Friday, December 30, 2011

A Time For Renewal - Part One

What’s your plan for the year ahead?
Does 2012 hold a promise of new hope for you?
If not, what’s holding you back? Is it:
  • Other People ?
  • Uncontrollable Circumstances ?
  • God ?
  • or Yourself ?

If you believe that God, other people, or uncontrollable circumstances are holding you back from the life you hope for, then realize this - the one constant in this mix... is YOU!
 
To make lasting changes start with the one place you have controlling power over: Your perspective; learn to see things differently! Here is how you begin...

When other people seem to be holding you back, then find new people to be around. Let me clear about this, if you ‘hang’ with the same people you always have, yet desire a different result, then you need new friends & family to spend time with. Here is a deeper look at what I mean.
The people most familiar with our “past” can often see in us only one perspective: that of our previous behaviors, attitudes, and actions.

Your friends may accept you for who you are, especially if they were involved in the lifestyle that has led you to where you are now. But they may be reluctant to help support your desire to change. An example; when members of a group ‘like’ where they are, they often see anyone who hopes to leave as a sign that ‘the group is no longer good-enough’, and the life you have shared is inadequate. This is threatening because they do not wish to change, and your new desires point out this short-coming.

And though your family may love you regardless of all your faults, they may not believe that you can change for the better. After all, they have seen you in every area of life, and they cannot “see” things differently because they have only one perspective.

Even Christ was ridiculed by His previous neighbors when He returned to the town where He grew up. Had these same people traveled with Jesus and seen what He had done, then they too would have believed!

First: Make new friends. To do this, visit new places where you can meet new people!
Join a church bible study, or a recovery program, or a social club like Toastmasters, or even a local sports fan club!

The point is this, if the people you spend time with do not help in your desire to improve, then you need to question how they add to your life. Find NEW people to surround yourself with!

A Time For Renewal - Part One

What’s your plan for the year ahead?
Does 2012 hold a promise of new hope for you?
If not, what’s holding you back? Is it:
  • Other People ?
  • Uncontrollable Circumstances ?
  • God ?
  • or Yourself ?

If you believe that God, other people, or uncontrollable circumstances are holding you back from the life you hope for, then realize this - the one constant in this mix... is YOU!
 
To make lasting changes start with the one place you have controlling power over: Your perspective; learn to see things differently! Here is how you begin...

When other people seem to be holding you back, then find new people to be around. Let me clear about this, if you ‘hang’ with the same people you always have, yet desire a different result, then you need new friends & family to spend time with. Here is a deeper look at what I mean.
The people most familiar with our “past” can often see in us only one perspective: that of our previous behaviors, attitudes, and actions.

Your friends may accept you for who you are, especially if they were involved in the lifestyle that has led you to where you are now. But they may be reluctant to help support your desire to change. An example; when members of a group ‘like’ where they are, they often see anyone who hopes to leave as a sign that ‘the group is no longer good-enough’, and the life you have shared is inadequate. This is threatening because they do not wish to change, and your new desires point out this short-coming.

And though your family may love you regardless of all your faults, they may not believe that you can change for the better. After all, they have seen you in every area of life, and they cannot “see” things differently because they have only one perspective.

Even Christ was ridiculed by His previous neighbors when He returned to the town where He grew up. Had these same people traveled with Jesus and seen what He had done, then they too would have believed!

First: Make new friends. To do this, visit new places where you can meet new people!
Join a church bible study, or a recovery program, or a social club like Toastmasters, or even a local sports fan club!

The point is this, if the people you spend time with do not help in your desire to improve, then you need to question how they add to your life. Find NEW people to surround yourself with!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pray About It... Again.

Gods desire isnt for you to suffer.
Nor is it for you to have all that you desire.
Neither is it for you to know His will.
It is for you to know Him... more.
More completely.
To trust Him... more.
More faithfully.
To love Him... more.
More gratefully.
 
“To have more peace with God in your life
because you have made peace with Him in your heart.” (paraphrase Rick Warren)

Praying to know Gods will for your life is nowhere near as important
as seeking to know where your life can fit into His plans.
God cares more about us seeking Him every day
in every moment, in every situation, in every relationship,
more than he cares about what job we have
or which person we marry,
or the place where we choose to live.
 

