One80 Podcast, Episode 39, Transcript
This transcript may have errors that do not reflect the actual audio in the show.
Margaret Ereneta: Hey, thanks for tuning in today. Today’s show talks about drugs, so just wanted you to know that in case you have little kids around.
Ryan Henry: Some circumstances make us feel like we’re at the end of the rope, that there’s nowhere to go at just 135 pounds of death. James Johnson thought he was there, But what we think is the end can be just the new beginning that God wanted. And for James, something truly beautiful was about to unfold.
Hear his story today on 180.
James, what’s going on, my man?
James Johnson: Oh, just, good life now.
Ryan Henry: Yeah.
James Johnson: Good life now, yeah.
Ryan Henry: Excited to have you today. It’s gonna be great talking to you. I love hearing stories, man.
James Johnson: Glad to be here.
Ryan Henry: I know that yours is just, riddled with goodness of God. but before we get too far into that, I do have a random question for you. Who is your favorite character in the Bible?
James Johnson: Oh
Ryan Henry: and why?
James Johnson: My favorite character in the Bible. Well, thinking about that real quickly, Jesus.
Ryan Henry: Yeah.
James Johnson: Yeah.
Ryan Henry: That’s a good answer.
James Johnson: Yeah.
Ryan Henry: Why is that?,
James Johnson: I was in a program, called Wayside Cross Ministries, and. Mr. Tamasi, who was the director expounded so much on Jesus. As to who he was, who he is, and who he always will be, and what he did for me. You know, dying on the cross. So that became a very favorite character of mine. You know, and I, would live that every day. going to class every morning. and he would let us know this person. And the Bible is basically all about him. So why wouldn’t he become a favorite character so, I, I talk about him every day. You know, and I give him, the praise and glory along with God as father.
Ryan Henry: Yes. Awesome man. Amen. Well, I’m ready to go. You ready to go? ready. Okay. Let’s do it. So I’m gonna take our, our listeners all the way back and start from, very beginnings of your life and talk to us about where you grew up.
James Johnson: Well, I grew up on the south side of chicago. My mom, single parent, who worked very hard for, my siblings, it was five boys and one girl. And, we moved. to Martin Luther King Drive , my mom was phenomenal woman. God rest her soul.
she took care of business. she worked two jobs. She worked at, one of the major hospitals on the south side, she would get off there like three 30 in the evening, then she would come home, change clothes and go up to the north side. And, Take care of somebody’s house as a housekeeper. And raise their little child or children. she reminded me of a story of a movie called, Cooley High. and I saw one of the scenes where she did the same thing. She would come home and she’d be so tired, she’d actually sit in the kitchen and on the, Chair and I would come in and she would be tired. and I didn’t put a blanket on, but I’d wake up and say, mom, go to bed. She worked hard for, for her children, So that’s where I come from so far. The south side, went to, a Catholic school called Holy Angels Catholic School. one of the biggest, Catholic schools in the black neighborhood and, graduated frome there in 1970, and then I went to a high school called Dunbar Vocational High School. And, played football, I, was doing a lot of academics, and things like that. So, my mom, she did a phenomenal job of raising us by herself. And, I was doing the best I could. my life wasn’t bad then. I was growing up pretty good. didn’t want for anything. Cause I had a lot of love From this one person. and as siblings we go through things, I’d get beat up by my brothers . But other than that, they loved me. So, yeah. being brought up on the south side, I learned a lot of things about community.
you know, My mom was a monarchy of the neighborhood.
Ryan Henry: Really?
James Johnson: Oh, she was a rock. I mean, she would raise. The next door neighbor’s. Kids. she was able to spank them and send ’em home when they’d get another spanking And that proceeded to go on throughout the neighborhood. If your neighbors saw you doing something, she had the opportunity or the right to spank you in your behind. . And let your, my mom know. And guess what? I got another whooping at night. Yeah. So there was nothing you can get away with that, she didn’t find out about. Later on.
Ryan Henry: A Tough woman but good woman.
James Johnson: Good woman. Good woman. Yeah,
Ryan Henry: so you had, siblings?
What was that like? Y’all got along pretty well.
James Johnson: I was the baby, but my sister got everything. Being the only girl. I had brothers that, guarded me. they were gangs when I was growing up, but they would never let the gangs infiltrate into our house. And matter of fact, the gangs respected. My family because of my mom. They never tried to induct us into the gang. I never was in a gang. even though I had cousins that was in every gang on the south side of Chicago. there was a cousin I had in every one. So I was protected a lot.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. That’s amazing. so you went to Catholic What was faith like for you growing up?
James Johnson: Well, going to Catholic school. , we went there because of, being in the neighborhood. And, we thought that we can get some values instilled into us so far as spiritual values. But I have to put it, honestly, the fact is they were not talking about Jesus at all and it was never put to us that we need to read the Bible. but now, today being a christian, I get a lot of information from the Bible. True information.
Ryan Henry: how did that have an impact on your perspective of God? what did you think of when you thought of God at that age as a young kid?
James Johnson: To be honest, I didn’t think of God. I knew the name of God, but I didn’t know the fame of God. now I know the name and the fame. because it’s a different study now. I’m getting some good, honest things being said to me and they’re showing me these things. Not just telling me these things. Mr. Tamar, as I said before, was the, director of Wayside Cross Ministries where I was at.. He would tell us if you are at a church and your pastor is not reading out that Bible, get up and run out of there and to this very day, if I don’t see a pastor opening up a Bible, I can’t really believe, but then he says, also, don’t believe everything that you hear. believe the things that you can see so far as what they’re showing you and a lot of things that I see, they’re not showing it to me cuz the fact that it’s all about them and not about god.
Ryan Henry: So so as a kid, not really thinking much about the Lord, going to Catholic school, would you say that you guys were a Catholic family?
