Friday, September 30, 2011

A Professional At Being Angry

Do you ever feel justified in your anger?
I do .

When in prison I saw many inmates
who held anger tightly to their chest
refusing to let it go.
Yet this happens all too much
in every part of our society.
From the driver who yells
when cut-off in traffic;
to the loyal sports fan
whose face turns red with rage
when an official rules against their team;
or the parent of a child
who has been disobeyed again.

It doesn’t seem to matter
who the target of our anger is
as long as we get to release it.

With criminals, it is often the system,
the judge, the DA, the police,
or even the victims themselves.
Sometimes we blame our family
friends, school teachers, a coach,
or society as a whole
for the ‘fair-chance we never got’.
Yet on more than one occasion
I have witnessed a mild mannered person,
whom people like for their quiet friendliness
stand and shout in a loud rage,
“Kill him/her/them!”

I have seen this angry hostility released
while watching a political figure on TV,
during the news of a criminal arrest,
and at a sports-game towards an opponent.
What does this seem like to you?

We have become a society
whose way to deal with fear & pain
is to let it out through anger
on someone, anyone,
whom we can justify as deserving it.

Most Criminals- Did they earn
to be your target-outlet?
Or your co-workers & customers?
Or the pet at home?

If we let our difficult emotions
turn into repressed anger
until we have no way to release it
then we can become known as having
A Profession of Anger.

People will not know us for our joy
but for our blame.
Other will not see in us love
but as always complaining.

We think of this as a small part of who we are
but to those who witness our outbursts...
we are just poison.
And many will choose to avoid us
so they do not have to witness our rage again.

The other day I stepped outside
ready to unleash my fury
on the person who rang our doorbell
when a sign had been posted
requesting to “please not use the doorbell.”
The gentlemen kindly pointed to the spot
where no sign remained
and I quickly realized that he deserved
something more of me... my best.
I was frustrated, and he became my outlet.

If I am afraid to let go of my anger
then it eats me from the inside-out.
I can choose to treat everyone better
than they may ever deserve
because that is what Christ has taught me.
and then amazing things can happen!

If you are a professional
whether a carpenter,
attorney, teacher, or teller,
you will best be known
by how you treated others
and how people felt when around you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Life of Failures

Are you a failure in life?
You may be surprised to learn
that most people think of themselves
as a failure in one way or another.

(There are a number of sources
which relate emotional/psychological issues
to a deep fear of failure
usually stemming from one or more events
which have already occurred in ones life.)
A few online sources:
Consider the events
which have sparked this ‘feeling’ in your own life:
A close relationship ended;
But are you a failure? Of-course not.

What about a problem at work you caused?
Not even close.

What if your mistake was so big
that people lost their jobs
and the company is now closed?
Still, does not make you a failure.

Perhaps you lost the family money gambling?
Hmm, lack of smart-thinking, but you are not a failure.

What if you committed a heinous crime?
A grievous mistake, but that does not make You a mistake.

Whatever mistakes you have done,
or failures you are responsible for,
it is the life you live afterwards
which determines who you truly are.

Consider Stanley "Tookie" Williams ,
co-founder of the L.A gang- the Crips,
who began making changes in his behavior,
to become an anti-gang activist.
He also co-wrote children's books
and participated in efforts
to prevent youths from joining gangs.
Not good enough?
The point is this:

we do not know what God has planned for us
nor how He can use the errors we’ve made
to further His kingdom, and to help others.

“The upside of failure is that failing leads to wisdom,
personal growth, resilience, and compassion.”

Murderer? God still used Moses.
Hateful of Christians? Paul became the great advocate.
Infidelity? Many to name, but King David comes to mind.

“Many of the greatest leaders have failed many times.
Before inventing the light bulb,
Thomas Edison failed a thousand times.
Babe Ruth had 714 home runs and 1,330 strikeouts.
Abraham Lincoln was said to have failed so many times,
in business, in his love life,
losing every election until his run for President
to finally became one of the greatest ever.”

Allow failure to be your friend not your enemy.

