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.

Kairos Sunday – May 29, 2016

This day was very emotional for a variety of reasons; One, because it was the last day and two, because there were about 100 people from the outside yelling, cheering, clapping and showing authentic Agape love for all of us.  If that doesn’t make you cry, I don’t know what will.  I don’t think that one inmate didn’t cry.  It is amazing how much Agape love helps a person; helps them to have hope again.  Helps them to see that even though they are broken, have sinned, have fallen, that people still care and love them.  It was amazing!

It was sad, because we didn’t even really get to say goodbye to all our Kairos mentors.  That stank really bad.  They are coming back on May 14th, but over the weekend we had grown very close to them.  I have seen some genuine changes in inmates on the block.  It is amazing.  I hope that we don’t get discouraged and keep supporting and encouraging each other.

So the conclusion of the weekend was: Accept God’s grace, love and forgiveness and spread his love to others.  “Christ is counting on you!”

Horticulture Class Update – Feb 28, 2016

I hope everyone is doing well.  I have not updated you on my Horticulture Class since the first day.  Haha.  I love Horticulture class.  It is so fun and interesting.  In the morning, Monday – Thursday we have a lecture / class, and in the afternoon, we go out to our big greenhouse.  I love going to the greenhouse.  It is so therapeutic.  I have about 300 plants that I take care of.  I planted some Petunia seeds in the middle of January and now I have about 120 Petunia plants.  They are for the Spring Flower Sale.  I also have two trays of Begonias that we got from another plant by clipping pieces off and planting them.  It is a form of propagation (breeding plants).  So I have 72 of those.  They are looking great.  I also have about 50 Snake Plants.  They are just cuttings right now.  We cut up one of the plants and made more.  🙂

I also have some Holly cuttings as well.  I took a grassy-looking houseplant and separated it, divided it to come up with 11 plants.  They are doing so well.  I also have 8 Strawberry plants.  One of them has 4 Strawberries!  Yum!  I also have 15 Cacti and 2 Tomato plants.

We are about to start our vegetable garden. We are going to plant Beets, Carrots, Cucumbers, Arugula, Spinach, Broccoli, Leafy Lettuce, Turnips, Turnip Greens, Radishes, Squash, Onions, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Crème de Menthe Melon, Green Beans and Tomatoes.  We have about 60 Tomato Plants.  I am planting Beets and Onions in my row. I have been adding compost and turning the dirt so far.  It looks great! I can’t wait. I will also be planting some Browalia (purple flower, annual) for our Spring Flower sale, and Vinca and Mimulus (yellow flower or monkey flower) in the next month.  So far, in the greenhouse, I have learned about Pest Management,  and Propagating and Basic Greenhouse Maintenance (weeding, cleaning, watering, etc.)  I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

I am also working on m own little project.  It is called “Second Chance Acres”.  It is a Dry Bean Farm, Hummus production, low income housing, Rehabilitation and a Community Garden for ex-cons.  It will be a non-profit organization to help felons get their lives together.  I am doing some intense research and planning!  Not only will we provide Rehab, but also Christian activities, services and community meals and programs.  The Rehab part will be modeled after the Circle of Hope program in Canada.  I will keep you all updated on Horticulture and “Second Chance Acres.”

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!

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

Slower is faster – March 21, 2015

I have been working in the Sewing Plant for a week and a half.  On the second day, the Supervisor put me on the Bar Tack machine.  I never used the machine before.  I learned how to do the task and did 6 bundles the first day!  Production is 10 bundles.  The second day, I completed 8 bundles.  The supervisor raised my pay from Level 1 to Level 3 pay which is the max.  He told me I was close enough to production. I came back to work on Monday and did 8 bundles.  Tuesday, I came in to a broken machine, but I still managed to get 9 bundles done.

On Wednesday, my machine kept unthreading and I was getting frustrated.  The mechanic did some adjustments and said there was nothing wrong with my machine.  I thanked him, but the machine kept unthreading.  It would unthread almost every pair of pants and sometimes 2 to 3 times a pair of pants!  I knew at this rate, I wasn’t going to make production.  So I slowed down and watched the needle the whole time.  It took me an hour to do that bundle, but I realized something.  I sat there the whole day, frustrated, blaming the problem on the machine.  But the problem was “operator error”…  ME.  I was the reason why the thread kept coming out of the needle.

I realized that because I was trying to be fast, I was being careless.  I wasn’t smooth in moving the fabric.  I was jerking the fabric, causing it to knock the thread out of the needle.  The next bundle I did, I slowed down and learned how to move the material smoothly.  That bundle took me 45 minutes.  The next 35 minutes and now I can do a bundle in 30 minutes.  By going slower, I became faster.

Yesterday I did 8 bundles, and if we had more work to do, I would have done 10, but we ran out of work.  Because I slowed down and moved at a consistent pace, I only had to rethread my needle twice the whole day!  My fastest bundle was 27 minutes.  Almost as fast as the guy next to me and he moves faster, but he has to thread his machine more.

Imagine if we applied this concept to life.  People would be happier if they just would slow down.  Life would be smooth!  In society today, we have a tendency to rush and there is no need to rush.  We rush when we buy a house, car, drive, projects, dinner, dates, and the list goes on!  Challenge—try slowing it down and see what happens!