“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry 23

By Diane S.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.Hebrews 4:13


Being honest with yourself is sometimes very difficult.

This week I have found myself in places I never wanted to go. It’s easier to not think about some things, to pretend they don’t exist, or that they aren’t true.

Unfortunately, eventually you get to a point where you can’t ignore them. You have to deal with them or they just become a constant nagging; a wall separating you from Jesus. When you start praying for God to reveal the messes and the wickedness you have in your heart, you better be ready because I’ve learned the answers you get can be hard. The things you wish you could just keep hiding are suddenly right there in front of you, waiting to be dealt with.

That is a very hard thing to wrap your head around.

Your deepest darkest secrets; your fears; your troubles; your true heart…God knows it ALL. Even if you don’t tell Him, He knows, so what is the point of pretending or hiding? It doesn’t get you anywhere, it’s just something that separates you from your Creator. It eats at your soul, at your heart, and at your mind.

There is so much more freedom in being honest with God and with yourself.

That is where I have been for the last month & even though it’s been painful, I am grateful. Very grateful. The fact is that I can’t build my future until I truly embrace my past, my husband’s past, ask for forgiveness and repent.

So that is what I have done or what I am working on doing anyway.

It’s interesting how much you can learn about yourself when God starts working in your life this way. Over the last month there have been two very important situations that have weighed on my heart that God has guided me through. It has been a painful and heartbreaking month, but it’s also been a healing and freeing one. The last week has been one of the hardest weeks I have had since my husband entered FCI Oakdale. There is a song that has lyrics that say “break my heart for what breaks yours” and I fully understand those words now. I was completely broken for two days and it was painful, the first day I didn’t get out of bed for an entire day. The second day I cried the entire day. It was the only way; I know that God had to bring me to that place and through those places for healing and peace.

I am grateful.

It was hard and it was painful but it was worth it. I don’t think I have ever experienced God’s grace and mercy in such intimate ways as I have over the last few weeks.

God’s not done with me yet. I can’t imagine all the things He has yet to reveal to me & all the sinful things I do that break His heart that I don’t even realize.  My prayer won’t change, even though I know how difficult the answers to those prayers can be, I will still be praying for God to reveal the things in my heart that are dark, wicked and breaking His heart.

It’s where healing begins, at least for me it has been.

There is freedom that only Christ can give when you pray this way and embrace the answers God gives you, no matter what those answers may be. You start realizing that the bitterness you have tried to mask in your heart is breaking away.  If you see someone who hurt you in the past you no longer feel like walking up to them and punching them in the face (I’m guilty of this).

Instead, you truly pray for those people. You pray God works in their lives. You pray for their healing. The old saying “hurt people, hurt people” – I believe is true. Those who are hurt tend to hurt others. I now pray for those people and I truly mean it. My heart really does hurt for those people in my past that have caused me so much hurt but have, themselves, been victims of hurtful situations. I can say with honesty and conviction that I pray for God to soften their hearts and bring them near to Him, to heal their past scars, to give them a future and hope.

Honesty is hard, especially when God is the one revealing the honesty to you.  You can’t run from that….well you can try but you’ll end up like Jonah in the belly of the whale for a few days until you decide God is right. Of course you won’t actually get eaten by a big fish (unless you go to NC and get attacked by the sharks), but hopefully you get my point.

You simply cannot run or hide from God. Ultimately, He will win the battle because God never stops pursuing his children.

So why fight it? It only leaves you exhausted and at the foot of the cross asking for help. There is so much freedom in the honesty God can bring you if ask Him for His help.

I am learning to be free…and it’s a good feeling.

I am learning to be honest with God and myself…and that’s a good feeling too.

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry Fifteen

by Diane S.


“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”  Proverbs 3:5

Sometimes we just have to accept what we don’t understand and there is a lot in this world that I do not understand.

I like to have cause and effect and reasons to explain why things happen. I’m learning that sometimes there simply is none. Our minds are not capable of understanding the vastness and complexity that is God’s sovereignty and His plan for us. We don’t usually understand that sometimes God doesn’t do what we want because he has something better for us even though at that time we can’t see anything better.

We just have to accept these things without understanding.

I find that to be the case often in my life, where I just have to accept the situation without understanding. I just have to trust God and lean into him. I ask him – often – to help me accept the things I don’t understand. Sometimes the only comfort I can find is knowing that God is in control. God already knows every tomorrow. God loves Chris more than I do. If I think about those things, understanding the “whys” becomes less important.

I’m an adult and growing in my relationship with Christ. I can accept this theory of not understanding yet accepting.

However, my husband’s 12 year old son isn’t quite there yet.

We don’t know just how this will affect him for the next 8 years and the rest of his life. We don’t really know how it will affect any of us, but I know I have a strong foundation of faith, a growing relationship with my Savior and many Christ following friends who will pull me up at my weakest times. I’ll be ok. My husband will be ok too. We will both be changed forever but that’s okay because ‘…but God’. I pray my stepson will be ok too, but he is young and vulnerable & I worry. There is no way to tell how this will affect him and if he will learn to lean on God for comfort. Right now, he is just hurt and sad. He doesn’t understand. He can’t really accept it. I pray God gives the adults in his life the guidance we need to be able to help him through this with the least amount of pain possible.

Yesterday he posted a video on social media he saw on someone else’s page. It was a video taken while someone was talking to a homeless man who had been in prison for 12 years. This man talked of the struggles he has had since his release from prison and what brought him to the place he is now….playing his guitar for change in front of a gas station with no job or place to call home. I can’t imagine what a 12 year old thought as he watched that video. I talked with him about it made sure he knew that wouldn’t be his dad’s situation.

He said he understood and I hope that he did.

I’m just ‘the prisoner’s wife’. The ‘prisoner’ also has a son and a mother. The ‘prisoner’ has a sister and brother. The ‘prisoner’ has dogs. The ‘prisoner’ has family and many caring, concerned friends. And they have all been deeply shaken by this situation. I don’t know of anyone who truly understands how we got here. Yet, we all accept it on some level and continue on. Each of us hurt in very different ways. I know what it feels like to be a prisoner’s wife, but I don’t know what it’s like to be a prisoner’s child or a prisoner’s mother.

One thing I do know is that we each feel like we are walking through different degrees of our own personal hell on some days.

I don’t understand why God hasn’t intervened on our behalf in the last 18 months. I don’t understand why He has allowed all of this happen and hasn’t stopped it. I don’t understand why everything had to be taken away leaving me by myself at a rock bottom of sorts where I am 33 years old and I can’t afford to live in a place of my own. I don’t understand why the sentence had to be 10 years instead of 5. The list of things I don’t understand is quite long. I could go on for a while but I’ll stop here.

I don’t understand these things but I accept them. I can only accept them because I know God is in control and if He has allowed these things then they serve a purpose in His plan.

His plan is not just ‘good’. His plan is not even ‘very good’. His plan is not ‘better’.

His plan is PERFECT.

So I will wait patiently for the Lord’s plan to come together. He is always right on time you know. I will go where He leads me and do what He asks me. I pray that my heart can be open and receptive enough to not miss it when He tells me where to go and what to do. I am often scared that I will not be paying close enough attention and I will miss something important He is trying to tell me, show me or ask me to do.

“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength” Isaiah 40:31

The story of Ruth in the bible is a very good story that illustrates how God always has a plan, even when we can’t see anything but darkness. Nothing can come to God’s children unless he allows it. If he allows it to come to you it is because He has a plan to work it together for your good and His glory.

This is the very reason I am able to accept my current situation without having the slightest bit of understanding.

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry Fourteen

by Diane S.

Life Goes On   

“No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”    Maya Angelou

In truth life does go on.

I am not sure about the “better tomorrow” in literal terms, but I do know that there will be a lot of “tomorrows” that will be better. I just have to make it to those better ones. The days come and go, things happen, bills have to be paid, kids need to go here and there. Life does go on, even when you feel like yours has stopped.

