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Hello everyone! What are some of your favorite things to do on Sabbath? I like to watch nature shows, listen to music, and read! :)

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by Greg Howell

It was my job to stand guard and make sure the rangers weren’t coming. We had been hanging around long enough to time just about how long we had before the next one came down the path. According to my calculations we had exactly one minute and 15 seconds to hop the barrier, make it all the way down the road, and disappear into what used to be the laundry building for all of Alcatraz prison. That’s right, hundreds of souls had dreamed of breaking out of Alcatraz, but for me and my two friends it was our dream to break in to Alcatraz. Or at least the laundry building we had always heard about.

You see, the laundry building was not on the regular tour. It was old, rusty, and crumbling in many places. However, having seen several great movies about Alcatraz, we were convinced that we needed to see for ourselves all the places where the big scenes had been shot. The only one we hadn’t been able to see was down this pathway to the old laundry building. To make the perfect movie ending to our day at Alcatraz, we had to figure out how to get down to and take a picture of the exact place we had seen the actor in our favorite Alcatraz movie waving off some jet fighters just as they were about to firebomb the island.

We crawled through the brush and some random barbed wire only to be finally confronted by the gaping structure before us. Our timing had been right on, no park rangers, no security guards, and nothing to keep us from our harrowing achievement! It took about 30 minutes, but once we had thoroughly explored every nook and cranny of the structure, we snapped our last couple of photos and headed back up toward the path. Unfortunately, I had not been keeping track of how long we’d been down there. The island was closing soon, we knew that much, but we didn’t realize that the rangers had a standard ritual of walking around the island making sure that no random tourists got left overnight when the last ferry sailed for the mainland. As we stealthily ran up the pathway toward the barrier fence we heard some voices headed in our direction.

The rangers!

Jeff looked at me and yelled in a whisper, “Stall them!”

I turned and ran up the path, but my mind was a few steps behind me asking, How am I supposed to stall them? I was nowhere closer to answering that question as I hopped over the rope barrier and turned the corner to run almost smack into a ranger in a big green uniform. It was just like the movies; short little guy looks up at bigger, husky-looking guy. I must have had “guilt” written all over my face, because he looked at me funny and asked, “Hey, the ferry’s about to leave. Are you lost?”

Yeah, I’m lost. Yeah, um, my friends and I just accidentally jumped the barrier back there, and we just happened to miss the large signs in English that had “Do Not Enter” plastered all over them. And did I mention I don’t read English too well? Um, yeah . . .

Those crazy thoughts were running through my head as I scrambled to come up with something even mildly intelligible for the man. While I fumbled for words, my friends also came sauntering around the corner, trying to hide the fact that they had just come barreling up the path behind me at a full run.

When you’re somewhere you’re not supposed to be, you’re always walking on eggshells, hoping that the next corner you turn isn’t going to get you caught and thrown out. But when you know that you’re standing in the right spot, that you own the place, there’s no fear of being thrown out; there’s nobody who’s going to tell you that you shouldn’t be there. Paul describes this feeling more in Romans 5: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (verses 1, 2).

What’s interesting here is that Paul is specifically describing what “freedom in Christ” really feels like. He says that as Christians we have been “justified by faith.” In other words, we have been  made holy before God. Our way of life, the sinful things we cling to, can very clearly keep us from connecting with Jesus in the ways that He wants. But when we simply believe that God forgives us and that Jesus helps us to change those sinful habits, we are made holy before God; we become something that we weren’t before.

Paul even encourages us by saying that since Christians have been made holy, we can go through our lives at peace, knowing that we have access to the sphere of God’s grace at any and all times. There are no barriers, no guards standing up to block us because we’re not “good enough.” We’re simply given access to God and the forgiveness that surrounds Him anytime we need it. And I don’t know about you, but that kind of freedom is something that I need today, more than anything else.

Greg Howell is a pastor in Washington and with his wife has coauthored a teen devotional titled Fusion. He prefers to spend his time snowboarding, behind a camera, or running around like a crazy person chasing his four kids.

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