Letters from Jail # 3

Image result for spirituality in jail*The following are excerpts from letters I wrote while serving a 360-day sentence in county lock-up. I have edited and arranged the material for readability.

 

 

 

 

Began:  May 29, 2013

It has been a rough day. My mood is mildly depressed. Incredibly, my moods have been exceptionally stable considering where I find myself. This is not how I planned spending 2013. My brother said he thought I would emerge stronger. More compassion, experience, and wisdom perhaps, but stronger? I don’t know.

A quadriplegic man once told me I was the most compassionate man he’d ever met. I guess when you have gone through the losses and pain I have experienced you either become cynical or more humane. I’ve chosen the later.

God has used the difficult circumstances in my life to make me more understanding. This experience is definitely a teaching moment, but it is hard to imagine overcoming the criminal element (label). How can I speak with authority? How can Christ be glorified when I’ve made such a mess of things?

It’s hard to know how to feel about being in jail. How can God use this experience? What do I have to learn?

Providence can be defined as cooperating with the grace of God to bring about the highest good and the least evil. I’m not finished cooperating with His grace. I want God to “make something beautiful out of my (messed-up, flawed, imperfect) life.”

I’m rereading The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancy. He talks about blessed mourners. They are blessed because they are comforted. Thank God for those who have come along and helped. They are blessed because they have hope. We weep not as those who have no hope. They are blessed because they help others. “Wounded healers” know how to help others heal. Those who are comforted know how to comfort others.

The Bible study was poor again. They’re into numerology and sensationalism. It’s tough to go, but I fear my witness will be damaged if I don’t.

One of the men just told me that if I started a church he would attend. I took that as a great compliment. Another man and I talked for some time about loss and the impression negative comments have on our self-image. A new, young guy came in wanting to change his life. I pointed him toward Jesus. Two of these men went to church with me today.

I gave my brother Power-of-Attorney (POA). I signed the papers yesterday. He will pay my bills. I have legal and hospital bills to pay. I hate debt, but somehow, I will crawl out from under it. When I get out I hope to have enough left to get started again.

I’m not staying in Kentucky any longer than necessary. My future is elsewhere. I may go back to Anderson for a while. My brother, J____, is there and a lot of other family.

As I laid in my rack waiting for 4:00 AM med call, my mind turned to my son, A____. I thought, “I could write him.” Please pray with me that I will say the right things and he will receive it. I miss my children and long to reconnect with them.

W____, I’m sure you don’t have a corner on wavering. We all go from mountain movers to doubters, often in the same day. Perseverance is the key.

Tomorrow I will get my hair cut, beard trimmed, and nails clipped. Since I wasn’t allowed to have long hair as a teen I thought I would let it grow until I get out. But, it’s too hard to take care of so I’m cutting it really short. I’m ready to quit shaving. We’re only allowed to shave twice a week with an electric razor that everyone has to use. My nails are longer than they’ve ever been. I hate ‘em. I can’t stand long nails on men. It’s been almost three weeks; I can hardly wait to cut them off.

I’m falling into a routine. I call us “Pavlov’s dogs” because every time the lights come on we know it’s time for a neat trick. lol.

One of our group was released today. Several of the guys stood at the door throwing his things into the hall. Some of the long termers appear depressed. It was an interesting experience to observe. The sad part is the guy will be back. He’s a 12-year-old boy in a 56-year-old body. He has no clue how to live that does not involve drugs, alcohol, sex, and partying.

Reframing is the process of seeing a problem or situation from a different angle. I’m not in jail, I live in a $10 million-dollar home with my own personal security system and detail. My food is prepared in my own kitchen and delivered to my room. I have laundry service, an indoor and outdoor recreation area, nursing staff, and a chaplain that comes twice a week. So many things are provided I never have to leave my home. (Laugh or cry. You’ve got to laugh or cry.)

Only 48 weeks to go. Club Madisonville appears to be working, I have lost 12 pounds. I may come out of here with six-pack abs. : )

Sincerely,

Jay

The LORD be with you.

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Letters from Jail #2*

Began on 05/23/2013

I have made the local TV news for two days now. The paper reported that I was doing very good against the two police officers before being tasered. Those two whipper-snappers should have thought twice before picking on an old, fat man. Honestly, I remember very little. (I had a dissociative episode and didn’t know what I had done until the police told me.) I guess all that fighting I have done in my sleep all these years finally paid off. Laugh or cry, you have to laugh or cry.

