Silent, Hidden, Waiting

I met with four men for the Tuesday night Bible Study. They represented a cross-section of the jail population. Two men were about to spend their second Christmas in jail while still waiting for their trial date to come up. One man will be “celebrating” his first Christmas in jail. And the final man was scheduled for release at 9AM the next morning.

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All four men knew what it was like to wait. All had experienced hardship. One was eagerly awaiting the next chapter in life’s story. One man was honest enough to say that, as he waited, his thoughts moved to plans of revenge.

Tonight we read:

Luke 1:5-25

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.

So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’[b] and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”

19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.

23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

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I gave them some background on the story. Here was a man who, by external appearances had done everything right. He was born in the priestly tribe. He had married right. He had even been selected to serve in the temple. Some priests lived their whole lives without ever being chosen for that.

But as he was in the temple serving, something was still on his mind.

When each of us is praying or waiting in the presence of God, what is still on our mind? The men I was meeting with yearned for freedom. They yearned for restoration of broken relationships destroyed by reckless choices. They understood what it was like to be before God, and still have something on your mind – a wound that has yet to heal; a source of shame that is often unspoken. It is the cry of their hearts as they wait in their cell. It is that soul ache that presents itself while waiting for sleep.

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An angel appears before Zacharias with amazing news: “your prayer is heard.” And he responds with skepticism just as these men might. What if an angel appeared in the jail cell? Is this vision a result of bad jail food, or poor ventilation? The men understood why he had questions.

There was some discussion about verse 20:

“But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

Was God being petty and vindictive? One man wondered if this punishment was Gabriel’s idea and God had nothing to do with it. How much does God punish us for unbelief, and how often does God just expect unbelief from us? There are no easy answers in tonight’s study.

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The men understood what it was like to not be heard, and to have difficulty communicating to others.

…for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.

In some ways being incarcerated is like being stricken mute.

We wondered how being mute changed him. What did he learn in this time of enforced silence? What did he learn during this time of waiting? The men talked about how they have learned to observe others. Is this a good day to joke around with that guy? Is the guard in a particularly crabby mood today? Did someone just receive their divorce papers?

Elizabeth was hidden away for 5 months. Being in jail is like being hidden away. Elizabeth could see the world carrying on while she watched. These men watch the daily news programs and the world moves on, for better or for worse, without them.

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It seems that Zacharias and Elizabeth had much in common with the waiting experienced by the incarcerated.

 

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How Long, O Lord?

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The season of Advent, which comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit”. It seems to best be characterized as a time of waiting. Something significant is going to happen, but it isn’t here just yet.

That also characterizes the experience of the men that I see in the jail. Each man is waiting for something that will profoundly impact his life: a court date, a trial, a hearing, or the end of a sentence.

The men I met with on Tuesday night exemplified that. One man will soon spend his second Christmas in jail still waiting for this trial to begin.  Another man is eagerly awaiting the completion of his time served and will be released within the next week. Every man is waiting for something that is not yet here.

They are in the between-time of transitions. They are from something and going to something.

In Poetry from Prison: Advent Hope one person described it this way:

By D

I am from the front yard.

I am from gunshots, running from cops.

I am from a broken home.

I am from a weed plant smokes that if you hit it you would choke.

I am from BBQs that end in fights and cops come and someone goes to jail tonight.

I am from where the fear of God is not number one.

I am from soups and beans were what we had and if you cried you got slapped.

I am from drug task kicking in the door.

I am from gunshots at our house, cops coming, someone hit.

 

But that’s not the end of my story…

 

I am to a loving wife.

I am to showing my wife that I am worth her love.

I am to being better than I was.

I am to God’s loving hands.

I am to never hurting my family again and making up for what I have done.

I am to better days where people see people for people not color or race and gangs see people not red or blue.

I am to the best I can be, not and until I meet God.

 

For our study we looked at:

Psalm 6

O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.

My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.

Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Verse 1: These men have felt the hot displeasure of others. Will God be the same way towards them?

Verse 2: These men knew that feeling – for my bones are troubled – the anguish that is felt at the core of your being.

Verse 3: The cry of the inmate – how long?

