Recycling An Opportunity

AUTHOR’s NOTE: This post originally appeared here in “The Oakdale Chronicles” on January 21, 2013. I was about midway through my incarceration at the Federal Correctional Institution at Oakdale, LA, and had joined a public speaking group many of you may be familiar with called Toastmasters International.

I think this is an appropriate time to share the post again, and although certain references are dated, I believe the message is still valid.

I hope you enjoy it.

We All Have An Opportunity Today

I have mentioned Toastmasters before, and we recently held our first speech contest in the chapel in front of about 100 fellow inmates and staff. I have stated before that I am a reluctant public speaker and the angst I felt prior to this event honoring Martin Luther King Jr was of unreasonable and mammoth proportions.

Fortunately, God stood with me and saw me through it, and believe me, I needed His presence. I was a nervous wreck! When the winners were announced, I was stunned to discover I had won 2nd place. The man who won 1st place is a very gifted and talented young man named Derek Weatherspoon and I am glad that he won.

For myself, I won simply by proving I could do it, and I won by moving many individuals to comment to me afterwards. I am humbly grateful to all of them for their kindness, and ETERNALLY grateful to God for his unwavering guidance, support, and strength.

Here, then, is the text of that speech:


“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the Mountain of Despair a Stone of Hope”.

Those words, spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 became the theme for the four acre memorial honoring him in Washington, DC.

The figure of Dr. King is sculpted to appear as if he is stepping out of a 30 foot tall block of granite, which represents the Stone Of Hope. The expression carved into his face has been variously described as ‘determined’, ‘resolute’, ‘stern’, and by some, ‘angry’.

In preparing this speech, I looked to the words of Dr. King himself and I tried to imagine his voice as he spoke about his hopes and his dreams, not just for the black man, but for all of mankind; and not just for America, but for the world.

After carefully considering all that I had read, and after looking around at the condition of the world today, I came to the conclusion that the expression on the face of the man emerging from the Stone Of Hope was one of disappointment.

Even though we are preparing to inaugurate an African-American as President of the United States for a second term, I believe Dr. King would be disappointed that it has taken so long, and that we still find it necessary, and appropriate, to refer to him as an AFRICAN- American, rather than simply as an American.

I believe that Dr. King would be disappointed that words he spoke during a lecture at the University of Oslo in 1964 are, sadly, just as true today as they were the day he spoke them. He said, “There is a sort of poverty of spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have grown materially, the poorer we have grown morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”

While it is true that the law prevents us from posting signs over doorways, drinking fountains, and places of business that state ‘white only’ or ‘colored only’, INVISIBLE signs that separate people are still in existence today.

Within the confines of this institution, one doesn’t have to strain to hear reference to the ‘white side’ of the dining hall, or to the ‘black side’; to the ‘white entrance’ or to the ‘black entrance’. And in the housing units themselves, official signs may contain words that are within the law and are politically correct, but it is the INVISIBLE signs that tell us we have ‘white TVs’ and ‘black TVs’.

In his Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech, Dr. King said, “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies; education and culture for their minds; and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”

I believe Dr. King would be disappointed because poverty in the United States of America, and around the world, is at the same levels, or higher, than when he had the AUDACITY to believe that it could be otherwise.

Dr. King’s efforts opened up opportunities for education that previously had not existed for many people, but I believe Dr. King would be disappointed to know that cases of school segregation still languish in Federal courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama; cases that were begun BEFORE he was assassinated in 1968.

And he would be further disappointed that those opportunities are willingly rejected today by so many young people who choose, instead, faster, far more dangerous and deadly ways of traveling on the road to what they perceive is success. A road that leads many of them only to death, or to incarceration in institutions such as this one.

And on the issue of dignity for the human spirit, I believe Dr. King would be PROFOUNDLY disappointed that the most undignified, vilest, most derogatory term that a white man can use in reference to a black man is used with disturbing casualness and frequency BY black men in reference to other black men.

I believe Dr. King would be the FIRST to stand before us all and tell us that word has no business crossing the lips of ANY man, black or white, at any time, for any reason.

