A Father’s Love

The following is the testimony of an incarcerated man inside the facility that I serve at.

My grandfather killed himself when my father was 12 years old. Grandpa was a bad alcoholic and had been raging around the house, threatening my Grandma and my dad. My dad talked him down, do Grandpa took my dad into the bedroom and shot himself in front of him. My dad never really recovered. Years of jail and prison, abuse drug abuse and alcoholism, and severe depression.  I don’t thing I ever saw my dad when he was not high. When my dad was not in jail, he was often absent, sometimes disappearing for months or even years at a time. No-one knew where he was or what he was doing. I remember driving around town with my Grandma, maybe going to the Wal-Mart or Kentucky Fried Chicken, and just staring out the car window, desperately looking for my dad. Sometimes I thought I saw his car and I would beg my Grandma to stop and see. She never did. Years of abuse and stealing had numbed her. She loved my dad and never turned him away when he came back, but she couldn’t bring herself to look for him.

When I was sixteen, I got hooked on drugs and soon had to start selling to maintain my habit. Drug-dealing is not a safe profession, and so soon after my beginning, I got robbed and fell into debt with my suppliers. A few months later, and I would be arrested for the murder of a drug dealer. My dad came to see me in the juvenile detention center. He promised me he would stick with me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had a father. He had been through this; he could guide me, protect me.  I never saw him again.  He killed himself a few days after Christmas.

It is hard to grow up without a father, but even more-so when where you are growing up is prison. When I first got here, I felt so alone. So abandoned. My mother and grandmothers were still with me, but there was an emptiness, a hole, where my father should have been. I had no man to teach me to be a man. About a year after coming to prison, I signed up for a Christian religious retreat. They were feeding nice food, stuff you couldn’t get in prison, so I thought it would make a nice weekend. It changed my life.

“I am not alone.” “I am forgiven.” “The Father loves me.” I had never heard these things before. It touched me so deeply to know that there was a Father, a heavenly Father, who wanted me. Someone who would never turn their back on me, or leave me. That weekend I wrote my mother. “Mom, I love you so much! You have always stood by me. You never left me or abandoned me. You are the best mother in the world. And I want you to know…now I have a Father, too!”

That weekend changed my life. My Father changed my life. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for the good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. Some of the things in my life have been so bad, have seemed so terrible, but my Father in heaven has always been looking out for me, making sure it all turned out for my good. He had a plan for me all along. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. Thank you, Father.

Praying For Peace And Safety

And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. Jeremiah 29:7

This verse is part of a letter written by the Prophet Jeremiah to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. He directs them to seek the good of the country where they were captives and to pray for it.

I have used this verse on several occasions at prison to encourage the men there to seek the good for the prison and to pray for peace therein. There are hard days inside of prison and I would like to request all of you to join us in this same prayer! Pray for peace the cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension. Pray for the safety of all the inmates and officers at the prison! Pray that ultimately God would be glorified and men’s lives would be changed for eternity.

Episode 024: Rahje Spon, Founder of Tru Thought Shares The Importance Of Cognitive Curriculum In Prison

In this twenty-fourth episode of the Detention to Redemption podcast, I interview Rahje Spon, from Roscoe, Illinois. Rahje is the founder of Truthought.com a Pro-Social Influence Company dedicated to encouraging development and improvement in all aspects of society. They offer an evidence-based process designed to identify both positive and negative patterns in people’s thoughts and behaviors and guide them in developing personalized plans to improve their life. Truthought has developed the curriculum “Charting A New Course” that I currently use inside of prison and have found extremely effective!

Rahje shares with us how that this curriculum was informed by the clinical research/treatment study conducted by psychologist Stanton Samenow, who has written several books on the subject of criminal thinking, most notably, “The Criminal Personality (3 vol.),” and “Inside the Criminal Mind.” After decades of research, Samenow has identified in excess of 50 thinking patterns that are prevalent among criminals, which Truthought has incorporated into nine specific categories designated as “thinking barriers.”

You the listener will be encouraged by Rahje’s passion for this curriculum and how it has impacted many that are incarcerated! I most definitely would recommend this curriculum and I encourage you to check it out at the link below. Thank you for listening to this podcast and make sure you share it this with those whom may be encouraged and challenged by it.

SHOW NOTES

Truthought

Charting A New Course

Kingdom Thinking

Email: rahje@truthought.com

If you have been touched by the music that is shared during this podcast you can buy an album that was written and recorded inside of prison at “Another Captive Free.”

