Far too many people who have experienced incarceration allow the negative aspects of their time spent in prison to publicly proclaim who they are and to dictate what they will do with the rest of their lives once they are released.
In many ways, this is understandable and I can relate to it. After all, I was there.
I did my time, short though my 50 months was compared to the decades others faced or had served. There were moments when I felt the negativity that existed in every corner of the prison compound nibbling at the edges of the positive bubble I surrounded myself with. It was definitely not easy to prevent it from breaking through the delicate exterior of that bubble, but it was easier for me than many others because I had decided to allow God into my life and His presence and involvement produced the peace within that is required to look at things through eyes that see things differently.
God certainly does not prevent all negative things from happening in our lives, but His accepted – and welcome – presence within us does allow those things to be confronted with a positive attitude and a peaceful confidence that we are not alone.
It is not always easy.
Let me repeat that.
It. Is. Not. Always. Easy.
It is quite difficult at times, in fact, and I would be lying if I alluded to anything different. Some days it is harder than others, but when our focus is on God, we grant ourselves a vacation from ourselves, and that is most often where the majority of our problems lie anyway. With hard work, constant prayer, and intense focus on Him, that vacation can last the rest of our lives.
Of course, how we focus is important. We have to look to Him through the eyes of surrender. We must seek the sound of His voice with the ears of obedience. And we must feel His presence through hearts of Faith.
Understanding this will help you to understand what follows.
No matter how long a sentence one serves in prison, or how different the crimes which caused the sentence to be imposed, everyone serves their sentence the same way: One day at a time. Society sentences men and women to do specific amounts of time in prison. Once we have entered the system we actually have a tremendous amount of say over how difficult that time is.
Please do not misunderstand me: Prison is still a place where you have no family, very little freedom or say in day-to-day activities, and there is always the possibility that someone will find something about you irritating enough to want to cause you harm. That said, all of that takes on considerably less significance when God is within us, shaping the way we think, act, and see other people around us.
In the Bible, pride is repeatedly pointed to as a dangerous, sinful thing to display, but having God within us gives us the ability to see pride as an entirely different word with an entirely different meaning. My preferred definition is something I recall being on signs in the break rooms of a west coast drugstore chain I worked for 35 years ago. Those signs boldly proclaimed PRIDE as meaning, “Personal Responsibility In Daily Effort.” I am confident that interpreting pride that way is not in the least offensive to God or considered sinful or disobedient in any way, since being personally responsible in whatever we do on a daily basis ultimately helps us to be obedient to God. Personal responsibility is required of us if we are to obey God’s commands and the ability to be personally responsible on a daily basis is not only possible with God’s direct control over our lives, it actually comes naturally as a result of it.
Now that we have redefined PRIDE, we can use it to redefine PRISON. Prison is generally seen as being a negative place, and on many levels, and in many ways that is correct. But looking at it through the eyes God gives us, we can develop the ability to exhibit “Personal Responsibility In Spite Of Negativity.”
When we have allowed God to help us learn to be responsible for our actions on a daily basis and to do that regardless of whatever negative forces may be at play around us, we are ready to view the world around us differently and a desire begins to grow in us to lead others to a better place.
It is from that place I began praying and asking God to open my eyes and help me to see how I could use some of the talent and abilities He had blessed me with which, until that time, had essentially been wasted. During my last 2 years in prison I began to work on plans for ways to help others alter the course of their own lives. I believe that God guided the development of those plans and would reveal to me how to implement them at the right time.
As I have written in the past, I have lived and worked at Central Union Mission in Washington, DC since my release from Oakdale FCI in May of 2014. I began working in the kitchen as a volunteer, and was hired as a staff member a couple of months later. I worked preparing meals for almost a year until the middle of June when the opportunity arose to begin implementing those plans.
For the last 3 months I have worked on developing a career training program for the Mission. It is a program through which men will learn to develop and produce a line of baked goods and sell them as:
I have begun a fundraising campaign at GoFundMe, for which I will provide the link, but I am more interested in you taking the time to watch the 2 videos provided there and learn about this project. You may not wish to donate to the campaign, or you may not be able to, and that is perfectly fine. What is more important is that you understand that my ability to develop this program came from allowing God to help me redefine 2 small words in a way that has had a huge impact on my life. I continue to pray that He uses that impact to help impact the lives of others.
If you can donate, please do so. But whether you can or not, please share the link that follows with as many people in as many ways as possible: Email, FB, Twitter.
Please go to www.gofundme.com/missionmuffinco and see how God can use PRIDE to redefine PRISON.