Archive for March, 2010

#114 Prison talk: does hope exist?

Prison Talk: Does Hope exist?

This blog is on the heels of some emails I got, and a blog I just finished a few minutes ago. If you are not reading this off my blog, then you probably missed a few things, you might want to go back and check it out.

I want to talk about a question a person asked me in an email a day or so ago, one I want to do my best to address here. And she asked a very good question, because for thousands and thousands of you out there, the question of hope is indeed a legit one. Is there such a thing as hope when you have a loved one in prison, or going to prison? Is there such a thing as hope if YOU might be faced with doing prison time?

I want to talk about that today, and before I continue, my thanks for a couple of people who emailed me and asked to support my writings, I do appreciate that a lot. Second, if you are not sympathetic to prison writings, or if you believe that every person who goes to prison is worthless…stop reading my blogs and get out!

This blog is NOT for those people, this blog, and what I write, is an attempt to help those who have fallen, or have loved ones who have fallen, and are trying to get through a difficult situation. Nobody asked you for your penniless opinions on judging and condemning others, take that to another site.

Now, let’s talk about hope.

I want to address this in two forms: hope with a loved one in prison and hope when you yourself might be facing prison time. This is based on some emails I got, and I want to try to address this to those people that are looking for some hope.

So…do I truly believe in hope…as far as prison issues are concerned?

Hope defined is “a feeling of expectation and desire combined; a desire for certain events to happen”.

Stop for a moment and go back to that definition, and read it again.

Now….read it again.

If you ask me if I truly believe in hope, you are then asking me if I desire certain things to happen…if I have an expectation for something to happen. Consider folks, if it is my desire, then it is something GOOD that I want to happen.

Don’t we ALL desire good?

Mind you, we are keeping in context of prison issues, but in this genre, don’t we all desire something good? No matter how bad things look now, don’t we desire, or even expect things to get better, to change from a bad situation to a more desirable one?

I know I do.

So the answer to the question about whether I truly believe there is hope is an easy one to answer…absolutely. I DO believe that things can get better, and I guess deep inside, I expect it to change. As an ex felon, I have blogged for years about how difficult it is to try to find a living with a record, in a so-called forgiving society. Sometimes we as Americans are so foolish because we like to keep bring up somebody’s past.

Quick example, a few weeks ago, a college basketball player made the headlines when she slugged another player. Many of the so called sports analysts felt that she should be suspended not just for the rest of the season, but all of next year too. But by NCAA rules, she can be suspended a full game. Her coach suspended her for 2 games. Many people were outraged, but this IS the rule. So many people wanted that “knee jerk” condemnation, based only on 5 seconds of video, not knowing this young girl.

The player is actually a very good basketball player, and of late she has done a very good job and is trying to put that incident behind her. Her team is in the Final Four, and yesterday when asked how well she was playing, one jerk commented that in his opinion she should not be playing there because HE felt she should have been suspended the rest of the year.

Proof that morons work in the sports industry too…so much for a forgiving country.

But the same applies in triplicate when it comes to prison issues. All the more reason for us to hope. Do I believe that there can be hope…absolutely. But perhaps that isn’t the real question.

The real question is, how can we make hope a reality.

The question folks, isn’t whether we desire a change in events, every person that reads these blogs with a loved one in prison has that hope…it clearly is there…otherwise you would not be reading anything off a prison support site or my blogs…unless you’re just plain nosey.

Having hope is not the question folks…whether you are hoping for your loved one to be safe and return home, or whether you are worried about doing prison time. The issue isn’t having hope…you already have it.

I say again…you already HAVE hope.

The issue is how to use that hope to change your circumstances for a more desirable outcome. This is something we all have to work on…myself included.

We can address hope in three areas as far as prison issues: hope for a loved one in prison, hope of one fearing going to prison, and hope for one who has been to prison. But in each situation, remember that the question isn’t about whether there IS hope…remember, you already have that. The question is how to get hold of it and make it more of a reality, rather than just a wish.

Let’s start first with the fear of going to prison, because I have a few readers that email me on this. One of them is a dear reader, and it is important for her to know that there IS hope…but to be honest, this isn’t enough.

It’s not enough to just believe that things MIGHT get better. Hope is an expectation or desire. You hope that things can change. But one of the biggest obstacles we have when it comes to hope is our human senses…mainly sight.

The problem with hope is that it is based on what you cannot see, and reality is based on what you see. In my friend’s case, she is worried about going to prison, and let me say this now, I don’t CARE what the charge is, its none of YOUR business either, the bottom line is that she is concerned about her life and future, and its not your place to try to read between the lines and judge her. That’s our problem anyway, too many people act like they were God-ordained to judge everybody else.

So the problem we have is that we look at circumstances and when those circumstances happen, we make a mental and spiritual choice…which do we choose to believe. Do we choose to continue to hope…or do we start to believe that the bad circumstances are what dictates the situation. You realize you DO have some choice in the matter.

The average person won’t believe this, mainly because they don’t have faith. And when I say that, this does not mean that you are on the top 100 of “most faithful” people in town. If hope is indeed based on a belief, then so is faith. Neither can be seen or touched, yet many people look for hope in hopeless situations. For the person who is afraid of going to prison, and looking for hope, my answer to that is that you already HAVE hope…but if you allow the negative circumstances to dictate your life, then you are not hoping anymore…you are wishing.

You may call me a fool for thinking that a person can change negative situations to a positive one, but I have been there before folks. I have seen hope established…its called a miracle. I have had more than one in my life, and I hope…(smile) to see more.

But to get to that point, to get to where a person fearing going to prison can change that situation, requires holding on to hope, and having faith in a source. My friend made a very interesting comment in her email to me. No question she is going through a very tough time, but she asked me, “Will God help me? IS God helping me?”

Take it from a guy that has asked that question 4.8 Billion times, I know how she feels. When you are fearing going to prison, you wonder if God is really paying attention to you, and IF He will answer. But most times this feeling comes because we can’t see what God is doing, and the natural body assumes that nothing is happening. After all, if we can’t SEE it, then how do we know that God is doing anything? What if He decided to just let you “tough it out”?

But this isn’t where your hope lies, is it? You hope that despite all the things that has gone wrong, that ultimately God will have mercy and help you in your time of need. I mean, how many scriptures are in the Bible about how God has mercy, how He answers prayers and things like that? Nowhere in the Bible did it say that God will do a background check and see if you are perfect or not. Man does that…God does not.

