Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Lifetime Of Rebellion

A Lifetime Of Rebellion

Do you consider yourself a rebellious person?

Too often I find myself in rebellion
to both God & man.
So when I ended up in prison (read about HERE)
it wasnt because I was evil
nor was I ignorant of the state laws
however, I WAS angry,
and in rebellion.

Consider this...
when you find yourself disobeying
a person in authority or rule of the land
do you consider it a sign of trust?

Or do you see it as a lack of faith
in anyone or anything,
beside your own understanding?

If our disobedience could stop here
then maybe it would be simple to overcome
but then we often become bitter,
complaining when other people point out our behavior.

"To celebrate & praise are the opposite of complaining."

Can the people who know you best
lift you up in praise and celebrate what you have done
because they believe in you?
Or do they merely put up with you??

Are you a joyful person?

If the situation you face is less than ‘stellar’
can you still find peace in accepting the outcome?

Or are you overcome with the urge
to loudly object because you are not the ‘star’
receiving the immediate outcome which you desire?

Gods plans for you may take longer
than you can bare to imagine.
His design may mean we need to ‘re-learn’, again
before the lesson is truly part of us.

Wisdom and patience can teach us
that everything we face may not be for our own benefit
but for another who is watching from the sideline.

Is our stubbornness and pride
winning us a prize that will last beyond today,
or is it costing us any chance for a better future?

When I was preparing
for my prison sentence to begin
I resolved not to fight back, or run,
but to accept that which I had earned
and to somehow open myself up to God more.

You know what He did?
He told me early on that if I trusted in Him
He would use me to reach others
not because I was holy, or perfect, or good,
but because I was willing to change
to become the obedient servant He could use.

Gods plan for you
far outweighs anything you can do on your own.
But the rebellion has to end
and instead we must open ourselves
and invite God to use where we are at that moment.

It may simply begin by speaking a kind word,
giving someone a gentle hug,
or wearing a smile in spite of our pain.

Be useful.
Be part of the solution
instead of only rebellion
that puts us at odds with one another.

Friday, January 27, 2012

To Hide My Faith, or to Walk in Christ?

Would you consider hiding your faith
if it meant the difference between persecution Or safety?
Rarely do we Americans consider the harm we could face
simply for announcing our faith in God, and belief in Christ.
We may recall the stories of martyrs in the bible,
those who believed in Christ and died for their faith.
Some of us may even know of the work done to promote Christ
in countries where it is illegal to publicly follow Him,
There are stories of imprisonment in China,
stoning and beheading in the middle east,
and some where people just... disappeared, like in Russia.

You can read more of these stories in the book Tortured for Christ,
available for Free through Voice of the Martyrs website.

So, if you are not familiar with my story, I went to prison in 2007
for a drunk driving accident where I injured two people.
You can read more about it Here, and Here.

In the months leading up to my incarceration
I had wonderful people to support me.
One such was a counselor with whom my wife and I met
to prepare us for the eventual time apart.
In our meetings, I agreed to meet with an ex-con
who had served seven years, and was now thriving.
The idea of our coming talk gave me hope,
that his instruction would prove uplifting and informative.
Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

He told me about the world I would be entering,
that I should pray daily for God’s protection,
and then he told me something I was unprepared for,
that I should hide my faith in Christ.

His reasons were threefold:
1) that “believers” seemed weak - unable to stand on their own,
and that I would be “preyed-upon” by others.
2) that I would be ostracized, left alone and
unable to find anyone ‘friendly’ to me.
3) that I would be considered as “hiding” from my crimes,
incapable of facing reality, and running to a make-believe God
who supposedly forgives my sins when no one else does.

So on the day I first entered prison with low hopes,
my cell-mate validated these fears.
His words were something like this:
‘Dont believe that God will save you
unless He shows up to stand between you
for protection from other prisoners and guards.”
He detailed accounts of beatings, and
supported these with stories of becoming a ‘mule’,
a ‘bank-account’ providing financial for whole groups
both inside and outside of prison,
or the persecution of being beaten and raped by gangs.

So I prayed, and walked ‘the yard’ in faith
each day knowing what could come
but believing in God to protect and provide.
Do you know what came as a result?
Greater faith.
Because He provided what I alone could not.
Even while witnessing the worst for other inmates-
I was left alone, and sometimes even “spoken-for”
by those around me who heard my story.

Can God protect You in any situation?
But it won’t be easy.

Will you have enough faith to believe,
then to take one-step forward to know God’s reward?
And witness the beauty of His provision!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Find & Create New Direction for Your Life

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.

We all have twenty-four hour days.”

