Tony Morris's colorful and scholarly narrative brings readers inside the world of the incarcerated. It is an environment where the average person would never expect to receive answers to some of the most life-altering questions for their lives.
While he was incarcerated, Tony Morris never imagined his life would be positively impacted in prison, where he met men from all walks of life and various cultural backgrounds. His perspective on those experiences gives insight and empowerment to those who may be facing challenges in their lives.
Tony Morris takes us on an extraordinary journey with fascinating eyewitness accounts of courage, endurance, and discovery as he served his forty-month prison sentence. In one of the most challenging environments a person could experience, Tony Morris discovers that God, faith, and life are just as real in prison as they are outside of prison.
As you read his account, it becomes clear that you can gain a wealth of experience wherever you are if you remain open to the opportunity to learn and discover what you believe and stand for.
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Read an Excerpt
I Found ...
Spiritual, Social, Intellectual, and Practical Musings from Prison
By Tony Morris
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Anthony Morris
All rights reserved.
Principle: "For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:8 NIV).
When I arrived at the Herlong Federal Prison Camp, several men approached me with a variety of gifts. This initially made me extremely uncomfortable since prior to going to prison I was told that you should not receive any gifts from anyone, because all gifts come with some type of expectation. So to say the least, I was reluctant to receive their gifts, and at the same time I didn't want to offend anyone who brought them. One prisoner gave me a sweat shirt and a pair of sweat pants. Another gave me a couple of packages of noodles. Several other men approached me with packages of tuna, mackerel, chorizo beans, corn chips, toiletries and a number of other items. Once I recognized that this was the custom of the new environment that I had entered, I was able to calm down and accept them with appreciation.
After receiving the gifts, a few of the men came to my bunk area to introduce themselves and to talk with me. Finally after a couple of hours things began to slow down and a gentleman walked over to my bunk and asked me a question. "Are you a pastor?" It wasn't that I didn't want anyone to know that I had been a pastor, but prison was the last place that I would have ever expected to meet someone who knew me when I was a pastor, especially since I was more than six hundred and fifty miles away from home. After affirming that I had been a pastor, he emphatically stated, "I know you! You spoke at the church that I attended in the Bay area." He told me the name of the church and who the pastor was, and I reassured him that I had been there to speak on a few occasions and that his pastor and I had been friends.
I Found God ... in the middle of the desert at a prison camp. Or maybe I should say God found me; God let me know immediately upon arrival at prison that I was not alone. This experience set the tone for my entire experience in prison.
To say that I found God may infer to some that I believe God to be in hiding or maybe that I am being presumptuous in saying that God can even be known on any level. I do not consider God to be lost or in hiding. I also believe that God wants to be known by creation and He wants to interact with creation. [The usage of the pronouns He, His or Him in reference to God is for the purpose of ease of flow in writing] However, I did want to spend my time in prison examining what that meant to me. I wanted to use my time examining the many aspects of my life and the human experience called life. I wanted to know and understand why I had come to believe some of the things that I did. And, I wanted to use the time to do a full evaluation of life.
In the spiritual or religious traditions that I had been influenced by, it was not uncommon to hear certain comments about God that were always troubling for me. For instance, I had heard people say, "God is doing this because He wants to see if we will do what He wants us to do." Why would God have to see something before He would know if we would do something or not? At the same time, it was said that God is Omni-present, Omnipotent, and Omniscient. Even though these terms are not found in the scriptures, the idea that God is present everywhere and He has all abilities or He knows everything is fundamental to the scriptures. To be anything less would mean that He is not God.
The term Omni means, "All." God is all that we need to know. But how is God to be known? Gerald Schroeder in his book, "The Science of God," says, "The god an atheist does not believe in is usually not the God of the Bible. Unfortunately, the god of the 'believer' is also often not the God of the Bible."
God must not be approached as though He has to be found. His divine presence infuses everything. "Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him, declares the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth?" (Jeremiah 23:24)
Another passage says, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths (hell), you are there, if I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, ' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you," (Psalm 139:7-12). The real question is, 'where is God not present?' The answer to that question is 'absolutely nowhere.'
I went to prison and found God right in the midst of it. God was present in the men whom I had met from Los Angeles, Oakland, Charlotte, Billings, Tacoma, Chicago, Mexico, Guatemala, Korea and many other places. Fundamental to my journey was the need to be reassured that I was not simply following a path given to me by others or one that I had discovered to be the truth. I often resisted certain terminology about being a follower of God, because hearing it often sounded so limiting and misinformed. It was of vital importance that I rediscover God in me.