James Johnson: My mom is, from the southern states, we’re from down south. She was a Baptist. And I got a lot of teachings from her about God. And I used to hear the word Jesus always come outta her mouth. Thank Jesus. Things like that. And one day I asked him, why you always saying Jesus? Because that’s the person that you need to follow. And, I didn’t understand that then. But. Now I’m understanding much, much more so far as what I’ve went through. and, I’ve had to go through a lot to find out about God and Jesus. That, they’re one and the same.
Ryan Henry: would you say that, as your mom was teaching you, getting a lot of those foundational teachings, she tried to live it out at home.
James Johnson: Oh, she did
Yes. Because like I said, I would always think of how my mother would think and what would she feel if I did certain things. my mom was very, very important to me. As to what she thought about me and the things I did. Because I would watch her so far as what she went through being a single parent, she struggled To keep things afloat. she maintained a household, she maintained the fact of love in our family. whereas, when I was like five and a half, six years old, my father had left us. and he called me to him. we used to have a thing back in the day. We had to be in the house before the lights came on. on the light pole. he used to call me Pig cuz I was a little chubby guy,
And he asked me, I want you to do one thing for me. I said, what’s that daddy? Take care of your mother now I see why because my mother is a rock. and we had to take care of the rock. we had to treat her with so much respect because we didn’t know exactly what she was gonna go through. And now, seeing what she went through, I try to instill those values into my life.
Ryan Henry: Was there, a time that, you felt particularly far from God or you just hit like an all time low in your life?
James Johnson: The all time low was when I was 60 years old. That’s when I went through so much. I mean, I said I went to school and things like that. I loved reading and writing and stuff like that. but like I said, I didn’t know about God. 60 years old was when the downfall came.
Ryan Henry: Mm-hmm.
James Johnson: I was in the darkest place of my entire life.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. How did you get there? Just could you lead us up to that place?
James Johnson: Well, it started really when I was like 13, 14, 15 years old. You know, marijuana and things like that. cause I saw my mom struggling so far as pay bills.
I saw my mother having to pay for this and pay for that. And I was out there doing my thing and once in a while I would slip some money or I would go pay the bill until she caught me one time. And, she says, no, I’m not taking that. and I stopped cuz I knew how proud she was.
Ryan Henry: Mm-hmm. .
James Johnson: So, it started then, then I started smoking a little marijuana. Then later on life goes on. You started doing other things. drugs came into it, like cocaine and all that, so I was out there dibbling and dabbling. all the way until late twenties, almost early thirties. So I was just out there doing my thing. All willy-nilly. and then I got hooked on the stuff that I was selling, cocaine and, one of the things that, later on I got involved with was heroin. and that really took me out the game.
Ryan Henry: Yeah.
James Johnson: At 60 years old, I was living in Evanson, Illinois. with a young lady that. God rest her soul, she’s passed, who loved me unconditionally. and every moment, every chance I got, I was taking money from her. She would go to the bathroom, I’d go in her purse. this at 60 years old Mm-hmm. I wasn’t working Wasn’t even trying to work. I was just trying to do drugs. and I was doing it. To me, I was being successful.
She would go to the boat every once in a while and gamble. And, one day, I had got, I think it was like three $20 bags of heroin. and I’m sitting in the bed by myself , I was already high and all of a sudden I opened one of the bags. Now I know these bags had to be good because I made them up myself. And I started snorting the first bag. didn’t feel what I wanted to feel. So instead of being needy, I got greedy. and, tried to open another bag.
Next thing I know, I started throwing up and I said the things was coming outta my body have never seen before out of any human being’s body. I’ve never seen that. And that’s when I realized, I was throwing up from the bowels of hell.
Ryan Henry: Hmm.
James Johnson: you know, crying. And just, I was going through a whirlwind of emotions. I used to ask myself sometimes when I was doing this before this happened, there’s gotta be a better way Yeah. of living.
Ryan Henry: So you had that question, you said before this moment.
James Johnson: Yeah, before this moment. Yeah. But I didn’t know what to do. To get there. All I knew was to continue on doing what I was doing.
Ryan Henry: Do you think it was a spiritual deliverance moment? what do you think was going on?
James Johnson: I believe it was spiritual. It was time to let this go. because there were times I would ask myself, I’m tired of being tired of being tired. Because this stuff would make you so tired. And if, if you didn’t get this in your. It, would make you sick. It would make you want it. make you need it. And that’s exactly what it did. I wanted it. I needed it. And if I didn’t get it, I was sick. I mean, I don’t know if you ever seen people out here on these drugs. I mean, any drug is no good. But this one here, to me was the worst of worst. like you just say that. like 135 pounds of death.
Ryan Henry: It’s a miracle that you’re, you’re alive.
James Johnson: It’s all God’s doing.
Ryan Henry: I mean, so that would be at age 60 and you started, you said what?
James Johnson: about 14, 15 years old.
Ryan Henry: that’s a lot of years. how fast would you say in between the times of, starting a new drug or maybe starting to do more drugs? You know, people say it can be a slow fade into something like that. what was that fade like? Was it, a matter of couple months, you do something and then get bored? Was it a couple weeks or how did that happen?
James Johnson: it happened. sparingly. Cause the fact is I was all about making money. And, I didn’t want my money to just disappear. I would make a lot of money cause I was working at Michael Reese hospital where my mother used to work I was in housekeeping.
Ryan Henry: So you’re holding the job.
James Johnson: But you know, like I said, where I was coming from, you saw things of making money. Making money. the movies I used to see, oh man. it was crazy. I would work from like seven in the morning to three 30. Yeah. And then me and my friends, we were all this gathering of. Special guys. And we were all doing certain little things. One guy I knew was selling marijuana. I was selling cocaine. heroin wasn’t happening then until late on But we were maintaining that type of flow. and we had an entourage of people. The entourage I knew now existed only cuz of what I had mm-hmm. and the money I had. So it was this flow that kept these people around me. Yeah. And then later on, after I had nothing. I had no one. Yeah. So I look back that what I had, I had everything. I had people follow me because the fact of what I had. Then when I didn’t have anything, I had no followers. now, so far as Jesus Christ, he started having followers. because he had something. but then. as he continued on, he still had something. but me, I had nothing and had no one. and there were followers there, the following Jesus Christ that knows what he has and he’s gonna always have that. and when I didn’t have that,
Ryan Henry: That’s, that’s amazing. So, are you hearing, you know, your mom’s voice in your head any time between age 13, 14, all the way up to 60? are you, having, thoughts of what mom would say about all this?
