Article in the Kingston Daily Freeman
Imagine this headline in a secular paper in New York: Tillson author parents with help from God. Well it's true! Read it on-line and support these kinds of articles with a comment.
Letters to God on a Prodigal Son
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Of course there are many factors...kids, teens, young adults with too much time, too much at their disposable, too much focus on the external and achieving, too much freedom and not enough of God in people's lives. Unfortunately religion is at fault too. Jesus was not religious. He was about relationships. Our small little community church has tapped into that. Kids, teens, adults...it doens't matter who you are need relationships, but many have gone sour in the good ole USA. So why is religion partly responsible?
We, they, I'm not pointing fingers because we make up the collective of what is termed The United States. We've gone out of focus like a blurry photograph. We're ot seeing thngs clary if we're not in relationship with God. For some of you that struck a nerve for others an Amen. We need God in our lives. He's the one who desinged life and without Him it's pretty obvioius we're messing up--badly! We need God as our heavenly father, mentor and guide to the universe.
We live in such a big world these days it's sometimes difficult for us to mange living in it, but if we can climb up on our Father's lap, we'll find love and comfort there.So that's going to eliminate drug use? No entirely of course, but it would ceratinly help for kids and teens to know that they're not just plopped here to burn out and do whatever they want...that leads to excess and eventually depression and emptiness.
We need God, not religion, but a meaningful relationship with God...and not just the old man upstairs or the benign ruler. We need to know the fullness of God, the majesty and awesomeness of God that will knock the complasency out of religion and get us into our communties connecting with youth and those in need...not just to help them on a social level, but let's get down to their real needs...not just their physical needs for food, clothing and shelter, but the cry of humanity for meaning.
Sartre, camus and the other existentialists I read in college left me empty handed and they continue to do so. We need to give our youth and the Amy Winehouse's of today something meatier to chew on...not just the nebulous force of "Star Wars" or the life giving prana of Eastern religion, though there is a form of peace and godliness, we need to get back to pure religion...right relationship with God. Tell me what you think.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Read part 1 in the earlier post. Here's the last part of the story:
Thirty days before my parole was up, I started dealing drugs again. I felt conflicted. I didn’t want to get caught dealing and be sent away for life, but I needed the money. I knew I had to stop, but I didn’t know how. My motives were all wrong.
I remember the day before Thanksgiving; I asked my wife to drop me off while I went to the store down the road. But I wasn’t going to the store, I was going to make a drug deal. I met the guy a few blocks away and made the transaction. As I was walking back I noticed this white guy step into the street. He looked suspicious as he turned towards me and then asked me what I was doing. As it turned out he was from the prosecutor’s office. It had been a set-up and he found the drugs on me.
I was put in an unmarked car with tinted windows, and we drove down the road past where my wife was waiting for me outside the car. My heart sank. I’ll never forget the fearful look on her face. I was being taken to prison again, and she wouldn’t know until she was told by someone else. I remember feeling devastated at the thought of what this would do to my family.
Back in jail, I got the drugs out of my system and got clean. Then one day I distinctly heard God tell me, “If you leave here and do the same thing, you will die.” I was a little taken aback by how clear this message came across, but I told the Lord, “If you get me though this, I’ll serve you whole heartedly.” From that day on, I submitted to God. I experienced a radical change in my life.
I started praying and reading the Bible every night in my dorm. At this point in time I was living with seventy other guys who respected and feared me as a leader of a powerful gang. But then God did something radically different as these men realized the change in my life. I began helping any new guys who entered the facility. I gave them food, tried to get them well, and offered reassurance. I kept order in the dorm.
Other gang members wanted to know why I took these actions. I told them about God. They asked questions, lots of questions. I began leading them in Bible studies. At first for just a few guys, then more came to join. They witnessed the love of God in me. That’s when I started becoming the man God wanted me to be. Not long after, God started moving on my behalf. I was facing a possible fifteen-year term, but then the courts dropped the distribution charge and changed it to possession instead. I was going to be released soon!
I called my former boss and he wanted me back on the job as soon as I was free, but my pastor stopped by and talked to me about a drug rehab called Transformation Life Center. She asked me how I’d feel about going there, and I said I’d agree to go if it’s what God wants for me. She gave me the number of the intake counselor, but I never made the call. I didn’t want to go through the trouble of paying for a calling card, so I disregarded the idea. Something strange followed.
Thereafter, each week the police would come down to bring me to the warden, but I had never submitted a request. I thought they were setting me up, so I made the decision not to go. After the third week of this they told me I didn’t have a choice; I had to go because someone was trying to contact me, so I went. (This is highly unusual, as they don’t often allow prisoners this privilege.) Anyway, they persuaded me to call TLC, and I spoke with the intake counselor.
He told me I needed some information and explained the program cost. I told him I didn’t have any money, and I didn’t have all the information he needed, but he persisted and asked if he could interview me over the phone. I said yes.
