Thursday, July 28, 2011

Regaining Trust

What does it look like when we lose someone’s trust?
 
Have you ever ‘wounded’ anyone so deeply
that you lose them for good?
 
Maybe you had this happen to you;
a person close to you
has done something that hurts deeply
and the pain has yet to go away.
Perhaps it will never disappear,
and you are left with gnawing suspicion and fear.
 

Will this feeling invade other relationships?
 

Or could an anxiety develop
that costs you freedom
until you lock yourself away for safety
to protect yourself from future harm.
 

How do you learn to trust again?
 

This week I filled out a ‘Travel Application’
so I can visit family in California.
It is the states permission for me to leave.
 

More than a request form,
it is still a sign that I have yet to regain complete trust.
I am not upset about it.
Three more months, and I can leave when I want
without waiting for approval first.
Then in February, my probation ends,
And I can re-enter prison to encourage others.
 

The people who knew me before the accident
(read about it Here)
knew immediately that it was a bad mistake
but not a reason to lose their trust in me.
However, the state knew differently,
and it has taken time to re-gain their trust in me.
But here is the point:
even in the midst of my prison sentence
those closest knew
that my identity is in Christ,
and that God could yet be glorified
in the situation I faced.
 

I was reminded of that today
when I laughed about making a t-shirt
that would say across it:
 
I am a Criminal,
and a Sinner,
but God...
  
except that is not who I am.
I am a wholly loved,
completely forgiven,
and totally accepted
child of the Most-High God!
 

Trust: choosing to believe the best about others.

However, trust comes at a price
it takes time, and some risk,
and it begins with forgiveness.

Perhaps you need to ask for it,
or let go and release the hand-grip
that holds fear and anger so tightly.
Failing to forgive limits us,
but giving it allows healing to begin
and lets love in to grow anew.

Regaining trust..
is worth all the effort!

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Labels We Hate To Wear

When you awoke this morning, did you put on a Name-Tag?
If so, what does it say about you?
Many of us awake each day
with a strong sense of who we are:

Mother/Father,

Son/Daughter,

Employee/Boss.

And yet many of us add a label to our names.
We do it ever so slightly...
never meaning to undermine ourselves,
but simply acknowledging the truth
of who we are
and how we expect others see us:

Failure,

Sinner,

Criminal.

We have failed in raising our children,
and in loving our parents and spouses.
We have sinned against God and man
with our lustful idolization of others and what they have.
We have sinned at work on our expense reports
adding costs to pad our pockets, stealing from our employers.
 

So we rationalize it all
by comparing ourselves with others,
until we have nothing left
but the companions of guilt and remorse.
Then with that sad burden we believe a lie
that our name-tag should include a qualifying label:
Worthless.
 

But then someone confronts us,
and says the label is a lie.
We get angry at them for pointing out our flaws,
and disregard the love they share
because at first it tastes sour like vinegar.
 

We turn and run until we hear
the inescapable truth deep inside us;
that God loved each of us enough
to reclaim us through Christ’s blood.

 

The same red-blood that stains

will make us clean again.

The labels wash away in His blood
and our days can begin anew.
 

We do not have to accept
the failures of our past
for we have a new choice to make;
living in the joy of Christ’s light,
or the continued weight of an old label.
 

The sweet taste of victory will not come
by carrying the guilt of our mistakes,
but by handing them over to Jesus
and allowing His light
to burn a little brighter in us each day.
 

Others may not believe us at first
nor may we trust ourselves.
But we can trust Jesus
and believe in the changes He makes in us.
 

Soon we will wear a new label,
Valuable,
and the difference is undeniable!
 

Ephesians 1:5 -
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.(NLT)

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Celebration Of Homecoming

Having served in the U.S. military,
 I can appreciate the homecoming after being gone a long time.
As such, I especially wish I could have been there to welcome home Tim,
my former ‘cell-mate’ who was recently released
after serving twenty plus years for committing a stupid crime when he was 19.
Did he hurt someone enough to deserve such a long sentence?
Yes.
And he would be the first to admit it.
Yet God used Tim in my life.
(you can read more about it here: Where Will You See God)
The point though is what he has learned,
and how he wants to live from now on.
My own welcome home party had more than 40 people:
close family and friends, business partners,
co-workers of my wife,
fellow educators & former students,
neighbors and their kids,
and men I had mentored before my crime.
(you can read more about this here: Will Criminals Reform & Change)
So here is a key question:
Do We deserve a welcome home celebration?
In the biblical story of the prodigal son,
there is a celebration when the wayward boy changes his ways
comes home to his family,
and most importantly the father who adores him.
Jon Acuff has written a beautiful piece on this here:
My friend Tim has come home to a retired military officer of a dad,
and for the first time since his crime,
is happy for the disciplined love of his father.
He laughs when stcuk in traffic because for a change...
he gets to be stuck in it
rather than in the prison cell he has known.
He has a healthy perspective on life,
and with his new job is looking forward to paying restitution to his victim.
Here is the point:
Do you ever think You could do something so bad
that Christ will not welcome you into heaven?
I feel that Jesus celebrates with us in our victories here on earth,
and I trust He is saddened when we make mistakes.
I know He smiles when we are challenged to grow
through life's struggles to have more faith in Him. And,
I believe Christ rejoices when we walk into heaven to spend eternity with Him!
To get a wonderfully touching view of what a soldiers homecoming looks like,
watch this video:
Will your welcome into heaven be as jouyous an occasion by others?
And If God the Father is willing to welcome home
all His children who have committed crimes and sinned against Him,
could you help them to know salvation through Christ Jesus?
Ephesians 4:28 - Let him who stole steal no longer,
but rather let him labor,
working with his hands what is good,
that he may have something to give him who has need.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Taking the Risk to Stretch Ourselves