James Johnson: Oh, she would just want to knock me out. I’m glad you spoke on that so far as hearing my mom’s voice. I heard my mom’s voice. at that broken moment. when I had a heart attack.
Ryan Henry: Hmm. When was that?
James Johnson: That was in June, so June the sixth, I’ll never forget it. Saturday morning, I woke up in a ball of sweat. I’ve never had a heart attack in my life.
Ryan Henry: Mm-hmm.
James Johnson: never knew the symptoms. so I figured maybe I was having a flu and I was just gonna lay down and maybe this will just fly over. So I have a friend of mine who is very, very close to me. He’s like a brother from another, . And, uh, we call each other each and every day faithfully and, he was trying to talk to me. He said, what’s wrong with you, man? I said, man, I’m feeling like I got the flu. He said, what’s wrong on? I explained to him what was happening. He said, man, get up. You’re having a heart attack. So I got up and I planted my feet on the floor and I put my head between my hands here and I’m sweating. I’m dripping so much sweat, I could fill up a coffee cup.
So immediately I called a friend of mine He got there post-haste. but before all that happened, I heard my mother’s voice. she used. Tell us when you were little so far as if you ever go in the hospital, baby, make sure you have on a clean pair of underwear, and I’d tell you no lie and all of a sudden, , God and his infinite love gave me five minutes to go take a shower. And put her on a fresh pair of underwear. She spoke to me.
Ryan Henry: Wow.
James Johnson: and I went, took a shower and went to the hospital and, things started happening there. That’s when really a lot of God’s. Love really start happening for me and his miracles.
Ryan Henry: It’s amazing how God can, use those things that people have told you in the past, you know, talks about that. And the word about how his Holy Spirit reminds you of things that you’ve been taught and, even things that seem kind of silly
James Johnson: Yeah. And it was funny. Yeah. You know, and I wasn’t thinking about the heart attack. I’m just thinking. Did she just say that?
Ryan Henry: Yeah. quite sure I’d ever probably paused to do that I think if I’m having a heart attack, I’m gonna be straight up to the hospital and, sorry, they’re just gonna have to deal with whatever I’m bringing and whatever I’m wearing. so you’re in this moment. 60 years old and now you are vomiting. stuff from the bowels of hell, things you’ve never seen before, coming up out of person. and up until this point, you don’t have a relationship with the Lord, so what happened from that point on? , how did you get led to the Lord and, what happened from that moment of, throwing up?
James Johnson: Well, I used to always talk to my sister and, for some reason, once by being on the drugs, I, it was all about self. I didn’t wanna be bothering anybody. So communication stops. people wonder, like, I haven’t talked to him in a while and that’s why now at the very day, me and my sister make sure we stay in connection. And what had happened was, I called.
And she said to me, what’s up br? And I told her, I said, I’m gonna die and I’m gonna be alone. And she said neither. She said, call somebody. Now let me go back here for a second. Also, I heard when I was throwing up that day and I had this breath still left in me, I heard these voice that didn’t sounded good, told me I need to call somebody, or they would take the last breath I had. And to this day, I know that was Satan telling me that he’ll take me out.
But my sister told me, call someone. But her voice was beautiful. It was compassionate. It was loving. Yeah. And I called my girlfriend at the time and told her, call EMTs because I’m back on that stuff. and she called them and the breath that I had left, I walked down those steps. and got into the emt, van and then they took me to the hospital, but they asked me what I was on because they have to give you not to cross with or mix with. And, I told ’em what I was on. and the journey started. Then my sister and my niece were looking for a place for me to go. after I got outta the hospital. and it was the wayside Cross Ministries.
now, that’s another kind incidence. The fact is, when I was going back and forth doing the things I was doing, selling drugs, I would come out here and sell all my drugs and I would go past wayside and never knew that I’d be in that program.
Ryan Henry: Oh, wow.
James Johnson: And the Wayside Cross ministries has this thing about it. It’s a light on the hill. there was always that light there waiting on me, hmm. but I never knew I’d be there. Yeah. It was cra It’s crazy how these things are coming together now. so, I remember that.
Ryan Henry: so you get put into wayside. And, what, what was that like? You know, what happened there?
James Johnson: Well, that was 2015 October. That I came there. they got me out the hospital in, Evanston and brought me way out here and my sister and myniece. and we stopped and had something to eat. I couldn’t really eat that much, but I forced a little bit,
a couple spoonsful, and we walked into the program and there was my intake guy asking for information and stuff like that. So I got in and, within like a week or so, I was there. but, I couldn’t function.
Ryan Henry: Mm-hmm. ,
James Johnson: I was still coming through detox. this stuff was still in me and I needed it and stuff like that. And this place, you can’t do any drugs, you can’t do medications and stuff like that. so I had to start working in the warehouse. So I started working there, but I couldn’t function. I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing, turning by the time I got to sleep. The lights come on at five 30 every morning. and I was really just getting sleep maybe like 4 45. So, I went to, Steve and said to him, I need to go to the hospital and detox. So he said, okay. So he said, but do me one thing. Promise me one thing. And I said, what’s that? That you’ll come back. I promised him I was in the, behavioral center at, mercy hospital. for three days. and uh, I came back. And I finally got out of there I’m back out in the world now working. Being accountable. being respectful to myself and being respectful to others.
Ryan Henry: Praise God.
James Johnson: but also definitely giving God all the praise and glory.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Now, can you take us to the moment? that your mind started to change about Jesus and you, put your faith into him, was it someone at Wayside that presented the gospel to you? can you talk to us about that?
