Love Beyond… July 4, 2016

This morning, I was watching Good Morning America.  They had a lot of 4th of July segments.  The one segment that stuck with me was a commercial/video that was made with John Cena speaking in it. It was a 4th of July video about patriotism, but in the end “love” was the main character of this video.  What he said was short but powerful.

He said something along the lines of “The 4th of July, we celebrate Patriotism, but it is also a day we celebrate Love… love beyond race, age, disabilities, sexuality and religion.”  I might have left some things out, but you get the point.  In the background you saw a Hindu hugging a Muslim, Black hugging White, Christian hugging Muslim, so on and so forth.

I don’t know how many of you remember the old Schoolhouse Rock cartoons.  There was one called the “Melting Pot”.  It talked about the great American melting pot.  This country was founded by immigrants, we are a country of all races, cultures, religions and beliefs.  We have been for centuries.  However, over the past centuries we have fought against each other’s races, religions, and cultures.  We have harbored a lot of hatred. Love is better than hatred.

I just read the book, “Love Beyond Reason” by John Ortberg.  He talks about our raggedness. He talks about how God loves our raggedness.  How he loves his “Rag Dolls”.  See, the author talks about how is sister was fond of and loved her rag doll, “Pandy.”  Pandy was a part of the family.  Eventually Pandy was unrecognizable and his sister didn’t want her anymore.  She traded her for a boyfriend.  Well, the Mom couldn’t throw her away, so she wrapped Pandy up in a box and kept her.  When his sister was married, she had her third child and it was a girl.  She took Pandy out of the box, got her fixed up and gave it to her daughter, who kept her and loved her for another 15 years.

See, we are like “Pandy”.  We are ragged.  We have faults.  We do bad things, we are lonely and the list goes on.  But God still loves us.  Let’s go beyond that…. Jesus came to love the raggedness, the most ragged, unrecognizable, unlovable people on the planet.  He loved them.  We are called to do the same.  I know I have written about it a lot, but “love” is so powerful.  In the world, there is a lot of hate and not enough love.  There are even Christians that are so hateful.  As Christians, we should be able to love beyond race, religion, sexuality, disabilities, age, and whatever else that comes to mind.

We should love beyond others raggedness.  Love Beyond Reasons.  Let’s try to look past their skin color, sexuality, religion, disabilities, diseases, faults and age.  Love others.

Love Beyond Reason…. Love Beyond…. Love

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Tough Turkey – April 18, 2016

So about 2 weeks ago I had a problem.  See we had Turkey Ala King for chow.  Well I had a huge piece of tough turkey, and it took me forever to chew it.  I was getting pieces stuck in my teeth and my jaw started to hurt.  However it tasted good.  When I got back to my room, I started picking my teeth and got a couple pieces out of my teeth.  It was crazy!  Anyway, so I don’t know if you remember the blog where I talked about how I DON’T brush my teeth.  I brush them before I go to the dentist, so twice a year.  Okay, well keep that in your mind while I finish this tough turkey story.

So confident that I got all the turkey out of my teeth;  I went on with my nightly activities then I went to bed.  I slept great that night, but when I woke up I had an awful pain in my gums.  Well apparently a piece of turkey was stuck up underneath my gums.  I tried to get it out with my tongue and finger… no luck! I said, “Man, I am going to have to brush my teeth.”  I very slowly, hesitantly. and with much agony, opened up my tooth paste, put it on my brand new, never used tooth brush, and brushed my teeth.

Now some of you are probably saying “Halleluja!”, especially if you come and visit.  I brushed and a long strand of turkey came out.  My gums and teeth felt normal after 10 minutes.  I will have to admit that it felt good to brush my teeth.  I might go back to regular brushing.  Now that I think about it, when I was in Central Prison, I went to the dentist, and she said, “You should brush your gums.”  I looked at her with a face, and she said, “You don’t have to use toothpaste.”  How did she know!  She said my teeth looked great.  I don’t know what to do.  I might just Emergency Brush…. You know when I get that tough turkey in my gums!  🙂

Horticulture Update – April 18, 2016

Hey everyone!  I haven’t written in a while so I thought I would give you some updates.  I am absolutely loving Horticulture Class.  Over the last 2 weeks, we have transplanted over 2,000 flowers.  They all look great.  We boosted them today with bloom booster.  Our flower sale is May 10th and 11th.  The petunias I planted are beautiful.  They look great, especially the hanging baskets.  We had 50 but we donated 2 to the volunteer banquet for the raffle.  There are 3 petunia plants in each basket.  The baskets were a huge hit at the banquet.  I have also been doing some cuttings of sage, clerodendran and begonias.  In a couple of weeks when the mist bench isn’t filled with flowers, I am going to do an aloe vera project.  We have a lot of aloa vera plants.  Some of them look terrible, some of them look great.  I am going to throw away the bad and take cuttings of the good and hopefully have a bunch of good looking plants.  I am excited for that project.

