Can you give up everything? -Oct 17, 2016

I just finished watching the movie, Divergent.  In this movie it is about a society that is split up into factions.  You are born into a faction and at a certain age, you take a test to find out which faction you grow up in.  However, on selection day, you can pick whatever faction you want to be a part of.  The #1 rule however, is “Faction before blood.”  If they pick a faction other than their parents, they are not allowed to talk to their parents or live with them- no contact.  They have to devote 100% of their life to their faction.  If they leave their faction, they can’t go back to their parents.  They become factionless (basically  homeless).  They want you to be “ALL IN”.  I am not going to go on about what “Divergent” means or the different kinds of factions.  I might touch on Divergent in a different blog.

I sat there and wondered what it would be like to love your family deep in your heart, but leave them for a greater purpose.  I know for me and most everyone, it would be hard. However, isn’t that what Jesus wants us to do?  It is all throughout the Bible, especially in the new testament.  Luke 9:23 says “If you want to be a disciple of me, deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me.”

In Matthew, Mark, Luke, he talks about hating our family members and following him.  He doesn’t mean to actually hate them.  He is saying, put me #1.  Be my student, follow me, not your family, not yourself, not your job, not the world.  That is very hard… very, very hard.  I love my family to death.  Even God asked Abraham to leave everything and follow him.  It is a common theme in the Bible.

Can we leave what’s comfortable to join the faction of Christianity and to follow the leader of that faction?  Obey his every command?  That is what we are supposed to do.  Are we “ALL IN” or on the fence?

 

October 7, 2016

Hey all.  I am so sorry I haven’t written in a while.  I was sitting here thinking of the blog and how I haven’t written in months.  I apologize.  I will try to write more often.  This will be long because I have a lot to say.  Let’s start with class. I am in my 3rd and final semesters of Horticulture.  It has been a great year of class.  I have learned a lot and met a lot of great people.  This semester has been a little uneventful.  We do have a successful fall crop right now.  We have planted Arugula, Broccoli, Carrots, Spinach, Turnip Greens, Swiss Chard, Radishes, Zucchini, Onions, Lettuce and beets.  The beets and Zucchini didn’t do too well.  The Carrots, Turnip Greens, Arugula and Radishes have done really well.  My Aloe isn’t doing great inside the greenhouse, but it isn’t terrible.  I divided some baby Aloe and it is struggling from shock right now, but I think it will bounce back.  My orange trees look great.  That is about all that is going on in class right now.

The last day and graduation are on December 9th.  Then I might become a library worker while I am waiting to be shipped out to Medium Custody. I am excited to be going to Medium Custody.  I am also a little nervous.  My first choice of prison is Harnett Correctional.  They have a lot of classes there.  They have Barber School, Welding, Plumbing, Electrical, AC/HVAC, Small Engine Repair, Masonry, and Carpentry.  They also have a sex offender program that I would like to go through.  Once you go through it, you can get put in to be a peer counselor.  Seeing that I want to be a Counselor when I get out, I would love the experience.  My second choice is Warren, which I have heard is primarily Gang members.  They have a Travel & Tourism class I am interested in taking.  They also have part-time CDL classes too.  I am thinking of Lumberton.  They have some classes I am interested in as well.  However, I could be shipped to whatever prison has a bed.  My case manager will put in for me to go to my Top 3 choices, but it is not guaranteed.  So please keep me in your prayers for that.  I will be shipped out any time between January and March 2017.  I briefly mentioned above that I would like to be a counselor when I get out.  I am checking into correspondence courses to get my Master’s Degree in counseling while I am in here. I would like to get my PhD when I get out.  I will be 46 when I get out.  I still have time.  I would like to help felons, ex-cons and sex offenders.  Oh yea, also gang members. I would like to have a ministry for sex offenders to help them transition into society when they are released from prison.

I have met a lot of sex offenders who don’t have anywhere to go when they get out.  No family or friends.  They can’t stay in halfway houses.  At least in NC, there are no halfway houses that take sex offenders.  They can’t get Section 8 housing either.  So they need help.  It is also hard for them to get jobs.  That is the goal.  I will keep you updated.  Today, I read in my book, “And Jesus Said” by William Barclay, about servant hood and helping people.  He talks about how we should help people.  He uses the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  He talks about how and why the rich man was sent to Hell.  It is simple.  The rich man knew Lazarus was there, but he didn’t do anything to help him.  That was his sin.  As Christians, I have preached this before, we need to not just have pity, but do something about it.  The author talks about how the littlest thing is all we need to do.  Flash someone a smile, listen to them, give them a drink, invite them for dinner, have lunch with a homeless person, send someone a card, pray with someone.  I could go on and on!  Be creative!

