LETTERS FROM JAIL, #10-B

letters from jail 6Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

Began July 1, 2013

Dear __________

07/02/2013

It’s 3:30 AM. I’ve been up reading for an hour.

The guys call me, “Shook,” “Chuck,” and “Shuck.” As I mentioned in a previous letter, they’ve nicknamed me, “Shotgun.” Oh joy!

One of the guards said to me, “Maybe God has put you here for a reason.” I didn’t reply. God didn’t put me here. That was my own stupid self. But, like Joseph, I trust God can use me in here.

I heard on of the guys talking about me. He said something about getting close to me because, “that guy knows how to pray.” I have my devotions from 6:00 – 7:00 AM before breakfast. There is no closet for me to go into so I just hide my face in my hands. Yesterday I sniffled a couple of time and one of the guys put a roll of TP in front of me. It was a moment of tenderness and recognition that is few and far between in a place like this.

A rule of thumb on cars is, don’t spend more on repairs than the car is worth. Dave Ramsey says if you buy a new car plan on it lasting 10 years. If you buy a used car – four years. Therefore, my conclusion not his, look for a six – 10-year-old vehicle with less than 100,000 miles on it. If you travel 15,000 miles a year it should give dependable service for six to seven years. Of course, with a 1993 Honda you appear to push the envelope a little more than others. Another way to look at it is to ask yourself if you are spending more per month than a car payment. If so, it’s time to get another car.

Used cars are high right now. Plan on the sticker price being $1,000 – $1,500 above Kelly’s Blue Book. Dealers want to make $2,000 profit on used cars. Start negotiations well below the blue book value. That gives you room to come up. The best price on used cars is from an individual, then a used car lot, and then a new car dealer. New car dealers keep the best used cars to put on their lot and send the rest to auctions. Use Carfax.

I don’t like some of the cartoons and youth programing that are out these days, either. I wouldn’t let my grandchildren watch anything that undermined parenting, used lots of magic, or left no room for God by having an alternate view of the universe. Generally, I was the only conscience in our home, but I wasn’t flawless.

I was the co-leader of a mental health team that focused on disaster relief. We generally came in after the first responders were gone. I learned a lot about grief and grief recovery. The importance of days, seasons, triggers, and other reminders. For you that could be any number of things, but once you identify them you can be more prepared to cope with the fluctuation and occurrence of moods. Perhaps if you keep a grief journal or notebook you might be able to identify patterns.

Thank you for your comfort regarding my family. It hurts. Nothing for Father’s Day. I don’t expect anything for my birthday. It’s as if I died and someone forgot to tell me. After my brother committed his crime he was still my brother. With all A_____ has done, he/she’s still my child.

I have no ill will toward C_____. If she were in need I would try to find a way to help. She will always be my children’s mother. Grudges hurt the person holding them far more than the object of the grudge.

I’ve wondered how you felt about your church. It has been my observation that a person does not become wholly attached to a church until the church has successfully helped that person through a crisis. People come to a church when they feel their “felt” needs are being met. They stay when a “real” need is met.

I have found in my own life that I love peace so much that I had to sacrifice myself and my values to maintain it. That was wrong. I believe in mutual submission. The one who is stronger in a particular area takes the lead in that instance regardless of gender. Neither do I believe that a decision ought to be made in matters of importance without consensus. I wanted and tried to make sure Jesus was the head of my home.

While I pastored my family and I went to church together. But if I wasn’t pastoring we often went in different directions. I filled pulpits a lot and sometimes supply pastored without my family going with me.

I’ve been thinking about my role in the pulpit in the future. I may fill pulpits or supply as a layman. I plan to put out feelers. Skipping the credentialing process will eliminate one more complication for me, I think. What do you think?

I’ve never tried to download anything on my phone except updates. I’m fearful and not all that tech savvy. My daughter has shown me features on my phone I never knew I had months after getting my phone. There was a feature that put Facebook friends’ numbers on your phone. I must have hit, “yes.” There were hundreds of numbers on my phone that I never called. Then I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off and clear out my phone. Oh bother!

I am thankful that, as friends, we can share our souls without fear of offending or running off the other.

About the notes on the back of your last letter. That is not being scatter-brained. That’s just sharing with someone else a mystery. “What in the world are these numbers about?” And, “Who is Paul, Terry, and Bill?”

I’m mailing this letter early because of the holidays.

Sincerely,

Jay

The LORD be with you.

