Adrian is at Mule Creek State Prison.
His address is:
Adrian Torres T30064
P.O. Box 409089
Ione, CA 95640
Adrian covets your letters, and please continue to pray for him as he serves the Lord in a California State Prison.
Adrian is at Mule Creek State Prison.
His address is:
Adrian Torres T30064
P.O. Box 409089
Ione, CA 95640
Adrian covets your letters, and please continue to pray for him as he serves the Lord in a California State Prison.
“I’m not into the ‘Fluffy Faith Game’,” the 6-foot, 220-pound, all-muscle, tattoo-covered man proclaimed. I had been sitting at the tables, right outside the medical clinic, waiting for my buddy Steve to get off work so we could go to lunch. As I sat there I noticed an inmate working out and making really loud grunting noises with every pullup.
I recognized the man from a Sunday chapel service he briefly attended. I’m not sure why I felt this gave me permission to go speak to him about his faith. I must have been feeling brave because I don’t approach scary men, especially scary men who make violent noises during a workout.
I made my way right next to him, at the second pullup bar. I grabbed onto the bar above me and pretended to get a feel for the grip. I looked over to the beast next to me and gave him my manliest, “S’up?”
He looked over at me with testosterone-filled eyes, with a look that yelled, “Why is this chubby bald man bugging me?” but lucky for me he just replied with a “S’up?”
Again, I don’t know why I took his answer as an invitation to continue, but I did. “Didn’t I see you in the chapel a few weeks back?”
With an intense gaze, he answered, “Yup,” and grabbed the bar above him, did a quick ten pullups, grunting with each one. “I’m not into the ‘Fluffy Faith Game’,” he said. “I left because my buddy who took me kept saying I must just have faith to seek God. I’m not down with all that girly faith stuff.”
I was caught off-guard by his answer. I had never heard seeking God described this way, but I’m quick on the draw and God never fails to bring something to my mind in these situations that I heard or read in the past. “You know, in the book of Matthew it says, ‘Seek and you will find.’ The interesting thing is that the meaning of the word ‘seek’, in the original language, means a heavy, violent action.”
He looked at me and yes, grunted.
“I think,” I continued, “that the word ‘seek’ means to break ground, like with a plow; to move forward as the plow violently rips through the ground.”
“I like that,” the beast said. I’m not sure, but I think I even saw a grin.
“So we should not be content to just seek God passively,” I said, as I hurriedly thought how to answer his “Fluffy Faith” issue. “Just gently seeking will only lead me to nice, fluffy, tickle-my-ears faith. If I desire a deep, rich faith I must violently seek God by breaking up ground. I must plow through fluffy sermons; through books with little substance; through holier-than-thou Christianese speaking. And yes, I must open my Bible and dig – dig – dig into God’s Word. Only then will I find what I’ve been seeking.”
He shook his head and grunted, just once.
“The greatest thing is that once Yeshua – Jesus Christ – is in me, all that broken ground is a perfect place for His Word to take root and grow.”
He grunted a few more times and did another quick set of ten pullups. “I like it,” he said as he was done. “I’ll see you on Sunday.”
I pounded my chest a few times in acknowledgment (yeah, don’t ask, it was the manliest thing I could think of doing since I’m incapable of doing a pullup) and began to walk back toward the clinic. Steve was now out, one hand above his brow to shield his eyes from the sun, looking around for me. I waved at him and he waved back. Just at that moment I realized I had forgotten to tell the scary beast-man something. I turned and shouted, “I’m Adrian! My name is Adrian!”
The great news is that Grunt now regularly attends Sunday services, and in a few weeks he will be baptized by our chaplain.
How are you seeking God? Are you just skimming along the surface of God’s Word? Are you taking a firm grip of His grace? Are you bathing in His love or are you content with a sprinkle? We must plow forward, carefully and diligently turning over the surface of the nutrient-poor surface of the ground of our lives, laid there by shallow preachers and teachers.
Let’s not be content with the fluff we are fed; let’s plow forward, digging deeper into the pure, nutrient-rich soil of God’s Word.
….no grunting from me, just seeking…..
Adrian G. Torres
“Hey fool! Am I seeing things or did the price of coffee go up $2?” the tattoo-covered man asked his friend as they stood in line at the prison canteen window. Prison canteens, because they have no competition, can set prices at levels that are, pardon the pun, downright criminal.
