A Street Named Straight

Oh, man. I can look back now and smile; but then?

Then I was sweating.
It was cool within the air conditioned room, but I was sweating.
I was shaky and unsure and scared and yep… all the thannngs.
I couldn’t breath. The air was sucked from me.
In fact…
I felt like throwing up.
Oh my gosh….

gulp.
I was going to prison.

If I back this story up even more, I can say it started in church. Yep. Church.

I was just innocently sitting there, listening and nodding and amening, like good “Susie Christian” should, and next thing I know, I’m socked in the gut. Not just an elbow from the squirming person next to me, but a full-fledged sock in the gut that I didn’t see coming!!  That’s what started it. And there was nothing slight about it. It was meant. And it was powerful.

And I came unglued.

And by unglued, I mean, I tried to suck in the sob that wanted to escape.
I tried to keep the flood of water building up in my eyes from streaming down my face.
Composure escaped me and dang it… unglued,  the racks started in my shoulders and the wet stains hit my shirt.

I was going to prison. I knew it like I knew I was sitting there. God was up to something.
I mean, He doesn’t sucker punch people, right? Like, not in a mean way, right? But legit. It felt like a sucker punch because
I didn’t see it coming.

And I knew unlike other times when I wondered if He was speaking to me, that this time…
this time. He was.

Purposefully. Powerfully. Impact-fully.
He was sending me to prison.

The guest on my church’s stage that day was Gina Hanna , and she had just delivered a very powerful personal testimony, followed by an introduction to a ministry she had begun within a local women’s prison. She was telling the story, giving the details, describing the ministry, casting the vision- to everyone in that room… but – really.

She was talking to me.

Least that’s what it felt like.

And, like I mentioned… that’s when I felt the “sucker punch” from God.
LOL
I laugh now, but I’m telling you… He wasn’t playing. Ok. It wasn’t a sucker punch. But it was powerful and took my breath away and I didn’t see it coming… so, you call it what you want. LOL
*******

“God, why am I feeling like You’re saying, “Start a Prison Ministry, Kay.”?

“You know I’m not qualified, right?”

“Ok. I know. You’re in the business of using unqualified candidates. I know.”

“But, I mean, I’m realllly not qualified. I’m not even close to knowing what it would look like.”

“I have no confidence about my smartness”

“I have no idea of where to even start.”

“People don’t like me.”

“I’m scared.”
“Ok. I know. I’m scared of everything… stop smiling.”

“Yes, I see that woman on stage talking to us, inspiring, casting vision.”

“Yes. I know she’s equipped.”

“I KNOW where you call you equip.”

“Yes, Lord, I understand you said to visit the one in prison as if we’re visiting you.”

“uh huh.. I know Hebrews 13:3 … can I say I’m legitimately trying to forget?” Meep

“Yes. I hear you… Pretty much felt the gut punch too.”

“Yes, …”

Wait. “Did I just say yes?”

And thus began a 4 year journey that took me to prison.
A place I didn’t see coming.

A place I had no idea how to navigate

A place full of women I had no idea how to talk to

A place where I walked in scared.

A place where I wasn’t sure I belonged.

A place where there was much I didn’t know.

Where many could come against me

Where I could mess up

Where I could get it wrong…
Where…   (meep)

God could make the blind see.

I’m telling you in short snippets, many of my thoughts and most of my fears, but let me explain one more thing; one truth that God gave me that undid all the excuses. A truth that HE can take my YES, and change lives, mine included, and create new parts of people’s broken stories and give them a God story. A truth that He can meet anyone in prison,

but maybe…

just maybe,

it takes others going TO that place to be used by Him to help open eyes,

to help see blinders fall off,

to help restore sight.

This Truth?
It’s in Acts 9 and most of know it as Saul’s (to become Paul) encounter on the Damascus Rd.
I’ll forever know it now as…

Straight St.