So in such a situation, you hope needs to remain in the unseen God, because after all, hope and faith are invisible to the human eye…but not the spiritual. You know the scripture, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen”.

That means if you have hope, and faith, there is evidence that things can change. There is a substance that you can rely on, even if you can’t see it. Our problems as people is that we want to see it before we can believe it…that’s not hope folks… that’s wishing. Have faith that your hope is still as evident as it ever was, and don’t back off it.

So what if you have someone in prison. How does hope help you if your loved one is already in prison? Well, the idea is slightly different, but still there. The focus is not on whether he will or won’t go, the focus is now that he is in, but you are hopeful for a better outcome.

So ask yourself this, what are you hoping for? Hope is kinda like a glass, of which you can fill with any number of drinks. Or, let’s put it this way. Right now I am home, typing on this computer, and I have an empty glass beside me. In the refrigerator are a bunch of things I can drink, if I so desired.

I can have some milk, some apple juice, some water, or I can even take a can of Coca-Cola out and pour it in the glass. Any desire I want of those I can have right now. But I can’t have a glass of orange juice…why? Because there is none in the refrigerator. Now, if I REALLY wanted some, I can go to the store and get some, but as of this moment, my hope in having orange juice now is very little. But in any case, until I fill that glass with something, I can’t have anything to drink. For me to fulfill my hope, my desire, I have to put it into action…meaning I need to put something in that glass for me to drink.

When you think about hope, ask yourself this question, what am I hoping for? Its not enough to just hope, that is empty thinking. Get a desire, an expectation in your mind about what you are hoping for. Are you hoping that your loved one will change? Are you hoping he will be able to make a good transition when he gets out? In either case, you are defining what you desire…remember folks, you HAVE hope, its now a matter of how to apply it.

Are you hoping that he will change? If so, what is that hope based on? Are you just hoping that the prison experience will change him…cause if you are, you might want to consider a secondary plan. Sadly, prisons don’t rehabilitate people nearly as much as society thinks.

So in such a case, what are basing your hope on? How much are you involved in this desirable change? Ask yourself, what are you doing to keep him encouraged? See, lots of people sit at home and worry about whether a loved one will change, when in most cases they are only investing fear in the situation. I understand that many guys who go to prison don’t change, and yes, much of the fault lies on them, but we cannot be ignorant to think that there are outside influences as well. Folks, you may not believe this, but a 30 year old man can be influenced by others just as much as a 5 year old kid. No human is an island, every action by others has an effect, positive or negative, on another human being.

So it makes sense that what you say to a loved one in prison has an effect on him. If you are hoping he will change, then you have to make a serious and sincere effort to keep him encouraged, positive and in a constructive way of thinking. When an person sees a real hope, a chance to change, he is going to desire it. Nobody WANTS to go to prison folks, but often times we make mistakes.

Invest in your hope by making a strong effort to keep him positive. Try not to emphasize how much you worry about him…this is actually negative conversation and many people do this without even knowing it. How many times have you said to your loved one:

“I miss you so much, I just wish you were home. I was up all last night worrying about you, I just keep counting the days until you come home.”

See…that SOUNDS encouraging…but it isn’t.

“Why not? Didn’t that message say how much he is loved and missed?”

Yeah it did, but what is the overall tone in that message…fear. If you are going to invest in your hope that he will change, give him something to stand on. He is surrounded by negativity 24 hours a day, he needs a positive venue to build him up.

“Then how would YOU write it?”

I might say something like this:

“I miss you, but I want you to know that I am doing fine and I will continue to be fine as long as you hang in there. We’re gonna get through this together ok. I need you to stay positive and do your best to hang in there, and I will do the same. Some days I slip and feel discouraged, like you probably do at times, but I am not going to let that stop me from believing in you.”

See how strong that sounds? There is a more powerful sense of hope, one that the person is not willing to let go of. If you are hoping for a loved one to change, dig your hands in the earth of hope, grab some of that positive and encouraging words, and take hold. This is the reason why I made a bunch of the prison encouragement certificates and prison cards, for those looking to keep hope going for a loved one in prison.

And what if you are hoping that he makes a successful transition after he gets out? The same thing applies. What are you basing your hope on? If you are hoping that maybe somebody will hire him after he gets out, then it is wishful thinking. If you are investing the hope, then lay hands on it and make the circumstances change for a better expectation. Talk to people in town to see if they would hire your loved one, prepare resume to send out for him, get him to take any classes he can to better his skills, whether Human Resource Classes, or even technical classes like Computer, HVAC or other classes. Many prisons do offer those.

Help to get him prepared as best you can, and it will minimize the fear. Understand folks, if you have a great fear in this, then hope is weak. Its normal to HAVE fear, because we are human, but your sense of hope, that sense of a better circumstance, has to be stronger than the fear. The fear will grip you and make you do nothing but worry…hope will have you taking charge, to find venues to help your loved one make that transition. It gives you a purpose, which empowers you, rather than fear, which robs you of your power.

Now, what of hope AFTER a person has done his time? I already talked a bit about that, but I can use myself as an example. I have hopes and dreams, no different from anybody else. I was watching a show I think on Discovery about “most expensive rides”, and they were talking about a Ferrari limo…one I had never seen before, because it is a one of a kind. I drooled over it, dreaming that one day I could be prosperous to be able to enjoy the good things in life.

Its frustrating when you’ve done your time, served your debt to society, but still just as condemned as when you first went in prison. Most of you know my story if you have followed my blogs for the last few years. My hope was to try to start a business in prison writing, and write books, make cards, encouragement certificates and other things to generate an income, but to also allow myself to make my services of prison writing available to those who needed it.

That was NOT my original goal, because if you had told me while I was in prison that I would be writing prison blogs, I would have laughed you to scorn. But what I have found in the last several years is that there indeed is a need for someone to do this, and while there are some prison support sites, they don’t have dedicated writers that can write with sincerity and constructive views.

My hope was to write my “Grades of Honor” books, of which I have 3 of, to write prison cards, which I had about 100 of, and to make prison encouragement certificates, of which I had over 50 different kinds of. The idea was simple, earn a living doing prison writing, with support from good readers, and create a revenue for myself why helping others.

There were times where I was getting some pretty good support, but there were also times where nothing was going right. More than once over the past 8 years have I stopped writing, and pulled all my blogs offline. But months later, when people ask me about my blogs or ask for some help, I end up starting up again.