The high prices set by the canteen managers allow them to fill their coffers to the top, but hurt the inmates, because on average an inmate earns 9¢ an hour at his prison-assigned job. Having to pay inflated prices comes with a consequence. Choosing what to buy is scrutinized to the very last penny. High prices must be paid for essentials like soap, toothpaste, or deodorant; but if any money is left over we must consider the cost. The worth of any product is weighed against our thin budgets. Like all smart consumers we are only willing to pay what we think an item is worth, and if we pay more than that, we have just raised its value.
The man covered in tattoos was not hallucinating; the price of coffee was now $2 higher and no explanation was given. My peer now had a choice: to purchase or not.
His coffee dilemma made me think about my own worth. According to society-at-large I am worth less than a pile of dung. The prison system sees me as a barcode in a human warehouse. To most officers I’m worth a paycheck. But to God, I’m worth infinitely more.
For whatever reason, God decided that I was worth the blood and life of His own Son; worth the flesh-ripping lashes; worth the agony on the cross to His very last breath.
Although I don’t merit this over-inflated value, Father chose to place me in the category of “worthy” because of His love. It was His choice, His action, the blood of His Son, by which my worth is measured, paid in full upon Calvary’s cross.
My tattooed peer decided it was worth buying the coffee, and not just him but many others who purchased at the inflated price. Now the coffee has a new, accepted, higher price.
What’s your worth? If you are saved – born again and bought by Yeshua’s blood – your worth cannot be measured. You are priceless. If Christ is not in you, please know that His death was for you, too. Go to Him on your knees and beg for His mercy, and see your price go sky-high.
…….thirsty for an Iced Mocha…….
Adrian G. Torres
Clumsy and in a rush, my neighbor dipped a tea bag into a lukewarm cup of water. He had been mesmerized by a trashy TV talk show, and had forgotten to plug in his hot pot. He now had only two minutes before the building doors opened and he would have to make his way out of his cell. It goes without saying that lukewarm water and a quick dip of a tea bag does not make good tea. Without hot water, and time for the tea bag to “steep” – without time and patience – the resulting beverage will be a counterfeit.
Time and time again I see this impatience repeated in our church behind the walls. No – not with tea – with brothers’ Christian walks and maturity. A great majority of believers behind the walls are in a huge rush to see or experience positive changes in their current lives. When they don’t see, or experience, those changes, they become bitter and give up on God. Some even blame God!
God, however, is not to blame. These believers get too distracted with the evil and dark, trashy environment prison offers. Their focus and attention is given to everything except God’s Word and prayer. They take a quick “dip” into a lukewarm devotional and convince themselves it is enough. They attend Sunday’s chapel service and mistakenly believe that they have been infused with enough “God.” But when true, lasting change doesn’t happen, the bitter taste of failure cannot satisfy their dry and thirsty souls.
God’s love, and thorough transformation of His own, is not like any sugar-filled instant tea. It’s like a rich, soothing tea for which we must patiently wait. As we read and study His Word, and spend time in His presence, and in fellowship with others Who worship Him, His pure goodness – with all that entails – will soak and penetrate our sin-focused lives. It will heal our scars; mend our broken hearts. As His goodness is infused into us, our actions and lives begin to change.
So, how is your tea time?
…..thinking of going decaf…….
Adrian G. Torres
“Love is arguably the most powerful word in man’s vocabulary. The feelings that warrant those four letters have given birth to both the most wonderful and most horrific acts that time has ever seen. The very substance of that term is what the empty heart longs to be filled with. In the absence of true love, my friends, one will never know ‘unfeigned happiness’ and without love, an individual is saved from devastating pain. Songs have sung of its sweetness; the pages of books have recorded its essence; movies have re-enacted its magic; poems have whispered its deepest mystery. We can all say the word—for it is not hard to pronounce; you and I may experience it vicariously through the before-mentioned means; but how many of you reading this update can say with confidence, ‘I know what love is?'” (Taken and adapted from Bryan’s sermon on 1 John 4:10, titled, “Learning to Love.”)
“I’m going to present myself to the firing squad tonight,” said I [Bryan], in a moderate and somewhat sarcastic tone. With a puzzled, but serious look on his face, Adrian stepped close to the door, now able to see my otherwise-silhouetted face. Judging by the expression written on his countenance I was sure that he knew exactly what I was talking about, but nonetheless I repeated my earlier statement and clarified it. “I’m going to present myself to the firing squad tonight, and whatever happens happens. I know that Steve and Bill (names have been changed to respect privacy) have something against me and I’m going to come out tonight, approach them, and let them fire away.” Adrian was taking all of this in and no doubt turning it over in his mind, when I put a wrench in those brilliant gears of his by asking, “Are you with me?”