He wants more of our hearts on a more regular basis,
like day to day, hour to hour, and moment to moment.
Do you think this is how Christ did it?
Learning to seek God first before every action He took,
in each thought, and before all that He spoke aloud?
When we know God in this way... more,
then we will know more peace, love, and wisdom in our own lives.
 
If you are in any kind of prison,
then continue to renew your heart and mind.
Do it daily, as each situation arises.
The first words we consider saying
and the first thoughts we entertain
are often the ones satan suggests to us.
What if we wait... asking God through prayer
to reveal a new way to respond?

If this concept is too bizarre for you,
then I suggest reading the book:
“The Practice of the Presence of God.”
You can find it at your local library.
 
But know this:
you are not alone in the thoughts you think of,
because others have heard the same lies from satan.
Find someone to talk with about such,
and no matter what, PRAY!
Again, for the things which concern you,
for God has an answer to all we bring to Him!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Infinite Wisdom & Perfect Love

Do you ever wonder what “Infinite Wisdom & Perfect Love” would look like?

Recently, someone asked me to speak in front of a large group of people at a church service.
Although I have little fear of public speaking, this would be by far the largest(over 800 total attendants), and I was asked to to repeat the brief story I would share twice more in the same day to two additional groups. Sound like fun to you?? Neither was the idea to my wife!
 
While my story would last only 15 minutes or so, the thought came up that I should also prepare a ‘message’, as if to give the entire teaching that day. Seem daunting to you yet? Well here is my first thought, “who - in their infinite wisdom would ask me to do such a thing?! Have ‘they’ lost their mind?!”

When I was alone, I said these words aloud in jest.
Then in irony I realized how often I say the same thing to God when He asks me to do things.

In His infinite wisdom, God asked Moses, a man who had been isolated from most other people for 40 years, who was seen murdering a man, and possessing a speech impediment, to go forward and represent His people to the authority in Egypt.
Preposterous! How could ANYONE expect so much from someone with so little skill & training?!?
Oh. God can. Hmmm. Was that because it wasn’t about Moses ability, but his availability? Allowing God to do His work through him??
I guess my belief of what is important about a person, speaker, and leader has to change.

And as a man, I have an idea of what perfect love is.
I admit I do not possess it.
I can claim to love my daughter with perfect love,
but in the middle of the night when she is cryin aloud
it is difficult to ‘feel’ loving!
And though my wife once loved me
in such a way that I ‘felt’ truly loved,
does it mean she no longer loves me
if she doesn’t show love in the same way now?

So if God proved His love for me once,
why do I ‘feel’ like He needs to continue showing me everyday?
Maybe its because my belief of perfect love has to change.
Can I deny God loves me now
in spite of the blessings I receive,
simply because they don’t ‘look & feel’ how I desire to be loved?
Seems like I have heard something like this before...
an underlying thought in the minds of many,
that God didn’t ask me how I wanted to be shown His love,
and I am not sure I would have asked Him to send Jesus as my savior.
Wow!
Does this seem arrogant, or what??
“I only want what I decide to choose for myself, and not what You want to give me.”
Maybe it sounds more like a petulant child,
and thats how we often act
when God doesn’t show up in the way we Expect,
like He has to meet our expectations
or else we may not truly believe & worship in Him!

The truth is this - Gods perfect love for us shows infinite wisdom,
and our self-centered hearts and small minds cannot grasp or change it.
But to believe it and accept it - that is freedom, and joy follows.

My mind is too limited to grasp what God has for me in eternity
and I can be grateful for this because I believe
it will be better than anything I can ever imagine!

Will You believe in God and His perfectly loving, infinite wisdom?
The alternative is much less gratifying,
for anything I conceive is flawed and short-lived
when compared to the beauty of what little I do know!

 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Prisoner Letter

Does God provide you with opportunities to do His good work?
 

Some time ago a friend of mine who works at a local church approached me and asked,
“since I know you are part of ‘prison-ministry’, who should I give this letter to? It is from a prisoner, and I want to ensure the right people to get a hold of it.”
 

This situation has ‘floored’ me for sometime.
 

At the time, my response was the name of a particular person.
 

Later, after I had time to reflect on the question and comment
I realized that he was implying that the letter came to him by mistake
and that he was not the best person to handle it.
But I was left uneasy and confused...
Why would anyone, be a minister or other Christ follower,
presume the arrival of such a letter as a mistake?
That they are ‘the wrong person to handle such a letter??

 

Did Christ call us to help others - only when Easy & Convenient?