James Johnson: Yeah. Well, we had teachers, we had to go to class every day. we had, men who came in, there were men of God.
Ryan Henry: Mm-hmm.
James Johnson: trying to teach us about God. trying to let us know there is a god. and that, we can have him in our lives and if we do let him in our lives, our lives would change for the better.
James Johnson: and these teachers taught us a lot. and I would listen real carefully. because something took me back when I was little, there was a man named Mr. Brown, stayed around the corner from where I lived. And my mom would let us go to his house. This man would teach us the books. And I just realized he was teaching us about Leviticus, Deuteronomy this,
Ryan Henry: No way.
James Johnson: Yeah.. seriously. I was learning about. But I was just going there because of the fact that he had good punch and cookies, But all these things came back and what I say is Jesus been chasing me for 60 some years, and guess what? He finally caught me.
we go back to things were happening back then, but I was not listening.
Now I make meaning of say to me cuz I’m I listened to those teachers Whether or not it was right or Mm-hmm. know, cause I was taught that as well by, the teachers there and Mr. Tamasi and, and a lot of men who came in my life. we had a lot of, gentlemen that came in our lives and would, ask us things and tell us things that they went through. Same things we went through
Ryan Henry: Mm-hmm.
James Johnson: So it was like, you’re not new to this. I knew what you’re talking about cause I went through this. A lot of men came in there that were drug addicts. At one time but now there’s speakers there. with a truth, you know, with a testimony. Mm-hmm. So I, I watched, I listened I learned, and to the very day, I’m still learning.
Ryan Henry: So did they do an altar call?
James Johnson: I don’t remember if they did. I probably didn’t hear that. but, they had so many good things happening They gave us rules. They gave us structure.
Ryan Henry: sometimes people come to the Lord kind of gradually and they can’t really pinpoint where it was. Sometimes people have a, you know, crying on the bathroom floor. I give you my life to you Jesus moment. where would you say that you were, were you kind of a gradual coming to the lord through Wayside?
James Johnson: Yeah, I I would because like I said, right at that point in time I was still sick. and I didn’t know what to. . But, once I started opening my heart and hearing these words mm-hmm. things started changing. I got very blessed to have a bed that I was in was bed three 16 Okay.
Ryan Henry: Talk talk to us us about why that’s significant.
James Johnson: Oh, wow. and I, read about that, God so loved the world, he gave up his only begotten son. And I, pondered on that every day.
Ryan Henry: Mm-hmm.
James Johnson: this God that I didn’t know at first, but I know now and believe in gave his only son. And then I go back to Abraham. he asked Abraham the same thing. Mm-hmm. , and he was about to give it up. but then God says, okay. Okay. You’re mine.. You’re mine.? . So the same thing. I’m his I’m God intense now. like I said, I don’t go over there with saying I’m holier than thou because what he’s giving me, he can take away. So I just make sure when I come to someone, I let him know, this is where I’m at. but this is where I was and the only reason why I’m at where I’m at now is because of one person, one spiritual person, it’s God jesus Christ. and then. I just soak things up, man, and when God speaks to me through the Holy Spirit, I listen.
Ryan Henry: What would you say the biggest thing that changed in your thinking toward God?
James Johnson: Oh, man. Knowing that I was saved by him. that was enough in itself that I was saved for a purpose. Cause you know, at the age of 15, I used to ask myself, why am I here? that’s pretty young to be asking yourself that I used to ask myself that time and time again, why am I here? I see every day. I’m here for his purpose. Now I’m here to sit back there and spread his word. He doesn’t want me to just sit on that. And I really wanna do something with that. Like put it out there for, not just for me.
I wanna put it out there for others. just like the video I did. I make sure people, when I hear stories at my job, I say, look, I have something. I want you to listen. because everybody goes through different struggles in life. and I’ve been getting reviews and I’m glad to get those reviews. Cause that means the fact I’m doing God’s work. It’s his will for me to put that out. and he wants me to go further. Mm-hmm. . But I have to sit back there and just listen when he speaks to me and says, now I want you to do this. you know, every once in a while I’ll fade away cuz I’m working, working, working. And he says, oh, don’t forget me. You know, don’t forget me and he’ll speak and, when I’m at home and being quiet. he talks to me. He talks to me. Have you talked to me? Have you talked to somebody about me today? Yes, I have. a couple of people as a matter of fact, you know, so God is good man, and, I’m glad to be alive.
And, as in James, I’m glad when he has the days for me to, rejoice and be glad in it day. I’m glad, even though there’s a lot of crap going on out there. I’m glad that he wakes me up so I can rejoice and be glad in it. And go and spread the In the best way I can. I don’t take away from it and I don’t put more on it. what you will hear me say? I will say the same thing the next day the same way. Mm-hmm. and the way you see me today? I’ll be that way tomorrow. , I went, I said, well, you were nice and quiet yesterday. Well, I’m gonna be nice and quiet today, but I’m gonna let you hear what I gotta say about God so I’m not afraid to talk about him. I’m not ashamed, you know? I’m glad that I’m, here today to be able to, talk about it and hopefully it gets out to more than just one, we’ll see what God takes it from there.
Ryan Henry: After you knew Jesus, what do you think the most like evident thing would be? That somebody say, man, what’s going on with that guy? Something is different.
James Johnson: They would say James cares. About more than himself. Because all I cared about was me.
Ryan Henry: Right I was thinking about that.
James Johnson: It’s always me, me, me. What? You can give me, me me what you can do for me, me, me. I had you not even in the picture. you couldn’t do anything for me, you have no consequence. So that what they would say, wow, you’ve changed. You change now. I have people who are in need and because the fact is, when I had my money, I was, oh, I gotta save this. I can’t give this nobody, I can’t give nobody 50 cents. Yeah. Or a dollar now. , I gratefully because I know that God’s gonna take care of me. I’ve had people sit back there and jip me. But you know what I say, it’s a small thing to a giant like me. Because God’s gonna gimme more than I ever could imagine. it’s like I go to the story of the, sons of the rich man, and one wanted all his, now got it. ,he went and spent it all. But his father loved it enough. So when he came back, He just had a party That was his child. He loved his child no matter what. You know, and God gave him his son back. you know, the other son. Hey, I’ve been here all this time. Hey, you’re good. But your brother, he’s not. I live every day. Christ. Yeah. I died of myself. Cause like I said, me, terrible. you know, and, I look back also more and more that I was scared of me.
