Letter #2 to a Woman in Prison

This week I started the process of writing 30 unique letters of encouragement. Each woman who attends the prison ministry weekend I’m volunteering at will receive a letter. Welcome to Letter #2.

Dear _____,

Did you ever have the feeling that you are different? That somehow you don’t belong, or will never fit in?

I feel that way every day.

Yesterday I was walking outside when I heard the gentle voice of God whisper to my heart a question that resonated in my life.

He said, “What if you are always different? What if you never fit in? Will you be okay with that?”

I thought about it for a moment and replied, “Yes.” It was the first time in my life I felt like I could accept being different and be at peace with it.

I can’t shake that question and I’m glad. God is OK with me being different. In fact, He made me different on purpose and for a purpose.

Today, I’m praying that you would embrace and love you for being different. Different is good. A diamond is different from other rocks; it’s much more rare. It’s also worth more because of that.

You are a diamond. Worthy. Rare. Unique. And God created you that way.

I’m praying you would find peace in being different and find God’s purpose in your life.

In Jesus’ Name,

Rachael Hartman
2 Corinthians 16:17

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I’m raising $150 to pay for one female inmate to attend the Kiaros prison ministry I’m volunteering at. It may not seem like a lot of money, and you may think I should just pay it myself, but I can’t pass up this opportunity to share the blessing of having you join with me in prayer and support for this weekend. As well, if you understood the time, energy, and travel commitments of each of us volunteers, you would understand why I’m asking for help in raising the financial piece.

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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Walking by faith in pretty shoes

Over a year ago I was at a new friend’s house when I happened to notice a lovely pair of high heels in her office. “I love those! Are you selling them?” I asked. The answer was no, and my heart dropped just a little. I do have a weakness for pretty things!

A year later my friend texted me, “Do you still want the shoes? I’m selling them in my yard sale.” YES! I told her to put my name on them, and I would come and pick them up.

I’ve had them for a few months, but I haven’t had a chance to wear the shoes yet. I’m saving them for Easter. Today, my friend sent me a picture she had made playing around when she first started photography projects. My shoes were the featured centerpiece.

What-so-ever-lovely.jpg

Now, onto my life lesson.

Sometimes we know what we want and what would work out great for our lives, and we ask the question, “Can I have that? Is it for me?” And God says, “No.” We still like what we like, and want what we want, but sometimes the timing is just off.

I completely forgot about those shoes my friend had until she texted me that day telling me they were available if I wanted them. I may have forgotten, but she remembered, and it made both of us happy to re-home those shoes!

That’s the way so many things in our lives are. For years, I’ve longed for certain things . . . Love, a family of my own, financial security, a place I could feel at home, a sense of belonging. When the answer was, “No,” over and over again, I pushed all thoughts of those things I hoped for out of my head. I didn’t think about them because I felt they were out of reach, and they were, and are.

Tonight I was at a Bible study where a prophetic word was spoken over my life. It was a confirmation to me about the direction God wants me to go in my life. The timing hasn’t been right, but the desire has been in my heart. I know the time is coming closer and that my life is going to change again. My heart is ready for what God has in store. When I get that “come and get it” text from God, I will go, and I will receive my blessing!

I don’t know when or how the next step will happen in my life; it’s a walk of faith. God has the shoes and the walking path ready. I just have to take a step and let Him lead the dance of my life. When walking by faith, I know I’ll be wearing beautiful shoes!

I have to go back to the theme verse for my publishing business, Our Written Lives:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of “her” that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”

God has given me the power to be a witness. Now it’s time to expand my tent, strengthen the tent stakes and go forth with JOY.

Keep the Oil in your lamp!

Matthew 25:1-13 is the story of ten people who waited on the groom to arrive before they went to celebrate the wedding. Five were wise and stayed ready, with their lamps full of oil. Five were foolish and were not prepared when the groom arrived. Most people are familiar with the story being called “the parable of the ten virgins.”

 A few details stand out.

  • In the Bible, oil represents the Spirit of God.
  • The people in the story were referred to as virgins, meaning they were pure.
  • The people were responsible for keeping their lamps full and ready.
  • Ten people were waiting and watching for the groom’s arrival, but only five were ready.
  • The groom’s arrival represents Jesus’ return.

