Yesterday was May 5, so happy Cinco de Mayo to all. Or if you are from Tucson than happy “Cinco de Mango.” To all you Eegees fans. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, and have never had the fortunate opportunity to partake in the heavenly experience of Eegees, then I’m sorry to say – you haven’t lived yet!
It’s probably one of the top 10 things I crave most about the “outside world” (along with El Nene, of course!) Cinco de Mayo has always been an extra special day for me. It’s when I really tap into my true Hispanic heritage. On the outside I may look like a gringo (white guy), but on the inside, I’m full of carne asada and frijoles. I bleed pico de gallo. Mi corazon is probably painted more green, white and red, then it is red, white and blue. That is just the fact of the matter. I am just that way.
So today during “yard call” when they organized a basketball game, “whites” versus the “Eses,” and I was put on the “whites” team, I felt sorely out of place. The game was for 100 stamps, which on the “yard” goes for roughly $35. It was a lot of fun, despite the fact that somehow my big toenail ripped off in my shoes, and started filling my shoe up with blood. I didn’t play much after that. But I tell you what…these pesky little Hispanic buys sure play rough. Not only do they own the soccer field, but today they also own the basketball court as well.
They got us by three. Or should I say “we” got “them” by three because let’s be real, I was pulling for the “Eses” the whole time. I was just behind enemy lines, that’s all.
I recognize a racially divided basketball game is not a wholesome way to encourage a mixing of cultures, but I do believe it is at the very heart of what Cinco de Mayo is all about. Therefore, I tried not getting too mixed up in the excitement out there on the court.
Instead, I made for myself to huge grande Burritos to emphasize to myself that I am above no man, nor am I below any nation. Simultaneously, however, I was also celebrating a major mile marker in my life. Each one of my Burritos represented a year. The Lord has blessed me with strength and diligence of keeping a journal, and this Cinco de Mayo marks two full years I have written in my journal – one complete notebook page each day, of the goings on in my PrisonTemple.
I am in complete awe at this amazing miracle. I know myself, and honestly journal writing is not my forte. Hence I know that I must give all glory to the Lord. He has established within me a habit and a hope that my past can connect to my future. This giant stack of 731 pages will be invaluable. It already is! To me, yes, but also to my posterity. That is my greatest desire, that what I write can be like Scriptures to those I have stewardship over.
I jumped for joy to think that the Lord has blessed me with this prospect. This prison is the most difficult time of my mortal journey, the refiner’s fire, but it is where I learned and BECAME the most! To have a good percentage of it recorded brings me to my knees in solemn worship. Every entry I write is dedicated to my Savior.
Of course I don’t have EVERYTHING recorded. Sadly, there is just so much I have missed. But all in all, I am elated for having done what I have already accomplished. I now see myself in greater light! May I continue to do it for the rest of my life until it is mortally unnecessary to do.
As I look back on these past two years I become encircled about by unmatched gratitude to see that I am growing and progressing. Granted, I will admit that I am still me, Lindon Kristofer Claridge, the boy who loves to play games. But in my PrisonTemple I am beginning to become a man…a man of God! All glory to His name!
I rejoice in who I am and who I am becoming. I am intellectually capable to look from outside myself and assess that I am in fact a person who I would want to be friends with. Isn’t that an important part of our eternal life? To love and respect our own souls?
This is why today I am beside myself. Literally. I am beside myself showering myself with hugs and kisses. I love me! The things I do and say in righteousness pleases me. Though I am filled with an abundance of humility. How can this be if I am so full of myself right now? Isn’t that backwards? Well, humility is never self-abasing. To be humble does not mean to demean yourself. Humility is self-encouraging. It is to allow yourself to find joy in agency. This type of humility supplies nothing but smiles when we look into the mirror, because we choose for ourselves obedience to God’s commandments, which brings endless blessings.
Thus we lose ourselves for having denied ourselves of all ungodliness and given life to our spirits and not our natural man. This is the power of obedience. It brings about humility. It brings about love for ourselves. I believe we all know this to one extent or the other.
We all should also know that obedience can likewise create within us a sense of pride. The “look at me, I’m so good” type of pride. This pride generates a belief that we are our own saviors. It is erroneously damaging. I could sit here and beat that dead horse for the rest of this post, but I’ve always been an abstract thinker, especially in my view of life, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. So please allow me to bring all of this together and explain a certain kind of phenomenon. It occurs in my mind and I bet 100 stamps it goes on in many other truth seekers mind’s as well.