Through this very website the Lord has brought a wonderful and caring man of God into my life. Even from the first letter I received I could feel the warmth of his love radiate from each line of his print. As he wrote more and I read more, his compassion became inescapable. He told me of a period in his life when his pastor would take him along on his visitations, training him for the role that he would one day play. As he expressed the turmoil of soul, and the pain in his heart each time a wounded saint would tell of his/her darkest sins, I found myself wanting to feel this very pain. I want a heart that would truly ache over another’s despair; yes, I hunger for a soul so sensitive that it would mourn upon hearing of the distance that the child had run from its Father. I just want to learn to love. So I asked for his prayers in this area.
I made it to the execution site (a dayroom table) first and said to Steve, after shaking his hand, “Brother Steve, I want you to know that if I have done anything to offend you then I apologize, and ask for your forgiveness. But, I also need you to tell me what it is that I have done so that I will not repeat my actions in the future.” Steve went on to explain that he is only worried about looking at himself, and working on those problems. “Whew,” I thought to myself, “that was easy.” So, hoping that my next moment of vulnerability would go the same, I presented to Bill the same statement I had only seconds before said to Steve. However, and much to my disappointment. Bill wasn’t in the mood to look within himself and he began to fire away. In the hail of verbal gunfire Adrian arrived and suggested that we move away from the gathering crowd lest they get hit by a stray bullet.
Allow me to back-up. . .Before I arrived to the execution site, I stood at my cell door, waiting for it to open. Through the cold steel door I monitored the activity at ground zero. My heart was racing much faster than my overweight body could handle. I started to notice that Bryan was going to face the firing squad all by his brave self.
My door started to open—yet it did not open fast enough. As the gears struggled to open the door, I sucked in my gut and managed to squeeze out, hoping to shave a few seconds off my arrival time. As I quickly walked there, I noticed that members of the same political party were starting to gather. Not a good sign. One too many times I had witnessed similar gatherings–ending in a horrible mess. I quickly found an excuse to ask the participating parties for a change of venue. With some hesitation and a few unpleasant looks, I managed to move the royal rumble to another site—the table next to the first.
Bryan and I sat across from each other, as did Steve and Bill from themselves. As I looked into my friend and ministry partner’s eyes, I noticed that he sensed this was not going to start, nor finish, well.
After a few seconds (though it felt more like hours) of cease-fire. Bill shot a warning-shot that grazed Bryan’s ears. I sat quietly observing and counting the ammo fired. Bill had his information all wrong and was angry for no true reason. Bryan gently corrected Bill with facts that could be proven by simply looking at a single sheet of paper that freely hangs in the chapel’s window.
Steve and I were looking at each other eye-to-eye waiting to see who would make the first move. And because of my Simon Peter complex, I jumped in full throttle; Steve is not a man to stay quiet long, so I started asking him questions. One thing lead to another and Steve and I were firing away like madmen.
Bryan and Bill were still sorting fact from fiction, while Steve and I competed to see who had the largest guns. Sixty minutes later, Bryan, holding his wounds close, said he needed to go in and fulfill a prior commitment with his celly. So before he left, Bryan bravely stated that this whole matter was due to wrong facts in their information, and assumptions—the two fuels that flamed the pride within Bill and Steve.
Oh, but the fuel-hungry, fire-monster was not done. Soon after Bryan was secured in his cell, the monster jumped on me like white on rice. For another sixty minutes I received a “Shock-and-Awe” size attack. I had no choice but to dodge and cover.
Holding onto my shattered remains, I quickly visited Bryan’s cell door. I asked him if he would be staying in during tomorrow’s Dayroom time. At first he said no, that he needed to run-off his stress out on the yard. However, as I came a foot closer to his door, Bryan was able to see my wounded spirit and quickly—like the true friend he is—changed his plans and guaranteed me that he would stay in with me.
As I spiritually limped back to my own celly I did not expect what waited for me. Remember that I had asked to move tables due to too many ears listening in? Well, my celly took that very personally, not knowing that I was actually saving him from an ugly—UGLY!—situation.