I was thinking about this story today and conviction struck the core of me. If the people in the story represent the church, or believers, only half of us are ready for Jesus’ return. If the oil represents the Spirit of God, and the lamps represent our souls, then we must be filled with the Spirit of God, or we will not be ready for Jesus’ return. Those who were ready went with the groom, but those who were not ready were locked out.

Are you filled with the Spirit of God? Does God know you intimately? If not, be wise, go now and get the oil in your lamp. Keep it full. Get ready. Jesus is coming soon. Be ready to go with Him. Know Him and be filled with His Spirit.

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

A Prayer Request

I’ve worked a lot on my current manuscript lately, and I have to say it’s been a personal challenge. I’m writing about cosmetic surgery from a Christian perspective. The topic is personal for me, since I had an elective cosmetic surgery several years ago. I’ve wanted to write a book on the topic for a long time, but I just wasn’t ready emotionally to dig deep. Last year, I finally felt ready, I started writing and completed a huge chunk of the draft.

Power-Of-Written-Prayer-1050x700Then I hit a slump. With only three chapters left to write, I felt as if I didn’t want to dig deep any more. One of the chapters was what I’d consider the most important chapter of the book: how cosmetic surgery impacts family relationships. This chapter is a challenge for me in so many ways. It’s difficult because #1, I’m limited to write only from my perspective (I am not writing from my family member’s perspectives). #2, I’m protecting the confidentiality of other people whose choices have made an impact on my choices, #3 I still have some internal confusion and pain to work through.

So I stopped writing. I stopped doing the difficult work. I left the manuscript alone for months.

Yet there it was gnawing at me. I wasn’t getting any better ignoring it. I wasn’t working on the confusion and pain by pretending it isn’t there. I can’t run from my last chapter forever. So I finally started working on it again. Last week I spent a full two days working on two chapters. I finished one of the chapters pretty quickly, but that chapter about the impact of cosmetic surgery on family members . . . I wrote five pages and felt so overwhelmed by the greatness of the topic, I just had to stop.

So it’s been about a week and I haven’t touched it. And my brain has stayed on high-anxiety since I stopped working on it.

I talked to one of the authors I’m working with about the book and the chapter. We had been talking about his book and working on it for a while. But I needed to talk, and thankfully he listened. One thing he said really stands out to me, and that is that my book doesn’t have to cover everything. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive on the topic. It’s just a little piece of the big picture. One piece of the puzzle. It’s just a resource to open the door for discussion on the topic. It’s not the end all.

Just hearing him say that eased my anxiety a bit. Sure, people will read my book and they may have thoughts and ideas sprout in their own lives because of it, but my book is not the end all. It is not the source of all clarity.

In the Christian world, the topic of cosmetic surgery is controversial. I’ve encountered a few people who feel defensive over their surgeries and are unsure about what I’m going to write about it. It’s a topic almost no one in churches are talking about at all. That’s why I have to write about it. Maybe my book will spur some discussions, and maybe those of us who have had cosmetic surgery won’t feel so isolated and shamed over it.

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me in this past week is the picture of who I am writing for. I’m writing for sisters, daughters, mothers and friends. I want to offer my story and my research as a sister, daughter, mother and friend. In the process, I’m pouring out my life into the book. It’s painful at times, but I know if I can complete this book, and if the Lord is given full reign over it, and if His anointing is on it, only then will He be able to impact lives through the work.

We never know what will come of the work we strive to do for God. I am facing the same fear, frustration and doubt that you might face when you stand up to preach or sing in front of a crowd. My book will be going out to the world. I feel vulnerable. What will God do with my offering?

dsc0121Like other ministers, I have to say that if my book touches one life and brings that one life closer to Jesus, then it is worth it all. Even if I face rejection and defensiveness, and conflict and controversy, I know if I put the Lord first and allow Him to fight my battles, He will bring good out of it all. And that is what I want. I want God to take my life and use it for His glory. I want yesterday’s selfishness to become today and tomorrow’s gift to God.

At the altar, on my knees is where I have to be when I write. It’s there that He begins to whisper into my heart the words He wants me to write. And I find myself kneeling at the cross of Christ, offering my life, my book, for His service.

