LEADERSHIP IN DREAMS

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Matthew 1:20-21

A wife said to her husband over breakfast, “I had a dream last night that you gave me a pearl necklace. What do you suppose that means?” “You’ll find out tonight,” the husband said. And sure enough, that evening he gave her a copy of a book entitled “Interpreting Dreams.”

All of us have dreams. We dream every night when we sleep, most of which we don’t remember the next day. In our dreams, we fulfill fantasies and desires. We live nightmares and fears. We relive the days events and how they could have been different. Dreams serve us in a variety of ways.

Dreams are one avenue in which God talks to us. Joseph is a normal, level headed and good man. Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Get the picture? Your girlfriend with whom you have never had sex is pregnant! She tells you that it is God’s child. You don’t believe her and you know who everyone else in town thinks this child belongs to. Because Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

That is some dream! It would make a man change his whole course of action. The dream is a domain of experience, having an intellectual, ethical, and spiritual significance. (Living in an earthly body, we have, as the confusing background of our being, a dim region, out of which our thinking labors forth to the daylight, and in which much goes forward, especially in the condition of sleep, of which we can only come to a knowledge by looking back afterward.) In dreams, one’s true nature manifests itself breaking through the pressure of external relations and the stimulation of the waking life.

The Scriptures appear to hold the person responsible, if not for dreaming, at least for the character of the dream. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said. “Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will bring you back the answer the LORD gives me.” So the Moabite princes stayed with him. God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?” Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: `A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.'” But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s princes, “Go back to your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.” Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat her again. Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said. Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. The angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her.” Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.”

Because the dream was looked upon as a communication from God there arose those who professed the ability to interpret them (see Magic). They were not to be listened to if they taught anything contrary to the law. Instances are given of God’s aiding men to understand dreams and the divine lessons taught thereby, e.g., Joseph and Daniel.

“A significant aspect of dreams is the spiritual: they may become the means of a direct and special intercourse of God with man. God warned the wife of Pilate against being concerned in the death of the Just One.”

Dreams come with maturity of faith. Charlie Brown is at bat. STRIKE THREE. He has struck out again and slumps over to the bench. “Rats! I’ll never be a big-league player. I just don’t have it! All my life I’ve dreamed of playing in the big leagues, but I know I’ll never make it.” Lucy turns to console him. “Charlie Brown, you’re thinking too far ahead. What you need to do is set yourself more immediate goals.” He looks up. “Immediate goals?” Lucy says, “Yes. Start with this next inning when you go out to pitch. See if you can walk out to the mound without falling down!’

Joel says, `In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.’

Not What We Expected

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Titus 2:11-14

A few years ago Garrison Keillor had a Christmas special where he told this story about a Christmas gift. A few years ago, someone near and dear gave me a Polo shirt for Christmas and I said thank you, of course, and put it on and tried to look pleased, but what I was thinking was, “Burgundy?” In my experience, burgundy shirts are worn by guys who smoke cigarillos, drive Buick LeSabres, sit in the dark corners of cocktail lounges and place large wagers on basketball games. I’m more of a wheat type of person. Wheat or antique blue. But did I turn to the giver and say, “Sorry, I’m an English major and we don’t wear this color”? No. I put it in a special section of my closet where I keep never-to-be-worn clothes. After the three-month-Christmas-gift cooling-off period required by law, I gave the shirt to a shelter for the homeless. I hope it’s being worn by someone, and yet I can imagine a homeless person being offered this shirt and saying to the volunteer, You wouldn’t have something in a pale green or aqua would you? Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you look good in burgundy.

Thus, Garrison Keillor begins a fun essay on the perils of Christmas getting.
I didn’t say Christmas giving. At this time of year, some of us think the toughest job ahead of us is to go out and find the perfect gift – the perils of Christmas giving. But, if we are honest, we must admit there are also perils of Christmas getting. Much is required to be the sort of person who is able to give the right gift. It also takes a great deal to be a person who is able to receive Christmas gifts in just the right way.