Advertisements

LETTERS FROM JAIL, #10-A

letters from jail 6Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

Began July 1, 2013

Dear __________

07/01/2013

It’s 1:30 PM and I’ve been thinking about how to reply to your letter. The feelings I have about my marriage are confusing. Under only the strictest reading of the law am I a married man. No relational definition, including the Bible, would recognize my state as married. “I hate divorce,” say the Lord and I agree. I tried for 14 years to save my marriage. Most recently, after sixty days of begging C_____ not to leave me and please get some help with me, I was done. I was spent. I didn’t have anymore to give. No more stomach for it. I had been rejected for the last time by her. I don’t want to say God released me because I try to be very careful what I assign to God, but I was released. As far as I’m concerned, I was divorced in every sense of the word except legal on that day.

As a theologian, I abhor the divorce rate in our country. I wish there was a way to strengthen marriage and make divorce harder. But, in my case I want to exercise what I saw on a movie one time and say, “I divorce you,” three times and be done with it.

The pain in your voice on Saturday, June 29, haunted me. In your grief you are still clinging to the joy of your relationship with your spouse. You are still in an active love relationship with the one who made you feel special and brought happiness to your world. It is selfish and heartless for someone to ask you to think about tomorrow when you are still in mourning about yesterday. Today may be all you can bear at the moment. May the Lord be near as you lay to rest your yesterdays and as you try to live each today.

I found a book by Hannah Whitall Smith in the library entitled, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. In it she discussed discerning the will of God. She writes, “There are four ways in which God reveals His will to us – through the Scriptures, through providential circumstances, through the convictions of our higher judgement, and through the inward impressions of the Holy Spirit in our minds.”

Every parenting couple needs law and grace in the home. I was law although they all know I had a grace filled heart. They called me, “’Ol Softy.” Thank you for sharing. I like to pray specifically about needs.

That water park sounds fun. I always wear a T-shirt. I don’t like to show off my fat. I would hate to tempt any chubby chasers. LOL! I haven’t caught up with the times yet, either. I still wear the short trunks. My legs are my best feature. LOL! Like your granddaughter, I’m cautious on water rides. With my weight things go so much faster. My grandchildren both loved and were scared to ride with Papa.

We got another cell mate today. He’s an alphabet soup of mental health disorders. He also appears to have a mild mental deficiency. They have no where to place him so they put him in jail until a bed opens in a facility that will take him. It’s sad. There’s another man here that clearly has fetal alcohol syndrome. Both broke the law, but surely there is a better place for people who have mental health issues and developmental delays than jail. They get made fun of or taken advantage of in a place like this unless someone steps up to protect and help them.

Sincerely,

Jay

The LORD be with you.

LETTER’S FROM JAIL #9-B

Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociativeletters from jail 6 episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

Began June 27, 2013

Dear F__________

6/28

I value your friendship. The person I knew back in high school is still very much at the core of who you are today. I admire your spirit, appreciate your wisdom, wonder at your resilience, and enjoy your letters.

If you are anything like me you fear the expectations of others. Do they expect perfection? That is only in the future for any of us. We panic. We worry. We do dumb things. We raise our voices in anger. We have fears, insecurities, and questions about ourselves. Obviously, I am not flawless as my current situation testifies. But, it is good that we know our weaknesses and are able to admit them. That is the only way we can begin to grow in grace and maturity.

I’m thankful that you are not a shallow person. There is a depth to you that I greatly admire. Some people are a mile wide and an inch deep. You, on the other hand, have deep pools of wisdom, experience, faith, and spirituality. Although the core of who we are today is rooted in our childhood, we are not the same teenagers that met in high school.

You asked about what kind of food I like. Well, I’m not real fond of fast food. I will eat healthy when it is offered or available. (I do like chocolate.) I like fish, fresh or salt water, – not breaded unless it is catfish – and salads. Wendy’s is my favorite fast food. Papa John’s is my favorite franchise pizza. I like beef and other red meat. (Do you know why a rump roast is called a rump roast? Because no one would eat cow’s butt.) I like fowl, fruit, cooked and/or raw vegetables, whole grain breads, brown rice, beans, etc. I like baked over fried. I like farmer’s markets and local shops when they are available and affordable. I like to top my salads with fat-free dressings and low-fat cottage cheese. I like skim milk, water, lemonade, and sweet tea. (I can’t stand diet drinks.)


6/29

My timing for renewing an acquaintance with an old high school friend is off, perhaps even bad. But, I’m so thankful you are not repulsed by my circumstances and continue to correspond with me.

I woke up today about 3:00 AM with tears forming in my eyes for my family, especially A_____ and my grandchildren. Will they ever understand? Thank you for your prayers.

One of the men, S_____, lost his mother last week. He couldn’t go to the funeral. He appears contemplative. I’ve talked to him a couple of times. It’s hard to accept that time and life moves on for others while it is standing still for you.

F_____, M_____ is not your failure. You must not shoulder all the burden yourself. Trust in God and realize there is time yet. Don’t feel bad about being tired or feeling overwhelmed. Jesus healed many, but He didn’t heal them all. You can’t do it all. I hear your frustration. I feel the ache of your heart. Look up. God is able. There is hope. Help is available.