Verse 4: God deliver me, not because I am so good, but because of who You are – your very character is mercy.

Verse 5: The spiritually dead don’t proclaim God’s name.

Verse 6: There is crying in the jail cells. Most of the time it is hidden from others.

Verse 7: Prosecutors and family members remind them what a disappointment they are.

Verse 8: My hope is in God.

Verse 9: There is a well-known judge who looks for alternatives to incarceration. He is willing to listen to the accused, and to understand their addictions. He connects them with treatment options. He wants to see these men changed for the better.

Verse 10: Through the transformation by God, those who have told them that they would never amount to anything are finally silenced.

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The Lion and the Lamb

I’ve been wanting to share this Bible Study with the guys in max at Santa Clara main jail. They’ve been on lockdown the past two weeks that I’ve been there and finally I shared it tonight — and they went on lockdown halfway through the study.

 

Remember that Paul was in prison when he wrote this:

Ephesians 4:1-5 (NIV)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

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Paul, as an inmate, is asking other inmates and those outside the walls to walk with humbleness and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. Do you suppose he meant us to have this attitude just towards other believers, or to everyone?

What if someone is being a real jerk towards you?

Remember that Paul was raised and trained in reading the scriptures, which at that time consisted of the Old Testament. Let’s look at a scripture he would have studied:

Isaiah 11 (NKJV)

11 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

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Regarding that scripture, in his book The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen wrote:

“There is within you a lamb and a lion. Spiritual maturity is the ability to let lamb and lion lie down together. Your lion is your adult, aggressive self. It is your initiative-taking and decision-making self. But there is also your fearful, vulnerable lamb, the part of you that needs affection, support, affirmation, and nurturing.

When you heed only your lion, you will find yourself overextended and exhausted. When you take notice only of your lamb you will easily become a victim of your need for other people’s attention. The art of spiritual living is to fully claim both your lion and your lamb. Then you can act assertively without denying your own needs. And you can ask for affection and care without betraying your talent to offer leadership.

Developing your identity as a child of God in no way means giving up your responsibilities. Likewise, claiming your adult self in no way means that you cannot become increasingly a child of God. In fact, the opposite is true. The more you can feel safe as a child of God, the freer you will be to claim your mission in the world as a responsible human being. And the more you claim that you have a unique task to fulfill for God, the more open you will be to letting your deepest need be met.”

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Looking back at the scripture in Ephesians is Paul asking us to deny the lion part of who we are and only let the lamb show through?

Actually, it takes the strength of the lion, the wolf, the leopard, or the bear to do what is being asked in Ephesians.

Humility requires courage and honesty. Christian humility comes from self-knowledge. To face oneself is the most humiliating thing in the world, particularly as we compare ourselves to God’s standards.

So long as we compare ourselves with second bests, we come out of the comparison well. However, when we compare ourselves with perfection we see our failure. A girl may think herself a very fine pianist until she hears one of the world’s outstanding performers. A man may think himself a good golfer until he sees one of the world’s masters in action.

Self-satisfaction depends on the standard with which we compare ourselves. If we compare ourselves with our neighbor, we may well emerge very satisfactorily from the comparison. But the Christian standard is Jesus Christ and the demands of God’s perfection–and against that standard there is no room for pride. We are creatures, and for the creature there can be nothing but humility in the presence of the creator. Christian humility is based on the sight of self, the vision of Christ, and the realization of God. Courage is needed to face this humility.

Gentleness: The man who shows this type of gentleness is the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time. To put that in another way, the man who is gentle is the man who is kindled by indignation at the wrongs and the sufferings of others, but is never moved to anger by the wrongs and the insults he himself has to bear.

In order to do this we have to remind ourselves who we belong to. Does our value come from who God says we are, and our identity in Christ, or does our value come from what other people think of us? If our identity, value, and worth is from God, then other people cannot take that away from us.

I was talking with another chaplain a few weeks ago. He had been talking to the men for several weeks about changing their attitude towards others when someone does something wrong to them or treats them with disrespect.