So I have been really happy lately, right, because of Cinco de Mayo, and also because of my Journal landmark. I will honestly submit that even though I have been obedient in certain areas of my life, such as journal writing, other areas have been lacking. This is mortality’s constant henpeck. I have been lacking in my perfection in Christ as I ought not. My natural man wears down on me. Yet, even in my severe imperfection, my Heavenly Father has the wherewithal to continue to bless me. For example, today was my monthly meeting with the prisons psychologist. Bless her heart, she has to deal with my loopy mind. Though if it was at all appropriate I would have given her a great big hug because she was the means in which allowed my heart to soar even higher than it already has been.
When I go into talk with her, I am sure it is rarely anything like what she talks about with the other guys. I realize my main concern isn’t really about where I’ll live or work when I get out, or what my family life will be. As I am sure her main objective is to get me ready for those future events.
For me, my main concern that we usually often talk about is the worry I have that in my certain predicament as a convict, especially within the Church of Jesus Christ, is that I won’t be able to serve people, or help in any way. I’ll have fallen so far away that no one would care to have my charity. I know, I know. Such a silly thing to worry about. But it’s true. I stay up all hours of the night contemplating a future in which the Lord can use me for His purposes. I actually remember when I was about to be excommunicated from Christ’s church that my main worry was that I would then never be able to hold the calling in His church again. I knew I would eventually become a member again, that was not really a problem to wrap my heart around. But to be rebaptized and not be able to hold a calling…? That is what my heart could not accept. It is what I feared the most. My heart was consoled, though, when my stake president told me that not being able to have a calling after being rebaptized was only a rumor and therefore not true. It really helped me through that time in my life. I am so thankful and so hopeful for the future.
I share this though to express and emphasize the point that being able to serve really is one of my top priorities. I don’t dare brag about that – never! That would defeat the purpose. My only hope is that you realize that you will always have a friend in me. I will always be willing to help and serve in any way.
In this particular meeting with my counselor, she asked me what I was doing to serve people, if indeed I was so concerned about it. Fair question, right? It’s like when a person tells me they want to lose weight. I instantly ask, “Well, what are you doing to lose that weight? Eating less? Working out more?” Obviously, if I really want to serve people when I get out then I should be serving people now, right? So I thought about it. What instantly popped into my head was prisontemple.com. Which really surprised me because even though our blog is on the Internet, I really don’t share it with many people. I never wanted this blog to be of anything I could aggrandize myself with. It is solely Christ’s and I believe it’s popularity (if it could ever even attain to that) would take its natural course and be in the Lord’s hands, and would be shown to those He had prepared and desired to view it. I feel the job of marketing prisontemple.com is completely up to the Spirit, and not Dad or me – unless of course we are urged by the Spirit.
So when I shared prisontemple.com with my counselor I did so in careful humility. She asked me about it and I told her. She then asked me how it is doing, if indeed it is helping people. That is when I got stuck. I really couldn’t answer that question because I’m in prison, and I don’t associate with anyone that does in fact read it, if anyone reads it at all. I don’t know? But then I remembered a letter Dad sent me this past week and I shared it with her. Dad confirmed to me that a great number of people have been flooding to prisontemple.com in the past few months. I actually don’t even feel comfortable sharing that for fear of sounding like I am bragging. However, I do want to emphasize my hope of this blog.
All Dad and I have ever desired for this blog is to help at least one soul rise unto their destiny, and come unto their Savior while in this prison we all call mortality. Every other soul this blog touches is just an added extra bonus to the delight I have at glorifying my God, and furthering the work of His kingdom. So to think it is touching a great many people is beyond my capacity, and fills me with pure joy, more than my heart is able to sustain.
When I shared it with my counselor, she seemed impressed enough that she totally surprised me by asking what the blog address was as she scooted her chair up close to her keyboard, with her eyes fixed on the monitor of her computer. Wait, what she really going to look it up? I told her it was prisontemple.com and she typed in the URL. “Oh, wow? This is really nice. Did your Dad do all this?” Then she turned her monitor so I could see, and I about passed out! “I’m looking at my blog!! Aaaaah!!” I stood up and wigged out. My heart raced a million beats a minute. I jumped for joy! I was so amazed!
I couldn’t stop laughing!
I have a blog, and I haven’t even been on it until just now! I’ve spent so many endless hours in the creation of this light, filled product and years later I am now witnessing firsthand for myself all its acclaim! Can you even imagine the joy I had!? It’s like having a child that you nurture and rear with your eyes closed. Then when she turns two, you are allowed to take quick peek at your beautiful child. Instantly, you see what all your hard work has helped create. No longer do you have to worry or fear that you have been misled and all your efforts are for naught. You know what your efforts were and aided in the creation of something precious. Now all you want to do is to keep doing what you have been doing and double your efforts.
