Sunday, March 28, 2010

#111 God and ex felons

God and Ex Felons

I may have blogged on this idea before, I certainly have written on this subject matter in different forms, but this is always interesting when it comes to what general society sees as polar opposites.

This is a very controversial subject because the purist and extremist of prison issues clearly believes that inmates and ex felons are as far away from God as planet Earth is from the sun. We believe this because those that believe in God believe that He is an entity of pure good…and nothing that is bad, or evil dwells near Him.

At the same time, we believe that anyone who has gone to prison, or is currently in prison, is condemned, and non-redeemable, and an abomination to God. Many people feel that ex felons deserve whatever they get, and if something bad happens to them in prison, so what? If they can’t find a job after prison, so what? They got what they deserve.

(This is what a fool believes).

Its funny that we place eternal judgment based on man’s laws, not knowing or caring what God thinks…its like we do the thinking for Him, and everybody else just kinda goes with the flow.

So the idea of ex felons (or also inmates) cannot possibly fellowship with God.

Folks…what is this based on?

Now understand, I am not trying to say that every person in prison is pure and good and has good intentions for their fellow man…we know that is not true, but I also know that there are just as many people that never set foot in prison that are just as bad as some in prison. Lots of very evil people will never set foot in prison, yet society does not condemn them nearly as much as a man who may have done time, and trying to get his life back.

The title of this blog is based off some emails I got, and because I have been sharing my blogs a bit lately, my reputation (good or bad) has increased. But a lot of the emails I got were from Christians who have a loved one in prison, or going to prison, and they happened to find my blogs. It forced me to step back and take a look at how an ex felon like myself, relates to God.

If you have read some of my older blogs, or “retro” then you know that I wrote numerous blogs in faith that God does and can answer prayer. To this end, it might appear that I am always positive, constructive and faithful. As much as I would love to say that, I caution you that I am only human, and have my own crosses to bear myself.

My experience in prison is well documented in my journals, letters and other writings. And as much as I have written in the last 8 years or so, we STILL have not really gotten into much of what I experienced. I have stacks of old papers that I wrote while in prison that I am waiting to share when the time is right.

But some of those writings were about my faith in God while I was in prison. Its funny because my faith has been very different throughout my incarceration, and after I got out. Its something I have always believed when it comes to faith; that it is simple and easy to trust God when everything is going peachy-keen…

(does anybody say that anymore….)

But when the trials come, we fold up like a lawn chair. Or, as some say about inmates, they go running to God when they have problems, when they should have done that before.

This is based on the premise that no Christian would ever go to prison since God would not allow that…uh folks, that isn’t correct at all.

The foolish assumption that if you believe in God, you won’t go to jail or prison is based on the simplistic approach that if you believe in God, you would do right…but there are thousands and thousands of Christians that will cheat you out of your last dollar, and then smile in church and say amen.

Simply believing in God does NOT make you perfect.

So the criticism people have about ex felons or inmates who run to God is a foolish thought…who gave YOU the right to judge a man who runs to God in his time of need? Would you rather him NOT go to God for help? Who made you the qualifier of who has the right to ask God for aid?

It burns me up when people say that about inmates, as if a man in jail does not have a legal right to call on God…it almost sounds like a devil trying to convince somebody that they can’t get help from God…when the aid is likely available to anyone who asks.

On that note, I also think it foolish when people say they don’t deal with folks who aren’t saved. A year or two ago I was trying to help a local Christian bookstore, and one day we were talking and the owner said something that bothered me. She said that if they knew a person was not saved, they would not hire them.

To me, that is short sighted.

If you refuse or reject a person because of that, tell me how that person ends up GETTING saved? If so called Christians are too stuck up to help a fellow man, how then does that same man find God? If we all rejected folks because they weren’t saved, then nobody would ever get saved. Its funny because a lot of the same people that are pastors and preachers and making Christian Cds and stuff, were the same people about 10 years before, that was out in the clubs and having a grand ole time, and oh by the way, NOT saved.

We as human beings are so foolish when it comes to who deserves what kinda of mercy.

