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The little boy who lived just 3 doors down the street from a previous home just got sentenced. He was a child when we lived there, yet he is still only 19 now. What a wasted life, I thought, when I heard he would spend 30 years in prison. I thought of all the wonderful years I had from age 19-49. I married the love of my life, had 3 great kids, made lifelong friendships, and was deeply engaged in my church, my community, and a fulfilling career. Memories of events, travels, and just living a free life on a warm, summer, sunny day filled my mind.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, but maybe prison was part of God’s plan for him? Maybe he’d become a Christian, change, do amazing things when he got out? Doesn’t seem possible, but of course nothing is impossible with God.

It made me reflect on an experience I had last fall. Rhonda and I took a guided hike near Juneau, Alaska. It was a lush emerald forest of tall trees, big ferns, wild berries, and moss covered everything. The guide explained this forest had been logged down to nearly nothing only 30 years earlier. The climate and environment certainly did not seem terribly supportive of such an amazing rebirth; Rocky glacial formations, almost no top soil, permafrost, inadequate rainfall, dark, cold, and long Alaskan winters.

So how did this incredibly full and beautiful forest grow so grand in just 30 years? The guide showed us the stumps, and cast off logs of dead wood that formed the beds from which sprung this mighty forest. Death and decay combined with nearly 24 hours of summer sunshine created this miracle. I guess it’s kind of like Jesus who rose from death so we could someday be majestic, full, and beautiful.

In thinking about my neighbor, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to write off people who make big mistakes; people who commit crimes, suffer addictions, and make tragic choices. I pray that God’s plan for my neighbor is to grow him from despair and tragedy to a beautiful, amazing, fulfilling life filled with purpose. It seems impossible, but God can do that with a little sonshine.

Isaiah 11:1-9 A shoot will come from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a branch will bear fruit.

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