As Keillor goes on to say, “A Christmas gift represents somebody’s theory of who you are, or who they wish you were.” We know how to handle the wildly inappropriate gift from a stranger, but what if you see yourself as a suave dude wish a swift intellect and then one year your wife – your wife – gives you a pair of singing undershorts that perform “O Tannen-baum” when you sit down and a battery-powered coin bank in which a little farmer picks up the coin in his pitchfork and hoists it into the silo? That’s when you go through a sort of identity crisis. You’d like to get a gift that aims high – Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a ticket to Nepal…instead here is a pair of bedroom slippers with lights in the toes so you can see your way to the bathroom at night, or a rubber ball on a paddle. Not the thing an inquiring mind would spend a lot of time with.

Like Keillor says, a Christmas gift often tells us very little about who we are,
but it tells a great deal about who others think we are or want us to be. A man was telling me the other day that he was the oldest in his family and his sister was the youngest. Every Christmas, he would receive clothes that were a size or two too big. His sister would receive clothes that were a size or two too small. What does that tell you? It told him that his parents were always pushing him, wishing that he was older and more mature, while they were always holding his sister back, hoping she was just a bit younger. In a way, the gift told us much more about the parents, the givers of the gifts, than it did about the children, the receivers of the gifts.

And how many children have unwrapped a package that appeared to be a boxed set of CDs – they were excited, imagining it was a new Screaming Meemies Set or Road Kill…And they got the paper off, and found Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos? With a picture of a geeky guy in a tux, holding a stick in his hand, and they looked at their parents with a pitiful wan smile and thought, “Why are you giving me this? Do you want me to be a hopeless nerd? Do you want me to never be invited to parties?”

I guess we could say that Christmas is “a holiday fraught with peril.” Again, part of the peril of all this gift giving and gift receiving is that we are stunned when we realize somebody whom we love and who apparently loves us, perceives us in a way different from our own perception. One of the toughest parts about Christmas is on Christmas morning, opening up gifts in front of the giver, and you are shocked, stunned by what you receive. What can you say? All you can do is sit there and exclaim, “Oh! Look at this! How interesting! Who would’ve thought!” You can’t tell them what you’re really thinking. Namely, “What on earth have you done? Who do you think I am? Are you crazy?” You take that gift, you put it wherever you put such gifts, and then, in the spring when the Seekers Class has its annual churchwide garage sale, you are able to offer a superb piece of merchandise, still in the box was unwrapped so leave off. Of course, you need to be careful. If the person who gave you the gift comes to the rummage sale, you’re in big trouble.

There is for each person a perfect gift – your heart’s desire – and nobody can give it to you except yourself. I’ve written a great deal about getting gifts from people, gifts that we didn’t expect, and certainly don’t want. Sometimes this can be a real pain. But at other times, such gifts can be a real blessing. Think of the gifts that you’ve received over the years that you did not want, would not have dreamed of asking for, but turned out to be just the right gift. Sometimes others are much better suited than you, to know the gifts that are really your heart’s desire. Sometimes, what you think is your heart’s desire really isn’t. I think that’s what happened to us at Bethlehem in the gift of the Christ child. We got our hearts’ desire. But we got our hearts’ desire not in the form in which we expected, or even wanted. We got a baby.

In this world that worships power, success, prestige, and raw force, we received a baby. Vulnerable, gentle, meek, and mild. And when that baby grew up, he became for many even less of what they wanted. He spoke biting, challenging words to the establishment. He challenged many of our conventional notions about who God was and what God wanted. He called us forth from our smug securities toward a life of high adventure and rebellion. Even at the end, particularly at the end, even after he had been with us for a number of years and we’d heard his teaching and seen his work, we rejected this gift. We took God’s most precious gift and nailed it to a cross, rejecting the gift. Still, God kept on giving, and keeps on giving even today.

We need to expect that God will send gifts our way that we did not ask for or expect, gifts that perhaps we did not want, but gifts that we really need. I know that this past year some of you have received many challenges and difficulties that you did not desire. Some of you have had health crises.
Some of you have gone through a period of great distress or trauma. Now, in many of these cases, I would be the last person to speak of such difficulties as “a gift.”