As an ex felon, I have had my share of ups and downs in my own faith. As I said before, many of my blogs are full of faith, but I have had times where my faith was at low levels. One of the projects I was working on a year ago was called “Scriptures for Inmates”, a short series I wanted to do that allowed me to write about scriptures for those in prison, using my experience as an ex felon to help those that are in prison.

There were times I really felt I was doing something good, something meaningful, there were times I truly felt I was called to do this…by whatever means that happened, here I am blogging and in the last 8 years I have helped thousands.

But there have been times where I have said to myself, “what is the point trusting in God? He can let 1000 people in faith die, and turn around and bless 1000 people that won’t serve Him.”

Sometimes I wonder Who’s side He is on when a person who prays can’t get the time of day, and a person who would spit on a Bible can become wealthy beyond measure.

I’ve been on both sides of this folks. I KNOW God can answer prayer, I have had some answered myself. But it seems that there are times that when you count on Him, you have your prayers denied. I was really praying for a good Christmas, and leading to December I was spending a bit of time reading my Bible, praying not just for myself, but for others. Those of you who wrote to me during that time can attest to that by my responses in faith to your situations.

I really wanted to have a good Christmas, and for once, have some good things go my way, especially financially. It would have really been nice to buy mom something, anything, for Christmas. Granted I needed stuff myself, and then there was my blogging that I wanted to do. I really, really felt that if I hung in there, helped others and prayed in faith, things would work out.

Its about this time where some jerk would try to condemn me because I am an ex felon. Its about here where some moron would say something stupid like, “well, if you didn’t break the law, maybe you’d have a job by now”.

Stupid idiots, it is easy to hang somebody you don’t know…..or care about.

But anyway, I was hopeful that this Christmas (2009), things would be different. This would be the best Christmas ever, and I surely would praise God for blessing me, my family and friends. One of the things I thought would be cool was if I had the money, just go to the mall or someplace and maybe I would overhear some mom or grandmother talking about something they wanted to get for their child, but could not afford. I thought it would be really cool to be there to turn to that person and say, “I know you don’t know me, but I believe I have been led here to be a blessing to you today”. And then I would buy whatever they wanted for their children…no questions asked.

I mean, wouldn’t that be so cool?

I had ideas of what I could do, what I would do, if money was different. But it was so hard to do anything as an ex felon. Everybody thinks that its easy for an ex felon to find a job, a moronic statement. No case is the same, just because you know one, or even 10 ex felons that has a job does not mean every ex felon can find one…heck, lots of regular people are looking for jobs now. We just had a “Roses” store open around here, and 1000 people came by to fill out an application…they are only hiring 50. What chances are there for an ex felon to get one of those jobs?

So there are frustrations that the common person does not care about, because to them, ex felons don’t deserve it anyway…odd since those same people expect ex felons to turn water into wine, and to walk on water.

Anyway, my prayers for a good 2009 Christmas was the plan. I read scriptures, prayed, read faith-based magazines, books, and listened to Cds from ministries, doing everything I could to stay in faith. I believed that it HAD to change, things just HAD to get better. But I remember on Christmas Eve, 2009, and it was just before I went to bed…

I realized NOTHING changed.

I was just as broke as I was before, no better than when I started praying.

And at that moment, I stopped praying. To me, God apparently refused to answer my prayer. I went to bed very disappointed, and wondering where I went wrong. I stood in faith, I prayed for help and blessings, I paid my tithes, even if I had $20 to my name, I sent at LEAST 10% to a ministry. Where did I go wrong, that I received absolutely nothing?

I remember lying in bed, feeling defeated, because now I was at a loss at what kind of prayers God answers. Only a few things had to be true; either God refused to answer my prayer, for whatever reason, or God could NOT answer my prayer, which questions if He is as supreme as we were led to believe.

Notice the question was not if there WAS a God…no, I knew there was one.

If God picks and chooses whom He helps, then it creates the theory that no prayer is truly guaranteed. I could pray for my mom to be healed and she might pass away, whereas a greedy person could pray for a million dollars, and gets it a week later.