Seeing PrisonTemple with my own eyes was one of God’s greatest gifts to me! Like I said, I could’ve just hugged my counselor! She let me see what you see and it settled some worries of my heart. Prisontemple.com really is beautiful Dad! I love it! It’s so clean and represents our Lord marvelously! The flowing wheat at the top is so peaceful. I felt like I was in a dream. I could go on and on about how amazed I was! Thank you Lord! Thank you counselor! Thank you Dad! Thank you reader! I have been filled with joy this day!
I parted with my counselor, with my heartfelt thanks to her, and basically skipped back to the block to kneel before my Lord in gratitude.
It was in this prayer that I learned about a flaw in my belief system. Let me call it like it is, though: a lie from loserfur. I often fall into the trap that I am unworthy of all the many blessings my Heavenly Parents bestow upon me. Which is understandable, because I am in prison. I’m a criminal. Criminals don’t get blessings! Right!? Wrong.
But because I have been in deeper contemplation of the past couple of years because of my Journal landmark, I am humble enough to realize that most of all my blessings I have been given were not brought to me because of anything that I did, but mostly because of the prayers of others, and mainly (if not always) because of my Heavenly Father’s love. Simply put, He just loves me and wants to love me.
Therefore, the lie is created on this truth. It states that because of my unworthiness for my blessings, I am a burden to God, the giver of my blessings. And He expects me to be completely obedient and self-sufficient in all my doings. If I am, then the Lord won’t have a need to bless me. The lie is that blessing me takes effort on God’s part. Thus, blessing me becomes a strenuous burden on God. I then should feel bad for getting blessings from God.
This sounds completely absurd doesn’t it? But I assure you that we all buy into this lie WAY too often. I know that I do. If we didn’t, we would be more receptive to the constant blessings of God. We would understand that Heavenly Father desires desperately to be a part of every single tiny aspect of our lives. Shoot, He already is. Really. So technically to understand that God wants to and is a part of every minute detail of our lives, is to understand that it is for our own spiritual development and not His. When we accept the fact that God is in and through all things in our life, then we begin to understand our potential.
Looking back into my past I realize that I am the product of the circumstances I was dealt. I grew up a couple of hours from the Mexican border – I was always around the Hispanic culture. I love it and accept it as my own. I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – I am very morally driven. I grew up living in a single parent home – I act out for attention in odd ways. I grew up athletic – I saw that my efforts in sports fulfilled for me a sense of accomplishment. These are just a few examples.
In every single instance of my life, God did for me what I could not do for myself. Who I am, and who I became is the reaction I had to what God has done for me. He is in and through all things. I know it. I testify of it. So it would be silly of me to ever believe that His blessings to me, are a burden to Him.
Don’t ever seek to be self-sufficient in your mortal probation. It was never designed to be like that. Instead, accept that every second of every day has the fingerprints of God all over it. He is there. He is willing to bless. Accept those blessings.
Be obedient. Not because you feel you must repay Him for the blessings He has given you, nor be obedient because you are in need of blessings, and you feel you must earn them. But be obedient because you simply love God, and you believed living righteously is the only way to truly be happy.
I’m tired of thinking that God expects me to overcome this world without Him, as I know, His Only Begotten Son did in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus Christ already did so that we wouldn’t have to. I don’t find strength in thinking that I have within me the ability to live life perfectly obedient, in which case I do not burden God constantly for having to pull me out of the mud by his blessings. All that does for me is pit me against a hopeless cause that I will fail a hundred percent of the time.
To act and not be acted upon does NOT mean to trek mortality alone. It means to use (an action word) the “care packages” that God has given us that M. Joseph Brough spoke about in his talk this past General Conference. Heavenly Father is in our lives, He wants to be in our lives, and we want to have Him in our lives. So let Him be in our lives. Doing so will slingshot you to heights unimaginable, instead of being stuck in the same old ruts time and time again. If you are stuck on a spiritual plateau, I invite you to internally accept that you are in God’s hands, and that every moment of your life, good or bad, is a blessing from God’s own heart. You must realize you are never too far from His love. He will never forsake you. I don’t even care if you go to prison…He still won’t forsake you. And that is all the reason in the world to keep on runnin’.
The other reason for this post is to invite you to keep a journal. Why? If for nothing else it will help you recognize the continuous hand of God that I promise is always there. By doing so, you will be more inclined to live a life full of gratitude. It’s this perspective that changes you!