My hope is based on the fact that there are thousands and thousands of people with loved ones in prison. If ever there will be a support base for me to continue to help them, then it should come from this. Some of my blogs are on blog sites that have ads all over it…those guys make money when I post…I don’t get anything. I can’t argue because it’s their site, and for me to get the exposure, I need to blog.

But its when people email me and ask about support my blogs that I see the hope becoming more of a reality. If I have blogged the last 4 years and never got a bit of support, then there would be a strong sense that what I am doing is foolish, and likely wishful thinking. But I HAVE received support for what I do. The idea is to get it more consistent than sparse.

I have sold my books, cards and encouragement certificates to many people, sometimes, when I have money to spare, I make some free offers to limited people. When things are going decent, I am in a position to give more back. I have received financial support from mothers, wives, grandmothers, ex felons, and others. From Canada to California, to Florida, New York and points in between. I am convinced that there is a strong support base for me to continue to do what I do. It has to be true, because I keep coming back here to blog again…its either that or insanity.

So I believe there IS hope, in every situation involving prison issues. We all HAVE hope, that is not the question. The question is, what are you doing to preserve it, and what is your hope embedded in?

Oh well, I’ve blogged enough today, I gotta get back to those emails and answer them. Feel free to make a nice comment, or email me when you can. Until then….


March 31, 2010 at 4:35 pm 2 comments

#113 Prison concerns from the outside

Prison Concerns From The Outside

There is so much to discuss folks…..

But I will keep it shorter today, because if I don’t, I’ll end up blogging about 10 pages. And I hope to get to that point soon, depending on the responses from my blogs, but I want to work into that.

First off, thanks for those of you who have been reading my blogs, and have been emailing me or making comments. This last week I have seen an upswing in emails from people that have been following my blogs. This is always encouraging because the support I get from readers allows me to have the strength to in turn, write in support of them.

The last several days I have been watching some internal concerns of may of you who read my blogs, and from doing so I try to see what concerns you once we pass the initial idea that you have a loved one in prison.

This is a similarity that most of you have, you either have a son, husband, boyfriend or some other loved one in prison, and it has you searching on Google, or typing in “prison help” on the search bar, or looking for prison support sites.

For that reason, you are similar to thousands of people who are on the internet today, looking for help.

But after that, it gets kinda different.

Hold on…I wanna get a soda….


Ok, good to go…

(what….can’t I have a soda?)

Now, as I said, once we get past the idea that you have a loved one in prison, the deeper concerns are more specific. Every person is different, so in turn, every situation that is out there is different, almost unique. Notice I said ALMOST because I firmly believe that no person going through a situation is absolutely unique, even if it is new to you, it is most likely not new to the legal or prison system.

It’s those things I would like to try to address a little today, and maybe a little more in the future. I want to touch on a few today. My idea is to blog first, so I can get all my thoughts out, then go back and email those who emailed me today. Now if some of those folks were ones that have requested me to be a “coach” or have hired me to help them, (as I mentioned in past blogs) then my priority is first with them. I try to promise myself to make myself available to them, since they have supported me, but I do try to help as many as I can.

Let’s start with a comment I got a few days ago:

I got a nice comment from a lady that is having a tough time because her son just got sent to prison just very recently, not more than a week ago (as we are in March 2010). But he had been in jail waiting his trial and sentence since 2009. She’s doing the best she can, all things considering. I know what it’s like to sit in jail for a long time, I did it for almost 17 months…in a seg cell.

It can be really tough when as a mom, you have a son sitting in jail, and not knowing what to expect…or expecting the worse. And people get mixed up about jail and prison, there is a difference. Most times if you are in jail, you are awaiting court or sentencing, but it also means that in many cases you are still “innocent until found guilty”. In prison, you ARE guilty by court of law.

What this means is that when a son sits in a jail for so long a time, it can build a hope, whether true or false, that maybe, somehow, that son can still come out of this ok. It might put that thought in the mother’s head that maybe things will work out, after all, he isn’t guilty yet. But when the realization hits, and he is sent to prison, it can feel like the walls all crumbled down.

I felt the same way when I was sentenced, and when I was finally sent to prison. If you know my story (which I don’t talk about much), you know that there were a lot of things different about my situation, things that even the judge had to wonder about. In the end he gave me a sentence MUCH shorter than I could have gotten, maybe because there was doubt. Still, whether I got 5 years or 5 days, the fact that I was judged guilty destroyed my faith, even as everybody around me felt that I had received a miracle.

I hope that mom who made the comment is still reading my blogs, if so, my invitation to her is wide open. If you need to read more blogs, believe me, I have HUNDREDS that I can pull out. Remember folks, I have been writing off and on about prison issues for about 8 years…even though this particular blog has about 100+ entries, trust me, that is a very small fraction of what I have written. It would be no problem for me to drop 10 “retro” blogs if it can help you out…or no problem for me to write new ones.

A second person wrote me a nice email and mentioned to me about the stress of having a husband in prison, and she is in her 20’s. I can imagine how tough this can be when you are younger, and with a child, and the husband is in prison. I said I can imagine…but in truth I cannot. It must be very stressful, and my heart goes out to a person like that.

She emailed me and in her message she asked if I truly believe there is hope. This is very deep, because as I said before, many of you have similarities because you have a loved one in prison, but once we establish that, we have to get to the deeper issues. In this case, for someone with a loved one in prison…is there hope?

Hmmmm…..oh, the pause isn’t whether there IS hope or not, that answer is easy… YES! My pause is that I may have to write another blog today and focus on that very subject. Hope.

That might be a future project for me today, if not later. For that person, I feel like maybe I need to get more in depth about hope when it comes to prison matters, because if she felt it so important to ask, then I need to make it important to answer. So now I have a second project today, one I hope to get on as soon as I finish this blog. For that reason, I will pass on answering that at this second…so I can answer in another blog with more details.

But you see what I am trying to say, right folks? There are numerous concerns that people have, that are deeper than just “my loved one is in prison”. For every person like this, there are direct effects of having a loved one in prison. The young lady that emailed me is also concerned about where her husband can live after he gets out, if the parole officer does not approve of where he can be released. I hope to get in touch with her about that today, and offer my opinions.