However, by the grace of God (the word grace means “gift”), even some of our worst difficulties can be transformed and seen as gifts. Having received the gift of the babe at Bethlehem, a gift we did not ask for or expect, but yet a gift that changed the world and us, we live in the expectation that God will bring things into our lives that at first may seem like great burdens, but by the grace of God become deep blessings. So, I don’t think that we are the only ones who can give us gifts we really want. I believe that the gifts we really need come from a loving God. This day has been born to us a child, a Savior, whose name is Jesus. He is God’s greatest gift. He is the one who, though we did not desire him, is a sign of God’s great desire for us. And that’s why we say, confronted with this gift, Merry Christmas!

And so we received an unsought, unexpected gift named Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Jubilee At Bethesda

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John 5:1-15

A woman from West Texas went to see the governor and begged for her husband’s release from prison. After a long wait, she was ushered into the governor’s office and proceeded to tell her story. The governor asked, “What’s he in for?” “Stealing a dozen hams,” said his wife. “Well that doesn’t sound too bad,” said the governor. “Was he a good husband?” “Matter of fact, he never said a kind word to me in all the years we’ve been married,” said the woman. “Was he a good worker?” the governor asked. “No, I wouldn’t say that. He’s pretty lazy. I can’t remember him ever having a steady job,” she said. “Well, was he a good father to the kids?”, he asked. “Well, the truth is, he’s pretty mean to the kids. Never pays any attention to them until he’s drunk. Then he’s mean to them.” “Ma’am,” said the governor, “I have to ask you, why do you want a man like that out of prison?” “Well governor,” she said, “we’re about outta ham.”

We cry out to demand justice, but justice is not what we want, we want mercy.
There is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate, a pool which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and it is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Bethesda, means “house of mercy.” Bethesda was a spring fed pool in the market place but not a pool the animals would drink from. Here a great number of disabled people used to lay. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” Tradition said that an angel would come and stir the waters and the first person into the water would be healed of whatever was wrong with them. “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

It is clear that the issue is mercy because the religious leaders have a problem with Jesus’ healing the man. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, `Pick up your mat and walk.'” Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

Do we understand what mercy is all about? We throw around terms like “mercy killing.” “Mercy is a form of love determined by the condition of the one receiving mercy. Their state is one of need, while they may be unworthy or ill-deserving. Mercy is at once the kindly ministry of love. Mercy is a Christian grace and is very strongly urged toward all.

James the brother of Jesus wrote, But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17). Dr. H. A. Ironside in his book, in the Heavenlies, tells the story of an attempted assassination of the first Queen of England, Elizabeth. The woman who sought to do so dressed as a male page and secreted herself in the queen’s boudoir, awaiting the convenient moment to stab the queen to death. She did not realize that the queen’s attendants would be very careful to search the rooms before Her Majesty was permitted to retire. They found the woman hidden there among the gowns and brought her into the presence of the queen, after confiscating the poniard that she had hoped to plant into the heart of the sovereign. The would-be assassin realized that her case, humanly speaking, was hopeless. She threw herself down on her knees and pleaded and begged the queen as a woman to have compassion on her, a woman, and to show her grace. Queen Elizabeth looked at her coldly and quietly said, “If I show you grace, what promise will you make for the future?” The woman looked up and said, “Grace that hath conditions, grace that is fettered by precautions, is not grace at all.” Queen Elizabeth caught the idea in a moment and said, “You are right; I pardon you with my grace.” And they led her away, a free woman. History tells us that from that moment Queen Elizabeth had no other more faithful, devoted servant than that woman who had intended to take her life.

That is exactly the way the grace of God works in the life of an individual once he or she becomes a faithful servant of God.

My best friend from high school and I went to two different colleges. During his first semester he dropped out and got married. I was a part of that wedding. After a year, his wife decided that she loved someone else and left him. All of us hurt for him and supported him. Then he started dating another lady. I went over to his house one day and caught him in bed with her. I went “ballistic” because I was the moral watch keeper of all of my friends. He had made enough mistakes and this was just another one.