They reordered my meds, thank the Lord. I’ve seen them pull people off meds without any exam or reason. So far, I’m doing well.

I got to witness to one of the guys in the yard today. He shared with me his experience. He, along with a couple of others, are first timers. By now, I’m an old veteran.

Time for bed. Four o’clock comes early tomorrow. Good night.


6/30

I went to church today. There were three speakers. It reminds me of my first sermon. There were four speakers – none of us spoke more than five minutes. These guys spoke more than that. The first two were pretty good.

We had communion, too. The chaplain’s communion services take some getting used to, especially for a high church liturgy and solemnity fellow like myself.

A couple of nights ago one of the guys wanted someone to sing him to sleep. I started singing:

Great is Thy faithfulness O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not. As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness. Great is Thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

They clapped. (I entertain them talking in my sleep, too.)

Happy birthday. My heart is saddened for you because of your first birthday without G_____. Just feel assured that you are a very, very special person to many more than you might imagine. I pledge to remember you on your birthday as will dozens of others, I’m sure.

From what you told me about your co-worker’s incident, I guess it was a good thing that the police were not called. I called the police in my case, but I didn’t have the strength to hold on until they got there. I broke. It’s a blessing that your co-worker could walk back from the edge. I couldn’t.

Like you, I didn’t believe in divorce either. I tried for 14 years to save my marriage, but only one person wanted to save it. I should of . . . I wish I’d . . . Simply put, I tried to do the right thing, but . . . Tell your co-worker to not lose herself in trying to save her marriage.

Thank you for sharing your heart with me.

Sincerely,

Jay

 

The LORD be with you.

LETTERS FROM JAIL #9-A

letters from jail 6Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

Began June 27, 2013

Dear __________

I trust you are doing well. My mind keeps going back to your last letter. I feel that my response was so inadequate. Perhaps I was just supposed to listen and pray. Please forgive me for such a pinch of a reply to such a hand full of revelation.

A…….r, the man I wrote about before, is going home today. A new law took effect in Kentucky and a lot of people are being released. Kentucky has an overcrowding problem. I hope they’re still overcrowded in August.

I had another anger management class today. I’m enclosing some things that may help explain a few things better regarding the chart I made in a previous letter. I thought I would complete the “Belief Box” for you.

“Beliefs about self:” I believe I am a person made in the image and likeness of God, bought with a price, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, I am loveable, worthwhile, good by grace, and capable. I do have insecurities of being good enough and capable enough. My feelings of low self-esteem come from those two sources.

“Beliefs about others:” I believe about others what I believe about myself. People have inherent worth regardless of quality of life. I trust to the point of being naïve. People are predictable if you know what to look for. A person should be judged on their own merits – “the content of their character.”

“Beliefs about relationships:” I don’t believe another person can “complete” me or meet my needs. I believe good relationships complement each other based on common goals, purpose, values, interests, etc. I am a rational being. I don’t like to make decisions based on my feelings or emotions. I like to think things through. I’m not easily rattled; I’m generally calm in a crisis. I use logic to influence others most of the time, and yes, I believe I can persuade them.

“Beliefs about God:” God is. His nature is holy love. God does not cause everything that happens to happen. I believe some things are no one’s fault. I believe in the providence of God and His personal presence. “Yes, He cares, I know He cares.” God allows choice. If we choose based on His principles good generally results. If I ignore His principles bad things may happen.

“Beliefs about God’s feelings:” God loves me soooooo much, John 3:16. God’s love is unconditional, but my choices make a difference in my relationship with God.

“Beliefs about doing:” My moral code is based on the Bible. I strive to love God and others. I have a strong sense of justice, respect, and honesty. These areas can cause trouble for me as I sometimes get angry in a negative way. I’m working on it.

“Beliefs about purpose:” I was created to be holy. All human life has purpose.


I came across a story that I thought you might take comfort in. It is about a woman whose husband put her in a bathtub and covered her with his body as a tornado ripped apart their home. He died, she lived. She wrote that on the worst day of her life she knew she was loved. _____, during all these difficult days you have gone through or are going through, you have been and are being loved.

Thank God for Uncle _____ and Aunt _____. It appears to me that _____ is reflecting his/her environment, as you have already observed. S/he is used to negative attention. Medication will not address the fundamental issue – parenting. I would hate to see him/her get an oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) diagnosis when parenting is the fundamental issue. Perhaps ______’s increased dosage will help, but there also has to be self-interested improvement and action.

I always told my clients that mental illness is like a journey. Medication will get you up and in the car, but the rest of the trip is up to you. Medication covers over, but nothing really changes. The change only comes through concerted effort. I have learned to overcome negative anger through application of learning, practice, and experience. No medication can teach me how to manage my anger.

