Thursday, May 20, 2010

#201 Faith for a felon or ex felon (retro)

Faith for a felon or ex felon

Well, today will start off a little rough…I notice there are no sodas in the refrigerator…


I had a bunch of emails today, and will take time to go through them, some I have already gone through. I mentioned to some of you that Embarq has changed up their format, and it really SUCKS when you are writing emails. It is so slow to generate the characters that it can throw you off. But I will try to bear with it, hoping they realize how problematic it is and fix it.

Also, thanks to those of you who support my blogs by sending me support. I cannot say how much it means and how much it encourages me to continue to not only blog, but to give you my best effort. I don’t know if it’s me, but when I write, I am not satisfied in a paragraph or even a page. If I didn’t give you my best effort, I consider it a failure.

And when I started blogging, I got a lot of emails from people who loved my blogs, but wanted me to shorten my posts. They said that the average reader wants his or her information condensed to almost “Cliff Notes” style. I thought about that, but then reasoned that those kinda people don’t NEED my blogs, they just want to be entertained. I am not writing for THEM.

I am writing for those with loved ones in prison, or those who have done time. And for that reason, I want to give them my best effort…which is why I write so much.

So again, my thanks to those who support my blogs, my sincere thanks whether you sent me $5 or $150, it truly helps. My thanks to those who bought one prison card or a dozen. It has been a great help.

Now, let’s talk about faith.

Today I was thinking of how to explain what faith might be to an ex felon, or a person in prison, or even to you, who have a loved one in prison. What is it, and how can it be applied to an incarcerated or formerly incarcerated person?

For that matter, is it available to them?

This is something that most people fail from the beginning, because there is a humanistic belief that people who go to prison or have done time are not “allowed” to have faith…that is pure garbage.

I say again…that is garbage.

Faith is no respecter of persons, but it can have many different levels. My faith in, for example, getting a new computer, could be much lower than yours…or higher. Every person has a certain measure of faith, it is a matter of how it is applied or reinforced.

So let’s try to keep this in the realms of an ex felon or someone with a loved one in prison…what is faith to those people?

I blogged on this before, and what I mentioned then was that there actually are different definitions of “faith”. There is the carnal definition, and then there is the spiritual. In my Oxford American Dictionary, the word “faith” is defined as:

“A reliance or trust in a person or thing”

It implies that we would rely and put our trust in somebody or something. Two examples I can give you are my mom, and a dollar bill.

If I asked my mom for some money to buy some shoes, and she said yes, then I have faith that she will give me the money to do it…why? Because I trust my mom and I believe she will be able to do what she promised me she would.

We as Americans have faith in objects too, such as the dollar bill. Have you ever gone to a store here in the US and wondered if your dollar bill was good enough to be accepted? (I am talking about a real dollar bill, not mangled and torn). You never have to worry about that because in this country, that dollar bill is backed by the gold of the USA. We have near absolute faith that when we purchase something, the legal tender we give is going to be accepted.

Now, let me bend that for a second to make a point…if you went in Wal-Mart and purchased a new computer (see, I keep bringing up that computer) and paid for it with $500 American dollars, there is no problem. But try that with $500 of Monopoly money and see what happens….

Now, nobody would do that because we all know that it would not work… meaning we have no faith in that kind of money; we do not trust the reliance of Monopoly money outside of playing that game.

You see that faith in the carnal sense is based on the trust in a person or an object. But in both cases it was based on what we could understand with feelings. I can SEE my mom, therefore I could trust her. Even though you can’t see the gold in Fort Knox, you assume it is there. But when I say “faith” for ex felons and those with loved ones in prison, I am talking about spiritual faith.

Which means we have to define it another way…by the Bible.

According to the Bible, in Hebrews 11th chapter, first verse, it says:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

You will notice that spiritual faith is different from carnal faith, because carnal faith relies on things we can see or touch. Spiritual faith is not based on that, it is based on things we hope for, and it is the PROOF of things we do not see.

It is an assurance that whatever you are hoping for, will happen.

Not MIGHT happen…but WILL happen.

But this faith is based on a source, as it must be, otherwise you are just wishing. Your faith as an ex felon or a person with a loved one in prison has to be based on your belief in God to do what you are hoping for.

“Well…I don’t know about that…”

Well, then you don’t have faith in God for your situation. Period.

As an ex felon, I had to believe that God was not only able to help me, but very WILLING to help me. I don’t understand how we try to teach people that God is some vengeful and wrathful being out there, ready to thrown lightning bolts on anybody that dare make a mistake, and sits up there with His arms folded when we ask for help.

Who told you God was like that?

