Love the Unlovely – Nov. 22, 2015

So today was my Birthday and it was the first time that I celebrated my birthday in prison.  Today, during church, the whole congregation sang “Happy Birthday” to me.  Throughout the week, I got cards from family and friends and “Happy Birthdays” from everyone around me.  I even had a visit from my StepMom and my sister the day before my Birthday!  Then tonight 3 of my closest friends surprised me with enchiladas and chips and a card signed by dozens of other inmates.  Yes, this was all wonderful and made my birthday very special!  But there was something even more wonderful than all the acknowledgements, food, cards, birthday wishes and so on.

As I was reading all the comments on the card that I received from my friends, it hit me.  I realized that on that card were comments and signatures from sex offenders, drug dealers, rapists, murderers, gang bangers, muslims, christians, atheists, buddhists, homosexuals, black, white, mixed, hispanic, young, old, bald, crazy, and I could go on.

On this card, those things didn’t matter.

A person didn’t NOT sign the card because a homosexual signed it, or a gang banger, or for any other reason.  I took this thought even further and realized as I looked around the Dayroom, that yea, this is what heaven is going to look like.  I know it might be a crazy thought to some of you, but it is true.  See, I believe that Heaven is going to be filled with everyone. For me or anyone else to believe that one or two or multiple “types” of people are going to be left out is absolutely absurd.  God is not going to say to a serial killer who longs for God in the end, “No, you can’t come in.”

He is not going to exclude black people, asians, hispanics, from heaven.  That isn’t even biblical to think that. Heaven is going to have murderers, doctors, teachers, sex offenders, rapists, muslims, homosexuals, blacks, whites, CEOs, politicians, Republicans, Democrats, drug dealers, and the list goes on.

The Bible says we will get a new heart, a new body, new spirit.  There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth.  No sin is greater than another sin.

We all fall short of the glory of God.  I challenge you to seek God’s love and love God.  It’s what He longs for.  Also to love everyone.  Don’t live your life in fear.  Love the unlovely, love the murderer, love the drug dealer, the homeless, the sex offender.

I am not saying that you have to agree or like what they did or the habits they have.  Just don’t let those things stop you from showing God’s love towards them.  There is good in everyone.  I see it everyday.  The gang member who could easily kill you, gives you a hug.  That happened to me today!  One gave me a hug and said, “Happy Birthday, Eddie!”

All I can say is God has been at work in our relationship.  God’s love is so powerful, it can move mountains!  What I say to the refugee situation… Don’t put them in the “Other” category.  Do anything you can to welcome them and love them.  Do not fear.

I love you all!

Love, Eddie

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God in People – Nov 4, 2015

“From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place, he watches all who live on earth—he forms the hearts of all who considers everything they do.”
— Psalm 33:13-15

Last Sunday during church as we were praising God, singing the song “Revelation Song,” something happened. While leading the song, I closed my eyes.  I often do this during worship to imagine, picture God.  So I was closing my eyes and had the feeling to just open them wide.  When I opened my eyes, immediately connected with an older man.  We smiled, and I moved to the next person, and then the next.  I remembered as this was happening about in the book “Tattoos on the Heart” about how he often would picture people he was talking to as God.  We were all created in is image.  I stood there and realized in that moment that God created everyone in that room.  I started picturing God right there in everyone’s heart.  This went on for the whole rest of the song.

All I could do was smile.  I wasn’t evening paying attention to the right notes or words.  I was more focused on God’s radiance in church.  Also realizing that God looks down from his dwelling place and adores every person on this planet.

How awesome is that?  He watches us. I can just imagine God smiling when he sees something pleasing.  I can imagine God weeping in great sorrow as he looks down on us. I sure do know that God does an awesome job at forming our hearts.  If you haven’t let God into your heart, you should give it a try.  He is the great physician!  The thing I love the most about God is…

He loves us with an unfailing love!

“May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”
–Psalm 33:22

No More Enemies because love wins – August 9, 2015

NOTE from Eddie’s Mom:  Eddie wrote this in August and wasn’t sure until lately whether or not he wanted to post it.  

Before I start the meat of this blog, I want you all to not worry about me.  In this very real prison conflict that I was faced with, prayer and God’s word was my weapon of choice.  In the end, enemies turned into friends and God answered prayers immediately.  I would not normally share a blog like this, because when my family and friends hear of threats of me being beat up… they worry.

But I tell you not to worry.  This is a blog letting people know that God is a protector among a lot of things.  That you don’t have to fight with violence, anger, harsh words, fists or knives.  That you can win battles with prayer and God’s word.  I hope that this blog will inspire people that are faced with very real, difficult situations; situations where people threaten you, want to hurt you, or you even wanting to hurt people; where violence might happen.  I know that for most people, this is rarely going to happen.  However, in my current situation, this is happening all around me.