Also about 7 weeks ago, I had an orange in the chow hall.  Well, I took 2 seeds/pits and decided I would try planting them.  I didn’t think they would sprout.  But after much research and proper care, I was successful. So I have 2 orange trees growing.  Haha!

Unfortunately, I don’t think they will get big enough to produce fruit, but it is still cool.  That is about all that is going on in class. I have found another passion.  🙂

Last Hope – March 10, 2016

“And there was a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.  She had heart the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.  For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.”  And immediately the bleeding ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.  And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, “who touched me?” And he looked around to see who had done it.  But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, case in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.  And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”  –Mark 5: 25-34

I am currently reading a book about the healing miracles of Jesus.  The author’s views on this miracle touched me.  There is so much to this miracle that I could write pages about it.  However, I am going to just make some highlights:

First, this lady was very brave and you could say, desperate.  To go out in public around all those people brushing up against others was really against the law.  If a woman had a discharge of blood for many days, it was illegal. She had been bleeding for 12 years.  The law regarding this is in Leviticus 15:25-27.  Here she was out in this massive crowd making people unclean.  Then to top it all off, she touched Jesus’ clothes.  This brings me to my second point.  She was desperate, it was her last hope.  She had been to every doctor and tried every remedy known to man at that time.  But nothing healed her disease.  She put everything she had into Jesus.  She put her whole faith — in him.  He was her last hope.  She realized that with him, she would be healed.  Even if she just touched his garment.

However, my favorite part of this miracle was Jesus’ response, his words, his actions.  Right here we see Jesus doing what he does best, attending to the human need.  He stops in the middle of this huge massive crowd and talks to her.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands of people trying to get his attention. He turns around, blocks out the crowd, forgets about the law and focuses on the one woman.  He has a one-on-one moment with this woman and he says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

He doesn’t say much.  He doesn’t spend that much time with her, but what he does say is beautiful, loving and compassionate.  It was enough for her to be healed, happy, joyful and at peace.  To feel special.  It is what Jesus does.  He has compassion and cares about each one of his people.  The author tells about this girl who was studying how to play violin.  Well a famous violinist came to town to do a concert.  Her teacher played her some of his songs, and she wanted so badly to go to this concert.  She went to go buy a ticket, but they were all sold out.  She ran into the violinist, and he was the one who told her that they were sold out.  The girl was so upset.  The violinist told her that she could still hear him play.  She questioned him and reminded him that the tickets were gone,  sold out.

He said, “sit”, went and grabbed his violin and played his whole concert to her.  This guy’s whole goal in life was to use his gift to make people happy; even if it meant doing a whole concert for one person.  Wow!  Just imagine if we had the same mindset.  I challenge you to give yourself up to that one person that calls you to talk, to listen or to be a friend to someone who needs it.  I challenge you to take time out of your busy day to attend to their need as Jesus would have.  You never know what 30 seconds or 5 minutes or even an hour can do for a person whose last hope might be… you.   🙂

Heavy Dirty Soul – Jan 30, 2016

The other night I was watching the Winter X-Games, live in Aspen, Colorado.  One of my favorite bands did a concert there and they showed one of their songs.  They performed the song called “Heavy Dirty Soul”.  The name of the band is 21 Pilots.  One of my favorite songs by them is “Holding Onto You” and has a very positive message.  They plan it on HIS Radio Z in Greenville, SC.  Well, the main line in “Heavy Dirty Soul” is “Can you save my heavy, dirty soul?”  I thought about this line, this question.  When I had a visit today, I was talking with my Mom, Mark, Sam and Colin (Mom, step-Dad, Sister and Sister’s Boyfriend).  I was telling them about some of the inmates.  A lot of them have done some terrible tings and have lived a life of crime.  For some odd reason, talking about them made me think of this question:

