Hypocrite!

“Five in – five out!” the officer bawled as he walked the tiers. It was Tuesday night, and that was our cue to have our laundry ready to exchange. The officer would be by soon, and he wanted us at the ready.

Every Tuesday night the officers in Ad Seg (the hole) come door-to-door handing out a roll of laundry. Each roll has five pieces: a shirt, boxers, socks, a towel, and a sheet. We are expected to return five pieces in exchange. The process is simple, but for a germ freak like I am, it’s stressful.

Laundry exchange day is like playing the lottery. We have no choice of the roll that is shoved into our cells, or the sizes of the clothes in the roll. Plus, the department that launders the clothes must use little water, no detergent, and jam-pack the clothes into the machine. The dark, stained clothing tells that story well. Winning a clean or newer item in the “Laundry Exchange Lottery” is rare, but when it happens we feel like luck is on our side.

I was ready with my five pieces when he got to my door. He slid the small tray slot open and squeezed the roll in. After it was in, I slipped out my five pieces, one by one, counting as I went. “I like it when you guys are ready,” the officer said as he moved to the next cell. I smiled out of courtesy, then turned my attention to my roll. It sat on the foot of my bunk like a burrito. I stared at it for a few more seconds, then picked it up.

A towel wrapped around the outside kept the roll together, and it smelled like a skunk. Its gray-brown color screamed “No detergent EVER!” I dropped it onto the floor. Then I began the “peel.” The boxers were next. I pinched the waist, and began to reveal my prize. They were a little brown, with a heavier brown color in the rear, but the worst is that they were two sizes (at least) too small. The boxers joined the towel.

Socks. They were tucked one into the other in a ball. That ball of socks lay directly on top of the last item, the sheet. The nicely-folded sheet surprised me by its very bright white appearance. I was excited, but first I needed to look more closely at the socks. I placed the sheet on the foot of my bed and refocused on the ball.

With two hands I unballed the ball and pulled out the first sock. It had holes in the toes and the heel. Plus, it was not a state sock – it was someone’s personal sock thrown away into the dirty laundry. The second sock was a well-worn state sock, but there was no way I could put my foot into that quagmire of germs. The socks joined the boxers and the towel.

My gaze then turned to the bright white sheet. I stood there in awe that somehow this beautiful white sheet made it into the hole. A passing officer noticed I stood there, with a contented smile on my face, looking at my bunk. He came close to the window, saw what I was looking at, and with an evil giggle said, “Looks white, huh?”

Looks white? His words startled me. There was something I didn’t know yet, but he did. “Sure does!” I replied. He walked away, and I could hear him laughing as he disappeared from view.

As soon as he was gone, I reached down to pick up the sheet. Nothing appeared to be wrong with this white, perfectly-folded sheet. I lifted it up to my nose and smelled it. No musky smell. No skunk smell. Actually, no smell at all.

Maybe the officer was trying to play with my mind. They like to do that. “That must be it,” I said to myself, as I grabbed two corners of the sheet and shook it open. A nice “snap” signaled its unfurling, like a flag on July 4th.

The horror before my eyes actually elicited a girly scream from me. Dropping the sheet, I stepped back. What was THAT? I had to look again.

I picked up the sheet and closely examined it. A large blood-brown stain in the shape of a body filled the middle of the sheet. Around the large stains floated smaller stain circles.

Either someone had bled to death on the sheet, or it was rusty from sitting on a steel shell while it was still damp. Either way, the spooky stain gave me goose bumps. How could such a sheet, promising so much with its bright white edges, hide such an ugly, dead stain on the inside? This sheet was a two-faced hypocrite! Nicely folded, it looked perfectly put together, but inside it hid an ugly secret.

I think back to my life before I knew Christ. My polished life appeared to be perfectly put together. My friends often said they wished they had my life. Neighbors would wonder how I did it. My perfectly folded edges gave a beautiful impression. But what people saw was just that – the edges.

I knew how ugly and dead my life really was. I put as much effort into hiding my stains as I did looking clean. The juggle was dangerous, but it was all I knew. God, however, didn’t need me to unfold my life. He knew how dead and ugly I was inside. My perfectly-folded white edges didn’t fool Him. My empty soul and dead spirit could not be hidden from the all-knowing Creator.