Perhaps the difficult place is precisely where God wants us to be so we can grow...
In faith,
in love,
in patience,
in wisdom,
and in service to others.
 

If we seek to avoid the challenging and hard times in life,
how will we ever stretch ourselves,
sending our roots deeper into God’s fertile soil?

Will we ever learn how much God can provide for us

if we never accept the trying tasks He brings us to?

Later that day, I sent my friend a ‘text message’, saying this:
“Was it a mistake for you to receive that letter?
Perhaps God sent it to you for a reason.
Taking 30 minutes once a month to write a letter could give a prisoner hope,
and he may come to know Christ as a result.”
 

If God has more He wants to bless you with,
yet you refrain from taking the chance,
then you are in essence denying God’s desire to bless you in your obedience.
 

Perhaps your calling is to write a prisoner-letter, or some other duty.
But whatever it is, you have a mission to fulfill
and only when it is done in compliance
can you know more of what God has for you.
 

Will you take the offer when He puts it in front of you?

Friday, December 16, 2011

To Hear Your Name

I once read that the greatest gift we can receive
is to hear our name spoken aloud
on the lips of another person.
 
On this past Wednesday night,
people from my church (New Hope in Portland, OR)
went to feed the homeless through the downtown Rescue Mission.
And as usual, the experience was richly rewarding for us all.
However on this night, it became more,
because I recognized one man among the 400 we fed.

We had spent time together
in the Oregon SUMMIT - Boot Camp program
designed to allow us early release from prison
for completing behavioral re-training through the Dept. of Corrections.
At 61, he was the oldest to ever enter & graduate,
and his surly attitude had always made him stand-out,
so much that we often wondered if he could last.

Yet when I approached him at the table,
he recognized me immediately
and a smile grew across his face into a wide grin.
Then I sat down and we caught up;
sharing stories, future hopes, and even some laughs.
In fact, we earned some sideways glances
with the location and timing for our smiles & joy.
Afterward we prayed together.

When the mealtime was done,
I went to search for him in the sanctuary.
And there we shared a special moment
when I told him his name,
and reminded him that he never needs to feel “doomed” again.

So for now my friend, I want you to know I will never forget you,
and should you ever read this I hope you can forgive me
for sharing the privacy of your name,
because, John Brinton,
You are loved by God
and He holds a special place for you
in heaven with Him for all eternity.
And if you are part f John’s blood family, know this -
he is hoping to make his way to you soon in Kentucky.

On my way home, I was teary eyed
for all those who are without loved ones this Christmas.

One thing I want to say to those I gladly served:


I care about you.

When I look you in the eyes

it is because I want you to know

I see you & respect you,

and even if no one says it today,

God knows your name

and you belong to Him.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Destructible DUI

When we are younger
many of us think we are Indestructible.
And as nothing can harm us,
we push our limits further & further until...
something gives way and breaks.
 
Tears may flow, and there may be pain,
but afterwards we mostly agree...
we wish we had stopped at some point.
 

Before my drunk-driving accident
I had lived my life within fairly pronounced boundaries.
Although my ‘guardrails’ were in place
I still gave myself permission to stretch them
because I never believed it could happen to me.
Isnt that the way with most of us?
 
We believe things are ‘fine’
and nothing we could do would ever be catastrophic,
much less injure someone
or permanently alter our future.
 

So what does a DUI cost financially?
 
Perhaps not much but some money & inconvenience
however mine was different.
 

Because I had injured two people,
the state of Oregon sentenced me to 50 months in prison
on two felony-assault convictions.
(you can read more of the “accident” Here)
Although I was released early for participating
in an intensive prison ‘life-change’ program
the costs still affect me today.

The Financial Breakdown for 18-Months “Inside”:


Year Event or Occurrence Type Amount
2006
Car-Impound & Towing  Fees $800
Car-Payments (with-out ability to drive vehicle) $2400
Attorneys Fees $45000
Investigator Fee $3500
Psychological Evaluation $1500
Preliminary 4-month Diversion Alcohol Program $950
2007
Court Fees $2500
Victim Restitution $15000
Damages to City of Portland $5200
2008
Loss of earned income @ $70,000/year for 18 months $105000
Post-Prison Supervision Fees $420
U/A Fees $300
Remaining 3-Months of Diversion Alcohol Program $600
Community Service Fee $55
Cost of 'necessities' while in prison $540
Average fuel costs for wife to drive for visits $3120
Total Cost $186885

This does not include ‘lost time’ on my part for visits with parole officers, community support meetings, riding the bus due to drivers license suspension, or the time loved ones spent visiting me in prison or taking me places by car afterwards.