As the gears of my cell door turned and squealed, I looked at my celly’s face hoping to find some brotherly comfort. What I found was an angry and confused man. Taking the little that he knew about the situation, he used that to fuel his own personal monster against Bryan and me. Catching me caring for my spiritual wounds, I tried my best to smother his fire by explaining the facts, without trying to start gossip. But that only made the situation worse!
At the peak of this small war, my celly put down his firepower and simply shut me out of his sight. Exhausted and stressed I climbed into my bunk and tried to sleep that day away. Eleven and a half hours later, with no sleep, I finally had the opportunity to speak to Bryan.
At Dayroom Bryan and I spoke about the issues and bounced ideas back and forth on how we should properly handle them. Bryan was sick and tired of being sick and tired. His resolve was to excommunicate Bill and Steve and let them drown in their own pride-filled pond. I was suggesting just the opposite: I wanted us to suck it up and forgive them, and simply move on with God’s work. We both had good reasons for our ideas, but we didn’t have the time to come to an agreement.
Days later Bryan and I found ourselves meeting with our Chaplain. We explained—in no detail—our problem and asked for pastoral counsel. The Chaplain stated that we had to forgive and forget. The next day Bryan had the opportunity to do just that. I, on the other hand, could not find the time to do likewise. Being a bit busy and living on the opposite side of the building, I had found it very hard to bump in to Steve and Bill. My part went undone.
Days passed and the Christmas Banquet had arrived. After a great, smooth-running, and glorious event, Bryan and I were feeling the weight slowly come off our shoulders (since we bore the success of this event on our shoulders.) As I became consumed in organizing the return of the men to their cells, I failed to notice that behind the backdrop of a smooth, calm shoreline, Bryan was busy trying to stay afloat in a rip current powered by Bill. With no time to spare, I needed Bryan and Bill to help the cleaning crew out, so I asked them to join me.
Forty-five minutes later, as Bryan, Bill, and I walked back to our housing block, the rip current started its deadly pull again. At first I was only being affected by the movement of the flow. However, Bryan was kicking and waving (spiritually,) trying to escape the trap that was set before him. Seconds before we would depart our separate ways, the rip current grabbed the bottom of my heel and sucked me right in. Bill had thrown me a hook and bait, and I bit on it so hard that it punctured me deeply, ripping every strand of humility that I had.
For the next week, I purposely gave the cold—and rude—shoulder to Bill. I would not speak, touch, or be in the same room with him. I now was the one telling Bryan that we should leave them to drown in their own pride-filled pond. And in turn, Bryan was the one telling me that forgiveness and forgetting was the only way to “love”.
LOVE! What did love have to do with all this? “Love” had been coming out of Bryan’s mouth for a couple of days. He would tell me how he had been working on a sermon based on I John 4:10 and how God was opening his eyes to the true meaning of “love”.
Blah, blah, blah; that is all I heard. Love this, love that…blah, blah. I did not want to hear about his newfound wisdom. No! I wanted war. I wanted revenge. I wanted to win! Little did I know that God was using Bryan to show him and me how a Father spanks His children.
It was Friday and I found myself listening to Bryan’s sermon. The Holy Spirit took hold of those words and spiritually bent me over His knees and spanked my spiritual behind. Every word of “love” that came from Bryan’s mouth was like another solid swat on my behind. As my pride slowly decreased, the guilt quickly increased. As a loving brother and friend, Bryan had tried to warn me that his sermon would be one God wanted me to hear. He tried to prepare me for it…now I see why.
As Bryan closed his sermon and I approached the pulpit to conclude the service, I had to confess to the congregation and ask for forgiveness and prayer. As one of the leaders in the Chapel, I had been acting and behaving like an immature child. Bryan’s sermon—through the guidance of the Holy Spirit—opened my eyes to help me see that I was not being the man and leader God wanted me to be.
Later, I found Bill and surprised him with a. hug and begged for his forgiveness. “Love” sure does help in difficult situations.
“…Love is giving all of yourself to another who doesn’t deserve it, and cannot return it as they currently are. Notice that our verse opens by declaring. This is love; but before it defines its previous statement our love (so called) towards God is disqualified. What this means, gentlemen, is that whatever it is that you are currently doing toward God is not fit to be defined as love. Mind you, that many of us here are putting forth a worthy effort, but when an example must be given; when perfection is paraded; and a model is to be followed; it is God’s love toward us that is presented,” (Taken from Bryan’s sermon on 1 John 4:10, titled, “Learning to Love.”)