_____ is only ___ years old. S/he has come through a lot of trauma in his/her life. S/he needs consistency and routine in abundance. You have time with him/her, _____. This is my opinion, but I would be very hesitant to give him an ODD diagnosis – age and environment would preclude me from doing so.

Trust in the LORD. I know this must be painful for you. Have patience. Tribulation may be a part of patience, but I have found the blessing is worth the wait. Try not to worry, “Fret not,” lean on the LORD and take advantage of the resources available to you. Remember, you can’t fix everything. Let others help.

_____ is in my prayers. I have a lot of experience praying for children, precious children, like him/her. There is hope. There are success stories. There are remedies. Remember me saying, “I believe in redemption or I couldn’t do this job?” _____ is redeemable.

Do you have any old pictures of me lying around? Maybe you could get my mug shot off the web. lol. I give you the thumbs up, too.

(To be continued)

Sincerely,

Jay

The LORD be with you.

LETTERS FROM JAIL: # 8

letters from jail 6Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

 

Dear __________                                                                                                Began June 6, 2013

I wanted to share some from my reading that relates to what I wrote in my last letter. The author talks about us giving our “burdens” to the Lord. As often as anxieties and circumstances return to worry us and/or remain unchanged we give them back to the Lord. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee.” Me thinks this applies to forgiveness, too.

It sounds like you have a mission field at work. May the Lord bless your work and make your witness effective. My prayers are with you that you may shine.

It sounds like K_____ has gotten herself a good opportunity. Perhaps she will stand on her own financially soon. I imagine she wants/needs your help with N_____ for a while. Work the good work. She may act independent of you, but she is crying for your help. It will be a real trick to be Mom, Mom-Grandma, and Grandma-Grandma. You will, or perhaps already do, feel taken advantage of more than you care to admit. But, because you believe in redemption, you will continue to help as long as you are able. May the Lord be your strength.

How is D_____ doing? As a foster care therapist I’ve seen countless children long for that which they cannot have from a person incapable of giving it. I never knew quite what to do, but it never failed to break my heart.

I’m so glad your support group, Naomi Women, met for your sake. I could tell you were missing it. It’s good to have such support and receive such comfort from those in similar circumstances. I’m sure you were thrilled to get away and discover the world did not end in your absence. lol!

I like 1, 2, 3 Magic. The keys are to 1) Tell your child what s/he did wrong. “That’s one for fighting with your brother.” 2) Have restart times – from rising to noon, noon to supper, and supper to bedtime. And 3) One minute of timeout for each year of age the child is. It’s a good book. SOS has some great principles, too.

I am shy like you, but I have a public personality. At an office party I am the guy sitting in the corner by himself. Put me in charge and I’m the life of the party. It’s a learned trait. Given some training and experience you can do things like that with minimal awkwardness.

I like oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat, etc. No elbow macaroni. No! No! No! (We were served elbow macaroni with macaroni and cheese, chili, spaghetti, and Alfredo in jail.)

Oh, I heard a couple of guys sharing their regrets and what-ifs in the yard today. I hope I’m not one of them. Drugs, sex, streets derail potential. I have regrets, but I think there’s been meaning, too, and I believe there’s more yet to give and receive.

Is your granddaughter’s father involved at all? I call my grandchildren’s dads “sperm donors.” That’s about the only thing they’ve given to those precious children.

I have OCD tendencies, but I’m not a perfectionist by any means. (That was written while I was still in denial.) I’m hard on myself and grow frustrated when I don’t accomplish all I think I should. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking “me” time or play a game instead of writing or working. In the midst of the chaos in my home I had to have order just to remain sane.

I’m neither a night owl nor a morning person. I’m a daylight person. I like to go to bed around 10:00 PM and get up around 6:30 AM. Of course, in here I find I’m wide awake at 3:00 AM and having my devotions by 5:30 or 6:00 AM.

I hope I’m not being too hard on D_____ about “poisoning” me. She always used chemicals when I was asleep and always with the same results – me choking and running outside to breathe.

Honda’s are good cars and the Civic is good. Check Edmunds.com for details and prices. Kelly Blue Book is a good resource, too. Anything with less than 100,000 miles should last 10 years with normal driving.

I’ve given this some thought . . . as I sit here in my boxers while my stripes/uniform is being washed. Keep that image in your mind and try not to laugh. Boxers, t-shirt, midcalf tube socks, and black casual shoes. Okay, I’ve thought that I am the same man you knew years ago – a heart for God, a quest for knowledge, and a boat-load of insecurities. However, in many ways I am different – experience, maturity, rationality. In some ways I am trying to rediscover who I was. You have been such a precious resource and encouragement in this endeavor. In many ways I am still growing – spiritually, in knowledge, skills, and discernment.