Praise be to God that His love was not deterred by the real me. Not only was He there, He sent His Son to die for me – to save me. And the blood that He shed washed me clean, inside out.

What was stained and dead was made alive and clean. A whole new me was born, and there was no longer a need to hide. My shame was gone and my hope was born.

Our Creator wants to do the same with you. Are you ready to stop being a hypocrite? Give your ugly and dead life to the only One Who can change it.

He’s there.

……………….still playing “Laundry Lotto” every Tuesday……….

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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Purpose-Driven Ant

The heat was unbearable. My body didn’t want to peel itself off the bunk. I tried to convince myself that maybe today I could take a break and just veg out….until I saw him.

He was all alone and scurried frantically about. He moved left. Then right. Forward. Then left and right again. I was intrigued and soon found myself mesmerized by his movements. His rhythmic walk invited me to join him.

I have lots of time on my hands, as I wait in Ad Seg (the Hole) for my transfer. I have set a routine to sweep, then damp-wipe my cell floor four times a day. A clean floor helps keep the rats and roaches out. Plus, having a clean floor gives me the freedom to walk barefoot, and even sit on the floor.

So it was a big surprise when I spotted a small breadcrumb right smack in the middle of the cell. I noticed it from my bunk, but in my heat-induced laziness I decided to wait until later to pick it up. It was even more of a surprise to see the lone black ant dance its way to the crumb. His walk-dance was impressive.  He knew the crumb was there, but he didn’t know how far. Finally, his persistence paid off – he reached it.

With full determination, he examined the morsel, which was at least ten times the size of his little itty-bitty body. But because of his purpose and ambition, he did not let the size of the bread stop him. He pushed. He pulled. He knocked it left to right, then right to left. He climbed on it and tried to fit it under himself. He tried upside down, then downside up. When none of these worked, he began pushing and pulling again. His activity was non-stop. This ant was single-minded. He was set on taking the prize with him. He didn’t care about the heat. He didn’t care about the distance. He didn’t give up. No, “lazy” was not part of his ant vocabulary.

As I stared in amazement at the tiny black ant, I began to laugh at myself. I said to Father, with a smile of joy on my face, ”OK, OK Daddy. I get it. I need to learn from the ant.” I then jumped off my back, washed off all the stickiness, and prepared myself for a day with a purpose. I needed to focus on God’s work for me, and do it with joyful determination and ambition.

No matter how big the challenge, or high the price, I needed to push, pull, drag, and jump on it. I needed to run the race; laziness wasn’t going to get me to the finish line.

How often are our hearts not set? How often do we approach our lives with half-hearted purpose? We put our hand to the plow but then look back. This is true of our daily tasks, but even worse, it’s true in our service to our Lord.

Seeing the ant put his full heart into his job inspired me to do all things for a whole purpose, or not at all. I need to be like the purpose-driven ant.

……….looking for lessons from a roach, too………

Adrian G. Torres

This blog was authored by Adrian who is incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison.  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.**

Worthless Vessel

Scars left from an abused life were front and center. Ugly gray cement dots the walls in a vain attempt to patch holes, cracks and years of wear. This cell is truly sad to look at.

I’ve lived in cells since 1999, and I have seen many. When it comes to the real estate of cells, I’ve lived in some nice ones (if that’s possible) and some poor ones. But in a cell to which one is assigned, one tries to clean and care for it. That cell becomes home, and homes need tending.

 

The Administrative Segregation Unit (The Hole) cells are far from “home.” Men get tossed in temporarily, and hardly ever under favorable circumstances.  Cleaning and maintaining a livable cell is not top priority; and the anger, sadness, and frustration get taken out on the cell.

The cell suffers horrific abuse.

Walls sport writing and drawing. Paint is chipped. Years of kicking, and repairs, leave half-hearted patches that begin to crumble. Bunks start to tilt away from the wall. Stains build up on the sink and toilet. The floor becomes rough and abrasive from years of scuffling.

The rating of a cell in the hole is a solid zero. No inmate, if given the choice, would ever pick a “hole” cell as a “home” cell. The cells in the hole are nearly worthless. They carry too much baggage.

I realized today that my life is much like my cell. My history is also filled with scars and abuse – delivered by me. My worldly ways brought a lot of abuse – spiritual abuse – to this life. Every scar tells an embarrassing story. Every tattered piece of my past is a monument to a life without Christ.