Time makes the heart grow fonder. Whether it be days, weeks, or years, time slowly erodes and smoothes over life’s rough edges. It has been a month now since the first pains of our growing church made themselves known; and though the injury has come and gone, I am often reminded of the wound when the climate here goes cold. But I no longer harbor the disgust that I previously felt, and the details that used to eat me up inside seem less and less unpleasant every day. What once irritated is now irrelevant. But can this numbing amnesia be wholly attributed to time?
No, of course not. Brother Adrian has done a wonderful job in vaguely summing up the details of our growth spirt, and I must admit that he portrayed me in a much kinder light than I deserve. But time itself, or the leaving of things alone, did not remedy our pain. For if I would have had my way, then never would we have come to a happy ending. No, not unless Steve and Bill agreed that Adrian and I were right, and they themselves were 100% wrong. And believe me, dear reader, that Israel and Palestine have a greater chance at reaching a permanent peace agreement then the before-mentioned coming to pass. So, if not time, nor an admittance of guilt played a key role in our healing, then to what may we attribute this current resolve?
Love. Far too often I am reminded that you and I know not what to pray for. Sure, the asking of God to give us patience, tolerance, and the ability to love sound like noble requests indeed; i.e. until we grasp God’s methodology in granting these petitions. He teaches us patience by making us wait; tolerance by allowing others to constantly push our buttons; and love through the pain and betrayal of others. “I just want to learn to love” was my request, but never was I prepared for the means which He would use.
I don’t know, perchance I was expecting to get pierced by one of Cupid’s arrows; maybe God just has a pitcher of “love” lying around up there and would be obliged to pour a measure into this vacant heart of mine, or, better yet, I would just wake up one day all lovey-dovey. Well, as I have found out. God’s ideas and mine are worlds apart; and I have learned to love by those that are closest, hurting me the most. I have learned that it’s not always important for those that have done the offending to know and admit their wrongs. What counts is that we—that’s you and I—love even when we don’t want to love anymore. Oh, my dear friends, oftentimes it is the act of loving that hurts the most.
Nobody wins when love loses its way. Steve and Bill, as well as Adrian and I have all been hurt by these events, despite where the blame should be cast. However, I do see the four of us being made all the stronger in the long run. Unfortunately, though the schematics will change, this is a lesson that will be learned over and over again. But he who will love much will get hurt the most.
Until next time, Adrian and I will be learning to love; undoubtedly in the most painful of ways. And, of course, we’ll share these experiences with you…. straight from our cells.
(Hebrews 13:3 NLT)
Trash: Something worth little or nothing; Junk; rubbish.
Similar definitions can be found in any dictionary. However, if it were up to William Rathje, a Harvard-educated researcher, he would define trash most differently. By what I know of him, I believe he would say, upon asking him, that “Trash is Gold.” You read that right. It said trash is gold.
Williams office sports a framed headline he found in a newspaper: “Gold is Garbage.” So who is William Rathje? William Rathje is a researcher, convinced we can learn a lot from the trash dumps of this world. Though archeologists have always examined trash to study ancient societies, William simply skips the years of wait. His organization, The Garbage Project, travels from landfill to landfill excavating and documenting society’s habits, styles, and economic levels. William truly finds meaning and treasure in our garbage.
Prisons are also know for being dumps. Housing mountains of trash — the junk and rubbish of society. Time after time I have seen and heard TV reporters, politicians, and many others refer to prison inmates as society’s trash. If only they would set their eyes like William, they would notice many gold nuggets throughout. Or better yet if they would set their eyes to see the sick as Jesus saw them, they would see potential and life within.
Covered deep inside the mountains of mistakes, and hills of stereotypes, are men with golden hearts. Men that are longing for the cleansing polish and disinfectant of the gospel. Yet many a times there are none (christian believers and churches) to roll up their sleeves, willing to dive their hands, arms, and elbows deep within the cesspool of sin gathered behind prison walls, and embrace a ragamuffin inmate.
My point: I challenge anyone reading this update to become a garbologist-partner for Christ and his gospel. It’s simple; the qualification is L-O-V-E. No harvard education needed.
I beg you to pray about teaming up with Truth Frees Us Prison Ministry to help bring the gospel deep into the dumps of society. Your prayers, encouragements, and financial support are so greatly needed. I’ll be the first to tell you that your support has been greatly appreciated, and has touched my life. Personally I have benefitted greatly from the L-O-V-E that has come from friends like you. Thank you.
And than you too, for letting me bring you my thoughts Straight From Adrian’s Cell.
