Adventure Day 1 – Devotional for Monday, March 7, 2011

The first day of our adventure was great. We left Lafayette at 8 a.m. Stopped for a great Mexican lunch in Hope.  (The Clintons declined our invitation to dine.) We arrived at the Alpine Inn at 3 p.m. Nick told the Inn Keeper it was the best Inn he had ever seen. Adding that it was the only Inn he had ever seen. We topped off the day with a steak supper at Outback. We are enjoying a movie bundled up in the King Bed. We listened to an audio book and played video games (Nick played. I drove) on the way up.

It would have been a perfect day; but the Cajuns lost. It was a good game and very exciting but not satisfying. However, as Nick says “More time for fun things.”

We plan to visit the Science Museum tomorrow and check the view from one of the surrounding peaks.

My memory of the day was Nick’s overall enthusiasm. He frequently made comments appreciative of what we were seeing or doing. I tend to get down pretty easily and it is a great lesson to be with someone who is almost always up.

Looking forward to more fun and no basketball tomorrow.

Be blessed.


Adventure – Devotional for Sunday March 6, 2011

Sing along with the Great Adventure.
This morning I’m off on an adventure. My grandson and I are headed up to Hot Springs, Arkansas for the Sunbelt Tournament. Win or lose, we will stay until Wednesday hopefully watching basketball and having fun. Trips, large and small, have been an adventure for me since I was a child. Our family didn’t travel much. We had 9 kids and, for much of my childhood, no car. But my godmother would take us on great trips. I remember going to Colorado, Mexico and Tennessee. I remember the adventure started days before the trip with packing, buying clothes and general anticipation. It was great fun to see new places and to do something different from the daily routine. This adventure started the same. I didn’t even sleep very well last night in anticipation.

I think the life of a Christian was meant to be an adventure. Jesus certainly was one to travel and to live every day to the fullest and with much adventure. The mundane course of most lives isn’t the natural way. We fall into routines because they are safe and require little faith or imagination. We should awaken each morning thinking, “What’s happening today?”

I pray that we will make some memories and have some fun, do some bonding and build something that will last a lifetime.

In 24 hours, I’ll let you know how it’s going.

Be blessed.


Content with Seed Planting and Watering – Devotional for Saturday, March 5, 2011

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

We want so much for those we love. We want them to have all that life offers. We want them to skip the painful lessons and to avoid the traps into which we fell. We want them to love and be loved…more than was in our life. We know that God gave us these loved ones and we feel responsible for the success of their lives. It’s frustrating.

We need to always remember our place. We can plant seeds and we can water; but only God can produce the miraculous growth we desire for them. We need to always remember that we were incapable of changing ourselves; we have no hope of changing others—only Jesus can change a heart.
So sometimes, beset with frustration in our inability to be agents of change, we fail to play the important part we have been given, planting and watering.
We can do these tasks and we can make a difference.
  • Direct them to Jesus. We can’t do this by simply saying “You need Jesus.” We do it by telling how we needed Jesus and how He made all the difference in our lives. We all have a story and, in many ways, it’s really all we have. We need to share it.
  • Be honest. We sometimes forget that people look up to us. Sometimes because we are honored and sometimes because we are just older. Sometimes we make it appear that anything good in our lives came about because of our superior effort and worth. We need to be honest. Anything good we have came from Him.
  • Hold them responsible for their own choices. When we see a loved one about to suffer the consequences of their bad choices we want to help. But diverting those consequences isn’t helpful; it’s harmful. Getting  burned when we stick our hand into fire, is how we learn about the harmful effects of fire. Loving discipleship includes allowing the natural consequences of actions to occur; then being present to comfort and love and redirect.

A good gardener knows he can’t make a flower grow; but he can learn the best soil to plant in, the best area for proper sun, the right amount of water. There is a noticeable difference between the garden of a good gardener and that of a not so good one. Planting and watering and trusting God will make a difference.

Work on your green thumb and 

Be Blessed.