A Prayer Of Service

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

This is my prayer this week as I continue to lead out in ministry! I want to encourage you to join me in this prayer! This should be our goal, to be used by God to bring peace to others. Jesus said this would be a common characteristic of God’s children. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” This week as we go forth as God’s children let us seek to bring peace and introduce Jesus to the troubled soul!

Honoring God

The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:10-11



I have heard the term “giving God honor” a lot recently, but what does it mean? When one looks around at the church today, one can get a mixed message on what honor actually means! In a culture of comfort, entitlement and self-indulgence, the lives of believers in Jesus Christ should declare a very different message. I don’t mean only what we say and sing on Sunday morning, but the very testimony of our living sacrifices, our whole bodies—flesh and spirit—presented to God as holy and acceptable (Rom. 12:1). When we honor God, we are demonstrating the high regard we have for Him. We are reflecting His glory back as praise and worship.

The Bible shows many ways to honor and glorify God. We show Him high regard and reflect His character by being sexually pure (1 Corinthians 6:18–20), by giving of our income (Proverbs 3:9), and by living lives devoted to Him (Romans 14:8). It is not enough to merely honor Him outwardly. God desires honor that comes from our hearts. “The Lord says, ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’” (Isaiah 29:13). We ought to delight in the Lord, seek Him in everything we do and make choices that reflect the place He has in our hearts, regardless of the cost or what others think of us! When we honor God in this way we bring Him the greatest honor.

When you consider the religious freedom we enjoy in America, it is difficult to imagine many instances where following God would be costly, especially compared to some places in the world where such a choice can cost you your life or family. But don’t be mistaken we are faced with choices each day and our decisions reflect on who we are honoring. Refusing to cave in to pressure at work could cost you a promotion. Choosing not to join in on some activities could cost you socially. Sharing your faith in Christ may invite some strong opposition from others. Distancing yourself from gossip may cost you friendships. Choosing not to push the envelope on tax deductions will cost you financially. We are faced with these and many other choices daily that cost us! But in the end there are no real sacrifices because nothing is better than honoring and obeying God. The Lord rewards those who choose to honor Him and follow His ways. At the time such choices can be painful, but faith enables us to push through these uncomfortable situations. Making choices that honor God is one way our faith is developed. If all our choices were easy, our faith would be weak. We can be grateful that God gives us opportunities to face opposition because few meaningful things in life come without a cost. So Christian, regardless of the cost of the decision you are facing, honor God! Don’t make decisions because they are easy, make decisions that are right in the eyes of God! This is what it means to give God honor!

Pray For All The Faith Based Honor Dorms

Mark 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Noticing our inability to accomplish anything good outside of God is key to surrendering our lives and hearts to Him. Prayer is surrender—surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boat hook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.

With that in mind I would like to ask to for all the residents in the Faith Based Honor Dorm this month. Pray that their hearts would be opened to the Gospel and their lives would be surrendered to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pray that they would seek to live peacefully among each other and be respectful to those in leadership positions. Pray for the men that are in leadership inside the dorm to ensure that the program runs smoothly. Pray for the chaplains that lead the program and that their eyes would remain on the goal of seeing lives changed for eternity. Pray ultimately for Gods will to be done, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Episode 023: Erik Vecere, VP of National Fatherhood Initiative Shares About The InsideOut Dad Curriculum

In this twenty-third episode of the Detention to Redemption podcast, I interview Erik Vecere, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Erik currently serves as Vice President of Program Support at the National Fatherhood Initiative. It is the nation’s leading non-profit organization working to end father absence and its mission is to transform organizations and communities by equipping them to intentionally and proactively engage fathers in their children’s lives. National Fatherhood Initiative’s vision is for every child to grow up with an involved, responsible, and committed father. They provide tons of great curriculum but the one we spend our time talking about in this podcast is “InsideOut Dad.”

Erik shares with us that “InsideOut Dad” is the nation’s only evidence-based fatherhood
program that is developed specifically for incarcerated fathers and has been implemented in more than 25 state Departments of Corrections facilities and countless Federal of Bureau of Prison locations. He goes on to share with us his passion for this curriculum and why this curriculum has such an impact in father to family relationships. How it helps to improve behavior while still incarcerated and to break the cycle of recidivism by developing pro-fathering attitudes, knowledge, and skills, along with strategies to prepare fathers for release.

This is one of my favorite curriculums that I use inside of prison and I believe it gives incarcerated fathers the tools they need to become more involved, responsible, and committed in the lives of their children — providing increased motivation for them to get out and stay out.

