Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Fifty-Year Shelf-Life

How old are you?
How long will you live?
When “it” is all over...
will any of “this” matter?


Recently I read a startling statistic...
that within Fifty Years of our death
the average person is completely forgotten.

 
How do you feel when you read that?
Stop for a minute and think about it...
if we have children, and then perhaps grandchildren,
they will be the only ones who recall anything significant about us.
When we stop to think of all the people who the world “remembers”
fewer than .01% will make a lasting impression.
We can try to recall the winner of a Pulitzer, a President, an Athlete or Entertainment Celebrity, but most names will go unrecognized within 50 years of their light being extinguished.

 
When I walked “the yard” at OSP in 2007 there were few inmates over 60 years of age, fewer still over the age of 70, and I believe I there were only three over age 80. One looked like he could be a ‘grandpa’, small with hunched-over shoulders, he would walk the running-track every day. No one bothered him, and many gave him “room” when he went by. I asked someone about this; they said he was doing “life” and had been “inside” for over sixty years. Because of this situation most prisoners & guards gave him space and respect. I cannot recall his name, nor did my informant know it, but he had heard the story before; how this ‘old-timer’ had robbed trains in the late 1940’s, and without more details knew only he had served 60+ by now. No one knew if he had visitors come to see him from the outside, and no one seemed to talk to him there on the inside. Alive, but alone, his life seemed... meaningless.

 


I don’t know where you are in your life,
but I know I want my life to have more meaning.
Perhaps not so I can be “remembered”,
but so my “flash-in-the-pan-life” can have purpose.
My job may do little to influence the world,
and my writing still has yet to improve enough,
but here is the one thing I do know:
loving others matters,
and helping people helps them to matter.
So when I am gone, few may recall my name
but I will die knowing I tried to make a difference.


If all we ever do is try to “get-ours”,
then we will die as a ‘by-note’ in the annals of time,
an asterisk for our deeds- good or bad,
and then we are no more...
forgotten, forever.
Unless you have faith in Christ,
then you have hope for eternity with him!
But even if you do not believe,
then try
to do something worthwhile for someone else
and perhaps you will somehow matter
if only on your death-bed when you recall
those you reached out to in love.

 
I wish I could go back to see that “old-timer”,
to talk with him if only for a few minutes,
to help him smile one more time
and ease his burden of walking alone
that waiting for the last breath to come
may not be so meaningless,
because someone took the time
to let him know they care.

Will you do the same for another?

Try.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why Be Thankful?

Thanksgiving means little to some people. Whether because of a different upbringing, or personal limitations, finding something to be thankful for often stretches us because we cannot “see as others see”.

When I served in the military and saw my first dead human-body, I was in shock.
When I was 'shot' the first time, I was frightened.
When I went to prison, I was in despair.
And when I learned my nine-month old nephew would likely die from cancer, I was angry at God.
Yet when someone taught me to see with “new eyes” the things which I had learned & experienced, I was forced to learn to think differently, to see the whole world in a new way that went counter to my upbringing.
It meant that I learn to accept life as unfair, and rather than complaining on it, to do something to improve my outlook and perhaps the experience of others around me.

In today’s world it seems we want to remove the mysterious. We all want “evidence” and we want to be “right.” In religious and political circles we’ve abandoned civility for the sake of proving who is “right” and who is “wrong.” Richard Rohr says he doesn’t recall Jesus ever saying “This is my commandment: thou shalt be right.” The amazing arrogance of people today to claim the truth creates walls, wars, and wailing.
Where is the embrace of the mysterious? When asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:36-40)
Does loving our neighbor require that we first prove who is right? Does standing in awe at the sunset require that we first argue about color refraction? If I am in Venice, Florida and pull into a service station, do I demand proof that what comes out of the hose is gasoline before I pump it into the tank of my beautiful car?
Faith, by definition, requires walking ahead without clear “evidence or proof” that what we believe will happen. If we remove faith and the mysterious from our lives, we are not reaching for our ultimate best; rather, we have deteriorated into mechanized robots — or as Einstein says, “as good as dead.”
How concerned are you about being right? -Dan Miller

I cannot find anywhere that God says we can expect life to be “fair”. So how do we overcome the unjust of life, and learn to live with gratitude?

If you had a second chance to see things events in your life anew, how would it look?

Could you be sad and pray for those whose lives are gone; then move on to help the ones who remain??
Could you learn to be grateful for the placement of the bullets & shrapnel hitting you, or the fire that engulfed you? (read more of the recent DWTS winner J.R. Martinez)
Could you learn to pray with other inmates, helping them to better know God, then to earn their GED?
Could you learn to love the family & friends you have now, no matter how brief or painful the time that remains?

