Wednesday, February 17, 2010

#42 Reasons for Prison Support (Retro)

Reasons for Prison Support

I had not planned to blog today, because I was waiting to hear from some people on some of the issues I had recently been blogging about. I noticed I got quite a number of people reading my blogs, and other sites have mentioned it, so I think I am doing something right.

But sometimes I see that when you try to do right, so many things can go wrong. And as an ex felon trying to help others, I see this so very much.

I am always checking around, seeing who I can send my blog link to so I can get more readers, and hopefully get more to interact and ask questions. I say it over and over that it is critical for you to put some action to your reading, otherwise your fears will continue to control you.

But I am not without obstacles myself. Months ago I tried to sign up for a site called Prisonplace, and once I did I tried to put a few posts up. But I notice that the site has very little traffic, where it used to look like it did. It was discouraging.

I recently signed up for a site called Prison-online, not to be confused with Prison Talk (of which I have no respect for). Prison-online seemed to be quite active, and I jumped right in and shared about 10 past posts and blogs. But after about 3 or 4 days, I notice that the traffic there is also very slow. I am not saying it’s not there, just slow.

And so I start to worry a bit, asking myself, “where are all the people who are worried about loved ones in prison?”. There are still millions out there, and it is so strange that just a couple of years ago, there were tons of different prison support sites. I ought to know, I wrote for most of them. Now there are very, very few.

I used to get a lot of readers and it was pretty easy to google up my posts and blogs, now it is hard to find. I know I don’t know everything about how to submit an URL and stuff like that, but things looked like it was harder for an ex felon writer like me to draw traffic.

So I started feeling down about it, and spent time praying about it. I know that I am not perfect, but I am confident to put up the thousands of pages of my writing to anything anyone else tried to do for ex felons. My goal was to create a venue where you can come, read about the life of an ex felon and ask questions so I can help you….

So I can HELP you…

And in that, I hope to earn your trust enough to support me financially. I needed that end to work because it helps me so much more for those that may not be able to afford to support me. For every one person that send me a gift, there were 25 who just didn’t have the money. But because some of you DID help me, I had the strength to help those that had nothing to give. What I DID give them however, was my love for them.

So it was important that I got that support, and at times it was there. But when it wasn’t, it was almost like driving on empty. Pretty soon it got to where it was harder to write because I just didn’t see the support coming in. Then I started to question whether it was even a good thing to do, helping mothers, wives and girlfriends of inmates.

But I KNOW I am supposed to be doing this. I KNOW it.

So I have been hanging on as much as I could.

But this week has been tough.

One of my best supporters told me that a loved one in her family passed away, my heart goes out for her and last night I got on my knees and prayed for her and her family. I am not saying that for any credit folks, I say that because lots of times when people say, “I’ll pray for you” they just mean that by words. If I say I am going to pray for you, then I have a direct obligation to find time to pray to God about or for you. If not, then I am a liar to God. I don’t need that kinda pressure on me.

But today I have more obstacles to negotiate.

In talking to a good friend, I found out that they are having some problems with their finances, and because of it their son may have to drop out of school. That hurt me because I know their son was so excited about going to I think Stanford. But the money was not there and it looks like they have to move. That hurt my heart….

But just before that, my mom gets a phonecall from my grandmother to tell her that one of my mom’s classmates has passed away. My mom took it pretty hard.

It’s hard for me to sit here and stay positive when things like this happen, and it has a direct affect on my blogging here. I sit here often times and tell you guys that you can make it, you can do it, you can overcome, but then I have my own trials and tribulations.

And I hate myself for not having money to send to that family to help their son, it hurts me so deeply that I was sitting here trying to get money to buy some clothes, while there is a family who’s kid has to drop out of school because they have to move.

(oh a note here, my friend’s family lives in South America, so it’s not about US here)

If I had the money, I would have tried to send it to him, but I don’t. Sometimes I get upset at myself because I am not doing enough here to make money to help others. It really sucks when you know you’re supposed to be in a position to help financially but can’t.

God didn’t put me here to be broke.