I believe that Dr. King would be disappointed that many of those he left behind have chosen to honor him with symbols, but have somehow forgotten his substance. I believe Dr. King would rather see safe, healthy, educated, and well-fed children playing on the streets of progress, rather than see his name on signs marking the streets of his forgotten hopes and dreams.

But we have an opportunity today, to resolve to pick up the hopes and dreams of Dr. King and carry them into the promised land that he glimpsed before he was murdered.

We have an opportunity today, to resolve to become a small part of the solution so we can never be accused of being a BIG part of the problem.

In 1963, in Detroit, Michigan, Dr. King challenged the world when he said, “If a man hasn’t discovered something he is willing to die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

We have an opportunity today to prove to the world that not only was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. VERY fit to live, but that what he died for was worth the price that he paid.

That what he DIED for was worth the price that his wife paid.

And that what he DIED for was worth the price that his 4 little children paid.

We have an opportunity TODAY to resolve to work to change the expression on the face of the man emerging from the Stone Of Hope from one of disappointment, to one of SATISFACTION for a job well done.

And I pray to God we do not fail to take advantage of it.

I thank you.

Don’t Touch the Stove (The ‘lost’ post)

By Tony Casson

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: I found a draft of this post originally begun in November of 2012 by my beloved son, Anthony,  from the chicken scratching I sent him. For some reason probably related to the fact he was a college student with a job and a life, it never got completed or posted. Fortunately, since it was my story, I do remember the ending, so I have finished it.)

“Don’t touch the stove because it is hot and you will get burned.”

How many carry with them, if not an actual scar, then at least a memory of the need for independent verification of that piece of advice?

When I was six years old, it was determined that my tonsils needed to be removed. Many of you may not even be aware of what these little items are, especially if you are under 30, but if you open up your mouth and look way in the back, there they sit, one on either side of that little dangly thing, the name of which escapes me but is totally irrelevant to the rest of this story. Removal of them was pretty common back in the 60’s and 70’s, but eventually became something only done after repeated instances of ‘tonsillitis.’

Something else which is irrelevant is the fact that prior to the surgery, I asked the doctor to save them for me so that I might see what these ‘tonsil’ things looked like. He did just that, and when I came to in my hospital bed, there they sat, in a jar of what I think was formaldehyde, looking like a pair of testicles (as I would have imagined testicles to look like were one to have them removed.)

Of course, I knew they weren’t mine as I still had mine and the items in the jar were too big to be mine, anyway. I was, after all, only six years old.

They did, however, make absolutely the coolest item anyone ever brought to Westfield Academy in Westfield, New York, for show and tell.

But I digress.

When I came back around after surgery, my mother was there, and the doctor was there. My mom was a nurse so she knew about these procedures and she was then, as throughout my life, my medical adviser. Any time I asked her for a medical opinion, she advised me to see a doctor (HA HA).

(Author’s note: This is where Anthony left it, and since I don’t have the original hand-written post, I will ‘wing it’ from here. But hey, I was there, so I pretty much know how it the story ended.)

There was also a nurse present and all were telling me how brave I had been and how wonderful I was, when the subject of a reward came up and I was asked by the nurse if I would like a bowl of Jello or maybe a dish of ice cream.

It was at this point that I first exhibited the strong character trait that would lead me down all of the successive wrong roads I took in life that ultimately led me to prison.

I said, “No. I want pepperoni pizza.”

A simple enough request under most circumstances, but certainly not in this one. After all, common sense should have told me that someone had just rooted around in my throat and physically cut something out that had previously been attached in there, leaving it raw and tender.

I was six. I wanted nothing to do with common sense. I wanted pepperoni pizza.

The aforementioned people all looked at each other and smiled, knowingly, and left it to my mother to be the one to tell me, “Oh, Tony, you don’t want pepperoni pizza. You really should have a nice, cool, soothing bowl of ice cream or Jello.”

How dare she tell me what I want?

“I WANT PEPPERONI PIZZA!!” I declared vehemently, with a high degree of petulance thrown in.

Now, my mother was not given to profane speech, but the look she gave me could only be interpreted as, “OK, you little @%$#!!, you want pepperoni pizza, you got it.”