Life goes on, just differently.

Today makes exactly 4 weeks since my husband’s surrender day. I feel like a lot and nothing at all has happened in those 4 weeks. I guess that is what happens when it feels like you are living life from the outside looking in, only doing the minimal to get by every day. It’s still very odd to try to grasp.

I’m still not sure how my life has turned into this. I am not sure how, but I do know why. God is teaching and preparing me/us for His plan. Not that I have any idea what it is, but that is the reason I find myself in my current situation even though I absolutely do not understand it.

I just pray for acceptance, not understanding.

The last 4 ½ days have seemed just a slight bit easier to get through. No breakdowns, not many tears. I don’t know if that is good or bad. I’m going to go with good. I’ve even made it to visit with friends a couple times and am starting a new Bible study at church tonight. I have a few other things on my ‘to do’ list as well.

I guess there can’t be a new normal unless I actually attempt to go on with life and stop living from the outside looking in.

Life goes on for Chris too. He writes & calls every day. He walks a couple miles a day on the track and has seen the crosses that a dear friend told him to look for. He has found that he can eat more things if he actually tries them, which is good. He reads his bible, watches TV, and hangs out with his cellies…life goes on, a new life, true, but it goes on nonetheless. Neither of us really has a new normal or a new routine yet, but we are making it. He found a Bible study that meets once a week in his unit last night and that is something I have been praising God for today. He attends chapel on Sunday nights.

Our letters seem to be the source of staying the most connected. He doesn’t enjoy writing as much as I do so my letters are usually much longer. The post office makes a lot of money off stamps from me when one letter takes 2 stamps. I try to make sure he will have a letter at every mail call but I am fighting a very slow small town post office and jail mail; so despite my best attempts he doesn’t get mail every day. We share Bible verses and encouraging things we read/see with each other and that is helpful too. It feels like we can connect.

It’s both sad and encouraging that life is continuing on. Secretly I want the world to just stop so I can too, but that wouldn’t do anyone much good. It’s good to have a feeling that this may get easier as time passes, but it’s sad to think I will ever be ok with a life that doesn’t involve my husband here with me.

Not that I have a choice.

It’s sad to know that life goes on for a 12 year old boy who dearly misses his dad and there is nothing I can do to fix that. Letters, phone calls and infrequent visits are as good as it gets. I don’t know if I will ever get over that heartbreak. Life goes on for Chris’ mom who moved her entire life 7+ hours from where she has lived for at least 30 years just so she can be near her son.

Life doesn’t stop just because ours did.

One bad decision changed everything for so many people. I still can’t get over how this has affected every aspect of our life and the lives of SO many people around us. It is beyond my comprehension that the repercussions of one bad decision can devastate things so completely. I often wonder how many people really think about what may happen when they intentionally make an unsavory decision. My guess is no. They probably think “no one will ever know” or they just flat out don’t think that far ahead about what the decision may cause until it’s far too late.

I have a brother who has been a corrections officer in a state prison and he once said, “The biggest difference between the people here in prison and us is that we didn’t get caught.” I believe that to be a very true statement. If you look back over your life, I am sure almost everyone can think of a time that things could have turned out very differently if you had been “caught”. It’s hard for me to understand how society can write off individuals in prison when, if they really looked honestly at themselves and their life, they could probably find that if one tiny little thing had happened differently they could have easily ended up in prison too. Yes, I realize not everyone has committed a horrendous crime, but there are A LOT of people in prison that haven’t either. I also realize that there are probably some who can look back over their life and not find one time when a bad decision could have turned out differently. I am not one of those people.

I have never robbed a back, kidnapped, or killed anyone but I can think of at least two times decisions were made that could have very easily ended with a mug shot.

Another thing I have found hard to deal with is how people view those who have committed crimes in the past. Just this past week some people very close to me found out a sex offender was living in their neighborhood. The reaction was typical. ‘Is it legal for him to live there? There is an underage girl living right next door?’ ‘How can a child molester live in a neighborhood with kids?’ These are people who love me and love my husband, but they are just like everyone else.

My husband is different to them because they know him.

None of them knows the story of the sex offender who lives in the house in that neighborhood, but they are all quick to judge. They may have good reason to be alarmed, I don’t know…but neither did they when they formed their initial opinions about this stranger wearing the label ‘sex offender’ living in their neighborhood. I found that to be a very eye opening experience. Society is broken, the system is broken, and lives are broken.

But life goes on.

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

by Diane S.

Entry Twelve


“No amount of guilt can change the past. No amount of worry can change the future” – Unknown

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  1 Peter 5:8

I’m really not sure how to sum up the last 6 days.

I have felt like I was drowning and I did a real terrible job of grabbing onto the hand of God that keeps me from going under. However, I have managed grab onto His hand and to come up for air today. I may even be able to get out of the water if I try hard enough today.

This week I should be writing details about my first visit with Chris last weekend. I probably should have already written about it but I haven’t been able to do it yet. So far it’s indescribable and I haven’t found the words.  I have experienced more emotions in the last 6 days than I care to admit. That wooden roller coaster has been very rickety this week.

The actual 3 days I visited were good. Of course the first day was difficult and emotional, but good overall. The other two days were also good.  It was good to see my husband. It was good to be with him. It was good to see that he is okay.

However, the emotional and mental crash after the last day of visiting and having to come back home has had me questioning if I ever want to visit again. I’ve asked myself why I am doing this to myself. Why have I chosen this path? Why would I ever want do something again that breaks me down so totally?

And why have I resigned to do it for the next 8 years?

Drowning in the doubts of the enemy is the only thing that can describe the last 3 days.

Prayer has been difficult for me this week; I just haven’t known what to say. A lot of prayers this week have just been asking God to strengthen me in Him and asking Jesus to just listen to my heart because I didn’t know what it was saying other than hurt. I have not been in a place this week where I can thank God for this situation or even for waking up every day. I know I should be thankful for each day, but the last 3 have convinced me that being in Heaven with Jesus and not here going through this would be a much better option for me.

I know that isn’t true, but you know the saying “You can’t see the forest for the trees”? That is a good way to describe the feeling. I have been so focused on the doubts, fears and worries this week I have not seen anything else.

It’s a difficult place to be, drowning that is. I haven’t wanted to write anything this week, not letters to my husband, nothing for this site. Basically, I have done exceptionally well listening to the “woe is me” bidding this week and I crawled into a hole of worry and doubt.

It’s a very bad, very dark place with the only company being the enemy.

It’s always funny to me how people don’t think Christians should struggle like this; Christ followers don’t get depressed. They seem to think because I have a relationship with Jesus and some days they can see faith and trust in me that I don’t or shouldn’t have struggles. That’s not true at all.

Not even close.

I’m still human and now probably more than ever the enemy is working hard to get me to fall. Does the enemy know your weaknesses? I think he probably does & since he does it’s an open invitation for him to use those against you. It’s probably in the Bible somewhere but I can’t recall a particular verse about it. I think I will do some more research on that.

I didn’t work yesterday because I allowed this all to make me physically ill. I have worried about everything from travel, to finances, to bills, to the overall picture of the next 8 years. I know that when I think about the next 8 years overall it’s more than I can stand, but when I just focus on today I’m usually okay. I’m learning to just focus my eyes on today and what Jesus has for me this day. Worrying about how I am going to pay all my bills, afford visits and not let anyone down is so very pointless because even though I can’t see a way, I am not planning the way. God will provide, I know this yet I still drown in worry and doubt.

Today is a new day. I am not out of the water yet, but I am at least floating on top of it for now. That’s even better than just treading water, right?   I have a lot of guilt today because the last two days of phone calls with my husband have been a complete mess. I am resolved in my decision to be on this journey until the very end, I will not waver. (And I will visit again, as often as I can…see above where I said I was questioning that).

