“I don’t know if you remember me. I hope I’m not bothering you…” The man’s voice is hesitant, almost apologetic, with a distinct mid-western drawl.

The number on my phone shows an unfamiliar town in Missouri, and the voice isn’t registering as anyone I know. Wrong number?

“We met on the bus to Springfield,” the man continues. “I had just gotten out of prison.”

My heart jumps as it all comes rushing back. Just after New Year’s. The greyhound bus from St. Louis to visit my grandmother.

The young man sitting next to me had struck up a conversation with me during the three-hour trip. He revealed that he had just gotten out of prison. That morning. Drugs and the wrong friends had messed up his life, but he was ready for a fresh start, he’d said.

“Fresh start.” Those were his very words. Jesus had met him in prison, he’d said, and he had read the Bible he’d been given over and over. When I told him about Fresh Start For All Nations and the blog I write, he agreed to let me tell his story. “If my story can encourage someone else, then please use it.”

Before I got off the bus, I gave him my business card with the Fresh Start website. It was only afterwards I realized it had my personal cell phone number too. Was it wise for a single girl to give her phone number to an ex-con?


And now, four months later, he’s calling me.

“I’ve gotten mixed up with my old friends,” he confesses softly. “And I’ve started doing drugs again.” I can hear the defeat in his voice.

My heart is heavy. He was so hopeful when I met him a few months ago. So confident. And now…

“I’ve been looking through old phone numbers,” the man continues, “and I remember that you were so sweet and encouraging. I was just wondering if maybe you would pray for me.”

What else can I do? I feel so helpless.

“Can I pray for you right now?” I ask. The man agrees. Taking a deep breath, I plead on behalf of this broken man.

“Father, thank you for your grace and forgiveness…” I ask God to be with this man, to bring him good friends, to help him get connected with a good church and a recovery support group. “…And most of all, may he know how much you love him…”

Cling to Hope

When I finish, the man thanks me. “That was so sweet. I really appreciate it.”

As I hang up, I still wonder if I did the right thing. But what else could I have done? “Always be prepared to give an answer… for the hope that you have,” we’re encouraged in I Peter 3:15. Hope – that’s what this man needed.

Is there someone God has brought in your path who is in need of HOPE? Are you prepared to give the reason for the hope that you have? All you can do is point that person to the One who is the source of all hope – Jesus. And pray that he or she will cling to that hope. It’s a hope that does not disappoint us.

Going Vertical!

Hands folded patiently in his lap, the figure in the tan coat stared fixedly out the window as the city sped past. Cars rushing commuters to work. Snowy streets, glinting in the early morning sun. The sprawling baseball stadium. The bustling train station. The famous St. Louis arch. Hungry eyes soaked it all in.

“It’s the little things I look forward to – going into the kitchen, opening the fridge, getting something to eat.” My fellow passenger spoke in a low voice, tentatively, as if it might not happen if he spoke too loudly.

“I grew up going to church,” he told me, glancing at the Bible on my lap. “But in my 20s I got mixed up in drugs…” A deep sigh revealed a bit of the pain of his choices. “That’s what landed me in prison.”

Suddenly he rummaged in the bag at his feet, producing a small black New Testament with a motorcycle on the cover. “I joined a recovery group in there – they talked about how to get out of my addictions. And they gave me this.” He held it gently, turning it over in his rough hands. “I’ve read the whole thing three times.”

“If I hadn’t gone to prison, I don’t think I would be alive. I was on a dangerous path.” A foot tapped the floor anxiously with the memories. “But if God can turn my life around, he can help anyone.” The gratitude in his weathered face spoke volumes.

“I’ve been up since 4am.” Chuckling, he tugged at the knit cap pulled low on his head. “I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep. This is my first day out.” Eyes weary with all they’d seen, and longing for all they’d not seen, now glimmered with faint hope. “I’m going to my sister’s house – I can’t wait to see my niece and nephew. It’s been a long time…. I’m ready for a fresh start.”

Do you feel it’s too late for a fresh start in your life? Our God is the God of second chances. And third chances. And one hundredth chances. You are never too far gone. All you have to do is quit running. Quit trying to fix your own life. Quit trying to put all the pieces back together. Let Him take over and give you a fresh start!

In this new year, why not give your past, present, and future to the One who knows it all? He loves you dearly and wants to make something beautiful of your life. And just like my friend on the bus, your story can be a story of hope to someone else who desperately needs to know the transforming and restoring power of God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness!

Going Vertical!

“GOD made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I cleaned up my act, he gave me a fresh start. … I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step. GOD rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.”
(2 Samuel 22:21-25 The Message)