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January 11, 2018


Not a very popular idea in this me-first world we live in and definitely not something for a prideful, arrogant man to experience willingly.  To have such a man debased and set aside by those who had followed and respected him was a blow that would crush his spirit.  Further, to not be able to find any meaningful work after over 450 attempts.  Oh, from the title you expected this would be about Saul of Tarsus, sorry but it is my own tale by which I by no means compare myself to my brother Paul, simply that it reflects how God does often work.

Being incarcerated seemed to me to be the ultimate in humiliation.  While rightly convicted, the idea of throwing away a career as a paramedic and nurse to spend the rest of my life (a very real possibility), becoming a plaything of those employed by the prison system was a rude awakening.  My first case manager warned me that there were two types of guards and officials in the so-called Department of Correction; those who knew I was in prison as punishment and those who believed I was in prison to be punished.  Sadly, he told me, the latter were in the vast majority, and they loved their job!  That was to be my experience for the next 23 years, 7 months and 25 days.

I did make a profession of faith and surrender to Christ within 3 weeks of arriving at Central Prison; my growth as a disciple was haphazard at best as I continued throughout my stay in prison to deny my guilt.  My fear was if I ‘fessed up’ my family and wife would abandon me as I had plead not-guilty and cost my family a significant amount of money.  This was something I wrestled with for the entire time I was in prison and for years afterward.  That refusal to ‘come clean’ kept me from much of what God would have done for me; “I” was still primary and on the throne of my heart as reflected in some of my behavior after coming to Christ.  Time and again I had people tell me that my story reminded them of Joseph (Genesis 30 and following) for my being imprisoned unjustly.  After a time, I actually began to believe this, and when reading Acts 9 and studying it, I began to feel that this was my time of humiliation.

Finally, the day came when I was released.  I had attended the Chapel Hill Bible Church for some time after getting out of the Navy, but my main reason was for the ‘target rich environment’ with all the coeds.  The pastor, James Abrahamson, sought to mentor me but much of what he shared with me went in one ear and out the other.  Seeds were planted that would come to fruition once I was in prison (well, at least my journey in Christ did begin even if somewhat haphazardly at the time.  I reconnected with Jim while in minimum custody and decided to start attending there even though Jim was no longer pastor.  When I learned why and how Jim did not attempt to ameliorate the circumstances of his fall, it stil did not move me to be honest with anyone about my guilt.

Jay Thomas is the pastor there and was a wonderful expositional teacher of Scripture.  I really felt this was where God wanted me and so my wife and I became members.  Sometime later, while Jay was teaching through the Gospel of John, he said something that pricked my heart about my continuing disavowal of my guilt.  After the service I spoke with him briefly, asking for a time in the coming week when we could meet.  At the same time, I knew that I had to speak with Jim Abrahamson as well, but most of all with Kathy.  I feared that she would be so angry with my lying over the years, that she would toss me out.  When we got home, we sat together in the living room of our home, and I confessed to her what I’d done.  She did not want to believe it at first; that was difficult as how do you tell someone you love deeply that you have lied to them for over 28 years?

Well, by God’s grace she did believe me and did not toss me out the front door.  During this time I began experiencing many symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress but did not make the connection with those same symptoms from after I got out of the Navy.  Even before getting out of prison, I had applied to multiple places for employment.  I’d earned an Associate’s degree in Computer Information Technology and was hoping that would at least get me in the door.  It did not; the one interview I had with an IT firm in the Triangle lasted well over an hour.  At the conclusion, I asked the interviewer what the next step would be.  He kind of laughed and then said he had no intention of hiring me, that my resume intrigued him and he just wanted to speak with me.

450+ applications using a variety of online and other services led to nothing more than the sound of crickets.  No one seemed to want to hire an ex-felon, even those companies that specialized in such gave me a pass.  It was humiliating to me not to be able to find work other than with Measurement, Inc., a company that had hired me as a reader while I was on work release.  The work there was definitely seasonal and not really enough to be a real help in making me feel as though I was ‘head of the household.’  Yeah, that pride thing was still working.  Once I passed the age of 62, a friend suggested I check what I could get from them if I ‘retired’ compared if I waited until 65 or 70.  Due to the time in prison, there was really no difference, so at the end of that month, I filed for Social Security.  That paltry sum I began to receive did help, combined with the episodic checks from Measurement, Inc., but still left me wondering if that was all I could expect.

It hurt me (still pride, but also something else) because my lack of income would force Kathy to continue working longer than she’d hoped.  I tried other ventures (Real Estate Broker was a flop as the NC Real Estate Commission refused to license me as a broker) but continued with my $600.00 or so a month.  The anger and frustration that I often took out on Kathy (or inanimate objects in our house) fueled more and more suicidal ideations.  I just wanted the suffering to end; both mine and the pain I was causing Kathy.  My attempts were often interrupted by a phone call or other such (one time as I stood on the Brewer Road overpass a Durham County Deputy just happening to roll by).

Sitting in this man’s car and talking about life, especially for those who have come out of prison, combined with a speaker at a conference I attended as a USO-NC volunteer, opened my eyes to the fact that I had PTS.  To say that the VA hospital was less than helpful would be putting it mildly, but with the help of Senator Burr’s office, I finally was not only diagnosed with PTS but given a disability rating that enabled me to receive over $1,000.00 every month.  Still, it wasn’t work and sitting at home everyday (when not volunteering somewhere) just made me feel all the more worthless.

In October of 2016, I attended the annual meeting of an organization affiliated with Our Children’s Place (I’d been a board member since my release from prison).  During a meeting with their board before the annual meeting, one of their management persons told me that while they did not have a position for me at that time, they would in the Spring.  Others of the board of OCP who overheard our conversation were elated; for the first time since being indicted in 1987, I had hope of meaningful work.  Kathy was elated, and since we had rented a place in town through Airbnb, we started looking for a place to live and a home church.  That search brought us to Windsor Park and, more importantly, to the Bridge Church on Market Street in Wilmington.  We moved in January 2017 to a rental from VRBO until our house in Windsor Park was completed (end of July 2017).

I checked the website of this company everyday (sometimes more often) and was elated when I saw the position listed.  Within an hour I had transmitted my cover letter, resume and other material requested; then I waited…and waited…and waited.  Later that month, the position was no longer on the website; apparently, they had filled it without even calling me in for an interview!


It seemed that no one was interested in hiring me; despite our hopes, we were back to ‘normal’ with me the house-husband and Kathy working.  I was REALLY frustrated and angry but was at the point in my walk with the Christ that despair and depression did not happen…much.  Then this past week it was as if cotton wool had been taken off my eyes (nothing to do with my new Rx of glasses); if all I could do was serve others through my volunteer activities, then that is what I would do.  Today I was reminded by an old friend (Chuck Swindoll, Insight for Living) of something A. W. Tozer wrote some time ago that has been true in my life over and over.


“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly unless He has hurt him deeply.”


Amazingly, as a result of this past week, I am content with being a professional volunteer with both the USO-NC (Jacksonville Center) and the Battleship North Carolina.  There are some things I do to contribute to The Bridge Church; these activities (along with cooking for my beloved) are enough.


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