Even on my darkest days deep down in my heart and soul where it really matters I am steadfast in my decision and never questioning. You would think that would be enough to tame the doubt. However, on the drowning days it isn’t. Sometimes on those days, like the last two, I voice my doubts to Chris that rise to the surface about how we will ever survive this and of course it makes him question if there is any way I will actually stay resolved to stay on this journey. It hurts me to my very core that I know that after that 10-15 minute phone call I have let my doubts become torment for him until we talk again in 24 hours. My saving grace today (5/28) is that it is my birthday (the first one of nine without him, only 8 more to go) so he called early this morning for a couple of minutes to tell me “Happy Birthday” and I was able to tell him that I am back on semi-solid ground today and not drowning. Hopefully it eased his mind and calmed his heart. I wish he could know the difference between my mind and my heart; they stay on different pages a lot. Does it make sense that I have doubt in my mind but never in my heart and soul?

I don’t know if that does make sense but it’s the only way I can even attempt to explain it.

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry Five



It’s odd to me how much I have lost interest in material “stuff” in the last 17 months. It really doesn’t matter much now. I don’t have to have the latest and greatest of anything anymore. I don’t keep up with the latest release of the newest smart phone as I once did. I don’t drive down the street wishing I had a different newer car like I used to. As far as “stuff” goes, things have become much simpler for me. It just doesn’t seem to matter; there are far more important things than “stuff”.

However, I do still have A LOT of stuff.

I don’t know what to do with most of it so it sits in a storage unit until I come up with a plan. I have moved 3 times in the last 5 months. I went from a fully furnished 3 bedroom house full of stuff to living in one bedroom of my mother-in-law’s home and now living in one room at my parents’ home. Maybe that’s why stuff has become less important to me, because I am tired of moving it!!! I’m blessed to have been able to go back home for a while. In this process I had to find new homes for two of our fur-babies. Thankfully I was able to keep two with me. There have been a lot of good-byes in my life in the last couple of weeks. I am blessed because Chris and I don’t have any children together. I prayed for one for a long time and now I am so thankful for unanswered prayers. I have a 12 yr. old step son who lives with his mother, but no children living in our home who have been up-rooted from their daily lives in the midst of all the mess. I am not downplaying the effect this is having on my stepson because it is enormous. I am simply saying that his daily, weekly, and school routine haven’t been affected and for that I am thankful. Everything else in his world has been turned upside down, so I am thankful for things that are still intact in his life. He is still able to come visit and spend weekends with me at this time. I am beyond blessed and thankful for his mother and step-father who have been very compassionate and wonderful.

Anyway, back to the stuff….

I packed up and moved to my parents 3 days after dropping Chris off at his new living quarters for the next 8 years. This means that I had to pack and unpack all my stuff again….and all his stuff. That is NOT easy to do when dealing with a situation like I am going through. What does one do with all his “stuff”? He obviously won’t need it for a good long while and when he does need his stuff again the clothes he had won’t fit and who knows if he will like any of his current stuff in 8.5 years. I have heard of and know of people that have lost loved ones who leave their “stuff” in the exact same spot they left it the last time they used it because it either brought comfort to them or they couldn’t bear the pain of doing anything with because that brings some reality with it. That might have been nice for me to be able to do for a week or two anyway, but I didn’t have that option. Not that I am comparing him going away to prison to death, but I have found there are some similarities. Things had to be moved in my case; his things.

And it was painful.

It was hard knowing that he won’t wear his favorite hat anymore and he doesn’t need cologne. Really silly things in big picture, but I seem to have found that the silly little things are the ones that cause the most epic melt downs for me. Do I keep his stuff for 8.5 years? Do I give it away to friends or family? Donate it? I had not even thought about that part until I got back to TN after dropping him off down in Louisiana and had to start packing. It seemed weird to give it away when he is alive and well.

So I didn’t.

I packed it in boxes for now. Some of it I took with me to my mom’s, like his favorite hat and the necklace he wore every day. They hang beside my bed. I have all his jewelry, some I wear myself every day now, the rest is just in my jewelry box. No particular reason for it to be there, I simply don’t know what else I should do with it. I took two of his favorite colognes because the smell reminds me of him; every few nights or so I spray some on the shirt of his that I sleep with. I took a few of his favorite t-shirts with me also and my mom is going to make pillows out of them for Chris’ mother, his son, and for me. He loved (See what I did there? It should be loves, he isn’t deceased!) to dress in a nice shirt and tie for church on Sunday mornings. I kept his ties with me, they are in a small box in the top of my closet. I figure eventually I will give away the boxes of his clothes I took to storage to the mission here in town, but ties will always fit and ties don’t go out of style. Or do they???

Now, if you had read only the last half of the section above you’d be sure you were reading something written by a young widow who lost her husband to a death of some sort. It’s odd how similar the process seems to be. There is grieving to be sure, but it’s a different kind. There is closure with death. There is no closure with a husband in prison; life goes on with someone missing that one day will return. You have to move on and build a new normal but you have to find ways to include your spouse because you want them to be involved and informed as best they can be in the situation.

I find myself taking pictures so I can send them to him to show him things, like how I hung a picture in my room. It’s still all very weird. I have in no way, shape or form begun to figure out how I will come to a ‘new normal’ in which I can find some joy and make sure my husband is a part of everyday things that go on in my life and his son’s.

So I have decided I’m not going to worry too much about figuring it out. I’m going to let God handle all that and let Him show me how HE will build a new normal that includes my husband as much as possible and still allows me to thrive in Christ and carry out his will while waiting for my husband to return home. The only thing I have figured out at this point is I know this isn’t going to be easy but I know God will always be with us.

He already has our future written and I still don’t know what to do with all this stuff!!

“Stories Of A Prisoner’s Wife”

Entry Two

by Diane S.

The Day

This journey is going to be a long one, we are just beginning.

May 5, 2015 was the hardest day of my life to date, but the 6 days since haven’t been easy. They have been filled with prayer, constant prayer. Prayer for my husband, my step-son, myself, my marriage, my mother-in-law. We had a good bit of information about what was going to happen on this day. We “knew” what to expect but quickly found out that even if you expect it you surely aren’t prepared for it. Nothing can prepare you to say goodbye to your husband for eight and a half years and drive away from a federal prison facility leaving him there.


God was with us, there is no doubt, but the heartache and pain are no joke. That is real raw emotion that I’m not sure anyone could ever be prepared for. We stopped a few blocks from the prison on the side of the road and prayed together and I truly believe that is how we all made it through the next hour.

There isn’t an instruction manual on how one goes about self-surrendering. There are no signs pointing you to the correct door once you arrive, you just kind of guess. We guessed right and were in the right place. My husband, myself, his mother and her sister walked into the institution and were greeted with a friendly, “May I help you?” The gentleman at the desk was nice to us. He told us to have a seat and someone would be out to get him shortly.

True to his word, it wasn’t long and a correctional officer appeared to take him back. He asked about the things we were told he could keep. We thought he could keep a cheap digital watch, but that wasn’t the case so he took it off and handed it to me. He was able to take his Bible, his glasses, his wedding ring, a bookmark, and a piece of paper with 3 phone numbers on it. The officer told us to say our goodbyes. I was first and he took my hand and told me he wanted me last, so I stepped aside to let him say goodbye to his mom and aunt.

Then it was my turn.

I don’t really remember what was said other than “I love you”, over and over. There are no words to describe the pain you feel when you know you are hugging your husband in freedom for the last time for 8 and a half years.

It was time.

They took him away through a metal detector, out a door and down a sidewalk. I watched him all the way until he stepped through the door of what I assume was the intake part of the facility.

And he was gone.

I could see his face right before he stepped through the door and I don’t think he was crying. I sure was, but he looked composed. The officer informed us that if we would wait a little bit he would bring out his clothes and shoes.

Here is the good stuff.