But it hurts just the same. Money can’t help my mother’s friend who has passed away, but it could have helped that family. Having both of these things come inside of a few minutes might have made my headache worse.

But what I did was get on the computer and looked for a prayer request site, and just typed in a prayer. I had to do something to put some faith on this, so I prayed for that family to get some finances and to help them. I am not the #1 prayer in the world, but what I DO know is that God has heard, and answered my prayers before.

Some of you who read my blog about my nephew’s cousin who lost his sight….and got it BACK know what I am talking about.

Right now it would be easy for me to get off this computer, go in my room and cry. In fact, it might be natural. No different from you to do the same with a loved one in prison, with no hope. That’s just the way things are.

Isn’t it?

It hasn’t been so hot for me lately, and my blogs are kinda proof of that. I am used to writing 4 pages of heart-felt prison stuff, and getting emails and comments from people about it. I am used to writing with the idea that what I share is indeed helpful to people. But it seems this is my season for trials because it has been a struggle.

How then can I encourage you, if I myself need it?

I really had to stop writing at that moment to think about that. How do I encourage people looking for hope when I need it myself? How do you give what you don’t have? Maybe this is my answer:

Sometimes when I hit the wall like this, I can either just give up and quit, or try to remember the blessings I received. I remember in college and almost losing a chance to finish my senior year because lack of money, and I remember tithing to a ministry and praying over that summer. I remember taking that ride over 300 miles, not even telling mom that I MIGHT not be allowed in, but I was believing in a miracle. God had to answer my prayer or I would not finish college. In the end, HE did, and I did.

I remember during that same summer the first words I ever “heard” spoken to me, long before I ever was in any trouble. During a quite time of the day after work in Raleigh, there was a “voice” that said, “write for Me”. I thought I was supposed to write poems or short stories, so I wrote inspirational or Christian-based stories for awhile.

But that wasn’t what I was asked to write about. In jail I spent a lot of time praying for a miracle in my problem, because it did not look good at all. I felt I was better off hanging myself, and tried to more than once. I tried to overdose once as well. Neither worked. Odd that for many days I prayed, read scriptures and did all I could to stay in faith, but there were also days I had completely given up.

Folks, I SHOULD be dead.

And in all that, I debated about doing God’s will and helping others, but wanting my prayers answered and going home. There was a “voice” that said to me as I woke up one day, “Whom shall I send?”

Millions of men and women are in prison, and millions more miss them, yet who goes to prison to help them? I am not talking about ministries who VISIT, that is great and all but sometimes there must be a light in the darkness…somebody has to BE an inmate to help others.

And that’s foolish to the world, so we never accept that. We think God is going to send a ray of light to the prisons and pick somebody and change them. God works THROUGH people, so somebody had to be the light…even if the world sees them as the dark. There must be some truth in this, otherwise every person in prison would be doomed to hell and nobody would have faith or believe in God.

So sometimes God has to have “agents” to help others in prison. But to do this, those people had to actually BE inmates…they had to have been found guilty of a crime and sentenced. To the rest of the world, they had to be condemned. It seemed to have to work that way, because who would volunteer to go to prison? Nobody.

So I struggled with this, wanting to believe that God could help me, but not wanting to go to prison. I spent MONTHS trying to understand how to do both. And it seemed that the result was clearly something God made possible. I didn’t do NEARLY as much time as people thought, heck, even my lawyer was surprised. But in that there must have been a compromise. God still needed somebody to be a help in prison, but also had mercy on me to not spend as much time as I could have.

He also knew how much I loved to write, and apparently knew I would write about prison while still there. He also looked after me, even when I first initially gave up on Him completely. If you read my first “Grades of Honor” book, you know what I mean.

I gave up on God because I felt He let me down, and did not answer my prayer. But I think he did, seeing how I felt and what I believed. But here is something interesting, when I gave up on God, life in prison was easier. When I went BACK to God, I had all kinds of tribulations. I think the last prison I was in was glad to get rid of me, because they wanted to transfer me out of there before my release date.