See, Saul was a hate filled enemy of the Christians in his time. It was literally his job to hunt them down and rid society of them. He led the literal attack of the Church on staggering levels. He rose in rank and prestige among the Romans all while raising the fear and persecution among Jews. He was goooood at what he did; but it was for no good. It was evil. Pure evil
One day, in search of more Christians to threaten and murder, the Lord met Saul traveling on the Damascus Rd and blinded him, saying “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Confusion and fear and many emotions swept this seemingly powerful man. Fearful and trembling, Saul said, “What do you want me to do, Lord?” And the Lord said, “Go into the city. I’ll send someone to you and tell you.”
Saul’s, guards helped him into the city and there, he waited, unable to see. No appetite to eat. No initiative to drink. No energy. All vigor, steam and powerfulness, lost.

Then the Lord said to Ananias, a disciple living in Damascus, “Go to the Street named Straight. To the house of Judas. There, Saul is waiting for you. Lay hands on him. His sight will be restored.”
Hold up.
This is Saul.
Saul killed Christians. He hunted them down and did terrible things to rid the planet of anyone believing in Jesus. It was more than his job. It was his mission… and he was good at it.

God saw beyond the evil, the wrong doings, the corrupt thinking, the harsh hatred. God saw what no one else could ever see and because He could see that, He met Saul on one of his missions and interrupted evil’s plan. Confused, scared, blind, and powerless to help himself, Saul sunk into a depression of darkness where he refused to eat or drink.

Have you heard the hashtag #butgod ?  Friend, this is a perfect place for it to apply.
#butgod

This man, enraged against humans who loved God, a hunter of those who believed in Jesus, who had done sooo many wrong, despicable and evil things…was SEEN by a God who loved him and had a plan for him.
God met him as only God could!

But then-

God “sucker punched” Ananias.

Ananias.
A disciple in Damascus. A good man, living his simple life, loving Jesus and teaching others about Him. He was a man of no repute really. No big “job” or title. “Just” a Disciple of Jesus…
and when God said , “Go to a Street named Straight”, Ananias did what most of us would do.
Actually, what I did…
He questioned it.
If you were a Christian or a Disciple of Christ, you avoided this man and his cronies. You didn’t just waltz up to them with a message from the Lord.

Or do you?

Let me paraphrase:
“But Lord. STRAIGHT STREET? SAUL? The HOUSE OF JUDAS? I’ve HEARD about all those things !”
Saul. (* see the last few paragraphs. I don’t need to recap again.) Ananias knew him on a level we can only imagine. He lived it.

Judas. The House of Judas. It’s not completely clear, but some commentators believe that perhaps this was the family of the one and only JUDAS, who sold Jesus out. Judas betrayed Jesus for silver… and well, perhaps this money positioned Judas’ family amongst the same crowds Saul traveled in…the upper echelon of the Roman community; a place amongst the wealthy, the rulers and teachers and army leaders, the political people… If this is true, the “House of Judas” didn’t seem like a super great place to knock on the door and ask to come in.

STRAIGHT STREET  – Both Saul and the House of Judas was on the Street called Straight. I read that in Acts 9 and was so intrigued. Straight St? I mean, not very often does the Bible actually call out the actual directions. LOL
I decided to do some digging on it.
Straight St. was actually a street name in most cities of this day and age. It’s kind of like our Main Streets in today’s world. Kinda of. Just meaner.

It was called Straight, because it was, well… straight. It went right down the middle of the city and was usually the only road that was cared for. Every other street around the city was uncared for, shoddy and a curvy web of confusion. Straight St was also where the dignitaries often lived, so it was maintained and “paved”. Rich and wealthy merchants had store fronts and no poor, no beggar, no leper, no low society, no unruly rebel or needy child, walked Straight Street. The ones who came on Straight St either had business to do, lived there, or were being brought there to be tried, accused, and imprisoned.

Straight St.

Ananias had no business on Straight St.
I mean. He did. But it was the Lord’s business, and welp. That wasn’t exactly approved by those who lived and worked on Straight St, if you know what I’m sayin.

“Go to STRAIGHT STREET , GOD? Excuse me, but … are you sure?”