This is when God gave me some desperately needed ‘bread crumbs’ on that day. We sat in the chairs in the lobby waiting, observing. It was a clean place, it looked well kept and it seemed organized. It’s not what I pictured the lobby of a jail to look like. There were windows and much more light than I expected. As we were sitting, there was gentleman standing over to one side of the room. I don’t know who he was or what he was doing there, but I do know that God put him there at that time. He asked us how long he would be there and we said 10 years to which he replied he will do about 8 and a half years (we did know that). He told us he will be fine, just tell him to get busy with church things and education things and the time will pass. Then for no reason I can think of other than it had been a topic of prayer for all of us there that day, this man told us at least we didn’t have to worry about him eating because the food there was pretty good, much better than other prisons.

Now that may seem like a very insignificant thing but it wasn’t for us. We were (still am) concerned about what he will eat, I have never met a more picky eater than my husband so it’s a legitimate concern of mine, probably a silly one all things considered, but still. A few minutes after our conversation ended with that man we were asked to step outside for a few minutes while they did something, maybe a prisoner transfer? Not quite sure.   While we were standing outside a nice lady walked up to the door and it was locked. She asked us what we were waiting on and we told her my husband clothes. She asked his name & we obliged. She said, “Oh, I should have him in a few hours and for a couple of days, don’t you worry about him. He is going to be ok.”

Again, there is only one reason for something like that to happen. God was showing us he was there. It wasn’t long and the officer that took my husband back came out with his clothes in a clear plastic bag. He was getting off work so we all happened to walk to the parking lot and he said to us, “Don’t worry, he is going to be ok. We had a talk, he is going to be ok, I can just tell he’s going to do fine. You don’t have to worry.”   He may say that to everyone he returns belongings to, I really don’t know. However, on that day, it was another ‘bread crumb’.

You probably think that the ride home was unbearable, but it wasn’t.

God gave us a peace in that car for that 2.5 hour ride home. Not one of the three us cried until we were exactly 13 miles from his aunt’s house and ‘God Gave Me You’ came on the radio. That song has always made me think about my husband and it made me cry, but when I looked out the window of the car a random rainbow in the sky made me smile. It was like God put it right there just for me. I’m not saying there weren’t many tears shed later into the night, but that ride home was peaceful. The kind of peace that only comes from Jesus.

A Note From Tony: Amen! I am so encouraged by this woman’s reliance on, and trust in, God. Curiosity got the best of me, so I looked for that song. In case anyone else is curious, I have provided a version of it here. Enjoy.

I have exchanged emails with our guest author and asked her what names I should use. She never even considered that there were no names used. It was not an intentional omission. She simply didn’t think about it until I mentioned it and she has given permission to use first names for now. Her name is Diane. Her husband is Chris.

Women named Diane seem to figure prominently in my life, but this one is not to be confused with the one who has done so much for me through my incarceration, and continuing to this day. I am inclined to think that this ‘new’ Diane will ultimately figure prominently as well as she helps us all to try and understand America’s Culture Of Incarceration from the perspective of the victims of the punishment of the crime, rather than of the crime itself.

This is not to diminish the pain, loss, and suffering of the victims of those crimes, whatever those crimes may be. I have never, ever done that in all the years of “TOC” and I never will. It should, however, be important to society as a whole to examine the effects of this country’s policies and practices on everyone involved and weigh all of those factors when determining our national approach to a solution.

At present, what we have is not a solution. It is an overblown, overgrown industrial enterprise of behemoth proportions which helps no one (except those involved financially) and solves nothing. It doesn’t truly help the victims in most cases. It doesn’t help society at all, really, because the causes are never substantially or effectively addressed. It doesn’t help those who violate society’s laws (which are far too numerous in the first place).

And it most certainly does not help the families of those who have been left behind in any way, shape or form. In many, many cases entire families, and especially spouses, are treated as being equally guilty.

By all means, please leave your comments of encouragement for Diane. In today’s world, far too many women are a lot closer to ‘being’ Diane than we should all be comfortable with.

Lastly, I would like to mention that there is a woman who has followed TOC through the years whose husband was also in federal prison. Many of you may be interested in Kate Mest’s blog. Please visit and offer her encouragement.



“Let them see that this is Your doing,

That You have done it, Lord!”  Psalm 109:27 NLT

The parting of the Red Sea is most definitely viewed as a miraculous event. Jesus Christ walking on water, healing the sick and the lame, and giving sight to the blind would all qualify, as would His resurrection. We read about all of these things, and more, in the Bible, but often we allow skepticism and doubt to tug at the corners of our belief, testing the limits of our faith. We want to see miracles for ourselves. We want evidence. We want proof.

Unfortunately, we are so busy doubting or being skeptical, we fail to see the living proof that is provided to us on a daily basis. The miracle of ourselves is all the proof we should require, and I have come to finally notice the miracle that is ME.

The story of my attempted suicide has been painfully recounted in these pages several times over the last four years. That attempt was made out of rage at something within myself that refused to allow me to walk in God’s light. That attempt was made because I was angry with myself for a lifetime of mistakes, missed opportunities, dishonesty with others and myself, unfaithfulness, immorality, immaturity, and lack of compassion for those around me. I was blind to the truth and it would take a miracle to enable me to see.

In the Bible, the story is told of Jesus and His disciples coming upon a man who had been blind since birth. “‘Rabbi,’ His disciples asked Him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?’ ‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.'” (John 9:2-3 NLT)

A new person was created when the man’s eyes were opened. He knew where the power that healed him came from and he praised God and worshipped Him from that point forward. He did not allow skepticism or doubt to enter into the equation. He did not chalk it up to ‘coincidence’ or ‘good luck’. He KNEW it was the power of God and he wanted people to know that.

God has created in me a new person, and I want you all to know that. His power has worked a miracle within this individual who, at the lowest point in his life, lay covered in his own blood hovering near death. His power washed off MY blood with the blood of Jesus, and washed away my sin and my pain, washed away the blindness in my eyes, my mind, and my heart, and opened them all up to the truth.

And the truth is this: We are ALL miracles, each and every one of us. Some of the miracles have not been performed yet, but triggering the power of God that will create that new person is a simple as saying, “I cannot do this alone anymore, Lord. Please forgive me. Please help me.”

I am walking out the door I entered a little over 4 years ago. I am traveling to Washington, D.C., headed for a future that has not been totally revealed to me yet, but one which I am ready to face, eager to meet, and promised to me by God. This part of the prisoner’s story ends here, but the journey itself is just beginning. Look for further updates here as that future is revealed. Perhaps I will start a companion blog called “The After-Oakdale Chronicles”. No matter the direction this blog takes, this story is not ending. It is just beginning.

I have come to understand miracles. The miracle is ME. I pray that you allow God to perform a miracle in you as well, for all the proof we need of God’s power was placed within us at birth. Ask him to unleash it in YOU.

God bless you all, and thank you for your support.

-THE LETTER- by Tony Casson

Like most people, I receive more email than ‘snail’ mail, so I was rather surprised the other day to hear my name during mail call. Most of the time, that occurs only to announce the arrival of a package, a book, or a magazine, and on this particular day I was not expecting any of those items. Upon being handed the letter, I looked at the return address, only to see that it belonged to a church of which I was not familiar. Nor was the writing which addressed the letter to me in a hand I recognized.

The letter was from a woman named Judy, and she was writing out of concern for a close friend. His name is George, and he is the godfather of one of her children. George is awaiting the day he is to self-surrender here at Oakdale, FCI, much as I did a little over 4 years ago. In searching for information on the institution itself, she came upon these Chronicles. Judy indicated George’s crime is the same as mine and she is concerned for him. I got the distinct impression that prison is a new experience for him, as it is for so many who are guilty of this, and other, internet computer crimes. Like all who are unfamiliar with the whole concept of incarceration from the perspective of experiencing it firsthand, George wonders what awaits him.