Recently one of the men was waiting in line to get into the wash room. The guy in front of him farted and then turned to him and said, “Did you like it?”  The man said that, in the past he would have started punching the guy for disrespecting him, but know he was able to set that aside because he wasn’t trying to get his value and self-worth from that other man.

Patience: It describes the spirit which will never give in and which, because it endures to the end, will reap the reward. In their great days the Romans were unconquerable; they might lose a battle, they might even lose a campaign, but they could not conceive of losing a war. In the greatest disaster it never occurred to them to admit defeat. Christian patience is the spirit which never admits defeat, which will not be broken by any misfortune or suffering, by any disappointment or discouragement, but which persists to the end.

Another aspect of patience is used to describe something which has the power to take revenge but never does so. To take a very imperfect analogy–it is often possible to see a puppy and a very large dog together. The puppy yaps at the big dog, worries him, bites him, and all the time the big dog, who could annihilate the puppy with one snap of his teeth, bears the puppy with a forbearing dignity. This type of patience is the spirit which bears insult and injury without bitterness and without complaint. It is the spirit which can suffer unpleasant people with graciousness and fools without irritation.

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Love:  If we regard a person with this type of love, it means that nothing that he can do will make us seek anything but his highest good. Though he injures us and insults us, we will never feel anything but kindness towards him. That quite clearly means that this Christian love is not an emotional thing. This love is not only of the emotions, but also of the will. It is the ability to hold onto good will to the unlovable, towards those who do not love us, and even towards those whom we do not like. This love is that quality of mind and heart which compels a Christian never to feel any bitterness, never to feel any desire for revenge, but always to seek the highest good of every person no matter what he may be.

 

When humbleness, gentleness, patience, and love are in place, peace is the natural outcome.

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Re-Entry After 38 Years

There were three men in the Tuesday night Bible study in the maximum-security unit. A new guy had been invited by one of the other men. All of the men have previously served prison time. One will be released in a few months. The others may be looking at substantial time.

We discussed how the patterns of institutional living carry on even after release. Some guys continue the same breakfast schedule even years after their release.

A New York Times article (You Just Got Out of Prison. Now What?) tells about Roby and Carlos.

Roby started reciting the weekly prison menu, to see if he could still do it. When he got to Thursday — peanut butter and jelly, four slices of bread, Kool-Aid — Carlos, without turning to look at him, chimed in with ‘‘sugar-free gum.’’

Roby went on. (Roby tends to do most of the talking.) The trick, he said, is to save those packets of peanut butter and spread it on your pancakes, the next time there are pancakes. It sounds gross, but it’s not. ‘‘The only way I eat my pancakes now is with peanut butter — because that’s the way I ate them in there,’’ Roby explained.

Carlos understood. He still put peanut butter on his pancakes, too. ‘‘It does have a different flavor,’’ he said.

‘‘Yeah! And you can put it in your oatmeal!’’

‘‘Oatmeal is real good with peanut butter,’’ Carlos said.

‘‘I still do that, too!’’ Roby blurted.

He continued with the menu. After Sunday — eggs, ham, hash browns — he looked at Carlos and said, ‘‘You put it all together?’’ to make sure Carlos knew to heap the whole thing between two slices of toast and squeeze jelly over it. Carlos knew. ‘‘That’s a pretty fat sandwich, right?’’ Roby said.

‘‘Yeah,’’ Carlos said emphatically.

Roby still puts jelly on his egg sandwiches, too, he explained. Strawberry, grape — he doesn’t care. ‘‘People look at me like I’m crazy!’’

‘‘People don’t even know,’’ Carlos said. They were laughing at themselves now. Carlos had done almost 11 years; Roby, close to 12. Now they were free men, sitting outside a prison, waxing nostalgic about prison food.

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We then read our passage for the study:

John 5:1-14 (NKJV)

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda,[a] having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.[b] Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”

11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’”

12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

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In many ways the men could relate to the story. The sick man was like someone who had served a 38 year sentence. Every time the water was stirred but he missed out, it was like going before the parole board and getting denied, but then watching someone else get released.

They noticed that Jesus didn’t heal the man without his permission.

How do we answer when Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made well?”

