Be Set On Fire With Passion For The Kingdom Of God
Inspirations from an ordinary Child of God...Now out of prison
Every once in awhile you run up against a movie or web site that contains the words "This has not yet been rated. View at your own risk" I would like to start this dissertation by saying that I am trying to be as honest as possible, and in so doing some things have an adult theme. I do not use profanity and there are no pornographic stories in this article. The fact of the matter is that I am not sure if I would want an underage child reading all of this. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure I would want an adult reading this either.
If a teenager or other child is interested though, use caution and common sense. Have an adult read it first and then censor the parts that you do not want the child to read. I wish that I could write this so that it was available for all ages but the parts that are “adult material” are necessary for the testimony to be real. I pray that the Lord Jesus uses this for His glory and that the Holy Spirit guides every reader to a closer relationship with the Creator of all things.
As I stated above, there are parts in this narrative that are graphic. They are painful. But they are real. They are the abhorrent acts of a lost man, of a man who had no regard for the lives of anyone but himself. The polar axis of the universe ran directly through the top of his head and out the soles of his feet - or so he thought. Everything was about him. Nothing mattered in life except for what pleased him and catered to his desires. As you will see in the following that man is dead and a new man has been born through the power of the Holy Spirit and the blood that Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary. More about that as you read on.
I owe so many people so many things. There is nothing that I can do to bring back the life that I ruthlessly stole. The nightmare of that day’s actions weighs heavily on my soul and mind to the extent that (at times) I can not bear it on my own. The repercussions of my actions hurt many people. People that I do not even know are paying for the crime that I committed. The family and friends of the woman that I so violently murdered have paid the price for my actions through their loss and their daily pain. If I could, I would fall at their feet and beg for their forgiveness. I pray that they release the bitterness and hatred towards me. In the end, I know that these feelings will only cause them more and more pain.
I have also caused my family so much pain and sorrow through my selfish actions and self-centered pursuits. I pray for their forgiveness and the possibility that one day I will be able to make it up to them, somehow. I owe society more than I can ever repay. I have been a pariah on the taxpayers and citizens since I was a very young man. One day, perhaps, I can make a contribution of some kind that will, in some small way, contribute to the betterment of this world.
Forgiveness is a complicated thing. The Bible says that we should “forgive” others even as God, in Christ Jesus, has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32) I can intellectually relate to the fact that Jesus has forgiven me. The problem lies in realizing that in my everyday life when the guilt and condemnation overwhelms me for the acts that I committed. The reality is that there is a new life inside me that continues to grow. Every day this new life grows stronger and I become less and less like the man that committed the acts that took another's life on December 13th, 1978. That day is an infamous one in my journal of life. Another date that you will read about is March 23rd, 1993. On that day, the God of the universe interrupted my life and rescued me from an ocean of despair. I am getting ahead of myself though.
Remember, this is only a brief overview of my life. I am sure that if I wrote everything that it contained in story after story, I could write 50 chapters. This is a condensed narrative with many things left out. Also, it is written from my perspective. I am sure that there are others that have different perspectives. May the Lord Jesus use the words that are written here to bring His kingdom glory and may each reader be blessed abundantly.
I was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan on July 6, 1959. Both of my parents were alcoholics and very abusive to one another. This was my mother's second marriage. From her first marriage she had two boys and two girls. From my father there were three boys and one girl, of which I am the oldest.
My earliest memories are of my mother and father's drunken fights, where my father was (more often than not) trying to hurt my mother. When I was eight they divorced and my mother decided to move us to Phoenix, Arizona to live with my older half-sister. She needed to accumulate some money in order to do this. She decided to put me and my younger brothers and sister with an older couple on a farm in rural Indiana while she went to work in Indianapolis. This couple enrolled us in school, made us do chores, and became surrogate parents for us for almost a year. The highlight of every week was Sunday when we made our one trip to a very small town. We would go to church in a small, country church and then go buy all of the supplies that we needed for the upcoming week. This was also our only meal away from the farm.
During one of those Sunday excursions the Holy Spirit touched my life to let me know that I was His. I went forward and made a decision to follow Jesus, and it was here that I believe the Lord marked me out as His possession. Little did I know what my future held nor the decisions that I would make later in life. When I was nine, my mother returned, and we left the farm and moved to Phoenix to be with my older half-sister.
My sister, Judy (who is 15 years my senior) had a son and lived in a three-bedroom apartment. There were now seven of us in this small dwelling and things were rough. My sister drank very heavily at the time and my mother and sister would go out, a lot, and leave us with a baby sitter. During this time the baby sitter raped me. He threatened to do the same thing to my brothers and sister if I said anything, so I kept a dreadful secret for many years. A few months later we moved into our own apartment and I thought things would change. The problem is, there was a poison that was injected into my soul and it was festering.