Sometimes folks it isn’t about someone IN prison, it can be about GOING to prison. I have a very kind reader that is having some personal problems and she has been keeping in touch with me off and on about her situation. I will not divulge that to you, because that’s between what she shares with me, and herself. But the obvious concern is the condemnation that goes with being judged guilty.

We have chatted back and forth many times, and I try to do my best to keep her in faith, which is hard for me because I have my own crosses to bear as an ex felon. I cannot say how hard it is to stay positive and encouraging in the face of so much negativity from some of the most unlikely circles. Now the novice might say something stupid like, “well, if you hadn’t broken the law…” or something moronic.

To those that think that…why are you wasting your time…and mine, by reading these blogs? This blog isn’t for YOU anyway.

Anyway, that person is carrying a very heavy burden, one I have had to carry myself. I understand what she is going through, and I try my best to keep her encouraged. But one thing I try not to do is lie to myself. If I am disappointed, I will let you know, but before it gets to that point, I will do my very best to FIGHT that disappointment. If I can beat it, then it makes for a great blog. If not, then I have to be honest and tell you how I feel.

There are so, so many concerns that come with prison issues, we just don’t have time to address them all now…but it is my hope…(gotta write that hope blog today) that we can talk about them as time goes on. As usual, feel free to make a nice comment, or email me to ask about prison issues we can talk about. I don’t suggest that I know it all, but I can at least try to talk about it. Until then…

March 31, 2010 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

#112 Answering prison issue emails

Still answering emails

I wanted to make a short blog today, because the last few days I have been getting some emails from people who have been following my blogs either on my 3 blog sites, or from a couple of other sources. I try to answer my emails first, and then blog some things.

Some of the emails I have received are pretty cool, in that one or two has asked me about my prison books, or have asked about supporting this prison blog so I can write and share much more. Those kind of messages keep me encouraged, and thus allow me to encourage others.

So, if you are interested in certain subjects on prison matters, email me and ask. If you are interested in my books let me know. If you are interested in prison cards or prison encouragement certificates, let me know. If you want me to talk about what inmates eat, ask.

If you want to know what the grievance procedure is about…ask.

If you want to know the mentality of an inmate doing time, ask.

If you are worried if your loved one can make a successful transition back to society, ask.

If you want to ask me about supporting my blogs, ask.

My email is available if you are interested, I am always looking to help, and to hopefully find supporters along the way.

If you are worried sick about a loved one in prison, talk to somebody, I don’t mind if you email me, it might help. At any rate, my email is there for ya, until then…

March 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm 2 comments

#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….

March 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

#110 Prison FEAR! (retro)

Prison Fear: Pt 1

This week I wanted to try to blog on some things that many of you have either emailed me about, or privately had in your hearts regarding prison issues. Fear.

I thought it might be a good idea to talk about different fears that we have, and how we can fight them. Lots of times people think a fear is something you have to just deal with, a burden you have to carry. That is not true. Fear is a form of bondage that keeps you from expecting the best, and heck, anything that prevents you from doing or being your best is not good.

But we live with it all the time, and in fact it is encouraged. Our society is mainly built on creating fear. Lots of commercials start out by creating a fear in you, then attempting to solve that answer with their product.

In prison issues, there are many fears that plague mothers, wives, girlfriends, grandmothers, pen pals and all kinds of folks. I thought I would try to spend a week covering five different forms of fear, and how you (we) can overcome it.

Now remember as I get started here, I am speaking only out of experience and my intent is to try to create some venues for you to think over. Every person is different, so we all look at things in slightly a different way. But having said that, we are all human, and subject to similar things. For that, we have much in common.

Now, I broke this discussion into 5 subjects, as in the following:

Part One: Fear of going to prison.

Part Two: Fear for a loved one in prison.

Part Three: Fear for loved ones outside prison (for inmates).

Part Four: Fear of not being loved.

Part Five: Fear of getting your life back after prison.

I hope to be able to discuss each part as we go along, but since this is the first part, let’s get right into it.

Fear of going to Prison

This is actually pretty timely, because I have noticed that every now and again I get a reader who finds my blog that happens to be in this situation. I have had many over the course of a year or so, and I understand the worry they have. There is indeed a great sense of fear that they will be going to prison soon, and wanted to know what to do.

Now actually this can be broken into two parts, the fear that you ARE going to prison, and the fear that you MAY go to prison. There is a difference, although the novice might read it and think, “what does it matter? If they broke the law, then they ARE going to prison.”

Not so.

We usually think of fear as the man-made ideals, where the impossible does not exist, where whatever bad happens to you, you just have to suck it up. And in many times that is true, but fear is based on the idea of destroying the mentality of a human. It is not God’s idea for us to be in fear of anything…

“Now wait a minute. The Bible has lots of scriptures of fearing God”

Yeah, that is true, but that FEAR is not man’s kind of fear. We’ve been watching too many horror movies and have the idea that fear is about terror. God is not like Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) out to “get you” if you are not fearing Him. The godly fear that the Bible talks about is the Fatherly respect we should have for God.

Think about that. God, as our Father, does not want His children to be in terror of Him. Would you want your son or daughter to be in terror of you? You want them to respect you, but you never want them to be afraid of you…if you love them.

When my nephew was a baby, I had a great time playing with him, but when he was a little younger, he would cry when I held him. It kinda broke my heart because I always hated to see babies cry, and it seemed that he was afraid of me. Now I was probably over reacting, but it affected me. I didn’t want the baby to be afraid of me, because if he was afraid of me, then I could never play with him. But it didn’t take long before he got used to me, so much that my older brother called me “Superman”, because when my nephew had any problems, he would crawl over to me because I could fix anything.

I’ll take this a step further. During those times, when my nephew was about a year old or so, I would be sleeping in my bedroom when he would come looking for me. Now, he slept with his dad in another room in the house, and our house was pretty big. My bedroom door never seemed to lock when you close it, meaning you could just push on it and it would open. Many times I would be half sleep and I could hear somebody crawling down the hallway…you know the sound of swishing diapers when you hear it. My brother would let him find me, knowing that the kid knew EXACTLY where I was.

I would hear something hit the door, then slowly push it, and then I hear a baby sound, as if he “found me”. He then would crawl directly to my bed and pull himself up on the side. I tried to keep my eyes closed, hoping he might think I am sleep, but I realize I am fooling myself and I open my eyes. The second he sees me, he breaks out into a big smile, knowing that I am up. I would then pick him up and bring him in the bed with me and we would play a bit before I decided to get up.