- Zig Ziglar

Where are You today?
Do you have a definitive direction for your life?
Specific goals can be good
because they help us determine the milestones we reach.
But what is life like when we have no direction?
Its like being helpless,
trapped in a “prison”,
and unable to do anything to change that matters.
It is being powerless
and then accepting our “fate”
because it is easier to go down hill
then to FIGHT, and go back up
against the downward pull of gravity.
Let me be clear here...
getting out of prison is a goal.
Discontinuing the merry-go-round of addiction is a direction.
Staying sober one day, then seven, then thirty days, are each milestone goals.
Changing the dynamics of an abusive relationship is a direction.
Going to counseling once a week is a goal.
Depositing one ‘dollar-a-day’ for each day you remain sober
into a “food-for-homeless”, or even a savings account for your child
those are goals that help support your new life direction.
Making one positive verbal comment each day for 30 days,
whether to your over-baring boss,
a challenging teenage child,
or an angry and abusive relationship partner,
even if you see no immediate results,
changes you internally.
The internal changes you make “inside”
will over time show astonishing results “outside”.
It wont come overnight, nor will it be easy.
And don’t bother comparing your success to mine
or to anyone else for that matter.
Simply resolve each day
that you will make one small change.

Failure isnt a problem until you let it define you.
Failure teaches us to start over,
or to begin in a new place
for the joy & success we seek.

Now, Believe.
In the hard word you are doing daily.
And have faith that God will provide the rest.

“All things are possible to him who believes.”

- Mark 9:23 NASB

Friday, January 20, 2012

Donating Our Time, Money, and Body Parts

Why do we Donate anything?
Do we do it out of guilt?
A regret for the bad things we have done previously?
What about the self-imposed guilt of watching someone else suffer?
Would that provoke you to offer aid of some sort?

When I was in the military and anyone dear had died
we often felt remorse that it wasn’t us instead,
because we ‘got to go home’ and others did not.
After this happens, some will drown their sorrows in addictive behaviors.
Many will lash out in anger at their family, co-workers, and friends.
Both of these options can lead us these to prison,
or perhaps a psychiatric hospital for the internalized grief.
But a few will give of themselves - to voluntarily help others.

While this may seem an uncommon act of repentance,
a way of paying for the 'sins of our past’,
it does one thing different from the first group,
those who are self-involved, self-important, self-focused, self-centered,
and makes the problems of other people into a “We” problem.
No longer am I my own God, demanding attention for myself
in my own world of self-pity (Why Me?!? Poor Me!!)
but instead we look outside at the rest of the world
offering a helping hand,
donating for a purpose beyond our own self-interest,
and making the world a little smaller.
No longer a “Them”, but an “Us” instead.

Why do I donate & help others?
Because in helping someone else,
I feel good about myself.

Why did I become a donor for bone marrow?
Because when no one would offer me a job,
because of my arrest, conviction, and incarceration,
I could still offer something important of myself
to someone who truly needs it.

Of your time...
body parts...
and offer hope to someone who needs it.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The “Real” Parts of Prison Life

What do you picture in your mind
when you think of daily life in prison?
Do you see uniforms?
Cell doors with bars for windows?
Is it an image of gangs and violence?
Guards with guns - standing in towers?
Have you seen enough movies to get the idea
that being incarcerated is no fun, and even dangerous?
I rarely discuss the details of my life on the “inside”,
but today I will share some parts of what I experienced
and why I talk so little of it now...
Routines were a comfort: eat, exercise, read, wash, sleep, repeat.
Having Visitors was like a having birthday and Christmas combined!
I talked with few people each day,
often feeling lonely - but never alone.
Phone calls were like fresh oxygen from outside,
providing life support when breathing was difficult.
Separation from loved ones caused despair
and suicide was one release from pain.
Drugs were available, as were alcohol & cigarettes.
I witnessed rape, fights, and fights, and more fights,
stabbings with blood everywhere - so much blood,
like I had not seen since being in the military.
Inmate abuse at the hands of guards.
Politics exist here too,
along with exploitation of the weak and old.
And in there was inescapable death too.

But there was also beauty.
Not much, but enough.
Men prayed for and helped one another,
some to learn subjects for taking the GED exam.
We had ‘outside’ churches come to lead us in worship,
and though it was infrequent - it mattered to us.

This is where I want to spend my life now,
Encouraging Others.
I have always believed in the power of words
to build up and inspire people to More.
Through thoughtful leadership,
people can reach one another,
to help and not to harm.

Now my words are used less in the business of former jobs
and more to motivate people to move beyond limitations,
whether real or perceived so.
To spend my time in the “real” at the risk of the “ideal”
wastes my energy on what “was”,
and doesn’t look forward to what “can” be.

So I will not speak on the past,
but on how to change for tomorrow
no matter where we are in life.