It was at this time that I started being the chief cook and bottle washer for my younger siblings while my mother worked and dated. Often she would bring her friends home and I would become the bartender for her little get-togethers. It was at this time that I started "taste testing" the concoctions. At nine years old I was drinking mixed drinks. It was on my tenth birthday that an older friend introduced me to marijuana. Within a very short period of time I was smoking a "joint" every day. Not too long after this I tried LSD and hallucinated for the first time. This led to a long road of addiction.
I began running away from home around this time. Between this time and my thirteenth birthday I ran away 36 times (I think) and learned how to live on the "streets." At the lowest points I ate from trash cans, slept in park restrooms, and even went through a period where I sold my body for money to live off of. I learned how to steal cars, break into houses, and sell drugs to survive. The last time I ran away I was gone about two months and when I was arrested the officers took me to my mother's apartment. When they rang the doorbell a stranger answered the door. My family no longer lived there. When I got to the juvenile detention facility, a caseworker told me that my family had left the state for Colorado. I was sent to the Arizona youth Center for the next couple of years.
When I was fifteen I was released to a "halfway house" (not the first time that I was placed in one of them either) to reintegrate me into society. My case worker decided to reunite me with my family and it was not long before the plans had been laid for me to go live with my mother and step-father in Durango, Colorado. My step-father was an alcoholic also and it seemed as if the drinking was even heavier. I was going to high school and then working part-time as a janitor. At the end of the week I would give my check to my mother and keep enough for my cigarettes. One day I calculated how much I was giving to the family and estimated how much my parents were drinking. I found that I was paying for their booze. I took off from home for a couple of days and when I returned I gave my parents a decision to make. Either they were going to quit drinking or I was not going to stay there. My step-father decided to leave the house and things were alright…for about a month. My mother started spending the night with him and drinking. Soon, my step-father moved back in and they were drinking again. I packed my stuff and left the next day.
It did not take long before I was arrested for a burglary and grand theft for a stolen car that didn't make it out of town, (Divine intervention?) I was sentenced to Lookout Mountain School for Boys until I was eighteen. While I was at "lookout" (in Golden, Colorado) I continued to drink and do drugs. I was released in June 1978, one month before my nineteenth birthday. I skipped town and within six months was arrested for my current charges.
A 'friend' and I started drinking very early on "that day." We started with a case of beer and two bottles of wine. My friend went and filled his prescription for generic, 10 milligram Valium and we split the twenty pills. When we ran out of beer, I evidently got the bright idea to go get some money. I went and broke into a house where there was an elderly woman. In my drugged/drunken haze, I raped, robbed, and murdered her. I ransacked the house and brought the money, drugs, and 'loot' back to my friend's apartment. I did a shot of the drugs that I had found and passed out on the couch. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure if my memory of these events are my own or of the testimony that was presented during trial.
In the end, I was convicted, and sentenced to life for the murder, 30 to 40 years for the burglary, and 0 to 10 years for the robbery. Coming to prison at nineteen years old was an experience in and of itself. I was a young, thin, white male with long hair. At the time, Colorado Territorial Prison was one of the most dangerous prisons in the United States. My first few days were memorable. The man next to me tried to commit suicide and was rescued on my fifth day in. Some 'friends' took me under their wings and 'schooled me' in the ways of prison. I became a very violent individual and got involved in the drug trade. Somehow I got a very good job and stayed out of trouble for a very long time. In the end I started introducing heroin and cocaine into the prison system. I had a $1,000 a week drug habit inside prison and was making almost $9,000 a week from drug sales. I thought that things were going great but the end was just around the corner.
Sometime toward the end of 1988, I was given the news that my mother had bone cancer and was dying. This rocked my world. I was in prison doing a life sentence and I had a drug habit from hell. Add to that the fact that I was now losing my mother. The anger and frustration was boiling inside of me. A man on the prison yard owed me $2,500 and was saying to other people that he was not going to pay me. I brought my blade in from the yard and I was ready to go "take care of business” when the cops arrested me. Come to find out, at a much later date, my cell mate had told on me and he was calling my girlfriend trying to get the “hook-up” (God intervening again?)
I spent several months in segregation for the knife and was transferred to a higher security facility. I soon had my drug habit back, along with the occupational niche of introducing drugs into the facility. It wasn't long before the administration started catching on to my escapades. They moved me to another facility. That didn’t slow me down and my daring lifestyle just got out of control to an even larger extent. Soon I ended up at Limon Correctional Facility with an extreme drug habit.
Around June of 1992 I was caught with a large amount of heroin and cocaine. I was charged with felonies and taken to court. I ended up pleading guilty to Possession of Codeine and received an additional five year sentence on July 14, 1992. With the felony possession charge I lost my visits and, therefore, my "in" for the drugs was cut off. I started developing other ways to get the drugs into the facility but I had to give up cash or product for transportation fees. This meant that my habit was suffering and I had to bring in more drugs to feed it. My life was out of control and I was headed for despair. I was owed thousands of dollars 'on the yard' and barely making ends meet, while at the same time getting the 'buys' together on the streets.