She turned to the helpful nurse, smiled, and said quietly, “Give it to him.” The reluctant look on the face of the nurse should have told me something, but it did not.

I laid back with what I am sure was an arrogant smile of victory to await my reward, which soon arrived.

In a few short moments, my eyes saw the pizza approaching, my stomach grumbled in expectation, and my mouth watered with anticipation of the first bite.

My throat, on the other hand, was not in concert with the rest of my body and as the first bite of that spicy meat-laden treat began to pass through my raw, bruised and battered throat, the words, “Oh, Tony, you don’t want pepperoni pizza. You really should have a nice, cool, soothing bowl of ice cream or Jello” reverberated in my brain just as the first loud agonizing scream of pain began to escape my tomato-sauce covered lips.

A bowl of vanilla ice cream miraculously appeared to help extinguish the fire that was scorching the spot once inhabited by my tonsils.

I learned a lesson that day.

Unfortunately, that lesson only extended to not eating pepperoni pizza after having your tonsils removed. The bigger lessons of listening to the wisdom of others and giving thought to what we do before we do it were totally lost on me.

And while the story itself may be humorous, the long-term effects of the behavior exhibited that day so long ago proved to be almost deadly. Fortunately, God stepped in before it got to that point, and I have learned to listen better, think more, and pray often.


What Can Kill You Can Also Save You

I am not a chef, and I wouldn’t insult anyone who learned the things necessary to proudly make that claim by stating otherwise.

That said, I did evolve into the life of a restaurateur during the late 70’s and the 80’s and the business seemed to be a perfect fit for me – were it not for my obsession with drugs and alcohol which constantly created obstacles in my professional – as well as my personal – life. I recall the need to dip into the office for a quick ‘line’ of coke, and after work it was Bacardi and a drinkable, legal coke. Throughout the day, while working, I would sneak bottles of Michelob into the office and drink them down to take off the ‘edge’ produced by the coke.
The restaurant business didn’t produce the drug and alcohol habit. Indeed – had I not had those habits, I could have taken life more seriously and actually learned a more professional approach to a business I actually loved (and still do).
Those habits, however, went on to almost kill me, literally, as my inability to cope with myself led me to death’s doorstep following a nearly successful suicide attempt in August of 2009. It was turning to God that actually prevented that attempt from being successful, but that is a story for another time. The fact that I lived meant that I could face the monster I had become and 7 months after that attempt I went to federal prison for 4 years.
Upon my release, I moved from the prison in Louisiana to Central Union Mission in Washington, DC where I quickly became a volunteer in the kitchen, which led to a job on the Mission kitchen staff. Today, I am in the final stages of developing a career training program for men served by the Mission. Men who have surrendered to hopelessness due to a lack of education or vocational training, a history of alcohol or drug abuse, growing up in extreme poverty or in a physically or emotionally violent environment, as a result of a lifetime of making poor choices, or of having a criminal history.
The individuals we select become part of a six month “Work, Learn, and Earn” program developed around a retail business featuring a line of baked goods consisting of muffins, scones, and handheld pies that are produced, marketed, and sold by program participants in a retail environment while we work with the business community to secure permanent employment or entrepreneurial opportunities for them.
We believe we can help to eliminate the “Will Work for Food” mentality and replace it with a “Will Work for my Future” mentality that not only sees the potential for a future, but is accompanied by the determination to work for it. No matter what is in a person’s past, we believe each one of God’s children can have a future, and we consider it our obligation to help them, see it, work for it, and realize it.
We believe that by giving an individual the best we can offer of ourselves we can teach him to reach for the best he has within himself.
The name under which we will operate is ‘Mission Muffins’, and we believe that ‘Muffins with a Mission’ can change a person’s life.

This business (the restaurant, or food-service, business), which can be more draining and demanding than any of us could ever adequately describe, can provide us with excuses to dismantle our lives through the use of drugs and alcohol.

But this business can also be used to rebuild lives – even the same lives it helped to dismantle. By focusing on the future, the demands of this industry can actually be a crucial part of providing a future for individuals who thought that a future was for other people.