Ryan Henry: Mm-hmm.
James Johnson: that’s the reason why I try to stay uprooted.
Because if I would go back to who I used to be, I’d be a very scared person of But I’m not, now. , good good.
I’m a child of God, try to, I try to stay that way every day and I keep away from who I used to be. There are people will try you and test you when I know that’s nothing but the devil. But I look at the devil every chance I get to let him know you can’t have me anymore. I have a mirror. I look in every morning. I look at the old man. I look at the new man. , the old man keeps waving. Come on back. I’m sorry. I’m good. good. very know, like I said, I’m I’m rich than I’ve ever been. I pay my bills. You know, I go do what I gotta do and I come home and. I stay out the streets and I, deal with life one day at a time,
but I make sure god’s in it.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Talk to us a little bit about, some things you’re up to nowadays.
James Johnson: Well, like I said, I go to work every day. I still, every once in a while and I talk to my pastors, to let them know I’m still available to do chapels, at Wayside Cross Ministries. and the Chapels is giving. you know, as we should. if God’s giving you don’t hold onto that. give back and I try to do that I was, also involved, in a lot of things at my church so far as a greeter at the door Sundays. and that’s something I do. what I’m trying to do now is to get God’s word out. and any manner, shape and form. That’s good. And then make sure that he’s all in it. because nothing I do now I’m doing myself cuz me sitting here talking to you like this trust me, I can’t talk like this. there’s no way I can talk. I mean, I know I’m an intelligent guy, but I’m intelligent only because God has made me intelligent. You know, through his words. Yeah. Into my heart. and, I’m just, just trying to do his will, man. That’s whatever it may. And I don’t question him, but he doesn’t mind us wrestling with him once in a while. To ask questions, what , should I do?
you know, but like I said, I can’t talk like and I tell anybody that I talk to about God in Christ, this is not me talking. this is the Holy Spirit all.
Ryan Henry: you’re a troph, you’re a trophy of the Lord. I always like to say that, God takes people and he turns ’em into trophies. He says, look what I can do. It’s amazing.
What would you say to somebody who’s listening, who is in that cycle right now of addiction? because it’s obviously, it’s very, very hard one of our, speakers once said, that it’s like, having your life driven by a joystick that’s in the hands of a very dangerous person what would you say to them as far as escaping, or, what, what would you say to somebody who’s stuck in that place?
James Johnson: I would say go and get help. ask for help. That’s the first thing you to acknowledge that you need help. Realizing it. And once you’re realizing get to someone that could lead you in the right direction, go to your church. let your pastors know what’s going on with you. because it is an eternal struggle. and the person that wants to keep you inside is the devil himself. , he doesn’t want you to, acknowledge that you’re going through this. wants you to feel that you could do this yourself and you can’t. Because you’ll die. sometimes when I’m at a chapel, I let the brothers know that we don’t have another run out in them streets from drugs or whatever we were doing Because if you go out there and try to run it again, you’re gonna die. telling the truth is the only thing that I could do now. like I said, and tell a brother, Hey man, you can do it. No, you can’t do it by myself being here right now, I could not have done this by myself. I had some good mentors. I had some good people from my church. Yeah. I made sure that I put good people and made sure I was in good places. In my life. So I could have a life. You know? I’m still learning.
I have. particular gentleman, from my church Every couple of weeks we sit back and have fellowship at the Diner.he’s my fellowship and, we sit back and, and I take his wisdom, I draw from his wisdom and he tells me, he said, don’t you know now who you are? I said, what do you mean? He said, you’re Mr. Contagious and Mr. Infectious. and I laugh at that. You know, and, asked him why he says that. He said, now you got a lot of people that you infect. and you become contagious.
said, well, that’s a good thing then, Yeah. So I wanna stay there. I wanna stay Mr., infectious and mis contagious. But I wanna make sure that it’s all because of God. the only reason why I can be that infectious. Giving his word out.
and, life has been good.
life has been good.
Ryan Henry: So someone puts themselves around people. Okay. Let’s say they’re getting help and maybe they go to a church, what about the hours in between? Those moments of connection with either Godly people or encouraging people where it’s just you and either family members or you just have those moments where you could easily go back. how do you overcome when you finally are with people who can help you, but then you, you have that moment of being by yourself.
James Johnson: Yeah. I know what you’re talking about. That’s something that you have to always maintain.that times you have by yourself. Make sure you give God that time. You know, always maintain someone in your life that if you do have that time on your hands where you know you can go out there and do what you used to do. have that person that you can make that phone call, say, look man, I need to come over see you. just like if you were an alcoholic. have an accountability person. They can help you be accountable.
Ryan Henry: Mm-hmm.
James Johnson: when you know you are in that dead of night and you got that time in your hands and you know that time is all he needs for the devil to say, come on man, let’s go over with the Joe Blow’s house. Yeah.
The next thing you know you’re doing Blow with Joe blow. maintain someone that you can make a phone call to. You know, because there are times I’m singing at home by myself, but you know what? I like watching old movies. still got that Bible right across the, from my bed. I’ll grab that. And then in the Bible in the back, it’s called concordances. of whatever you might be feeling. the word you might be feeling like depressed, blah, blah. there’s a word in there that you can go to and find you a chapter and a verse to sit back there and just hold you accountable. And say, if you’re feeling this way, go read that. Cause, God always says have you not heard? Haven’t I told you? only me. is the only way for you to be free.
