Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"You Ordered a Mess & You Got a Mess..."

This is the 3rd installment of a 3 part series. You may need to go back a couple of days to catch up...

I think I was in the 8th grade when some friends and I went to the local ice cream shop one afternoon to hang out and eat frozen goodies. My friend Becky ordered vanilla ice cream with caramel syrup on top. She expected to get it in a cup, but instead was handed a cone with caramel oozing down the sides. As Becky gasped in disbelief the server said to her, "You ordered a mess and you got a mess!~"

Around noon on March 21st, 2007, I found myself in a mess of my own making. The Waycross Police arrived at my home. I was out in the yard with our dog, Conner, when they pulled up. When I greeted them they asked me if I knew what they were there for. I said, "I would assume you're here to arrest me." I was right. They let me take Conner back inside and call Marilyn to tell her what was going on. They were the first of many to tell me I would be out on bond by the next morning. We walked to the car and I got in. They never touched me and never handcuffed me. And we headed off to the county jail.

Once inside, the mess kept getting bigger. I sat in a holding cell while 2 men threatened to kill each other and then me- and then were released without being booked. As they booked me there was a lengthy argument about whether my Internet conversation was a misdemeanor or a felony. A very helpful man from the GBI decided on felony. Then there was another discussion about where I should be housed for the one night (I heard it over and over again) I would be there. Since I knew absolutely nothing about prison life, they decided to give me a private cell on the high security wing for my own safety. They gave me an orange and white striped jump suit to put on. I'm 6'4" and nothing fit, so I wound up wearing what amounted to Capri pants- for the next 7 weeks. There were no bars on my cell, just a small concrete block room with no windows and a plexi-glass porthole in the heavy steel door. And it was freezing.  I'm almost never cold (ask anyone who ever visited one of my offices), but I FROZE that day and night. The ceiling was covered with globs of toilet paper that previous occupants had gotten wet and then tossed at the air vents hoping they would stick and block them. I had a bed that was way too short, 2 sheets and no pillow. And a towel. I used the towel for a blanket. I had no idea what time it was or what might happen next. In the middle of the night, one of the giant globs of TP fell from the ceiling and would have scared me to death- except that I was already that scared. 

The next morning they brought me breakfast, wrapped me in chains like I was the Frankenstein monster, and took me to a court room right there in the jail. Marilyn and my attorney were waiting for me there. This was when bail would be set and I could go home. But this mess of my own making just kept getting messier. The judge could not set bail in my case because his superior wanted to see me in court first. The Assistant D.A. said they were willing to set bail and process it with Judge Jackson (he has since passed away, but the name still makes me shiver) so I could get out immediately. Judge Jackson proceeded to sit on that bond request for 7 weeks, thus accounting for my time in jail. Along the way it became clear that I was going to be punished as much for being a Youth Pastor who had fallen as for the crime I had committed- and I understood that. I had disappointed so many people. I finally pled guilty to a plea bargain that kept me from serving 10 years in prison, and I instead received 10 years probation. I was banned from living in south Georgia (which everyone agrees is unconstitutional, but what are you gonna' do?  We were not going to stay there in any case.). And I was branded with a label (see What's Your Sign?) that could have made me a modern day leper. I would love to complain about the severity of my punishment, but it was a mess of my own making. I ordered a mess, and I got a mess....

Somehow, the love and grace of Jesus and my family rescued my soul in the days that followed, and now I live to love them and to praise Him. This blog (and later Twitter) has played no small role in my return to society and in my desire to once again find a ministry to serve in the name of Jesus. I am still unable to travel much and I live under many restrictions- but I do live! And I await direction from God on how I can best serve Him in the next phase of my life. The responses to my posts of the past 2 days have been so amazing and grace-filled, and I cannot say "thank you" often enough or loudly enough to those who have been so kind. However, if these revelations make it uncomfortable for you to call me a friend, read this blog or follow me on Twitter anymore, I understand. Thanks for travelling with me this far. May God's love and mercy be with you always. I know it has been with me...

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous5/31/2011

    Big C,

    As long as it is alright with you, I will always call you my friend and read your blog. You and Marilyn mean a lot to me.


  2. Coming from a guy who once told us to "get outta' town!" that means a lot, Todd. Thanks for all of your support and encouragement. Love ya' buddy!

  3. I was in prison for 7 years...but as a guard. I did learn something though, "The main difference between those incarcerated and those that aren't is the fact that one of them got caught."

    The true sinners are the ones throwing the stones, not the ones getting hit with them.

  4. Kevin, I give the guards all the credit in the world for keeping semi-sane during those 7 weeks. And one of them shared that exact same thought with me then. Thank you, brother.

  5. Carl I thank you for transparency in your story. I didn't know what has kept you from being able to go back into ministry. I can't imagine the pain you and your family must have felt during that time. Thankfully we serve a God who is more gracious and merciful than we can ever imagine. Just realizing the fact that when we go to God with our sin and repent he makes us whiter than snow is just amazing. I thank you for the ministry you now have as your reach out and share the wisdom you have gained in your many years of experience in youth ministry and life.

  6. Thanks so much, Dave. We do serve a great God of mercy. It means more than I can tell you to receive encouragement from folks like you who are still in th trenches of student ministry. Blessings to you, my friend!

  7. Anonymous6/01/2011

    There but for the grace of God go I.

  8. I echo Todd, my friend. :)

  9. Thanks Brook. You guys rock.

  10. Anonymous6/04/2011

    We are all receipients of God's ever Amazing Grace. Never look at Wayx as a failure, but as a point at which God's Grace became even more apparent for all our lives. You, Marilyn, and Will always are in my prayers. Blessings...no matter life's situations. UBD

  11. UBD, my memories of Trinity are of lessons learned and people who lived out the teachings of Jesus in their response to myself and my family. The love & care you and the congregation gave to Marilyn and Will is not soon forgotten. To us, you are family- and one of my favorite people I ever worked with. Blessings to you as well!

  12. Anonymous6/21/2011

    the good news - this confirms that you are not an alien. you are in fact, human. and it is in our nature to sin. it's what we learn from it and how we move forward that sets us apart. you are one of the most amazing people i have had the pleasure of knowing, and this changes that none. love you - colleen

  13. Thanks Colleen! That means so much to me. We've enjoyed seeing the pics from your wedding on FB. Next time you guys are coming to Tampa give us a shout- we would love to see you and meet your hubby! Love you too!

  14. Anonymous1/25/2014

    Carl, I have been reading your blog off and on for a couple of years, but I somehow missed all of your confession stories before finding them tonight. You (and your family) are more an inspiration to me now than ever before. Your faith and honesty in the midst of failure and condemnation is a true indication that you don't just know about Jesus- you KNOW Jesus! Sorry to be so late to the party, but thank you so much for your bold faith and your willingness to share your story. Be blessed!
    - Jason Foster

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Jason. I would also covet your prayers. Grace is indeed amazing, and I believe that is the story God is calling me tell. My escapades are just a small little piece of that story.


Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!