Posts Tagged ‘jail’


The lady doesn’t get to know Rodney very well because he starts coming to discipleship meetings only a short time before he is released.  He has a great sense of humor and lightens up the mood whenever he comes in. Iris would never have known that he had experienced so much neglect and abuse if he had not told her, because he is always so jovial.  It is always a delight to see him make the suicidal and emotionally disturbed youth laugh and play.

Like many other young men in the detention center, he has been committing crimes since the death of a family member that he deeply loved. In this case it was his stepfather, the only one who took time with him and taught him anything.

He describes how the family was all gathered at the hospital, and Rodney stepped out to use the restroom.  He came back and his “daddy” had died.  Rodney says he went crazy in the room, yelling and throwing things, and security had to take him away.  He says that he could never forget that moment because if he had known, he would have kissed his daddy on the cheek and told him he loved him first.  But he can never go back, and it hurts him deeply.

Yet Rodney is very cheerful and always expresses his gratitude to God.

He said one thing to Iris that she can never forget.

He said, “I believe that if you gave me an empty cup and asked me to drink from it, I would drink it because I know that the Holy Ghost would be in the cup and it would help me.”   The lady took out her lavender handkerchief when he said it and dabbed her eyes.  She still gets misty-eyed when she thinks of the kind of trust that he had in her.


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(The Iris Diaries)

Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”(Hosea 2:1)

There is a house nearby that seems to draw strange renters.  Once we had “The Shadow” lurking there for a few months. For a long time, he was never seen except as a silhouette through the curtains or a dark figure on his patio with no face.

Then one day a police car pulled up and handcuffed him and took him to jail.  About two months later, he returned.  No one knows how his bills had been paid while he was away.  But he stepped out of a friend’s car in a jailbird outfit.  He ran into the house hurriedly and about thirty minutes later, he came out to the front yard with a cell phone. He seemed to be calling everyone he knew, saying things like, “Yeah, man, I just have to try to stay out of trouble now.”

Soon, lovely silk-haired blonde women in expensive cars began to show up regularly, and one of them finally moved in.  Then one day my son heard the woman calling the police excitedly on her cell phone.  The cops came and took the man away again.  While he was gone, the woman brought huge metal storage devices and packed them full of stuff, and a giant u-haul showed up and she disappeared.  The guy got out again from jail, and soon he moved out and we never saw him again.

Then we got some new neighbors.  The parents were deaf and the children were three wild teenage guys.  We could always hear them yelling, and they roamed around the neighborhood in packs like jackals.  Everyone could see their underwear because their shorts were too large.  One of them had a worn out dirty blonde Mohawk which hung limply around the shaved part of his head and a small indecipherable tattoo was on his scalp. It was apparent that he was the ringleader and his loud mouth frothed constantly with cruel sarcasm and vulgarity.  I learned later that he was the eldest son.

A gang of young people partied in the house constantly and the police were there almost every night.  The cops seemed to know all of their names, but nobody ever was arrested.  We would find dead birds lying around their front yard because they would go out and shoot them down with their BB guns. The police were called to investigate but no one could put a stop to it.

You could see people in clusters gossiping in the neighborhood, more than usual during this time.  It was endless entertainment for them.  I was troubled in my spirit because I always think of people’s souls hidden beneath their outward appearance.

One day the youngest of the boys came to my door in a hurry, needing to borrow the phone.  I could see that he was tense and very aware of his family’s notoriety in the neighborhood.  He expected to see cold cruel eyes looking back at him, but instead he saw the gentle expression of a silver-haired lady wearing a lavender dress and silver sandals.

“Can I borrow your phone just for a second?” he asked nervously.

“Yes, have a seat there at the counter.  Would you like a can of Sprite?” He was startled, and seemed unnerved.

“Well yeah, thanks” he replied, and placed his phone call.

Then he popped open the soda can and lingered for awhile at the counter and began to talk about a lot of things.  “My name is Freddie, I guess it goes without saying that my family has a lot of problems.  My three brothers are always in and out of jail and juvenile detention, but I’ve never been there.  My parents act like they expect me to be the same way, but that’s not what I want.  I want to be different, and have a better life than this.  Sometimes I get really mad at my parents because they don’t believe me, and they don’t give me a chance to prove it. I want to graduate from high school and go to college.”

“Well, you just have to be strong and believe in yourself, and things will work out in time,” I said. “I know your situation has to be very hard for you. If there is anything that I can do to help, let me know.  And come by to visit my sons sometime, okay?  My youngest is about your age.”

