Get Out of Jail Free

When my daughters were teenagers, I came up with a crazy idea. I have always thought that kids get themselves into worse situations because they are afraid to tell their parents when they made a mistake. The fear of punishment or damaging the relationship prevents them from being honest. I was afraid that one of them would find themselves in a compromising situation and not want to call me for help, so I developed a “Get Out of Jail Free” strategy.

You may remember that in the game of Monopoly, there is a card that can be used when you land in jail that enables you to get out without paying the $200 fine. So, my “Get Out of Jail Free” offer worked like this: if they ever got into a predicament and needed a rescue, they could call me and “play” this card. That meant that I would not ask questions or mete out any punishment. I would simply come immediately and get them, no questions asked. So, any party that got out of control, any situation with peers that became too intense, anytime a boyfriend was pushing for something they didn’t want to do, etc., Mama would come with one simple phone call. Neither one of them ever used this, but there were many times when this idea of a guaranteed non-judgmental response from me was referenced when we were having conversations about things going on in their lives. They remembered my promise to be a place of safety and reminded me of it from time to time.

Everybody needs a lifeline at some point in their lives. Everybody needs one person to whom they can pour out their heart without fear of condemnation or judgment. Everybody needs a safe space.

In our scripture today, King Solomon is praying before the gathered assembly as they dedicate the temple in Jerusalem. He is reaching out to God to be a lifeline for the Israelites, reminding God of his promises to deliver the nation:

1 Kings 8 (Common English Bible)

22 Solomon stood before the Lord’s altar in front of the entire Israelite assembly and, spreading out his hands toward the sky, 23 he said:

Lord God of Israel, there’s no god like you in heaven above or on earth below. You keep the covenant and show loyalty to your servants who walk before you with all their heart. 24 This is the covenant you kept with your servant David, my father, which you promised him. Today, you have fulfilled what you promised. 25 So now, Lord, Israel’s God, keep what you promised my father David, your servant, when you said to him, “You will never fail to have a successor sitting on Israel’s throne as long as your descendants carefully walk before me just as you walked before me.”26 So now, God of Israel, may your promise to your servant David, my father, come true.

Solomon articulated his theology in this prayer. He is confirming things that the people know about God, and what God knows about the people. God keeps the covenant. God fulfills what he promises. God is loyal to his servants. The people walk before God with all their heart. There is no god like God.

Notice how many times Solomon calls upon God to listen. Is there someone in your life who simply needs you listen to them?

27 But how could God possibly live on earth? If heaven, even the highest heaven, can’t contain you, how can this temple that I’ve built contain you?28 Lord my God, LISTEN to your servant’s prayer and request, and hear the cry and prayer that your servant prays to you today. 29 Constantly watch over this temple, the place about which you said, “My name will be there,” and LISTEN to the prayer that your servant is praying toward this place.30 LISTEN to the request of your servant and your people Israel when they pray toward this place. LISTEN from your heavenly dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

We won’t read the entire prayer today due to its length but look for indications of Israel’s understanding of God’s nature in the next two paragraphs. They knew God created and controlled the rain. They knew that God offered forgiveness of sins. They knew God had instructed them to care for the immigrants in their midst. They knew God would listen from heaven.

35 When the sky holds back its rain because Israel has sinned against you, but they then pray toward this place, give thanks to your name, and turn away from their sin because you have punished them for it, 36 then LISTEN from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the best way for them to follow, and send rain on your land that you gave to your people as an inheritance.

41 LISTEN also to the immigrant who isn’t from your people Israel but who comes from a distant country because of your reputation— 42 because they will hear of your great reputation, your great power, and your outstretched arm. When the immigrant comes and prays toward this temple, 43 then LISTEN from heaven, where you live, and do everything the immigrant asks. Do this so that all the people of the earth may know your reputation and revere you, as your people Israel do, and recognize that this temple I have built bears your name.

Is God calling you to be a safe space for someone? Is there a teenager in your life who needs a “Get Out of Jail Free Card”? Can you be a non-judgmental rescuer for someone? Do you need to listen better?

This is what God offers us. Shouldn’t we offer it to others in his name?