Old age isn’t an excuse either...
GrandMa Moses began her famous painting
when in her seventies!

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.
Failure is delay, not defeat.  
It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end street.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Pain Of Our Past

Have you ever been kicked in the teeth?

When we think of this term of ‘action’
we can presume this to mean something specific, like...
a bizarre horse-riding accident,
or an extremely grueling Rugby match,
or an incident at work in un-safe conditions.

We can also relate this term to something else, like...
an un-fortunate event,
for which we are responsible.

And the reminder of this occasion
is like the pulling of our teeth without a ‘pain-killer’;
it hurts,
its messy,
everyone see it,
and it will take time to heal.

But what if someone close to you
came by and opened your mouth
to then dig at the soft tissue
until the blood spread everywhere
and the pain began again?
How much would you appreciate them
and the “help” they offer?

Recently a ‘helpful’ friend
did such a thing for me;
When we got together
he opened up old wounds
about people, places, & times.
I was left reeling with immense guilt
and a uncommon gratefulness
because this person claimed to
“still like & accept me”,
in spite of the blunders I made,
as if it was a huge undertaking for them.

Let me be clear...
these parts of my past were not part of my accident,
(you can read more that here (The Accident)
nor were they illegal, malevolent, or intentional.
They were just … dumb.
I still recall how I felt afterwards,
because this person ‘helped’ remind too well.

But here is the thing my ‘friend’ forgot about
the forgiving blood of Christ that now covers me.
I am no longer that same person.
I don’t do those same things anymore.
My identity is not tied to the mistakes of my past.
I can walk in the joy of Christ’s acceptance of me
and therefore I can kindly decline
the “kind-words” he offered:
the assurance of his personal acceptance
as if his view of me matters most in the world.

When we “get our head on straight”,
we know what God wants of us,
and if we live in that...
it doesn’t matter what AnYoNe ELSE thinks!

But living there is not easy
because rejection is all too real.
But I can make new friends,
by living out Christ among wherever I go!

Will you deny the “acceptance” of false friends
to walk in the strength that comes from Christ alone?

I thank God for grace. And I thank Him for truth. If it weren’t for His grace, the truth would condemn me. But if it weren’t for the truth, His grace would have no power to change me. -Steven Furtick

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Creativity In Prison

Having been to one maximum security jail
and five different prisons in Oregon
I would have to say that Creativity
is alive and well in each location.
It is expressed in many varied ways,
from the artwork of tattoos,
to baking and cooking,
sometimes through music,
or even the writing of newsletters.
I recently read a quote that,
“Creativity, when not used,
turns to depression.” -Henri Reiman
There is plenty depression in prison.
 So what if the repression of creativity
turns into more crime?
Jobs are scarce enough, both “Inside & Out”.
So an increase in criminal activity
is almost expected by some in society.
If we could encourage more creativity,
could we see more peace around us?
If the same minds that are used
to think up & act out crimes
could be taught and guided
to express their feelings through art
what could the results possibly be?
In the movie “Freedom Writers”,
is the true-life story of Erin Gruwell,
who teaches inner-city, at-risk teens
to write about their anguish,
allowing them to grow beyond their pain.
Here, 150 minds are given space
to create what previously had been
un-thinkable, un-tried, & un-spoken.
Their words and stories provided,
a way to believe in something more,
to create and find value in one’s own voice.

At the Oregon State Penitentiary
two inmates working in the metal shop
were given permission to work on a project
but only when normal duties were complete
and using scraps for materials.
Here is what they put together...
What does this look like to you?
(photo made public-online through the ‘Oregonian’ newspaper)

Is it art? Is it rehabilitation?
Is it a way to focus the creative energies within?
Perhaps we need more ‘arts & music’ classes in schools
to keep kids interested in learning.

Think about music...
Does it connect more people
 throughout the periods of history?
Or art...
through the barriers of race, gender, status & wealth?
Or words...
can they convey eternal meaning?
Or our economy, is it based more on production
or the valuable innovative ideas that catch on?