“Go”.

 

**********

Friends.

This is where the story becomes ours. Or at least, where it became mine again.
Prison may as well have been Straight St.

I didn’t want to go to Straight Street either.
But Ananias did.
He went. He obeyed.
He prayed. He spoke. He laid on hands.

And Saul, became Paul… and he regained sight.

Saul had met God on a whole ‘other road, But he needed Ananias to walk Straight St to help remove the scales from his eyes.

Mannn. What can God do with that kind of obedience? I’ll tell you what:
He can change Sauls to Pauls!
He can take the blinders off , the darkness can disappear, the scales fall away..
He can change a whole world, through one act of obedience.

(Meep) I typed that and just got goosebumps.

Look at what GOD can dooooo with our obedience.

With our agreement to do it afraid.

With our lack of understanding on the how and why.

With our inability to understand.

With our YES.

Ananias walked down Straight St. That place he feared, because the calling on his life to obey God, outweighed the anxious thoughts the enemy tried to make him embrace. Can you , can I , give faith, that much weight? Can you imagine a world where Paul hadn’t been given “sight’?
Can you?
I want you to.
I want you to think about it. Think about what it might have been like, if Saul had never become Paul. How many books in the Bible would not have been written? How many sermons would not have been preached? How many prisoners not reached?

Wait.
That just hit home. Prisoners not reached. I was talking about the ones Paul stayed with as a prisoner himself… but that just brought me back to my point.

Prison.
Going there was like Straight Street in so many fearful ways for me. But I went… and Lord, I pray the “scales fell off”. God, I pray the sight returned to some! Jesus I hope the LIGHT shone !

I know it did.  And this last weekend I had the blessing to actually have a picnic with some of the women I met in prison. Women who are out now… and living for Jesus. It was an amazing time to sit under a pavilion with them, in freedom, and talk about the victory they are walking in! It was so awesome to hear their own “Paul” stories and see how the Lord is using them in powerful ways, now, on the outside! OH it was sooo gooood!
And I also got to sit there with many of the volunteers who walk in the ministry with me. (Pictured above) … those who walked down Straight St. Who also went in, even though, confused by the call, and a little or a lot afraid of the journey… but who alllllll continue to do it now as if its how they breathe!

Jesus.   He’s the one who does this… makes the blind see… the Saul’s and the Ananias’s and the “Kay’s”. We all had some scales that needed to fall off. We all needed blinders removed in some way.

It’s amazing what can happen when you walk down Fear St. (aka Straight St.) with Jesus.

They say, Prison ministry is not for the faint of heart, but then, is any ministry? I say… yes. Yes it is. It IS for the faint of heart! My heart was faint. I was scared. Like our friend Ananias, I bet. But that’s where the power comes in to make it God’s story. He can do it. And He will. Do it “faint”. Do it afraid. Do it with Jesus and watch as “Sauls” become more than they ever dreamed with blinders off and on fire for the God who made them soooo new!

I can’t tell you where He’s taking me with this ministry now. I don’t know all the little off shoots of Straight St, but I do know this. I’m walking them. I’m looking for the “Saul” to pray with, teach, lay hands on, and help them to see. It may not be within the prison walls as much now, because after this picnic this last weekend, getting to hang with the ones released and the ones pictured above as the other “Ananias’s” – I’m sure I’m supposed to keep working with the women on the outside. The ones who come out to no one. The ones who need direction and a friend in their re-entry.

Let me ask you tho, friend.

What is your Straight Street?

Maybe it’s not prison.

Maybe it’s completely different.

What is that place God is asking you to walk that seems scary?

That you don’t understand?

That seems like a mistake?

Or even like maybe you don’t belong?

Is He calling you there?

Go there.

Friend. Go there.

And take Jesus’ hand, and walk right up to “Saul” like you mean it! The world needs more of them but sometimes… it’s take an Ananias … a YOU…to say “YES”. Give that yes and before you know it, that thing you feared, becomes an adventure you’ll be glad you never missed. It becomes a ministry that you will see was for you, as much as it was for others. Both , all,  gain “sight” as you share the God Story that changed your lives.

