Rescued

Martho is viewed as a hero. The pride of our old Jurassic tier (hall of cells.) He knows he’s dearly loved, so he struts like a celebrity. It’s rare that one of us doesn’t offer him a meal at least once a day. Martho always openly accepts the meals with glee.

Martho doesn’t stay put for long; he is always  active, coming in and out of the building dozens of times a day. Even with a well-rounded belly (from all the free meals he eats), he still moves with light feet and acrobatic agility. I’m not sure when he sleeps because at all hours of the day Martho can be spotted roaming around.

About six months ago Martho was found all alone, in a dark corner, caring the best he could for his wounds. His friends and family had turned against him, attacked him, and left him for dead.

When Martho was found he was thin, shaking, and barely breathing. Martho was given simple first aid to clean the wounds, along with a good warm bath to clean every inch of him. And some very good food to give him nutrition. (Side note: when Martho was found, we thought he was a Martha … but quickly learned he was a Martho.)

Martho has been a key ally in the battle to control our rat problem. Almost daily Martho is seen with at least three rats in his mouth. Martho has a natural-born instinct to trap and kill rodents. It’s not a surprise to us for Martho is a cat; one of the many that live in the small, dark wrinkles of this aging prison.

I’m not sure why we all love Martho as much as we do. There are dozens of prison cats all over, so why Martho?

I think it’s because Martho’s story reminds us of ours. As inmates in a prison, it is obvious that somehow we each lost our way. In our lost journey we ended up in life’s dark corner, drowning in our sins. Trying to care for our oozing wounds, choking from the stench. Hopeless. Future-less.

Yet in that dark corner Abba Father reached down and rescued us from death. He gave us heavenly first aid and anointed us with His holy healing oil (the Spirit.) He washed us in Yeshua’s blood and cleansed our filthy rags, making them as white as snow. He saved us, adopted us into His family, and has been feeding us His Word.

When I see Martho, I take a quick second to thank God for saving me from death’s grip. If it were not for His love, grace, and sacrifice I’m not sure I would still be alive.

Have you taken the time to thank God for rescuing you from death’s grip? Life is so busy at times that we forget from where Father rescued us.

How about you thank Him now?

… proud of being a rescued one …
    Adrian G. Torres

This blog was authored by Adrian who is incarcerated.  Adrian sends the blogs via US Mail to Friends of Adrian volunteers who post the blog.
The website is owned and maintained by Friends of Adrian volunteers. Due to his incarceration, Adrian Torres has no access to the website and is unable to respond to any comments posted.
Comments are answered by Friends of Adrian volunteers.**
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Starving Inmates

Most inmates are starving. Hungry to be filled but no nutrition to be found. Going from one place to another looking for something to quench their appetites. Unfortunately most inmates die hungry.

You would think I was talking about food, but I’m not. To be perfectly honest, California prisons feed us very well. The food might smell and taste like rotten dog food; however, three meals a day is much more than some families eat today.

So what am I talking about? Spiritual starvation. Inmates are inmates not because their crimes got them here, but because their longing to fill that spiritual hunger drove them to drugs, alcohol abuse, crime and pride. And that drive to fill their void got stronger by the day. It became so normal to wake up each morning with spiritual hunger pangs that it became part of their natural lives. It numbed them to the consequences of their quests to fill their hunger via drugs, alcohol abuse, crime and pride. They continue to seek ways to fill that empty void. They find ways to use drugs. They become master brewers of fruit to make alcohol. And they even turn to homosexual activities to fill the hunger pangs within.

It is a sad reality. A reality that is an opportunity for us who are full with God’s love and grace. In Proverbs 27:7 it says “He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.”

Now, I know this verse is used to teach that a man  who is rich and has it all is not moved by the simple things in life, and a person who has nothing finds pleasure in the simple things of life. But I believe this verse can also be taught a bit differently. Basically, when one is full, then he will not be hungry. Nothing tempts you because you are full, content, not in need of more. However, when one is hungry, even things that don’t taste good (like prison food) will be delicious.

I can testify that prison can drive you to participate in things that  you never intended to do, yet gave in to because at the time even the bitter tasted sweet. This is why Christ is very important in prisons. Because if we can fill the hungry souls of these inmates with Christ’s love, mercy and grace they will find that they will be too full to even take a second look at something else.

What I mean is when we fill our lives with God, we will not be tempted to sin. Filling ourselves up with the love, joy, and peace of our Lord will give us the foundation to resist temptations, impure motives, adultery, immorality, addictions and even sin-driven depression. However, if one does not have God and this goodness in him,  he will always be seeking ways to be filled with ungodly things, making excuses and convincing himself that even the bitter tastes sweet.

Please pray for those inmates and ministries that are working with the hungry and showing them how to  find the Eternal Bread and Living Water that Christ has to offer. It is not easy work. Unfortunately, most that have been living hungry for so long have now gotten used to it – wanting to seek no further than their own vomit.

Please pray that the Holy Spirit will pour His power upon all the prisons and the hungry that live within their walls.

