Thursday, October 27, 2011

When People Change...

How do you know when a person has changed?
Do they look different?
Act, speak, or smell different?
Do they carry themselves in another manner?
All of these above??
 
More importantly,
when they say they have changed...
do you believe them?
 

Whether or not the person is a criminal
we often reserve the right to accept
that in fact a personal- change has occurred
until we see some sort of “proof”
and a significant period of time to support the claim.

When Dave Dahl came out of prison
after having spent 15 years “inside”
few people would likely say
he was a candidate for positive change,
but here is the amazing thing:
Dave made a decision to change himself first;
Then he asked for help and put in the effort to work hard.
Now he is known for one thing above all...

His fantastic bread!
Link from story in Safety & Justice.org


Organic & locally made
Dave uses his creative energy
in new and powerful ways
that people everywhere can enjoy!

It would be difficult for anyone to say
that this man has failed to make the change he claimed.
Yet many of us will expect the worst
so we hold our breath,
and in the time we wait,
we fail to give our support.

So here is the point...
if one man can do it,
with helpful support from others
could you offer a hand
to help someone else do the same?

Here is a brief video of Dave Dahl & his Killer Bread:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Re-Post: “Will Criminals Reform & Change”


This last week has flown by, and many new developments are on the horizon for me & the work I do. If you do not know me, this is my life each day: follower of Christ, father, husband, mentor, coach. and volunteer. As such, the time I devote to reading for self-development and writing has diminished somewhat due to requests for my time, and in this I am grateful.

If you know me, but are unaware of my recent history, then this post may come as a surprise. It is a re-post from February of this year, and it discloses how I came to be a convicted criminal. 
  • Reform: To improve by alteration, correction of error, or removal of defects; put into a better form or condition.
I often paraphrase and use quotes by other writers to emphasize something important. And I will continue to do so, but today is different. “I do not see myself as a writer, but more a traveler to whom God has given the desire, and perhaps responsibility, to journal."

In late July 2006, I caused a drunk-driving accident, injuring two people. For this I was charged with one DUII, and two counts of Felony Assault - for "using a car in a manner as to make it a deadly weapon, with the reckless disregard to the value of human life."

How did I come to this place? Especially with a respectable Master's degree from a  solid university, a new "six-figure" income job, and a history for volunteering as a Big Brother?? Did I know Christ? Yes. Was I part of a church body? You bet... attending every Sunday, and tithing 10%. So, what happened?!?

Although I was born in America, I chose to live here in the United States and thus I am not here to argue the merits of a case, the fairness of laws, nor the severity of punishment handed out. Socrates philosophy has influenced this view for me, as I paraphrase here: "Having knowingly agreed to live under the city's laws, he implicitly subjected himself to the possibility of being accused of crimes by its citizens and judged guilty by its jury. To do otherwise would have caused him to break his "social contract" with the state, and so harm the state, an act contrary to his own principle."

So as a criminal myself, when did I reform and change? When I awoke in jail the next morning after my car accident, fell to my knees, and begged God to forgive me for not listening to Him, and for not seeking Him in all I do. My sin was pride. Things were going so well that I quit listening for God's guidance, and in fact I had outright told Him that I "had this", and He could take a break(from working on me) because I somehow falsely believed that I “knew” what I was doing!

The morning of my crash, driving to work early so I could start at 5am, I heard God plainly. He told me clearly, "Don't drive tonight." That seems simple, yet maybe hard to imagine - but it was early, and I was still coming fully awake. So I replied, "don't worry God, I got a designated driver arranged for tonight, so I won't be driving."
 And later when the plans changed so I had to drive to meet the people who would later drive me home, I heard His voice again, "Don't drive home tonight." To which I once again said, "It's OK God, I have a DD planned for that!" But later, when I could not locate or reach my DD by phone, I grew angry, and impatient. And when the alcohol allowed me to convince myself that I could "make it home safely", I decided to drive myself.

Then on February 5th 2007, I began my prison sentence.

Does the fact I am a criminal saved by Christ change the truth; that God loves me & can use me to further His kingdom? 

We may go to our grave not knowing why bad things happen.  But God worked through the negative events in Joseph's life to pave the way for Moses, in spite of his crimes & sin.  And King David, in spite of his crime & sin.  And, through the family line, eventually the Messiah. Who died for us all. Never underestimate what God can do if you will make your heart open to His guidance... then wait & listen for Him to speak!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Freedom, Floods, & Forest-Fires

How do you see your freedom?