This is only the first time in 8 months this has happened to me.  This blog is going to be extra long, but I felt like God is calling me to share this story!  Not only with you all but also with other inmates around me.  So please enjoy this very real story.

Tonight I was about to play Rummy 5000 with my Christian buddies in the block.  Well, this man came up to our table and started joking around with one of us.  Another inmate made a comment about why he wanted the other inmate to go in his room.  Without even thinking I said, “Yea, I know.”  Well, the man that was joking around got all mad.  Like seriously mad!  He said, “I am going to my room to get shoes on.  You come back here, and we’ll fight.”  Okay, honestly I was scared.  I didn’t understand why he was so mad.  I was just joking.  He was joking, we were all joking around.  I was so confused.

Well another inmate came out of his room and said, “I’ll go fight him”, and went back to his room. They didn’t fight.  They ended up just talking.

The guy that was mad went and took a shower and said, “Ed, come here.”  So I went back to his room.  He said, “Come in here.”  I said, “I’m not coming in there.”  I told him I didn’t want any problems.  I apologized for what I said, and I was sorry he took it seriously.  We were all just joking.  He said, “Come in here.”  He said, “Ok, it’s not you.  It’s so and so, he started it.”  I said, “Are we cool?”  and he said, “Yea, we’re good.”  However, then he started talking to people about it, and I still didn’t feel good about it.  After we finished our game of Rummy 5000, I went to my room.  Boy, did I fall to my knees and literally cried out to God.  I was on my knees on the cold, dirty concrete floor with my head on the ground.  I didn’t know what to do.  I asked God to help me.  I cried to God, “Help me!  Give me a sign, something!”  Then I stopped praying and I listened for God.  At that moment, scriptures started popping up in my head.  The first scripture was Luke 6:27-28:

But to you who are listening, I say:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who mistreat you.”

Then, Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword.  It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit joints and morrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Then, 1 Corinthians 13:13

And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

Then… Ephesians 4:26

In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.

Then, 1 John 4:7-8

Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.”

Then John 4:16

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

At this point, I was thinking, “God, you want me to love the guy that called me names, cussed me out and wanted to beat me up.  How do you want me to do this?  Do you want me to give him trail mix? What?

Then I realized I had an extra bible.  You want me to go out there, tell him that God loves him, and everyone in here and give him a bible?  That’s what you want.  I was hesitant still.  He was playing chess, and I didn’t want to interrupt his game.  By the time he was finished, we were about to lock down for the night.  I went out to the dayroom.  Nervous, but I just had a moment.  I asked God to protect me.  I went up to him and said, “Hey, are we cool?” Then the lights flickered, which means we have to lock down for the night.  I said, “I think you’re a cool guy.  I have no problems with you, and I would like to talk to you more tomorrow.”  Now I know I am not guaranteed tomorrow, but I had to lock down.  I didn’t want to get written up.  However, when I locked down, we both went away happy and smiling. I fulfilled Ephesians 4:6 and I realized something.  I realized that what God wants me to give this man is love and friendship.  Tomorrow, I will ask him to help me with my chess game and God will come up in a conversation.  The greatest gift we can give someone is to help a person save their soul and show them God’s love; to point them towards the road of salvation.

“For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  John 3:17

Our job in this world is not to condemn the world but to love and save the world… yes, even our enemies!

Love wins!

Visit with PA Family – August 16, 2015

Yesterday, my Mom, Mark, Sam and Colin came to visit me from Pennsylvania!  I had a visit in the morning and one in the afternoon!  It was awesome to see them!  It was great to hug them and talk to them in person.

We talked about a lot of things and even got to put a face to the name for my friend, Jason.  Jason, I asked for everyone to pray for him a couple months back.  Well please continue praying for him.  He has really gotten depressed and hardly talks to anyone, sometimes doesn’t show up for chow and doesn’t do any religious activities any more.  So please pray for him.

During the visit, my Mom only cried a couple of times.  2nd visit she was a lot better.  I will have to say that one of the best parts of the visit was talking about the closeness, the deeper, stronger relationships that have come out of this situation.  I never realized how distant I was to my family all over.  From my family in Missouri to my Dad, Step-Mom and sister in Greenville, SC and to my family in Pennsylvania.  We talked about this near the end of the visit.  We have grown closer and stronger over the past year and a half and it is awesome!

I have seen and communicated more with my family in the last year and a half than I did in the 11 years before then.  I realized that I missed out on so much of their lives.  Time I can’t get back.  Memories that were never created.  Now, letting go of all my failures, shortcomings of the past, I must… WE must push on toward the future.