–Adrian Torres … not hungry (spiritually)

This blog was authored by Adrian who is incarcerated.  Adrian sends the blogs via US Mail to Friends of Adrian volunteers who post the blog.
The website is owned and maintained by Friends of Adrian volunteers. Due to his incarceration, Adrian Torres has no access to the website and is unable to respond to any comments posted.
Comments are answered by Friends of Adrian volunteers.**

Better Than 90210

“This prison should be torn down,” expressed brother Javier in a semi-angry voice. “The kitchens are rat infested. The cells stink like rust. The water is a shade of brown and tastes like urine. Most of the staff is rude. This place is a class A dump!”

I couldn’t blame him. Technically he was right. This prison is an older prison and older prisons tend to have a long list of inhumane sub-par problems. Compared to other prisons, this place can be considered a dump. No argument there. However, the day Javier expressed his gripe to me, Father had taught me a lesson in the morning that now could be shared with Javier.

As I do most mornings, I read my Bible and meditate on what I’ve read. On this particular morning I felt a strong desire to read the whole letter to the Ephesians. So I did. Once done, I sat in the quiet still of the new morning, digesting all six chapters of what I had just read.

My mind raced back and forth from nugget of truth to nugget of truth found in this awesome letter to the Ephesians. However, my heart was not fully at peace. There had to be something important God wanted me to see that I had not yet grasped. So I turned my handy book light back on and started to reread Ephesians.

Three verses in, the answer hit me right between the eyes. I noticed that even though Paul was in prison – in a dump of a prison – I could not tell or feel any ungrateful or negative attitude coming from him. He had all the right to complain about the unfair treatment he had received, and about the true dump he was in. Yet he chose to set his hope, sights, and trust in heavenly things. His circumstances would not snuff out his joy in the Lord.

That morning I decided to write down a list about the beautiful things this prison held. The same list I pulled out from my Bible and showed Javier. “This list that I hold in my hands,” I explained to Javier, “is a list showing me why this prison is better than Beverly Hills 90210.”

He thought I was joking, until I started reading it:

I live in a gated community.

Free weekly laundry services.

Three square meals a day, rain or shine.

Private cooks and chefs.

Twenty-four hour guards, seven days a week = A+ security.

Private fitness area.

Private medical care 24/7.

Rent-free room and board, utilities included.

Million-dollar views of the Chino Hill mountains.

First-class union-hired maintenance workers (i.e. highly-paid handymen).

After reading my list I reminded Javier that if we dwell in the heavenlies, even in a dump of a prison like this we can escape our circumstances and focus on the blessings that surround us. Paul set a great example for us through his letter to the Ephesians. Paul chose to see the blessings and not the ugly. “We, too,” I advised Javier, “must choose to see the blessings and not the ugly.”

Javier understood and decided to make a “Better than 90210” list for himself, too. He said he would pull it out in times of “ugly.”

Are you going through some “ugly” today? If you are, maybe making a list of all your blessings will help you. If you need inspiration, read the letter to the Ephesians. You will be surprised that Paul was even in prison. Yeah, it’s that good.

From my private suite –

Adrian G. Torres

 

This blog was authored by Adrian who is incarcerated.  Adrian sends the blogs via US Mail to Friends of Adrian volunteers who post the blog.
The website is owned and maintained by Friends of Adrian volunteers. Due to his incarceration, Adrian Torres has no access to the website and is unable to respond to any comments posted.
Comments are answered by Friends of Adrian volunteers.**

Rewriting Men’s Stories

“THE MOST CONSISTENTLY ENDEARING human trait is warmth. Everybody responds to the person who radiates friendliness from a serene core. Such people are lovely to be around because they don’t reject or belittle and, best of all, they bring out the best, most generous qualities in the people they encounter.”

  • Barbara Walters

It started as a simple visit to his step-daddy’s work site. His intentions were simple: Go visit, chit-chat, and interact with the labor workers. It was to be a simple and relaxing day. His plan was to let them know he was a supporter of them. However, what this day held for him was far from planned. —

As he arrived he heard a disturbing noise coming from around the corner. Curious to what was happening, he went to investigate. To his surprise, he found a supervisor beating one of the labor workers. A rush of anger boiled within him. He could not just stand there and let this happen. He had to do something! No time to call the authorities, he decided to take the matter into his own hands.

Looking around to make sure no one was looking, he ran and attacked the supervisor. As they wrestled on the ground, the victim managed to get up and slip away.

Not knowing how hard he was holding him, the wrestling match turned fatal. Releasing his grip on the supervisor’s body, he noticed that the supervisor’s body had gone limp. In the heat of the moment he had taken the life of another. Scared and not knowing what to do, his thoughts raced a hundred miles an hour. He was well-educated in the legal system. He knew that the law would frown on him and never understand. The whole situation would be twisted and used against him, instead of for him. There would be way too much explaining to do and not enough people willing to listen.