Judy’s concern for the welfare of this man is touching. She acknowledged reading that I am leaving soon, but she requested that I extend a hand of friendship to George and help him to find his way around if I should still be here when he arrives. This place can be quite surreal to those walking in off the street and who are accustomed to more civilized surroundings. There are adjustments to be made by those incarcerated, as well as by those on the outside who care about them, and I will do my best to offer advice to both.

My response to the letter is in two parts. The first is in an open letter to Judy; the second, an open letter to George. In presenting the letters this way, perhaps the information may be useful to others as well.


Dear Judy,

I thank you for your kind letter. I was deeply moved by your obvious compassion, kindness, and concern for George’s well-being. In your letter you indicated that you had read an article I wrote where I encouraged people to get involved with some of the organizations dedicated to working for positive change in the way our government ‘leaders’ deal with this very serious and destructive problem sweeping our nation like a California wildfire fanned by Santa Ana winds. I reiterate that encouragement here. Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) national and state organizations are an excellent place to start.

George is fortunate to have a friend like you, Judy. For your part, and for others who know someone facing what George is facing, or who is already in a place such as the one from which I write, I would like to offer some tips that might make the experience less frightening or foreboding than it is for all concerned.

  • Communication is important, and hearing our names at mail call is something we can never tire of. We want to know what is happening in the lives of those we care about and we like to see pictures of life being lived on the outside. There may be concern that pictures will make us sad, and that is true on one level, but reassurance that those whose lives our behavior has impacted are still capable of carrying on, laughing, smiling, growing, and enjoying life outweighs whatever negative thoughts or feelings may be experienced.
  • I will say it again, “Communication is important”. Hearing the voices of those we love is something we need. Please take the time and visit “Google Voice” to obtain a ‘free’ local phone number for your inmate to call. The difference between having this number for someone living out of state is this: 15 minutes with a Google Voice number is $.90, whereas that same 15 minute call without it is $3.15. That’s like getting three calls for the price of one, plus a couple of soups from the commissary. It is very important that you take the time to do a little research. The correct area code is 318, but do not accept, or select just ANY prefix in the 318 area code. It MUST be a prefix that is specific to Oakdale ONLY, and there are only 2, I believe.
  • Books are always welcome. You can mail up to 5 paperbacks at a time, but do NOT mail them in a box. Mail them in an envelope-type mailer and do not mail more than 5 paperback (NO HARDBACK BOOKS MAY BE SENT FROM HOME) books or magazines at a time. More than 5 will result in ALL being returned. Official rules call for the package to be marked “Approved Per Policy”. If you purchase magazine subscriptions, provide them with something educational like Smithsonian or National Geographic. I received both while here and they were always in demand by others.
  • We do not have Google in here. We do like to ask people to look things up for us, and it is surprising to me how many people have difficulty getting that done. We know people on the outside are busy, but help where you can. I never felt unloved by family or other relatives, but the defining relationship of my stay here was the one developed with the friend of my sister’s I have written about many times in these pages: Diane Woodall. People do not have to be family to care about others or to reach out to help. The many, many, MANY pages of research Diane provided me with assisted me greatly in producing this body of work. It may not be what many people expected: A prison tell-all, full of the bad things that happen in prison and the tough conditions and circumstances. It IS prison, there is no denying that, but as Anthony (my Son) subtitled this blog, it is MY story, and I chose to use that story to chronicle my thoughts, but also to chronicle the changes my constantly growing relationship with God have wrought. I did what you need to encourage your friend George to do – focus on building that relationship with God and let the relationship lead him to the process of building a plan for the future. This place can defeat a person. This much is true. But each individual makes the decision to ALLOW that to happen. More on this in my letter to George. Diane’s diligent efforts on my behalf have contributed greatly to my ability to believe in the plan God has for my future. You have exhibited “Diane-like” qualities. I think George is very lucky. Not as lucky as me, of course! 😉
  • Inmates are allowed to bring in a Bible if they self-surrender, but I do not know the rules regarding hardback editions. Leather and paperback editions may be brought in or mailed from home. All hardback books of any kind must come from the publisher. If a Bible is not brought in, arrange to have one mailed in as soon as possible after arrival. I suggest a “One Year” Bible in the translation of your choice, and an accompanying “Life Application” Study Bible in the same translation.
  • Pick up a couple of devotional books to have ready to send in to your family member or friend as soon as they have arrived at their destination. “MY Utmost For His Highest”, Streams In The Dessert” are two wonderful sources of guidance, inspiration, and food for thought that have proven valuable to many people for decades. My own recently published collection of daily thoughts meditations, “TODAY IS….A Gift From God” is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HKKL1RE. (Please do not think this is a shamelessly self-serving promotion. I am confident the messages God helped me to write will add something to each day for George and anyone else who purchases it.) Also, do not think that all three would be too many, as that is not the case. I read 6 different daily devotionals (including my own), and each one provides me with something useful to help me make the most of each day.
  • In all that you do, try to remember that nothing is forever. It is very difficult for many individuals to see their way through to the light that shines at the end of the tunnel (no matter HOW long the tunnel may be there is always light there). We may have a tendency to be full of self-pity at times. Be patient with us, but do not allow us to wallow in it.
  • Most important of all, support, encourage, and help your ‘inmate’ to make God the focus of their life. Many may have Him as a PART of their life, but that is not good enough. He must BE their life. Everything else must flow from that relationship; everything else is a part of our lives, but NOT God. There are many here who would disagree with me, but all I can do is try to impress upon people the amazing things He has done for me, and continues to do. The relationship He has built with me sustains me, and provides me with the Hope I need to have confidence in the future. I am not unique, or special. What He does for me, He will do for all who ask. This is not as difficult as we make it. It is unfortunate we allow it to appear that way.

May God bless you, Judy for reaching out on George’s behalf. I hope this information, and what follows for George, is helpful.

And now for George himself:


Dear George,

Your friend, Judy, wrote to me and asked me to help you. This letter represents that attempt. I pray it helps a little.

When you pull up in the parking lot on the day you are to surrender here at Oakdale, you will be filled with a variety of emotions. The razor-wire topped fence surrounding the compound can be quite intimidating to those not accustomed to seeing it. You will park in the visitor’s section and will reluctantly walk to the entrance. Walk confidently through the front door with your Bible in your hand, and God in your heart. The person sitting at the front desk will take it from there. Have the person dropping you off stay there until you are taken into the prison itself and have changed out of your street clothes. They will give you a bag to put your clothes in and they will give it to that individual. Leave your wallet with that person. Try to get your driver’s license renewed before you come in and leave it with someone out there. If it is valid when you leave that is one less thing to concern yourself.

This word will be easier for me to type than for you to put into practice as you find yourself totally under the control of strangers: RELAX. Everything you will experience from this point forward will be new to you, but you will come to no harm. You will be ‘processed in’ through R&D, receive your PPD (TB Test), and escorted to the S.H.U., which is the Special Housing Unit. It is also where they segregate self-surrenders until their PPD is read. Personally, I think it goes beyond that and is intended to let you know where you will go if you misbehave. It is not comfortable, but it IS temporary. 5 days for me, but I have known others who were in there longer. I didn’t like it, and have never visited again.

Again, just relax. Pray, read your bible, ask for books (You may or may not be successful getting them. It depends on who is working. I believe being polite and respectful helps. I read 3 in 5 days, but they were not anything I would have selected in the library. Still, I didn’t know I could bring in a Bible, so I did not have one to read. I would have read a milk carton.)

I spent 25 years in the restaurant business, and many of them were spent training new managers. One of the first lessons I tried to instill in them was this: From the moment we walk in the building, every action we take is geared towards leaving. This simply meant that we worked throughout the day and didn’t save things until the last moment. Going home was our goal. We tried to enjoy our job but leaving was the ultimate objective. Unlocking the door was simply the first step taken towards locking it at the end of the day.

