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Highways in the Desert: An Advent Devotional

Matthew Harper is an inmate in a Virginia correctional institution where he works as a chaplain's assistant and a therapy dog trainer. He completed his MA in Christian Theology there, and he is in the discernment process for ordination in the Episcopal Church. He is also an author.

Matthew is serving a 37 year sentence for killing his sister when he was 18 and burning down his family home. With time for good behavior , he is hoping to be released in the summer of 2029.

In this season of Advent, a season of intentional waiting, it is fitting that we hear from a prisoner who has nothing to do but wait. Matthew is deeply remorseful and has given all of himself to God during his incarceration. In his reflection on the gospel reading from Matthew for today where Jesus tells the Pharisees to "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" Matthew suggests that this verse challenges us to examine our own lives to see what belongs to God, concluding that we should "withhold nothing from God. It's all God's anyway."

From the bottom rung of society, having lost everything including his most intimate relationships, Matthew's voice cries out in the wilderness, from literal highways in the desert, through 42 devotions for this season of waiting, praying that all who read them will find them to be a backbone for their journey.

Matthew says, "Today is all I have, so today is where I live. To live it with love, fully and completely, is the key."

If a person like Matthew can do it, perhaps we too can live our lives with love, fully and completely...

The link below is to a series of devotions written by prisoners called Prison Lectionary. You can subscribe to it and follow along with those who are incarcerated in a place where faith and time take on new meaning.


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