hesitating, he said, “Rebecca and I will pay half of it.  I would make that investment any day.”  Wow.  I agonized about it all night long, worried myself sick, and got slapped in the face by God, and Brian says “we’ll pay half” without even thinking about it.

How greedy am I?  I have so much to learn.  I love how Brian called it an investment.  He understands something about the provision of God that I have not yet grasped.

God, please teach me to live with true understanding that you are the provider.  I am so weak; let your grace cover my weakness.