“The Inconvenience Of Obedience”

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”  Psalm 94:18-19 ESV

“The Prisoner’s Wife” has been rather quiet lately. I emailed her and asked her about that. I have been concerned over the ‘tone’ of her last couple of entries. While she never fails to mention that her strength (what strength she does have) comes from God, I am sure you all have noticed the struggle she faces.

Hers is not an easy road to travel. Of course, there are those who are pretty vocal about how much easier her road would be if she were to divorce her husband. It seems there are those who criticize her decisions and doubt her faith. She feels isolated and is surrounded by negativity, criticism, and doubt.

Diane’s husband, Chris, accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior before going to prison. There is not a fragment of doubt in my mind that his conversion is seen by many as being a ‘conversion of convenience.’ That is how we often view the awakening of individuals who only come to Christ after screwing up big time. Frequently, the ‘conversion’ is characterized as simply using God to try to make consequences for our actions less than they might be.

I have no doubt this happens, but who are we to judge the sincerity of someone else’s repentance and pleas to God for forgiveness? Diane loves her husband and believes he is sincere. His actions to date would indicate this is so. If they can each hold onto their faith in the face of what they have to deal with now, and will have to deal with for several years to come, God will bless them in profound ways. It takes patience, it takes perseverance, it takes…..well, it takes faith. And it takes standing up to those who would badger and bully them into denying that which they know in their heart is the right thing to do.

But how does one stand up to others when there are so many ‘others?’ Where does the ability come from to keep ‘looking up’ when so many are looking down on you and what they believe are your misguided choices?

Diane’s ability has come from God, but her silence speaks volumes to the negative pressures of the world in which she is forced to live as a result of the choices made by her husband.

As I have written many times, quite frequently, the ones who are truly punished and imprisoned in a world of unfair treatment and bleak prospects are the ones who are left behind in the ‘free’ world. Most people do not understand that incarceration can be one of the most freeing experiences on the planet, especially when one is incarcerated in federal prison in this country.

Of course the ‘freedom’ prison provides can be exercised in both positive, as well as negative, ways.

In my case, prison gave me the freedom to grow in my relationship with God, to search my heart for the root causes of my 40 year journey through sin and willful disobedience to Him, to develop an idea of how I could put my failures and negative experiences to use in a positive manner, and to prepare for a new life lived in a new way, with new purpose.

Obviously, prison also gives individuals the freedom to pursue criminal, anti-social, or racist enterprises and behaviors. The prison experience can be used to demonstrate that absolutely nothing has changed and the behavior of the individual in question will be the same, or worse, upon release as it was when they arrived.

In other words, prison is a lot like life on the outside. We can choose how to experience it.

There is a big, big difference, though. In prison, all outside influences, pressures, and worries, can easily be dismissed, forgotten, pushed out of our minds, and ignored. We are safe from harassment from bill collectors in there, we are safe from the day-to-day challenges of having enough money, having enough time, having enough hands, having enough patience.

In prison, we simply choose the outcome we desire, and then use the time we have to work towards that outcome.

Diane has chosen her outcome. That was the easy part. Unfortunately it gets constantly, irritatingly, and faith-shakingly complicated from that point forward. She faces new challenges to her faith, her intelligence, her confidence, and her happiness on a daily basis.

And for making the choice she has made, I admire her. My heart goes out to her and I wish I could offer something more tangible than the admonition to simply keep on trusting God. She is being obedient to God and sometimes obedience can be very inconvenient.

But seriously, that is all any of us can really ever do that has any meaning. And while sometimes it doesn’t seem to make sense, or do any good, a great and wonderful reward awaits those who always have their eyes on the Cross.

I encourage all of you to encourage Diane. She needs your support. She needs to hear your voices urge her on to a glorious finish to her race.

I pray for her, and for all who stay on the course God sets for them, rather than wavering and bowing to ‘conventional wisdom.’

God bless you all, and may the Giver of all life provide a special blessing to His daughter, Diane Shellhart.


“The Gift Of This Day”

“On the day I called, you answered me;
    my strength of soul you increased.”  

