Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Letter from my Father

During the three years that I was in prison, one of the things that I came to appreciate more than anything else was mail. It wasn't often that I received a letter, but when I did, it helped to make the day a little bit more special. It helped me to know that there was someone out there...someone thinking about me and wondering how I was. It reminded me that someone cared.

Prison wasn't the first time after my arrest that someone sent me words of encouragement and love. On a cold, blustery spring day in April of 2004, as I was on my knees in the living room of our condo, the Spirit prompted me to pick up a pen and a tablet.

My Precious Child

I am so pleased with you! I love how you have thrown off your cloak of arrogance and self pretentiousness and have come to seek Me as a child. When you sought me last night, unafraid to be asked to be loved, I wept for you.

As I knelt there on my knees, I knew that my hand was writing and that the voice of God was passing through my fingers, but the words before me were a blur...probably from the tears that streamed down my face. How many years had I longed to hear words like that! How many years had I longed to know that my father, any father, would speak such words of love...would cry for me.

You have grown so much in two months, Mark, and I am pleased. You have been willing, and have actually sought, to seek the truth about yourself. You have not given into denial about the stark truths and reality of your sin and your choices. While you have sat there in disbelief at times, you have accepted My truth.

As a child, I never had any real conversations with my dad. He was a quiet man, at least on a personal level. He was a screamer when he was angry...and I heard enough of those outbursts during my childhood. I wish so much that I would have had a relationship with my dad that would have facilitated a conversation like the one that my true Father was having with me that morning.

Mark, you are finally starting to see and hear clearly My truth and the truth of your life. You are being obedient to My call and My voice. You have relaxed and begun to trust and have faith, instead of looking for Me so hard, you can't see Me. Continue to seek as the child you were last night...the child who wanted His Father, so you were willing to go and find Him.

How could I have ever trusted my dad the way that I was learning to trust my Father? I don't remember ever having a reason to truly trust him. The verbal abuse. The physical abuse. To be in the same room with him was to be tense and on edge. He wasn't a man that I ever felt I could just go talk ask questions about the things in my life I was confused about. To show any kind of a weakness in front of him. In my heart, I only believed that a show of weakness would result in being hurt...even more.

Continue to be willing to peel back the hardness that had covered your heart...the shyness, the embarrassment, the unwillingness to risk for what you love. Continue in your search for truth, your search for Me. I will always be here to be found by you.

Why couldn't my own dad have seen the struggles that I was having as a child? Why couldn't he have taken the time to sit down...and truly get to know me? It was no secret that I was so shy. Anyone could see it. Didn't it seem odd to him that I was the quiet one of the family? Would it have been too much to take the time during our deer hunts to just ask how my life was going? It never happened. I know I can't blame him completely...he only parented as he knew how. But it left a void in me, one that wouldn't be filled until I was in my 40's.

Continue to use these days and weeks you have before you to grow stronger spiritually, to rebuild your foundation and your life in My truth and My Word. As long as you continue to walk in My light and not turn aside to look at the darkness, you will find the life of peace and joy and love that you desire. You will live in a freedom you have never experienced.

As my knees began to throb and my legs felt life pin cushions as the circulation was cut off as I spent that time in prayer before Him, His words spoke power into my life. My Father was giving me instructions for life that I would need to survive what lay before me. Never in my life had words like these been spoken to me. Not as I went off to grade school, or into junior high. As I went off to college, there was nothing to prepare me. Even as I entered into a marriage covenant, dad never let me know what to expect or what to be ready for. But now, as I was getting ready to experience perhaps the most difficult test of my life, my Father was there. His words and love getting me ready.

Don't become satisfied with how far you've come, the journey is just beginning. Your journey on the path I have mapped out for you. Stay strong in the truth and in the Word. Continue to seek Me with our heart, and I will ALWAYS be here for you! Thank you for your words of love and compassion last night. You have much to be hopeful for. I love you, Son!

Could it be true that the words that flowed through me that morning were from my Father in Heaven? There is no doubt! Those kinds of words of love had never been expressed to me before. No one truly knew the pain that I felt in my heart, the fear gripped my heart and my mind. I didn't know what lay before me, or ever how to prepare for it. But on that April day, my Father knew! He was there watching over me and giving me a strength and peace that no man should feel, knowing that he is going to prison. The preparation for wilderness was beginning.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Beginning the Preparation for the Wilderness

I didn't know what my life was going to be like after Paula left on that Wednesday morning. I didn't know what the future held for me, short term or long term. I only knew that I was in trouble and my life had changed. It was pretty much assured that I would be going to prison, something that I couldn't even comprehend. I was to find that the next six months of my life would be a time of preparation for the wilderness that I was soon to enter.

The loneliness in the condo was almost overwhelming at times. I had turned the ringer off on the telephone because I didn't want to deal with the media calling and asking for my comment on what had happened. I called and had the satellite TV disconnected to save on money. For the first time in too many years to remember, I didn't have a job or an income.

I dove into the Bible, spending hours on end each day reading. I had read the Bible a couple of times before, but I had never really spent "time" in it. As I read it this time, the message jumped off the page in ways I had never seen it before. I could see application of so many things in my life. I wondered why they hadn't been clear before. But the loneliness remained. Each day, I would walk. The ground was still covered in snow, so I would spend most of my time walking the plowed streets that wound through the condo and golf course community. The fresh air and beauty of God's creation surrounding me were therapy that I could never find elsewhere.

The muscles in my thighs and back would knot up each day as I spent time on my knees in prayer. Prayer is a funny least it was for me. No one had ever really "taught" me how to pray. I just tried to mimic what I had seen others do. Paula. Mom and Dad. Even the pastors that had led the church services where I had attended before. But something seemed to be missing. I would give thanks and seek guidance and strength. I would spend long hours speaking to God. And then I would go about my business. It seemed fruitless and I couldn't see any answers coming to my requests.

All of that changed after Paula came back up to the condo on Easter. We were going to go through our storage units together to see what she wanted to take back to Tacoma with her and put into storage over there. At that time, she was planning to resettle in that area. When she arrived at the condo that evening, we sat and the couch and just visited. As she talked, she said one of the most profound things I had ever heard and it changed my life and my relationship with God. We were talking about our own relationship and our marriage and our communication. Or, more accurately, our lack of communication. I've never been much of a conversationalist. In our marriage, Paula was the one who would carry the conversation. I would ask questions and then just let her talk. I loved to hear her talk about the kids, or the family or what was going on in her life or the lives of her friends. I very seldom talked about me or what was on my mind. In hindsight, I believe it's because there was so much I was hiding and burying, I just didn't want to go there.

But as we talked, she said that when people love each other, they talk to each other...about anything and everything. There is nothing held back. Sadly, I couldn't undo how I had failed to communicate with Paula during our marriage. But, the Spirit laid it on my heart that I could show God how much I loved Him by actually entering into a "love" relationship with Him through my prayer life. Amazing things began to happen. For the first time in my life, I began to regularly hear the voice of God! Each morning as I spent time with Him, He would respond to me. I began to keep a prayer journal, recording His Words to me. His love, correction, rebukes and accolades. On one of those mornings, He did something I never expected. He talked to me first!