The best second chances are not required or expected, which is why they're so nice. Maybe you should make the choice to forgive someone, even if they don't deserve it, or maybe you should start over and try again. -Chris Guillebeau

I am thankful for Jesus love in spite of all my sinfulness.
I am thankful for learning to see life with new eyes.
I am thankfulful for the love I receive from others, no matter how imperfect.

Life often hurts, is unfair, and can lead us to many regrets.
Now the only second chance I want is to love God with all I have in me without any shame or hesitation, to love others more than the they or I may deserve, and to forgive no matter how large or small.
Because then THANKFULNESS comes easily.
And my gratitude allows a new joy to live in me rather than any poison of despair, hurt, or fear.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Problem with "Fixing Things"

Are you any good at “fixing” things?
As men, we all like to know we are good at something, (read more here)
and finding a solution to problems often comes naturally to us.
 

When this happens though, there are times when it IS NOT the best answer.
Such as when women talk about their issues, many times we want to provide advice.
Sometimes we jump in and try to “fix the situation.”
And to our dismay we are surprised when the women in our lives reject our plans,
at times even becoming bitter with us!
What the heck happened?!?

Ok, so if there is a problem with the lawn-mower, computer, car engine, or taxes, perhaps we should step up to lovingly help our female counterparts.
But even then, have we given them the chance to solve the issue on their own?
When men listen to problems, we want to take action, not sit by and wait.
Watching our loved ones struggle to do something is not our “way” of showing we care. We want to do it for them!

Relieving them of the burden and showing them WE can handle it on their behalf.
To this we feel manly! Like providers!! And we gain a huge amount of self-worth in the process.

Maybe this is the why few men become counselors or therapists,
and fewer still to volunteer; to feed the homeless, mentor others, and help the needy.
Maybe it is just not how we are built, because in these circumstances
there are no immediate fixes.

When it comes to people-problems,
few men have the patience to listen and wait
for another person to discover, learn, and try,
to repair their lives on their own.

Let me be clear,
providing helpful ideas is wonderful!
But sometimes the best answer is to just be there
walking alongside another person,
while they make the journey on their own.

You may not be willing to enter a prison to mentor a criminal offender
nor may you have the time each week to volunteer with a fatherless boy
but when these same young men grow up near your church,
or return from prison to try & rebuild,
can you take the opportunity to walk alongside
and when necessary teach them how to make a life built on Christ?

In Jesus, the former things are no more
but without helpful instruction and someone who cares
how can anyone learn to build something new that is worthwhile?

Where would the Apostle Paul be if Barnabas hadn’t come alongside him and vouched for him before the church leaders in Jerusalem? (Acts 9:27) And then, what kind of impact do you think Barnabas had on Paul after spending a year together? (Acts 11:25, 26)
What do you think would have been the outcome of Timothy’s life had Paul not taken him along on his mission? (Acts 16:1)
Where would YOU be had a Barnabas or a Paul not reached out and offered to encourage you on your spiritual journey? Thank the Lord this week for the Barnabas’ and Pauls in your life. -Dennis Deardorf, New Hope Community Church in Portland, Oregon

The “fix” isnt easy or convenient. And it will take more time than you ever imagined,
but isnt the kingdom of God worth the effort to reach one more for Christ?

 

The Problem with "Fixing Things"

Are you any good at “fixing” things?
As men, we all like to know we are good at something, (read more here)
and finding a solution to problems often comes naturally to us.
 

When this happens though, there are times when it IS NOT the best answer.
Such as when women talk about their issues, many times we want to provide advice.
Sometimes we jump in and try to “fix the situation.”
And to our dismay we are surprised when the women in our lives reject our plans,
at times even becoming bitter with us!
What the heck happened?!?

Ok, so if there is a problem with the lawn-mower, computer, car engine, or taxes, perhaps we should step up to lovingly help our female counterparts.
But even then, have we given them the chance to solve the issue on their own?
When men listen to problems, we want to take action, not sit by and wait.
Watching our loved ones struggle to do something is not our “way” of showing we care. We want to do it for them!

Relieving them of the burden and showing them WE can handle it on their behalf.
To this we feel manly! Like providers!! And we gain a huge amount of self-worth in the process.

Maybe this is the why few men become counselors or therapists,
and fewer still to volunteer; to feed the homeless, mentor others, and help the needy.
Maybe it is just not how we are built, because in these circumstances
there are no immediate fixes.