It is easy to demand justice, it is difficult to give mercy. Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47)

God’s judgment reveals who we are. God’s mercy reveals who God is. If we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us? What decisions and partings will it demand? To answer this question we shall have to go to Him, for only He knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ who bids us follow Him, knows the journey’s end. But we do know that it will be a road of boundless mercy.

The Church is a type of Bethesda. In the place where God’s people gather, He has chosen to pour out His benefits of grace and mercy. Every Church that lifts Jesus’ name should proclaim and show God’s mercy. It is not right that we come week after week and never change. We come and go still sick, hurting, weak and blind. How can we come to the place of mercy and anointing and never be changed? It is beyond reason! Jesus says to you and to me, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

Were You There When Jesus Talked About Marriage?

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Mark 10:1-12

A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor’s office. After the examination, the doctor took the wife aside and said, “Unless you do the following things, your husband will surely die. Here’s what you need to do: Every morning make sure he gets a good healthy breakfast. Have him come home for lunch each day so you can feed him a well-balanced meal. Make sure you feed him a good, hot dinner every night and don’t overburden him with any household chores. Also, keep the house spotless and clean so he doesn’t get exposed to any unnecessary germs.” On the way home, the husband asked his wife what the doctor had told her. She replied, “You’re going to die.”

A man inserted an ‘ad’ in the classifieds: “Wife wanted.” A few days later he received several letters that all said the same thing: “You can have mine.”
Marriage is not dead. Nine out of ten Americans still get to wear a wedding band at some point in their lives. Cohabitation may be a seemingly sensible step prior to marriage, but it is not a viable protection against divorce. Nonetheless, the U.S. Census Bureau says 6,085,284 unmarried, opposite sex partners live together. Some call it cohabitation while others just say living together. Advocates of this set-up think it is wise to “test drive” the compatibility of a relationship before embarking on marriage. It is proposed as nothing more than a “trial run.” “If magazine subscriptions come with trial periods, why shouldn’t potential marriage relationships?” The logic can seem convincing to a couple not yet sure about marriage, but it just doesn’t hold up to hard core facts. Jeffrey Larson recently completed his research on 50 years of data to arrive at the conclusion: “couples who live together before marriage have a 50% greater chance of divorce than those who don’t.” He went on to say, “Psychologically, marriage seems to be a significantly different type of relationship. Commitment changes the dynamics of any relationship.
Cohabitation is not a trial marriage.”

Marriage is a divine institution designed to form a permanent union between man and woman that they might be helpful to one another (Gen 2:18). Moses presents it as the deepest corporeal and spiritual unity of man and woman, and monogamy as the form of marriage ordained by God. Parents do not credit themselves with having the greatest impact on their own children. We do not develop habits of genuine love automatically. We learn by watching effective role models – most specifically by observing how our parents express love for each other day in and day out. That is very different from what we find in the Bible.

In scripture, marriage is based on commitment, not love. In the Bible, most marriages were arranged. Abraham sent a servant to find a wife for Isaac – Rebekah. Jacob worked 7 years for one woman and ended up married to her sister.

Too often we change jobs, friends, or spouses instead of changing ourselves.
The grass on the other side of the fence may start off green but it usually ends up brown. 75-85% of all men who have had an affair end up staying with or returning to their wives. Of those who do divorce, only 15% marry the woman with whom they had the marriage-wrecking affair. Affairs are destructive and do not deliver what they seem to promise.

Commitment has always been the key to a good and long marriage. Do we hear the vows clearly? Will you commit yourself to her happiness and her self-fulfilment as a person, and to her usefulness in God’s kingdom; and will you promise to love, honor, and trust her in sickness and in health, in adversity and prosperity, and to be true and loyal to her, so long as you both shall live?

The issue of divorce in scripture is very difficult for many to understand. This is probably because I don’t think that the writers really understood. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” “What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” The burden is on the guilty party.

(1 Cor 7:15) But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

The issue always comes down to commitment! We are permitted to get a divorce if there has been an unfaithful spouse. The widow/widower is free to marry again, why, the commitment has been broken.