We live in time and space and as long as we surrender to the limits of time and space, it will lead us to a misguided belief that somehow we are separated from God and He is separated from us. If we are separated from God, we are separated from the source of life itself. People's understanding of God usually leads to the misunderstanding that can obstruct their spiritual growth and development.
Who or What is God?
There have been occasions where God makes Himself known to humans. In those instances we must pay close attention. My first instance is found in Exodus 3:14 where the great Prophet Moses asked God to tell him who he should say sent him to be the deliverer of His people. It informs us that "God said to Moses, 'I will be that which I will be,' and added, "Here is what to say to the people of Israel: 'I will be' has sent me to you. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation."' (Exodus 3:14,15b)
In many English translations, this verse says that God told Moses to say, "I am that I am," sent me. 'I am that I am' is a wrong translation. Gerald Schroeder, in his book "God According to God," indicates that "I am" is so much more predictable, more appealing to our preconceived notions of God than 'I will be' such that the translators actually changed the meaning of the biblical text." The Hebrew word ehe'ye ("I will be") reveals God as a "dynamic force with options, contingency plans, a manifestation that changes to fit the changing needs of the dynamic world God created." "The God of the Bible is not a static Divinity, able to be pigeon-holed into how we think God should act."
In another encounter, Moses asked God, "Now show me your glory" Exodus 33:18. When God passed by Moses it says, "Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord (YHWH" – meaning literally, 'self-existent'). And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin ..." (Exodus 34:5-7).
The best way to understand 'someone' is to let the person inform you of who he or she is. God informs Moses that the essence of who he calls Lord is first and foremost, Self-Existent. Maybe another way of saying that is 'God is self-contained.' There is nothing outside of God that makes Him God. He is the fundamental principle underneath, over, around and through all that we understand to be in existence, and what we have yet to understand that exists. God communicates the basic aspects of His interaction with us as people ... the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving. What a dynamic expression of God. God is not this austere 'being,' sitting on a gigantic throne with a long white beard, sternly overlooking a heavenly balcony at creation to find out if you are being 'naughty or nice.'
The Word God
The English word for 'God' has become a source of much confusion for people. The word 'God' in English comes from the Germanic word 'gad,' pronounced 'gut' or 'gohdt.' The word actually means 'good,' and therefore it is believed that the name 'God' refers to divine goodness. It is more of a language picture or descriptive word than it is a prescriptive word. It generally refers to a deity or one who is invoked.
God is a reality beyond words. Therefore, He cannot be comprehended intellectually. God can be apprehended in human consciousness or spiritually. The scriptures are inspired words spoken or written by human beings attempting to explain to other humans the best that they can about what God has said and done.
If God is to be known, how is it to happen? We must understand that He is completely free or unconfined by any restrictions that the human mind may attempt to establish. God is inexhaustible and boundless, which can conceptually be challenging for some people to comprehend. Often we want to be able to label something or someone so we can at least attempt to grasp an understanding of it or the person. This is why the spiritual force of faith is vitally important. The scriptures inform us that, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). We may come to know or understand various aspects of God through His divine names. These names give us insight into His nature or character. They also deepen our perception of the one and only God.
According to the scriptures, God is Spirit. "God is Spirit and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and truth" (John 4:24). The word 'Spirit' denotes, "wind, breath, vibration, the animating or vital principle." According to H. Emily Cady, "God is not a being or person having life, intelligence, love or power. God is that invisible, intangible, but very real, something we call life." She also says, "God is not a being having qualities, but He is the good itself. Everything you can think of that is good, when in its absolute perfection, goes to make up that invisible 'Being' we call God."
Spirit is formless and can manifest in any form or manner. Human language cannot explain 'Spirit,' but inwardly we can feel or sense and hear the Spirit's voice. God is not "a" Spirit as some versions of the Bible have wrongly translated. God is Spirit, which means there is no known framework to fit Him inside of to be able to fully explain who or what He is. "What is spiritual and infinite cannot be seen or described in the language of finite beings." (Rocco Errico). God must be understood spiritually because He is Spirit. It also means that all that God created is then in essence spiritual. It may have a dimensional manifestation; however, it is in the truest sense spiritual. H. Emily Cady says, "Each rock, tree, animal, every visible thing, is a manifestation of the one Spirit – God" because all life is from God.
God or Spirit has not been seen and cannot be seen. "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known" John 1:18 ... "No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father" John 6:46. The idea of seeing God has more to do with looking at the essence of someone. God is Spirit and Spirit cannot be confined to a realm, dimension, place or spot. Spirit is everywhere and permeates everything.