—In His, and your service, Adrian
“Don’t forget about those in prison. Suffer with them as though you were there yourself. Share the sorrow of those being mistreated, as though you feel their pain in your own bodies.”
(Hebrews 13:3 NLT)
The officer was not going to change his mind. “The rules are the rules, Torres.” He explained, “I don’t make them, just enforce them.”
I did my best to diplomatically explain I didn’t frequent the medication line, so I was not aware of the clothing rule. But he didn’t care for my plea, so I changed tactics.
I began to explain how much in need I was of my migraine medication, and asked if he could allow me to approach the medication window without wearing my full state Blues, just this once.
The answer was a solid, cold, “No.”
I didn’t want to, but I was being forced to pull out the biggest reason of them all that would give me clearance to approach the medication window without wearing my full state Blues: the “I work in medical” card.
“You know, Officer Gatekeeper,” I began. “I work for the medical clinic, back in dental.” I think I even stood a bit straighter, and felt very proud of my statement.
“So what.” he said, “I work for Jerry Brown.”
As my ego deflated into thin air, I knew that I now would have to walk all the way back to my cell to put on my state Blues. Before I turned back, I begged one last time, but this time with my tail between my legs.
“Are there any other options?” I was sincere.
I wasn’t too sure if Officer Gatekeeper heard me at first. It felt like it took five minutes for him to answer, but it really wasn’t that long. “You see those bins of clothing by the laundry building?”
“Yeah,” I answered as I turned to look.
“There should be a few sets of Blues there. Put a set on. Go get your meds. Then put the set back. Are we clear?” he asked, not really wanting an answer.
I quickly made my way to the bin and pulled out the first set I saw. The set was two sizes too small, but I didn’t mind. I rocked the extra-tight blue shirt and blue skinny jeans all the way to the medication window. I might have looked like a Hipster, but I didn’t care.
When I was done I returned the set of Blues back to the bin, and Officer Gatekeeper nodded his head in approval.
Now, I may be stretching it a bit, but my situation reminded me of what Christ did for me – for us – on the cross.
Humanity had a big problem. Sin had entered and caused a deep, dark gap between the Creator and His creation. The debt was big – uncountable. The rules – commandments – were unchangeable, clear, written in stone.
Eternal hell was certain. No amount of ignorance or excuses could keep us from it. In order to get into Heaven, the opposite and much greater place than hell, one would have to be clothed in sinlessness.
Ignorance of the rules would not be accepted. Wanting and needing to enter into Heaven – with all its good intentions – will not be enough. Working for it, or knowing influential people, will not swing open Heaven’s gates.
The rules are the rules. As long as we are dressed in sin, we will not enter Heaven, and will be given eternal hell.
So how? Could there be another way?
Officer Gatekeeper had to enforce the rules that had been set. But nothing kept him from providing me with a set of Blues himself, allowing me to approach the medication window without breaking the rule.
God, Who enforces the Heavenly rules He set, could not allow Himself to break them (for He cannot lie.) Sin and Light could just not be together. The rules are the rules. However, nothing kept Him from providing a Way. His Son. Love.
Every single day I’m amazed that God would make a Way into Heaven just for me (okay, and you, too!) For without it I would still be lost, in sin, and on my way to hell.
Thank you, Abba Father, for loving me and giving me a Way into heaven. Amen.
……remembering to put on my state Blues
“I’m only going to say it once!” the transportation officer yelled, spittle flying with each word. His tone communicated fear and anger. “Once this bus gets rolling…” he paused to emphasize his next words, as if each word was its own sentence. “….THERE.WILL.BE.ABSOLUTELY.NO.TALKING.OR.WE.WILL.PULL.OVER.AND.LOSE.YOUR.PROPERTY!”
The day had arrived, and I was on the prison bus being shipped to my next warehouse…uh…prison. After being waked up at about 3:00 am, dressed in a thin blue-paper jumpsuit, and placed in a stand-up-only cage, I knew the next 24 hours were not going to be easy. I stood in the cage for four hours waiting for the bus to arrive, my back in pain, my hands cuffed in front of me.