See, that is a kinda child like love God wants from us. He does not want us to be in terror of Him, because He loves us far too much. But too often we associate fear with terror when it comes to fearing the Lord, when what we should be doing is respecting Him greatly.

So there are different definitions of the word “fear”, but in this discussion we are talking about the fear, or terror, one can have involving going to prison. Now, as I mentioned before, this can be broken into two parts, either fear that you ARE going to prison, or fear that you MAY go to prison.

In either case, we can fight both.

Before I get started, let me support this with a scripture that may help. If you have ever read Psalms 34, there are two scriptures you may want to remember from it:

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

Psalms 34:7 The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivered them.

Now there are several more great verses, in fact I suggest reading the entire Psalm, but this gives us something to work on. This Psalm was very, very helpful to me when I was in county jail, wondering if my life was over. I spent a lot of time reading many scriptures, trying to see what my fate in this life would be. As you know, I spent almost 17 months there before going to prison. I was in great fear of whether I was going to prison, and if so, how long.

That kinda puts me in the middle of what we are talking about, whether you MAY go to prison, or that you ARE going to prison. And these were very difficult times for me, because I had no one I could talk to. In that single cell, I had nobody that I could speak with about my faith or if there was any possibility that God would even hear me, or if He would even care. When you are isolated from other people, it also isolates you from communicating with them in a positive way, which can affect your faith. But I suppose it goes the other way too, you are also isolated from negative thinking, which can give you a chance to build faith.

Psalms 34:4 says that if you seek God, He will hear you, and deliver you from fears. But I wasn’t quite thorough with that…it said ALL fears. But how can that be? How can God possibly deliver you from ALL fears, it just isn’t possible, especially if you have messed up and are looking at doing time, right?

Hey, I didn’t write the Bible, I am just sharing what it said. But I am also sharing what I went through, in a very, very difficult time. When I came across that scripture, I had an immediate choice…believe what it said, or question it. This is the beginning of conquering fear, when you choose to believe what the Bible says.

If you are looking at doing time, and you are in great fear of that, then you must be very careful that you are not giving fear place in your life. Now some might argue that fear is good…in fact we talked about the fear in the Lord, and even the second scripture I gave you indicates that. But we are not talking about TERROR, we are talking about Godly respect for God. As His children, God does not want His children hiding under ever tree or living in deathly fear of what God will do to them.

This includes everybody, including those who made a mistake and are seeking help. Lots of us make mistakes that we truly regret, but man often times does not seek forgiveness. You only have to look at how the sports media has been hanging A-Rod to see that.

But God is different. If you are willing to believe it, He WANTS you to come to Him when you mess up. How else are you going to be forgiven if you don’t? And better still, God is willing, if you believe so, to help you either get through the problem, or overcome it altogether.

The 4th verse says that God can deliver you from ALL your fears. I bet there are people reading my blog right now that are afraid of either going to prison, or have resolved that they ARE going to prison, but fear what goes on in prison.

Believe me, I know both sides of that. Jail is one thing, because you can be in jail and not be guilty of anything. But once you go to prison, it means that whatever you did, you were judged guilty, (even if you were innocent…get that). So I sat in that cell afraid of going to prison, but also worried about all the stuff I heard about prison.

These are the times I fed myself with scriptures, and was determined to find some faith, and not buckle down to the fear. There was nothing in fear but torment, and that was not good at all for me, and it won’t be for you. If you are worried sick about going to prison, or what it is going to be like in prison, you are already in torment.

So how do you conquer fear in such a situation? Well, you have to force yourself to take your eyes off the problem. This does NOT mean total ignorance, it means acknowledging what is going on, but not giving place to it. You know what I mean?

How many of you, in the midst of your problems, spend more time talking about the problem than talking about faith? It’s quite simple to see, just sit down for a minute and write out your feelings. Or if you make posts on some site, read them. Or if you email others, read your emails. Look and see what you are talking MORE about. If you spend 2 paragraphs talking about the problem, and two lines talking about God’s promises, you are looking more at the problem…and giving place to it, than to God. You can’t do both and overcome fear. This is where that first part of the 4th verse comes in, “I sought the Lord”.

You can’t seek two opposites, because your eyes will be fixed on one, or the other. You can’s seek faith and fear, it is either one or the other. Fear causes you to focus or to look, at the problem. Faith causes you to look at the solution. If you are seeking solutions, you have to look for it. Now that sounds obvious, and anybody can say that nobody would willingly look for bad things…but we do it all the time.

You may not WANT to go to prison, but how often do you spend talking about the problem? You may be going to prison and might be afraid, so how much time do you spend worrying about getting in a fight or something like that?

It happens, because fear comes on the best of us, but you have a choice of how you take that feeling. If you are going to fight it, you have to make the decision to seek God. By doing that, you are taking your eyes off the problem and focusing on God. Why is that important? Because the next part says, “and He heard me”.

If you are worried about prison, seek God because if you do, He will hear you. But this is where a lot of people stop. It’s like a lot of us when we pray, we ask God for something and then we take comfort only that He heard us…and that is good enough.

Well…is it? I mean, you prayed for SOMETHING, if you took the time to ask God for something, how about waiting to receive it.

“Well I don’t know about that, it’s up to God if He wants to answer our prayers…”

Where is THAT in the Bible? God never said that if you pray, He will decide whether you should receive or not. And if He never said that, then why do we pray and act like it’s good enough that He heard it? There is another part that comes when He hears you…He answers!

The end of that verse says “and delivered me from all my fears”. If you are scared sleepless about going to prison, or if you ARE going to prison, and worried about life behind those walls, get this verse in you and get it in you good. This was a very important scripture to me and it helped me find some level of calm in a very scared body.

God can deliver you from you fears…ALL OF THEM.

Which is interesting because the 7th verse says that God sends an angel to deliver you, or to save you. But it says that it encamps, or settles around, those who FEAR God. Well that might be confusing, because how can God deliver you from ALL fear, when one of those fears is to God Himself?

It is confusing if you don’t know who God is, because if you don’t, then you might see God as some Almighty Force that does not hesitate to rain thunderbolts at every person that is the slightest bit out of His will. A terrible taskmaster that expects every person to be perfect, lest He brings His awesome wrath upon us….

Is that how you see Him?

Or are you looking at Him as a very loving Father, who loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son for the sins of the world, so that we might be able to be reborn and in His love. When God lost man through Adam and Eve’s sin, He could not bear being separated from us. He loves us THAT much.