Last week I recorded and post my first ever ‘Video-Log’.
It was a little more than two minutes,
and simply introduces me as the writer of this blog.
Perhaps this is not a big feat for many,
but for me it is significant.
 
My wife pointed out that I looked tired & sick,
which I was.
A sinus infection, allergies, lack of sleep,
feeling weak & ill, plus...
caring for my one-year old daughter during the day
while attempting to start my own business.
(Thank goodness she still takes naps-
Otherwise I would accomplish nothing!)
But here is the point...
 
How often do we expose ourselves to risk?
Especially in order for to see ourselves grow?
 
Most of us try to insulate our lives from outside criticism.
We feel bad enough
about our own meager efforts and short-comings.
So why make something public
that could potentially reduce or minimize
our own self-worth?
The short answer - Growth.
 
I wont see any additional income,
nor will I be any better looking!
My humor, energy, and compassion
didn’t come through in the video.
So why do it?
 Because I feel God asked me to take a step in faith.
Did God tell me to make a video??
No.
But perhaps it is the start of something more.
I cannott say right now. But...
 
When we don’t hear God’s voice
clearly directing the steps in our lives
what do we do?
Anything??
Where do we intentionally risk ourselves?
The excitement of extreme sports?
What about for a business venture?
A romance?
How about to save a friend?
Or risking yourself to make a friend?
 
The men & women in America’s prisons
or the children they left behind
could be better off
if you would take the risk.
Think you have nothing to offer?
You could simply learn to play cards.
 
For in the darkest of our days
things could be different,
better,
if only we knew someone would be there
in spite of all our mistakes
to sit beside us, and care.
 
Luke 6:32-37
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even "sinners"' love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even "sinners" do that.  And if you lend to those from who you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even "sinners" lend to "sinners," expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
 
Romans 12:13
Share with Gods' people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.
 
The video isn’t great.
However it has nowhere to go but up!
Yet if I risk nothing...
it is more than just me that loses.

Take the risk,
 stretch yourself!
And see what God opens up to you!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Fatherless & The Fathers Who Care

Have you ever doubted the role a man plays
in his son’s or daughter’s life?
What if he is a criminal offender serving time in prison?

Most of us would like nothing more
than to keep these men away
from the children they fathered.
Why?

Because we are afraid of what they will do
with the power they possess
over the minds and lives of these young ones.

But, what if...
What if they cared?
Now, if we consider this
we have to ask what type of influence they will exert.

I remember being in prison and watching
grown men crying,
who tell stories of the wreckage they left behind.
And then of hope...
that things will be different when they return home.

Is it possible?
Could their lives be so dramatically changed by the experience
that they learn to live a life of love and encouragement?

We may never wish to entertain thoughts of these men
coming anywhere near our kids,
but what of their own?

Can they...
be a positive influence
with the time they have left here on earth?
In deed they can.
No matter what they have done
they still have a chance to love those they left.

Doubt my naivete'?
Then read more about Mark Ingram (Here),
the Heisman trophy winner of 2009
who was drafted into the NFL this year.
I have no doubt the positive influence his father had on him.

So what can YOU do to encourage the incarcerated fathers?

Well, there is already a program in place!
Called: The InnerChange Freedom Initiative
The program summary from their website:
Your taxes have been used to keep offenders in prison. Wouldn’t you like to invest in something that helps keep them out? Out in the community living productive, responsible lives . . . rather than reverting to crime and heading back to prison? The InnerChange Freedom Initiative®—a values-based reentry program developed by and affiliated with Prison Fellowship—is proving that prisoners can get out and stay out.
 
The part of the program I love most?
 
Dads able to read to their children from prison!
To learn more, watch this short video Here!

How does this idea touch you?
Perhaps you want to do MORE?

Well, if you have been reading this blog for long,
then you know I support Big Brothers/Sisters
especially their Faith based program, titled: Amachi.
Designed to connect adults with the children of incarcerated parents.
And now, Best-Selling Author, Donald Miller,
has a project designed to connect entire churches with fatherless children.
Its called: The Mentoring Project.
Together with Tony Dungy, Superbowl winning Coach,
they are leading mentors into the fray
to help the children who need it most.
So take a pick.
Or perhaps, do both.
Know this...
Either way,
You WILL make a difference!