Month: May 2017

Respect and Directions

I often walk through the area of the jail where they bring in new inmates. One evening as I passed through the intake area a man inside one of the processing cells was shouting a loud, long stream of profanities.


Standing outside the cell there were five slightly out of breath COs (correctional officers). They had obviously just put a man in the cell a few minutes earlier.

During the occasional breaks in the man’s foul-mouthed diatribe one of the COs, Officer M, would explain to the man that, once he calmed himself down, they would transport him to his new unit. It could be in a few minutes, or they could wait all night. It was up to the man and when he had regained his self-control.

What struck me about this was that Officer M was saying all of this in a calm and respectful manner. He was not being patronizing. He was relaying information that this man needed.


Later that evening I again walked through the intake area. The man was still in the cell, but he had finally calmed down. Officer M was respectfully explaining in greater detail what the man needed to do. He was doing it in much the same manner that someone might give directions to a traveler who was lost and needed directions to get back to the main highway. Officer M was treating this man with dignity and respect. He was giving the man directions he needed to continue with this part of life’s journey.


Officer M has been doing this job for a long time. He is just a few years away from retirement. I’ve overheard him speaking with other inmates. He frequently will say “sir” when he addresses them.

  • Sir, would you please face the wall.
  • Sir, I need you to face the wall now!

Even as he is commanding, he is still respectful. He doesn’t get caught up in other people’s drama. He treats people with dignity and respect, even when those people are being disrespectful and out of control.

In Romans Paul reminds us that when we were out of control, Christ treated us with honor and respect by offering himself up for us.

Romans 5:6-8 The Message (MSG)

6-8 Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.




noun NORTH AMERICAN informal
plural noun: priors
a previous criminal conviction.
"he had no juvenile record, no priors"

I met with “F” tonight. He is new to the unit. Apparently, his trial went quickly since he said he is due for release in 60 days.

This is not his first time through. Middle-aged, he said he is an example of the revolving door of the system.

He has priors.


Chasing his addiction brings him back each time. He is getting weary and is searching for a way to break the cycle.

He said he’s had little exposure to church, or the Bible. But he has seen others break their cycle of addiction when they began following God. He wants to know more.

We discussed his release plan: what he was going to do for shelter, food, clothing, transportation. Things that many of us take for granted can become a major stumbling block. There are resources, but it still takes some planning. Guys without a plan and a support system can end up getting quickly re-arrested.


For our study we looked at how God dealt with other people who had priors. I gave “F” some context for what we were reading. In our scripture God was speaking to people who had a history of messing up and ignoring God’s instructions. Now they were serving 70 years in captivity.

Jeremiah 29:11-14a (NKJV)

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity;


What are God’s thoughts towards those with priors, who are serving time now? Thoughts of peace and not evil. Consider the contrast for a person behind the walls where there is violence and evil plotting.

to give you: not earned, but a gift of grace.

a future: this is in stark contrast to the prospect of a life with no future

a hope: many things are in short supply behind the walls. At times hope can be the most rare

Even as the people are serving their sentence God isn’t plotting revenge. He isn’t pointing the boney finger of judgement. God has hope for a future even when the people were without hope.

So, what is the road back? How is the cycle of the revolving door broken?


Then you will call upon Me: Even before the prayer there is a call. God is already listening and waiting for the call.

and go and pray to Me: It is a safe place to pour your heart out to God. It is a safe place to ask for what you need.

and I will listen to you: The most influential relationship we have are with people who listen to us. God doesn’t immediately start telling us what to do. He listens. He wants relationship. It isn’t about fixing us, it is about Him being in relationship with us, and we with Him.


when you search for Me with all your heart: The addict knows what it is like to search for something with all his heart – when nothing else matters.

you will seek Me and find Me: Seeking implies that there is a journey, there is a process. It isn’t just a flash of light and all is suddenly better. God isn’t found as a destination. God is found in the seeking.

I will be found by you, says the Lord:God is actively seeking and searching for us. He isn’t just waiting passively. We do the seeking, but God does the finding.

I will bring you back from your captivity:This is a recognition of the things that have held us captive. It isn’t just incarceration. It can be in addictions, in unforgiveness, in all the things that have ensnared us.