Done. And Done.

My040 Done and Done

Two posts ago, in Decisions, Decisions (Life On The Inside – Part 4), I shared that I had a decision to make concerning a program offered at another institution.  When I wrote that posting I said I’d have made my decision by the time you read the post.  That turned out to be wrong.  Today, April 15, I made the decision.  Why did it take so long to make my decision?  Reservations on my part mostly having to do with things other than the program.

My biggest reservation has to do with the fact that it has taken my two years to carve out a ‘life’ within this institution.  Putting together a circle of acquaintances and friends is not easy for me.  I’m introverted, and I am not the one to walk up to someone and introduce myself and then make small talk which would lead to making a new acquaintance or friend.  When I think of my small circle of people here they are primarily those who either approached me or introduced me to someone with whom I might share something in common.

Next is a fear that I will be put into an unsatisfactory living situation.  When I first came where I am today I was placed in a cube with a ‘hater’ who also happened to be the primary drug supplier for my housing unit.  A ‘hater’ is someone who, because of your crime, hates on you with verbal abuse and, in extreme cases, physical assault.  The one I was placed with was verbally abusive and threatened to have me beat up by those in the unit who relied on him for their drug fix.  Of course, I alerted the unit counselor of the situation asking him to move me before anything happened but he left me there for a month to the day.  During that month I lived in fear for my safety while putting up with name calling and insults as well as the exclamations of hatred and predicted harm if I didn’t move out.  That experience has kind of scared me.  (You can read more about that situation in Love Thy Enemy and Love Thy Enemy – Concludes.)

After this come the more minor fears such as finding a decent job in the new institution, learning the policies and procedures, using the showers per inmate standards, finding radio stations and programs, establishing an exercise routine, and the list goes on.

Imagine being plucked from the society in which you now live and being dropped into a whole new society, culture, and geography.  If you sat and contemplated this in its fullest measure you’d have an idea of what an inmate faces when changing institutions.

Having said all this, you might think I’ve decided against applying for the program – but no, I’m turning in my application this coming Wednesday, the 18th.  Why did I decide to do this?

In talking about the program and its benefits with my wife, while also sharing my reservations and fears, she said she’d support me whatever I chose to do.  However, she also shared a perspective I had not considered:  Maybe I was actually more afraid of change in general.  I had to admit to myself that yes, change does frighten me because with change comes some loss of control and comfort borne of familiarity.  She also pointed out that my Parole Officer may look on someone coming out of the program more favorably than someone coming out of general population who hadn’t made the effort to better themselves.  My wife is wise and observant.

Secondly, I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to talk to me and give me guidance in my decision, and I believe it has come in two ways.

The first way is through my study Bible.  I’m reading Colossians and the way my Bible is laid out is the top half of the page is the Bible passages and the bottom half is made up of teaching notes about the verses above.  Well, the teaching notes recently have been about trusting God and knowing that through Him all things are possible.  So, I’ve decided to put it in God’s hands because there’s a chance I won’t be accepted.

The second way happened yesterday as I walked the track.  I was walking along contemplating my decision and literally asking for the Holy Spirit to talk to me; to make it obvious to me what I was to do.  As I thought this, a guy I know only by sight and name came up behind me and put his arm around me.  As he did this he said, “Have you put your name in for the Life Connection Program yet?”  I was dumb founded.  I asked him how he knew I was thinking about it and he said, “I didn’t but you’re a spiritual person, so I figured you’d be interested.”  I’ve spoke to this guy maybe a half dozen times and there he was, putting his arm around me, and in essence, telling me to do it – in fact his last comment was, “Better pull the trigger on that,” as he walked away.  Couldn’t be more obvious could it?  Doesn’t that sound like the Holy Spirit speaking to me through others?

Finally, making this move would put me within a half hour of my two oldest children, within two hours of my youngest child and shave three hours off my wife and mother’s drive to visit me, while also saving money in travel expenses.  Sadly, it will add three hours onto my sister’s drive to see me which does sadden me for she’ll go from half a day’s drive to all day.

So there you have it, my process for making my decision.  I’d be interested in your stories of difficult decision making and whether you felt God had interceded by given you a sign in some form.

As things progress around this I’ll keep you informed.

My advice:  Listen, for God does speak to you.