And the thing I tell people nowadays is I gotta stay outta your head and start getting in your heart.. and make sure God is in your heart. . Keep him in your heart at all times and just realize you cannot do anything by yourself. because we’re still here in the flesh. Just the thing that keeps us going at times and we don’t need to be going. The flesh is a leader.
So I ask God every day to help me with this flesh. Cause he knows me.
Ryan Henry: Yeah.
James Johnson: And the devil knows me too.. Hmm.
Ryan Henry: No, that’s great. I like that. really practical advice there. like you said, the biggest thing is,having God,not just in your head, but in your heart,calling upon the name of Jesus that understanding that you make him the Lord of your life. He forgives you of all the garbage that you’ve gone through, all the stuff that like tentacles grab onto you and hold you. And he severs every single one of them, and he makes you a free man
Right. You forgive our sins from the past, the present in the future. but the thing about that, don’t take that for granted. I see a lot of people take that for granted. I’ve thought at one point in one time, oh, I can take it for granted. But see we also have of God, of wrath. if you see the fact that you’re taking advantage of him, he will spank that behind. and spank it real good. he won’t kill you. But he will spank you real hard. And says, guess who’s the father of this, of the, of your world. I am. You know, so don’t mess with dad.
James Johnson: You know, don’t mess with it. . Don’t don’t mess with dad. You know?
Ryan Henry: What would you say to yourself as our final question? If you could go back and speak to yourself at 13 years old, things started to change, start to dabble a little bit, what would you say?
James Johnson: if I would go back, I would tell a young James, you can’t do that. , look at what your mom is going through for you and you doing this. So that’s why I would tell my young self, you can’t do that. And then don’t do it. Yeah. Don’t do it. And, who knows where I would’ve been now. Yeah. But like I said, I look at the fact is God has placed me. where I am right now.
For his purpose. And there’s some good things coming. Yeah. My sister tells me all the time, God’s got some plans for you.
Man, so good talking to you. I appreciate having you on the, the show here and what a amazing thing that the Lord has done in your life,
Ryan Henry: So thanks for, for being with us today.
James Johnson: My pleasure.
Ryan Henry: Bless you.
James Johnson: Bless you.
Ryan Henry: What’s up my people? This is Ryan Henry, your host on 180, and I’ve got a very special wrapped announcement. Yo yo, yo 180 is the place to be. Everybody wants to hear your God story, so reach out to us and share your story. You might be on a show. All For His glory. For His glory. For His glory. Oh, I’m, I’m sorry.
Maybe I should just stick to hosting the show. , but you guys get the point. Reach out to us. You can find firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s O N E 80 podcast.com. And there’s a place where you can say, share your story. And you never know. We might have you on the show,
Don’t wait. It’s important. We hope to hear.
You’ll mostly find Nico Hayes behind the camera. In fact, he’s the one who did the video that we’ve attached to this show all about James Johnson’s new life in Christ, but he also likes to write poetry, so he waxed a beautiful poem today in honor of James and Joy.
Niko Hays: Behind the tracks on New York Street, hung a man on a cross searching for the weary in week. Come home, find hope. He said, I won’t stop till your mine to keep. He fixed his eyes on a stranger.
Marking him for life. The promise. Found him years. On the verge of death, dialing his sister, needing a savior, taken back to those same tracks. The dealer of death came home to start life at last.
Stephanie Starr: I I did. Um, it, it felt relieving. I mean, it was, it was just really like a, the biggest cry for help that, that my heart needed. It was like, I, I cannot do anything for myself. I am so dependent. I am so helpless. This mess that I’ve gotten myself in is, is too big for me to unwind, but at least I want to unwind it now.
I don’t wanna be gone anymore. , I, I need this fixed and it’s gonna
take, the only entity who can move mountains to do it.
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Did, did it look like crying? Did it look like screaming? Was it talking to God? I mean, was it silent in your heart? I mean, what did that look like? If somebody was a fly on the.
Stephanie Starr: I think it was more silent. I mean, I was very uncomfortable in that room. It was, you know, very small. , you know, I was just trying to like twist up into different positions and, it probably honestly looked like a rebirth, , like a baby fighting to get out of the womb.
Like it was
just really, um, yeah.
Yeah, a lot of like fetal position and just trying to, trying to stay warm, trying to be as comfortable as possible. trying to shield my eyes from the light after a while. I don’t know if I slept or how much I slept.
It was just this complete time warp and, I don’t remember really crying out or screaming, anything like that, but it was just more of like a, you throw my hands up. Okay. I’m done. I’m so, so tired. So
Ryan Henry: yeah. Wow. Wow. What, what happened after you? You, you know, gave your heart over to God. You surrendered. What happened next?
Stephanie Starr: So that Monday morning, a volunteer from the mental hospital came and, took me out of the room. They, they changed me out back into the uniform and he said, I’m gonna take you to a place, , that I think will be much more comfortable for you. And so he walked me back, , to what they called the pods.
And that’s different than the four person cell I had been in. Um, this was, a large room that housed 48 women. there were windows, there were tables, there were books. There were games. There were, I mean, it looked like I had walked into the Ritz Carleton from where
Ryan Henry: Oh my gosh.
Stephanie Starr: To have access, to be able to go outside and to get fresh air and to be able to see, um, like a little slice of sky.
I was thrilled to be put in there. and I would say for about a week, I didn’t talk to anybody. I was just still really traumatized from what had happened. I was really worried about my case. I, had not really been able to contact my family, you know, they didn’t wanna be talking to me.
Um, so I was, I was very quiet and just, , kept to myself and, you know, you kind of have to put up an appearance to like, , being a little bit tough or having kind of an edge in there cuz you don’t know who’s who yet, or sort of the order of things in there. , so I took that time to just kind of get my bearings.
And I figured out that the girls who were doing Bible study were nicer than the girls who were not doing Bible study. So, , I started to sit with them and I started to, you know, walk around with them out, when we would be able to go outside and, do the reading with them. we, you know, we were able to get Bibles, very easily in there.