Reportedly, my reputation is known. The chaplain knows me as the well-educated minister. The guards know me as the guy who took on two policemen. My cell-mates know me as the naïve rookie. I just pray that Jay is not lost and the Jay in Christ overcomes all the other reputations.

I’ve been thinking about my jail experience. The conclusion I’ve come to is, jail experiences can be placed into three categories: noble, accidental, and nefarious. People who go to jail for a cause – persecution, political, or civil disobedience – can be called noble. That is true regardless if we agree with their cause or not. Accidental is obvious – the innocent, misidentified, etc. The criminal element, like me, would be the nefarious.

It’s hard for me to think of myself as criminal or to take responsibility for my actions alone. What I did was wrong, but there were so many mitigating circumstances that few, if any, could not imagine themselves responding in the same or a similar way. Am I making excuses? Am I avoiding responsibility?

If I could’ve proven my side, I could’ve walked away a free man. But, they had all the evidence on their side and my “victims” looked more pitiable. I took the deal, not because I was guilty of all they accused me, but because I had no defense. (I asked my lawyer to plead me “not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect,” but he told me it was almost impossible to prove in Kentucky.)

Rather than being in jail for a crime, I’ll think of it as “forced rest.” This will be the Years of Jubilee I have missed. After 39 years of ministry, I needed a sabbatical. Also, I could think of jail as “Club Madisonville.” My very own weight loss program. Exercise, proportional meals, no snacks . . . that ought to equal 50 lbs. of weight loss over a year

I have prayed for forgiveness. Forgiveness for not being strong enough to walk away. For attempting to direct my treatment when others could see clearer than I. For holding the material possessions of this world dear enough to fight over. (I don’t know how to pray about the fight, because I have almost no memory of it.) For not respecting God-ordained civil authority. _____

I had a real battle with pride yesterday. During Wednesday night Bible study, I couldn’t decide whether to use my knowledge or stay mostly mute. Finally, I decided to embrace who God has made me in Christ Jesus and use my talents for Him. It was a palpable moment for me, but I think I made the right choice.

Sunday is coming. I love the Lord’s Day – celebration, worship, festival, and holiday all in one. The services here have not been professional or well done. It appears a lot who go are looking for “friends” or to just get out of the cell for a while. Wednesday Bible study was chaotic and shallow.

Church today was the same as last week right down to the sermon. The man seems to care, though, and is upbeat. _____

I received a termination letter today from the agency where I worked. As firing letters go, it was the best I’ve ever received . . . It’s the only one I’ve ever received. They were nice and caring.

I received two cards today. One was from my brother and the other from my former boss. He said he was praying for me and offered to help in any way he could. _____

A couple of nights ago it got real quiet in the dorm, just in time for me to start talking in my sleep. “We’re not talking about it anymore,” I said. Everyone laughed and the quiet did not return for some time. One guy told me I better never do anything serious because I talk too much in my sleep.

Pray with me that I will learn the jail culture without losing myself. I need a conscience for this road I’ve never traveled. One guy is “mentoring” me. He said I was very naïve.

My day at a glance:

12-12:30 AM      Blood pressure checks. We all march down to the nurse. Like the rest of me, my BP has been near perfect. (A small attempt at humor.)

4-4:15 AM           Morning meds. I think the Risperidone I’m on is really helping to stabilize my mood.

5-6:00 AM           Breakfast . . . pancakes, oatmeal, or biscuits and gravy with fruit and juice.

6-7:00 AM           Devotions. Right now I’m in Mark and Psalms of a morning and Proverbs at night.

7-8:00 AM           Clean-up. Shower, brush teeth. We don’t change clothes but once a week. Although I change my skivvies more often. (TMI)

8-12:00 PM         I rest, read, and write. I’m rereading The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancy.

12-1:00 PM         Lunch

1-4:00 PM           Rest, read, and write. On MWF we are allowed one hour of recreation in the “yard.” Oh, the feel of the sun.

4-4:15 PM           Evening meds.

4:15-6:00 PM     Rest, read, and write.

6-7:00 PM           Clean-up. Sweep, clean restroom, mop.

7-8:00 PM           Supper

8-12:00 AM        Rest, read, and write. Reading from Proverbs.