God be with you.
And may the Lord give you whatever you ask for
as it is His desire to bless you and not to harm you.
May you be restored in all the areas where you have fallen away.
Now claim the victory in Him!
Affirm that you are receiving His blessings even now.
Have faith, and He will bless you with more.
More than you can ever think or imagine!
In Him, I know all things are possible.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Learn To Love What You Do

Whats holding you back from chasing your dreams?
Whether you are a recovering addict,
an ex-offender bound by state-restrictions,
a stay-at-home parent,
an out-of-work engineer or businessman,
or spiritually bankrupt after making the worst mistake of your marriage,
you may have only one choice left to you, which is...
What will you do NEXT?

We who have fallen-down can let our lives be defined by the low moments in life,

or we can rise to stand back up on our feet and take the reigns for our future.

Start here: What Can You Learn to Love?
If its music- then write the song, the find a way to record and post it online.
If its poetry- draft the lines and submit them online... somewhere!
If its art- paint, draw, and sculpt, then take a picture and post it online.
 This is the age when our passions can finally take notice through electronic media.
And if you don’t want to market what you have done because it is too unlike you,
then do it anyway for yourself alone.
But no matter what, do it. Don’t wait.
In late 2010, I began this blog.
It may never go anywhere professionally,
but its a start.
This week I drafted my first in a three part short-story.
It may never be published, but it is still done!
If I was to create something metal by hand,
then I would start by looking for scraps at the junk-yard.
In other words, Find A Way to make “it” happen.
Don’t wait for anybody to help you,
nor for the perfect situation in which to begin.
Start now. Inspiration will follow.
And the experience will give you more
than anything you could ever have gained otherwise!
Plus, you will learn new skills, find joy in the process,
and new confidence in places you never thought to look.

When all my days are done

the one fear I dread

is to be asked by God,

“what did You do with the Gifts I gave you?”

Don’t hide them under a lamp-shade, but show them openly!
Some may not like your work, but so what?
Should we expect to please everyone?
Make mistakes. Openly. And learn from them!
Then try again, and get better.
Whatever “job” you may have, learn to live out your passion somewhere. 
Whether it is after work, on weekends, or when everyone else is asleep.
But live it out all the same.

It is better to try and fail,

than never to have tried at all.

What does this “Love” look like to others?
Perhaps a little insane!
But I am willing to take that label, and move forward all the same.
Because sometimes the joy is not always found in the result,
but in creating the work itself.
Check out this quick video from Steve Jobs,
and his view on loving what we do!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Time For Renewal - Part Four

Have you ever tried to figure out where you Could be right now?
You know the question, “If only this had happened”,
or, “If only I had done that instead”.
Those “would-a, could-a, should-a” moments when we look back in life
and see the times when life didn’t meet our desires.

We often want to blame someone,
and perhaps we Can spread some blame around!
“If They would have done their part, then I could have done mine!”
But in the end, it is the same... we had to make a choice back then,
and whatever was left undone has led to where we are now...
a place where we find our life Unresolved.
The easy definition of which is: not having been solved or concluded.

Our life has not concluded(ended),
but still we face insurmountable problems from our past.
We are left somewhere in-between; an open question,
subject to further thought and introspection.
Where do you begin? Where can we get the help
to change our mental perspective,
and to draw up a new path for future?

So far, we’ve looked at the people we surround ourselves with,
the circumstances of our past, and the ‘gods’ to whom we pray.
And the last part is the same:

what are you Willing to do to change?

First: start with self-development.
Perhaps you take a class about writing, or mechanics, or anything;
read a book about something of which you know nothing;
get an audio-program from the library and to learn to speak a new language.

Second: challenge yourself.
Complete the class for a grade, or complete your GED.
Submit your art or music or story in a contest for publication.
Then seek feedback from others,
especially a mentor, or more experienced artist from whom you can learn.

Third, and last: move out of your comfort zone, and help someone else.
It doesn’t matter how.
Maybe you mow the lawn of your widowed neighbor next door.
Or volunteer to teach someone the guitar, or throw a curve-ball.
You never know what kind of lasting effect you can have on someone else.
And, it will help your life to have more meaning.
Plus, you never know where it could lead!

Have you heard the story about Sam Childers, the “Machine-Gun Preacher”?
His life after drugs and crime is now a major motion picture
with Gerard Butler playing the lead part of Sam.
Check out his quick biography at the movie website Here.

Still not sure you understand what I mean
when I say - “what are You willing to do?”
What ever you are considering, Never Give Up!
Think. Dream. Create and make art!
Move into areas that challenge you!
Never doubt that your life can have meaning and purpose!
It matters not your age, income or educational level.
Simply... believe.
Believe you can do something that matters.
The never stop.

Want one more story to convince you?
Read about ‘Grand-Ma Moses’, Here, or Here.
Her life’s work was to be a mother, grandmother, farmer, and wife.
Except that in her sixties, she began to paint.
And this is how most Americans remember her,
because her art has been displayed worldwide,
sought after by thousands of people,
and shown in the Museum of Modern Art.
But none of her work became popular until she was in her seventies!

So never doubt what contribution you my yet have in the world.
But start now, and change you perspective!