Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Positive Deviation from Recidivism

In the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything,
the authors assert many wonderful ideas about how to influence change
by looking at the Positive Deviations in the world,
and whether the best results can be duplicated.

In statistics, a deviation means some result that is different from the normal,
either in a positive or negative manner.

According to Wikipedia: Positive Deviance is an approach to behavioral and social change based on the observation that in any community, there are people whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers, despite facing similar challenges and having no extra resources or knowledge than their peers. These individuals are referred to as positive deviants.

This means in a world where school children normally fail a reading exam,
any who pass the test, especially with an exceptionally high score,
are the “positive” results we wish to duplicate.
The question then becomes, “how did they do it?”

When it comes to “Recidivism”, or the habitual relapse into crime,
where are the communities where it is lowest?
In other words, where are the places where criminals change
to become positive members of society?

As many of you already know, I am a criminal,
convicted on two counts of felony assault
as a result of injuries I caused from a drunk-driving accident in 2006.
I was released from prison in July 2008
and regardless of my crime or the sentence
the question I often see unasked by our community is...
“How did Zack do it?”

When struggling to find work with a criminal record,
and the difficult emotional stress endured by me and my family
how was I able to keep from returning to prison??

I know the answer to that question,
and I will go over it in some detail in the days ahead.

So come back tomorrow to learn more,
then enter the discussion to spark more thought!

Monday, February 27, 2012

2012 Justice Conference Wrap-Up

This past Friday night I was at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland for the 2012 Justice Conference. There were thousands of people in attendance. Of course few of them were there to see me! But I am Ok with that because there were some incredible speakers presenting on many important topics affecting our world today. Today, I am going to re-cap a few of the ones I came across. (click the name of each organization for the weblink)

First- The Freedom Climb: This is a group of globalized women who want to raise awareness, provide prayers and support to victims of Human Trafficking around the world. They get together and climb mountains! One mission, one goal, many countries, and many contributors. Their efforts & activities have brought them to the Fox News channel, and they have many opportunities for you to climb with them!

Second- 58: End Worldwide Poverty: They have a vision to end poverty, and a time line for it, 2035. “It is an unprecedented, action-based, global alliance of Christians, churches and world-class poverty-fighting organizations working together to end extreme poverty in our lifetime by living the True Fast of Isaiah.” (taken from their Facebook site)

Third- The Mentoring Project: this is has been a need I have personally worked on in the past, and it continues to be dear to me today. I have met and listened to John Sowers, the groups leader, to have men come alongside this fatherless generation of boys in America - to have a man in their life who will speak truth, strength, and Christ. To be a friend, to listen. And to care.

Fourth- Blue Like Jazz the movie: the book by Donald Miller helped me see that just because I didn’t agree with “the church” in America, it didn’t mean I was against Christ or helping others.

Fifth- M25- H.O.P.E. Business Academy: this booth is where I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with people from all over the world about offering a helping hand to train those who have been homeless, addicted to chemical abuse, and those with criminal records. We discussed the loss of hope for many of these individuals, and how a change in our mindset can help them improve to become happy and productive for the remainder of their lives.

It was an amazing experience I hope to do again, and I hope many of you will get to as well.

Now its Your turn.
Get involved with the work of Christ.
Be His hands and feet to the “least of these”.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Prayer for Today

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace,
That where there is hatred, may I bring love;
The where there is wrong, may I bring a spirit of forgiveness;
That where there is discord, may I bring harmony;
That where there is error, may I bring truth;
That where there are shadows, may I bring light;
That where there is sadness, may I bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek to comfort, rather than to be comforted;
To understand than to be understood;
To love rather than to be loved;
For it is in giving that we are received;
It is by forgiving that we are forgiven,
And it is by dying that we awaken to eternal life.
Attributed to Francis of Assisi, Italian Monk (1181-1226)

Consider the things that seem to difficult in your life today-
ask God for power...
Consider the things that seem menial in you life today-
ask God for perspective...
Consider the opportunities to bring restoration in your sphere of influence-
ask God for courage...
Consider the alternatives to serving God-
affirm your desire to serve Him above all other Gods...
Lord, please develop in me the kind of character that You order. Amen.
by Kurt Bjorklund in Prayers For Today

This one is short today because I am still traveling this week,
returning home in time for the Friday, Justice Conference in Portland
where I will be part of the M25-H.O.P.E. Business Academy exhibition.
Many blessings to you all!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why Support Ex-Addicts & Ex-Offenders?