Psalm 138:3 ESV

On the menu bar above, there is a link to my book of daily devotions, “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”. I was speaking about that book with someone who volunteers at Central Union Mission recently, and I was trying to explain exactly what the book represents to me.

“TODAY IS….”, is a deeply personal work in which my relationship with God grew and flourished, and continues to do so today. I like to think there are things to be found within its pages that can benefit us all, but if nothing else it is my attempt to share those personal moments with God that I experienced as I sought answers from Him to questions about how I should have done things, how I should have lived my life and how He could have saved me a lot of time, trouble and turmoil had I only called upon Him sooner.

While this entry into these “Chronicles” is a slight diversion from the actual “Path to Freedom” that constitutes the overarching purpose for this blog, I pray you will all view what is offered here as being similar to a ‘scenic turnout’ which we have all pulled into on our way to a particular destination. While continuing on our journey would have helped us arrive sooner, the momentary pause enhances the overall experience of the journey itself.

Perhaps an occasional stop in “TODAY IS….A Gift From God” will serve a similar purpose.

Our first ‘turnout’ provides us with a look at a poem I wrote, which is found in the front of the book. I think the poem itself describes the purpose of the book perfectly. I hope you enjoy it.



Today is a gift from God,

A day unlike all the rest;

A brand new opportunity

To bring out our very best.

Today is a wondrous thing;

A day full of life on God’s earth;

A day to invest all our love

To make today something of worth.

Today is a chance to inspire,

To worship, to lead, to teach;

To help others searching for truth,

And to show them how high they can reach.

Tony Casson ©2013

Each day truly is a gift from God, full of opportunities to honor Him, to serve Him, and to glorify Him. Each entry in the book attempts to give God glory by demonstrating how the wisdom of the Holy Bible can be used to live lives that show our love for Him by loving others, helping those who cannot help themselves, and by looking to His Word for guidance in living our lives in the manner that all children of God should strive to live.

Our next ‘turnout’ gives us a view of one of my favorite devotions. For no particular reason, it falls on August 14. While I believe all of us can be found in this particular day’s offering, rest assured that I fall into the category of one who allowed everything to be stolen by Satan. While I pray none of you falls into that particular category as well, rest assured, if you do, it is ok. God knows and He can help.

I hope you enjoy it.

August 14


the perfect day to take back what has been stolen from us.

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Romans 16:20a NIV

Every single one of us has had something stolen from us by Satan. No one has escaped except for Christ. We all have given in to temptation and we all have sinned and every time we have sinned, we have allowed Satan to take something else from us.

We have been his willing victims.

He has stolen dignity from some of us. From others, he has stolen decency. He has stolen our faithfulness to our spouses and our faith in God. He has stolen our truthfulness, and he has stolen our integrity. We have let him slip away in the darkness with our morality, and we have let him get away unnoticed with our kindness. He has pocketed our happiness, and smashed the windows to our souls and left the space empty. He has cheated us out of our love for ourselves, leaving us unable to love anyone else. He has conned us out of our certainty, leaving us with our doubts.

When we weren’t looking he walked away with our compassion, and left disdain in its place. While he distracted us with self-indulgence, he swiped our desire to help others and replaced it with selfishness. He has stolen our tolerance while trying to convince us that hostility and impatience were better suited to our personalities.

He has stolen our sight, making it impossible to see the pain of others and he has taught us to lie, cheat, and steal while we have hungrily pursued the education.

More than likely, what Satan has stolen from you is somewhere on this list. If not, it needs to be added, because everyone has lost something. Some of us have lost more than one thing, and perhaps more than a few have lost it all. He will try to prevent you from calculating your exact losses. He will try to cloud your judgment, distract you, or take something else from you. He pretends to be the best friend you ever had, but he is – in reality – the biggest danger you have ever faced. He will suck everything good out of you until there is nothing left but your last breath and then he will take that as well.

But the Good News is that today is not going to be like yesterday. Today we are going to take it all back. God has been waiting for today for a very long time, and He is glad that it is here. We must reach out and ask God to take our hand and tell Him we want everything Satan has stolen from us. Today is the perfect day to take it all back, and God is the Perfect One to help us all get it.