Can you save my Heavy Dirty Soul?”  A lot of people in this world are carrying a very heavy, very dirty soul.  Some have gotten used to carrying this soul and have lost all sight of right, good, peace, joy, and the list goes on.  Some of them have no hope.  They feel like they will always be like that.  Some people would read that question and bluntly say, “Not me, not my soul.  My soul could never be saved.”  I had a guy look at me in the eye and say to me, “God doesn’t love me!”  I said, “Yes, he does.”  And he laughed and said “No he doesn’t.”  With a smile, I said, “God still loves you.”   And he smiled and kept working.  There are people, a lot of people, that think they can never clean their soul and throw away all the nasty dirty junk.  I say to the question, “Can you save the Heavy Dirty Soul”? Yes, Yes, God can.  God wants everyone and he will help you do the dirty job of cleaning your heavy, dirty soul.  He will do it with a smile on his face, and love you when you reveal it all to him.

God loves you.  He loves those who carry that burden.  All you need to do is ask him to help.  No soul is too heavy or too dirty to be cleaned out.  Look at the man among the tombs.  He was gone.  He was the meanest, dirtiest, angriest man in the town.  He had to live in the tombs!  No one could go close to him.  But Jesus came, and the man let him help him.  No one believed it.  Jesus did what he knew how to do best.  He came to this Earth to love God and to show that love to man.  To love man.  God has a purpose for us.  That is also to love God and love man.

Help someone to clean out their Heavy Dirty Soul.

Love Never Fails – Jan 16, 2016

Recently I just finished reading The Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker and it had a great impact on my spiritual life.  There were a couple of scenes in the three books that spoke to me.  I am going to try my best to explain one of the scenes for this blog and give my analysis of the scene.  First of all, let me give you a small summary of what the trilogy is about.  It is about this young man named Thomas who dreams about this other reality.  He is from Denver, but when he falls asleep, he dreams of this other reality which resembles Heaven and Hell.

In the first book, he wakes up in Hell and gets to Heaven.  But then the firstborn falls to deception and ruins Heaven and it is taken over by Hell.  So the survivors make a trek across the desert and find a forest.  Thomas and his wife are the leaders of the Forest dwellers.  They are constantly being attacked by the Horde, the desert dwellers.  The Horde are also known as the Scabs.  They have a terrible skin disease, their minds are evil and corrupt.  In order to be cured of the disease, they have to bathe in Elyan’s (God’s) water.  The Forest dwellers hate the Scabs and vice versa.  Then in the second book, the Desert dwellers beat and kill Justin, drown him in God’s water and shed his blood.  But even the Forest dwellers betrayed Justin, who was Elyan in man form.

So now that the people betrayed Justin (God), they were cursed with the disease.  The only way they can get rid of it is by drowning in the lake of blood.  Then they had a new life in God.  This was a beautiful scene, which I will break apart in another blog.  So onto one of my favorite moments in the trilogy: Thomas, the Mighty Warrior of the Forest dwellers, was captured by the Horde (Scabs).  He worked out a deal with a Scab King Quorang to be a slave and help them read the Books of Histories.  He was teaching Quorang’s daughter, Chelise.  She was ugly.  Her skin and smell were wretched.  She was filled with evil and shame.  She refused to worship Elyan or die to become one of his.

Before Justin was beaten and drowned, he was seeking peace between the Horde and Forest dwellers. Justin wanted them to live together in harmony.  As Thomas was helping Chelise, he started to have feelings for her. The same for her too.  Thomas escapes, but decides to go back for Chelise and rescue her from her future husband.  Everyone in the circle did not agree because Scabs don’t live with Elyan’s people.  However, Elyan came to Thomas and said that she was his bride too.  I am trying to make a long scene short.  So he rescues Chelise and brings her to his people.  They don’t really accept her at first, but they realize Thomas loves her, so they accept it.  Chelise doesn’t believe Thomas’s love is true.  So to prove it, he kisses her, but Thomas doesn’t see her as a an ugly Scab.  He sees her as Elyan sees her, as a beautiful woman.  Thomas accepts her for who she is, how she looks and how she smells and even if she didn’t drown and die for Elyan, he still loves her.  He doesn’t push her to drown.  He never mentions it.  He loves her and so do the circle.  He knows that Elyan adores her and loves her just the way she is.