Do we deny that anything is wrong? Do we consider ourselves doing better than others around us?

The sick man is alone and without resources: I have no man to put me into the pool”

Being alone and without resources is a situation the incarcerated can relate to.

After the man explains his circumstances Jesus does something unusual. He doesn’t tell the man he is healed. Instead Jesus treats him like someone who not only is healed, but is capable as well.

“Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

Even more surprising, the man doesn’t try to argue the point. He owns his new identity.

And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

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But the man is hassled in his recovery. Even being healed by Jesus isn’t good enough. After release these men had experienced the pressure to go back to the way they were. It was assumed that they would go back to the same places, the same patterns of using, the same destructive behaviors.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple

There was some discussion about this. Was the man in the temple when he was being hassled? Was the church a place of criticism and shame? Or was the man at the temple to try and regain his bearings?

The men were quick to notice that Jesus said, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

The men understood this to be like when you get a second chance – getting sent to treatment rather than prison – but if you mess that up you may end up with an even harsher sentence.

In recovery “it takes what it takes” for someone to break the cycle of denial about their addiction.  Sometimes the “worse thing” is what is needed to convince a man of his need for healing.

I reminded them that the very first thing that Jesus says when he sees the man again is:

“See, you have been made well.”

Jesus affirms his healing.

After being hassled by the world we need to be reassured of our identity, of who we are, and whose we are.

Sin no more” can only come from our identity in Christ.

Love and the Incarcerated

We had a short discussion on good love and bad love. The men in the study each had parents with chemical dependency issues. Being a child of an addict is not easy. Often love for the drug wins out over love for the child. But the men were able to think of good love when they thought about their grandmothers.

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We read I Corinthians 13 for our study. None of the men recalled having read or heard this before.

1 Corinthians 13 (NKJV)

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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Some recalled what it was like to be the recipient of unloving acts of charity:

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, … but have not love

The “act of kindness” was done in a mechanical fashion. The focus was on the assembly line of distribution, not on the recipient.

There was some discussion about the list of attributes in verses 4 through 6. Some felt that this was a list that describes the attributes of God’s love towards us. They were encouraged that God’s love was long-suffering and patient since each of them had a history of repeatedly trying hard and then messing up. However, one man was adamant that this list of attributes, rather than describing God’s love, was to be used to examine our own love towards others. In particular, “does not seek its own” – how often had each of them used “love” to manipulate someone? For this man the list allowed him to do an examination of step 4 of his recovery program:

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

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This search and moral inventory would be soul-crushing if it is done apart from God’s. Without God’s transforming love we have no hope.

A controversial topic was: “but rejoices in the truth”

Truth is a dangerous thing behind the walls. Knowing a true thing about someone can be used to manipulate them. “Anything you say can and will be used against you.”

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How do you love in a dangerous place among dangerous people? One man’s method of coping was to just withdraw from others. He felt he had nothing in common with them and it was just safer, easier, better, to have as little contact with them as possible.

Another man thought that love could have a transforming impact on the men in the unit. But he acknowledged that this was not without risk. There is no guarantee that love would be reciprocated. All agreed that the men in the unit are hard to love.

Love is risky. Years ago a friend asked God to help him love the unlovely. A month later he was asking God why all these weirdos were hanging around him.

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The reality of love is hard work. Love precedes response.

Romans 5:8 (NKJV)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

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They Feared Exceedingly

Amusement parks, especially roller coaster and other fast, wild rides are built on the premise of:

FEAR – DEATH = FUN

 

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People like going to scary movies. There have been 12 Friday the 13th films, 10 Halloween films, and 9 Nightmare on Elm Street films.

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For some, perhaps many people, a rush of fear can help us feel truly alive.

Fear can help keep us safe and alive. Children learn early on not to touch open flames or a hot stove. Don’t play in traffic. Don’t try to hug a snarling dog.

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The English language has some nuanced meaning for the word “fear”. In some usages it means a healthy respect. I’m an electrical engineer by training. I can design circuits and systems. I understand the meanings of volt, amp, and watt. I have a healthy fear of electricity in that I know better than to grab onto a live 220V wire when I am standing knee-deep in water.