Deep within my soul I celebrated the fact that I was on my way to my next stop. Peace and strength were firmly rooted within me, and I continued to pray for more. History has proven that I never do well on any prison bus trips. Not only would my head explode in a fiery migraine, but the nausea that would accompany the migraine would cause me to uncontrollably “share” any previous meals; I can assure you that the 25 other convicted felons on the bus with me, chained foot-to-foot, feet-to-waist, waist-to-wrist, don’t enjoy my freely-offered “sharing.” As I continued to pray for more peace, health, and strength, I remained worried. I had expected this day to arrive, so for weeks and weeks I had been preparing my mind, stomach, and faith for the stresses ahead.
Around 8:00 am I was finally on the bus with 25 other sleep-deprived inmates. The officer in charge began his Hitler-type speech with his “One Rule” – NO TALKING! If he caught anyone talking he would order the bus to pull over and randomly pull out inmates’ personal property, to be casually left on the side of the road.
This one rule was harsh and an abuse of power, but we had little choice but to obey. This was his ship and his crew, and once on the expanse of California highways only his law applied. While in-route the chained inmates have no rights.
As inmates we are used to this kind of treatment. Not all officers so flagrantly abuse their power, but the few who do always seem to be in a position of authority. I’m not sure if it’s the length of time I’ve been an inmate, or the Lord’s peace within me, but I fret little when faced with officers like this. (I wasn’t always so peaceful – it’s been a long road for me.) I’ve come to learn that in the prison world this type of treatment and abuse is normal, and I am only a visitor passing through. One day I will be given my freedom, and leave the prison world to deal with itself.
As children of the living God, citizens of a holy heaven, we are only passing through this world. And we will encounter mistreatment. It’s part of this fallen world – it’s normal. Believers are viewed as enemies of sin, and are attacked from many directions. The deep, dark ocean of immorality tries to swallow believers, to spit them out soaked in sin.
The world’s flip-flopping attitude about what is moral leaves the believer nauseated and unsettled. Biblical truths are combined with error, watering down God’s foundations, giving birth to social faith-clubs filled with hollow pew-sitters. True Bible-believers are viewed as outsiders and enemies of progress.
The world is slowly approaching its death, and many are not ready. It’s not enough to sit around on pews with a simple “pie-in-the-sky” knowledge that one day some “first seal” will be opened and the end will begin. No. We must be prepared. To endure what is to come will take a whole lot of spiritual strength and readiness.
For far too long the church has sat around hoping to be raptured before the end begins. This is a great and wonderful hope. But what if our understanding is wrong? What if the sequence of events many cling to doesn’t fit the teaching of Scripture? What if we have been forcing Scripture to fit our understanding, instead of the other way around? What if the church doesn’t get removed from the wrath of Satan that is coming? What if believers are removed midway through this time of trouble? What if the church escapes God’s wrath only by the skin of its teeth?
No matter where you stand, I believe it’s our calling, as children of God, to be prepared. We must not get too comfortable in a world we are only visiting for a short time. One glorious day we will be called home, freed from this world’s shackles and immorality. But until then, we must actively prepare for a very bumpy ride. We – believers – need to lose the idea that it’s going to be all flowers, butterflies, and utopia while we wait to be removed from this world. Jesus Christ Himself warned that the world would hate us. He pulled no punches, telling us that it would not be easy for us – that believers’ sufferings would be great.
I can’t count very high, but three things I know: First, as believers, our Creator has a plan for each one of us. Second, this world will do whatever it takes to keep that plan from being fulfilled. And third, the end is coming.
So, are we ready? I pray we are, for if we are not the road ahead will sift us through-and-through. In the process, many will be sifted out.
My bus ride was rough, just as I expected. The crew of the ship-on-wheels sailed through slow and sloppy roads. The circulating air inside the bus was stale and toxic. The inmate I was coupled with felt an uncontrollable need to whisper to me all the things he found interesting along the way. And even though the bus didn’t throw anyone’s property out, my property came up missing. Even so, because I was prepared and never allowed myself to take my eyes off the prize, I made it through the sifting.
The trip was far from easy; a few close calls threatened my health and peace, but in the end my physical pre-conditioning, and God’s power within me, led me in victory to my destination.
Again I ask: Are you ready?
…….continuing to prepare…….
Adrian G. Torres
They had traveled for miles early in the morning, in wet weather, just to visit me. Everything had gone as planned so far … until … until they faced an ugly evil villain who stands tall and proud at the entrance of the visitor processing center. He is known by many names, but he is best known as Metal Detector.
To visit me – or any other inmate – one must go through a series of security procedures. Some are simple, others a bit bothersome, yet all necessary.
Walking through the metal detector insures no large metal objects are smuggled in. Generally there is common sense used when the detector awakens and sounds off his alarms.
