Dear Men of Renewal Ranch,

How do I begin? How do I begin to tell you how you made my heart feel? As if it would burst? That is not a very good description for something that is stretched and pulled taut to a capacity that seems to rival impossibility! How do I describe the thirty miles back home, thirty miles of mist draining down? Of joy unspeakable and full of glory? How do I tell you of a mind blown to smithereens with the love and appreciation you displayed to me yesterday?

When I asked you to envision your lives five years down the road and you looked at me with this written across the eyes of your soul :
"Hope is the dream of a soul awake."--a French proverb

Yes, you laid yourself out all vulnerable. You who have only been here a week--living with people who were strangers to you a little more than seven days ago and now you are laying your insides out in front of everyone, taking a chance, taking a risk--you who have been to hell and back more times than I want to enumerate.

Yes, you looked at me with hope. Hope from one who was reared without a father, with a mother who left you alone to fend for yourself, with no one to really care for you. Hope from one who suffered the effects of Hurricane Katrina, even the horrors of the Superdome?

How does that not awake the dream in my own soul--the dream of serving Jesus by serving my fellow man?

And when you looked at me with resolve and sincerity and responded, "I hope I am helping someone." I knew that Christ had opened the dream eyes of your soul--only through the love of Christ can we respond in that manner.

And when you said to me, "Ms. Dianne," I don't feel that I am struggling with reading but my brain is just not cooperating. Can you help me with some study skills?" Oh, how I wanted to be the "study skills" expert of the universe--to be able to give you a list of things to do that would make your brain cooperate. You whose brain has been ravaged by the abuse of alcohol and drugs. I wanted to do more than just encourage you to give your brain a chance to catch up, to tell you that each day it will become stronger--.

And when you said to the group, "I am admitting all my faults--I was told that I am reading on a second grade level,"--I admired you so that you were man enough to admit to all of us that your life had been fraught with mistakes, your learning taking the brunt of your decisions.

And when you said to me, "Ms. Dianne, I don't know if you noticed or not, but the other day when you came out to the 'smoke hole' to talk to me, I got tears in my eyes because I had never been shown love like that before."

All I did was walk a few feet to talk to you and that meant the world to you? Oh my, how many days do I let go by that I make no attempt to walk a few feet to talk to someone who needs to feel Your Love, Lord?

So many tears--so many tears for these opportunities, for lost opportunities, for a love that I can only wish to be able to describe in this humanly tool of communication made with a simple twenty-six letters? How can I possibly put those twenty-six characters together well enough to exalt a love the likes that only angels can translate?

And when you said to me, "When are you coming back?" and came up and gave me not one but two hugs, I was back home again. Seven years I've been retired from the classroom--and the pay this time far exceeds what I made before.
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. Psalms 65:5

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5

This writing is in response to a "tutoring session" I was supposed to have with three of the men. Eight men and God showed up. Wow!

To those of you who were praying for these men, I can never thank you enough.

2011-the year of beyond