52 Open your eyes to your servant’s request and to the request of your people Israel. Hear them whenever they cry out to you. 53 You set them apart from all the earth’s peoples as your own inheritance, Lord, just as you promised through your servant Moses when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt.

LISTEN by Michelle Robertson

The Art of Listening

In a sermon I recently preached on the subject of prayer, I reminded the congregation that God gave us two ears and one mouth, which perhaps might be a hint that we should listen twice as much as we speak. I was applying this to prayer, but I think it could apply to everything else…our conversations, our arguments, our discussions with our family, our debates…there is nothing we do that wouldn’t be improved by more listening and less talking.

Listening is a way of God. Did you ever think about that? No matter what you take to him, he is guaranteed to listen to you. There is NOTHING you can say, no evil or destructive behavior you need to confess, no grudge so petty, no angry word expressed, that he won’t hear with loving concern. As the psalmist says, “He didn’t hide his face from me. No, he LISTENED when I cried out to him for help.”

Psalm 22 (Common English Bible)

All of you who revere the Lord—praise him!
    All of you who are Jacob’s descendants—honor him!
    All of you who are all Israel’s offspring—
        stand in awe of him!
24 Because he didn’t despise or detest
    the suffering of the one who suffered—
    he didn’t hide his face from me.
    No, he listened when I cried out to him for help.

For this alone, God is worthy of our praise. He inclines his ear to our suffering. He is found by those who seek him. He is worthy of the worship of all nations.

25 I offer praise in the great congregation
    because of you;
    I will fulfill my promises
    in the presence of those who honor God.
26 Let all those who are suffering eat and be full!
    Let all who seek the Lord praise him!
        I pray your hearts live forever!
27 Every part of the earth
    will remember and come back to the Lord;
    every family among all the nations will worship you.
28 Because the right to rule belongs to the Lord,
    he rules all nations.
29 Indeed, all the earth’s powerful
    will worship him;
    all who are descending to the dust
    will kneel before him;
    my being also lives for him.
30 Future descendants will serve him;
    generations to come will be told about my Lord.
31 They will proclaim God’s righteousness
        to those not yet born,
        telling them what God has done.

What can we do in response? We can listen in his name. We can incline our ear to suffering. We can come back to him with repentant hearts. We can refuse to hide our faces from people who need help.

We can hear the way he hears.

Find someone today who simply needs to be heard, and offer them the gift of your time and your presence. And remember to listen twice as much as you speak.

Listen Well by Michelle Robertson


Have you ever had a time in your life when you really, really needed someone to just listen to you? As in REALLY listen, not just nod their head waiting for their turn to speak. Deep listening is an ability that some people never fully achieve in their lifetime. Maybe you know someone like that. Maybe you married someone like that.

The gift of having someone deep-listen to your heart is an amazing catharsis and a healing balm. Sometimes just being HEARD is therapy enough, even without the other person saying a single word. Your heart takes a deep cleansing breath with each word, and exhales frustration, sadness, angst, and heaviness with each syllable.

If you have someone who can listen to you like that, thank them for the blessing they give you.

If you can be someone who can listen to others like that, use your gift in God’s service. You are a blessing.

Psalm 68 (Common English Bible)

Lord, listen closely to me and answer me,
    because I am poor and in need.
Guard my life because I am faithful.
    Save your servant who trusts in you—you! My God!
Have mercy on me, Lord,
    because I cry out to you all day long.
Make your servant’s life happy again
    because, my Lord, I offer my life to you,
    because, my Lord, you are good and forgiving,
    full of faithful love for all those who cry out to you.

Nobody can listen to you the way that God can listen to you. God’s word assures us that when we cry out to him, he listens closely.

Listen closely to my prayer, Lord;
    pay close attention to the sound of my requests for mercy.
Whenever I am in trouble, I cry out to you,
    because you will answer me.

Are you in trouble? Cry out to your Heavenly Father. Nothing can compare to his works.

My Lord! There is no one like you among the gods!
    There is nothing that can compare to your works!
All the nations that you’ve made will come
        and bow down before you, Lord;
    they will glorify your name,
10     because you are awesome
    and a wonder-worker.
        You are God. Just you.

God is a wonder-worker. God is YOUR wonder-worker. Need someone to listen? Just talk.

Lightening in the Cloud By Michelle Robertson