Looking down at the lifeless body that rested on the dirt floor, he decided to once again take matters into his own hands. This was a secluded part of the work site, and he was pretty sure there were no witnesses, so he dragged the body to a sandy area and buried it. Satisfied with the job, he returned home to clean up and rest.

The next day, testing his theory that no one saw him, he went out around town. However, once again he found himself in the midst of a heated fight. He decided to approach this one a bit differently. He stepped up and asked the aggressor why he was hurting his fellow man. The answer that was given took our hero by surprise, “Who made you ruler and judge over me? Are you thinking of killing me too, as you killed the supervisor yesterday?”

With his heart in his throat and his stomach feeling very ill, he felt each and every one of those words like a sharp dagger being jammed into his side. It was then that he realized that his secret was no more. Fearing the authorities, he fled to the desert and became a fugitive.

Before I tell you how this story ends, let me bring you into my cell…as I sat here today, praying for this prison and yard, I let my mind inventory the pages and pages that could be filled with stories from the men that live here with me, all from different walks of life, cultures, races, and education. All with a story of their own.

I can’t say I know or have heard all the stories here. In fact, I am sure I have only heard less then five percent. Personally, I know that every story that is here is heavy and weighs on our shoulders. Many of our stories have been misunderstood, twisted, and even perverted. Many have pushed their stories deep within their hearts, locked them in closets, and thrown away the key. Retelling the story would be like reliving it. Why would they want to do such a thing? So that one can get misunderstood again? To be looked down on, like the trash of society? Why even go there?!

Can I share a secret with you? Deep down, every man that walks this yard is a crying heart waiting to be heard. Yup, you read that correctly. You see, the load is heavy. It’s hard to carry it some days. And like all humanity it feels good to vent sometimes; to have a loving and caring ear to talk to; someone that will not judge, but uplift.

Every story has an ending. Some are not very pretty. Some go on to get darker and darker, never finding the Light. However, those are stories that were written by “self”. On the other hand, the stories that end with a joyful twist always end in the Light. They are not written in “self”, but co-written with (1) a helping hand and (2) the Master Author.

I know hundreds of men with dark or misunderstood stories that would welcome a helping hand, a listening ear, and a gentle leading to the Master Author. The Author who can update and rewrite their story.

Please, I urge you to join us in prison ministry. I am not asking you to take on a whole prison or yard. One person is all it takes; one seed; one heart; one love; one Gospel; one Truth… simply one of you.

So how does our friend’s story end? Well, after 40 years as a fugitive, living a new life, under a limited identity, he was used mightily by God to change history and rescue a whole nation. You can read about it in the Bible. The book of Exodus contains his wonderful story. Moses will be one story that will forever change people’s hearts.

…thankful to have you as a listening ear. Straight from Adrian’s Cell.,,

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, Who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

1 Timothy 1:12-14 (NIV)

 

 

 

This blog was authored by Adrian who is incarcerated.  Adrian sends the blogs via US Mail to Friends of Adrian volunteers who post the blog.
The website is owned and maintained by Friends of Adrian volunteers. Due to his incarceration, Adrian Torres has no access to the website and is unable to respond to any comments posted.
Comments are answered by Friends of Adrian volunteers.**

Hopeless and Desolate?

I hate to admit it, but the view from my six-man cell (dorm) is almost beautiful. Just outside the multiple 10-foot fences, razor wire, and the deadly high-voltage electrical fence is a small lake tucked into a shallow valley of lush green trees. The trees stand tall and proud, rising from a floor of rich green vegetation. Multi-colored wildflowers speckle the ground with eye-popping color.

This beautiful vista does not always look like this, however. Extreme heat and extended periods of rainless days dry the trees, flowers, vegetation, and even the small lake. The view then is hopeless and desolate, and I avoid looking at such disappointment. But all is not lost, because resting deep within the dry soil are seeds which are ready to die, then spring into life at the first drop of water. New life will rise from the once hopeless, desolate land, transforming it once again into a site of beauty.

This land reminds me of the sights that fill my vision when I’m on the prison yard. Men, who in their youths were filled with life, now roam around lifeless, hopeless and very desolate. The heat of their criminal lives slowly dried them up. This is true for the majority of men on this yard, and sadly most have embraced their despair and have no hope for a vibrant future.

A few, though, have found hope, life and the Living Water which is Jesus Christ. These once dry, hopeless men invited the Seed of Life into their lives. This Seed – Yeshua – died and rose again to give life – vibrant and beautiful – to these men. The waters of God’s Spirit have flooded into their dead souls, bringing forth fruit.

Giving up on those in prisons is a mistake, for God, the Creator of life and Giver of salvation, is taking these hopeless, dead inmates and giving them new life. And for anyone reading this who feels hopeless and desolate, you are not. The Creator of life can give you love, grace, and new life. Invite Him in today, and see life spring forth into your once-dead heart.

….wishing my bald head would see new growth….

Adrian G. Torres

 

Fluffy Faith

“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!”

Grunt.

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

 

Worth the Price

“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

Tea Time

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