Sunday is church and visitations.   Monday and Friday is court if you have a date before the judge.   Wednesday, I receive a visit from a local pastor. Bible study. Library night.   Wednesday and Saturday is wash day for whites.   Thursday and Monday is wash day for uniforms. We all sit around in our boxers until the uniforms are cleaned and returned. Uncomfortable!   Mail and concessions come in the morning, M-F. _____

Sometimes, I can’t help but think that much of my life has been a mistake in light of the way things have turned out. But, I must trust in the LORD. Some of it has been my failure. Some, the failure of others. Some, a combination of the two.

Jay

*I have edited and arranged the material from my letters for readability.

 

Letters from Jail: #1

The following is excerpts from letters I wrote while serving a 360-day sentence in county lock-up. I edited and arranged the material for readability.

Began on 05/18/2013

Image result for letters from jailIt is my first opportunity to write; I had no paper until now. It is in pencil because that is all we’re allowed – they are those little golf pencils that are too small for big hands.

My first few days have been uneventful. The dorm holds ten men and has one restroom and one shower. I can change my clothes and bed sheets once a week. With that, I’m not sure what the point of a shower is, but I guess some semblance of civilization must prevail.

There are eight other guys in here. One is a reader, cites and writes poetry, and appears very intelligent. Another controls the T.V. remote, changing the channels frequently. The rest sleep much of the day. If I could record the variety of snores coming from this room of men, perhaps I could produce one of those Jingle Bells recordings – you know, like the dogs barking. I can’t lay in the bunk all day, reading and writing have become my refuge.

The tedium is suffocating – three meals, morning and evening medication calls, and a midnight walk down the hall to get my blood pressure checked. The only break in the monotony of the day is when the guards come through the dorm on their hourly bed check. I hope to get involved in work, church, and/or Bible study.

After midnight blood pressure check, the dorm comes to life with activity. Showers, T.V., visiting with each other, card games, and reading. This goes on until 1:30 or 2:00 AM or until the guard in central control turns off the T.V.

One of the men gave me a Bible until the chaplain sent me one I could have for myself. It’s an NIV (New International Version), which was what I was reading at home. Reading is tough amidst the constant noise of the T.V.  Prayer is even tougher. Sometimes God seems close, but most of the time He feels far away. I’m trying to read a Psalm and a chapter from Proverbs each day. I’m also reading from Mark.

I’ve been writing a list of events and happenings over the past 35 years for which to repent of, ask forgiveness for, and to forgive others for. The act of writing them all down gives me an opportunity to pray about each one and to release any anger that I may have about them. I need forgiveness, a sense of release from my guilt, and peace in my heart, mind, and soul. Pray with me that “no root of bitterness” will spring up in me. I don’t want to hate or despise anyone.

My mood yesterday was depressed. It seems I overcome one battle of forgiveness only to face another. Two more things came up in court. I didn’t contest either one, although I thought parts of the first were unfair; and all I can say about the second is, “Good luck!” (More was disclosed here than I feel free to share for the sake of others.) You see my struggle to forgive when hurt keeps coming, but forgive I must. Yesterday morning I felt free, today I am attempting to break free of these chains.

Why can’t it be easier, but then again, if forgiveness was easy God would not have required the blood of Jesus. Battle must be part of the victory. In battle you discover both your weaknesses and strengths. What can I say? I must march forward. I dare not go back or stay stagnate. I’m reminded of what Jesus told Peter, 70 times seven. Seventy times seven, Jay.

I don’t know how I got here. I was too weak, too emotionally drained, too mentally spent, too sick to walk away. I broke one of my fundamental principles – don’t fight over material things. Too tightly did I hang onto the loaves and fishes and missed the message of Jesus as He passed by. It begs the question; do we own our possessions or do our possessions own us? Help me pray.

It is the Lord’s Day and I just got back from church. There is no singing, but one man gave a really good testimony. I’m not sure where the chaplain got his training, but he leaves a lot to be desired. Today, he had The Lord’s Prayer at the end of Matthew and Pentecost on Thursday. I feel sorry for the men in here if that’s all the spiritual instruction they get. Whatever his faults, though, he appears to have a good rapport with them.

My brother came to see me today. If we’d had a gavel it could have been a real business meeting. There are so many things to do. So many decisions to make.

Goodbye for now. Pray for hearts to be softened towards me and that I would forgive and be forgiven.

Sincerely,

Jay