He talks about how it’s our responsibility to make others’ lives easier and happier.  The saying “do unto others as you would have them do to you” goes a long way.  Think about that.  Let’s look at the negative form of that law.   “Don’t do to others what you do not want them to do to you.”  I challenge you to think about these two phrases, meditate on them.  I know that I myself have a lot of work to do in this area as well.  We can’t have a life of love without God’s help.  Put your trust in him always.  I love you all!

Love,
Eddie

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

Piano Update and Other Stuff – June 4

Recently I wrote a blog about piano.  Well, I officially auditioned 2 weeks ago.  The chaplain wants me to learn 15 songs by the beginning of July.  Then I will start playing for church services.  That is very exciting!  I am really enjoying getting back into playing piano.  I really, really enjoy it.  Especially playing praise music.  It really helps me to draw closer to God.  I am also going to be the guest resident speaker at the next Kairos reunion on June 9th.

I will be speaking about Jesus’ healing miracles and his love and compassion.  When I get finished writing the message, I will send it to you all.  I am almost finished with it.

Over the past few months I have taken a great interest in Jesus’ life.  A lot of people focus on his death and resurrection but don’t pay much attention to the details of his whole life! It is amazing!  I will let you all know how it goes!

I love you all!

Pearly White – June 4

So a while ago I wrote about how I haven’t brushed my teeth for like almost 8 years.  Well, I filled a request to get a dental cleaning. In here, you don’t know when they are going to call you.  I usually at least brush my teeth the day of my appointment.  So I started brushing my teeth every day since I turned in the request.

My teeth are looking good.  I also feel better after brushing. I have even started flossing too.  I have never done that, ever.  I tried when I had braces, but that didn’t last long.  Haha!  My gums did not like both of these things and they bled a lot at first, but now they are used to it.

I am sure they love me now that they are not in pain.  My teeth are looking on the brighter side of life too.  J  I am pretty sure that people around me are happier too.

Piano – May 21, 2016

I was blessed to be raised in a musical family.  My grandma was/is an excellent piano player, my grandfather has an excellent Bass voice.  My Mom has a great voice as do my aunts, and family, my Dad.  My Dad has played guitar since he was 16, and he can play keyboard and bass.  He also owned the best recording studio in St. Louis for a long time.  He has been involved in music his whole life; live audio and in bands.  He got his inspiration from his Dad who, I didn’t have that much time with unfortunately.  But he was a great guitarist as well.  Then we can go further and talk about my step-mother’s beautiful voice and my sister, Sarah (not her real name).  So as you can tell, I have been surrounded by music my whole life, which has been wonderful.

Well, I sang my first solo when I was a lamb in a children’s play at church. I was like 5 or 6.  Then I sang a solo as Stan, Stan the Garbage Man in the first grade play.  Then I was given the opportunity to play violin in the second grade.  My name was picked out of a hat to start a year early.  In Pennsylvania, they have orchestra and band in Elementary School.  I don’t know if they still do, but they did back then.  The next year, my grandmother bought me a piano and lessons for my birthday.  I was so excited, and I started taking lessons.  I will come back to that in a bit.  Then in 5th grade, I started playing trumpet.

In Middle School, I joined Choir and by High School, I was mainly into singing.  I was in the Choir, the auditioned Concert Choir, Band and my baby, the High School Barbershop Club, which me and the other three guys, Ben, Joe and Jason (not their real names) in my High School Barbershop quartet started.  I dropped violin and piano.  Occasionally I would accompany the church choir on an anthem or two.  All I cared about really was barbershop singing.

That adventure could really be a couple of blogs.  My grandfather got me into that, and I love it.  It is definitely a passion of mine.  Okay.  So back to piano because that is the name of the blog.  Haha!

Now this blog isn’t meant to toot my own horn.  It is actually to present a moral message.  So hang in there.  I started piano in 3rd grade.  What I found out was that I was good at it.  Really good at it.  Honestly, I was good at all the instruments, but that’s just it.  I was just good. I wasn’t fantastic.  Excellent, a pro, mesmerizing or any other amazing word you can think of to glorify my talent.  I was just good, okay, and so on.  See I got to a point where I was playing college level classical songs in Middle School.  In fact, when I got to college, I heard piano performance students play some of the songs I played in Middle School.