Guys in prison can feel like God is 400 trillion light years away from them because they are “flawed”. Yes there are people in prison who screwed up, but a lot of those guys are trying to make things right. A lot of those guys and women are asking for a second chance so they can help others. A lot of those people made a mistake…how many of YOU never made one?

One of the first steps in getting faith for an ex felon or a person with a loved one in prison is to first get a real idea of what God is to us. When you get a real idea of what God wants for you, not what MAN thinks about you, then you should get an idea of what God wants to do for you.

This part right here, is where most people (including myself) can slip. It is all too easy to think that maybe God won’t hear or answer my prayers because after all, I am an ex felon. Many of you have a son, daughter, or boyfriend, or husband in prison right now, and you may feel that prayers to God for him or her might not really be heard because after all, they messed up.

So faith is already defeated in you because you don’t have a trust in the source, that being God. In short, we just don’t feel “worthy”. Remember my example of carnal faith in my mom? My trust in my mom was strongly based on the idea that I know my mom loves me. So if she said she would buy me a pair of shoes, or give me the money to do it, then I have faith in it because my trust in her is based in her love for me. My mom would not lie to me. If she can buy me a new pair of shoes, she will. If she cannot afford to, she would still be honest to tell me.

She loves me too much to lie to me.

Well, how about God?

As an ex felon, I wrestled for many months in a jail cell trying to figure out if God loves me enough to answer my prayer. This is critical when it comes to faith because if you don’t believe God loves inmates, then you may not have faith to believe God will hear your prayer for a loved one in prison. A lot of you are worried sick about the safety of your loved one in prison, and you’d like God to watch over them while they are in prison. Some of you are concerned about how an ex felon can get his life back, and even prosper, and you pray to God that He can help them.

This requires faith, which is the substance of what you are hoping for, and the evidence (proof) of something you cannot see now. But before that faith can work, you have to KNOW that God loves you. If you are under the belief that God does not love you, then you cannot possibly have faith to think God will help you.

The faith of a felon, or ex felon, or anyone with a loved one in prison, is strongly attached to how much you believe that God loves us. And the answer is often as simple as looking at yourself.

You are obviously reading this because you have a loved one in prison…notice what I said…LOVED ONE. That gives the implication that you care about this person deeply. Whether that person is your brother, son, boyfriend, husband, sister, wife, girlfriend, pen pal, class mate or whomever, it is obvious you care a lot about them. You can say that you…love them.

Now ask yourself this…is it possible for any person to love another person more than God loves them? Can you love your son more than God loves your son? Can you love your boyfriend more than God loves your boyfriend?

Now remember, this isn’t about what somebody else thinks. What somebody thinks about your loved one means nothing right now. We are talking about whether God, who so loved the world that He gave His only Son for us, if this same God who loves us unconditionally, loves your son, husband, boyfriend or whomever, LESS than you.

There was some comparisons given in the Bible about how much God loves us more than man. Jesus asked the people “how many of you, if your son asks for bread, would you give him a stone”. Now obviously the answer is that no father would do that to their son. But it proved the point when Jesus told them, “if you then, being evil (carnal) can do good things for the people you love, how much more can God do?”

When I was in jail those first 16 to 17 months, there was a very strong battle in me in that cell, trying to understand if God loved me, because if He didn’t, then I could not have faith for my prayers. I could not trust the source if I didn’t believe the source (God) really cared about me. But once I learned that He not only loved me, he REALLY loves me, then I had faith to believe that He could answer my prayers. That began the foundation of faith. I think a minister said once, “the foundation of faith is where God is known”.

I spent a lot of time reading scriptures, writing letters to ministries and receiving numerous faith-based magazines, books, booklets and the such. I was determined to do my best to try to learn more of God, because the more I knew of Him, the more I would know how much He loves me. And with that love grew the idea that my faith in Him would not be misplaced.

If you’re going to have faith in God, you have to take time to get to know Him. An inmate can do this just as easily as you can, just open up a Bible. I realize I am not talking to a congregation, and as you guys well know, I am not on the top 50 list of “most religious”, but I DO know what I have lived, and my faith in God got me through some of the worst days of my life…even when I thought I had fallen.

So my faith in God for the things I have prayed for is based on believing that God is there, and He loves me, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Many scriptures talk about how God will bless those who seek Him, and it’s not like it said, “and the Lord will bless those who seek him, except those who have done time”.

You realize how silly that sounds?

But yet this is what society tends to put on inmates and ex felons. There is a distorted belief that we are not loved by God, and there is no need to seek him. But this is not true at all. Here, let me show you:

Hebrews 11:6 says “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”

Psalms 34:4 says “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”

Psalms 72:12 says “For He shall deliver the needy when he crieth, the poor also, and him that hath no helper”

Psalms 145:18 says “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth”

Psalms 145:19 says, “He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him, He will also hear their cry, and will save them.”

Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not”.

Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For EVERY ONE that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”

I could share many more, but that last one ought to dispel the myth that God does not want ex felons “seeking Him”. The scritpure says, EVERY ONE. No exceptions. A man doing 30 years in prison has just as much a right to seek God as a child who has never done anything wrong.

This is where faith begins, when the felon can believe that God WANTS to help him, regardless of what he did wrong and his situation. Faith in God is the proof that the things you are hoping for can happen if you just believe. Now, this does not mean it will get fixed in a day, and it certainly does not mean you won’t be tested. The second you start believing that your loved one in prison will be ok is when the devil will try to plant thoughts in your head and try to make you abandon this spiritual faith and demand God for “proof”.

But that’s not faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen. You have to believe it even when there is nothing physical to give you proof. You have to believe because God said He would do it…if you have faith in Him.

Let’s say you are worried that your loved one in prison will have a very hard time getting his life together. He needs a job, he needs money, and with a criminal record, it may be hard to find good work. I know a lot about that, even as a guy with a college degree.

First off, do you believe God wants to help him? This is the first fight, because there will be the debate that “maybe the Lord is trying to teach him something by not giving him a job”. A lot of people think that to justify not getting a prayer answered, when this is the result of giving up on a prayer. Consider this folks, if YOU want that person to find a job and earn money, how much more would GOD want that same person to prosper? Come on, your desires for a loved one isn’t nearly as great as what God wants for that person.

So is it God’s will for a person to prosper? Of course! Especially if you took the time to pray to God about it. God wants to be able to bless anyone, free or bonded alike. But we limit him because of silly beliefs that prevent people from believing how much God loves us, and thus hamper our faith in Him to answer our prayers. If you are believing for a good job for a loved one in prison, this is a good thing, right?

Get into the Bible and find scriptures that support your belief, with the idea that the Bible is not just a historical book, but a LIVING Word from God. Everything written in there if for our use, not just for history class, but for today and tomorrow. The more you understand what God is saying about YOU, the more you are going to see that it is His will to bless us, if we allow Him to. And that includes that person in prison that you care about, because after all, God cares for him too.

Faith for me has certainly shown results, but I would be silly to say that it didn’t come without trials. You read my blogs, and know how I almost gave up on this writing several times. It was important that if I was going to commit this much time writing, that I would also ask God for some financial help. Yeah, I could work at McDonalds, but I believe God wanted more out of me (and your loved ones too). So I ended up writing 3 Grades of Honor Books, a Blog book, made about 50 or so prison cards and about as many prison encouragement certificates to support my writing. Between that, and the growing number of people who are supporting my blogs with gifts, I am starting to see things turn in a very good way.

Many times I had to believe it when I had no emails, many times I had to believe it when nobody was making comments. Many times I had to believe it when nobody asked for my books or asked how they could support me. It even had to be there when I was getting kicked out of prison sites like WriteAPrisoner, Prison Talk Online and others.

Faith in my writing was severely tested to the point where I sat in my bedroom at night wondering, “what’s the point? Nobody cares about some ex felon trying to do right, and when I try to share posts, I get attacked by members who don’t know anything about prison”. Believe me folks, there has been many a night where I just didn’t see the value of blogging on prison issues. But no matter how down I got, there was something inside me that encouraged me to keep writing. Even if that meant leaving for a couple of weeks and not blogging, eventually I came back and picked it up again. My faith in prison writing was encouraged by God apparently having some faith in me, and He would not give up on me and my writing.

And the results show from it. Many, many people have read my posts and blogs, and have shared them with others. I have also received a growing number of very kind people who see what I am trying to do, and they support me. One guy sent me $50 and told me to go out and enjoy taking my mom to a nice restaurant for a change. Another person said they didn’t care if I bought video games with it, just as long as I kept writing.

People are slowly understanding what I am trying to do, but it would never have happened if I didn’t have faith in God. But that faith came with the idea that God not only cared about me, He LOVES me, and really wants to help me.

No different for any inmate or ex felon, or any person with a loved one in prison. Do you understand what I am saying here? I could have easily written 20 pages on this, because I believe if people could get a hold on what faith really means to an ex felon, to an inmate or to someone with a loved one in prison, there would then be a great possibility to change some things around, instead of just living in fear.

We’ve got to break that hold on you folks, the hold of fear, the idea of depression and doubt with a loved one in prison, or even for one out of prison. Can things get better…sure. You have to believe it can.

Oh well, I have said too much, already 8 pages today. But I could have said so much more. Anyway, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com to ask about my books or the free prison encouragement certificates, or how you can support my blogs. Or, just ask me to talk about a particular part of prison. I am here to help if I can.

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