The podcast is ended with the testimony of a formerly incarcerated man, Troy Gaines and his young son named Xavier. Troy shares in the audio how that the programs offered by National Fatherhood Initiative impacted his life and because of that his son was able to get his father back!

SHOW NOTES

National Fatherhood Initiative

Email: evecere@fatherhood.org

InsideOut Dad Curriculum

Featured Book “One Way Out”

“One Way Oone-way-out_09677bb7f5ca14ed80a2fda78ccbfc6eut” is a small book that was written by a prison Chaplain and offers hope and a way out of the darkness of prison. That way out is clearly presented as Jesus. The author begins in the introduction with a true incident that happened in October of 1987 where Americans across our land watched in horror as men and women tried to rescue an eighteen month-old toddler who had fallen twenty-two feet into a dry well. The author explained that the rescue attempt was treacherous with many questions about the likely hood of a safe rescue but at the end of the day there was only one way out regardless of the risks. The challenge that is given in the introduction is that while you may never have been wedged in a twenty-two-foot hole you know all too well what it feels like to be trapped and the only way out is Jesus. No matter how far down we may have fallen or how deeply entrenched we may be there is always hope.

The book only has three chapters and the first one begins with the authors own story of addiction and hardship.  It was while he was struggling through those dark times in 1997 that he was made aware of just how real God was and repented while attending revival meetings in Pensacola, Florida. The author closes the chapter challenging the reader with, “If He can do it for me, He can do it for you!

The rest of the book provides the reader with an opportunity to leave the despair of prison darkness and to find hope in his only way out, Jesus! In the conclusion the author writes, “It is one of my deepest desires that you are ready and count yourself as one who has found the one and only way out. You don’t have as much time as you might think. Time is wasting…tick, tock, tick, tock. This is a great read that is written with a focus on inmates and I believe would be a valuable resource to give to those in prison.  Make sure you get your free download by clicking on the books cover in this post!

Pray For The Church Behind Bars

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:4-5

Let’s pray this week for the Church that is incarcerated to grow in godly attributes. That they would seek out and abides the true vine, Jesus. Pray that they would respect the authority of the prison staff and be able to control their temper. Pray that their lives would exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, forbearing with one another, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Pray that they would experience genuine remorse for the harm they have caused their victims, and that they would seek to make amends as appropriate and possible.

Mistaken Identity

thoughtspicture640In the world around us many live with a mistaken identity. When I write of mistaken identity I am referring to the way we view ourselves. I have found that it seems easy for us to persuade ourselves that we are deserving and better then we really are. Meaning that we fail to acknowledge our weaknesses and tend to undermine any evidence of our guilt as sinners. My days that I spend ministering inside of prison I often am approached by men who claim innocence of their convictions. On one occasion recently I asked one of these men why he thought God would allow him to be placed inside of prison if he was so innocent? His answer to me was that God allowed him to be locked up because he must’ve not had known his true intentions of why he did what had done. Sadly this man was serving a life sentence on a murder but somehow even though someone had been killed he was innocent. The person whom I was talking to was asserting that God our Creator must have incorrectly assumed something of him that wasn’t true.

Friends, I believe knowing who we are, truly is important. But don’t be mistaken, our Father and Creator in heaven knows more about your identity then you do! Your personal identity no matter how you would like to distort it, it will never undermine the fact that you are sinful. When we embrace our sinful nature, it means we’ve looked at ourselves long enough to know we can’t make it without looking to another. Embracing doesn’t mean that we obsess over the evil that we have done but rather look at who we really are and how badly that we need God.

Tim Keller once said, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” What a paradox this is — and one, it seems, that very few people can comfortably embrace. I have witnessed many respond to the simultaneous realities of their sinful corruption and God’s great love in one of two erroneous ways. They either minimize the extent of their sinfulness or refuse to believe God could possibly love them. The former deny the depth of their wretchedness and embrace desires they should mortify; the latter compulsively obsess over the evil within them and retreat into self-hatred.

Friends we need to humbly embrace that we really are as corrupt, distorted, and sin-ravaged as God says we are. It is only through this humble reality that we can understand God’s love towards us. A love that is not thwarted by our evil condition but so high and fierce that he, at great cost to himself, provided a means for us as wretched, guilty sinners to be reconciled to him. The bloody Cross of Jesus demonstrates both the extensiveness of our corruption and the enormity of God’s affection for us — and the only proper way for us to respond is in humble belief.

Pray for me as I challenge men daily inside of prison to not make excuses for where they are at but embrace that they are there because of their sin and that the only way their lives and identities can change is if they humbly submit to the one and only Savior Jesus Christ!