There have been several events in my life that have shaped me – John Maxwell on discipleship, my first church, a family member’s crime, my education, and my depression.

On church services: I like blended services that combine hymns with contemporary choruses. I like strong Biblical preaching with very practical application. And I like to see what a church is doing locally, in their state and nation, and in the world. I want to see a church that has a passion for God and doesn’t need to be pushed or dragged toward spiritual growth and discipline. A church who loves poor, needy, and hurting people and will share in ministry to them. A church with values and principles. A church that believes their relationship with Jesus is the foundation of all that is attempted and achieved.

I’m praying for you. It’s hard to live with someone who yells. When my daughter yells at my grandchildren I get on to her. She says, “You yelled at us.” (I am ashamed to confess that I did, but she is me on steroids.) When she says that I reply, “Did you like it?”

Thank you for keeping me in your prayers and thoughts.

Sincerely,

Jay


Thank you for reading. The LORD be with you.

Letters from Jail #7 Part 2 of 2

letters from jail 6Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through them you may find hope and help from my experience.

Dear ________                                                                                                  Began June 19, 2013

Well, I hit the news again. You may remember I told you A_____ stuck a camera in my face. I guess it’s been released to the media. It shows me chasing them off with a shotgun in my hands. You could probably see it on the internet.

I’m disappointed. It keeps my story alive and makes it less likely they’ll release me sooner. I guess I need to start thinking 360 days instead of 180.

Do you think they included the clips of A_____ laughing at me, taunting me, and mocking me? Did they talk about the Status Quo order being violated? Did they report the fact that the police escorted them off the property two days before? What about my depressed state and being relieved of my churches that morning? What of the lies published on Facebook in an attempt to ruin my reputation?

What I did was wrong, but there were mitigating factors. I wish the whole truth could be told and not just the parts that make me look madly insane. I pled guilty because I couldn’t prove my case, not because I thought I was guilty of everything they said. Lord, I forgive. Help me to forgive.

My brother cleaned out my stuff. He said they didn’t leave me much. If that is true they have taken a lot of my inheritance. I told my brother they can give an account of themselves before God. Lord, I forgive. Help me to forgive.

Neither my brother nor I have heard from A_____.

I may be a very poor man deeply in debt by the time I get out. “If I were a rich man . . .” Limited prospects. I’ll be “living on love, buying on time . . .” (Hey, Fiddler on the Roof and a country song in the same paragraph. How wrong is that?)

Mom started working me in VBS when I was 15. I was only 14 when I started working at Junior Bible Camp. Mom always had me in two VBS’s until I was a teenager – North Anderson and Alexandria, and/or a church on 31st St. that I walked to. VBS is a good program. When I pastored in Lawrenceburg and in Kokomo, we always had real big ones.

The San Antonio Spurs will rebuild. They are a good franchise.

We went to the library last night. I picked up an old classic, A Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whiteall Smith, and a western. I don’t know which one to read first.

I talked in my sleep today. My rack mate was so troubled by what I was saying and doing that he got up and stood on the other side of the cell. Lol! I told him I was a harmless man. He said that coming from “Shotgun Shuck” (my new nickname) and a guy who took on two police officers. I had to laugh. How can you argue with wisdom like that? Oh, how I want to be a peaceable man, known for piety, not violence. I figure the bad news throughout the week disturbed my sleep. I need to pray more.

I don’t put a lot of stock in dream analysis, but I have found it helpful at times. Often dreams reveal our unresolved conflicts. I think that is what happened to me.

You spoke of forgiveness. I guess you and I both are having our crisis of forgiveness. I’m struggling with my story being on the news, but I think it’s political – this being a local election year – and the fact that I’m a minister. If I had not been a minister this would be a non-story. I don’t know that there’s anything to forgive here, but I am embarrassed that it is still in the news.

But to take all of my stuff – my inheritance, my gifts, my collections, my non-marital assets. How much do you have to hate a person to want him in jail, no contact for three years, bankrupt him, and take what little he has left? Yes, I’m struggling to forgive.

I desire them no harm. I want them to have what they need. I was willing to be generous. Why, if they profess to be Christian, do they not only wish me ill, but also are actively attempting to bring ill into my life. I’m struggling. Lord, help me.

Did she ever truly love me or was I just a means to an unknown and ill-conceived end? Wow, I can’t feel sorry for myself. Let it go, Jay, release the grudge. God fights our battles. The most important thing is not the accumulation of goods here, but the storing of precious things over there.

Thank you for listening. Why kick a man when he’s already down? Lord, I forgive. Help me to forgive.

Tell me, do you ever get over the sense of betrayal and abandonment? How much time do you spend sitting by the phone expecting an apology? When do they quit inflicting pain?

