Letter 25


Letter 25

Each month provides a new opportunity to reach out and spend time reflecting on those things that I want to share with you. To me they are unique personal encounters where we can reach beyond the bricks, steel and mortar of prisons and for a few moments be transformed into the role of brothers and sisters. That is the power of being connected. That is the source of energy that guides and directs these efforts. A belief that you and I share a purpose besides the roles that we play in society. These letters are my attempt to honor that purpose and affirm the value of your own life. I have been blessed over the course of my life to encounter many people who poured themselves into my life. They invested their time and energy hoping to add a new direction and purpose to my future. They did so for a number of reasons, but those who made the greatest impact were the individuals who could see beyond my limitations, my offenses, my felonies, and my failures. They could perceive something within me that I could not see at that time. The victory that came from those people of vision was directly related to being able to hold onto the knowledge of what they had seen in my life. Holding on to that “dream” and taking one small step at a time, that knowledge began to shape my life in a completely new way. Each of these people blessed me by sharing a portion of their vision for my life. At that time I could not begin to appreciate what I had been given. Today I recognize that the knowledge they provided became the foundation upon which I built a new life. I am not talking about education as the sole source of knowledge, no this knowledge of which I speak goes far deeper than the awareness provided by schooling or academic mastery.
Consistent with my nature, I resisted most of these kindly efforts at loving assistance. I carried off each new morsel of knowledge to gnaw on like a bone, not expecting to gain anything more than immediate gratification. But over the course of time, I started to put those pieces together like a puzzle. It took a long time before that puzzle revealed any meaningful shape. More often than not, I just gave up and went back to doing things the way I always had done them. Still when my life would get exceptionally painful or start to fall apart, I was always drawn back to the emerging puzzle. I could see nothing but failure and calamity, how could others see anything meaningful in my existence. Yet I knew that what they were sharing with me was truth as they perceived it. But how could they see anything of value in my life? It was beyond my comprehension, but I eventually began to try to understand what these people had shared with me and to grasp some awareness of the potential within my own life. That was the start of the true process of acquiring knowledge. It lasted long into the decades that lay ahead. As more was revealed to me, I wanted to know even more. So it is safe to say that I fell in love with the acquisition of knowledge. But knowledge comes with limits. It took many years to discover those limits in my own life. Knowledge is wonderful, because it provides us a way to make sense of what is going on around us. But knowledge can be very deceiving if it is not tempered by wisdom.
Wisdom is that unique ability to be able to USE knowledge in a meaningful way. If knowledge can be likened to a great ship, then wisdom can be likened to the captain who sails that ship skillfully through all the unseen hazards of life (rocks, storms,
icebergs, pirates and rouge waves). Many of those who seek knowledge stop their search after they have completed some learning process. They are completely satisfied with the awareness that they have acquired. Wisdom is the component that adds value to the knowledge that has been acquired. In other words, I can understand all of the most elegant scientific theories, but if I am unable to use that knowledge in any meaningful way, it is of no benefit to me or others. Sure I can point to my diploma on the wall and say that this proves my mastery of knowledge, but it does not ensure that I can then use what I acquired to live out my life on a meaningful basis. Again, I want to state that it took me many years to recognize the differences between knowledge and wisdom. One may have many college degrees, but be utterly lacking in wisdom. On the other hand, a man or woman may have limited educational abilities and yet be filled with great wisdom. It is a mystery that has existed since Adam and Eve.
Let’s talk about two different prison guards that work at your institution. You know very little about either of them. Most of your impressions come from the things that you have observed when they are close by. One guard comes down the tier and makes no eye contact with you while they are doing their count procedures. They walk by and their presence evaporates like a mist or a fog. But even as they walk by, you can feel hostility or contempt in their demeanor toward you. It is not something that they said or did, but it is something that you know deep in your spirit. No one told you about this individual. It comes from your own awareness and knowledge about human interactions. And you trust it because this is the way that you have learned to read people all of your life. Another guard comes down the tier and does his count but does not trigger that feeling of apathy within you. What is the difference? Something subtle and almost unnoticed by others has taken place. One guard conveyed an underlying tone to you, while the next guard seems to carry himself without contempt or hostility. You can sense it, like you can feel a breeze on your face. You may not be able to prove it objectively, but you trust your awareness completely. When we have these moments, we are actually focusing on the attributes that the other person seems to have in our moments of contact with them. We ATTRIBUTE certain personality characteristics to each person that we meet. That is a primary way that we human beings navigate through our lives. It helps us to make sense of what is happening in the moment. We may also use prior events with each of these guards as a reference point to understand the behaviors that we experience today. Those events are part of our history of interacting with others. Those events will serve to guide us in any communications that we would have with either of these guards. Lastly we would use their words as another reference point. Like attributes and events, words are a very powerful indicator of what intentions one person has toward another person. If one guard has previously spoken to me disrespectfully, I would not expect that individual to show empathy, mercy or compassion toward me. I would dismiss the notion of being able to relate on any meaningful basis with that guard and I would resolve this gap in human understanding by accepting their inability to see their own potential for harming others. And we do all of these complex activities in a moment in time.