What is one thing that all convicts
seem to have plenty of?
Imaginative ideas!
Find the right one
tell him he "cant do it"
and he will find a way.
Can we put that power to work
in our American companies?

I don’t believe that “Art can save us.”(-unknown)
But I do believe it has power
to set us free from our previous constraints.

"Live out of your imagination, not your history." –Stephen Covey


Friday, September 16, 2011

The Goodness Underneath

Have you ever looked at something
then quickly decided its worth?
Today I got to try something new;
when my elderly neighbor
asked for help to remove a large vine.
I was happy to do so.
Yet as I worked
to cut the green tangled mass from the fence
I realized something incredible:
underneath the leaves were green-beans!
 Beautiful and ripe, ready to pick and eat.
(By the way, I love green-beans!
And this is the first time
I have hand-picked them from a vine.)
But what I realized was that my neighbor
could only see the massive vine
as a burden to the fence
and an eyesore to look at.
She couldn’t see underneath
to the wholesome goodness
of the “fruit-of-the-vine”!

When the other neighbor came over
to investigate my malicious intent
I expressed my incredible surprise.
His small back-yard garden
had produced a magnificant crop,
so much that he was glad to see
someone else enjoy the results produced.

And here is what I thought of
as I picked the beans for my family:
How often do we dismiss
those we come across
simply because the view is unsightly?

God created all human beings
and each one has significant value
even if we cannot see it up close.

When the homeless person who smells
comes to your church for prayer
can you look past their current situation
to the beloved ‘child’ underneath?

I am far from perfect in this area
but I am hoping that this will change
so that if nothing more
I can sit with them and listen,
tell them how valuable they are to God,
and pray with them for strength,
in whatever they are facing.

And this goes for all people;
the family member who comes home angry,
the salesman who knocks on the door at dinner,
the janitor who everyone avoids.

Do we look hard enough
to the person underneath?

Perhaps it is time we stop
and look deeper into the person
that God created underneath
all the dirt and pain we witness
to instead encourage and lift up
as Jesus Himself would do.

Can you see the goodness underneath
in the people you encounter?


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Security Of A Prison Cell

Would you ever consider a prison-cell “Safe”?

As ‘safe-places’ go,
a cement & steel ‘box’ may seem like one.

‘Outside’ forces cannot harm you.
No one else typically wants to enter.
And ‘inside’, you can live on your own,
with no one to bother you,
or ever ridicule and belittle you.

So aside from the times that can be dangerous;
leaving the cell to take showers,
walking to eat, or going to the ‘yard’,
a prison cell can become...

And unless you have a cell-mate,
one can spend all their days alone
in a voluntary solitude.

And that’s where the real prison exists:
On our own, connecting with no one,
letting no one near enough to reach us,
and reaching out to no one else.
We can think that once in a cell
its a place safe from harm.
A sense that nothing can happen to us
outside of our control.
And that’s all it is...
a false sense of security.

Sure, we may be protected
from harsh weather conditions,
from hunger & homelessness,
from being hurt by others,
from finding a job and paying bills.
But it isn’t real.
It is an illusion.
It’s fear.

You may be living in a prison-cell of your own making
afraid to reach out and connect with anyone,
afraid to take chances and be hurt,
afraid of being a failure,
of being rejected... again.
This kind of life is one thing for sure,
a slow death.

As one of my favorite movies
the “Shawshank Redemption” makes comment:
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

To step out of our comfortable paces
confront our fears
and remember Jesus promise to give abundant life.

Consider the things that seem too difficult in your life today,
and ask God to bring restoration to the areas of pain and hurt.

Then ask Him for the power
to overcome you fear and step forward in faith,
even if only in a small way -
one baby-step at a time.

Reach out to someone new.
Take a step outside and breathe in the fresh air.
Risk, and live!

Don’t be so afraid
that you only live
in the prison cell life has provided.

“Lord, help me to do great things
as though they were little
since I do them with Your power;
and little things as though they were great
since I do them in Your name.”
-Blaise Pascal