Poetry from Prison: Advent Freedom

By Liz Milner

Over the four weeks of Advent, we are featuring writing by the inmates of the Santa Clara County jail. Chaplain Liz Milner, who has previously written for Journey with Jesus, works with both men and women inmates there. Over the past month, she and other volunteers have worked with the inmates in writing workshops, to reflect on themes of hope, waiting, and freedom. These are all issues that the inmates have a lot to say about, and a lot to teach us about. As Mary sings in the Magnificat, “he has lifted up the lowly.” This Advent we lift their words up to you, to illuminate and reflect on this beautiful season. Liz works for the non-profit www.cicministries.org that provides chaplaincy services in Santa Clara County, and can be reached at staffchaplain@cicministries.org.

From this week’s lectionary:

Isaiah 61:1

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners


From Liz: Often we take our freedom for granted until we lose it. Sometimes we lose it due to an illness or accident, and we find we cannot move around and live life the way we were used to. Sometimes we lose it because a relationship or opportunity is taken from us in a way we did not expect, and we find ourselves disoriented and disappointed. Sometimes it is taken from us by our own habits and addictions, and we experience an inner imprisonment that seems more powerful than our ability to change. Sometimes, as for the inmates in jail, our freedom is taken from us by the authorities around us and we experience literal imprisonment.

My experience of working with inmates in the county jail is that the inner prisons are often more tenacious and difficult to leave than the physical prisons. Whether it is addiction, anxiety, bitterness, unforgiveness, or many of the other issues that plague us, these chains are often impossible for us to break on our own. Thankfully, we have a God who recognizes our vulnerability and comes to us, Emmanuel, to release us from these prisons and proclaim our liberty.

By D

Freedom is letting the tears flow

By J

Some are imprisoned even when they are not.

I can soar and fly.

By A

Damaging presence depart from me, freedom.

Cherish, appreciate, protect, sustain, value love.

By A

I want to be free from the chains of the self

I want to be free to be happy

I want to be free from suffering

I want to be free to be me.

I want to be free from guilt.

I want to be free to forgive myself.

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By B

What do you need to be liberated from? I need to be liberated from my aloneness. I am alone because I am different. Not just in some ways, in a lot of ways.

By I

Freedom I’ve experienced only through daydreams!

In my dream I could see

My soul was at Peace.

I was just seeing the dream.

I want to be free.

I want to be free from disappointments.

I want to be free from Pain.

I want to be free from Hate.

I want to be free from Sorrow.

I want to be free from low Self-esteem.

I want to be free from Questions.

I want to be free from people’s Judgments.

I want to be free from Wrong and Right.

I want to be free from expectations of self and others.

I want to be free from waiting for freedom!

I want to be free from bad choices I make!

And free to believe and know my choices are right for me.

I want to be free from people who come into my life with agendas,

And free to be the Mother, God has molded me to be.

I want to be free from myself and its human thoughts,

And free to see and feel peace and the knowledge to know

God is in with me and is molding me.

From Liz: What are you seeking freedom from this Advent season? And what would you love to be free to do, to feel, to experience? The Scriptures invite us to welcome the coming Christ as one who brings freedom to all who are imprisoned and good news to all who are oppressed. He also binds up those of us whose hearts are broken. In jail, this ministry is evident and active every day. My prayer is that through the testimony of the inmates, you may be encouraged to seek Christ and His ministry to you this Advent.

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