I guess it’s what I tell my clients – you don’t experience emotional pain over things you don’t care about. When can I stop caring? Do you ever?

I sang in church today. I doubt they hear many classically trained vocalists. “Give Them All to Jesus” seemed appropriate for all of us in jail.

Thank you for Psalm 37. I’ve been reading it daily. It brings peace, comfort, and resolve.

On a lighter note: “A man with a headache does not want to get rid of his head, but it hurts him to keep it.”

Movie quote: “Yesterday was the tomorrow we thought we couldn’t get through today.”

Sincerely,

Jay

The LORD be with you.

Letters from Jail # 7 part 1 of 2

Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through them you may find hope and help from my experience.

Dear ________                                                                                                  Began June 19, 2013

I trust you are doing well, your family is well, and all is well.

Perhaps I misled you about my sleep. In jail you can sleep, watch TV, play cards, visit, read, and write. Several of the guys try to sleep 12 hours daily. I can’t lay on these racks that long. My bones are too old. I generally sleep from 9:00 PM to 3:00 AM and take a nap from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Yes, I have fallen asleep praying many times. I woke up one time praying for the gas station attendant at the station at the bottom of the hill. Lol! I guess we’re in good company with Peter, James, and John.

Yes, I watched the Spurs’ games with you. I used to watch boxing on Tuesday nights. My kids asked me why. I told them it was because my dad, their grandpa, was watching at that hour, too. It was my way of being with him, although many miles separated us. He loved basketball and boxing. (He used to play semi-pro basketball and was a track star in school. He played against “Jumpin” Johnny Wilson who was on the 1946 state champ Anderson Indians and was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball that year. He played both pro ball and for the Harlem Globe Trotters for a while. He was the coach at Anderson College for years.)

Forgiveness: I find myself replaying past wrongs committed by me or against me. Then I have to pray for forgiveness or to forgive. Forgiveness is, I think, both an act and a process. We forgive and keep forgiving. As often as I think of being wronged I choose to forgive.

In my replays of being wronged I always have a powerful retort and persuasive argument. The person always melts before my superior logic. Then, when I wake up, I have to forgive a new and pray for forgiveness for being so full of myself. Lol!

Bible study was okay last night. Our group went off on several rabbit trails, which, as a leader would have frustrated me to no end, but, as a student I thoroughly enjoyed the detours. What does that say about me? I need to conquer that sense of self-importance. Lol!

I started my anger management class today. It’s going to be a good class. The teacher said he would connect depression and anger, so I hope to learn some things. It’s eight weeks and fulfills my court ordered requirement.

Oh, the chaplain told me that they will review my case in six months as to whether I work or not. What that tells me is they want me to serve a minimum of nine months. If I don’t get probation before, February will be my earliest out date.

Hey, that’s neat that your granddaughter and her “pops” shared a TV show. It was special when my granddaughter and I would sit down and watch Pawn Stars and Law and Order together. I miss her and her brothers.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I must let my children and grandchildren return to me. I may lose any opportunity to have a place in their lives if I call them before they are ready. My arms are open wide; I will never turn them away.

The Smoky Mountains have been our go-to place for most of our vacations, but then they were closer than the ocean from Indiana than from where you live. Dad tried to take us on one long and one short vacation a year. I traveled for two years in college and five years as a representative at the college where I taught. I tried to take a special vacation every five years with my family. Money was in short supply for more than that. We camped often. I went to Mexico in 1976.

Grieving is messy. Sometimes you go through all five stages in a single day. What is the source of your sadness? Cause? Sometimes you may need to embrace the sadness and resolve the cause, if possible. Finding the source of your pain often defines what causes the sadness. Is it loss? Fear? Loneliness? Anxiety?

Friends are special. Get into trouble and you soon find out who is an acquaintance and who is a friend.

My anger management homework was revealing. It is interesting to see yourself and your beliefs exposed in such a way. According to the author my views of anger are wrong. Me wrong? Go figure.

(To be continued . . .)

LETTERS FROM JAIL #6

Image result for letters from jailSuffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that you may find hope and help from my experience.

 

Dear __________,                                                                                          Began June 17, 2013

 

A month of days have passed since I came to jail to stay. It has been an eventful month.

I moved cells twice today. The first cell was a holding cell. I expected to be there two or three days, but they moved us again in three hours. There were a lot of young pups in that cell that made a lot of noise. Another man had schizophrenia and was talking to the TV. One of the guys came to get me to see what I could do. At one point 18 guys were in an eight by ten room. The man with schizophrenia was pretty delusional. I started doing deep breathing exercises with him to help keep him in reality. I felt useful.

I’m in a much quieter cell now. It’s a ten-man cell. One of the guys (A_____) from my old cell is with me. It makes the transition easier. A_____ is a nice guy. Quiet. Thoughtful. He reads his leather-bound Bible and prays over his meals. He has a wife and two children, a girl and a boy. He has an addiction issue that has him in and out of jail often.