~jdoe

Decisions, Decisions (Life On The Inside – Part 4)

My040 Decisions Decisions
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

I have a decision to make; by the time this posting hits the blog I will have made my decision but I think posting it will help others to see at least one program in the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) that is helpful.

As you all know, I’m on a spiritual journey as I serve my time. This time has given me the opportunity to concentrate on my faith in a way I would not have in the world. And now I have an opportunity to take the next step in my spiritual maturity.

The BOP offers a program called “Life Connections” wherein you have the time and assignments helping you grow in your individual faith, while also learning about other faiths. It’s an 18 month program offered at two institutions, neither of which is the one I’m in currently.

So why am I interested? Beyond growth in my faith, I feel that having a broader understanding of other religions will aid me in accepting others and not being as judgmental as I am. Also, I see my faith as foundational in my relationships with others. Finally, I see my faith and the lessons from this program as tools in my efforts, once out of prison, to avoid recidivism.

I’ve been given the application to fill out, which I have done. There’s a chance I will not  be accepted. But first I have to decide if I’ll turn in my application.

So why am I hesitating if my faith is so important to me?

Worldly concerns and fears.

I have carved out a life where I am. I have a bunk I like, have good cellmates, have friends and a routine I follow weekly. It’s taken me two years to achieve what I have and now I’m contemplating giving it all up.

Additionally, I’d have to go through the BOP’s transfer process which is VERY frustrating and I’m fearful for my safety in the transfer. In the process every level of security and crime is placed together in general population thus exposing people like myself to violent offenders. The way it works is every prisoner being moved is taken to Oklahoma City and warehoused there until an opening in their destination becomes available and the prisoner is then flown to their destination. It seems wasteful and unnecessary but it’s the government, so to be expected.

Once in my new location I have to worry about a new cellmate, developing new friendships and adjusting to a new prison’s operations.

Essentially, I’m giving up my comfortable existence now for an uncomfortable period at the new location. I know the discomfort is transient but it’s hard to put into words the stress and tension experienced in prison when trying to carve out an existence; especially for a sex offender.

So what to do? I feel a pull to make the move which is countered with my worldly fears and concerns. I’m about 80% certain I’ll apply, it will take some assurance within myself and through others like my wife. She’s supportive of whatever decision I make but has been instrumental in helping me to see the benefits of making the move.

There’s also a personal gain in making the move: I’d be closer to my wife, children and mother which is positive in terms of visitation. On the other hand, I’d be farther from my sister whom I love dearly and whose visits I value greatly. Right now I’m halfway between my wife and my sister and this move would add about three hours onto my sister’s drive when she came to visit.

I’ll let you know my decision in my next posting. Until then be well, be happy,  be YOU!

~jdoe

The 2012 Life Connections BOP Memorandum

Locked

My040 Keys

Keys

We all have them.  Keys to: our car; our house; our desk; suitcases; diaries; the shed in the backyard; and the list goes on.  They are simple tools that we use to facilitate our lives.  They come in many sizes and shapes and even colors.

But have you ever really thought about what they also represent?

Authority.

Power.

Control.

Those in authority have the power and exert control.

If not, then everyone would have access to everything. 

Imagine total strangers walking into your home or office or other place you hold important and private.  All those places where you keep things that others are not to touch or use or read or or or…

And keys are things we can become sensitive to and develop envy of those who have them.  In prison, exile, the guards all have keys and exert their authority and power over we inmates by controlling our movements and access to things like showers, laundry, socialization rooms, exercise and even food.  And of course freedom.

With all this authority, power, and control comes all responsibility.  We don’t really think about keys giving us responsibility because we’re lulled into a sense of security, but what if you left your cleaning chemicals available to small children and an ‘accident’ were to occur – who would be responsible?  You.  So in reality you accepted the responsibility of keeping the child safe when you accepted the key to that cabinet of chemicals.  And so it is with every key we’re given – we assume, and accept, all the responsibility that ownership, possession, of any key we hold brings.  But there’s even more to owning keys…

Trust.

How do we come by most keys?  Someone of higher authority provides them; that someone places their trust in us to be responsible and cautious and careful and caring and and and…

When we are given a key we are entrusted to use our authority to exert our power and control justly and fairly and responsibly; because if we don’t, there are consequences.

