His Eye is on the Sparrow

It has been quite some time since I have had anything to write. Months. I suppose you could say my soul was ravaged and I’ve been struggling to pick up the pieces and move on, most of the time drowning my sorrows in work.

But today I have something to write.

A few weeks ago, on August 9th to be exact, I posted a short video of some baby birds squawking in their nest as their momma flew back and forth with dinner. It’s not unusual for me to share little photos and videos of the sweet things I happen upon. I’ve always been in awe of the beauty of nature around me. I particularly love animals.

After work on August 17th, I met a sad sight. One of the baby birds was dead on the ground outside the post office where their nest was under the awning. I was late to my next appointment, so I texted my coworker asking him to move it to the flower bed outside the building next door. No response. I honestly forgot about the poor baby bird until today when I saw it still lying there outside the post office door near the nest.

At the time I saw the bird I was feeling sorry for myself, alone, and forgotten. My heart has been missing my mother lately. She lives across the country. My heart has been grieving the children I have not born, and the love I have lost. My heart has ached for my friends, the mother who recently lost her baby at full term, another mother whose son was diagnosed with cancer, and others.

I couldn’t leave that baby bird there again. I kept thinking of the mother bird and the other babies, and if they had continued fly to the nest, passing over this lost one every day. Its life was too valuable; I would not forsake it.

I had received a letter in my post office box from a woman in prison that I stashed in my purse. She hadn’t sealed the envelope; a simple slice of tape kept it shut. I removed the letter, marked out our information, and added a new destination.

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I used a nearby leaf to cradle the baby bird into the envelope.

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As I stood, I peeled off the sticky and sealed the envelope. A song entered my heart. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me . . . There it was, the whisper from Heaven I had longed for all day. I began to weep as I acknowledged God’s presence. None of us are forgotten.

I walked over to the raised flower bed next door at the veterinarian’s office. There was a beautiful bush with blue flowers that caught my eye. I climbed into the flower area and began to thank God for the gift the baby bird had been to me. I remembered how much joy I had as I watched the mother bird feed the babies.

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I placed the envelope under the bush and climbed off the edge of the platform. I looked back; it wasn’t good enough. I could still see the envelope. I climbed back up and pushed the burial shroud further under the brush. It’s just the kind of mother I am, I thought. The baby must have a resting space.

As I walked away I noticed some baby birds hopping on the roof of the vet-clinic and flying through the garden area. I imagined they were the same bird family the little one belonged to. They sang their song as if all was right with the world now that their brother was where he belonged, safe, and at rest.

As I climbed into my vehicle, I felt a solemn peace wash through me. Though there was a pain in my heart, I felt solid strength holding up my soul. I sensed the presence of the Lord whispering that no matter how much we feel life is over, there is still something there–the love, the joy, the gratefulness. There is still something to be thankful for.

This evening I took my two creatures out for a walk. I brought my camera along and took pictures of flowers and trees, bunnies, other dogs, a mama deer and her babies, a bunny, and even some vultures camped out on their cell phone tower (or whatever it is). I just needed to be outside, to feel, to appreciate life.

I came home and read the beautiful letter I received from the woman in prison. I thought of my brother, in prison on the other side of the country. I thought of the thousands of incarcerated Americans who feel forgotten. I prayed for them all, and I prayed for me too.

And I remembered . . . His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches over us all . . . and . . .

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

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“You have Jesus’ personality”

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“You have Jesus’ personality,” she said smiling at me.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her how wrong she was, or how the thorn in my flesh had already confirmed the truth that day. So I smiled and accepted the best compliment of my life.

“I’ve never met someone with those personality letters, INFJ, but I always wanted to.” Z.C. explained how she read a book on the personality types from the library, and how she had all of her friends take the test.

She introduced me to some of her friends at the completion ceremony at the end of the Kairos weekend. “She has Jesus’ personality,” she said again, beaming.

I once again smiled as I shook her friend’s hands. They were excited to know I was a writer, and they told me how they are all writing books and planning their businesses for when they get out. They were all young, in their 20s, just a few years younger than I am.

