Some of my best friends are ex-offenders with multiple felonies. When they were active in addiction or crime, I would have been afraid of them and would have avoided them. Under the influence of Jesus Christ, these men and women are some of the finest people I have met in my sixty-seven years on earth.
I used to have what I call a “romantic” view of these friends. I don’t have that any more. They have faults, deep hurts, and brokenness that they will carry to the grave. As a result they often fail with their good intentions. One of my friends told me, as we were talking through the window of a visitation room, “I guess I can only be a Christian in jail.” The good news for this man is that his last trip to prison was the last and he is now a church leader in Kansas.
Matt Brooks was a man I gave a lot of room to, prior to his current incarceration. He was a friend of one of my best friends and was always cordial to me. However, he had a very tough reputation. Over a year ago, Matt wrote me and told me about how he had begun following Jesus Christ. I was thrilled and arranged to visit him in a nearby county jail. We visited weekly for a few months before he entered the Missouri prison system. Now, Matt and I talk on the phone and correspond through the mail.
The first article this week is an interview with Matt and Sean Bryan. The second article is a poem by John H. for his friend, Alecia.
Interview with Sean Bryan
Matt – Sean, you are most known for your 1998 baseball draft to the Kansas City Royals. Please describe this pinnacle moment of your life.
Sean – It was most definitely the dream come true. A lot of hard work and dedication was rewarded by this opportunity. I just wish I had been more mature and wish I didn’t forget how much work it took to get there. I literally threw it away, choosing partying and drugs over practice and preparation.
Matt – That being said, you rose to heights most of us have only dreamed of. What led to your fall?
Sean – I was twenty years old and had to work very hard to be as good as I was. I lost sight of that in the off-season and made horrible choices. My choices ultimately destroyed any shot I had at making it to the “Bigs.”
Matt – What would you say was your greatest achievement in life? Here’s a follow up question. Why is that so important to you?
Sean – Without a doubt the two and a half years after my first prison sentence was a success. I got a good job as a welder, had a place of my own, met a gal and had a beautiful little girl. Olivia is definitely my greatest achievement.
Matt – You’ve expressed to me your strong faith in the Lord. Where would you say he fits in all of this?
Sean – God and I have an up and down relationship. For guys who are afflicted with addiction and a thirst for the trenches, we need to know and remember that no matter what God is is there wishing and wanting us to do better. However, it is very hard for me to “let go and let God.”
Matt – Now on to goals. Aside from trying to catch up to me in our daily workout routine, what are some of your realistic goals?
Sean – Ha! Ha! Ha! (Both Matt and Sean are very competitive. I expect they had a good laugh over his question.)
My short term goals are to first finish this “bit” and the one in Kansas, as positively as possible. My long term goal is to get out, find and maintain a job in the Millwrights Union, and to see my daughter as much as possible.
Matt – Would you like to close this interview with some final comments of your own?
Sean – I just want to reiterate the importance of knowing that God is always with those who know and have accepted him. Even in the darkest and most desperate times, never give in. Just keep on learning and trying to get it right. Remember that God gives us his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.
Confusing Contradictions by John H. (for Alecia)
Walking on windows, Looking through floors.
Going through walls, Getting stopped by doors.
Thinking of good times, just to get mad.
Enjoying someone’s company, the whole time being sad.
Walking in circles, to make a straight line.
I want nothing, yet everything is mine.
Thinking of the future, getting stuck in the past.
Winning the race, but coming in last.
Pick people up, just to let them down.
Chase away your demons, then they stick around.
Grow up big and strong, just to wilt and die.
Cut off your wings, maybe then you can fly.