So, what of Jesus’s words in Peter’s Confession of Christ?  [Matthew 16: 13-19]  Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven.”  Matthew 16:19

My040 Locked

Jesus is giving us the keys to His Kingdom; the keys to salvation and eternal life.  Jesus is giving us authority, power, and control.  Jesus is trusting us to be responsible, just, and fair.  Yet He’s also telling us there are consequences associated with possession of these keys.  This then, requires us to be cautious, careful, caring, and and and…  It’s a Big Deal to accept these keys because it’s a Big Deal that Jesus would entrust them to us – we humans who are so imperfect.   He knows we are likely to stumble and drop, or even lose, the keys He’s given.  That’s why He warns us of the consequences – what we bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and what we loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven.  Matthew 16:19b

Accepting the keys is accepting, and assuming, a great deal of responsibility.  It can be scary though.

Why?

There are unspoken stipulations in Jesus’s offering of the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven:  that you give your life over to Him by accepting, and confessing, Him as the Christ, your Lord and Savior; the ultimate authority.

Giving our life over to Jesus isn’t something to be done lightly because it’s a huge step in one’s spiritual journey.  And it’s worrisome to give control of your life to Him because our path isn’t shown to us in its entirety but is instead revealed to us step by step.  This then, reveals that there’s yet one more stipulation to our accepting the keys Jesus offers us.

Faith.

Faith does not always come easily because it is believing with conviction and without evidence or proof.  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).  Therefore, accepting the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven requires an act of faith on our part.

Give your life over to Jesus and have faith that He will lead you into the Kingdom of Heaven – these are the unspoken conditions, in Matthew 16:13-19, that are placed on us in order to receive the keys He offers – the keys to eternal life.

Where am I on this journey?  I’ve given myself over to Jesus and working on the outwardly confessing of Him as my Lord and Savior.  I stumble every day, dropping the keys and fumbling around looking for them and picking them up.  It’s comforting to know though that He is there offering me a new set of keys should I lose the ones I’ve already been given; of course they come with His warnings and stipulations – and it’s a daily, hourly, moment by moment challenge because I am but a man.

Yet He trusts me.

Which means I have to have faith in Him – and in myself.

I hope you’ll pick up your set of keys and join me on this journey; together is better than alone.  ~jdoe

My Five Loves

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone.  I didn’t want it to slip away completely without saying something about the five Valentines in my life:  my mother, my two sisters, my daughter, and of course my wife.

When I think of these five women I am humbled by their strength, loyalty, and acts of love where I am, and others are concerned.

my040-my-mother

My Mother is the sole care giver for my Father who is, sadly, an invalid suffering with dementia.  Being sole care giver means she does everything from arranging in home health care to bathing and cleaning my Father daily.  If you know a care giver, hug them and tell them what a wonderful heart they have.

My Mom writes me faithfully.  I receive a letter each and every week.  Her letters are really a love story about her and my Father.  Her letters are structured such that she writes a paragraph each day, so they’re really little diary entries about their daily life.  I read each week about her daily care activities for my Dad and his occasional periods of lucidity when he lets her know he appreciates her.  She closes each letter with love from them both and an inspirational bible scripture reference.

My Mom also puts money on my commissary account regularly.  This allows me to buy necessities like hygiene products and treats like Pop Tarts.  I also use this money to pay for phone calls home and email service.

Beyond my Father and me my Mother reaches out to cancer patients by crocheting hats to cover their hair loss and making blankets to keep them warm – all of these things are donated to the local hospital for chemo patients receiving treatment there.

Thank you Mom for everything you do.  Thank you from all those you touch.

my040-my-little-sister

My younger sister is a bit of a dynamo, though she’d say something to the contrary.  Like most parents with school age children she’s constantly on the run with sporting events, concerts, other kid functions, and a part time job.  Unlike most parents, however, she also homeschools her kids.  My sister invests a great deal of time being a parent and teacher.

Where I’m concerned she also writes regularly.  Her letters are often what she calls “illustrated.”  They are typed and have photos inserted into the body of the text giving me glimpses into her family’s daily life.  I feel a little more connected to her, my niece and nephew, and my brother-in-law.

As you already know she also facilitates this blog.  In fact, the idea that I’d write for a blog came from my sister and wife.  They saw something in my letters home that might possibly be worth posting for others to read.  It was their faith in me that started me on this journey.

Thank you sis for having faith in me.  Thank you from all those you touch.

my040-my-big-sister

In memoriam, I want to say a little about my older sister who died just shy of her forty second birthday due to breast cancer.