Prison is no different. Focus on leaving and work toward that goal from the moment you enter. Enter with a positive attitude and you will stand a better chance of maintaining it once you are here. I chose God as the source of my strength, courage, and desire to improve myself. There are other choices one can make. I offer Him as the best one and no person on the face of the earth can tell me otherwise.

In the S.H.U. you will eat, read, and sleep. That’s pretty much it. You and your ‘cellie’ will take turns using the facilities. Privacy is, for the most part, gone, at least in the S.H.U., and to a lesser degree in the housing units. The degree of relative privacy you have depends on whether you are designated to a unit with 6 man cells, or 2 man cells. I am in Allen 1 and I have been grateful to God every day for my 2 man cell.

When you are released from the S.H.U. you will no doubt experience a second round of angst as you make your way through the compound to your housing unit. Being released from the ‘hole’, you will likely get out during a time when other inmates are moving around as well, instead of just after 4 PM count, which is the norm. The ones you pass and the ones you see in the housing unit will all look at you. It’s not you, personally. New people are interesting. People recognize individuals from other places, from home….it is just plain odd. Just ignore them and head for whatever room/bed is designated for you. If you happen to be designated to Allen 1, seek out Phillip in 132, or Brandon in 127. Given you have a few weeks to surrender, plus the time you will be in the S.H.U., I doubt I will still be here, but you can stop in 208 and say hello to my ‘cellie’, Pete. If you are assigned to any other unit, find out when you can go to the chapel, go there when you can and ask for Phillip, who is one of the orderlies there. From a spiritual standpoint, he can guide you to the programs and offerings that are here. He will also give you a pretty accurate overview of how things work and where things are.

You will adjust, and I can say this because we all do. The individuals who don’t are rare.

I cannot state unequivocally what your prison experience will be like, because it is different for everyone. I do believe that those who are miserable here each day make themselves so. I am thoroughly convinced that each day is a gift from God and we must make a conscious choice to use it to serve Him. In doing that, He will reward us with Hope and will fill us with optimism. Our past is there for us to learn from, but it does not have to deny us our future, although it surely will if we allow it to. I could write on and on about this place, but your attitude and your faith will determine how YOU see it. Perhaps Judy can share some of the other articles I wrote for my blog, such as “With Eyes Wide Open”. Perhaps she will share them all. I hope she shares this letter at least, and that you find it somewhat helpful

I have never found anything extremely negative to write about this place. It is prison, and people have jobs to do. As in any situation in life, not all people are friendly, and some can be particularly difficult, but for the most part, the staff here is made up of everyday people with families to take care of who are doing a job, making a living and getting on with their lives. I have not encountered any who are really hateful. Irritating, yes. Admittedly there are a few of those. My own personal experience has been that if you are respectful, upbeat, clean, personable, and demonstrate a sincere willingness to improve yourself, your interaction with the staff will be minimal, and positive when it does occur. They have plenty of problems to deal with and they really don’t want you to be one of them. Immaturity and irresponsibility are the order of the day for many inmates. Don’t be one of those. I made it a point to not create problems for others, and I have lived a productive four years in a place I would rather not be, but where I allowed God free reign to do His work. He has done a great job, I think. Let Him work on you.

The institution itself is pretty clean and in relatively good repair. The food is better than millions of people eat each day and thanks should be given for it. You will be safe and there are ways to report those who would cause you to think otherwise. Look to inmates who look to the future and are not defeated by this experience. Get involved with those who are working to change themselves, and maybe you will be able to help change others.

My words may be woefully inadequate, but I think I have done about all I can for you here. I wish you the best of luck and will pray for you. There are plenty of decent people in here, not the least of which are the ones I mentioned. I am going to miss many of them when I leave. Perhaps Judy can email me at TodayIsAGift52014@gmail.com and let me know how you are doing.

God’s peace to you, George.

Best wishes,

Tony Casson




Dear Mom,

It has been some time since I last wrote you. For this I apologize, but letters to you are not simple things. Bringing you to the forefront of my thoughts like this always carries with it a certain amount of personal discomfort that must be dealt with. Even though I do think of you often, the more focused effort of putting pen to paper always causes me to reflect in greater detail on your life, and it is impossible for me to do that without also considering the pain and suffering I contributed TO that life.

I am certain you are overjoyed to see the person God has shown me I am capable of being begin to emerge. My knowledge of the depth of love you had for your children and your capacity for kindness to every single person you ever met easily overcomes any misguided fear I might have that you would harbor any ill-will or resentment toward me for the way I lived my life or for the sleepless nights, heartache, and tears I caused you to suffer. Still, I am uncomfortable writing letters to you on a small metal desk in a cold, unfriendly cell, located in a prison where I was placed for a crime that should never have occurred in the first place.

Had I thought about you in the past as much as I do now, and in the same manner, I would never have allowed myself to stop caring about the condition of my soul to the degree I did. Had I thought of you more, I would have seen that your ability to love and to smile came from your relationship with God. I would have been able to reason that your unselfish, kind and compassionate attitude also came from Him, and perhaps I would have looked to God long ago and avoided that final turn onto the road which almost led me to self-destruction.

Be that as it may, I know these things now, Mom, and I just want to say, “Thank you.” You see, I have also come to understand that God did exactly as you had prayed for Him to do for so many years, although perhaps not in the time-frame you might have preferred. His reasons for waiting until I was almost drained of life before He opened my eyes and allowed me to see what I needed to do in order to receive His help are very clear to me now. God wanted me to arrive at the point where I completely and totally hated the evil I had allowed to control my life. He waited for me to become that which I needed to learn to despise. When I struck out at myself in rage, He allowed me to come very close to achieving my objective of killing the one person who was causing me so much pain before He let me see those precious words that brought Him to my rescue: “God, please forgive me.” In His infinite wisdom, He knew I needed to see for myself how quickly He comes to those who call Him in order that I would know it was HE who saved me. Once I gave up on myself and put my Hope in Him, He knew I would then change the course of my life and decide to live to show others that THEIR Hope lies in Him as well.

So again, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for your prayers on my behalf, and for never giving up Hope.”

The One who gave you the ability to give ME my life, stood by and suffered great pain watching me struggle with myself. How it must have hurt Him as He watched me try desperately to kill the evil within myself. I believe you stood with Him at that lowest point in my life here on earth, tearfully crying to Him, “Father, save my son! Please, save my son!”

In spite of His own great personal pain, He would have placed His arms around you and quietly said, “Be patient, my child, his suffering is almost over.” Despite that reassurance from God Himself, I can only imagine the panic you must have felt as you watched me slipping closer and closer to death. You knew we would never see each other again unless I gave up and finally opened my mouth to ask God for His help. You knew that unless I asked for His forgiveness, I would be lost for all of eternity to the evil I had allowed to consume me, and which I was trying to eliminate by killing myself.

They say the pain of childbirth is indescribably, excruciatingly, blindingly intense, but how much more so the pain must be to watch a child who is about to pass through the gates of Hell. I cannot help but think of Ryan Loskarn’s parents and the pain they must live with on a daily basis following his suicide.* Those of us who attempt it or who succeed at ending our lives are not selfish, contrary to what many people think and despite the fact we are definitely not thinking of others at that moment. Those who would disagree fail to grasp the obvious: We are not thinking of ourselves either. We are simply trying to kill the pain that we have allowed to consume us by not turning to God for the comfort and strength we need to overcome that pain.

Having been fortunate enough to have been saved from myself by God, Ryan’s death brought home to me the truth of the devastating blow that would have been dealt to those I would have left behind. Even though we can grow to hate something we have allowed to grow within us, there are those who love us in spite of those things who deserve the opportunity to help us: Our Mothers and Fathers; our children; our siblings and our friends. Foremost among those who love us and wants to help us is God. I shudder to think of how my own story almost ended. I am so very, very grateful to God for saving me, and I pray that He provides some form of comfort to those who witnessed the tragic ending to Ryan’s story and will live the rest of their lives with those things they loved about him absent from their lives.