This blog was supposed to post yesterday
but in my freedom, I am late.
In my last post, I wrote of my anniversary
and in the celebration I postponed some things.
A few things I will not postpone is:
loving my family,
sharing Christ salvation,
serving others in need,
seeking a deeper relationship with God.

So while driving to the high-desert,
over Mt Hood to central Oregon,
I was reminded of my incarceration.
May seem like an odd place
to “see” a reminder of my past.
The scenery was beautiful,
the weather near perfect,
but the scars of a previous fire
were burnt into the landscape,
and I began to recall the flooding of Vernonia in 2007.

In between my stay at the state maximum security prison
and my eventual assignment to the “Summit”-Boot Camp program
I stayed at a minimum security location where one day
all non-transferring inmates were called to work a huge flood:
Inmate Work Crews Receive Thanks from Community of Vernonia.
By their efforts, prisoners helped restore a community.

Most often we do not think that convicts have much to offer.
But in another part of the state,
inmates routinely work to save our forests from fire:
DOC and ODF Fight Fires Together.

We may say, “Good. Its about time ‘they’ do something worthwhile.”
And here is the point of this post today:
These incarcerated “citizens” were given a choice
and volunteered to serve a greater cause
by doing work that made them feel worthwhile.

Many of us citizens on the “outside” look for the same thing;
a job that makes us feel better about ourselves.
So what do you think these same inmates will do
when they are given true “freedom”?
Most of us don’t know or care,
but in one case, appreciation was showed in a small way;
read this brief article and see if you would do the same...
"Store owner plans to help inmates who lent a hand".

Whether you are serving time in prison
or working in an unfulfilling job
your motivation must look more like running a marathon
where each day you run the race, one step at a time,
because too often we do not see that the “prison” door
is unlocked - and when we use our freedom
to choose a better perspective and actively participate
amazing things can happen, and life change is the result.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Personal Window- My Honor Of Marriage

Today’s post is more personal
than when I share stories
or plead for your mercy on others.
 
Yesterday, October 13, was my fifth anniversary!
Five years ago I made a choice
to stop living for myself
and to marry the woman I loved,
but in truth it was she who gave me the honor.

You see, my love knew of my situation...
the likelihood of my incarceration,
and made the decision to marry me anyway.
Can you comprehend this?
In my foolishness I had driven drunk and injured two people
and now faced an unavoidable felony sentence in prison.
Could you have done the same?

We may think that our love for someone else
could be so pure, so strong...
that we could endure any hardship,
the difficult times away from one another.
But more than four years??
Was she naive? Simpleminded perhaps??

Once I was there, serving my time
the guys I lived with told me what to expect
that “a good woman can wait one year,
and maybe a real good woman will last two,
but not more than four.”
And thus an expectation was set.
And while I could say that “they” knew too little
to give me ‘advice’ on relationships
their tales sounded much like the stories I had heard
when I served five years in the military:
That people cannot wait to live their lives
on the other side of fear and uncertainty,
especially when they want a family.

Could I survive?
Would I be incomprehensibly altered?
Somehow changed deep down inside
and unwilling to be around her after,
or even unable to father children after?
Yet she risked it,
and gave up her own will for a time.
As did we both.
For years we had lived in stubborn pride,
unwilling to move forward
because in our relationship
everything had to be about the “me”,
and then all of a sudden, we changed.
We gave up our self-focused, self-absorbed lives.
And we gave God the opportunity to use us
to guide and lead us into a new way of loving one another.

Then something happened that we never knew was possible;
the “What-If” occurred...
What-if, I lived for her and she lived me....
and what if we dedicated ourselves to God
and trusted Him in this marriage?

What if we gave up our own selfishness
and gave more of ourselves where it matters most
to love another more than ourself?

So on Friday, October 13th, 2007 we were married.
I gave her all I had: my money, house, auto, my love,
and she gave me more than I could ask,
all her heart, all her time, and all her future.
And our hope was in the plans God had for us,
and our trust in Him has carried us through.

 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Criminal Next-Door

I am the criminal in your midst
and you dont see me.
You look past me-
because I am unsightly.
I smell-
because I haven't a place to bathe.
I am hungry-
because I cannot buy food.
I have no job-
because I am too much of a risk.
No place to rest my head-
because I am an embarrassment to my family.
I see no hope and purpose to my life-
because no one cares to touch my soul.