She and I were very close and I often felt like her twin though she was almost three years older.

When I think of her, I remember most her contagious laughter and kindness to all she met.  She was the lady who adopted all the stray cats.  Her house was always open to those who were hurting and her profession as a nurse was well suited to her personality.

I can make no tribute to her as great as that given at her funeral when several hundred people came to pay their respect.  There were so many there that a good portion stood outside the church waiting to say goodbye.  To say she touched an entire community would be an understatement.

I miss her.

Thank you my sister for your laughter and kindness and togetherness as children.  Thank you from all those you touched.

my040-my-daughter

My daughter has grown into one of the most amazing women I’ve known.  Everything she does she does with focus and to high standards.  It’s humbling to watch her take control of her life with such alacrity.

My daughter is going to be married this year to a fine man.  I’m thrilled to know she’s found the love of a lifetime.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad to no longer be the “man in her life.”  Like most fathers and daughters we share a special bond, and it’s comforting to know that bond won’t be broken regardless of our situations.

My daughter and I share a love of literature.  When she was small she’d bring me a book titled The Fussy Little Princess to read to her.  I must have read that book to her a thousand times, and I loved every opportunity.  When she was in high school we began reading books together and then talking about our views on what we’d read.  We’d split the book into chunks and then have our discussions.  This actually was set aside when she went to college and I missed it.  When I was taken into custody she asked me if I’d like to start doing it again.  And for the last 17 months we’ve enjoyed this time together again through letters and email.

Thank you my daughter for letting me be Pops and keeping the special bond intact through all things good and bad.

my040-my-wife

My wife and I have been together 36 years this coming March.  How she’s put up with me all those years is a mystery to me.

I could write about my wife every day for a year and still not convey the true and total meaning of her presence in my life.

Together we raised four of the most amazing people I’ve ever known.  And to be truthful, our children are the people they are due mostly to my wife’s love, support, and guidance.  Yes, I know I helped, yet, when I look at what they’ve accomplished and how they went about achieving what they have – I see my wife’s fingerprints in each goal they’ve gained.

My wife also gave me one of my most cherished blessings – my faith – and she’s done it twice.

When we first started dating I was a “Holiday Catholic” meaning I went to church only on holidays like Easter and Christmas.  She however went every Sunday and lived her faith daily.  She asked me then if I’d go every Sunday with her and I said yes.  I was moved by my experiences and stayed with the church for the next 30 years when I turned away due to my internal disagreements with a new priest in the church we were attending at the time.  She gave me my faith a second time after the investigation started into the activities that brought me here.  One day while I was breaking due to the stresses of that dark time she handed me my rosary and said, “maybe you’ll find some peace in this.”  I took the rosary and have been back into my faith deeper than ever before.  What greater gift can one be given than their faith?  I can think of none.

The good Lord knows I’ve put her through many trials; more than any one person should have to endure.  My addiction was always present and understandably hurt her and left her feeling inadequate.  Yet she stayed with me because she saw in me what I, until recently, couldn’t see in myself: a good man.  Her faith, love, support, loyalty, and commitment to our marriage is a thing of beauty and a life lesson I am only now learning how to live.

When I think of my wife I see her smile and expressive eyes.  I hear her laughter and feel her touch.  I know what total commitment and unconditional love are.  She is my rock and the light of my life.

If someone were to write a book about our life together it would be as tragic and uplifting as Romeo and Juliette and would endure all because of the woman my wife is.

When I search for words to express my admiration and love I can find none capable of communicating what is inside of me.  “I love you,” and “Thank you,” are so inadequate for the scope of my emotions are so much deeper.

As I said, I could write forever about my wife and not even begin to tell of her worth.

Thank you my wife for your belief in me and know that my love for you is genuine.

my040-my-five-loves

To all five I want to say thank you for all you do.  Thank you from all those you touch.  Every one you meet is the better for knowing you.

And finally, I love you all every day but most especially on Valentine ’s Day.

Tell someone special in your life how you feel about them and do it today.

~jdoe

The Healing Continues

If you didn’t read Part 1 last week, start here It’s All About The Healing

Let me be clear.  I am not saying prayer is a waste of time!  I say pray without ceasing!  But do I believe prayer and faith alone will always prevail?  Yes and no.  Let me explain…

First, those statements made to me are egocentric.  By this I mean that they assume that my prayer for healing involves only myself and God.  Second, they’re limiting God!  People’s statements presume God’s plan is that my healing is between Him and me alone.  Third, they implicitly condemn God’s work in others.

