Today’s find: Giving it away

Some of the holiest people I know are those who have encountered Christ through the 12 Steps. (Or more accurately, those who have encountered a Power greater than themselves in and through their programs.)

Among the other holiest people I know on earth are those I have met ‘inside the joint’ through Kairos Prison Ministry in recent years.

Both groups are on my mind and in my heart today.

I’m thinking about the 12-Steppers because of the wisdom they have shown me, particularly in the 12th Step itself: ‘Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.’

In other words, you haven’t really had a spiritual awakening unless and until you pass it on. Until you give it away.

It’s the kind of philosophy that might even take you to prison, if that’s where the Spirit leads. (Of course, this is not simply a principle of the 12 Steps. It’s a commission given to every Christian: ‘Go out to all the world [including prisons] and tell the Good News.’)

ImageI bring all this up because of the deep and complex difficulties now surrounding a ministry dear to my heart – the Kairos work we are doing at Menard in southern Illinois. It would take me the better part of a day to explain those difficulties with any level of fairness or in a truly useful level of detail. And that’s not really my point.

Rather, I simply want to ask that – if this Lenten blog has touched your spirit in some small way – that you would now consider giving that gift away, in the form of a prayer for the entire community at Menard: The Warden and staff; the chaplains; the correctional officers; the inmates; and particularly the inmates (my Kairos brothers) who have themselves had a spiritual awakening as the result of our encounters there.

I know myself how very difficult it can be to keep the spiritual fires burning. I rely on community – my sisters and brothers in Christ – to remind me of God’s faithfulness, to reassure me of God’s power. I am deeply blessed to have all of you in my life, showing me the face of Christ – especially in those times of weariness or despair. I cannot imagine a vibrant faith life without you…without the benefit of the 12th Step.

Yet that is precisely the condition in which our Kairos brothers often find themselves at Menard. The difficulties there make it hard, if not impossible, for them to meet with each other on a regular basis. They cannot always lift each other up. And those of us in the Kairos community ‘outside’ are often prevented by circumstances from returning there, to help stir the spiritual embers into flame once again.

So what can we do, but pray? In your charity, please pray for them today…perhaps through these words from Psalm 69:

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;

You who seek God, may your hearts revive!

For the Lord hears the poor,

And his own who are in bonds he spurns not.

Yesterday, March 27, many of the Kairos volunteers were in Chester, IL attending an appreciation luncheon, sponsored by the chaplain at Menard. The event was held at the medium-security prison nearby — and when the conversation turned to the spring 2013 retreat (which was in grave danger of being cancelled) — someone asked if the weekend could be held next month at the medium-security prison instead.

Well, I’m delighted to report that the answer was ‘YES’!  It was an amazing thing to hear, because typically such decisions don’t come anywhere nearly that quickly in prison ministry. It is a miracle of sorts — proof (to me, at least) that prayer works!