When it comes to people-problems,
few men have the patience to listen and wait
for another person to discover, learn, and try,
to repair their lives on their own.

Let me be clear,
providing helpful ideas is wonderful!
But sometimes the best answer is to just be there
walking alongside another person,
while they make the journey on their own.

You may not be willing to enter a prison to mentor a criminal offender
nor may you have the time each week to volunteer with a fatherless boy
but when these same young men grow up near your church,
or return from prison to try & rebuild,
can you take the opportunity to walk alongside
and when necessary teach them how to make a life built on Christ?

In Jesus, the former things are no more
but without helpful instruction and someone who cares
how can anyone learn to build something new that is worthwhile?

Where would the Apostle Paul be if Barnabas hadn’t come alongside him and vouched for him before the church leaders in Jerusalem? (Acts 9:27) And then, what kind of impact do you think Barnabas had on Paul after spending a year together? (Acts 11:25, 26)
What do you think would have been the outcome of Timothy’s life had Paul not taken him along on his mission? (Acts 16:1)
Where would YOU be had a Barnabas or a Paul not reached out and offered to encourage you on your spiritual journey? Thank the Lord this week for the Barnabas’ and Pauls in your life. -Dennis Deardorf, New Hope Community Church in Portland, Oregon

The “fix” isnt easy or convenient. And it will take more time than you ever imagined,
but isnt the kingdom of God worth the effort to reach one more for Christ?

 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Suffocating Fear

What can You do well? Are You any good at anything??
Think about it...
Is there something you do well? What if you couldn’t do it anymore??
What if you lost the ability to do the ONE THING you have been successful at up until now?
How would your life change??
 
Tonight I watched Tim Tebow play a game,
something he is payed well to do professionally,
and although some of his efforts were a struggle to watch,
in the end he still did what needed to be done.
The amazing thing is this...
if “Timmy” lost his job tomorrow
perhaps if he lost the physical capability to perform
I think it would make no difference
to his joy, his hope, or his purpose in life.
 
When I was “gone” on my little vacation
There was a time when an insurmountable fear came over me.
And though I faced many each day, this was one more that tried my faith.
And it is the same for many
who have been served abroad in the military,
or have been incarcerated:

What will remain of my life when I return?

Will there be anyone home who loves me?

What if everything I have known is... gone?

How will I survive if I am left alone?

What will I do if there is nothing left?


In my own life, I feared that my wife would lose hope.
That in her frustration she would turn to another for love.
In her solitary pain she would spend her way through our savings.
In a grim depression she would sell my car, our house & possessions,
get rid of the dog & cat, and toss-out everything I knew & owned,
and move somewhere else.
 
With the amount of time I was set to be gone
my fear was immense, until at times I though I would choke on it.
The violence “inside” was one thing to fear
as was the solitary time alone with many poisonous thoughts.
But the fears of my wife leaving me for another,
taking all I had worked hard to earn,
departing with anything I held dear...
these were things I could not control.
I had no ability to affect anything or anyone.
No matter how well I planned to care for my wife once home
the promise could be too little for her to cope with.
  
Then I realized that even if I could not count on her
or an uncertain future once released
I could still count on the One who made all things.
I could rely on Him to provide a future.
I could give all my fears to Jesus Christ.
 
Because God knows me, my identity is in Him.

There is hope, even if she wouldn’t be there.
There is a future, even if there is nothing but Him
because He is all I need.
And when that fear was released
I was able to trust Jesus.
Then I began to pray for my wife;
that she would know Christ,
that she would know peace,
that she would know love... even if from another.
A new faith grew inside me
not one based on what I can do,
but on what Jesus can do through me
when I believe and call on Him.

Tim Tebow knows this too.
Tim’s joy, hope, and purpose are rooted solidly in the Word of God;
that Jesus Christ is our Lord and savior,
that we can have peace in a future with Him
after this world, after this job, after this time served.

On a slightly funny & sarcastic note,
have you seen the jerseys where the name “Jesus”
is in the place where Tebow’s name should be?
Well, the number may designate Tim, but it is still Jesus name over it!
Do you get the Irony?
Spelled out slowly for some who may not get it yet... Jesus is over us All.
And in this situation, He is over #15 of the 2011 Denver Broncos!

Tim-tebow-jesus-jersey_crop_340x234

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Do I Do Now?

I am quick to laugh,
I laugh loudly,
and I like to laugh often.
 
