Friday, August 01, 2008

Here are some pics of us at "The Bridge."

The Wisdom of Jeff

What if you could be happy all the time? Would you go for it? Would you do whatever it takes to have it, no matter what? Most people look at joy and sadness like drunk drivers… as if these emotions are some kind of reckless and unpredictable forces that just hit you sometimes. In this view, we are all just helpless motorists, driving around minding our own business while we become the emotional victims of our circumstances. Well, last night I sat down next to one of the happiest dudes I’ve ever seen. He had the most infectious smile you couldn’t help but catch and when I asked him how he was doing and how things were going for him he said, “Blessed! But you know, I’m always happy!” Whoa! Where can I get me some of that?!

Before I go on, let me back up and set the stage for you… I got to go to Chicago this week with a bunch of high school and college kids from Christ Community along with my boys Tom, Potts and Devon to serve some of our church’s missionaries. The group in Chicago are called Mission:USA and they reach out to gang bangers, convicts and ex-offenders in Chicago. These brothers go into the prisons and some of the worst neighborhoods in America with the Good News of Jesus. They are the bomb in every way, and they have developed a program to connect ex-offenders walking with Christ to inner-city churches that want guys like them. The program is called “The Bridge” and it’s basically a church service for guys at the Hope House (a local halfway house) and guys on work release, as well as just guys on the street who want to come where they get to worship, fellowship with and hear preaching from local pastors who are looking for these kind of guys for their churches. It rules.

After the service, everyone eats a big meal together, and that’s where we come in. Each week at The Bridge there is a “host team” that greets the guys, welcomes them, worships with them and then serves them a meal. Since the Bridge started, Christ Community has sent a yearly host team to serve Mission:USA and fellowship with these brothers and sisters at The Bridge. Last night our high school and college kids served up fried chicken with smiles on their faces, hugged and laughed, listened to and prayed with some of the most awesome folks ever, and not only did they do a great job, but they had the time of their lives.

This brings me to Jeff. After the service was over, I came out to the fellowship area where everyone was just sitting around eating and sat down next to Jeff. When he smiled, I was hooked. Jeff was a gang banger, drug dealer and addict who was in and out of prison from 1996 to 2007. During that time, he was never out of jail for more than a week. As of 2007, he had not seen his son in twelve years. The whole time we talked he kept just spouting out verse after verse that he had memorized from the Bible. He did this at least twenty times. That amazing smile would break over his face as he said things like, “I just love the Lord!” I found out later in our conversation that Jeff only recently learned how to read… he told me that while he was in prison, he learned how to read by reading the Bible and then he spouted out Psalm 119:11 where David says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”

Jeff lives in a halfway house. He has nothing and he has been to the bottom of life. He has experienced the kinds of hard times that guys like me have only read about and yet he is completely happy. He told me that his favorite thing to do is clean the church first thing in the morning. He loves to serve… When I asked him why he’s always happy, he said, “Look, Jesus has given me joy and He has given me peace. How can this world and the people in it take away something from me that they did not give? They didn’t give me this joy, Jesus did, so they can’t take it away!” He ended this absolutely mind-blowing revelation by breaking into a rapturous laugh and clapping his hands. Jeff and his emotions are not the helpless victims of circumstances… No, like Psalm 118 says, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Joy is a choice, and it’s a choice Jeff loves to make.

1 comment:

Cody Blair said...

Thanks for sharing that Lee. So many time it seems the Lord uses those with seemingly "nothing" to show those of us with "everything" what it means to live.

BTW, have you read "Same Kind of Different as Me" yet? Let me know

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