Yea, so it’s not like I couldn’t do it.  Even when I got to college, I had to take a class piano course, “Basics of Piano”.  I was bored out of my mind.  So they gave me hard songs for me to do for my exam.  I started working with the piano teacher and he kept trying to get me to change my major to Piano Performance.

Here I was, 20 years old, still not getting the message.  Now I am 31 and a little more at peace in my life, and willing to listen to people.  Even as I am writing this, I am realizing something. I realized this past week that I could be an excellent, fantastic pianist.  I mean, I could be really good.  However, I have never listened to people.  I have never listened to God’s message.

My first piano teacher’s only complaint about me, was “He doesn’t practice.”  When I practiced, I put my mind to it and learned these songs.  I was her best pianist/Student.  For real, but I never really wanted to practice.  I wasn’t great, excellent, fantastic, because of my choice to be mediocre. I settled for mediocrity, and it was my downfall.  I never embraced my passion, and realized that it was my gift.  I was too busy saying, “I can’t be that good.” Or comparing myself to other people, like my best friend, who is amazing at piano.  I mean fantastic, professional, amazing.  He is incredible.

This week, I went up to the Chaplain’s Office and practiced for 2 hours straight and would have longer if he didn’t have to go home.  I learned 3 songs last week, and I am learning a different style of playing.  I believe that God has been telling me something my whole life:  To bless people with my gift of playing piano.

I am ready. I am listening.  Let’s do this!  I now see that I can be excellent, and that I love it.  I am now going to be the keyboard player for the Praise Band!  Yay! I am super excited.

What about you?  Is there anything in your life;  a dream, that you just gave upon or you settled for mediocrity, and never met your full potential?  Face it, and don’t settle for failure, lost dreams, or mediocrity.  Go after it!

The Kairos Weekend – May 21, 2016

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending Kairos.  Before I get started with this blog, I just want to tell you that it will probably be the longest blog I have ever written.  Also, I am going to write as stuff comes to mind like I always do.  Kairos is a worldwide prison ministry.  They have weekend retreats for people who are incarcerated.  You have 42 inmates and 42 Kairos volunteers.  The purpose of the weekend is to share that God loves you and forgives you for your sins, no matter how small or big.

So we went down Thursday night to the Gym.  Well they had very beautifully turned the gym into a chapel, community room and food prep area.  So we all met in the chapel part and were assigned a mentor. Then we sat down with our mentor in the community room.  Then we introduced ourselves and answered questions about ourselves and the Kairos team members did the same.  Well one of the questions that the team members had to answer was “Where do you worship?”

So shortly before I was to introduce myself, there was a Kairos team member named Matt (not his real name) who started introducing himself.  He said something like this.  “Hi.  My name is Matt.  I am married with kids. I worship at Seacoast, Asheville.”  Then he went and answered the rest of the questions.  I about jumped out of my seat.  Before I got locked up, I worshipped at Seacoast – Greenville and was an active member of the men’s group.  To give you a brief idea what Seacoast is about, Seacoast’s main campus is in Charleston (Mt. Pleasant), South Carolina, and they have satellite campuses.  Everyone gets the same message from the main campus over a screen.  Now each campus has freedom with their music, small groups, men’s groups, etc.  So of course, at our first break I went to Matt and said “Hey my fellow Seacoast brother!” and we hit it off.

Then I found out that there were 2 other Seacoast Asheville brothers there too.  Then I found out that the 3 members that were there were the Worship band from Seacoast – Asheville.  As the weekend went on, we had all agreed that we would keep in touch and write each other.  The pastor, Russ, at the Greenville campus writes and visits.  And 4 other brothers that I grew close to also writes me.  So now I have 8 Seacoast brothers to write.  I am so excited.  I love Seacoast.  They truly care and love people.  No matter how broken you are, they are there for you.  They realize that “We are the church.”  People are the church.  So while we are on the Seacoast thing, I have one more thing.  Another Kairos team member came up to me and said, “Are you the guy that attended Seacoast – Greenville?”  I said, “Yep”.  Then we started to talk, and he was telling me how he lives in Greenville and he and his wife were talking a few days ago about checking out other churches.  So he started asking me about Seacoast.  He and his wife are going to give it a shot.  I also grew very close to this man and we shared a lot about our weaknesses and are going to keep writing!  J