From “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”; Tony Casson; ©2013

Well, I hope you enjoyed our little “scenic turnouts”. Until next time, when we continue taking one of our “Thousand First Steps”, may God bless you all and keep you safe

Reprinted from

Honesty And Truth Are Not Proper Nouns

by Tony Casson

“And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, ‘How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? ‘ ” (Mark 2:16 NKJV)

“A good honest and painful sermon.” Samuel Pepys

Honesty and truth can sometimes make us uncomfortable, and the words used to convey them are not always pretty words. In fact, although they are both nouns, neither ‘honesty’ OR ‘truth’ is a proper noun and, when wielded by Nadia Bolz-Weber in her book, “PASTRIX”, they will undoubtedly be viewed as IMPROPER nouns by some. Tertullian was a father of the early church who lived in the late second and early third centuries. He once said, “Veritas Non Crubescit”, which means “The truth does not blush”, and while the truth itself might not blush, the same cannot be said for many who might read this powerful book written by a woman who definitely does not mince her words.

Ms. Bolz-Weber’s picture adorns the front cover of the book and her image alone serves notice to potential readers that the journey they are contemplating is not going to be a mild one. The photo shows a striking woman with short hair and black plastic-framed glasses which lend her an air of intelligence even though her face is partially obscured by the fact she is looking down at her hands at the ends of heavily tattooed arms which are draped over her knees. She is wearing a sleeveless shirt which enables her colorful ‘ink’ to stand out in vivid contrast to the darkness in her clothing and the absence of back-lighting. One of the tattoos which stands out in particular is on her right forearm and depicts Mary Magdalene.

Mary Of Magdala is a good place to begin this ‘book review’ since she was the also the first person to see Jesus Christ after the resurrection. She did not recognize Him until He spoke her name, initially mistaking him for a gardener. In the book, Ms. Boz-Weber suggests that is the case for all of us; that none of us recognizes Him until He calls out to us. I suspect she may be right. Why Mary, though? Why select someone as flawed as she was to give the immense honor and considerable responsibility of telling others about the risen Son of God? Possibly because He was always a friend of sinners, those who were sick, those in need, and those who, like Mary magdalene, were beset by demons.

“PASTRIX” quite effectively takes us into the same places Christ went to do His work. The author plants us right in the midst of dinner at the tax collector’s house, only we are not at dinner, and we are not in Levi’s home. We are at the ‘House For All Sinners And Saints’ in Denver, Colorado, and Nadia Bolz-Weber is its ordained Lutheran pastor and founder. We are not in some pretty crystal cathedral or upper-class mega church. We are in the trenches, right where Jesus Christ went to go to work, and where many people begin their own search for Him. In the pages of “PASTRIX” we become witnesses to many living examples of how to find forgiveness in an unforgiving world; how to find acceptance and love while all around us the meanings of those words seems to have disappeared or have been forgotten; how to reconcile some of the things we read in the Bible with the way our human hearts, and minds, often differ from those things.

Some may think Ms. Bolz-Weber’s use of profanity and earthy colloquialisms are overdone or gratuitous, but if those who are easily offended can grit their teeth while opening their eyes, hearts, and minds to the MESSAGE of this rough-talking, soft-hearted warrior for Christ, the benefits derived from the experience will far outweigh any inconvenience, discomfort, or perceived damage which may be suffered by the reader. Those words which MIGHT offend, far from being gratuitous or unnecessary, actually act as a powerful hammer with which this passionate woman drives her message home.

“PASTRIX” introduces us to several members of the Home For All Sinners And Saints ‘family’, and when we get to know some of them better, I can hear books being closed, along with the minds and hearts of those closing them, but I implore you all to hang on till the powerful, emotional ending before rendering your final verdict. Some will remain unmoved and convinced the journey was a mistake, but there WILL be those who will be ‘on-your-knees’ thankful they read it in its entirety.

I once wrote another ‘book review’ in these Chronicles about a book called ‘not a fan’ by Kyle Idleman in which I warned my readers that the author makes us uncomfortable as we are led on a search of our hearts to see if we are truly committed followers of Jesus Christ, or, simply, cheering fans sitting on the sidelines. In similar fashion, “PASTRIX” makes those who read it uncomfortable as well, and the author’s choice of vocabulary has little to do with it. The REAL discomfort begins as we slowly discover the depth – or perhaps, shallowness is a better word – of our understanding of what Christ did NOT say.