Reflections from a Kairos Weekend – Devotional for Friday, March 4, 2011

Here are some reflections from the leader of the last Kairos weekend. Please consider participating in the next weekend in June. Please contact me if you are interested. We need men and women.


Have you ever been at a loss of words?  Someone asked me how it felt to be a new Dad once.  I just looked at him, unable to speak.

After the weekend known as Kairos #51, I have been asked a number of times, “So, how was the weekend?”

Fortunately, on the Monday following the weekend, I found myself on a plane, with noise canceling earphones, pen, paper and time.

I hope these four experiences from the weekend summarize what has been a life changing event for me, the team and the residents of Angola’s Camp C.


A major issue for Kairos 51 began before we arrived, in the form of transfers.  Camp C was being converted to a trustee camp.  Our weekend happened to hit DURING the transfer and because of this, several residents were asked Friday morning to pack their things and move.

Obviously, their move out of Camp C would have resulted in them leaving the Kairos weekend.  We don’t like residents leaving a Kairos weekend, particularly when it’s not of their choosing.

Each time the order to move came before us, the resident was asked to return to his dorm and pack up.  And, each time the order came, we turned to the Chaplain…asking him if it would be possible to delay the move until Monday, giving the resident enough time to complete the Kairos weekend.

His response was to simply shrug his shoulders, laugh nervously and say, “I’ll see what I can do, but I doubt it.”

These transfer orders occurred all morning long on Friday.  Each time they came, they provided us worry and frustration.  But to our pleasant surprise, the chaplain consistently returned with both the resident and even more laughter.  But this was not nervous laughter, it was a laugh of unbelief.  Every single time he asked for a delay in transfer, the request was granted.

At one point, he said security exclaimed, “Kairos sure does have terrible timing.”  We could only laugh, reminding ourselves that the definition of Kairos is “God’s special time” and it was anything but terrible.

All of these successful transfer delays gave us great joy and assured us that God was in complete control, especially the last one.

Just prior to the first talk, yet another resident was asked to pack his things.  The same scenario played out as we pleaded for the Chaplain to assist.  “One more dip into your bag of magic, Chaplain!”

But this particular transfer request was particularly difficult, in part because of Kairos.  With the clock clicking away, we were facing the official start of Kairos.

The standard rule is, if a resident can get to the retreat prior to the first talk on Friday morning, his absence prior to that can be overlooked.  However if that resident is not with us before the first talk, he cannot be allowed to join the weekend.  This is a tricky issue, but think of it this way, each and every talk is like an ingredient in a recipe.  If you skip one, you’ve screwed up the recipe.

At this point, we had simply run out of time and I was faced with a difficult decision.  If we attempted to reverse the transfer, there was a very real possibility that the prison staff’s hard work would be for nothing, as we might have had to deny the resident access to Kairos because the first talk had begun.  We would have asked the prison to jump through hoops for nothing.

I did not want to damage our reputation with Angola security so I made the gut wrenching decision that this particular resident would have to go.  There’d just wasn’t enough time, or so I thought.

Twenty minutes later, while sitting in the back of chapel, a steward whispered good news in my ear.  “We don’t know what happened, but he (the resident) is back and his move has been delayed.”  I looked back at the chaplain and he simply shrugged his shoulders, unaware of how it happened as he hadn’t asked anyone for assistance.  I too wasn’t sure how it happened but I suspect God had a hand in it.

For the rest of the weekend, my curiosity switched from HOW it happened to WHY it happened.

My answer came when the resident told me during a break, “I feel like a fog has been lifted – you know what it’s Ike when you can see clearly for the first time?  I have never experienced this kind of love and I needed it now more so than any time in my life.  Just last week, I was at my lowest…I mean, super low.”

Saturday morning, a team member approached me with worry and concern about a resident at his table.  The concern was a common one – the resident was not participating and seemed quite angry.

This particular team member was a first timer, and I gave him a rather typical answer, “stick with it, we are only half way through and today will be a good day.  Keep the faith.”

I was curious and wanted to gauge the resident myself, so I approached him during a break and asked, “How are ya…having a good time?”

His response was quick and to the point, “I hate it here!”