Ego has lived in me, never caring on whom it stepped. Pride has visited often. Greed left its sticky claw marks by overshadowing all else. A trail of broken hearts spoke of lust. The baggage of this life piled higher than one could see. My life was truly worthless.

Although this cell is sad, ugly, scarred, and scratched in more ways than one can count, I have been able to make it home. I have used the cell’s defects to my advantage. I embrace each scar, and see the beauty behind the scratches on the walls.

My broken, heavy-with-baggage life was worthless too, but God still took me in. With cracks, scars, and plenty of history, He still chose to save me. He now lives in me. He uses my defects for Himself. Embracing each scar of my life, He calls me a son. This one worthless vessel is being filled by the all-loving Creator. He is remodeling my vessel to hold more of His love, for His own glory.

I, too, am using the time in this cell to prepare myself for God’s bigger plan for my life. The ruggedness of this cell has served as sandpaper, to rub the edges off of me – the edges that weren’t serving God. And the smoother me has begun to love more, and cut less. Thanks be to my Creator for seeing value in this once-worthless soul. Because of Him, I am a useful tool in His hands.

At times we feel we might have a past that is too ugly, too scarred, to be useful to God. But never forget that God didn’t save you because you were perfect. He saved you as you were. Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Luke 5:32. He washed you clean from all your sins, through the blood of His Son Jesus. He chose to make you His home. And he will use you, scars and all, for His purpose.

By doing so, Father will make a unique tool of you, reaching and touching more lives than you ever could have imagined. Don’t focus on your past; God will live through you. And you will see how your life will be a witness to many.

Scars and all.

……..from my five-star accommodation……

Adrian G. Torres

This blog was authored by Adrian who is incarcerated at California Institution for Men.  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.**

Thankful con’t.

It’s been two days since my finger was ripped apart (okay, okay….it was only a tiny piece of skin that got torn off, but it felt like it was bitten off, chewed, and swallowed by a Viking), but I still struggle to hold anything with that hand. Everything lacks balance, and is clumsy. It’s truly frustrating.

I never realized that although my arm works fine, without the use of my finger the signals it sends to my hand aren’t obeyed. I can’t accomplish with one hand what both hands can accomplish. The pace is much slower, and I waste energy. Sometimes, in frustration, I give up.

God’s Word tells us the “two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” Ecclesiastes 4:9. I have learned this to be true from my current injury, and also from the love and support I receive from you.

This year has been a challenge. Prison tried to extinguish my joy. At times, in my own strength, I struggled to stay afloat. But the strong flow of comments kept pulling me back. With one hand tied behind my back, I felt moving forward in ministry was impossible; my one-handed labor yielded small return. God’s power and strength was always there, but my effort was for naught. And, through it all, you were there, ready to join in my labor. Not only have you been my right hand, but you have been a brace for my left as well.

I thank you for not giving up on me. My grip was loose, but with you, my grip is now stronger than ever. You have been the faithful fingers of this ministry. Without you, nothing could be accomplished. The message God has given this ministry has reached all over the world, because of you.

Obviously I am deeply thankful for many things. God being in my life is number one, yet this month I also wanted to thank you, because I am more aware than ever that without you my labor is in vain. This ministry would struggle, become frustrated, and eventually give up. You are an essential part of this ministry, and my support. Because of you, we have realized a good return.

Thank you.

Those two words cannot describe my gratitude, and so I pray that God’s blessing fall richly on you for all you’ve done to keep this ministry not only alive, but moving forward.

…….wishing I had a Band-Aid…….

 

 

 

This blog was authored by Adrian who is incarcerated at California Institution for Men.  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.**

Adrian G. Torres

Thankful

It felt like a dull razor blade was sawing into my finger. The pain of the ripping felt like fire. I dropped what I held in my hands, and looked at the source of the pain.

I had been in the Zoo Cage (the Hole’s version of a yard) all day. Not only was I sweaty from being in the sun all afternoon, but my body was plastered with tiny hairs. Once a month Ad Seg (the Hole) brings out hair clippers and allows us to cut our hair. Since my hair was longer than it had been in many years, I took the opportunity to cut it all off.

The combination of sweat and hairs was horrible, so when I was finally returned to my cell I had to not only clean my body, but also my clothing. I was hoping for some hot water to come out of my faucet, and it did. The water was not only hot, it was boiling hot! It had never been this hot before; but I had no choice. The clothes had to be washed.