For me, the child of two American born parents,
as were my four grandparents.
So at minimum - Third generation American born,
yet a second class citizen none-the-less.
There are millions of my “brothers and sisters”
who fall in the same group.
We are parents,
neighbors,
children,
and criminals.
Convicted of crimes against society by our justice system
and punished by serving time in jails and prisons.
However, the punishment continues far beyond the legal system.
We are kept from improving ourselves with education,
refused housing, denied jobs.
In truth, we are marginalized,
and you don’t see us.

Millions of your fellow Americans
condemned to pay for their crimes
for the remainder of their lives.

Will you help us break the chains of addiction,
poverty, homelessness, exclusion, loneliness,
and help us find ways of meaningful participation?

Isaiah 58:6-8, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Our Importance In The World

How Important Are You?
 
For most of us, it is important to feel significant
and our significance is often determined
by how many people like us (online or in person)
or how much one person in particular likes us
(a spouse, child, boss, parent, friend, lover)
whether or not we even like ourselves.

We can therefore ask the simple question;
what is it I do that makes other people “like” me,
and how can I do that More often?

Here is something which may be a of shock;
sometimes none of those people will like you
any more or any less for what you have done
than how you have made them feel.
Did you catch that difference?
When we do certain things that;
a) make us happy, or
b) make others like us more,
there comes a time when it isn’t enough,
or when everyone we know is disappointed in us.
Our efforts seem... meaningless.

Before my accident (read about it here)
my professional life was soaring
I had public recognition for my volunteer efforts
friends and acquaintances desired my time.
Yet after it happened...
there was very little I could do to encourage myself,
and after we all realized I would go to prison
few people continued to see my significance and feed my ego.

So while I was gone and incarcerated
serving others became more important.
It was after I had realigned myself with Gods purposes
that I began to see how self-focused I had been,
and when I took the time to make “them”
(the men I was serving time with in prison)
feel important, by listening and encouraging
did I begin to see my ‘self-importance’ differently,
by giving of myself for anothers benefit.

As long as our importance is tied
to people, events, and the circumstances of life
we are bound to be disappointed.
There will always be a failure of self-significance
until we find our significance in God
and in doing His work to help others.

“Francis Schaeffer once said
Americans have to learn to act as missionaries in their own culture.
If you’re a missionary, you learn the language of the people in the mission field.
Many of us spend our time in church at Bible study
but never figure out how to relate what we learn
to the culture, or to understand the other people first.”

Whether you have had a bad day
or you have lived miserably for years
helping Others to find their significance
can change how important You feel.  

Where could you share a kind word
if only to become a better person yourself?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Let-Down of Entitlement

Have you ever felt entitled to something?

After reviewing my last post (see it here)

reading some other authors

and sitting in thoughtful contemplation

I realized there is more to our anger than just fear...


If our anger stems from our own fears & pain

then perhaps our fears come from a lack of trust;

a trust that things will get better,

that we will receive the “good” we deserve,

because we feel entitled to something More,

something Fair- maybe even prosperity & security.


And this is where our lack of trust comes in...

that if there is a God, He should provide for me

and for everyone, something better than we have right now.

Our anger comes from this lack of trust in God, because

We fear God will not provide what we want & need,

and somehow we lack what we should be entitled to.


However if there is nothing better to receive,

then perhaps there is no God

because we still continue to feel entitled to 'More'.

Yet nowhere in life do we find this “guarantee”

to a better life than we have now

except through the God of the bible,

and He is clear that this current life will Never be fair

and we are entitled to nothing.

But we don’t like to hear this.

And the truth is that we must wait

for the best to come in heaven

after this life is done.


Whether we are a teacher, criminal, or professional athlete,

when we look at what we have been given

it is rarely enough, and we often want to scream “Foul!”.

We blame the politicians, the press,

the opposition, the boss, our spouse,

God, society, the government, and our past.

We somehow think we should be happier

more fulfilled, and better rewarded.

People everywhere should like us

and give us what we desire

but we never ask for what we deserve.

We act as if we deserve better,

but down deep we know we deserve less.


So how do we believe in a loving God

when life seems so unfair for most people?

To dig deeper, lets look at the opposite view:

When we see those to whom much has been given

can we expect them to be happy- everyday & forever?

That seems hard to believe.

But if they are ever unhappy again, is life now unfair for them?


This life is temporary, and no situation

either good or bad

will last forever.

And when I think on God’s plan for us all

to live with Him forever in heaven

with no fear, pain, or death

then I don’t need to be angry

or fearful of anything now

because I know that the best is yet to come.


“The thing that keeps us going for God,

even when everything or everyone around us is tumbling and stumbling,

is our vision of God, not our devotion to principles or our devotion to duty.”

- Oswald Chambers