His eyes could have cut through steel.  “I don’t want to be here, and I just can’t stand it.  This is not for me.”

Inside, I was crushed.  I managed to smile and told him, “Please try to stick it out.  I think you’ll enjoy it.”

Shaking his head as I spoke, he snapped back, “I’m just telling you now, I hate it.”

I casually replied, “Remember what I told all of you Thursday night, we are not here to change you.  In fact, if you disagree with everything we say this weekend, that’s okay.  And keep in mind, if you want to leave, that’s okay too.  Just let me know.”

Soon after that, lunch arrived.  My spiritual advisor guessed he would bolt after eating lunch.  At the time, I couldn’t disagree with his bleak assessment.  Funny how God had other plans.

Over lunch, the resident who “hated it” slowly began talking to the team member.

What I saw next will stay with me forever.  Over the noise of a community room busy breaking bread, the team member slowly slid his chair toward the resident, made direct eye contact with him and listened.  He listened to every word, never looking away from him.

As I saw this, I stopped eating and immediately prayed to God, “Father, send your wonderful holy Spirit…now…let it pierce the roof of this conference room and descend on this resident.”

Lunch continued.  The talking continued.  The listening continued.

I jumped up, insisting to myself that I should continue praying…grabbing another team member, and urging him to join me in prayer.  At this point, our prayer focus was dual.  While we were concerned about the resident, we were equally concerned that the first-time team member would get incredibly discouraged if the resident were to leave.

We prayed that the resident would not only stay but that his life would be altered forever.  We also prayed for reassurance that God’s will would be done and not ours.  This is always the toughest prayer.

Lunch ended.  Guess what else ended?  His desire to leave.

The resident did more than just stay, he started actively participating; even asking at one point for one-on-one clergy counseling, which lasted more than 20 minutes.  I remained in prayer.  He returned to the community room with a huge grin on his face.  I will never know what happened during that counseling session, but I will forever remember the clergy member whispering in my right ear, “God is good.”

Later that night, at open mic, the resident jumped to his feet, the first to share.  I turned to my spiritual advisor, both of us dumbfounded, as we watched a now eager soul approach the microphone.

“I have tried to find God before in my life.  I really did.  But what’s happening here?  This is just amazing.  The love in this place is changing me in ways I can’t describe.  I am just so happy to be here.”

Six hours prior to that, the quote was “I hate it here.”


As you prepare for the agape letters, team members are asked to be mindful of residents who might have difficulty reading.  Kairos 51 had one such resident.  Sort of.  He could read, he just couldn’t read English.

Born and raised in Vietnam, his Mother eventually moved to the United States.  His residency is now Angola State Penetentiary for reasons that do not matter and were never asked.

While he could understand the spoken word of English, he could not read English, which posed a problem for the personal agape.

One of our more experienced clergy members was asked to sit with him and read his letters aloud to him.  This particular clergy member was so experienced he knew the residents of Angola are denied the opportunity to open their own mail.  As a result, he knew that the resident would love opening his own mail, despite not being able to read it.  So, that’s exactly what he did, allowing the resident to rip open the envelope.” He then proceeded to whisper the words of each letter.  One by one, letter be letter…

Then came the most special letter.  A letter our clergy member couldn’t read because this particular letter was written in Vietnamese.

The night before, a family table member, set aside his desire for rest and sleep for his iPhone.  Surfing the net, he came across a translation application and proceeded to translate his entire letter of love and encouragement from English to Vietnamese.

Upon seeing his native tongue, the residents’ eyes popped wide open.  He gazed at a letter addressed specifically to him in Vietnamese and smiled from ear to ear.  I can only imagine the last time he had a letter like this. 

Later that day, he asked his table family how to spell a word he kept hearing all weekend.  After spelling the word, he pointed to it, and asked his table leader if he could have one in Vietnamese.

The word was “Bible”.


Despite the good food and even better cookies, some residents just decide Kairos is not a good fit for them.  That’s why we have a list of alternate names.  The odds an alternate makes it in the door are fairly good, as a number of residents decide to skip the weekend.  However, the odds the last alternate on the list makes it in the door are pretty slim.