But fear can also be a liability.

One of the men in the study noted that all the jails and prisons he has been in had a common smell. It wasn’t that they all used the same industrial cleaning products. The scent comes from housing large groups of people who are depressed, angry, and afraid.

Ray Leonardini, Director of Prison Contemplative Fellowship, shares his own observations and experience teaching contemplative prayer in prisons:

People in prison commonly live with a sense of personal failure. Most prisons and jails foster, even amplify, this sense of failure by dehumanizing practices like constant herding and extreme over-crowding. Prisoners’ efforts to cope with these humiliations result in behaviors similar to those identified with veterans as PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).

The violence in a war zone, like the threat of violence in a maximum-security prison, creates a chronic debilitating state of fight or flight for the individual. To simply cope, the prisoner develops the ability to avoid and numb feelings and represses intrusive memories. This leaves many of them with enormous anxiety and a deep sense of personal shame.

When their basic sense of personal worth is stifled in this way, the sufferers are driven to further extremes of self-loathing. As penal institutions perpetuate a culture of dehumanization, the symptoms of PTSD proliferate. Though they can be visible (angry outbursts, aggressive behavior), they also fester in secret (night terrors), buried in the deep crevices of the psyche.

Experts tell us that the deepest wound of PTSD is a “moral injury,” that is a wound to the soul, caused by participation in events that violate one’s most deeply held sense of right and wrong. The perpetrator or victim realizes how wrong it was. The irony, of course, is that this “disorder” is actually an appropriately normal response to an overwhelmingly abnormal situation.

For tonight’s study we read two versions of the same story:

Mark 4:35-41 (NKJV)

35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Luke 8:22-25 (NKJV)

22 Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”

Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 But He said to them, “Where is your faith?”

And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”

 

The men observed a few things:

The storm came even though Jesus was in the boat

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Some people think that if they start walking with Jesus then all of life’s struggles will fade away. But here we see that the storm still came. Furthermore, it seemed to the disciples that Jesus was unaware and/or didn’t care about the storm. What the men in the study concluded was that Jesus isn’t “storm repellent”. Storms will still come. But what they can do is look for Jesus in the storm. Some of them men were going to spend time asking God to show them where He was during the incidents that ultimately landed them in jail.

We feel fear and panic when we can’t control the event that surround us

They disciples were powerless over the storm. The men saw how fear was a significant component for some of the crimes that they had committed as they tried to assert control over people and events. And now the men feel fearful regarding their court trials. They cannot control the prosecution, the judge, the witnesses, or the jury.

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Jesus could handle their anger, doubt, and fear

In Mark the disciples didn’t ask for help. Instead they reacted with anger and doubt.

“Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

But Jesus didn’t chuck them over the side. You don’t need to hide your fear, anger, and doubt from God. You can be real an honest with God. The men also observed that the disciples still responded with fear and doubt even after this incident. In fact, even after the storm was calmed and Jesus encouraged them to respond with faith, they instead responded with more fear.

But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly

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One of the men recalled how multiple times Peter denied knowing Jesus after He had been arrested. Learning to respond with faith rather than fear is a process that will take time, and setbacks are expected. God seems to be in this for the long haul, walking alongside us and encouraging us to exchange our fear for faith.

 

The men lifted up their prayer requests and we closed by singing Amazing Grace.

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Stone City Blog Has Changed Its Name To “INMATE BLOGGER”

Stone City Blog Has Changed Its Name To “INMATE BLOGGER”

Views from inside the walls

Inmate Blogger

Hi Everyone!

We want you all to know that we’ve recently changed our site’s name from Stone City Blog to Inmate Blogger. We have all the same content, but with a fresh new look.

This site is a collection of blogs written by inmates. It serves as a platform which allows them to share their individual stories, opinions, talents, and their inner thoughts. You can lock up a man, but you can’t lock up their mind. We support, understand, and believe that writing can be a great source of rehabilitation, growth, and healing.

Please share our new name with your friends and family:  inmateblogger.com

Be sure to LIKE us on Facebook!

Thank you.

InmateBlogger.com

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