I had been hearing Freddie’s deaf mother crying and wailing out loud in the middle of the night, and I wished I could comfort her somehow.  I didn’t know who was upsetting her, or if she was aware of how loud she was. Once when I went to my car in the morning, I saw her in the front yard, and her face appeared like someone who had never seen a happy day in her life.  It was worn and lined and full of pain. I prayed that night for her, and wrote a message for her inside a pretty card.

I went to my neighbor’s house the next day, and Freddie came to the door.  I asked him to use sign language to tell his mother that I just wanted to give her a letter.  The woman looked suspiciously at me and squinted as if coming out of dark cave and trying to see clearly.  I could sense that she thought she was in some kind of trouble, or that her sons had done something bad. She seemed awkward and confused, as Freddie read the card and made hand signs to his mother.  The note simply said:  “I am your neighbor and I want to be your friend.  If you ever are in need of anything, please let me know.” The woman nodded hesitantly, and Freddie thanked me.  I returned home.

After that, I never heard the woman crying at night again. What did it mean? I didn’t know, but I was glad.  I thought that maybe whoever was mistreating her had heard that someone was concerned.

A few days later, I needed some yard work done, and I inquired about Freddie and his brothers.  They all came to my yard, and I showed them what to do and brought out some lemonade.  They spent all afternoon in the heat moving rocks out of the front yard and raking.  I stood in my kitchen window and heard one of the brothers say, “This is the best day ever.  We’re making some money, and having a good time too.”  I laughed quietly.

One of my neighbors approached me the next day and asked me why I would let those crazy boys work in my yard.  I said I thought they needed something constructive to do with their time.

Soon after that, I needed my lawn mowed, and I noticed Freddie’s deaf father in his yard mowing. He had a bald shiny head and a clean white shirt that showed off his muscular chest and arms.  He reminded me of Mister Clean. I approached him with hand signals to find out if I could pay him to do my yard after his.  He took paper and a pencil from his jeans pocket and we jotted notes to each other, and agreed to a price for my lawn to be mowed.

After that, the man always did my lawn whenever he did his own.  The mother stopped crying.  Freddie always greeted me, and his brothers acted like wild animals, but I knew that everything good takes time and patience. I had been wilder than any of them once, and people had put up with me.

One day, I was getting out of my car with a paper bag of groceries, and the deaf man was on my step motioning for me to come to his house. With squeals, he started towards his door.  I set the bag down on my steps and followed the man. The whole family was sitting together inside the shady screened porch.

Freddie told me that they had all been evicted, and that they wanted to thank me.  I asked where they would go, and Freddie said they didn’t have a place, so they would be in a hotel room for awhile.  They had not been given sufficient time to make better plans, but the neighbors had complained so much that they had to go.

Their faces were pitiful and sad.  My heart was filled with pain for their family, and the next morning they were all gone.  I continue to pray that their lives will become happier someday and that Freddie will have a chance at success.


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“His voice was like a noise of many waters…” (Ezekiel 43:2)

A lady in lavender is summoned by the sea.  She steps to the shore in silver sandals.  She is alone and yet never alone. His voice rises like a wave. Only His voice can quench the fire in her bones.  She waits in peace for words from the depths of the ocean.  No one can see what she sees or hear what she hears.  A laughing gull cries, and the waves swirl around her ankles.  The sand beneath her pulls her inward.  She knows never to resist, but only to stand and wait and yield.  The sandpipers come closer and tip their heads.  The angel shells nod as they sink back into the sand.  The lady’s fingers search the sea breezes for strands and she weaves them into whispers.  “Yes” she says in reply to the ocean king.  The taste of salt is in her mouth. The waters recede and gifts are sprinkled around her feet.  She picks up crystalline shells and seaweed as intricate as ancient lace. Three seagulls cry together and she hears her secret name, given to her by the sea.  She slips her feet into her sandals and leaves the wind at her back.  Her silver hair reaches its tendrils forward, and her eyes see the path beyond the sea oats that are waving in the same direction.  “Ye are the salt of the earth, says the sea breeze.