“You have given me so much hope,” Z.C. said. The second day during our Kairos “thankfulness” prayer, she had thanked God for “yesterday being the best day of my life.” I have no doubt she touched the heart of every volunteer with that prayer.

I will never forget those words she spoke to me. You see, I know the truth, she is the one with Jesus’ personality. “. . . I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:36-40

God bless every volunteer who goes into prison. In particular, God bless the Kairos #40 ladies I had the honor to serve with, and all who donated to and prayed for our weekend.

“You smell like home. . .”

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“What is that smell?” She asked. S.I. was a resident participant at the Kairos ministry team at Pulaski State Prison I volunteered at last weekend.

“Febreze,” I said.

She looked around cautiously before starting to lean down to smell the arm of my sweater. I held it up for her and she took a deep breath in.” You smell like home,” she said. I could see the tears in her eyes. She has been in prison 8 years and has at least 8 years left to serve.

There are so many little things I take for granted. Febreze. Gum. Real food.

Two of the girls at my table kept a running list of the food we fed them, so they could cherish the memories.

We may think we aren’t doing much going in and providing a safe and hospitable place for four partial days for 36 women. But to these women, the little things can go a long way in reawakening the mind to what love, acceptance, and “home” feels like.

Jesus gave us His Spirit to comfort us. As we bring a small comfort to these women, we are facilitating the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The response might not always be an emotional, miraculous, supernatural “move of God.” But it might be just what the women need in the moment.

In return, the moments they give us make a lasting impact in our lives. I slept in a comfortable bed last night, with my two dogs. Today when my laundry is finished, my sheets will smell fresh. I have a private bathroom with a lock on the door. I was so grateful to clean my bathroom with Clorox wipes today. As I clean, my thoughts and prayers are with the women who are living with the loss of these freedoms and comforts.

I have no control over their situations. I can’t change their circumstances. But I can show God’s agape love for a few days. I can be a vessel to bring hope to their hearts that one day, whether in this life or the next, they can be “home” with the Greatest Comfort of all – Jesus.

Letter #36 to a Woman in Prison

Letter #36 of 36. Each woman who attends the prison ministry weekend will receive a handwritten letter from each volunteer. Please pray for us as we prepare for the weekend.

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Dear ______,

Is it possible to find freedom inside of any situation or circumstance? 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

It is possible to have freedom in your mind and spirit, even when you are stuck in a situation. Even on the outside, people are stuck in many situations: bad marriages, debt, jobs with bully bosses, facing sickness, facing death of someone they love. Life isn’t easy on the inside and it’s not easy on the outside either.

Some of us seem to have worse lots than others. It doesn’t seem fair, and it’s not. But no matter what our life situation is, Jesus offers us His freedom. Spiritual freedom is possible only through Jesus Christ. We can find peace, joy, and love in the presence of God.

Sometimes our situation won’t change, but our experience in it can.

Praying for you in Jesus’ Name,

Rachael Hartman

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I’m raising money to help pay for this weekend. $150 will pay for one female inmate to attend the Kairos prison ministry I’m volunteering at.

If you would like to donate to the prison ministry, it needs to be in the form of a check made out to: KPMI (which stands for Kairos Prison Ministry International). In the memo put: Pulaski, GA. You can mail it to me, Rachael Hartman, at: PO Box 501, Bloomingdale, GA 31302. If you want a tax credit, include your full name and address on a note and they will mail you a tax receipt.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers! Every $5 goes to pay for a meal for one of the inmates that weekend. The meal will have a tag with your name on it. And we will have a paper chain link that will also have your names on a link to show that you have prayed for and invested into the weekend. Praise God for what He will do! Please keep me in your prayers as I will be speaking on Obstacles to Accepting God’s Grace, and sharing part of my own testimony in the process.

To add your name to the prayer chain (which will be visualized with a paper link chain – your name will be on one link) please leave a comment below. And please pray for Kairos #40 ~ Pulaski Women’s State Prison in Georgia. Kairos weekend happening August 25-28, 2016.

Letter #35 to a Woman in Prison

Letter #35 of 36. Each woman who attends the prison ministry weekend will receive a handwritten letter from each volunteer. Please pray for us as we prepare for the weekend.