We forget, marriage is an earthly issue that was instituted for our benefit.
At the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

Were You There When James and John Made That Request?

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Mark 10:35-45

Two friends were talking. The first friend asked the second friend, “God is so angry with the sinfulness of man that he is going to destroy all of those who are wicked. But before He destroys them, he decides to send a special letter to all those who are the good and righteous people. Do you know what that letter says?” The second friend answered, “No, what does it say?” The first friend recoiled in horror: “Do you mean to tell me that you didn’t get a letter?”

Love is the willingness to sacrifice for others. Hatred is the willingness to sacrifice others. We are not surprised by the request of the sons of Zebedee.
“Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” How very childish and immature. “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” We are not sure what they meant by “glory.” It is clear that Jesus understood it as Heaven. It is very possible that James and John saw it as an earthly kingdom. “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

Jesus once said to the disciples, In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Now Jesus is a little taken back by Thomas who has been with the group the whole time. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.

James and John are worrying about whether they will sit at the left or right of Jesus, but Jesus is concerned if they will be in Heaven. Faith is not a contract. Faith is surrender.

In an old Irish legend of a ruler who wished to leave his kingdom to the cleverest of his three sons, he took the first son on a long journey, and on the way he said, “Son, shorten the road for me.” The eldest son was overwhelmed by the task, gave up, and they returned home. The king embarked on the same journey with the second son and said, “Son, shorten the road for me.” Like his older brother, the boy was daunted by the request, gave up, and they too, returned home. The king then took the youngest son on the long journey. He said once again, “Son, shorten the road for me.” The youngest son told his father a long story so engrossing that before he knew it, the king had finished the long walk. We can’t lessen the number of miles on the road. We can’t walk those miles for another person. Having a companion on some portion of the road, however, can make the long, lonely walk seem shorter and often make our journeys, however difficult, infinitely more bearable.

A man once asked a theologian, “Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple?” The reply was insightful, “I do not know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose me?” The mere preaching of the gospel does not save an individual. The gospel message must be activated by the election and calling of God for an individual to be drawn to him. It would be as if one had thrown a rope to a drowning man. The throwing of that rope could not save the man unless someone were at the other end drawing him into shore. This is what God has done. By his election, God draws to himself the one who has heard the message. The man may have the rope, but he still needs the efficient force of God drawing him in. Who, therefore, deserves the praise for salvation, the man who grabbed the rope? No, the God who draws him in!

We lay the most difficult burden on ourselves – we demand the following of all the Laws. Who deserves God? The one that can keep all the commandments? God knows we cannot keep the Laws, that is why He sent his Son for us.

What Jesus is trying to make clear is that salvation is a relationship not rules. I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:15-17) You cannot love someone because of a Law but you can love someone because of a relationship.

Richard Dortch explains how he had a difficult time even wanting to attend church after the fall of PTL. However, through two persistent couples who had befriended the Dortchs, they eventually attended church one Sunday morning. Here is the account of a portion of that service: “I was very uncomfortable as we slipped into a pew at the Pinellas Park Wesleyan Church. Then something unusual happened. Just before the message, the minister asked a young woman named Mindy to come to the front. The girl, in her twenties, literally ran to the platform as the entire congregation stood to their feet in applause. Then, the pastor presented her with two bouquets of red roses. As we were seated I wondered, ‘What has she done to deserve all this attention?’ The pastor explained, ‘Mindy, you have been gone for two-and-a-half years, and many of these people don’t know who you are.’ Then he told how this lovely girl from their church had been involved in an accident where alcohol was present and had just been released from the Florida Prison for Women. ‘Mindy, how many of these people have written to you or visited you since you went to prison?’ the minister asked. I’ll never forget her answer. She smiled and said, ‘Pastor, I quit counting after a thousand.’ At that moment I knew we had found a church home – a warm, loving group of people who would be a shelter in our time of storm. They didn’t point fingers or pass judgment. They simply reached out to embrace us when we needed it most.”