I’m watching the NBA finals. Since the Indiana Pacers got knocked out . . . Go Spurs! Old ABA (American Basketball Association) fans have to stick together. I’m not much of a sports fan, but I do like to watch the baseball, football, and basketball playoffs. I like the Olympics, too. I follow NASCAR as well. I watch the start of the race, take a nap in the middle, and wake up for the end.

Sin sure causes messes, doesn’t it? Many of the children I worked with hardly knew where they belonged or had any family identity. Rearing children that are not your own is a difficult job. But, be assured that the Father of the fatherless blesses and sustains you.

On the eighth of each month (The recipient of my letters spouse died on that day of the month.), I try to lift you even more before God. That day may always bring pain to your heart and a tear to your eye. I’m sure it was special that S_____ spent the evening with you and C_____. Shared memories are always good to sooth one’s soul. I’m sure you were a comfort to her as well.

Sometimes I feel near God, sometimes distant. There are times that I think I have messed things up to the point of being irredeemable. Silly, isn’t it? How can God make something good out of such an ugly situation? See what I mean? I’m okay. I’m not okay. Normal, I guess.

Re: self-reproaches. You would think with all my education, experience, successes, and accolades I could overcome my insecurities, but I never feel good enough. I know it’s my background, but grace overcomes. You have exposed one of my greatest weaknesses. Having “grace” as a “hobby” tells a lot about my struggles. Shoo! This is painful. One of my pastors called me a “frustrated perfectionist.” Another of my counselors said I was a slow learner. Acceptance eludes me sometimes. Being a foster care therapist was beneficial. You went into every session knowing you had a hostile audience. Overcoming reluctance was a major task. I succeeded more times than not. You have to be secure in who you are to overcome that hatred and vitriol.

I’ve been thinking about what to do when I get out. I can pastor. I can teach college. I could counsel in jail, prison, or in a substance abuse program. People tell me I have a good voice for radio. Maybe I could read advertisements, read books on tape, or be a DJ (I did that for about six months in 1992).

I just read Psalm 37 on Monday. I reread it today. Okay! I get it! “Fret not!”

I must confess that I struggle with contentment, too. It really hurt me to leave K_____. The people were responding to my ministry. But after a year of pain and six months of deep depression, I put the church’s needs before my own desires. (The depression lasted four-and-a-half years. I’m still learning how to manage it.)

I keep my goatee short. I only shave twice a week, though. That’s how often we get the clippers in jail. I can’t stand electric razors. They don’t shave close and they burn my neck. (A pain in the neck . . . hey!) Give me a safety razor every day. So . . . I’m thinking about not shaving until I get out of here. (Can anyone say Duck Dynasty?)

Question? How do you determine God’s will? I confess that I’m frightened by people who profess to always know God’s will and are so sure of it. I’m sure of what the Bible says, but when it comes to details I struggle. I’ve come to the conclusion that God expects us to use good common sense to fill in the details. We must not rely on special revelation for everything. Reason and experience must be considered. I worked with a young man facing prison time. Another man told him God was going to deliver him. God didn’t. Misrepresenting God is pretty serious, I think. One thing I know, I don’t want to be so vested in my will that I ignore His will.

Something I read in my devotions today I wanted to share. “We may face sorrow, pain, and hardship; but we don’t have to sink into self-pity. The same God who allows our suffering also showers us with His compassion.” “With God . . . we can ‘play’ in pain.” Lamentation 3:31-33 reads, 31 “For the Lord will not abandon him forever. 32 Although God gives him grief, yet He will show compassion too, according to the greatness of His loving-kindness. 33 For He does not enjoy afflicting men and causing sorrow.” (The Living Bible)

I hope you continue to find my letters uplifting.

Sincerely,

Jay

Letters from Jail #5* Part 3 of 3

Image result for jail

The following are excerpts from letters I wrote while serving a 360-day sentence in Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. Normally, I edit and arrange the material for readability, but this month I offer it to you in chronological order with little editing.

My purpose for these excerpts is to: first recognize the grace of God under very different circumstances, open a window into my thoughts and struggles that may relate to yours, and hope that you may be moved to empathize for the jailed and mentally ill.

June 15, 2013

I was greatly saddened today. Tears have come to my eyes several times. My mood is melancholy. I think it is the loneliness that stalks me. When I left for college in January of 1978 at 17, I never got homesick. I’ve always been independent and my attachments to people and places are not that strong. But, after about three months, I fell into my parents’ arms crying. They were playing, “Will the Circle be Unbroken” – the first time I had heard the song. I thought of my brothers and made my way to my parents. We prayed together and I cried.