A week later I was scheduled to be released. It all happened so fast. Within an hour I saw the judge, and I was sentenced to three years probation. Then the papers were signed, and I was released. I was shocked, as this was usually an all day process. I didn’t understand what was happening.
As the gate lifted up for my release, I stepped out and my pastor pulled up. She told me someone from TLC was here and would accept me, RIGHT NOW. I thought about the promise I made to God and said, “I’ll do it.” I went straight there, and I’ve been there for almost a year. God has blessed me so much for coming here and staying.
It’s amazing what God has done in the past year. He’s restored me to my wife and family. She works in the ministry at Walter Hoving Home, and we do partner ministry together. Now that I’m in the Resident Assistant Program, I can visit her most weekends. Although both my sons are still in gangs, God has mended our relationship. My youngest was the most bitter towards me because I was in jail his entire life. He has started coming to church and is learning about God. He’s open to the Word of God.
God has opened doors for me both in New York and New Jersey. After I graduated first phase, I was offered a scholarship to Somerset College for Christian counseling. I’ve also been offered a home for my family and the chance to be part of a ministry. I was about to take advantage of one of these opportunities, but God told me to be still. So I listened and went into the second phase, one of leadership.
Here at TLC I work with a lot of guys who have just come in. I understand the drug dealer mentality, the streetwise mentality, so I just give them a big hug and take them under my wing. They need a lot of love and time to sort things out. I try to show them the love of God and lead by example. I think the guys look up to me and respect me because they know what I came from, and they realize how God has changed me.
In two weeks I will graduate from the Resident Assistant phase. I’m waiting to hear what God has planned for me to do. I know people’s lives have been changed by my testimony, and I’m tempted to return to my hometown, but God has been preparing me here. It was hard when I graduated from the first phase to say no to the offers, but I know I need to wait on God. In the past I was prideful. I need to let God work humility in my life. He has shown me it’s not about me; it’s all about Him. He needs to keep me in my place. If I take a position before God wants me to, pride might seep in. I am aware that if that happens, I’d be done-in. So I’m careful to listen and obey. I want to do things God’s way, not mine.
This is a total reversal from how I lived my life for over thirty years. I understand that’s what transformation is all about. It’s the power of God to change lives—from gang leader to God seeker.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Here is an excerpt from one of the stories in Transformed. If you're interested in reading the rest of the story, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyone calls me Kay—though my last name means little, I never did things in a small way. I thought I was a big shot, until God got a hold of me. Here’s my story.
I grew up in Paterson, NJ in the 70’s. Gangs ran rampant in my neighborhood, and I revered them and what they represented. Though I went to church with my grandmother as a child, at the age of fourteen, I decided I wanted everything the world had to offer—money, power, and prestige. I joined a gang, started doing drugs, and then dealing them. I was brainwashed by the values of the world. By the age of seventeen I was brought under the wings of organized crime and made a killing.
I was flying high—doing whatever I wanted and living in one penthouse after another in New York City. By the time I reached the age of twenty-one, I was a millionaire, supplying New York and New Jersey with enough drugs to keep me rolling in dough. I was married and had two sons who were raised to idolize me and my hard-hitting way of life.
At twenty-five, it all came crashing down on me. I was busted and sentenced to a maximum-security prison for a very long time. I watched my kids grow up from behind bars, and they saw what my lifestyle brought me to—a dead end. I wanted them to learn from my mistakes. I had gone to college but dropped out because I didn’t see any reason to continue. I was making millions back then supplying drugs, but I also had skills as a carpenter and auto mechanic, my sideline career.
While in prison, I was known as a tough guy, a leader of a prominent gang who didn’t put up with anyone’s crap. People respected and feared me. I’d watch people die every day—fights, stabbings, being burned, you name it, I saw it. Prison has its own rules that most people will never know about. I thought I was tough and that’s why I survived, but really it was God protecting me.
At the age of thirty-nine I was released on parole and promised God I would serve Him. I went back to my family and started working, two jobs in fact. I wanted to stay clean, off drugs, and I did—for a while. But then I got overwhelmed. I started using heroin again to escape; it also gave me the energy I needed to work harder. I was running myself ragged. I needed more money to get more drugs, and I needed more drugs to keep me going. I’d promised my family I wouldn’t do drugs again, but I got caught in a vicious cycle.
Monday, July 4, 2011
What keeps you in bondage? Trials, temptation, the love of money, hate? Have you made your own prison—bound by the traditions of men, the love of power or self-gratification? My Son broke all the chains of sin, but the enemy of your soul, Satan, would keep you bound.
Addictions run rampant in a society who turns its back on God’s offer of freedom. Man makes addictions out of everything—from food to family, drugs to alcohol, money to power. Only the Holy Spirit can break the stronger addictions of man’s mind and body. Freedom from the dictates of the almighty self is one of the greatest freedoms found in all of mankind. Only the Son of God can offer this true freedom. His arms are wide open. Won’t you be set free?