Are children worth all the trouble they cause, Mom?  Are we really worth the tears, the pain, the frustration, and the worry? Can we ever make up for the sleepless nights we have caused? For the anger our actions give rise to? Can we possibly make up for the things we have said and done in the thoughtlessness of our youth? Are we worth the pain we inflict on those around us when we act in self-destructive ways, foolishly thinking our lives are the only ones affected by our actions?

God thinks so, and I know you always did too, Mom. You would never even consider giving up on one of your children; not for a moment would you withdraw what you could always give to each one in equal measure: Your love, and your prayers. And that love and those prayers paid off, don’t you think? After all, hasn’t our great God done some pretty amazing work within the heart and mind of THIS child? For four years**, He has patiently directed, guided, corrected, counseled, consoled, taught, loved, and inspired me. For four years, He has helped me to find self-forgiveness for allowing myself to become someone I did not know and could not love. For four years He has shown me I can help myself by reaching out to others to try to help THEM. For four years He has pointed me in the direction He has wanted me to go, and for four years He has said to me, “THIS is who I want you to be!”

And now, after those four years, I am prepared to leave this place. After those four years, I am eager to show the world what God will lovingly do for us when we give Him our lives: He gives them back to us. He makes us NEW.

God HAS given me my life back, Mom. In gratefully accepting it from Him, I have looked to Him and said, “I want to live it for you, but I need you to show me how.” In response, He has shown me He has a plan for me. It is a plan for a future full of Hope. It is a plan of service to Him by doing something I was never capable of doing before: Looking out for other people. I am eager to leave this place and continue to work for the future God has planned for me. I say ‘continue’ to work on the plan, because I have been working on God’s plan for the future since the day I walked through the doors that locked behind me 4 years ago.

Soon I will be rejoining the society I was removed from as a result of my actions. Soon I will walk amongst ‘decent’ people, many of whom will shy away from me when they learn of my past. While trying to move forward, there will always be those who will want to point behind me and ask, “How could you?”

How could I? A fair question, indeed.

Recently, I was asked that question by someone you know, Mom, and since there are others who seek to make sense of the senseless, I have decided to respond to that request here.

There are two parts to the answer. The first is quite complex and is one I addressed in an article posted in these pages on April 18, 2013. That article was titled ‘unspoken‘, and it contained a ‘speech’ that I would give to young people of high school age, if I were allowed to do so. In that ‘speech’, I did my best to retrace the footsteps which brought me to this prison. The first of those footsteps was taken when I was quite young. After reading the rest of this article, I urge those who have not done so to go back and take the time to read ‘unspoken’.

I will offer the second part of my answer knowing ahead of time that there will be many who will not be satisfied with the answer’s simplicity. I will pray people will consider what I say not only in the context of the possession of child pornography charge which brought me to this place I am about to leave, but in the much larger context of the problems which exist in all of our lives, and in the world as a whole.

I have learned, Mom, that we become capable of behavior that is beneath us as children of God when we fail to follow the lessons taught by Jesus Christ. These lessons are quite simple and can be found in the Holy Bible, of course. Granted, the Bible itself appears to be a very complex book. Indeed, there is a tremendous amount of complexity available to keep thousands upon thousands of theologians and biblical scholars busy, but for the rest of us, the Bible can be viewed in a very simple manner: It is a journey taking us from the perfect beginning of the world, to the perfection of its end. Along the way, we are made privy to those places where mankind has failed. We are shown how we have failed God; how we have failed each other; and we are shown how God offered us salvation by sending His only begotten Son to die on the cross for us and wash away our sins with His blood. The death of Jesus gave us all Hope for a perfect ending to our lives here on earth, but it was Christ’s LIFE that demonstrated how we are to act while we are alive.

The Pharisees were one of two major religious groups during the time of Christ. While they did believe in the resurrection of the body and eternal life, they disregarded God’s message of grace and mercy while believing that salvation came through observance to the law and NOT through the forgiveness of sin. The message Christ brought with Him contradicted the Pharisees, so they set out to discredit Him in any way they could because they did not believe – or did not WANT to believe – He was the long-awaited Messiah.  Obedience to God IS important, as Jesus teaches us time and time again. One such time was when the Pharisees tried to trap Him by asking what the most important commandment was in the Law of Moses. Christ’s answer to the Pharisees forms the basis for my answer to the question, “How could you?”

“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all of the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.'” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT)

So here is the answer:

When we love God in the manner described by Jesus Christ, we discover the ability to love ourselves, thereby allowing us to love those around us. When we love God, ourselves, and those around us, we are too busy thinking about others in positive ways to ever consider hurting them, or ourselves, in any of the many ways we do when that love is absent.

See, Mom? I told you it was simple.

But how many will actually allow themselves to see the truth residing in that simplicity? Obviously, there is more to the stories of our lives than that, but the reason those stories develop in the complex manner they do begins when God is absent from our lives in the first place. Those who need the whole complicated, detailed story can read the article I mentioned earlier. Actually, I wish everyone WOULD read it, because it demonstrates what happens when we fail to do what Jesus instructed us to do.

The short version is this: I failed to love God, and accept HIS love. Instead, I worshipped the gods of alcohol, drugs, sex, and pornography. Certainly millions of others do the same thing daily, but I offer that fact merely as a very sad commentary on the condition of the world in which we live today. I do not use the behavior of others to make excuses for mine. My own particular failure went an unfortunate and despicable final step beyond what is ‘normal’ and for that I am profoundly sorry. However, had I not taken that FIRST step, I never would have taken the LAST one, and the first step was taken because I didn’t heed the simple instructions of the One who died a horrible death hanging on a cross so I could have free access to God: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind.”

All I can say, Mom, is that something has gone seriously wrong in a society where bad behavior, inappropriateness, immaturity, immorality, self-indulgence and selfishness are proudly displayed in public while the belief in, and love of, God has become something most seem only willing to acknowledge on Sunday, and more out of obligation than any real love FOR God. The one thing we should all hold up for others as the only way to live our lives seems to have become a source of embarrassment for many. We ‘kinda sorta’ want to be seen as believing in God, but not really. We don’t actually want to LIVE the way God wants us to live. Doing that requires too much of a commitment and life today offers too many choices we would NOT be able to make if we made such a commitment to God.

Our government doesn’t help because God is constantly being shoved to the back of the bus in a new twist on segregation in America today. Additionally, the American public seems quite adept at criticizing this nation’s leaders for everything they do except when they provide us with more ways, and more rights, with which to live immoral and indecent lives; lives where our own instant gratification is the goal and easing the pain of those around us is something we are only motivated to do when we can conveniently text a donation after a devastating natural disaster. Indeed, our government actually has become one of the biggest enemies Jesus Christ has ever faced, which is odd for a country founded with religious freedom as one of its cornerstones. For those who are opening their mouths to object, kid yourselves not: the religious freedoms guaranteed in this nation’s Constitution were based more on the way we expressed our belief in Jesus Christ than in our freedom to believe in other gods or nothing at all. This being America, we are all free to believe in what we want to believe, of course, but following the words of Jesus Christ can certainly NOT cause anyone any harm and CAN heal, protect, and propel us to heights of care and concern for others which help to prevent the stories of peoples’ lives from ending in disaster.

It really is just that simple. I’m not sure why we have difficulty accepting simplicity unless it is in the plot lines of the latest reality show. One of the books I read during my time here was written by a professor from Baylor University named Byron Johnson and was titled “More God, Less Crime”. Duh. How much simpler do you want it?

