Christmas is a crazy, beautiful time of year. I love listening to carols, especially the old classics. I also love looking at lights and elaborate decorations. I also love time together with family and friends. But looking back over the multitudes of Christmases, the best part has always been the hope of what presents I might get.
I loved making wish lists as a kid. Going through the big Sears toy catalog and picking out what looked the most awesome. I didn’t always get what I wanted, even though I admit I was completely spoiled. I certainly got more than I really needed.
I would spend most of December trying to find hidden boxes throughout the house…hidden in closets, or under beds. And then when gifts would be set out under the tree, I would shake and rattle the wrapped boxes, trying to determine the contents.
It’s no secret to those who know me that I’m friends with a lot of guys in prison. Today I found out about another—an old friend from high school who is currently sitting in prison awaiting trial for possibly killing his girlfriend. Somehow this one feels different. Maybe because I never knew any of the guys I now know in prison before they were ever incarcerated. My heart breaks for him and his family. And I wish I was closer to Los Angeles, so I could go visit him…and just catch up.
I’ve known several incarcerated men over the past 16 years since deciding to start a grassroots prison ministry. This decision takes me inside the walls of a local prison each Friday morning when I get to hang out with a small group of guys for a weekly Bible Study. Sometimes we open the Bible, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we talk about sports, politics, TV, music, movies…anything really, that a group of guys would talk about it. But my number one goal is to cut through all the religiosity that so many of us have been living under most of our lives. I want to get to the bottom of it, and find out what’s real, what’s not…and what really matters.
While t-shirts and slogans say “life is good,” Mark Smeby has written an amazing anthem of hope for those of us who know sometimes it isn’t, and that we all need God’s grace and encouragement to make it through. More than a slogan, this is a beautiful song of truth, encouragement and hope. Who doesn’t need to hear that? ~Jennifer Martin, Worship Pastor, Church of the Redeemer, Nashville
As a writer I hate walking into a bookstore. Part of me wants to find something interesting to connect with, some new writer that will affect my life like Anne Lamott or Eugene Peterson. All the covers plead for me to judge their contents by their prettiness. Truth is, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. But instead of discovering beautiful new literary connections, I get bowled over by the silence. Like leafing through page after page of a dating service notebook filled with women last named A-G. So much muted potential, prettied-up with a fancy exterior. Mostly, it’s the overwhelming silence of all those unsold books that is so deafening to me. And I really want to be one more of the unsold authors stacked on those disorganized shelves? What could possibly be wrong with me?
All those words on all those pages. All those hours spent by someone somewhere, hoping their efforts would have some value. All those months waiting for a publisher to pick up their manuscript. All those hours wondering if that publisher will ever do anything to promote their dang book, or if it will just get lost in the shuffle of their better-selling, celebrity-driven, ghost-written titles.
It’s very similar to going into a record store and seeing all those unsold CDs just sitting there, patiently waiting for someone to give them a chance. So much unnoticed music. At the same time, there are so many artists that sell a ton of records. So many authors who sell a ton of books. And still, so many artists and authors who have personally affected me. I’m grateful they chose to throw their heart down the chute of creativity so that I could have my life changed by their expressions.