I’m filled with gratitude for how my year has held so many beautiful experiences: all of them have to do with people — I can’t live fully in isolation. A trip to Whistler, BC or a tour of four baseball stadiums in four days is nice, but it’s awesome with a great friend. My Pilgrim Man CD released a series of beautiful exchanges with like-minded travelers. Filming “1 Message” with AKA and the crew was an honor. I survived the flood, a couple snowstorms, and a half marathon, but my dog’s cancer at year’s end broke my heart. Still, hope reigns.
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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