Obviously these guards are knowable from their interactions with us. Is God knowable? Yes!!!! You can use the same tools that we just listed as a way to acquire the knowledge of God and then embrace the wisdom of His love for each of us. I fully believe that God is my protection and my provision. In life I will have whatever it is that I need to complete the tasks that lay ahead of me. I will have all the time that is necessary to grasp this wisdom and then to act upon it as I interact with others. There is no life that exists without an eternal and divine purpose. That is the nature of His love for each of us. At any point, we can turn and confess that we have gone astray and ask for help in getting back onto the right pathway in life. God will never deny that cry for help from any of His children. We have all heard words like this at one time or another in our lives. Why is it so hard to believe in them? I suspect that because of our past interactions with others, when God is passing alongside of us, we begin to make certain attributions about His nature. I believe that they may fit into some of the following categories; God would never listen to someone like me, I am too wicked or too evil, I cannot abandon the road that I am on because then all of my life would have been wasted, You do not know the things that I have done, even God could not forgive me, no one else wants anything to do with me, why would God be interested in my life? I could go on describing the same theme of questions for pages and pages, but you know what I mean. What are the qualities that you attribute to God? Do you see Him as loving and kind, a true Redeemer of the lost? Or do you see Him as a rejecting and disappointed father figure? See that is the heart of our relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ. I cannot accept my own self, how could God send His Son to pay the price for all of my sins? It seems to be hopelessly impossible to understand in my own power. The knowledge that He has died for all of our sins is only knowledge until the wisdom of experiencing His love transforms our lives. Taking the knowledge of what Jesus Christ has done for you and me, means that we TURN and ask God for His forgiveness. We repent of our sins and grasp the wisdom of His words when He said all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It is not just souls sitting on death row who have fallen short. Every human being has failed and is in need of His redemptive work in their lives. As we start to grasp the reality of this knowledge, the enormity of His love for each of us starts to unfold in our lives. In that moment of wisdom, our lives are completely changed and each of us is transformed by His love. We still are required to pay the consequences for our past behaviors according to laws of man but the eternal consequences have already been fully paid by Jesus Christ’s death on that cross in my name and yours.
My turn, my encounter with wisdom, is empowered as I stop to consider the events of my life where God showed up in a very meaningful way. We have all had experiences where God showed up, even if we do not want to admit that reality to ourselves and others. Times when the unexplainable happened in our lives and we just wrote it off as a mere coincidence. Looking at those events and searching for meaning in your past, will eventually lead you to search His word. The Word of God (The Bible) is faithful and true. Even as you read those words with difficulty, you will start to see your own spiritual condition. His Word brings life and understanding no matter where you lay your head at
night. The actual words on the page are knowledge, but as you pray and surrender your life to His care, you will be filled with Wisdom and understanding. You will intuitively know how to handle situations which would previously leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused. That Wisdom comes from the knowledge that you acquire as you take a new look at God and His Son, Jesus Christ. What seemed as a hopeless task of human understanding suddenly becomes clear before your very eyes. Then life takes on a totally new meaning and new direction. What I have described to you in these words is a spiritual reality as real as the next breath that you will draw. It will manifest in your life, if you can grasp what has been offered to you by Our Father.