 

 

 

 

 

The lie of empty.

I don’t like to admit my relationship to food very often, because, well…
It’s a struggle.
Food was always my “go to” for comfort.
It was my “feel good” when life was hard.
The “soother” to my woes.
The “forget it all” to my problems.
The straight shot to the epi center of my brain that released all those “magic” feels that made me feel good for a moment, forget for a while and appease the pain and pull some sort of wool over my own eyes.

It was my “drug of choice.” A sweet, delicious, mostly sugary, usually processed, “drug” of choice.

And when you choose that, something happens in your brain.
Just like with other drugs.
A brain hormone called dopamine is released. It floods you with “feel goods” and creates pathways that make you want to go back to that “hit” over and over.
It feels good. Literally. Because that is dopamine’s job-to make you feel good.
Reward you with pleasure.
Satisfy an addiction.
Fill you with bliss.
And when you seek that “hit” over and over, to FILLLLL you…
You’ve welcomed a pathway to addiction.
And an addiction, always needs more. There is never enough.

For me. It started with food.
And, It started at age 6.

Even at age 6, I felt empty. I felt like there was a void. I felt “less than” and not enough. I felt insignificant, unimportant and unloved. But, that’s to be expected when you are in a home filled with drugs and alcohol abuse. You don’t just “feel” invisible; you often are.
Your people forget you’re there. And the times they don’t forget you’re there,
you wish they had because bad things happen.
And so you begin…
I began…
to look for things to fill me up.

I was 6. And my easy bake oven became a source of “filling”.
For most six year old little girls, an easy bake oven was a toy. For me it was how I ate hot food. My people often forgot to feed me, because- you know- they were not sober and
I was invisible;
so, I’d scour the kitchen looking for things to put through my easy bake oven to warm up!
Somedays I scored bologna! That was huge! Other days, I found graham crackers and put them through to heat up for dinner. For whatever reason, we always had graham crackers and marshmallows. LOL
I don’t know why… Back in the early 70s was that the “munchies” pot heads and alcohol abusers sought? LOL I don’t know… but I do know, I could usually make a dinner out of them and that’s all that mattered really to me. However, I did learn a valuable lesson.
NEVER
I mean, NEVER…
put a marshmallow through an easy bake oven.

It swells and puffs and smells amazing and makes you believe you’re about to have a very mouthwatering treat in about 55 seconds… and then…

it betrays you.

It grows so large it touches the lightbulb, which is the heat source for your oven, and suddenly it POPS and the burned sugar on the lightbulb becomes a horrendous smell and the plastic housing of the precious oven starts to smell like it too is melting and , well…
your first fear is that someone is going to come looking for that “source” of the smell because legit… you KNOW what burned sugar and melting plastic smells like, right? LOL …but then, even at 6, you realize,
no one is sober enough to even know there is something that smells different than the pot they’re smoking! So, whew… You’re SAFE.
The second fear is that, oh, shoot… you now have to leave your room to go on a search and recover mission for another light bulb! This means sneaking into another room unnoticed and stealing someone’s lamp bulb! This feels “not so safe”… but desperation for hot food and a full tummy wins over fear and let’s just say by age 7,
I was a professional, undercover special op’s “agent”, stealthy in using my powers of invisibility to my advantage! LOL

Goodness…
Age 6.
Food mattered.
It was not a given.
I found myself filling up at school to the point I’d have a tummy ache. I wasn’t sure what dinner would hold, or breakfast even for that matter, so lunch…
became my friend.
I don’t know how the “system” worked back in my day. I was just a kid. I know we weren’t poor, but I don’t know who paid for my lunches or how it worked… I just know, whatever I chose in that school cafeteria hot and cold line, I could put on my tray and go fill myself up to my hearts content.
And it felt good. It felt like contentment and refuge…
And it soothed.
And it comforted.
And it felt like a companion.