How much of this is based on me being an ex felon? In a human’s eyes, some would say everything…but I cannot believe that. I don’t believe for one second that God judges a prayer based on a background check. Man might believe that, and in fact discourages ex felons from having faith in God, but that cannot be true.

So there are times where I wonder if God is really on my side, and when I blog, I cannot hide my feelings on that. I will not lie to you and say everything is great, although I do believe that it is critical to stay positive. But there are days when your faith shatters and you wonder where the heck God is, and why hasn’t He answered your prayers.

Believe me folks, I am there more times than you know.

And so it is weird when I then get emails from people who say things like, “God bless you for your blogs”, or that they felt that they were led to my blogs by God. That God answered their prayers when they were looking for help with a loved one in prison.

When I read those things, sometimes I feel troubled because there are times my faith is not good at all. Oh I might not talk about it a lot, but if I wrote about things I felt more often, the gates of Heaven might be tarnished.

There are days I am not very happy with God at all…

But the irony is that far more times than not, people look for help and many are Christians, and they have faith that God is helping them…with me. I suppose God could use anybody to do His will, even those that don’t think they are serving God, so it kinda makes sense of some people think I am doing a good thing…I would assume I was too.

And I have seen blessings from God, I told you about my college days and even some situations while I was in prison. So I KNOW prayers can be answered. I am absolutely sure of that. The problem is, I don’t know WHICH prayers God answers. And that frustrates me.

I have dreams just like anybody else. If I am to write blogs, I would love to see it blossom with support so I can make a living out of it. Heck, millions of people have done time, and millions of folks have loved ones who are in prison, or have done time, or may go to prison. There has to be a service that can help those people. If I could get even a slight fraction of those people to support what I do, I could make a living, pay my debts, help my family and also contribute to this genre.

Sure, I’d like to buy a Ferrari too….but as I said before, wouldn’t I be more productive in society doing this than flipping burgers at McDonalds? Society wants ex felons to contribute to society, what better way than this? I have answered thousands of emails over the years in hopes to turn that proverbial corner. I’d love to get to the point where I am making good money doing this very same thing, and helping even more people than before. A good honest job writing about prison issues, helping those with loved ones in prison, and keeping folks in faith. That would be a nice dream to me.

But my faith in God waivers often when it comes to that. People expect ex felons to work for free, but get upset when we “whine” about not having a job. People want ex felons to be completely charitable for their sakes, but not willing to lift a finger to help them simply because they ARE ex felons. Society wants it both ways; for ex felons to suffer unemployment and persecution, but expects them to be pure angels and helping every known charity in the community.

Lots of times I get emails from people that my heart jumps to, people that I just know I have to try to help. And when I do, it is NEVER about “what can you do for me”. I have never asked anybody to send me a dime BEFORE answering their questions. I do my best to help them because they took the time to ask for help. But when I do, I hope that IF that person could, to support me if they felt I was sincere in my help to them. Note, that is not a requirement, so don’t get bent out of shape and assume I am requiring you to pay me for aid.

And many folks I am cool with that, because at the very least they say thank you or “God bless you”. But some folks email me with their problems, and if I email them back about some solution or a discussion, I never hear from them again. To them, they got what they wanted out of me, and they are gone, with no so much as a thank you. Yet if that person falls into despair again, they will email me again, thinking I will be just as happy to answer them again, because for some foolish reason, “I am supposed to help them”.

This is NOT everybody, if you have emailed me a few times, then I am not talking about you, so don’t get upset. This applies just recently to a couple of people that read some of my blogs and asked for my help, and after I write a bunch of stuff for them, they never emailed me back to say one way or another if it helped or not.

Things like that sometimes have we question God to wonder, “why bother helping folks if nobody cares, and apparently there is no blessing behind it?” I mean, flipping burgers requires no faith in God, and it does not help anybody, it just helps people get food. Yet it is worth more financially than years of blogging on prison issues.

In the natural, if I had worked the last 5 years at any minimum wage job, I would have been much better off than if I wrote any blogs. Never mind that thousands have read my blogs and have gotten some help, it didn’t give me a living. But I could have served thousands in some dead end job, and never helped anybody.