I got through prison without realizing that I was being watched over, and suddenly the words, “write for Me” seemed to take on some shape. I never asked to write prison posts or blogs, it just “seemed” right to do. I had tons of journals, and I loved to write, and I just experienced prison. It was the perfect combination to share and talk about prison.

And it took a year or two of writing before I realized that maybe THIS is what God meant. It made sense too. Writing poems and short stories wasn’t going anywhere, but writing prison blogs and posts were actually HELPING people. I was being a help to those that needed it by use of my writing.

I also remember how things got bad for me and I lost jobs because of my past. Even working for a so called Christian radio station didn’t turn out well when they got cheap on me and paid me $3 an hour. I ended up getting fired and lost not one but two jobs based on the mouth of a so called pastor. Funny, that same radio station is now off the air, I wonder how much of that was based on treating employees unfairly.

But I also remember how I really, really needed money to pay my restitution, and had none. I was in violation of my probation, and even though the probation officers knew I was not a trouble maker, it was simply part of the parole that I pay almost $10K, and did not have it. But it took a miracle at nearly the last minute to find people to help me and my mom. Further, it also took a miracle to find favor with the judge, because even though it got paid, I could have still gone back to prison…I didn’t.

But none of this is without persecutions. I have been hated by some of the very prison support sites I helped, and have been banned by numerous sites. Most prison support sites don’t like it when you talk about them on your blogs, as if they own your right to speak. Most prison support sites don’t want you mentioning your books about prison, but they will allow endless posts about “chicken soup for prisoners” or all kinds of other prison books written by people who never made one comment on their site.


There were days where I just knew I was pleasing God when I write something and I get responses from readers who said “I really needed to hear that today” or “Thank God for you” or “God bless you for what you shared today”. I knew I was doing something right because the results were there.

But there have also been days that I wondered why I can’t get a dollar in support. I have been criticized by people about that, but the ones who have the biggest mouths about it are the ones who would never give me a dime anyway. People act like what I share is theirs to enjoy because as an ex felon, I don’t deserve to ask for a penny.

But many of them will steal my blog and share it elsewhere.

But throughout all this, I have fallen, got back up, fallen, got back up and fallen again. I keep getting back up because somebody needs me. And deep inside me I have to believe God gave me a command. It must be true because my heart won’t let me leave it. Believe me folks, I tried. I gave up more than once, and this is the last blog out of over 10 that I had across the internet.

God does not want me to give up…and in like manner I say that to you. I don’t want you to give up.

I told my friend that I didn’t want him to give up for his son, because I knew his son was going to break down and cry. It hurts me that I don’t have enough money in my bank account to send whatever they needed. It bothers me that I don’t have enough in my bank account to send free Christmas Encouragement Certificates. If I was financially blessed I could do more. But right now I can’t. Heck, I really want to get to Steve and Berrys before they close for good at the end of the month, but I don’t quite have the money to do it.

But I gotta believe in something. I gotta believe God will bless me financially so I can get a new computer, buy clothes, help my mom and family out, and have plenty left over to do things like sending money to a friend who’s family needs it, or setting aside free prison cards or prison encouragement certificates for others who just don’t have the money.

One day somebody’s gonna email me and ask if sending X dollars will be fine, and I will rejoice. Someday somebody’s gonna donate some money to help me and I will rejoice. Someday somebody’s gonna ask to buy my books or cards or encouragement certificates and I will rejoice. The money’s got to come in if God is hearing my prayers.

But at the same time, I will get criticism by people because they think I am trying to fleece the reader. Some believe that I am saying that you have to pay for my blogs. That is foolish, and I don’t owe people like that an explanation, because they never believed in me anyway. But I challenge any person to go to the earliest blogs here, and read for an hour and tell me I am not sincere.

You can’t do it unless you never read those blogs. I put my heart in this because somebody needs to read it that way. And I have received some support from some very kind people since I have been blogging. All I want to do is increase that, so I can do even more for those with loved ones in prison.

It’s a tough day today for me, and I can imagine you had a tough day, or week or month as well. But if we can believe together, we’ll get through it. I need that from you guys. Hang in there.

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