January 1, 2009

Incarceration, Redemption...and, a Resolution

Tuesday evening I joined our group, six of us this time, at the maximum-security correctional facility for our weekly worship service. As has been the case with each visit, we all took out much more than we brought in.

Our footsteps echo as we navigate the now-familiar cavernous corridors. The linoleum's high gloss luster that proudly shines in the lobby gradually gives way to a dull, worn finish that speaks volumes as we travel further into the prison. Passing through a series of secure holds we make our way to our destination—the “chapel.”

Once there, the sparse, but thoughtful posters and wall decorations, and rows of cheap, but neatly-aligned, plastic chairs clearly define the purpose of this otherwise generic cinderblock room.

Soon a few men enter, and then a few more. The trickle becomes a steady stream. All wear identical light blue shirts and seemingly one size fits all (or none) black pants. Sneakers seem to be an allowed accessory of choice. Some share easy smiles, friendly conversation and warm handshakes as they file in. Others enter cautiously, avoiding eye contact and quickly look for a place to sit. A few kneel in front of their chair and pray. I recognize a few of the faces from previous visits.

Within moments, singing and shouts of praise paint this sparse room with glory. Glory that defies our geography and demographics. Honestly, I hadn’t wanted to come tonight—I just didn’t feel like it. But now I see it’s exactly where I need to be.

I don’t know exactly why, but worshipping here makes so much that’s blurry in my day-to-day life come into sharp focus. I see Jesus more vividly. Grace becomes less of a concept and more of a reality. And I become acutely aware of all I’ve been given.

Somehow, despite the incredible limitations on the inmates’ personal freedom there is a sense of victory and boldness about some of them. Each day there is very little they can choose—but they can choose Jesus. And doing so sets them free in a way prison walls can’t contain.

The night ends with half-dozen men accepting Jesus as their savior, allowing each of them to go back to their cells with their own personal key to freedom.

With the service over, the six of us return to our cars and our lives on the “outside.” But before parting ways, we pause in the trash-strewn parking lot, under the noisy interstate to pray. As we gather in a circle and hold hands, the frigid winter air visibly carries the breaths of our hearts upward.

On my turn, I pray for boldness. Because even though I’m obviously not physically incarcerated, I often live like I’m in a cell—in a prison of my own making, restrained by insecurity, fear, comfort of the status quo, comparison, worry and more. I pray that we accept the key Jesus offers and live a life of confidence.

And that is my resolution for 2009. This year I resolve to be bold and confident in my faith. To step out of my cell and live in a way that gives evidence to a life that’s been set free by our Redeemer. In 2009, I want to be brave.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
~ (Isaiah 61:1)


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Praying for your boldness on all fronts, especially as it pertains to the Light within. You're a kingdom carrier, friend. Thank you for carrying Jesus into my life this past year.


JerryLyn said...

Kelli, Thank you again for sharing so openly and eloquently what is on your heart. I know God will hear your prayer and lead you on to live your faith boldly. May God bless you as you touch the lives of others in the coming year. Peace, Jerry

Peggy said...

Dear Kelli,
You are so brave and bold in your walk with our Father God. You have given me much courage in the past year, and I pray for you to be able to be God's light and strength for many more.
This is going to be a very challenging year for many, but with friends like Kelli around to help us stay on God's path we are all sure to reach that final prise.
Love you sister, and thank you for being a friend and role model in my life.
Blessing and Love....Peggy

Gail W. said...

Thank you so much for writing this, Kelli. I love how God uses these moments to hit our "reset" buttons. Nothing hits mine faster than seeing faith and joy in people I would presume to "serve." God bless you for being His hands and feet; double blessings for sharing how this changes our hearts.

Chatty Kelly said...

Wow - I think you are so brave, what a great outreach. I pray you will be "bold" this year and keep on keeping on!

Happy New Year! I know you say you're just an "Ordinary Girl" but I think you are rather awesome too. :D

Jerralea said...


I really appreciated and enjoyed reading your post. Your goal to be brave in 2009 is awesome! I love your scripture you put, to me that would be your 2009 focus verse. I'm praying that you meet your goal every day.

Thanks for coming by my blog. I will enjoy participating in What's On Your Mind '09 with you.

Sassy Granny ... said...

What a worthy goal (prayer)! It's a boldness so needed by every light-bearer out here.


Technonana said...

Praise the Lord, that there are people who like you share with those who are not physically free!! But you help them to be free inspite of those prison walls that surround them by bringing the joy of worshiping the Father with them... and caring enough to be there!!!
Keep up the good work, and I pray you will be richly blessed as you let your light shine!!

Cheryl Barker said...

Wow, Kelli -- six men accepting Jesus as Savior! What a life-changing ministry you're involved in! May God grant you all the boldness and courage you desire. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

First of all, I love how you wrote the first few paragraphs. I hung on every word. Very well done.

Second of all, THANK YOU for sharing this story. I've read so much about prison ministry, I think this may be a goal of mine this year - go to prison!

And finally, thanks for participating. You are an amazing gift!


Terri Tiffany said...

Awesome resolution! I think you already are being bold by what you did there that night!
I hope to be back blogging by Monday--have a good weekend!

Debbie said...


As I read your blog, I’m touched by what God is showing you and teaching you. I am also reminded and amazed how God walks with all of us on our journey in this world. Looking into the lives of anyone we know or meet there is a void that only Jesus can fill. Once we know Him and desire to walk with Him we become increasingly aware of the necessity for Him in our lives. Every soul is important to Jesus.

I will pray along with you for boldness in 2009. I will also pray that you continue to keep your eyes looking upward and seek to please only Him.

Love, Deb 

wegotspirit said...

Kelli, this is beautiful - thank you! Very inspiring.

Patty said...

Hi Kelli,
Great message, well written once again. I too agree with Debbie, our necessity for Jesus becomes very obvious as we grow with Christ, I can't image doing it on my own. Thanks for your inspiration!