One day, around March 23rd, 1993, I decided that it was not worth it. I put a VERY LARGE quantity of drugs into a syringe. I blocked my door so that no one could get in to the cell. I was going to end my life. As I stuck the syringe into my vein I knew that this was it. The solution in the syringe was so thick that it almost would not go through the needle. When it was all in my vein and I removed the tie. I felt…nothing. No rush. No high. NOTHING. It was at that moment I heard the voice of God as if He were standing right next to me.
"This is the last time I am saving you from these," He told me. "Quit doing them and serve me."
For the next few hours I was in a state of repentance and tears, crying out before the Lord. I asked the Lord Jesus to forgive me of my sins and repented of my life of sin. I got rid of all of my drug paraphernalia and contraband. I got rid of all of my pornography. A new peace came over me that I can not describe, and my life changed dramatically. I purposefully walked on to the yard and went up to each individual that owed me money and told them, "I have given my life to the Lord Jesus. He has forgiven me of my sins and I forgive you of the money that you owe me."
I had an insatiable hunger for the Word of God and for worship. I attended every service that I could. I started reading the Bible and every commentary that I could get a hold of. The chaplain at the facility started teaching a Biblical Greek class and I started learning the language of the New Testament. I was baptized as a public declaration of my faith in Jesus Christ and my dedication to serve Him. Within six or so months from my salvation I was asked to assist in teaching a Bible study class. Around this time I was also allowed to start Bible College through distance learning programs. Through these correspondence courses I entered into a college education. Through the years I have gained an Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies and about two and a half years of education through another college. Not long after this I was also ordained as a pastor and have been able to serve in many capacities encouraging, uplifting, and teaching the body of Christ.
During the first few years of my walk with Christ I was introduced to worship through a lady that I call "my mother in the faith." She played the piano for each of the Christian services. As I assisted in setting up for the services we would gather around this baby grand piano and she would play songs that would lift us into the presence of the Creator and we would spend time at His feet. I learned harmonies and melodies. I learned that all music worships something. Our lives create a song of worship to something. Since that time, worship and praise has played a very large part in my service to the Lord. I have studied music, learned vocals, and have even served as worship leader for several incarcerated bodies of Christ.
Serving Jesus Inside the Walls
With all of the pain and destruction that I caused to others prior to Jesus rescuing me, I soon came to a cross roads. I had to make a decision to live my life for Jesus Christ as my Lord and not just as my Savior. I am not sure when this happened exactly, but a change started coming over me in the way that I viewed things. In the way I prayed. The way I read the Word of God. There was a change inside of me. The reality of being crucified with Christ and no longer living for myself became real. The life that I am now living is actually Jesus living through me.
I am fascinated by the life of Paul and how he sacrificed his life for those that he was ministering to. He saw the reward of the lost souls coming to know Jesus as more important than anything else. Very early in my Christian walk I determined to have the same frame of mind.
In January of 1997 I was part of a very large group of Colorado inmates that were shipped out of state to private prisons in Texas. Private prisons have a different mind set than the State run prisons. They want things to run smoothly, with as little cost to them as possible. It is always about the bottom line with a for-profit business, so they rely heavily on inmate help to operate their facilities. This is especially true with the religious programs. While I was in Texas I was able to serve the body of Christ in the music ministry.
In November of 1997 we were brought back to Colorado to private prisons within the state. Once again I started serving the Body in the music ministry. Things evolved in the church and I ended up resigning for about a year. When I came back, I served the Body through encouragement and prayer. I was quickly asked to serve as the Associate Pastor, and was asked to lead a Bible study and to preach on occasion. For the next year the Body grew from forty or fifty on a Sunday service to over 150 at our Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. The inmate pastor was released from prison and I was asked to step up to fill the position. I served the Body as pastor and Chaplain’s clerk for almost two years. In 2005, the inmate leadership was done away with and I was asked to lead the praise and worship for the services at the facility. I served the church there in this or other capacities for the next two years.
In September of 2007 I was moved to another private facility. Serving the Body of Christ is an integral part of my life but, as I was on the bus going to this new facility, the Lord was whispering to my soul to wait for His leading. I found a very lethargic Chaplain at the facility who for the most part just wanted to collect his paycheck. There was a "faith pod" where approximately 75 inmates participated in Christian classes and were called to a higher standard of living. I moved into this pod and went through the program.