Struggling as I washed each item, accompanied by my “Ouch!” “Ooh!” and “Geez Louise!”, I managed to wash my socks and boxers. Midway through my shirt I noticed my hand was very tender, but I could not stop. I still needed to finish the shirt and a towel. I muscled through the tenderness and finished the shirt, but as I twisted it, wringing it out, a sharp pain exploded through my middle finger. I hastily dropped the shirt back into the sink, and examined my finger.

A small piece of skin was torn off. The injury was tiny, but it hurt far more than its size and appearance. I had to continue my task, however, so I grabbed the shirt again and began wringing it out. The burning pain, had I been alone, would have brought tears – I refrained because my cell mate would have laughed at me. I switched my eyes from my shirt to my finger several times, wondering if I could stand the pain long enough to complete the job. Finally, using only my index finger and thumb, I held the shirt up while with my other hand I tried to squeeze as much water as I could out of the garment. The result wasn’t great.

Washing my towel wasn’t pretty either, but it had to be done; and although it took me at least six times as long to do it, it was finally accomplished.

(to be continued tomorrow)

 

This blog was authored by Adrian who is incarcerated at California Institution for Men.  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.**

 

 

Dirt

It was light, but it was there. For the last three mornings, I’ve been waking up with a headache right behind my eyes. The cause was no mystery.  I’d been working on removing it, with soap and water, but I didn’t have the right tools. My soap and water did nothing. The pesky green mold hung right in there.

The Administrative Segregation Unit (The Hole) cells are very old. Even if the cell is cleaned daily with a little soap and water it still looks dirty. The dirt has settled deep into the walls of the old building. You might say I live in dirt.

Humanly speaking, no one wants to live dirty. It’s not fun – or clean.

At first I didn’t like the dirt in which I found myself. In fact, I waged a futile war against it each day. But the minute my perspective changed, I realized that living in dirt was good for my soul. Although I don’t know God’s plan for the rest of my life, I know that no matter what that plan is, I must bear fruit, for myself as well as for others.

I’m not the best gardener, but I am Mexican, and I know that in order for a fruit tree to live and produce fruit it must be rooted in dirt. Dirt is essential for the tree to grow, mature, and, in due time, generate a harvest. The dirt I see here is more than just physical dirt. Being in the hole has allowed me to dig into my own dirt. In order for my spiritual life to bear fruit, I must deal with the dirt in my own life; but often, rather than dealing with it, I have swept it under the rug.

Slowly but surely that dirt builds up – it doesn’t go away – and before I know it it’s a hazard. When I stumble over it I lose a little love here, a little joy there. Peace begins to wobble. Patience begins to wane. Gentleness lessens. Faith loses its certainty. Self-control gives way. Goodness turns ugly.

Living in dirt has given me the time in prayer to dig up and turn over any old dirt in my heart. By breaking up the pile, and giving it to our Creator, my conscience is freer, and my joy is fuller. My prayer life has never been sweeter and my song never louder.

It’s been such a blessing to dig into my personal dirt, and plow it up. I know now that I would not have had the time to do it if I had not been put into an actual pit of dirt.

How about your life? We all have it; a pile of “I’ll deal with it later” dirt that we’ve left untouched. Some “dirt” happens in our life, but it seems like a small thing. Life’s busyness keeps us from dealing with it. Then another small pile of dirt appears. Before you know it, the small dirt piles become hazards, able to make you stumble. Suddenly you wonder why life seems to be throwing curve balls at you.

Slow down. Get your hands a bit dirty and turn that dirt over – to God. Only then will you remember how sweet the fruit really is and how full joy can truly be.

……….craving a juicy green apple…….

Adrian G. Torres

This blog was authored by Adrian who is incarcerated at California Institution for Men.  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.**

Unimaginable Speed

It was pitch dark. The heat radiating from the walls of the cell wouldn’t leave me alone. Sweat dripped off my hairy body. The night moved slowly – as slowly as the walls cooled.

Being in the Administrative Segregation Unit (the Hole), life moves at a snail’s pace. There is little to do physically, and even less when it’s burning hot. Time seems to slow to a stop. A 24-hour day feels like a week; a week is a month, and a month is eternity.

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