A loving God…not a taskmaster. A taskmaster you fear, or are in terror of, but a Loving Father you respect in the highest degree.

That is what the 7th verse is talking about. The angel protects those that respect God in the highest degree, and delivers them.

You ever look up the word, “fear”? According to my Oxford American Dictionary, fear is defined as two things:

An unpleasant emotion caused by the nearness of danger or expectation of pain.

The reverence of awe felt for God.

Notice the difference? The first is based on terror, the second on respect. Now it is possible for people to be in terror of God, to be sure, but I suggest to you that a Loving Father does not want His children to be so afraid of Him that they won’t come to see Him when they need His help.

When my nephew was a baby, he always sought me out because he knew if he came to me, I would pick him up. I always played with him and had a great time with him. Even when my older brother and the kid’s mom were there, and in a room full of people, he started to get sleepy and crawled a little maze through the living room to get to me, and looked up to me with sleepy eyes. I smiled as I picked him up, because he knew that I would do that. But would he have done that if he was afraid of me? Of course not.

If you love somebody, then there is no fear at all, not the terror kind. God wants us to be the same way, to seek Him out not in terror, but in love. If we do that, then He will hear us, and THEN He can do some things for us. But it’s hard to do that if you are worried about the next move the lawyer is going to make, or when you might be sentenced. I am not saying to ignore it, but you must make sure that your eyes are on God.

Now, what if you KNOW you are going to prison; does this change anything? Well, it is still the same. Some people can have faith to be delivered from prison, it happens a lot. Some people may not, but will still need the faith that God can protect them while in prison, or, before they are sentenced, to get favor in the judgment. I know a bit about that, although at the moment I was sentenced, I truly thought God had failed me. But that was part of a long spiritual battle I had, one I have shared with you before.

Fear of going to prison can grip you like a vice, and squeeze the life out of you. It is pure torment and can cripple every single day you have, because you are not sure of the unknown. I urge you to take time and read Psalms 34, and read it believing that this is God’s word and is just as real today as it was the moment it was inspired by God to write. What you are looking at is a promise from God…He promises that if you seek Him, you will find Him, and He will deliver you from your fears….ALL of them.

It promises that God will send an angel to protect you if you give God first place, and will deliver you.

If you are going to fight fear, you need to do the exact opposite of what you are doing now, which is giving place to the circumstances. It’s gonna take a little effort on your part, to first believe that things CAN change, and then to put some faith in it. But you can do it, you CAN do it.

Look, I understand how some of you feel, I have been there, and I certainly don’t say this as some guy coming down from the mountain. I might well be the least of all those who write on prison issues, I certainly have been treated like one. But I truly feel in my heart that there are a lot of people who need a little help, and I wanted to do something that might be useful to you. Last night I thought about it, and the thought came about doing a week-long blog on fear. It seemed like a good idea, so I just kinda thought about the basics of what to say, and decided to let my heart take over once I start writing.

I understand that this isn’t for everybody, and ironically, I am not writing this for those who know it all. I mean, if you know all this, you don’t need me anyway. I wrote this because there are a lot of people who read my blogs that are hurting, either personally or for someone they love. I know we don’t live in a perfect world, and I won’t win any awards for being so great, but I do care enough to try to help if I can.

So next time I hope to blog on the fears that many of you have for a loved one in prison. I wanted to also thank those who have been reading my blogs and either emailed me to say thanks, emailed me to ask a question, emailed me to ask about my books or emailed me to ask how they can support my blogs. It is all greatly appreciated.

If you’re new, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com. Until next time.

March 26, 2010 at 4:39 pm Leave a comment

#109 On Demand Prison Help (for hire)

On Demand Prison Help

Sounds kinda like something off Time Warner, although half the time their stuff never works. We have cable and if I had the money to switch to ANYTHING else, I would, but hey, when you are broke, you take what you have in front of you.

Anyway, I just finished watching a double overtime game of Kansas State and Xavier, excellent game! But I wanted to make a quick post as to why I have not blogged lately.

In a way it is a good thing, because when I get a lot of emails from readers who read my blogs and ask questions, I know I am on the right track. I have been getting numerous emails from readers, and I take great delight in trying my best to answer them. If a person asks a question that I feel can help many people, then I will blog my thoughts on it. That way, while helping one person, I might end up helping 50.

I really want to get back into talking about prison experiences, many of you noticed that lately I have been talking more about prison support sites and the like. While some might think this does not help folks, I believe it does. The idea of “prison support” by the very nature is supposed to be helping thousands of people. But to this point there really is no check or balance about it. The goals are not so clear that every member understands, and the sites often have far more people that would rather not help anybody else, but expect everybody else to help them.

It is part of the prison genre, and having had experience in numerous prison support sites, I do write about that. It kinda makes sense too, since it is part of my “now” time. But I want to try to get back into writing more about prison, and my experiences.

This is why all my writings while in prison are invaluable. Even though I got out in 2001, I have stacks of things I wrote while I was there. From grievances to letters, prayers, and all kinds of literature, I have all that right here with me in my closet…it was in the attic but I brought it down in anticipation of writing more.

This is what I want to sink my teeth into, because it will help you truly understand where I am coming from as an ex felon, and what life was like while I was in prison. So I am hoping to get back to that soon, and from the emails I have been getting, that could be sooner than later.

But another reason why I have not blogged as much lately was because of something I said kinda as a joke, but is seemingly turning a bit more realistic. A few blogs back I kinda joked about how one lady asked if she could “hire” me as a consultant, or a coach, to help her with a loved one in prison.

She wanted someone she could contact to explain to her what her loved one was going through, and terms of prison that she did not fully understand. She felt that if she knew just a little more, it might put her at some ease, and give her some peace of mind. She was willing to pay me with a little support each month, as she could afford, since I have no idea what that kinda service is worth.

The difference in what she asked was that she needed more direct contact via email than general. For example, if I got 5 emails today from readers, I can decide when to answer, and which order. But if one of those was from that lady, she gets my priority. I would do my best to answer her question or email FIRST, and if I blog anything out, I will let her know about it as well.

But this also extends to something else. Since I am getting some of my print works back on the computer (as I lost everything by system recovery awhile back), I can now create prison encouragement certificates, prison cards and other products to sell. Since she is supporting me, I will send her something every month, or every few weeks, as I can afford to do so.

