MY LIFE IN THE SUNSHINE! (Bio)
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WHILE IN TROY I got away!
I decided to go to Cornerstone of Life Church when I had a moment of clarity and pushed aside the booze. God planted in me a strong desire to be in service that night. However, not wanting to pass the bootlegger, I pondered taking an alternative route but continued to walk straight toward them. Walking along the sidewalk of a neighboring church yard named Calvary Baptist Church I approached these drunks (my friends), a place I knew well: where men sat around round plastic tables, smoking tobacco, drinking booze and trading war stories. I sat with them many times.
Suddenly, a young man appeared, and walked as if arriving from a bush. I asked him where did he come from, he silently smiled and pointed to a hole in the fence in the back of Calvary’s perimeter. My feet took this direction and I climbed through the hole in the fence being careful not to tear my clothes. Successfully, making it to church without walking past that crew, was an answer to an unspoken prayer. Avoiding the laughs and chuckles allowed me to arrive at church with the sense of urgency I felt. Upon arriving at church I laid my hands upon the horns of the altar asking God to cleanse me. This was in the spring of 2008. The Devil though he had me bound, but I got away. I got away from addiction. I got away from defeat and today Victory is mine!
I confided with my mother who suggested that I go west for opportunity. She had a brother in Indiana that was willing to take me in until I got acclimated. I journeyed to Indiana and found a church on 38th Street that had the same principles that I had grown accustomed, but along with moving, those old demons came along too. I was a clean, ambitious, upstanding college grad with clear eyes, but that didn’t last for long, within the wide open space of the mid-west; I began to drink again.
After a while, drinking led to other unhealthy habits and all of my Christianity became useless. It was as if I was on East Fifth Street again representing my hood. I withdrew and became a person who frequented bars, played music on the jukebox and always had a quick smile, but I was being eaten from the inside by the righteousness that once enveloped my inner man. Deception became commonplace and my life became littered with failure after failure, and while straddling the fence, I married a woman who feigned pregnancy.
My failures were internal, and I felt compelled to harness every negative emotion while using my intellect to rationalize walking away from God. I failed myself because I sought to escape reality and my word was not my bond to myself. Being accomplished was downplayed, and I traded my birth-right for a nice stiff drink in a hoop-ride while I laid back. I worked in a supermarket and a sports bar until I continued to leap jobs and learned the mortgage business and got my first teaching gig, teaching kids with dyslexia how to read.
Nevertheless, my life became intertwined with despair, because I had fallen after having experienced His goodness, but continued to wallow in the misery of sin, being further separated from His grace. I would not surrender my will to God, even while attending church; afterwards on Sunday evenings, I went to the bar.
I needed the power of God again like I once experienced in the shut-ins and Fridays when we would be in church sometimes until after midnight, 6am prayer and the twenty one day fasts, and when the men still wore the black suit jackets on long hot Sundays in Church before our Pastor put in the air conditioning. I was hot and sweated, but I was saved, singing in the choir and attending the altar continually, and we never let a lady walk down the steps of the pulpit unescorted. I knew I forsook God, after seven years in the church learning about Jesus and being a prayer warrior inside and on the bricks. I wasn’t a sell-out, but I really was; sin I craved and the flesh I obeyed.
Soon after arriving in Indiana, a cycle of recidivism began occurring over a twelve year period of time, where I sat in front of over twenty Judges after being arrested. I entered and left jail and prison many times, usually for theft, robbery, domestic violence, drug possession and high speed police chases and my only fear was in the irreversibility of the harm I would potentially cause another, if someone stepped out of line. Inside I was known as ‘The Teacher from NJ’. I didn’t have jail house religion, and I needed to start practicing what I preached after I got out from being on vacation. Apparently, I did have Jail House Religion but God used that to add to my faith. I despised the label because I knew God was real and I was the one, who was really messed up. I just got tired of the endless struggle. I knew first hand that the life of a sinner was cold and harsh. I knew that the righteous are never forsaken and his seed never begs for bread, but when you leave His will, there is no question that you will be forsaken and you will beg for bread at the end. I no longer wanted to bring shame to Jesus’ Holy name. I chose to allow the prison recidivism rate to drop by one, and I allowed the drug cartels and the alcohol producers to become a little poorer by non-participation.
“People should be more attentive to the poor in their midst instead of having an attitude against the poor.”
I was approached by a homeless man in the parking lot at a local shopping center. He asked me if I had something so that he could get a hot meal. I told him that I don’t know (I didn’t know if I had anything in my wallet or not) so I checked it and saw a lonely five dollar bill. He saw the bill too and said real quick “I have two dollars.” I pitifully looked at him and said well I got three dollars and we promptly exchanged my five for his two. “I hope this helps”, I gulped. We exchanged cordial remarks then parted. Thinking about the fact that I had scripture cards in my pocket, I called him back over, he shuffled back and I handed him a scripture card that read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh,but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1); giving it to him, saying that it could be used as a book mark as I quoted this scripture. He responded by pulling out a Bible from his stuff and said to me “my favorite scripture is I John 3:16 not John 3:16” (which I though he meant), He went on to quote “because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”, he when on to say that people should be more attentive to the poor in their midst instead of having an attitude against the poor, thinking it a big thing to designate their favorite charity as their only place to give and ignoring the hungry ones right in the midst of them.
Distinguishing Between Good and Evil
“People don’t like giving to the poor when the say they are hungry because they may spend it on alcohol or harmful drugs” I said. He answered, “Christians have the Spirit of Christ within, that is able to discern whether a person is putting on a sham or not, the Holy Spirit lets you know whether a person is truthful. If you are a Christian walking in the Spirit you will not be deceived. After you talk to a person who expresses need, after awhile you’ll know whether it’s right or wrong to do what you feel and give.” The profound message I heard was the age old interest in knowing whether a purpose you face is true or not. Distinguishing between good and evil has been sought by man even when we were immortals, during the age of Adam’s innocence. This is the one request of Solomon that he asked when given the chance to ask God for anything he said, ”Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” (I King 3:9)
After a minor conversation with a major impact we again parted as I pondered the meaning of this odd meeting. He did say that God brought me there. I didn’t buy anything from the store, I just browsed. Why was I really there? Just to look, to see or to waste time, knowing that in-Christ, no time is wasted and everything is purposeful. This ideal resounded after reflecting back to the tune I heard in the store playing “will the circle be unbroken.” I heard these words before but never heart felt like the tune I heard that seemed to be a primitive version, as if playing on a phonograph (I later found out this was the original Carter Family’s 1927 version that played). It seemed that everybody was humming this tune in the store before this faithful meeting and as I passed one lady sung it out loud. This seemed like an experience from the movie Fallen (when everyone was humming a Stones tune) especially with the words reverberating over and over “will the circle be unbroken”. Then this thought abated when I bumped into the homeless guy named Kevin mentioned earlier. Right before leaving Kevin I asked him did he like yogurt (still having the three dollars I shared earlier). He said yea I love it. I was able to give him two boxes (containing 12) that the soup kitchen rejected earlier because they where over stocked and had a limited shelf life. This is the point when Kevin said “God sent you.” It was cold enough to be kept outside. Kevin told me that he lived in a tent in the woods but not tent city (a community of the homeless) like in my hometown and maybe in yours too.