Soon, I was asked to become a part of the Music Ministry. I was also able to serve the body of Christ by teaching Bible studies and discipling men in the faith. Once I graduated the faith pod program I was asked to assist in discipling men in the program and help with the audio/visual aspects of the program. I was asked to lead the Music Ministry during my last few months there, and we started building harmonies and singing more contemporary songs.
In September 2009 I was moved to my current facility. Within six months I was enrolled in the Systematic Theology course that they offer here. I was also asked to serve in the music ministry. I have served on the music ministry team for almost two years. The instructor for the Systematic Theology class was released and I was asked to teach the doctrines of the Christian faith to men inside prison. What an honor.
I believe that the Lord has instilled two things in my spirit. The first is that I may spend the rest of my life on this earth confined behind concertina wire and living in an 8 by 12 foot cell. I have offered this up to the Lord and consider it a sacrifice to the Lord Jesus. If this is the price that I have to pay for the crimes that I have committed then I am content to finish my life on earth right where I am. In my soul, I do not believe that this is the case. There is still a hunger for freedom that the Lord has not yet taken away.
I would say that the other thing that the Lord has finally instilled in my life is to invest what the Lord has taught me. As I disciple men, I give them what I have been given. The apostle Paul told his disciple (Timothy) to take the things that he had been taught and teach them to faithful men who could teach even more men (2 Timothy 2: 2). Everything that my mentors have taught to me I am trying to invest in to other people's lives.
I believe that there are three main things that I have been given in Christ Jesus. These gifts are an inner new life, a new way of life, and a hope for the future. As I have said earlier, I was a very selfish man. Everything revolved around what I wanted and what could please me. The inner new life in Christ Jesus started changing me from the inside out. Like a seed planted in fertile soil the seed started to sprout and grow a different type of plant. Something wondrous started to happen. A servant started to form. He started doing things for other people. He started caring for other people's needs and wants more than his own. He started taking pleasure in serving rather than being served. His satisfaction came from others being taken care of and being at peace. The old person used to think of himself as a 'player.' He thought that he had game and could get away with whatever he wanted. The new man quit playing games and became playful, developing friendships, and building bonds in the body of Christ.
Besides being new on the inside, I am also becoming new on the outside. The Lord started to cleanse me of my twisted ways right from the start. He delivered me from my heroin and cocaine addiction immediately. He has delivered me from a lot of other things along the way also. There are numerous things that I need delivered from. But (as Paul said) I know whom I have believed and I know that He is faithful.
I could leave it at that but I think that more needs to be said about God's deliverance. God has delivered me from my addiction to heroin, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, swearing, and a host of other things. I still have quite a few hang- ups though. The biggest is lust. I have to really be careful about what I watch on TV and where my mind goes after that. I also have to watch how I think about people. Even lost people are not in a personal war with me. I have to be careful how I think about them and how I talk about them, they are lost. Sometimes they are even pawns in the battle of the kingdom. I sometimes struggle with hopelessness and depression. The thing is, I have spent almost 34 years in prison (at the time of this writing) and I wonder sometimes whether or not I will ever get out. I have to be secure in the fact that God knows what He is doing. If He wants me out, it would only take a word. The fact is, I am still here, so I am still working in the vineyard that He wants me working in.
This brings me to the last thing that I believe the Lord is working towards concerning my life. I know for a fact that there is an inner newness where the Holy Spirit speaks to me on a daily basis. I know for a fact that God has (and is continuing to) worked on the outside of my life. I am walking in a newness of life that I could not do in my own strength. God has made me a witness for Him while I am in prison. I believe that God has given me a hope for the future. At the present time I am very active within the Protestant community in the facility where I am. I Dill the sound system for almost all of the church functions and I try to make everyone sound good. I am also one of the few people in the Colorado prison system that are allowed to conduct Bible studies with the inmates. The chaplains supervise me as I teach Systematic Theology. I truly believe that Paul was talking to me in 2 Timothy 2:2. With this in mind, I believe that making disciples is the primary responsibility of any mature Christian. The multiplication of our faith by pouring into the lives of others is what we are called to do (Matthew 28:18-20).
I also hope that somehow, some way, the Lord is going to speak the word and I will be released from prison. I do not know how this will happen, but I am sure that it will. The Lord has not given me any inkling to "build houses and plant vineyards" in this place, so I believe that this is not my final place of residence. Perhaps I am wrong, but in the end I pray that the Lord is glorified in my life. Ultimately, I know that when the Lord comes back, whether I am dead or alive, I will hear the trump of the archangel, the shout, and the Lord's command to rise and meet Him in the air. That hope alone keeps me focused on His glory and looking for His return on a daily basis.
In conclusion, I hope and pray that this testimony, and any other writings that you read here, that you will hear the word of the Lord speaking through the words. I pray that somehow you hear God speak in that "still small voice" and that the things you hear are enough to make you want more of Him every day" May the Lord Jesus bless you greatly.
Your servant in the Kingdom,