January 11, 2015
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #365: Kairos Reunion
I just spent these last two days with some of the kindest men on the planet. Over a dozen guys who volunteer their time with the incredibly organized and generous Kairos organization. (mykairos.org) came for a Kairos Reunion weekend. My cup of blessing is filled to overflowing!
You may remember that I’d spent a four-day weekend with 29 of the men from Kairos at the beginning of August, with a follow-up two-day event and one-day event since then, plus weekly studies and larger once-a-month events as well. These guys are invested in the lives of those who have attended the initial Kairos weekends, and they prove it through consistent follow-up. Pretty impressive, using any model of non-profit strategy as a comparison, and incredulous when you consider that each event is sponsored by the guys who volunteer to host them as well.
This weekend reunion event was open for everyone who attended the first Kairos weekend last March and the second Kairos weekend I was a part of in August. Over forty of us showed up and were enthusiastically greeted by the outside volunteers. Many of them had received a Christmas card from me, and I got several thank you hugs.
My favorite response was from Bill, a retired counter-spy expert with the Green Beret, who bear-hugged me and told me it was the nicest card he’s ever received. The love and sincerity poured out on us again, making a powerful impact.
The weekend focus was on the elements of God’s perfect love—agape—for us, and each volunteer gave a brief ten-minute talk on a certain element. Then, in typical Kairos fashion, we discussed the talks and prayed together with others at our assigned eight-man tables.
As with the other Kairos events, good food played a central theme, with real live bananas topping my list of favorite things served, along with pizza, pretzels, and hot dogs. I didn’t put my pizza slice in my chair and sit on it like I did last time, so that was a significant improvement, though I don’t think there is a quicker way to prepare a fat-free pizza.
One of the topics that hit me hard was given by Doug, the music leader and now a personal friend of mine. He spoke on “Love is not Envious.”
I am a very content person, grateful to God for every blessing in my life. I certainly have never thought of myself as the envious type. I believe God knows exactly what I need most in my life, and I let Him be God, not questioning what I have or don’t have. In fact, a central element of my faith is the sovereignty of God, as God places everything I need into my life so I can accomplish His will. But as Doug shared from his own life story, I began to see where I may have envied others.
In my current situation, it can be easy to wish I had the successes, opportunities, clean records, or relationships I see others enjoying.
In the past, because I have been happy for my family and friends, I never thought I was envious. But I had to confess a spirit of envy as God convicted my heart this weekend. I learned that envy doesn’t have to be an obvious, full-blown temper tantrum thrown before God, crying about someone else’s blessings that you don’t have. It can be a simple thought of, “Gee, must be nice!” and all the while my focus is off of the miracle God is working inside of me! Envy is like telling God that I’m pretty sure that I could do a better job of driving my life and doling out the goodies than He can. Not exactly an intelligent move, since I can’t see the end from the beginning like He can.
The other facet of love that I thought I had down pat, given by a guy named Harold, was “Love Does Not Boast.” Man, I can’t even claim that I don’t have an issue with boasting without, well, boasting. I didn’t think I had a problem with not boasting because I am acutely aware of the fact that all of my abilities, possessions, and privileges are from God. I can really only boast in the fact that He has blessed me with everything I have. Surely, I wasn’t a boaster! That cute little ideal died this weekend as I faced the reality of the situation that I’m sure everyone around me already knows: I have a boasting problem.
It actually comes quite naturally to me, I am sad to report, and this environment only makes it worse. See, everyone in prison looks alike. We all own nothing. We eat the same meals. We have no car and live in identical houses next to each other as we live our lives on the same schedule. No differences between us means that everyone is bland. To add a little spice, you can either try to act different: meaner, kinder, louder, quieter, etc; You can try to dress different, by buying expensive extra clothes from package vendors, or you can try to eat different, sometimes spending hundreds of dollars a month so you don’t have to eat the prison food.
I found myself boasting about my experiences in life, casually mentioning what I’d done or where I’d been. No one needed to hear all that, and those things were privileges granted by God, anyway! To act as if I had anything to do with any of it was stealing from God’s glory, and it was isolating me from the guys God wanted me to befriend. Yikes! Kinda convicting, and I realized this weekend that I would have to begin making changes in my speaking habits too. What an envious boaster! God help me.
Fun for me this weekend was the unexpected blessing of leading in worship alongside Doug, an accomplished guitarist on a 12-string. The Community Choir was invited to perform a few songs, too, with the help of our faithful volunteer, Peggy. What an exciting, rich, love-filled weekend of growth in the Lord. This wasn’t on the “Prison Vacation” brochure.