Most members of the public look upon our lives as having no purpose or reason. They may not want to see us executed, but they have no desire to fellowship or to encourage our spiritual growth. The old proverb, “out of sight is out of mind” applies very well to the life of a death row prisoner. On the other hand, you have the Word of God telling you that your life is precious to him. He tells us that His thoughts about us are constant and that He has our names engraved on His hands. So who are we going to believe? The Maker of the Universe, or the ones who do not have any awareness of our being? I am convinced that among the men and women on death row in America, there are many individuals who love their families, their communities and their country. Sitting in the wretchedness of isolation from others we may be tempted to see ourselves as powerless and helpless. I believe that each of us still has an opportunity every day to pray for those we love and especially to pray for our country. So much has changed from the country of my youth. For many who have been locked away for decades, you would not recognize the America that exists today. As a nation we have rejected God and embraced the wickedness of the world as a basic way of life. I do not need to recount all of the steps that we have taken away from God. And in some way, we have all contributed to this fall from grace. We all have the time that is still allotted to us. We can use those hours, days, weeks, months and years to pray for our nation. To pray that we would experience a true turning back to God. We can pray humbly for those who live in this country. We can put aside our own interests and petition God for our nation. We can put others before ourselves and ask for God’s protection and provision in their lives. We can become spiritual advocates for those who are blindly stumbling into the pit that lay ahead. Please reflect upon the following insert and ask for the wisdom that God gives freely to those who ask for it.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LEAST OF THE SHEEP
One day I reached the intersection of the Road to Damascus and the Road to Emmaus. With all the tenderness of a loving Father, God showed me the reality of how I had lived my life. He did not spare me from the consequences of my sinful choices, instead He guided me through the process of loving restoration. He breathed into my life new meaning and new purpose. I fully understand the meaning of being born again.
Over the nearly forty years since this encounter, I have watched my country lurch along a pathway destined to take us into the abyss of destruction. I have held my voice as I
expected others more righteous than I to stand up and pled God’s cause among our countrymen. I have kept my peace when I should have been a voice for what I know to be truth. I have stood by and waited for the hand of God to express itself in the decisions of various courts and the power of the voting booth. I have waited for God as He was urging my conscience to be His voice in all of my affairs.
I am a deeply flawed man who has violated the laws of God and man. I am also a man who was snatched from the hellish blazing fire with my shirttails and hair smoldering. I can remember the stench, I can still feel the grit on my skin. The memory of the spiritual heat bears witness to His divine capacity to rescue the lost. In all of my lawlessness, I never perceived myself as a rebel or one who had little affection for my country of birth. I was just living out my life and enjoying myself.
I have come to understand that beyond all of my youthful indiscretions, I had always held a strong belief in what this nation was founded upon and the principles that we as a people held near and dear. I knew that deep in my heart, I loved my country in spite of my actions and would be willing to give my life to defend her. I have no doubt that there are many others who have also been snatched from the fires of destruction, who have a deep and abiding love for this country. Perhaps because of the physical and spiritual salvation that we received so freely, we as a group are in a unique position to intercede for our country at this time. We know the reality of God’s power, perhaps we need to emerge from the shadows of society and become visible examples of God’s love in our lives.
Now our country has staggered to the edge and totters on the brink of ruin. Over the course of human history, God has always brought forth His word among those who truly love Him. This time is no different. But now, that task may fall to those who have stumbled badly in the past and have personally known the saving power of a gracious God. We who have been rescued from eternal damnation and isolation within society, have a unique opportunity to kindle the spiritual fires of thankfulness and petition God for His continued mercy upon our country.
Oh brothers and sisters, we have been personally shown the power of God in our own lives. If we truly love our nation, than of all citizens, we should be at the forefront of this great spiritual battle for the survival of our beloved country. Have mercy upon us Lord for our blindness. May the scales of moral indifference fall from our eyes and may we see Your glory rest again upon this nation. Please pour into each of our individual lives the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and guide us to be light and salt in the darkest corners of our country. Let the restoration of relationships begin among us, as we come and kneel before Your throne.
Lord, as Your people we have prayed for revival. Now Lord, please light the torch of revival in our spirits and bind us together as one people, pledged to serve You in all areas of our lives. We can do nothing of our own power, but petition You to answer this prayer for national protection and spiritual provision. We will follow You Lord, for where
else would we go in such a time of moral darkness? Through Your power, may those of us who have known Your loving kindness, gather together again as a people set apart to serve You each day of our lives.
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No matter what else happens in your life, YOU have a personal relationship with God. Your thoughts and words are powerful and they are always heard. When we pray for others, our prayers are powerful, since we are not focused on our own situation, but instead lifting up the needs of others. I believe that as we move into the later part of 2015, we will have clearer evidence of our moral fall as a nation. Yet even as we, as a nation, move further into darkness, each of us can become a prayer warrior. We can detach from our own self-centeredness and ask God to be merciful and compassionate in His judgment of our nation and its people.
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Lord, fill my heart with Your purpose and Your Wisdom. Even with the limitations that impact my life, I believe that You hear and answer prayer. Please fill us with a true understanding of Your Word. Help us to grasp the gift of salvation which You have provided through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us Lord, to turn from the evil and wickedness that we have embraced as a nation and as Your people. We have each sinned against You and can only stand before You asking for Mercy and Grace. Our sinfulness is great, we ask for Your forgiveness.
Have a peaceful month.
Kevin and Quinta

 
 

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