Please pray for me as I write. I want the words I write to bring God glory. I will take my writing to the leadership God has placed in my life and ask their opinion. I will re-write and write until the books is ready, a nurturing and nourishing meal for my sisters, daughters, mothers and friends.

God is with you, in happiness and in pain

Today I opened my email inbox to find an ad for a new book by a Christian author called “Happiness.” The email’s title was, “Happiness on Earth Is a Biblical PROMISE!” and at the top of the email in bold letters were the words, “HAPPINESS IS OUR INHERITANCE – HERE ON EARTH!”

I’ve been reading the Bible since I was a child, regularly for the past 20 years. I spend two and a half years in a Bible college as a Theology major, have written Bible study materials for the past 9 years, and have focused all of my energy in the past 2 years into building a business publishing Christian materials. Never once have I read “happiness” was our spiritual inheritance or a Biblical promise. Now I haven’t read the aforementioned book, so maybe the author is using all of that as a marketing scheme to lure people into understanding joy through tribulation, but that’s not what it seems upon first reading it.

As a person living in this generation, are you happy? I really hope you are happy, but I have major doubts about your theology if you think happiness is a Biblical promise. What will you do if some tragedy comes your way? Will your faith waiver if you are unhappy?

A few days ago I opened my internet browser and read about some horrible acts taking place in the world. Beheading of an elderly scholar and others. Admission of guilt in participating in child porn. The ripping apart of live babies, to access their brains for research and other body parts for sale. Young girls used as sex slaves in the name of “religion.” The tears began as I wrote those last few sentences, just as they did when I read those news articles.

Do you cry when you read the news? Or are you so “happy” that you aren’t touched emotionally by the plight of victims around the world? Hebrews 13:3 admonishes us we should feel the pain of others as we remember what they are going through.

“Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” NLT

It’s not fun to cry or to feel emotional pain. Many of us have enough pain of our own; we don’t want to be “bothered” by the pain of others. But the truth is, hiding from pain won’t help us heal. Like a neglected broken bone, leaving pain unattended can lead to us healing in broken and dysfunctional ways, leading to other issues.

I believe our emotional response is a marker of where we are at spiritually, the compassion we hold for others, and our detestation for sin. It may even be a matter of salvation. Ezekiel 9:4 tells the story of the man God sent to mark the people who grieve because of the evil going on around them. Only those marked were spared death.

“He said to him, ‘Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.’ Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, ‘Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity!'” NLT

Listen to your God-given emotions. Don’t stuff them, pretending they aren’t there. There is a reason you feel feelings. God can use your emotions to lead you closer to Him, to align your path with His Word, and to show His power through your life. James 5:13-17 offers more insight on what we should do with our emotional states.

“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” NLT

Pray. Praise. Have others pray for you and anoint you with oil, in faith. Confess and pray for one another. But whatever you do, don’t turn off your emotions. Don’t buy into the “happiness” lie. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel pain. It’s okay not to have it altogether. God loves you no matter what happens-past, present or future.

Happiness isn’t a Biblical promise, but God’s ever-present presence is. No matter what you’re facing today, God is with you, and saints around the world remember and pray for you in your suffering.

rachael-kathleen-hartman-1Romans 8:35-39 MSG

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

Psalms 139:7-12 MSG

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

Romans 8:35-39 KJV

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Copyright 2015 Rachael Hartman, share with redirect to RachaelKathleenHartman.com

An excerpt from “Called to Write; Chosen to Publish,” by Rachael Hartman

Hello, Friends. I’m working on a free e-book I’ve titled “Called to Write; Chosen to Publish.” I’d like to share a quote from what I wrote tonight. The e-book will be available via my websites and is an inspirational resource for writers. Let me know what you think; leave a comment and encourage me as I write for you . . .

What you write may be the key for someone to unlock understanding; it may be one more step in the right direction; the one more breath of fresh air they need. The words you write may be the bone marrow match for a reader’s situation, the water they need to live another day, the money to pay a bill.

So write.

Write, even if millions of people have access to the words, but only hundreds read it.

Write, even if writing bares your soul and you’re left alone and exposed.

Write, for your life was meant to bring the hope of Christ to those who know and read it.

And so, God provided “Our Written Lives of Hope . . .”