Jesus Christ said, “Follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Jesus Christ did NOT say, “Follow me when you feel up to it or have time, or it is not too much trouble.”

Jesus Christ said, “Love thy neighbor.” ((Mark 12:31)
He did NOT say, “Surround yourself with people you are comfortable with, smell nice, and make enough money to suit you, and love only them.”

Christ said, “Do not judge others.” (Luke 6:37)
He did NOT say, “It is alright to look down on others to elevate yourself as long as you go to church with like-minded individuals each Sunday.”

He said, “What you do to others you do to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
He did NOT say, “If you don’t like the way someone looks or smells, treat them with disdain and ignore their pain and I will overlook it when you stand before me in judgment.”

He also said, “Do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15)
Again, Jesus Christ did NOT say, “I treat everyone with love, kindness, mercy and grace, but YOU are free to treat them however badly you wish.”

Jesus Christ was not afraid to rub elbows with the unwashed, the uneducated, or the unhealthy. He loved those He walked and talked with during His time as a man among mankind. Heaven is most assuredly a perfectly beautiful place to see and in which to live the eternal lives we are promised by God, but while the physical appearance of OUR world is breathtakingly beautiful – as it was intended to be when God created it – the sickness, poverty, pain, and the ugliness of sin that afflicts mankind has given us an unbelievable ability to make that beauty here on earth almost impossible to see. “PASTRIX” teaches us lessons that cannot be learned by avoiding, being embarrassed by, or offended by honesty and truth as brought to us by Nadia Bolz-Weber. She helps us to strip away some of that ugliness and see that there is beauty in there. She has been called upon by God to get down in the trenches, roll up her sleeves (well, if she HAD sleeves!) and help those she finds shed that ugliness and see the beauty God placed inside THEM. In the writing of “PASTRIX” she takes us along and lets us see some of the people who need help finding God inside themselves, and allows us to accompany THEM on their journeys to that discovery. The journeys are not always pleasant, but they are always REAL.

Sara Groves is a favorite Christian singer of mine and one of the songs she performs is called “The Boxer”. I was listening to that song the other day and, in my mind, I could almost see Nadia Bolz-Weber and Jesus Christ in a boxing ring with gloves on, side by side, slugging it out with pain, addiction, homelessness, unwelcomeness, unforgiveness, poverty, hunger, hypocrisy, sickness, and sin – and winning. I get this crazy mental image in my head of her leaning against Christ after the last bell, both of them bloodied and battered, her tattoos glistening with sweat, and I can hear her as she looks up at the face of Jesus and says, “Damn, that was a hell of a fight!”

I have a pretty good feeling Jesus would not disagree with the message or her delivery of that message.

Many of the individuals highlighted in “PASTRIX” are seriously flawed. When the last page is turned, we could very well be left wondering if the very first person Christ reveals Himself to upon His return just might be someone from the House For All Sinners And Saints.

Seriously. Read this book.

(And check out the paperback version of MY book “TODAY IS….A Gift From God” at

BALLAD OF A LOST MAN FOUND Lyrics by Steve Marshall

(Editor Note: my apologies for the formatting of this outstanding post I simply can not format the way Steve wanted it – there are 2 verses, Chorus, 2 more and Chorus. 


Alone in the darkness

And asleep in my bed

Dreams of my old life

Play out in my head.

How did I get here       

And when can I leave?

I’m so tired of wearing

My heart on my sleeve.


I look in the mirror   

  And I see in my face       

  A time when I lived        

In a fine state of grace.

How did I fall, then,        

So far from that place?

How does love disappear

Without leaving a  trace?



God in heaven hold me

Caress me and enfold me

And keep the homefires

Burning through the night.     

I know I took the wrong  road

And now I walk the long road

Searchin’ for a way                     

Back to the light.


There’s so much to learn

And thoughts to arrange

And truths to be told           

To bring about change.          