Well, Mom, I think I am about finished here. I have answered the question “How could you?” to the best of my ability. If what has been offered isn’t sufficient, there is little I can do. I have accepted the forgiveness of God, and I have forgiven myself. Additionally, I have paid the price imposed by the justice system of this country. From this point forward, all I can do is try to heed the words of Jesus Christ when he told the woman who had been caught committing adultery, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11 NLT)

Jesus refused to condemn her, and He refuses to condemn me as well. If others choose to condemn me, well, they can explain themselves to God later on. For myself, all I know is God has given me a NEW life, and He shows me daily what to do with it and how to live it. I am proceeding with my eyes on Jesus Christ, and I am very, very grateful.

I love you and I apologize again for not writing sooner. I have some packing to do so I can be ready to leave***. I’ll catch you on the other side, Mom!

No, silly, not in Heaven (at least, not just yet); I meant, on the other side of the prison fence!

May God bless all who have put up with me for these 4 years. The years have meant a lot to me, and I can honestly say I tried to do something positive with them. My prayer is that they meant something to all of you as well. This is NOT the end of these “Chronicles”, by the way. You can’t get rid of me that easily!


(* Ryan Loskarn’s story can be found in earlier articles titled “The Something I Didn’t Do“, and “An Open Letter To The Parents Of Ryan Loskarn“)

(**I self-surrendered on April 1, 2010)

(***I will be released on May 20, 2014)

Please check out the print version of my book, “TODAY IS… A Gift From God” at (https://www.createspace.com/4718409 ). The writing of it helped me, and I pray the reading of it can do the same for you. If you have a loved one in prison, please send them a copy. It just might make a difference.


“But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in Heaven.” Matthew 10:33 NLT

“Always do right. This will gratify some and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain

To whom it may concern:

Contrary to what your editorial of Monday, February 24 claimed, Iowa State University did NOT properly handle “The Bible Complaint”, and I would like to explain why I believe this to be true.

Allow me to provide a little background for those who are not familiar with the story itself: There are hotel rooms located in the Iowa State University Memorial Union, and in those rooms, as in tens of thousands of hotel and motel rooms throughout the country, “Gideon International” placed copies of the Holy Bible in the drawers of nightstands next to the beds. This is a practice that has gone on for decades and anyone staying in a hotel or motel anywhere in this country would be hard-pressed to say they have not seen a copy of the Bible stamped “Placed By The Gideons” at some point or another. A study done many years ago showed that the Bibles provided by the Gideons were picked up in many instances by individuals who went to hotel rooms intending to commit suicide, and that the decision to end their life was altered as a result of the Bible’s availability. There has never been any ‘contract’ to sign stating occupancy of the room was tied to believing in God, being a Christian, or reading the Bible itself. It was simply provided as an act of service to those travelers who may find some comfort in its presence, and there have undoubtedly been millions who have been happy to see it there. Certainly there have also been millions of individuals who have simply ignored it; just left it untouched in the drawer, or never opened the drawer in the first place. This, too, is an individual choice.

Along comes a group calling itself the “Freedom From Religion Foundation”. Somehow the fact of the Bible’s presence in these rooms rankles them. The group postulates that as ISU is a state-funded institution of higher learning, there should be no display of religion at all since such displays are offensive to those who have no faith at all. The working theory is that simply having a Bible in the drawer so it is available to anyone who might desire to pick it up and read it, is favoring Christianity over all other faiths or over the “Freedom From Religion” belief in nothing at all; that it constitutes some sort of insidious state-sponsored support of Christianity. A continuum of that theory would be that having no Bible creates no such favoritism and promotes no particular belief. Therefore, the group demanded the removal of the offending material, and ISU complied, “to avoid litigation”.

Allow me to point out what should be painfully obvious: Not having any faith at all is a form of belief in and of itself. It is the belief that there IS no God. It is the belief that we are just an evolutionary occurrence or the result of some ‘accident’ of the universe. Nonetheless, it IS a belief, if only a belief in nothing at all. By capitulating to the threats of litigation and removing the ‘offending material’ ISU is, in fact, supporting one belief over another. There can be no other conclusion which can be drawn. You see, removing a donated text in favor of ‘nothing’ now forces UNbelief upon those who DO believe. The acceptance of the ‘nothing’ that this group insists be displayed demonstrates a preference over the ‘something’ the Gideons have placed there. It would be best to leave them displayed side by side, as they already lay in the drawer, and let people choose to pick up the Bible, or pick up the ‘nothing’ lying next to it. Removing my Bible and leaving THEIR ‘nothing’ rankles ME.

The Constitution of the United States of America offers no clearly stated freedom FROM religion, as this group seeks. However the Constitution DOES specifically guarantee the freedom OF religion. Furthermore, although ISU is a state-funded institution, no state funds were used to purchase those Bibles. The hotel, which is open to the public, merely provides the same amenities of thousands of hotels and motels throughout this country.

A book, no matter what the book is, should not create such a stir. Anyone who does not believe the Holy Bible is the Word of God does not have to read it, nor does ISU insist it BE read as a contractual condition of occupying one of its rooms. This is NOT school prayer we are talking about, which required active participation in a publically funded school. Still, it was a shameful moment in American history when the judicial system of this country supported the theory that encouraging children to pray was somehow bad. On the other hand, in this case we are talking about a book which is not in plain view and is simply there for the convenience of those who DO wish to read it. It should be a simple matter to just ignore it if it does not conform to your beliefs. The fact it would create such discomfort to anyone by its mere presence in a drawer in a room is disturbing in and of itself.

It is time for those who believe in God to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!” If we keep allowing those who choose to NOT believe in God to constantly push faith farther and farther from public view, it will be just a matter of time before it is illegal to display a symbol of ANY faith in the window of our home or car, or on a t-shirt or a piece of jewelry. Soon our places of worship – churches, mosques, and synagogues – will be denied the right to display any symbol of their religious faith on the exteriors of those buildings because someone walking by on a public sidewalk or driving by on a public street is offended by the mere sight of the symbol of faith. It is time for those who claim to be ‘experts’ at interpreting the Constitution and what was ‘intended’ by the words written, stop and think for a moment about life in the immediate aftermath of the document’s introduction into the American way of life: Prayer, and the Holy Bible, were everywhere one looked. Faith was a cornerstone of the founding of this country, not freedom FROM faith. Whether or not this country was founded as a Christian nation may be open for debate, but the people of this country’s overwhelming adherence to faith of some sort and use of the Bible in daily life at the time of the writing of the Constitution most certainly is not!

Those individuals who believe in nothing might find something more constructive to do with their time and money if they were to READ the Bible and see what it has to say about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and healing the sick. Perhaps they might see it as a source of guidance they can use to learn tolerance and love for others; to help them express their humanity; to help them find ways to focus on those things we have in common rather than on those things which differentiate us.

I am an inmate in a federal prison and I have learned that the ability to deal with the pain and the problems in my life which predicated the need for me to spend time here lies within the pages of the Holy Bible. I am convinced it can be used as a roadmap to salvation for anyone who is willing to take the time to read it. Lives can be changed for the better through its daily use, and lives can be saved by its wisdom and its Hope. Its use should be advocated and promoted, and attempts to suppress the beauty and value of its message should be fought with all available resources. The world needs less ‘nothing’ and more of what the pages of the Bible offer.

I read the Des Moines Register on a regular basis, courtesy of someone I know who is from there. I think it is a great newspaper and I have written with regularity, here in “The Oakdale Chronicles”, about articles and opinions I have seen there. I don’t often feel compelled to offer an opinion contrary to that of the editorial staff, but in this case I must. With all due respect, your opinion needs to be re-examined. Iowa State University and the Des Moines Register took the easy way out, and that is not always the right way.

Look in the Bible. That lesson is in there.

I thank everyone for their time. Be sure to check out my book of daily devotions, “TODAY IS… A Gift From God” at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HKKL1RE

And may God bless you all.

Tony Casson
91153-004 A-1
Box 5000
Federal Correctional Center
Oakdale, LA  71463