If you have a grudge or feel distant from family, I challenge you to take a step to mend those broken relationships.  Don’t let it go too far, because you may lose relationships forever.  It is hard to mend the wounds, but with God’s help you can.  Trust in Him and He will guide you through the most difficult tines.  Thank you to everyone who has shown love and support to me through this period of my life.

I love you all!

Read Philippians 3: 13-14

Exercise Program – March 28th

Last night at Bible Study I was talking to Jason about losing weight.  Another one of my brothers gave me a 10 minute exercise program out of Men’s Health that I can do in my cell.  Well… another brother turned around and offered to help me get on an exercise and diet program.  I was stubborn and said I have lost weight before.  I know how to do it.

Well, the Chaplain had a message I needed to hear about choices and perceptions.  I have heard this message before, but I am no different than anyone else. I am human and sometimes I need a reminder.  After the study, I went up to that brother and said, “I would like to give it a try.  I apologized for being slightly defensive and not listening.  Come to find out that he was 315 pounds when he came to prison and now he is skinny and buff at 215 pounds.  He is tall, probably 6’ 3”.

We talked for about 45 minutes. I am to write everything down that I eat for the next 7 days.  Then I have to give him a budget of what I can spend in the canteen.  He told me less bread, sweets, junk and more protein.  My Mom has been preaching this to me for the last 2 months.  He knows what I can get in the Canteen that will help.  Then he is going to put me on an exercise plant that will burn fat and build muscle.

Well, today it was 31° outside, and I went outside to start my exercise.  My buddy walked with me around a huge track, about 1/3 of a mile.  Then we jumped into a 2 on 2 basketball game with two other of my Brothers in Christ.  If the other team scored, you had to do 10 push-ups or 10 squats.  Come to find out I am a beast at defense in basketball.  I figured that if I didn’t let them score I didn’t have to do push-ups.  My strategy worked.  I still ended up doing about 50 push-ups and 10 squats.  It was an excellent 45 minute work-out.  What was even more great, was my Brothers’ encouragement.  I am not in the best f shape but they kept encouraging me, saying “You can do it, Ed”, “Good job,” “Keep going” and even “I’m proud of you.”  Instead of tearing me down for being overweight, they lifted me up and encouraged me.

Even the inmates on the sidelines.  My perception was that people would make fun of me… not the case.  Now I feel encouraged and very very sore!  Haha.  I will keep you all updated on my progress.

Pictures – Feb 22, 2015

The other day, an inmate and I were playing Monopoly.  I don’t know if he is in a gang or what he has done, but his morals aren’t great.  This doesn’t bother me because you never know when you will get a chance to talk about God with another brother.  Well, an opportunity arose that day, but I didn’t have to talk about God or Christianity or religion.  It was simple.  He asked if I wanted to buy some inappropriate pictures of women.  I said, “no thanks” and he asked me “why not?”  I said that women are valuable and they de-value women.

I was very nice about it.  I have had to learn that over the past 10 months.  I would be a liar if I told people that I have NEVER looked at inappropriate pictures of women. I am not proud of those moments in my life, but I have found GOD is greater than anything, even myself.  I didn’t tell him that.  I walked away and another inmate looked at him and said, “He is a Christian.”  The inmate with the pictures said “I am too.  I read my Bible and believe in Jesus.”  The other inmate said, “That doesn’t make you a Christian.  You cuss, gamble and look at pictures.”  I stood watching some guys playing Scrabble and smiled at this conversation.

Today I was sitting with the choir waiting for the inmates to file in at church.  The last inmate to walk in was the inmate that had the pictures.  I looked at him and smiled.  Then the Chaplain was near the end of his message and said, “If you want to show people that you are a real Christian, don’t go back to the block cussing, gambling and trading pictures.”

The inmate that had the pictures leaned over, turned his head and looked at me, smiled and shook his head. You can’t be afraid to take a stand for what you believe.  I will continue to pray for this young man and his family.  He asked the Chaplain to pray for the inmates, their families and to pray that we (inmates) will lift each other up!  I cried!  I mean that!

Love,
Eddie

Shoulders – Feb 17, 2015

Do you remember when your Daddy used to carry you on his shoulders?  The time when you couldn’t see something or how about the time you were tired of walking?  I believe at some point in our young lives, we were carried on Daddy’s shoulders.  If you haven’t had that experience, you’re not too late or too old to experience this.

If you call on your heavenly Daddy during times of trouble, sickness, or depression or when you feel like you can’t walk no more… HE will carry you on his shoulders.  God is the Father to the fatherless as well. In times of need, trials and tribulations, HE is there.

The song “Shoulders” by for King & Country tells us how He helps and rescues us.  They sing “You help me, you res-rescue me, you carry my sickness, my weakness, my brokenness, all on your shoulders.”  The next time you experience any storm, allow God to carry you on His shoulders.  Also remember that Jesus died for your sins.  You ARE a Child of God!  He Loves You!