How?

Answer these questions:

1) Why did God lead Julie to become a psychologist if not to be part of His plan for healing?

2) Why were so many others (wife, kids, family, friends, lawyer, etc) called to witness my healing?

3) Why were we given medicine and science and both doctor’s offices and cathedrals?

So “Yes” in that prayer and belief bring God’s plans and for me healing, but how arrogant would I be to ask only God to aid me and in so doing ignore His plan!  God brings us what and who we need – in His time – so by praying for healing and believing in all His possibilities I can say that “No”, prayer as presented to me – excluding God’s other efforts, timing, plans, and works in and through other people – won’t work alone.  We must trust and believe in His human works and His unknowable plans as well.

There’s one other bit of ‘no’ I’ve come to accept:  I, we, cannot presume to know what healing means.  Again, it’s an egocentric thing.  I may define healing as, “I’ll never consider suicide as an option for my life’s end.”  God may define it as, “Everyone exposed to john doe’s pain will never consider suicide as an option for life’s end,” while leaving me to my struggles with suicide.  So if I look only at myself I would feel I’ve not healed when through God’s eyes He’s healed many.

Thinking more basically… How would God have done His work on the cross without apostles abandoning, denying, and betraying Him?  What would have happened without Pilate, The Sanhedrin, Barabbas, and the workmen who made the cross and forged the nails?  Did God, in His greatest glory, do it alone?  No.  Why would anyone presume then that God’s plan includes only God and themselves?  Why would my healing be any different?

Perhaps I’m stating the obvious and there are no revelations; but for me.  I believe that without the human works God brought to me I’d be lying in bed with my mental ‘demons’ still running around in my head (actually many, but not all, still are) or I’d be dead.  I do not believe it’s between Him and me alone.

Healing. 

True Healing. 

Complete Healing.

 It’s all about the Healing.

I’m healing but not fully healed.  It’s a slow process.  Yet today I walk the road of healing hand in hand with those people in whom God has done wondrous works as well as hand in hand with God Himself.  I pray and believe in His plan.  I trust in His people.

my040_the_healing_continues

Pray. Believe. Trust.

If you need a professional then seek one out.  I believe God put him or her there for you.  Don’t wait forty six years as I did.  Do it now.

~jdoe

A Journey Begun

Hello and welcome to My-040.  If you were hoping to find a blog about turning 40 years old I’m sorry to say this ain’t it – However I invite you to stay and look around; you may find this to be what you need in times of tribulation.

The blog’s name, My-040, comes from the collision of three main themes: My incarceration (Exile), God’s punishment of the Israelites being sent into captivity (Exile), and the Federal District from which I come – 040.  I’m convinced these align for a reason.  I hope you’ll visit regularly to discover how I’m letting God lead me through my time in captivity, the wilderness, exile.

My040_Journey_Begun

This blog is for all those living in a prison of any type whether it be true incarceration, depression, an abusive relationship, addiction – especially addiction to pornography of any form, mental illness, childhood sexual abuse – such a long and sad list cut short.

This blog is also for anyone looking for new perspectives on how God touches us all.  I’ve found that my old self is not who I, or God, wants me to be and to find that self is a journey I hope you’ll take with me.

I ask very little of you:   1) Please do not post hate of any form, including foul language.  I have the support of a loved one, my sister, in managing this site and the postings.  She didn’t break the law, I did.  Please don’t make her suffer in her love for me;  2) If you have positive, constructive ideas on how I might improve this blog please post or email; 3) Feel free to post questions on any subject on this site (See my bio I am… John Doe, the purpose of this blog Joy In The Tribulation, and ASCSA) but please be patient in waiting for a response as I have to use the U.S. Mail and turn around time can be up to two weeks (Contact & How This Works).

It is one of my sincerest hopes that you will walk my journey with me and find your way out of whatever wilderness, prison, captivity, or exile you find yourself living.  I’ve begun and am already becoming renewed into a new life.  Unbelievably, I’m finding true freedom behind the razor wire topped fencing.  I hope you’ll enjoy your time here.

Again, Welcome.  John Doe