The scriptures further inform us that, "He (Jesus Christ) is the image of the 'invisible God ..." (Colossians 1:15). The Apostle Paul gave further insight on this matter when he told Timothy that God, "... who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light whom no one has seen or can see ..." (1 Timothy 6:16). Since God cannot be seen with the human eye, then how do we come to know God? We come to know God in essence or in manifestation. When I look at creation, I see God. When I look at people, I see God. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies and celestial bodies, I see God. When I look down at the earth and see the crawling creatures, I see God.
So again how is God to be known? The writers of the scriptures were explaining spiritual ideas and matters so that people could comprehend eternal concepts and principles in an everyday manner. However, God is truly known only through revelation. One of the ancient prophets said, "He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth – the Lord Almighty is his name" (Amos 4:13). God makes His thoughts known to mankind.
On many occasions while walking around the asphalt track in Herlong, California, I was slowly removing the limitations that I had developed in my own mind about who God is and what God does. I was replacing the human religious ideas and dogmas that control so many people searching for Him. I am not sure I would have arrived at this point in my life if I did not have this experience. I began to see and pursue God in a much broader context than in my previous thirty-three years of life. I was finding God because He was revealing Himself to me. My time away from my home environment brought me an inherent gift of solitude and contemplation. It removed me from the fast paced life I had lived and allowed me to spend time with my own thoughts, intuitions and meditations.
God is the spiritual, essential essence of life and intelligence. There is nothing that exists outside of the realm of God because He is everywhere. He governs the entire universe. All of life and existence in its fundamental forms is from God. "If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust" (Job 34:14-15). Jesus, the Christ taught us that God is our Father. The word 'Father' means 'originator, progenitor, founder and inventor.'
God is the source of all creation. Therefore, He is not a human being. "I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man - the Holy One among you ..." (Hosea 11:9). There is sometimes a tendency for human beings to want to interact with God as though He is human. "He who is the glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind" (1 Samuel 15:29). So often we attempt to make God in our image instead of understanding that we humans were made in His image and likeness.
God doesn't belong to any one person or group of people. He is transcendent; beyond the human experience. Although God is with us through the human experience, He cannot be limited to or subjected by the human experience. Jesus the Christ encouraged us to, "Look beneath the surface so that you can judge correctly" (John 7:24 NLT). Much of what must be understood about God is not based upon our ability to fabricate who or what He is; rather it must be understood through the names and nature that God has revealed to humanity.
God's Name Is Not God!
The word 'God' was not widely used until approximately the 14th Century. Then by the time the King James Version of the Bible was translated in 1611, the translators used the words common to the European people. Instead of translating the word properly by using its meaning from the language that it was written, whether it was Aramaic, Hebrew or Greek, the translators replaced the true meaning with words or a word that was common to their native language.
Gerald Schroeder informs us that in Genesis 1:1, when God introduces the creation narrative, it says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," which is a traditional translation of that crucial verse. However, a more accurate rendering of the verse is, "With a first cause (B'raisheet) God created the heavens and the earth." 'In the beginning' is a mistranslation of the first words of the Bible, the Hebrew word B'raisheet. The error was introduced by the Septuagint 2000 years ago and then carried through to the Latin Vulgate and finally the King James and other English translations." This same error occurred in the translation of the word 'God' in the same verse of scripture. In that first verse of scripture 'God' is not actually God, it is 'Elohim,' which comes from the root word, 'El,' meaning "the only absolute, infallible, mighty, strong, prominent one." Elohim is defined in Strong's Dictionary of the Old Testament as follows: 'gods' in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative (superlative means 'Most excellent; of the Highest order; greatest; superior or Supreme; magnificent; preeminent; foremost; unsurpassed; unequaled)." Elohim then means Supreme, Superior, Most Excellent, the Greatest, of the Highest Order, Magnificent, Pre-eminent, Foremost, Unsurpassed and Unequaled. Elohim translated 'God' is the most frequently used name for God in the Old Testament, as its equivalent, Theos, is in the New Testament. According to Schroeder, "... the Eternal God and Elohim are one and the same, Elohim being one aspect of the all-encompassing Eternal God as made manifest in nature."
Excerpted from I Found ... by Tony Morris. Copyright © 2016 Anthony Morris. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 I Found ... God, 1,
Chapter 2 I Found ... A Devil, 18,
Chapter 3 I Found ... Light And Darkness, 32,
Chapter 4 I Found ... The Genius', 51,
Chapter 5 I Found ... Good And Evil, 60,
Chapter 6 I Found ... Success And Failure, 74,
Chapter 7 I Found ... Life And Death, 88,
Chapter 8 I Found ... Myself, 100,