So I got a Bible and, eventually just more and more, Was asking questions. And I, talked to people who are just evangelical Christians for the first time ever in my life. So that’s where, uh, I accepted Christ then as my savior. I’d say a few weeks after I moved into the pod.
So we were reading a book called treasures of the transformed life. It just taught me so much about what a, a relationship with God was like, it taught me how to pray it. Does anything that I ever would’ve wanted or needed to know about a relationship was in that book. , and then, uh, you know, they’ve, they’ve got the, prayer in there that you can pray to accept Christ. And so I did that, um, and it’s actually kind of cool because the girl who led me to that prayer, um, she had been waiting and waiting to get, what they call a pen pack, which means, uh, it’s your packet that you get when you’re getting moved from county jail to, uh, state jail or to prison.
And she had been waiting for that and it hadn’t come, um, about an hour after we prayed that prayer, um, her pen pack came and she was ready to go after that.
Ryan Henry: Wow.
Stephanie Starr: So it means, so when you’re sitting in county jail, it means like you’re either waiting to get sentenced or. Um, if you have been sentenced, like to more time, um, yeah. Then, then you’ll go to either state jail or prison. And that’s where you spend like your longer time. So people wouldn’t really stay in county, uh, for longer than a year.
I mean, I guess depending on what, what their case is, but, uh, county’s more temporary or for short term and then yeah. Going to your state jail or to your prison is just like your next step and it’s one step closer to home.
Ryan Henry: Okay. Gotcha.
Stephanie Starr: Yeah.
Ryan Henry: Wow. was there a bit, so in this Bible study, in this Bible study, was there a biblical truth that you just finally came to understand?
Stephanie Starr: Yes. So that is, uh, where I first learned, uh, what is still today. Uh, my life first, which is, uh, second Corinthians 12, nine and
- . Actually, I can pull it up and read it right here. So, um,
so I’ve got it’s uh, each time he said, my grace is all you need, my power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me.
That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ for when I am weak that I am strong
Ryan Henry: Wow. Wow. That’s like just such a perfect verse for, for you and your story. I could see why that really re.
Stephanie Starr: Yes. That was really the, the first time that I felt like, like I could rest in my weaknesses because that allowed Christ’s glory to, to shine through. And it started to click for me. Um, after that time
Ryan Henry: Wow. Okay. Yeah. So, so, you know, you’re in this Bible study, you’re growing this life verse is impacting you. I mean, what happened after that? How did you, I mean, you’re still in jail, you know? So, so can you just talk to us about how life changed from.
Stephanie Starr: Yes. So, from there, so I, I was in jail for 10 weeks and my sentence. Uh, so I was charged with the DWI and, the possession of controlled substance where I ended up getting, , a program called, drug court or the court assisted rehab experience, uh, was my sentence. So, it’s really designed for people like me, who hadn’t really been in trouble with the law before, who were having some mental health issues who were. It just really needed rehab more than they needed, , like correction for behavior. So I went through, that rehab program, so that was a year long. Um, and I finished that successfully. Um, I, I say successfully, but it really kind of just checked the boxes there as well. Um, because I did relapse after, um, after that program.
So, um, you know, I would say that really the hardest year of my life was that year after I got out of jail. So, um, I equate it to when you, uh, read the Bible where Jesus says when, uh, when the word falls on like Rocky soil and it doesn’t really take, so, um, I was just still so immature and I kind of thought that, okay, well I’m a Christian, so everything should be good now.
Right. You know, going back to like the rumors about God almost. So, um, you know, it was very easy to be surrendered in jail when I didn’t have to worry about.
Ryan Henry: right,
Stephanie Starr: else, you know, there were, there were still things going on in my life, on the outside, but I didn’t know about it. So I, I could just focus just on being in the word and just, um, you know, it was really almost kind of a sweet slice of time because I didn’t have a lot of worries at least that I could do anything about.
Um, but when I got out, and I was in rehab. Um, my daughter and her dad had moved back to Chicago from Texas. So I wasn’t getting to see a lot of her. I was very alone.
So, I was, I got really angry with God and I thought, , I I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing now, I’m checking these boxes again. You know, why am I not getting everything that I want? You know, I didn’t realize at that point, that he refines by fire and that he was, um, He had broken me and he’s the Potter.
He’s gotta put me back together, but it doesn’t take a day. So it was really hard trying to, um, you know, of course I lost my job. Um, so I still had big girl bills from someone who made six figures in the oil and gas industry. So I was making $8 an hour as a hostess. I didn’t have my driver’s license.
Was really dependent on my family to help me pay my bills. And, um, so that was, that was a really challenging year. And when I got out of rehab, once again, I was kind of checking the boxes and I, you know, I was doing better, but, you know, as soon as problems came up again, , I ran right back, to using and, really the reason why I stopped using is because I overdosed on cocaine and,
um, I passed out, I hit my head on the bathtub and, and then knowing how I felt after that, I said, okay, I gotta be done.
Um, so that was the last time that I used.
Ryan Henry: Wow. Wow. It’s amazing how, you know, so many bad situations, God has truly used to get your attention and to turn things around. You know, obviously he doesn’t ever desire for us to have to go through those things, but. It’s almost like it’s built that way, you know, where it’s like a slap in the face, a gentle slap in the face, but yet a slap in the
Stephanie Starr: Yes. You know, it just reminds me in, uh, the book of Hebrews, where it talks about how God disciplines, the ones that he loves. And, uh, that, I didn’t know that verse back then, but, you know, had, I spent more time in the word at that time, I would’ve been able to find comfort in verses like that because I know, he’s got a bigger plan for me and he didn’t, want me to go that way.
He didn’t want my life to end that way. And he, for his namesake and for his glory, he has rescued me so that I can tell other people, how good he is and how he has restored me. And when I say he has restored me, it’s, it’s been in ways that our mountains, I never even thought could be moved.
Ryan Henry: yeah, yeah. It’s really good. When would you say that the soil got, uh, you know, good and the, the word really took root in your life?