All this was kinda spur of the moment as we originally talked about it, but she seemed serious in getting that help, and I just could not refuse. So we started that. Well, I talked a bit about that on a past blog, and to this point I have had 3 requests of similar situation. I feel like I am kinda like a “prison info on demand” kinda venue.

One of the “clients” is a mother, the other two are wives. They asked how much I was willing to charge for such services…folks, I don’t know how to answer that.

I mean, if a person really needed my help, I would do my best and not ask for a dime. I mean, I’ve been doing that for YEARS anyway. But if you gave me a choice to do this for money and make a living, or continue to do it for free…I have to choose the former. I mean, I’d like to know what its like to buy some new clothes at LEAST every few months, rather than every couple of years.

If people have enough faith in me to ask for my services, and willing to pay for it, I have to accept it. And if I do so, then those people have to be at the top of my priority. If they email me, they have first priority over regular emails. They will be my focus when I blog, so if a client asked me about the “yard”, then my blog could be for them, to help them understand more about what the prison yard is about.

They become my priority, the ones I will help first. That does not mean I ignore everybody else, and it does not mean I won’t help if you can’t afford it…heck, I know what its like to be broke folks…I’m still waiting for that Billion dollar lotto ticket to fall in my lap.

Anyway, I emailed those folks back today, kinda outlining what I can do. One of my priorities is to get my printing works back, because I used to make a lot of unique prison cards and prison encouragement certificates. Unless I find the CD I might have saved them on, I have to start all over. But that is not a problem, I can do that if necessary.

If this works to any capacity, then I will be actually making some income through my talents and works. I mean, isn’t that what society wants? They want all ex felons to “get a job”. But before some wise-crack says something stupid, tell me this; which serves the greater purpose: working for minimum wage at McDonalds or Wal-Mart…. OR using talents to write and HELP people going through tough times?

So this looks promising for me, at least for now. If I can get a nice number of people willing to support my writings, I can really dig into my writing. Honestly, I want to get to writing new blogs, instead of sharing the “retro” or “archive” blogs. They’re ok, and they help me fill up some space, but if you guys knew me from a few years ago, you KNEW I loved to write, and I wrote a LOT.

So the cool thing is now I might be about to earn some money, if you are one of those that support me, I will do my level best not to let you down. I have not been able to finish my short story of “Defending Job”, which I have been pushing for the last month or so, but I will get around to it sooner or later. There is so much we can talk about folks, and what I have learned is that the things I think of are things those on the outside of prison never considered. When I write about what goes on after a prison visit, I get emails or comments from people who tell me that they never knew about that side of the story.

We have not even scratched the surface of what prison is about, so much to tell you and help you with. I am not trying to impress upon you all the horrors of prison, what I want to help you with is understanding some of the things of prison, and how you can overcome it or at the very least, endure it.

Anyway, I better go, it is 1am here, so I’ll get ready for bed…until then….

March 26, 2010 at 5:06 am Leave a comment

#107 It’s called prison SUPPORT folks!

It’s called Prison SUPPORT folks…

See, this is the reason why I don’t like sharing stuff on prison support sites…

I have not been online in a day or so, and this morning I decided to get on and before I check my emails, to see about some posts I had made the last few days.

I had gotten a request to rejoin a site called Families of prisoners, one of some groups on Daily Strength, and having gone back there, I posted several of my older blogs to help stimulate discussion and help people understand what prison is about, and how they might be able to overcome.

But I remember the last time I left this same site was about a year ago, when one or two people felt that the Good Lord shined on them and told them to get on one of my posts and argue what I have been saying.

Note to people like that, there IS a difference between discuss and argue…I’ll get to that later.

Anyway, after going back to post there, I put up one “retro” blog that somebody felt it necessary to criticize. I told you guys about that post, so if you are curious about it, jump back a few blogs and you might catch up with it (if you are currently reading on my prison blog site).

Well, today I go back and there are a couple of more comments, and I knew that the tone was negative, rather than constructive. When a post gets to having a negative tone, it becomes worthless, because now instead of sharing info, it turns into an argument based on what some person thinks about my post.

Folks, I have been writing posts and blogs for years, I KNOW when a post turns sour, and often times I know the cause of it.

So I go back and read the last two comments, one from a person that was actually giving a nice comment, a person that has read many of my blogs before. But the last one was from some self-righteous person who feels that in some form or theory, that ex felons deserve to be criticized because they made a choice.

To this person’s simple thinking, it is ok to persecute and pre judge a person if they made a mistake, because after all, we all know that ex cons never change….


I made a comment, knowing that it would only spark more negative comments, but I will be damned if I make a statement, and somebody with no other posts is going to have their only contributions to the group in negative response to mine. Start your own post and spit that venom somewhere else.

So it ticks me off when that happens, because when people do things like that, it completely undermines the intent, and true purpose of a prison support group. Let me spell this out for some people…PRISON SUPPORT.

Not prison condemnation, prison support.

That means that the people who come to this site are looking for hope, understanding and some peace of mind about somebody they care about. They didn’t come to the site to be brow-beaten by so called “righteous” folks who don’t seem to care about any ex felon in the world.

And what’s funny about that…nobody seems to care about these guys until its one of your own…then you’re on these sites too, reading posts and blogs through crying eyes, hoping somebody would help you…when you never cared for this genre before.

The problem with prison support sites is that often times there is so little help from people that have experienced this. More than 90% of ALL posts on these sites are made by people who have no real experience about prison…whether actually doing time, or life in prison or life after prison. So what most sites are made up of is questions and needs for advice. Nearly all of these answers are made by people who either looked online for some answer, or heard from somebody they knew that did time (or doing time). But almost none of the answer come from prime sources.

But when one DOES happen to start to contribute, there are always people in the support group that are prejudiced to their way of thinking. I mean, the idea of giving an ex con a second chance must be quite foolish to a person who thinks as simple-minded as to say “well, they made a choice”.

Do you realized how foolish that sounds?

Nobody reading this blog is perfect…should YOU be condemned for any faults you made, whether it resulted in you going to jail, prison or even if you got through it with no punishment at all. Lets not be foolish to think that the only people that break the law are those in prison. Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes.

But when we do, there needs to be a venue for a man or woman who makes a mistake to try to make amends. But there are people, some who call themselves Christians, and some who participate in prison support groups, that would not lift a finger to help one.