And after all this, the felonies keep me from finding regular employment, for over two years now, and thus I contribute no money to my household.

So when you tell yourself;
“it wont matter if I drive home tonight, I am fine!”
The costs are much higher than we can anticipate,
because our vision is too short-sighted
and truthfully we dont want to listen
to the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

Stop today and think:
Is there any area I will listen to the experience of someone else
and change my own behavior as a result?

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Children of Criminals

Are You a Parent?
What if one of your children went to prison for doing something dumb? 
Would you pray for them?
Visit them?
Send them letters, and money for books?
Will you seek to learn from officials how they are doing?
Knowing so little about their life on the ‘inside’,
will you ask God to provide for their salvation and well-being?
 

Most parents will do anything and everything
to spare their child from unimaginable suffering.
However, some people won’t care & don’t make an effort
once their child has again “stepped over the line”.
For these inmates, the “time” they do
is another day of regret, boredom, and hopelessness.

What about their children?

The indirect victims of their crime,

often the most overlooked....

the children they leave behind.

What do they deserve?

Anything?

Mercy?

Compassion?

Forgiveness for being born to criminal parents?

 

Could You be the one to provide them something?

Anything??

 

You may never return to read this blog, so I will ask you to do one thing...

seek out Angel Tree, and give something.

Anything.

Give to the indirect victims of crime, the children.

Click here to learn more: Angel-Tree 

 

Don't just think about it. Do it.

Today.

And again next year.

Plan on helping reduce a little suffering in the world.

Give compassion. Now.

Show mercy. Now.

 

Will You forgive the criminals enough to help their children?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Finding we are often Alone & Lonely

Are you alone or lonely today?

 

Recently I learned that in America more suicides happen in the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's than in January, February, and March combined.

To me that means more of us feel unloved and depressed at this time of year than any other.

 

In a room full of people, yet we stand alone.

Or by ourselves and away form the "busy-ness",

watching TV, on the computer,

and lonely.

 

Prisoners & the homeless,

whether for political & religious reasons or criminal activity,

are separated from everyone by concrete & steel.

However many of us reside in a “prison of our own making”.

We have been wronged, and then we hurt others in return.

Now we live separated from loved ones,

barriers of independence built to protect us from others,

and in a prison of solitude we reside.

And at this time of year the hurt we feel

hangs in the air thick enough to choke on.

How do we reduce that pain?

 

The goal we often truly seek

yet which eludes us all the same;

The feeling that someone else truly cares for us,

and a purpose for life in caring for another.


To love and be loved in return. To connect with someone else.

 

First, we learn to forgive, ourselves, then others.

Seek an opportunity to forgive,

and to apologize for the hurt we may have caused.

Break down the barriers.

Spend time together, maybe over a meal.

Say nothing if you know not where to start.

Let healing begin.

 

Like the prisoners that suffer now, hopeless and alone,

we too need something to look forward to if things are to change.

Make plans to spend time with another person.

Be intentional.

Take the risk to let love in.


Online=Plugged-In=Isoltaed

 

When your car brakes down, your twitter status probably wont solve it,

and a Facebook “shout-out” makes us feel nice for a moment,

but eating dinner alone again wont change.

 

If you cannot spend time with those you know & love

for whatever reason

then will you take the chance with someone you dont know? 

 

Volunteer in a homeless shelter.

Coordinate a Christmas church-service at a jail-house.

Maybe you won't help them because it seems too risky.

But the pain of being at home on your own does no one any good.

 

Regardless of any abilities which limit you,

YOU CAN make a difference,

no matter how small.

If not today, then start with one new year's resolution:

Find a way to reach others for God,

and in return learn how to care for someone new.

 

But for today - Pray.

Pray - that one prisoner comes to know the peace of reconciliation.

Pray - that the victims of crime come to heal completely.

Pray - that the families and children left behind are provided for this season.

Pray - for those who have wronged you, and those whom you have wronged.

"I have come that they may have life,

and that they may have it more abundantly."

 - Jesus the Christ, John 10:10b NKJV

 

This Post is a Revision from December 2010