Stephanie Starr: So, as I started to get my life back together and started getting better jobs and started being a little bit more, self-sufficient started getting more contact with my daughter. I really was kind of feeling, in my own strength again.
So I had gotten plugged in with the church I had, it really been in my Bible more and just the word just captivated me. And I thought, wow, God has rescued me from so much.
And, um, you know, kind of my mantra at that point was that the best apology has changed behavior. And I thought I am, I’m just rooting my witness if I, um, if he’s brought me through all this stuff and I am still not living for him. Um, my mom had always said, come home, please. We’ll take you back. So like, like a prodigal, I packed up my car and I got home
Ryan Henry: Oh my goodness.
Stephanie Starr: So yes, praise God. I mean, he just like scooped me up and got me out of Egypt, like almost seven years to the day, um, when I got there
Ryan Henry: Wow.
Stephanie Starr: when I got back, things just were restored wonderfully.
I had, just a stroke of, of blessing financially, where I was able to get a lot of debt paid off. I was able to have my daughter full-time during the quarantine, because we were on lockdown and she had to be home and I was home. So I got to spend like a good three months with her, with my sister, my mom, my nephews.
I was accepted back into my grad school program and I was able to graduate this past December with that degree. So the two year
Ryan Henry: Wow. Congratulations.
Stephanie Starr: Um, was able to. Yes. I mean, just really anything and everything that, that I had lost, he, he restored, um, just reminds me of, uh, Joel too, where he talks about the locus swarms and that, that he’ll repay us after that.
So, um, so I’m living proof of that and I just kept on, just following more and more in love with Jesus and more, wanting to, to serve him and wanting to turn my story into something good for him. Um, so what that has turned out to be now is, um, being very active with prison ministries. So, um, I’m involved with Nia house, uh, radical, radical time.
Um, where I have the opportunity now to, volunteer, um, I’m signed out to be volunteer at Stateville prison, which is, you know, God moving mountains right there to be able to get in, volunteering at DuPage county jail, um, sharing my testimony, just really providing support, So, um, you know, when I look back at my story and I see that I can relate to now to so many people, um, who are going through hardships about so many different things. And it just makes me so grateful for everything that God, allowed me to experience, because I can’t imagine any other way that, that formerly spoiled self-centered naive, everything went fine.
Uh, girl, that I was how I would ever have a heart, um, like what he’s given me. So I’m just so
Ryan Henry: Wow. Wow. yeah. So Stephanie, after, after that, last cocaine, overdose and, and the bath, the bathtub experience, was it just over for you with that? I mean, how, or did you have to go rehab? Just talk to us a little bit about that. , it was over for me after that. And I really, um, think that the Lord just delivered me from that. , it was what I needed to really scare me straight, I guess, if you will. Um, you know, I also, at that point hadn’t been using regularly, so I guess that addiction hadn’t really kicked back in yet. So, I don’t wanna say it was easy, but yeah, knowing how close I came to, really not being here anymore.
Stephanie Starr: it scared me enough to where. Where I didn’t wanna do it anymore. And the Lord was very gracious to, to take that, addiction away from me.
Ryan Henry: Wow. So, so you are, you are drug free.
Stephanie Starr: I, yes, I, I am drug free. So, um, another amazing deliverance that I received, from being in jail, um, you know, I realized I was feeling better in jail without all those medications.
And I thought, well, this is weird. Like, I should be anxious in here. I should be depressed in here. and I’m not. so when in my, uh, rehab program, the judge said, well, you know, I can tell that you’re not taking your medications from, uh, the drug tests that you’re taking and you’re supposed to be taking these.
And I said, but I, I don’t wanna take them. They don’t make, I don’t feel well when I’m on them. He said, all right, well, here’s the deal. , I’m gonna send you to a doctor that I say you go to, and if that doctor says you need to be on the meds, then you need to be on the meds. Um, and if he doesn’t, then you.
So I went and saw this doctor and I, talked with him at length and he examined me and he said, there’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to be on any of these drugs. And, um, so I’ve been delivered from that and the bipolar was a misdiagnosis. And, you know, not to say that I don’t still struggle with, depression or anxiety issues, um, now, and then still.
But, but it’s something now that I’m able to lean into my faith and, uh, to be anxious for nothing, because I know that the Lord will not leave me. He will not forsake me.
Ryan Henry: Yeah.
Stephanie Starr: to be strong and courageous.
Ryan Henry: Wow. That’s awesome. It’s so good. Um, yeah. So Stephanie, if you had the opportunity to go back to the 17 year old in that, on that retreat, in that, in that small group, doing the journaling, answering the questions, feeling the peace of God, knowing what you were going to be going through, what would you tell yourself at that age?
Stephanie Starr: I would tell myself to keep pursuing a relationship with the father son in holy spirit. Um, I would tell myself that that feeling that I felt when the holy spirit entered my heart is something that only grows through getting to know God through his word and through creation and through fellowship. And that, that feeling far exceeds any feeling from a person or from a drug or from an accomplishment or anything of the world that I thought would give me so much joy.
Um, I would just let my 17 year old self know that the feeling of the holy spirit and my heart exceeds all of that infinitely
Ryan Henry: Wow. Yeah. Yeah. Stay the course. Right. Stay the course. Keep going. Wow. Stephanie, what a story. There’s truly, I like to say a trophy of God’s grace, you know that it’s just. It’s amazing how, you know, you are living proof for so many people out there who might be going through the same thing that you’re not too far gone.
They’re not too far gone. Like the Lord’s grace is enough for you. And that’s what we want our listeners to know. Is that no matter how far gone you may feel, or how many times you’ve said yes, or try to make it better or whatever, um, that the Lord you’re not out of, out of his reach. And so to just surrender.
Yeah. Just surrender. That’s great. Stephanie, Thank you so much for being on the show.
Stephanie Starr: you It was a pleasure. Thank you
Ryan Henry: Yeah. Wow.