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Dear ______,

Do you like to read? I love to read. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Have you ever noticed mistakes in a book? I do. Every book has at least one mistake in it – even best-sellers have mistakes.

It’s nearly impossible to make a book perfect because human beings are the ones writing it and editing it. Even when computers are involved, there are still mistakes.

That’s how it is when we are living life. We need God’s grace because we are human and we make mistakes. We will never be perfect, and that is OK. Like a book with a mistake here and there, we can still be effective.

Your faith journey is like a book, and Jesus is the author, editor, and publisher (Hebrews 12:2 says He is the “author and finisher of our faith”). He wrote the story we believe in. He didn’t just write it, He lived it. He came, lived, died, and rose again so that we can have new life.

Our faith story IS His story! Our lives bring Him glory as He saves us by His grace. Keep your eyes on the Lord and your life will becoming a living book “known and read” by the people whose hearts are touched by your witness (2 Corinthians 3:2).

You are the only Bible some people may read. Allow the Holy Spirit to live and love through you.

Praying for you in Jesus’ Name,

Rachael Hartman

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I’m raising money to help pay for this weekend. $150 will pay for one female inmate to attend the Kairos prison ministry I’m volunteering at.

If you would like to donate to the prison ministry, it needs to be in the form of a check made out to: KPMI (which stands for Kairos Prison Ministry International). In the memo put: Pulaski, GA. You can mail it to me, Rachael Hartman, at: PO Box 501, Bloomingdale, GA 31302. If you want a tax credit, include your full name and address on a note and they will mail you a tax receipt.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers! Every $5 goes to pay for a meal for one of the inmates that weekend. The meal will have a tag with your name on it. And we will have a paper chain link that will also have your names on a link to show that you have prayed for and invested into the weekend. Praise God for what He will do! Please keep me in your prayers as I will be speaking on Obstacles to Accepting God’s Grace, and sharing part of my own testimony in the process.

To add your name to the prayer chain (which will be visualized with a paper link chain – your name will be on one link) please leave a comment below. And please pray for Kairos #40 ~ Pulaski Women’s State Prison in Georgia. Kairos weekend happening August 25-28, 2016.

Letter #34 to a Woman in Prison

Letter #34 of 36. Each woman who attends the prison ministry weekend will receive a handwritten letter from each volunteer. Please pray for us as we prepare for the weekend.

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Dear ______,

Did you ever watch the Disney cartoon, Bambi? My favorite line of the whole movie is where the bunny, Thumper, tells Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

It’s hard to control our mouths when we are frustrated. Usually when I’m frustrated, even if I try to be nice, my words come out wrong and my frustration shows itself. If we can’t say something nice, it’s better not to say anything at all

Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent (wise).”

Take your words to God before you take them to other people. He will give you His words, which are sweeter than honey (Psalm 119:103).

Praying for you in Jesus’ Name,

Rachael Hartman
Proverbs 17:28 and Psalm 119:103

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I’m raising money to help pay for this weekend. $150 will pay for one female inmate to attend the Kairos prison ministry I’m volunteering at.

If you would like to donate to the prison ministry, it needs to be in the form of a check made out to: KPMI (which stands for Kairos Prison Ministry International). In the memo put: Pulaski, GA. You can mail it to me, Rachael Hartman, at: PO Box 501, Bloomingdale, GA 31302. If you want a tax credit, include your full name and address on a note and they will mail you a tax receipt.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers! Every $5 goes to pay for a meal for one of the inmates that weekend. The meal will have a tag with your name on it. And we will have a paper chain link that will also have your names on a link to show that you have prayed for and invested into the weekend. Praise God for what He will do! Please keep me in your prayers as I will be speaking on Obstacles to Accepting God’s Grace, and sharing part of my own testimony in the process.

To add your name to the prayer chain (which will be visualized with a paper link chain – your name will be on one link) please leave a comment below. And please pray for Kairos #40 ~ Pulaski Women’s State Prison in Georgia. Kairos weekend happening August 25-28, 2016.

