The Beginning of Knowledge – Praying for Better Basics

Happy Friday! Today, we are praying for an organization called Better Basics. Based in Birmingham, it was founded in 1993 by a man named John Glosser on the belief that poverty and illiteracy are so closely linked that they are practically one and the same. Their mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of children and their families by advancing literacy through enrichment and intervention programs. They do this by providing literacy intervention, enrichment programs, and educational programs for elementary and middle-school students throughout Alabama. Better Basics was recently listed as a “Top Ten Charity to Watch” by Charity Navigator, and has a 4-star rating with them based on fiscal responsibility and program results. Karen Kapp has been the executive director since 2008, having been part of Better Basics since 1998. As of this month, she is retiring and Ammie Akin will become executive director. (Can we all take a moment to appreciate the alliteration in the names of these two executive directors of a literacy organization whose name is also alliterated?! It’s just fantastic.)

Proverbs 1:1-7 – “1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: 2 To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, 3 To receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; 4 To give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion, 5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, 6 To understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles. 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Holy Father, You are awesome, great, majestic in wonder, and fearsome. No one and nothing can stand in Your awesome presence unless You enable them. Yet through Your Son and through Your Word You have revealed Yourself to us in ways that we can understand. But even the deepest revelations to humankind of who You are are but the tiniest of portions of Yourself. How amazing to know that such a holy God desires a relationship with us! You amaze us with Your splendor and with Your love!

Father, we live in a culture in which it is more obvious than ever the father of lies rules. It is so vitally important to know truth as it is revealed in Your Word by the Holy Spirit. Our young people, our children, are paying with their lives for a lack of knowledge and truth. Yes, I know literacy is vital to being a successful student and becoming a successful adult, but as I was researching and praying about how You would have us pray, the importance of knowing Your Word quickly came to the forefront. We pray that as these students learn to read and cultivate a love of learning and reading, that You would reveal Yourself to them. Draw them to Your written word and to the Living Word. Let the precepts and statutes shape their thinking. Let the revealed person of Christ teach them how completely they are loved – and what real, safe, sacrificial love looks like.  We pray that our students in the metro-Birmingham area, and throughout our state, would know wisdom and instruction, have discernment and understanding. Let them receive instruction in wise behavior, justice, and equity. Give them knowledge and discretion so that they can become wise adults who know and defend truth.

We thank You for Better Basics and their passion to spread the love of reading to students around the state. We especially pray for them as they transition from one executive director to the new one. Even the best of leadership transitions have their challenges. (My church just changed worship pastors earlier this year, and is now changing our lead pastor, both under the best of circumstances, with the former worship pastor and former senior pastor getting called to bigger levels of responsibility because of their faithfulness and integrity, so boy do I get this, and boy can it still be so hard at times.) We pray that Ms. Akin will keep her eyes steadfastly on the Lord, walking in the fear of the Lord and with wisdom and discernment. We pray for unity among the staff and volunteers even as they grieve not working with their friend and former director and support and encourage their new director. Encourage and strengthen them through this transition. We pray for new ideas, new creativity, new partnerships, and that together as an organization, Better Basics would continue to grow in wisdom, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. Use this organization to spread literacy, the love of learning, and most of all, truth as it is revealed in Your Word. Amen.

To find out more information about Better Basics, and how to get involved by giving, volunteering or praying, go here.

Setting Captives Free – Praying for the Ministry of Shepherd’s Fold

The Lord is constantly reminding me that He is the One who is in control of the big things and the little things. Last week, I was consumed with getting our decorations ready for our church’s annual Trunk and Treat event. We had had family illness running through the ranks and it had put us way behind. Not only did was I not able to make time to write a post last week, I also forgot to at least post a link to this blog on social media sites as I often do to encourage/remind us all to be praying for our cities and all the great ministries in it. However, the stats page showed that last Friday had one of its biggest days in a long time. I try to stay focused on not doing this for the numbers, but it so encourages me to see people coming here and hopefully praying with me for our communities. It just reminded me that the Lord doesn’t need me and all of my words to prompt people to pray. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. I’m just glad He allows me to be a part of that in a small way. I think it’s important for anyone in any kind of ministry to remember that only the Lord is able to produce eternal results, and we can be humbly amazed and grateful to be a part of it. Remembering that also makes it so much easier to have peace and fight discouragement when hard times come. It’s the Lord’s battle, and He will fight on our behalf.

The previous post was about a ministry who helps those affected by crime to navigate through the system while preparing them for a stable life once they get out. Today, we are praying for Shepherd’s Fold, a ministry dedicated to helping men and women who have already been released from prison/jail to find total freedom from the inside out. They do this by equipping them to make a genuine life transformation after prison through education, budget and job training, and regular Bible study and counseling. Founded in 1986 by Mary Kay Beard and her husband, Shepherd’s Fold is the most experienced, longest-running successful prison re-entry ministry in Alabama. One of their ministry strategies that I love is that they are committed to prayer and have a prayer team that regularly prays for their ministry and those in their care. (They are looking to add to their prayer team, so if that is something you might be interested in, contact their prayer team coordinator, you can contact him through their website or call 205-780-6211.) Their current executive director is Green Calhoun, and they operate 4 houses in the West End area caring for 25-28 or so men and women at a time, in addition to graduate housing in Shelby County they provide at a low rent as their graduates transition to true independent living. They have helped over 1,650 previous offenders become law-abiding, productive citizens.

Eph. 4:8-13 – “8 Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

Lord Jesus, we praise You as the King of King and Lord of Lords, the One who fills all things! You are fully God yet willingly became fully man so that we could relate to You even in our depravity. You have stormed the gates of hell and have transferred us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of light! (Col. 1:13) Because of You, we are no longer strangers and aliens, but are adopted as sons so that we can cry out, Abba, Father!

Lord, we pray that the men and women who enter the Shepherd’s Fold would discover who they are in You. Set them free from the identity they formed while in prison, and reveal Yourself to them as their Savior who has stormed the gates of hell just to rescue them. We pray that they would not only see themselves as rescued, but also as receivers of the good gifts You have given them. Lord, the enemy has spent years convincing them they had nothing and were worth nothing. We pray that You would use Shepherd’s Fold to help break off every lie, every chain, and that they would step into their giftings, callings, whatever You created them for. We know that You have good plans for these men and women, plans to prosper them and to give them a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

We also pray that as they transition step by step into “normal” society, that the Body of Christ would be there to embrace them and welcome them as brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow heirs. Forgive us, Father, for how many times we tend to hold those “with a past” at arms length. Let grace abound in Your body, Lord, but also give us wisdom and discernment so that we don’t become so “graceful” that we compromise truth. We do not do our brothers and sisters any favors when that happens. Lord, we can’t do this without out. Lead us. Teach us. Change us. Not just them. Make us all one, and grow us up together in the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a mature man, to the fullness of Christ.

We pray specifically for the Green Calhoun and for the leadership, staff, and volunteers of Shepherd’s Fold. Give them protection, wisdom, and guidance as You use them to rescue these men and women. Equip them fully for this work of service – strengthen them; uphold them with Your right hand; hone their gifts and talents; purify their hearts and minds. Provide for them spiritually, physically, emotionally, and financially. Let the purpose for which You have called Shepherd’s Fold into being be fully realized in every single life that comes through their doors. We pray this for Your honor and glory and for Your name’s sake. Amen.

If you want to share your own thoughts, prayers, or Scripture for Shepherd’s Fold, or if you have a question for us, we would love to hear from you in the comments! Thank you so much for taking the time to pray with us for another amazing ministry in the metro-Birmingham area.