It is normal – and expected – for the detector to alert his minions that a small button, rivet, belt buckle, bra under-wire, or jewelry has been detected. With a quick double check the person is cleared and the process continues on.
On December 7, 2013, as my new friends, Ron and Tracy, walked through the tall and proud detector, a small button(*) on Tracy’s pants was detected. Metal Detector’s minions quickly assessed the situation and decided the small button had to be ripped off.
Common sense had been missing that morning for it was clear the small button posed no security threat. Tracy was left no choice but to return home without entering.
I can’t say I wasn’t bothered when I heard about Buttongate. Days later I still found myself wondering why. Why would God allow Buttongate to happen? I wasn’t mad at God, just curious. I was honestly looking for a lesson in it.
Four days later the answer – lesson – was clear. As I stood in line for breakfast, two men in front of me where talking about heaven. It was clear neither was saved, but believed there was a heaven and some sort of God who oversaw the entry into heaven.
Their views were similar. They both agreed that only good people could enter. They also agreed that even a bad person could enter if the person balanced the bad with good.
“But how much good is good enough?” one asked the other.
The question was left hanging because we had reached the tray window. One at a time we reached into the window and pulled out a delicious mystery breakfast. As we sat down to eat, the conversation continued.
“It’s not the amount of good,” one answered as if they had never stopped. “It’s that you must have good intentions to do good that will count.”
I had not yet been invited into the conversation, so I quietly listened as I ate my breakfast slop. I almost choked on a piece of meat (well, it looked like meat) when one asked the other a very important question.
“What if we change our ways and live with the best intentions to do good, but when we die and reach heaven’s gates we get rejected for not doing enough?”
As I tried to cough the piece of mystery meat out of my throat, the two guys looked at me for an answer. They didn’t say a word, I just knew they wanted me to give them my two cents. So I did.
“Well, let me tell you about my friend Tracy and Buttongate …” I recounted the story and reached the end of the story as we were being dismissed from our table. As we walked back to our cells, I started to connect the story to biblical truths.
“You see, that one button is like a single tiny sin in our lives. Sins are those bad things you were talking about. Heaven will never take us in unless we are completely without sin. It’s not just about how good we are or how good our intentions are, it’s about entering the One and Only Door that will allow you in. If you use this Door, you will walk right in.”
“Door!?” They both asked.
“Yeah, the only Door into heaven that will not keep you out.”
“Where is this Door?”
“It’s not where, it’s Whom.” I had them hooked. But I didn’t have the time to explain further. We had reached our cells and I now had to run off to work. I promised to explain further when I got back.
Later that same day, I had the blessing of explaining the doors a bit better to them. Our talk was about an hour long and I can’t remember all I said or all the questions they had. But Buttongate was firmly imprinted on their minds because one of the men wrapped up most of our conversation by comparing it with all that he had learned.
“So, Tracy, with all her good intentions to visit you, could not because of her sin – I mean, her button. And she didn’t have a new, buttonless outfit to change into, so she was not allowed in.”
“Yeah” I confirmed his line of thinking.
“So unless I receive Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, I will not enter heaven. Jesus, by His death on the cross, paid for all my sins.”
“Yeah.” Again, I agreed with him.
“And,” the second added his thoughts, “by receiving Jesus, we are clothed by His goodness and we are made clean.”
“Yup!” They were pretty good at connecting the dots.
“And this same Jesus is the Door we will enter through to get into heaven, no questions asked,” he added.
I didn’t want to get too theological with them, so I simply agreed and was fine with their simple understanding of all that I had shared with them. Buttongate was just enough of an illustration to help them understand. To add any more fancy Christianese would only confuse them. There would be more time to go deeper with them on another day. But there was no time to waste when it came to their salvation.
I asked them if they wanted to seal their assurance into heaven. They agreed. Both men now have a place waiting for them in heaven.
For now, as they wait for that day, they spend their days learning more about the Door Himself by reading the Bible and attending studies. It’s rare I run into these two men anymore; it was Providence that Buttongate would take place so that I could use the story to help these two men understand that no sin will be allowed into heaven.
Praise be to God that He gave us His One and Only Son, the Lamb of God, who took the sins of the world and nailed them to the cross. And by receiving Him into our hearts, we will enter heaven button-less (I mean, sinless) for we will be clothed in Christ Himself. Amen.
… Because of His blood, I’m button-less myself …