Letter #33 to a Woman in Prison

Letter #33 of 36. Each woman who attends the prison ministry weekend will receive a handwritten letter from each volunteer. Please pray for us as we prepare for the weekend.

your-words-create-your-world.jpgDear ______,

Last night, I was talking to a friend about the power of our words. What we say shapes what we believe, and our experience of life. Our words are powerful.

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV) says, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

The Bible also says our tongues are small, but can change the direction of our lives. Just like a ship’s rudder is small, and the bit in a horse’s mouth is small, but both have the power to change direction. In the same way, the tongue is like a spark that can set a forest on fire (James 3:3-5).

Watch the words that come out. They will create your world.

Praying for you in Jesus’ Name,

Rachael Hartman
Proverbs 18:21 and James 3:3-5

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I’m raising money to help pay for this weekend. $150 will pay for one female inmate to attend the Kairos prison ministry I’m volunteering at.

If you would like to donate to the prison ministry, it needs to be in the form of a check made out to: KPMI (which stands for Kairos Prison Ministry International). In the memo put: Pulaski, GA. You can mail it to me, Rachael Hartman, at: PO Box 501, Bloomingdale, GA 31302. If you want a tax credit, include your full name and address on a note and they will mail you a tax receipt.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers! Every $5 goes to pay for a meal for one of the inmates that weekend. The meal will have a tag with your name on it. And we will have a paper chain link that will also have your names on a link to show that you have prayed for and invested into the weekend. Praise God for what He will do! Please keep me in your prayers as I will be speaking on Obstacles to Accepting God’s Grace, and sharing part of my own testimony in the process.

To add your name to the prayer chain (which will be visualized with a paper link chain – your name will be on one link) please leave a comment below. And please pray for Kairos #40 ~ Pulaski Women’s State Prison in Georgia. Kairos weekend happening August 25-28, 2016.

Letter #32 to a Woman in Prison

Letter #32 of 36. Each woman who attends the prison ministry weekend will receive a handwritten letter from each volunteer. Please pray for us as we prepare for the weekend.

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Dear ______,

I accidentally bit my lower lip. The cut was bad and developed into a painful sore. At first, I swished with peroxide. Then, I started using a numbing medication. Finally, I broke down and went to the old-fashioned salt water rinse multiple times a day. A week and a half later, it’s finally starting to heal.

I did everything I could to avoid the salt water rinse because it hurts! Sometimes caring for the wound is even more painful than actually receiving the wound, maybe because our wounds are raw, and infection is setting in.

The same principal applies to heart-wounds. Sometimes God needs to touch the wound, to pour in the salt water, and it hurts! Even though it’s the best thing for us, we often don’t want the pain of caring for our wounds.

Bear through the pain. Allow your salty tears to flow. God will rinse out all the infection from your spirit, heal you, and make you whole. It may require time and rinsing out the heart every day for a while, but it is worth it.

God will forgive all your sins and heal all your diseases (Psalm 103:3).

Praying for you in Jesus’ Name,

Rachael Hartman
Psalm 103:3

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I’m raising money to help pay for this weekend. $150 will pay for one female inmate to attend the Kairos prison ministry I’m volunteering at.

If you would like to donate to the prison ministry, it needs to be in the form of a check made out to: KPMI (which stands for Kairos Prison Ministry International). In the memo put: Pulaski, GA. You can mail it to me, Rachael Hartman, at: PO Box 501, Bloomingdale, GA 31302. If you want a tax credit, include your full name and address on a note and they will mail you a tax receipt.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers! Every $5 goes to pay for a meal for one of the inmates that weekend. The meal will have a tag with your name on it. And we will have a paper chain link that will also have your names on a link to show that you have prayed for and invested into the weekend. Praise God for what He will do! Please keep me in your prayers as I will be speaking on Obstacles to Accepting God’s Grace, and sharing part of my own testimony in the process.

To add your name to the prayer chain (which will be visualized with a paper link chain – your name will be on one link) please leave a comment below. And please pray for Kairos #40 ~ Pulaski Women’s State Prison in Georgia. Kairos weekend happening August 25-28, 2016.