The lady stops outside the prison door and sees herself in the two-sided glass.  She pulls her lavender shawl around her neck and shoulders to prepare for the coldness inside.  She waits for a beep and pushes the cold metal door open. She goes to the faceless woman behind the dark glass and asks to speak to the director.  A husky black man with oval glasses and a flat top haircut comes to the lobby and calls for her. He is wearing a navy blue polo with the facility name embroidered on the chest and matching khaki pants.  He talks into his walky-talky as he leads her over the scuffed floors and through bland bone-colored halls to his office.  She takes out her mother-of-pearl pen and fills out papers on his desk.  The two speak quietly in his carpeted cubicle and he shakes her hand softly.  She writes down some names of prisoners to visit, and he tells her what days she can come.  She rises from her chair and nods in gratitude to the man who opened the doors to her.  She knows the Voice who caused him to open the doors, but she always respects earthly authority. “He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens…”

As she drives away, three mourning doves flutter over her windshield and light in the grass by the lake.  She smiles at the messengers and drives away.

Iris returns to the prison and is sent into a classroom with cheap plastic chairs and one grey table.  On the wall is a poster of a spreading green tree.  She remembers this tree from a dream.  She waits in silence.  An echo of footsteps and voices in the hallway makes her heart pound.  She twists the mother-of-pearl on her finger, and then rests her right hand on her knee.  She prays for power and grace. The heavy footsteps shuffle outside the doors, then a key turns the lock and in they come.  Young men in uniforms trudge in with hands behind their backs, heads low and weary.  Their brown plastic sandals scratch like chalk on a chalk board. One inmate is wearing red.  This means he could erupt in violence.  One boy is wearing orange.  This means suicidal. She sees tattoos and wrists carved with unknown symbols.  Her heart is grieved. What will she say to them?  The taste of salt comes to her mouth.  The young men sit down.  Their eyes startle her.  They seem so weak, so sad, so desperate.  She had not expected this.

Iris speaks softly with the prisoners, and the voice is inside of her.  The taste of salt is always on her tongue.  She is surprised how the young prisoners search her face, and look upon her as a mother.  She learns that it is not her, but the tides of the ocean are pulling upon them, and the living water is flowing out of her mouth and sometimes it trickles from her eyes.  Sometimes the prisoners cough up disfigured and unclean creatures upon the floor, where they writhe and squirm in their slimy grotesque forms.  When the salt water touches them, they cry out and die in agony at the lady’s feet.  The ocean king does the cleansing, yet the lady is rewarded as if she had done it herself.

Sometimes the water flows gently and softly. Sometimes it rumbles and powerful waves strike someone, and they are cast down and broken before the cleansing.  The will of the ocean determines the way the waters move and work on the souls in the room.  When the waters recede, the work is done and it is done well.

As Iris steps outside, a Great Heron watches her with one eye, from among the rushes.  The lady and bird nod reverently at one another.

The lady knows the power of stories.  If she can get a person to tell their story, a door cracks open and a sliver of light comes through, and suddenly she can touch their soul.  She has learned that anyone in the right moment, in the right place, in the right state of mind, can be persuaded to open the door of his soul.  She has learned to watch for the crack in the door.

It is a wonderful thing to be in the presence of stories.  It is a great net for catching souls. She watches the young inmates compete for a chance to tell their story.  They all rush in like seagulls with fierce eyes that spot a fish in the sea foam.  With eagerness they wait for their chance.  Her heart ripples with waves of joy at moments like these, when souls come out of their shells so raw and open.  They are all washed together in the tides of stories and passion and pain and love. Tears and smiles and songs come bursting forth, like hidden fish and shells from deep in the waters. This is the time when one might pluck a drowning soul from deep waters, like a luminous pearl.

In a room full of stories, a door springs open and God glides right in and glory takes place.  She witnessed it and it makes life worth living because souls make their statement and find their place of belonging.  It is priceless and it is real and it is satisfying beyond all words, in that realm where all souls fall silent.

“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

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“It had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels… And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl…” (Revelation 21:12, 21)

These twelve fables are based upon true stories of incarcerated young men who wanted their stories to be told. Their names have all been changed and they are all adults now.

I am Iris or “the lady in lavender.”  She wears lavender because purples denote royalty. She is a daughter of “the King,” and has been divinely commissioned. The Ocean King represents God, the flowing waves are the movements of the Holy Spirit, and the salt is the healing and cleansing power that He bestows upon the lady.


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A Cloud of Witnesses:  Portraits of Faith


“It is nothing extraordinary to be holy.  You must believe it is a normal thing for everybody.” –Mother Teresa

A professor once referred to these stories as “hagiographic portraits,” and I agree with that assertion.  I am pleased to introduce my spiritual family in this fashion.  These profiles deal more with the mystical realm than the natural, but I have made every effort to enable you to see my friends in both worlds.

For those who have never had the privilege of observing holy people going about their daily lives, I am delighted to share this treasure.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)


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