Sometimes I wonder if it was a mistake to blog, because to this point, I am not where I wish to be, and at times I regret ever writing at all. What good is it to help a thousand souls if your very own is not saved? I am not saying that in a spiritual sense, I am saying that carnally. If a man with a 10 gallon jug of water helps 20 people in the desert to quench their thirst, this is a good thing. But if after the 20th person, he runs out of water, and needs it himself, who then will help him? If he died of thirst, would he have been better served to save himself than save others?

Folks, I can write for DAYS on my spiritual issues, some days I feel like God is going to be a great blessing to me, and then there are days I feel that God is beating me up side the head with the staff of wrath. Some days I just can’t figure it out, what do I have to do to turn this around and start prospering? And if I can’t figure it out, how in the name of God can I tell you how to do it?

So now I get emails with people saying I am a blessing to them, and they say things like “God bless you”….

I sure wish He would…I can use a new pair of shoes now…and some pants… and I would love to get a new computer…or at least buy supplies for the old one…and would love to help mom pay bills…and pay off my student loans…and buy new glasses…

You get the point.

So there are days I can rebound, and get back in faith…some days are better than others. Falling down does not mean I gave up, it just means I am down for now. Its one of the reasons I am writing the short story, “Defending Job”. I hope to finish it soon, and if I do, it won’t be on the other blogs. I will only share it on one blog. But that is later…probably much later.

So I have my own spiritual war, and some days are much harder than others, but I am hopeful that just as I am down, things just have to start to turn my way. It simply HAS to. Maybe one day some wealthy person will find my blogs to be very useful and offer to support it. Maybe more people will ask about my books or cards. Maybe something will happen to get me on my way financially.

Or maybe I’ll die tomorrow…I mean, who can say? If the latter happens, was my life a waste of time? I prayed for prosperity not just out of greed, but because by being prosperous, I can help others. I am not of the belief of some Christians that think that they just want enough of a blessing to get by…what good are you as a Christian if you are in no position to help somebody else? What good is it to say, “Thank you Jesus for me having just enough to take care of all my bills and owe nobody” when the person across the street from you is starving? You are in no position to BE a blessing, but yet those same people want God to bless them.

Still, I wonder if the time I put into prison writing was worth the effort. If I could do it all again from the time I got out of prison, would it had been better to never write on prison issues, and find some low-end job and work and scratch a living? It sounds like the better idea, and to be honest, at this point it sounds more realistic. But if I had done that, I would have never written anything online. Prison Talk Online might hate me, but they cannot deny that when I wrote for them, I was one of, if not THE best writer on the site. Same said for many other prison support sites, many of them no longer exist.

If I had never written any posts or anything, what would YOU be reading now?

That does not make me some saint, prophet or anyone important, it simply says that the contributions of a person can have positive results to those that need it. People think I am lying when I said I have written over 5000 pages on prison issues. I mean WHOLE PAGES, not simple one-liners or copy and pasted paragraphs. Heck this blog tonight is at 8 pages as it is!

And yet, there is so much more we can discuss when it comes to God and ex felons. So much more. But I wrote this to let you know that as much as I write to keep you encouraged, remember that I am human, and I have fallen numerous times while blogging these last few years. Some days I have felt like God does not care about mankind at all, and would not care if 100,000 people died tomorrow, even if they were all in church praying for others. At the same time, I wonder if God, just to show that He is God, would give wealth to people who don’t know Him at all, and bless them to several generations.

But I also believe, at times, that God is a very loving and powerful Father, Who is willing to split mountains in half to get to believers. It says that the eyes of the Lord wander about the earth, searching for people who’s heart is perfect towards Him. I assume He is constantly looking for people to bless, to show that He is a loving God.

Maybe God needs Mapquest to my house…I could sure use some of that blessing.

Anyway, I have run my mouth enough, it is almost 2am, and I won’t post this until tomorrow…just too tired right now…physically and spiritually. We’ll chat again soon. Don’t be afraid to email me, my desire is still to help if I can. Always looking for support. Until the next blog….

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