I start up the ladder        

With so far to climb           

I’m doing the work     

While I’m doing my time.


I look in my heart           

And I finally see             

The world doesn’t rotate Only for me.                     

I’m a part of the whole 

Like a bee in a hive.             

I know what it means       

To be fully alive.



God in heaven hold me

Caress me and enfold me

And keep the homefires

Burning through the night.              

 I know I took the wrong road

And now I walk the long road

Searchin’ for a way                    

 Back to the light                       

Still searchin’ for a way

Back to the light.

© 2013 by Steve Marshall

“GOD GAVE US EYES” by Tony Casson

God gave us eyes to see the things
He placed throughout the land;
To appreciate the beauty that
He made with loving hands.

He gave us eyes to see the sun,
The moon and all the stars;
To stare in awe and wonder
At creations near and far.

God gave us eyes to see the trees,
The petals on a flower;
And with these eyes we all can see
God’s majesty and power.

God gave us eyes to help us seek
A husband or a wife;
He gave us eyes to see a child,
The miracle of life.

With these eyes, it’s possible
To see all that He’s done
To make the world a perfect place
For daughter and for son.

But these eyes have obligations
To fulfill for fellow man;
To see the pain and hunger
And to ease it if we can.

To see when someone’s hurting
And to help their sorrow end;
To see their need for nourishment,
To see them as a friend.

God gave us eyes to recognize
The need to spread His Word;
To see the need to witness
And embrace all we have heard.

God gave us eyes to see it all,
But our eyes were just a start;
God’s great Wisdom also gave
That thing we call a heart

The Gift

       As you all exchange gifts this year with those you love, take time to remember the greatest gift that was ever given. The gift that God gave to all of those He loved – the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.

      In a booklet I read recently from RBC Ministries entitled “The Amazing Names of the Messiah”, I discovered the following: “We often have a low view of the miraculous, and therefore a limited sense of wonder.”

      I look back on when my son was just an infant. The memory of him lying on top of me, barely filling the space between my chin and my waist; the scent of his hair; the movement of his perfect, tiny fingers; the beating of his little heart – all of these things come flooding back to my consciousness today and fill me with a sense of wonder, and an appreciation of the miracle of life itself.

      Could I give you that miracle as an expression of my love? No – I think I’ll keep him for myself.

      But then – I am not God.

      I am, however, profoundly and humbly thankful and appreciative for the gift given to us all, so long ago. In the chaos and confusion as you race to the malls for those last minute gifts for those YOU love, take just a few seconds to look up and say, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you very much.”

Merry Christmas

“Year One

“It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live.”  Alexandre Dumas

“…instead give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.”    Romans 6:13 NLT

   This past year has been spent falling into step with the Lord and learning to trust His wisdom and accept His love and grace. All daunting tasks, one would think, especially anyone who might know me and know how I have lived my life and conducted myself for the last 40 years.

   I am a man now.

   Not a better man, mind you, for I was far too immature, self-indulgent, irresponsible, impulsive, and immoral to dare call myself one to begin with.

   It has been difficult, at times, to stand before you – most of you unknown to me – and peel away layers of myself to reveal what lay beneath.

   It wasn’t always pleasant to see, and it was often painful to do, but I have felt comforted, and guided by the strong hand of God and I truly believe that my words have reached out to at least one person and affected a change.

   All I have wanted is to feel that someone has stopped to think about who they are and what they are doing and caught themselves before their world collapsed and their life – and the lives of everyone around them – was forever altered in a truly horrific way.

    It has been a year of giving thanks to God for every new day I have, for without His intervention I surely would have died on that lonely shower floor, washed in my own blood, to be buried in my sin and shame.

   I found the best of years in the worst of all possible places and the joy of discovery of my manhood, my life, my love of God and my hope for the future at least partly made up for missing the feeling of my arms around those I love and living a “free” life.

   For I know now that when my arms do – finally – embrace them, they will love who I am and will welcome this new person into their lives and their hearts.

    And at that time I will really be free – finally free from the darkness I wrapped around my soul; and free of the inability to forgive myself for mistakes I have made; and free to love who I am.

   And who I am is a child of God who once was lost but now has been found.