That’s exactly how the chaplain described the situation to this particular resident.  “To get chosen, ten people will have to either leave or not show up during call out.  I wouldn’t count on it.”

Upon hearing this, the resident wasn’t too upset.  After all, he didn’t believe in God.  He didn’t believe in anything supernatural.  Everything that happens in life can be properly explained…nothing special, nothing extraordinary.

Well, he was about to experience extraordinary.  Sitting on his bed, the Chaplain approached him from across the room and asked, “Hey!  Why aren’t you dressed?  You’re headed to Kairos!”  He was shocked.

“I made it in?”  he asked.

“Yes, but you gotta hurry…let’s go.”

He was the last person in the room Thursday night, arriving so late he missed the chance to introduce himself to the group.  But ironically, we will never forget him, his journey and his testimony.  His comments at closing will resonate forever.

“For years, friends of mine have encouraged me to find faith.  They have been hasseling me to go to Kairos, so I signed the paperwork, but I was like the last person on the list, so I didn’t think I would make it.  Plus, I didn’t think I needed this stuff…and to be honest, I was more excited about the cookies than anything else.  I walked in those doors Thursday night a non-believer.  I didn’t believe in God.  I didn’t believe in nothing.  Ask anyone in here.  But I’m here to tell you, ya’ll got my head all scribbled up now.  I felt something I cannot explain and if that’s LOVE?  And if God is LOVE?  Then I’m just telling ya’ll – I’m confused!  I’ve got a lot of thinking to do and I can’t wait to start!”

God is great.

Todd Rossnagel

Integrity – Devotional for Thursday, March 3, 2011

The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.

Let’s consider “integrity” today. It means the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished; completeness. Proverbs tells us our children are blessed when they follow those who walk with integrity. This is because children are quick to note inconsistency and we are quick to fall into patterns of inconsistency. We are not consistent in our judgments; we hold others to different standards than we hold ourselves. We are inconsistent in the segments of our lives; acting differently on Sunday morning from the way we are on Monday morning. We are inconsistent with our relationships; speaking ill of those whom we hug and kiss when we meet. We are inconsistent in our walk; taking strong stands on one day and drifting away the next. We are inconsistent with our discipline promising dire consequences for failures by our children but shying away when the time for implementation comes. Finally we are inconsistent between our purposes, our principles and our production. When our children consider why we say we are here, what we say we believe and compare that with what we actually do, is there any wonder they are confused and seek direction elsewhere?
Is it any wonder that we have a generation of confused children who are walking away from our churches in groves, rejecting the Faith of their Fathers?
If we are to have any part in raising a righteous generation we need quickly to walk in integrity, to be consistent in what we say and do, to have a consistent focus on the things of God and a consistent rejection of the world. We know why we are here. We know what we believe. Now, let’s act it out daily.
There is much at stake. Can we afford to delay any longer?

Joy – Devotional for Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Have you considered that you may be missing Joy in your life because you aren’t making it a priority? Joy, like most great things in life, doesn’t just happen. It takes some focus and some attitude readjustment.  When we do not discipline ourselves to stay focused on our eternal priorities, we can easily become bogged down by earthly concerns that are unimportant.
Consider these thoughts of Paul, written from prison:
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9).
Only dependence on Christ’s strength can bring us joy. We must value our relationship with Christ and treasure our gift of joy in order to experience joy at its fullest. Only Christ’s resurrection power can satisfy our empty hearts. Only His power can defeat our temptations and turn our trials into triumphs. Only His power can exchange our weaknesses for His strength. Any earthly assets that we draw on are rubbish compared to Christ’s power.
If you have been struggling with finding your joy, spend some time today examining your priorities. Is Christ first in your life? Are you placing all of your confidence in Him alone? Be honest with yourself as you rank your priorities on the lines below. Which are your assets and which are your liabilities as God sees them? Ask God for forgiveness if He is not your first priority. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you reprioritize your life so that God is first and your joy may be full. 
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 
Be blessed.
Adopted from a devotional from Michael Youssef