When I write my blogs, I have two different modes of thought. One is when I blog for my sites, the other is when I write to post on a support site. There is a clear difference between the two. When I blog, I hold NOTHING back. That means when you read my blogs, I do not sugar coat what I say. I don’t kiss behinds of other prison support sites, and if I got a problem with it, I say it, no holds barred. But most times when I blog, I allow myself to get into great detail about a matter that somebody needs an answer to. Last week I posted several of my retro blogs on Daily Strength, and inside of a day or two, I had a few people email me about some issues, to which I emailed AND blogged about, to help them out. Since then I have not heard from them…not even a thank you.

Par for the course…it happens a lot.

But the overall idea is to help a person, not to criticize them or make them small. Now, if I am upset, I will talk about it…it is a blog folks, and it is what I do. But on prison support sites, I try to keep it constructive, positive and encouraging. When I share a blog, I do so believing that there are readers that come across it, and read it, getting something out of it. I know it works because every now and then I get folks saying how much they appreciated my blogs, and some ask for links to my prison blogs.

I try my best not to get upset at what some jerk might spit on my blog, but there are times where I cannot allow that to continue. This is because there IS a difference between “discussion” and “argue”.

To discuss means to hold both sides in respect, but to also remember that the foundation of the issue must hold form. This is a PRISON SUPPORT group, and as such, the discussions should be based on the idea that we who write are there to contribute and help. We are NOT there to tear each other’s ideas apart, go somewhere else and do that. The moment the issue is not about SUPPORT, it becomes an argument.

And a lot of these comments come from foolish pride. Some people want to do the “one upsmanship” on another person, and make a comment to criticize another writer. What ticks me off with this is that when you check their stats, you find that sometimes the ONLY posts they have ever made was on your own post. If you want to criticize my writings, how bout you write some encouraging posts first, and create a positive reputation for wanting to support, rather than criticize.

Some people wonder why I don’t share more on some sites, its because there are always people that feel like they are not happy unless they create friction on a site. I have written for over a dozen different prison support sites in the last 8 years, and I have seen what happens when people make unsupportive comments.

Again, if the site or group is about support, then GIVE support, not backlip. Anywhere from dozens to hundreds of people may check daily to see if there is one speck of hope they can hold on to, just to get through the day. When there are arguments, it solves nothing. If you want to argue, take it somewhere else. When I get really ticked off about something, I have the option to blog it out and talk as much as I want.

What is disappointing about this is that when people make criticizing remarks about ex felons and the foolishness of “they had a choice” they are indirectly talking to EVERY PERSON on the site…you are criticizing every mother’s son, every wife’s husband, and every girlfriend’s boyfriend.

Answer me this…how many of them do you know?

If you don’t know every person, and every circumstance…shut up.

Those same people who run their mouths about other people’s blogs have likely never made as much as ONE sincere post about prison issues. Have you ever talked about your loved one’s prison? What’s the food like? What does he buy in canteen? How much do you send him, and why? How often does he write, and what do you do to keep him encouraged?

What did you do when he got a writeup? Are you helping him write a parole letter? How about a probation letter? Did you help him with the grievance procedure? What do you know about the case manager? What did you loved one do on the yard, and for that matter, what do inmates do on the yard?

Do you have an idea what he will do, or wants to do when he gets out of prison? Are you prepared for his life after prison? These and numerous other things are available for you to talk about, or at least to ask someone’s idea on. But what do some do…they are too busy flapping their gums about self righteousness, and ironically, slapping the face of every reader on this support group looking for hope.

The foolishness of this is when a person talks about “well, they made a choice” they are saying that every person that makes a mistake and goes to prison does not deserve to be trusted…and yet you say this in the face of a prison support group, FILLED with people looking for hope.

Thanks a lot, I am sure there is a sweet place for you in Heaven for your so called gospel…or not.

The bottom line is this, if you are spending energy and typing skills criticizing somebody, flip that and try talking about encouraging things for a chance, and stop trolling on other people’s posts who are actually trying to help! I understand that we will disagree on somethings, but I don’t go around starting arguments on somebody’s post. Its like going to somebody’s house and trying to force them to believe what YOU want them to believe, on your terms.

And don’t be so stupid to think I am saying that EVERY ex felon is some cool guy and we should all embrace every single one of them with open arms and give them the fat of the land…I never said that, and if you criticized me based on all encompassing thoughts like that, you were sadly misled. There are people out there that deserve to be in prison, and some, if let out today, would be right back in tomorrow…BUT I SAID SOME!

Not every ex felon is like that, yet some people take one example, or two, and create an absolute, which is stupid. I have had one or two people say stuff on my posts under such foolish thoughts. And even if you thought that way…this is not the place for that. It is still called prison support…you support, not tear down!

A lot of people come depending on somebody being able to share information here, and a lot of those people are here because they could not sleep last night, or have not one idea what to do. This could be their only chance to get a foothold on overcoming this problem, and yet what do they find…people bickering like cackling hens.

I told myself that if I share stuff on sites, it would be with the theme that end the end, you CAN get through this. But to do that I have to share parts of my life, the good and the bad. I never said prison was cool, nor was it Disneyland, but I also don’t talk about the stereotypical stuff that you see on “Prisonbreak” or “Oz”. Prison is much more than that, but all the general public knows is the negativity. I cannot break that, but what I can do is try to address issues that might help you.

But for every post I have shared, there is 20 I don’t share…probably more than that. As I said before, I have easily written over 5000 pages on prison issues. It is not a hard thing for me to write a 20 page blog on prison rules, or the grievance procedure, or even something as simple as prison clothing. I can do that because writing is easy to me, but I do it ONLY if I think it will help some people. But the moment I feel that some jerk is there only to spit on a post they didn’t start, I have no objections leaving and going back to my personal blogs. I get a lot of readers and support there anyway.

So I say to anybody reading this, when you think about what to put on prison support sites, consider first that it should be about support, some attempt to help somebody, and some attempt to encourage others. If you have a question about a prison matter, ask, somebody might be able to answer it. If you have a particular discussion, start a post on it. But don’t jump on somebody else’s post to try to make your point, that is disrespectful and all it does is foul up the post into an argument.

As for me, I blog anyway, so whether I contribute another 50 blogs or none, I still have a place to write. But I didn’t come here to glorify prison or myself…I came to help, if allowed to do so.

Anyway, I have said what I can say, I hope the true readers of this prison support group understand what I have said. Until then…

March 24, 2010 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

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