And I developed a relationship with that “companion” that lasted in to my adult years.

************************

I’m still in a struggle if I’m honest. There are days that the old pathway feels like an old friend, and I travel down it with a donut in one hand, a sugary coffee in another and the plan for a pizza at the end of the road. I welcome that hit of dopamine like it’s a hug, and I feed that addiction like it was starving.
I just don’t have to put things through my easy bake oven anymore. The pleasure center is much more easily fed these days.

But those are the “somedays”…. Because as I’ve aged. As I’ve grown. As I’ve healed from sooo many hurts… I can see clearer. I can see a food addiction that became a weight problem, and a weight problem that eventually became a health problem and it all …
really just stemmed from
a “filled” problem.

What?
A filled problem?

yep.
See, that food dopamine addiction? I let it “fill” me.
And, I let it take the place of what needed to fill me.

I ate…. NO. I eat, even sometimes still
when I get pulled back into the pathway,
because I’m seeking to be “filled”.
That pleasure center of my brain has a strong pull.
But that’s where I’m taking down strongholds.
That’s where, now,
I see that there is emptiness in that kind of “filling”.

*******
I don’t believe any of us are really “empty.” “Empty”, is perhaps a lie.
I mean, lots of people will say it though, right? They’ll say , “I’m empty”, “I can’t pour from an empty cup”, “I need to fill myself up”.. And while to an extent, that can be true…. I think the real truth is…
We’re all filled,
or filling ourselves with something.

Something.

Either something that will not satisfy- leaving us FEEL as though we are empty…
Or
With something that IS satisfying. Nourishing. Wholesome. Beneficial. Health giving. Life Giving.
Needed.

You do know now, I’ve quit actualllly talking about just eating? About just food? Right?

I’m talking about the filling we need in the depths of us, that we sometimes try to fill with all those dopamine inducing things:
like food…
like drugs….
like alcohol…
like retail therapy…
like working out…
like a job …
like a boyfriend, or a girlfriend or…
like ____________ …
You fill in the blank.

Are you seeking whatever you can find to put through your proverbial easy bake oven to fill yourself up?
It’s never going to be enough, friend.
It’s eventually going to give you the low that comes from the false high. It’s going hit the bottom of your light bulb and start a stink and then an undercover search for a new bulb.
Your dopamine will crash. The sugar will burn to the heat source. The search will come with cost.

************
The only fuel to fill… is found in a relationship with Jesus.
No matter how much we try, or do or, get, there is never going to be enough of anything to fill a void that only Jesus can fill.
We were created to be filled by Him alone.
The woman at the well in John 4 is an example of this.
She knew she was coming to the well every day. Filling and refilling and yet, no matter how many times she came back to that source…
Shortly.
Later.
Eventually.
She would be empty again.
Needing a refill. Needing more. So, she’d trudge back to that well and gather again, refill again, carry it away again. Never having enough. Always using up what she had poured in. Always needing to fill again.
Then Jesus told her she could never thirst again. That He had Living water! Water that would not leave her empty; not leave her needing; not leave her seeking out more, but rather,
satisfy and
instead,
leave her filled!
She had a hard time believing.
She was used to the all the other “means” to fill her up and yeah, I get that.
I do.
Dopamine has played a part in that for me. I just shared how.
But, I’ve also looked to friends and family; sought approval and affirmation;
tried to be un-invisible; filled my closet with clothes, my home with things;
I’ve made my gardens show worthy and my accomplishments shiny;
I’ve piggy backed on victories of others and found importance with my job; and ….
Are there more blanks you can fill in? What does your list of “FILLED UP” look like?

We’re not empty. We just feel empty.
We’ve filled ourselves so full of the wrong, unsatisfying, momentary things… that we are not empty. We’re just fueled and filled wrong… And it is never going to be enough.

************
Only Jesus.

He is the only
“enough”.

*******

Like a deer pants for the water, so my soul, pants for You. My soul thirsts for the living God.
Psalm 42:1-2