I feel sadness,
I share in others pain,
and I sense each too frequently,

But it is the same God,
who allows me to experience both
the joy and the sorrow
of each situation.
 
Who am I  to deny either
or to question His design?
Because then I would miss
the best times in life;
laughing with those whom I care most.
And I would miss the companionship
of coming alongside another
to lend a shoulder and share in the pain.

I will walk the path
I will lend a hand
I will smile & laugh
even when times are tough
because that is how healing can begin;
helping another
and giving them hope for tomorrow.

Thank You to all those who have helped me.
Your friend,
Zack.

Friday, November 11, 2011

CAN A HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL GAME GIVE HOPE?

I am in tears still as I write this, only moments after I watched the video: "A Football Game Gives Hope", with link below.


Once again I threw out my plan for today's post, and will go with the moment because I felt it impressed on my heart by God to do so.


To summarize, where do you find hope as a kid? In a football game? Playing for your fans?


What if you have no fans?

 

What if no one cares?

 

What if you go "on the road" to play, and no one shows up to see you?

 

Did you actually play (the game) if no one saw you?

 

Does it matter?

 

Do you?

 

One town gave more of themselves.

 

They cared, and it makes a difference.

 

Take five minutes and watch the video.

 

Then tell me what is important.

 

Because these kids need to know they matter.

 

 

You and I can make that happen.

 

Reach beyond yourself to help others break free from their past of pain.

 

Hope. Make it contagious, and pass it on.

 

Link 1 Here 

 

Link 2 (if Link 1 is broken)

 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are You A "CHUMP" for Working?

Do you like your job?
Maybe you are un-employed,
and the idea of having a job is WONDERFUL!
 
What if you don’t like your job?
Perhaps the pay is low,
the prospect for advancement dismal,
the boss is overbearing & controlling,
and your co-workers/customers are insanely mean.

How would you describe the situation if all these existed?
A nightmare? Or another day at the ‘office’??
 
Here is the challenge we all face when our employment has frustrations:
  1. Find something good to focus on.
  2. Learn something new to improve your job, or the quality of work-life around you.
  3. Do one of these two each day.

You may ask, but why should I bother? I hate the position, detest the environment, and the people are all rude! Because if you do not change something... then Nothing improves. I have had some dirty, painful, dangerous, and smelly jobs, but when I earn a paycheck, I always feel better about afterwards.


When I worked in a veterinary hospital as a teenager, cleaning up after dogs & cats in the kennels each day, it was dirty & nasty, and I was bitten on more than one occasion. However, I didn’t complain. I began to enjoy caring for the animals, and I asked to learn new skills along the way. Soon I was promoted, and I earned a larger paycheck. When a friend of mine came to work at the same place, he quit within a week. Instead, he sat at home all summer, and with no income, he had little to do. Did he complain about life? You bet! But he wasn’t willing to do what was necessary to make it better.


When I was in prison, many of the inmates made jokes about all the “suckers” who were willing to work for $1 a day. They sat in their cells doing nothing, but happy to complain about the unfairness of the ‘system’. I learned quickly that the cell was great for reading, studying, and self-reflection, but I also knew I wanted to do more than just exist.
 
Soon, I heard about the ‘jobs’ available to inmates: cook, baker, laundry, custodian, barber, librarian, grounds maintenance, tutor, etc. The one thing I heard most routinely was this, “if I could get out of this cell for even one hour a day to work the grounds, I think I could do my time without going insane.” I watched as this idea spread through many a convict, and the shared enthusiasm helped to foster new ideas of life  on the outside once released.
 
To finish this post, I am including the writing of someone else, copied for your enjoyment and titled: Stop Whining, Start Doing
When things are going poorly, it is easy to fall into a cycle of “whining” instead of “doing.”
This means that we have substituted an “h” for one of the “n”s in “winning” – we move from “winNing” to “wHining.”
Have you ever noticed that whiners rarely win?  Think about it.  Name ONE whiner who is a consistent winner.
We all have times where we descend into “whining.”  That is when we have to make the CHOICE to STOP WHINING and START DOING.
Don’t know if this is helpful to anyone, but it was helpful to me! - Joseph Sangl
 
Getting ‘off-site’ to work the grounds of state forest land was dirty, hard work. The ride by van to the various sites were always eventful, allowing me to see deer, streams, frogs, etc., that were unable to view behind the prison walls. Sometimes this is all it took to make my days brighter.
 
Can you find one bright-spot in your day?

Or make anyone else’s job easier, so you can both enjoy work more?

Here’s the trick... try.