I am not going to tell you how it ends, just in case you want to read the trilogy.  This scene stuck with me and made me think of how we treat people.  We look at someone who is different or believes something different or is from a different faith / religion and we put them in an “other” category.  We fear them, we stay away from them. We neglect them, almost like they have a disease.  For all different reasons, such as race, sexual orientation, mental disorders, poor, rich, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Rasta, Wiccan, fat, ugly, smelly, mean, unlovely and the list goes on.  We shy away from people out of fear or because they aren’t like us.  That is the complete opposite of what God wants us to do.  God loves them.  He uses us to show his love to ALL people.  I challenge you to love the unlovely.  Don’t pound their skull with the bible.   Just show them love.  Care about them.  Allow someone else space in your heart.  You would be surprised how a little love goes a long way.  I forgot to mention one thing about that scene.  He never expected her to love him back, and he was fine with that.  Be fine loving people even if they don’t love you back.  That is the beauty of it all.  God loves, but most of the time, we don’t love him back.  But he keeps loving us anyway.  There are 4 books I recommend you read:  “Black”, “Red”, and “White”, the Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker; “Tattoos on the heart” by Gregory Boyle.

I leave you with these bible verses.

“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.”  — 1 John 4:7-8

2nd Christmas in Prison – Dec 26, 2015

Last year I was “fresh” on my lengthy sentence of 16 years, and Christmas was only 23 days into my approximate 5,840 days.  I couldn’t call anyone.  All I could do was send letters and cards.  I listened to Christmas music every day for the whole month of December.  I thought about the Christmases of past, smiled and cried.  This year was different.  Let me explain my Christmas this year.

The week before Christmas, the prison system got us a huge bag of lots of goodies and on the same day, a KFC Chicken Finger plate / dinner.  Then, that night an excellent Christmas program by the Exodus Church Choir from Hickory, NC.  Then, Christmas week came at the TV schedule was filled with Christmas movies and we had off three days for Christmas break.  Me and 4 other guys made a huge table full of nachos on Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning, I drank Hot Chocolate and watched the movie, “A Christmas Story.”  Went outside at 1:00 p.m. and played Ultimate Frisbee in the mud.  Got wet and muddy and had loads of fun.  Came inside, played cards, called my family (highlight of Christmas), then smashed some Oreos, chocolate chip cookies and milk on Christmas night.

However, something was different about this Christmas than last.  I believe it was the people watching and realizations and the struggles that I observed around me.  This year, I was around people that I have been around for almost a year now.  This one simple factor changes everything.  See, when you live, work, eat, sleep, go outside with the same people 24/7, you learn things about them.

You see when they are happy, sad, angry, and so on.  Well, Christmas, which is normally a joyful day, is one of the worst days out of the year for most prisoners.  I am not going to go into depth on the theology of Christmas or the secular traditions; let’s just focus on how Christmas brings families together.  Most prisoners don’t like Christmas because they can’t be with their families.  I understand that and can sympathize with them.  It is hard. I am not going to lie.  There were times when I wanted to cry.  But I found myself opening up my “house” for guests; taking on and listening to others’ struggles, sadness, frustrations at this time of the year.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, “The Wounded Healer,” talks about how we need to, as Christian leaders, face our loneliness, sadness, past and let go of them to make space for others.  We are all Christian leaders by the way.  One of the guys that I shared my Oreos and Chocolate Chip Cookies with was having an absolutely terrible Christmas.

Our block got to use the phone on Christmas.  He told his Mom he was going to call Christmas morning.  When his time slot came, he called everyone in his phone book and no one answered.  You can imagine how having his expectations not met was hard for him.  He became very angry then calmed down a bit.

Then the night shift said that if there was enough time at the end, that he could try.  There was enough time, but then the officers backed out on their word and didn’t let him try, making things worse.  So like the chick in the chick flicks, I brought him a tub of ice cream (in this case a whole bunch of cookies) and we ate our (mainly his) sorrows away.  It was the moment of Christmas where I put “me” aside and focused on him.  Opened my house up for a guest.  It was the moment when I didn’t mention the wonderful phone call I had with my family.  Sometimes we need to… actually most of the time we need to, forget about “me” and focus on others.  Also, the best medicine is love and ears to listen.  You don’t have to give them advice, just listen and love.  It makes a huge difference!

I love you all!