The guys in the cell have suddenly taken an interest in my writing. They want to know how I portray them. Most are here for drug charges. Their lives revolve around getting drunk or high. Some appear to be genuinely nice people who are enslaved by their addiction. Jail is routine for them.

It’s Father’s Day. The chaplain had to leave so we couldn’t have church. I really look forward to going. It’s a visible witness to the cell. Many of them read their Bibles, read devotionals, pray over their meals, but they don’t pray or go to church. I wonder how many church goers don’t do the amount these men do? Of course, they cuss, relish telling about their crimes, and lust over every female that comes on the screen.

It’s Father’s Day. I miss my children and grandchildren. The two oldest had a decent father, the grandchildren had a decent grandfather, but A_____ missed out. Most of the time I was too sick to be much of a father. During the other times, there was always conflict. I tried harder to instill a spiritual foundation in him and took a strong interest in his spiritual development. That has paid off.

A_____’s actions in cutting me off and not making any effort to contact me disturbs me. He needs to respond in a Christian way. I still believe he will.

The Wounded Healer concluded oddly, I thought, but I liked the emphasis on one aspect. The experiences of the leader and the more s/he immerses himself in the painful condition of humanity, the more qualified she is to lead others to the Kingdom of God. This is one of my desert experiences. Perhaps someday, somehow, I will get to use it to lead another out of their desert experience.

Father’s Day can be difficult for some. Feelings of loneliness, sadness, and heaviness may accompany the day. As a pastor, I was always aware that the holidays were not always so bright for everyone.

I watched the NASCAR race today and the cell is getting ready to watch the NBA finals.

I find myself saying, “I used to be…” I used to be a foster care therapist. I used to be a mental health counselor. I used to be a substance abuse counselor. I used to be a minister. A long time ago I’m so glad I discovered who I really am – a person made in the image and likeness of God, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. I do wonder what I’m going to “do,” though.

I’m doing well.

Sincerely,

Jay

May the LORD be with you.

*Because of the length of this letter, I have divided it into three posts. Monday, November 27, 2017, Wednesday November 29, 2017 and Friday December 1, 2017. Thank you for reading.

Letters from Jail #5 Part 2 of 3*

The following are excerpts from letters I wrote while serving a 360-day sentence in Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. Normally, I edit and arrange the material for readability, but this month I offer it to you in chronological order with little editing.

My purpose for these excerpts is to: first recognize the grace of God under very different circumstances, open a window into my thoughts and struggles that may relate to yours, and hope that you may be moved to empathize for the jailed and mentally ill.

hopkins_jail_edited_front_cropped_resized1

June 14, 2013

It’s about 3:30 AM. Once again, I’m wide awake – actually I haven’t been to sleep. My thoughts are filled with prayers on the behalf of others and for my own concerns. It’s quiet except for an occasional turning and snoring.

Yesterday, I started reading a short book called, The Wounded Healer. I’d heard of it but never before read it. The author writes of compassion as being able to feel the joy and sorrow of others as if they were your own. He states that compassion is being able to recognize yourself in the actions of others – good or bad. I don’t suppose he meant we literally had to go to jail to feel empathy for the prisoner, but here I am. (lol) I like the quote, “Those who avoid the painful encounter with the unseen are doomed to live a supercilious, boring, and superficial life.” No one would accuse me of having a “boring” life. : )

In your last letter, you spoke of being a “simple” person. Yet, I find you deep in faith, profound in wisdom, and beautiful in character. Simplicity is awe inspiring when adorned with grace. You have a generous kindness and an utter selflessness about you. Your gift of seeing to the heart of people’s pain and nursing them with empathy is so engaging. Your ability to bring comfort to a hurting soul and ease an awkward moment is wonderful. You listen without judgement and correct without condemnation. Perhaps, you are without complexity, but it is the most beautiful and attractive simplicity I have ever observed.

My brother stopped by yesterday to take care of practical things. He is now my POA. Poor guy, I gave him a four-page to-do-list. He also said that my divorce attorney has received a proposal. I’m inclined to give her what she wants.

My children are still alienated from my side of the family. Thank you for praying for them. A_____ is preparing for the ministry and I don’t want him to have a black hole in his soul.

Pastor Ron H_____ came by today and I was able to ask him to intervene on my behalf regarding the work program. He appeared to understand and said he would do what he could. God’s will be done. Contentment till then.

How blessed I am. In the book I’m reading the author wrote, “No man can stay alive when nobody is waiting for him.” Again, “A man can keep his sanity…as long as there is at least one person who is waiting for him.” I have you, R_____, my brothers, R_____, and others. Thank God.

Sincerely,

Jay

May the LORD be with you.

*Because of the length of this letter, I have divided it into three posts. Monday November 27, 2017, Wednesday November 29, 2017 and Friday December 1, 2017. Thank you for reading.