Letter #31 to a Woman in Prison

Letter #31 of 36. Each woman who attends the prison ministry weekend will receive a handwritten letter from each volunteer. Please pray for us as we prepare for the weekend.

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Dear ______,

When life breaks us down, God builds us up.

A friend of mine recently gave a great analogy for life after divorce. He said, a storm comes in and knocks the house down. You build a new house later on the same land.

It may not be a divorce that you’re facing, but there are many devastating life events that can destroy your “house.”  Don’t give up hope, even though it may feel like all is lost. You can rebuild, and rebuild on a solid foundation–Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus said that anyone who follows His teachings is wise, and like a person who builds a house on a solid rock. Anyone who hears His teachings and doesn’t obey is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rain comes, the house on the rock will stand, but the house on the sand will collapse.

We don’t throw away the land just because something built on it comes crashing down. We may need to strengthen the land, fortify it, and make the foundation firm, but the land is valuable.

You are valuable, no matter what has been ripped away from your life. Your life is worth saving. God will rebuild your life, and the foundation will be solid.

Praying for you in Jesus’ Name,

Rachael Hartman
In Matthew 7:24-27

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I’m raising money to help pay for this weekend. $150 will pay for one female inmate to attend the Kairos prison ministry I’m volunteering at.

If you would like to donate to the prison ministry, it needs to be in the form of a check made out to: KPMI (which stands for Kairos Prison Ministry International). In the memo put: Pulaski, GA. You can mail it to me, Rachael Hartman, at: PO Box 501, Bloomingdale, GA 31302. If you want a tax credit, include your full name and address on a note and they will mail you a tax receipt.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers! Every $5 goes to pay for a meal for one of the inmates that weekend. The meal will have a tag with your name on it. And we will have a paper chain link that will also have your names on a link to show that you have prayed for and invested into the weekend. Praise God for what He will do! Please keep me in your prayers as I will be speaking on Obstacles to Accepting God’s Grace, and sharing part of my own testimony in the process.

To add your name to the prayer chain (which will be visualized with a paper link chain – your name will be on one link) please leave a comment below. And please pray for Kairos #40 ~ Pulaski Women’s State Prison in Georgia. Kairos weekend happening August 25-28, 2016.

Letter #30 to a Woman in Prison

Letter #30 of 36. Each woman who attends the prison ministry weekend will receive a handwritten letter from each volunteer. Please pray for us as we prepare for the weekend.

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Dear ______,

There’s a famous saying that has always struck me. It says, “Hurt people hurt people.” I found that to be true. When I’m hurting inside, I am more apt to hurt others with my angry bitterness.

A couple of years ago I heard the second part of that saying, which really settled deep into my heart. It says, “Healed people heal people.” As I go forward in my life, I want to heal so I can be a conduit of healing for others.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Let God heal your land (your heart, mind, and body). I’m praying for you to be healed, so that you will be able to reach the world around you with a heart and hands that heal.

Praying for you in Jesus’ Name,

Rachael Hartman

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I’m raising money to help pay for this weekend. $150 will pay for one female inmate to attend the Kairos prison ministry I’m volunteering at.

If you would like to donate to the prison ministry, it needs to be in the form of a check made out to: KPMI (which stands for Kairos Prison Ministry International). In the memo put: Pulaski, GA. You can mail it to me, Rachael Hartman, at: PO Box 501, Bloomingdale, GA 31302. If you want a tax credit, include your full name and address on a note and they will mail you a tax receipt.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers! Every $5 goes to pay for a meal for one of the inmates that weekend. The meal will have a tag with your name on it. And we will have a paper chain link that will also have your names on a link to show that you have prayed for and invested into the weekend. Praise God for what He will do! Please keep me in your prayers as I will be speaking on Obstacles to Accepting God’s Grace, and sharing part of my own testimony in the process.

To add your name to the prayer chain (which will be visualized with a paper link chain – your name will be on one link) please leave a comment below. And please pray for Kairos #40 ~ Pulaski Women’s State Prison in Georgia. Kairos weekend happening August 25-28, 2016.

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