So on Friday we went to the Gym at 7:45 a.m. and were finished at 7:15 p.m.  We were put into families and it was 6 inmates, 1 clergy, and 2 Kairos table leaders.  So Friday consisted of “Talks”.  They were about 15-20 minute talks.  We had 5 talks “Choices,” “You are Not Alone,”  “Friendship with God,”  “The Church,” and “Opening the Door.”  After each talk we had to write a group summary and draw a poster.  We had no artists in our group, so our posters weren’t great but they meant a lot.  So I have a confession.  One of the inmates in my group was really frustrating me. He was criticizing everyone’s summary.  So he took it upon himself to re-write every summary to what he wanted it to say.  He also had to design every poster.  He would admit that he wasn’t paying attention.  So none of our summaries or posters made any sense, and they all missed the point of the talks.  So I was frustrated.  Everyone was giving great input, but it was all ignored.  I was in a semi-bad mood.  I remained silent. I am going to come back to this.  In the middle of the day, we went to chapel and one of the Kairos team members got up to speak.  He started talking about accepting yourself and forgiving yourself.  In the beginning he opened up about his life.  For some odd reason, I broke down crying.  He was hurt, in pain, he was crying and I felt this pain.  I felt connected to this man. I wanted to run up and hug him. I am going to refer to this man a lot.  I don’t like giving names, so let’s call him Joe.

After chapel, we went back to the Community Room and our families.  We had a break, and I went up to Joe. I had never talked to this man before.  I went up to him and hugged him.  We both started crying (no words).  We had this connection.  We hugged for about 2 minutes.  I said, “I have no words to explain how I feel, but I felt your pain.”  He hugged me again.  I said, “I will pray for you” and walked away.  That night he spoke again in Chapel and he was talking about forgiveness. He paused and Kairos team members and inmates started asking forgiveness for things.  In that moment it hit me…. Through my spiritual journey I have faced a lot of my flaws, faced my past, I have asked for forgiveness and repented of my sins, have forgiven others and myself.  I have built walls in the past, and I have been tearing them down for 2 years.

During that time of asking forgiveness, I realized that recently and in the past, that I am very critical of people and judgmental of people; especially in here.  I spent half the day criticizing the guy that I thought was being a jerk, which later in the weekend, he admits to being a jerk, and the group worked better as a team. However that doesn’t give me the right to judge him or criticize him. So I realized that I needed forgiveness for being critical and judgmental.  Then that led to me realizing that because of these faults, it has hindered me of showing God’s love to people in here and being the disciple that God made me to be.  Needless to say, I cried my eyes out the rest of the night, back to the block, in my room and all the way through about 4 p.m. on Saturday.  I was an emotional mess.  Something else that was awesome that during this event, I looked around and saw some sex offenders, gang members, loners, old, young, black, murderers, drug dealers, etc. lifting each other up, loving each other.  Then when we got back to the block, they act like a totally different person.

I would love to see more love in this prison.  I know with God’s help, it is possible.  I had a great conversation with the young guy who wants to try Seacoast out.  I told him I wanted to be like the demon-possessed man in the tombs.  See, sometimes people don’t realize the WHOLE story.  Jesus walked into the tombs unafraid to talk to this man, who everyone disowned.  They left him naked in the tombs away from everyone.  Jesus casts out the 1000’s of demons into the pigs.  The man leaves the tombs clothed in this right mind.  The man goes to town with Jesus and the people were afraid.  They couldn’t believe it.  Jesus tells the man to tell everyone what Jesus has done for him.  The townspeople tell Jesus to leave.  Here is where it gets better.  The miracle where Jesus feeds the 5,000– well that is the same town, where the demon-possessed man was living.  This happened after the demon-possessed man was clothed and in his right mind.  In the town that cast him out, there were 5,000 people waiting to hear him speak.  Why is that?  Because the man told everyone what Jesus had done for him.  That is the life I want to lead.  I told everyone, stood up in front of everyone and shared this with them.  People were crying and no one else spoke.  Well when we had another break, Joe, remember him?  Came up to me, hugged me and said, “I was like the man in the tombs.”  I said, “So was I.”  We talked for 15 minutes easily.  He told me stuff about his life he hasn’t told anyone.  I am not going to repeat them—that is between me, him and God.  I shared as well.  We made a connection this weekend.  He told me he wants to keep in touch through letters.  Tonight we wrote people that we wanted to forgive and people that we wanted to forgive us on rice paper.

We had a ceremony where we dropped the paper with the names in a big bowl of water.  The paper dissolved in the water.  We gave it to God.  Powerful.  Tomorrow is graduation. I will write about that tomorrow.  I also got some very meaningful letters from Kairos team members.  These men are amazing examples and really know how to express Gods’ love.