We often cringe at the idea of someone getting a “free-ride” from us, the government, or from our family and neighbors.
Given what they don’t “deserve”, rather than earning what they get...

But what happens when an ex-addict or ex-offender cannot make a better life without help?
Or better yet, what happens when we Do Offer the help they need most??

Catch a terrific article Here to learn some of the overwhelming reasons Why offering assistance is important.

Want to learn how You can be a part of the solution?

  1.   M25 H.O.P.E. Business Academy - why does it matter to You?
    1. ↓ your taxes, because fewer people return to prison (costs ~$30K/yr to house/feed/watch each inmate)
    2. ↑ community safety, because better jobs mean steady income & stability, with less crime
    3. ↓ employee turnover, because employees are better prepared to work
    4. ↑ personal joy, in yourself and others - knowing you helped improve someones life, and the new life they get to experience
  2. Why should you listen to me - who am I?
    1. 15+ years professional work experience in private industry & US military
    2. formal education with both a Bachelors & Masters degree
    3. certified coach plus more than 12 years as a volunteer mentor
    4. The biggest reason - I struggle to find traditional work because I am a felon, so I know what struggles are faced each day and how to overcome them.
  3. How do You help - what can You do?
    1. make a financial donation to sponsor a student
    2. consider hiring a graduate, or making your workplace available for vocational training
    3. Like us on FaceBook, Here where matching funds will be donated  - $1 for every Like up to $500!
    4. got to the M25 website and give funds safely & directly  Here.

Maybe you can do something Today that can help make a difference...
Because the world needs more mercy and love.

How can You live out that mercy and love today in Your part of the world?


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

M25 Exhibit @ The 2012 Justice Conference

This Friday, February 25 from 4-8pm, I will be part of the M25 - H.O.P.E. Business Academy exhibit at the Justice Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Have you heard of it?

If not, click Here to visit the website, or catch a brief summary here:

Justice is a garment, a billion threads, interwoven, interlocked, knit together with strength and integrity. Pull one thread from the fabric and the garment begins to fray. Pull ten million threads and justice unravels into injustice.

The work of justice is to mend the holes injustice inflicts upon the garment. It is a brave, challenging, courageous work and it does not begin with expertise or duty. It begins with love… and love is a thread.

Sound interesting?
Like something You could be a part of?
Still unsure??
Watch the brief video below, then let me know what You think...


Was the video compelling for you?
If not, then let me ask you something...
where are the places you might find Christ
asking You to stretch yourself to do His work?

 A Homeless shelter?
A prison?
An alcohol & drug recovery center?
Overseas in an under-developed country?

What if you live in another city and are unable to attend?
Come back to morrow to learn more... 

Because we believe in helping others to live a new life in Jesus Christ,

and to live it more abundantly.

And You can be a part of His work!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Beauty in the Spoken Word

The Spoken Word:

It carries no weight, but leaves an impression.
It is invisible, yet it can be felt inside us.
Unlike a ‘gaseous cloud’ - it casts no shadow,
Nor has it the force of wind to move a curtain or sail.

It cannot cook food like a fire - but it can warm a person.
It can feel cold as ice - yet will not cool your drink.
It can cut us deeply, like a dagger.
Or it can heal us emotionally, like medication.

But the Spoken Word has power.
It can build us up, or destroy us.
It can cause wars, or calm the “storms” between people.
It can invigorate us into new life!

God spoke, and the Word became flesh.
The Word shaped the known universe.
It shapes us through stories,
and when “sung” can take us too ‘heaven’.

The Power in the Spoken Word is more than we might imagine;
It can make my daughter smile, or my wife cry.
It can change us, internally. Physically.

Want to see something incredible?
Watch how one scientist has studied the power of words.
After watching the short 3 minute video,
please tell me what you think.

Water, Consciousness & Intent: Dr. Masaru Emoto 

The spoken word is not timeless because it fades as sound passes by
Yet the effects of the spoken word can last forever.

How do you use your words?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When We Are Full of Anger

When we are full of anger,
it becomes a deadly toxin within us
and then there is no room for love or joy in our lives.
We must learn to release the anger,
to make room for for what we want most.
We must begin with forgiveness
of ourselves, and those who hurt us.

Then we can rebuild with gratitude,
for what we have and hope towards.

From this will grow a wellspring of joy and love,
and peace will follow as an added result.

Can you release anger
to make room for something else?



Learn to let go.

Release the anger...
the poisonous lie of self-will
to ‘win’ at the cost of another person.

Let love win
by letting it in more.

May God give us each "new eyes" to see with,
a new heart to love with,
and refresh our minds for a better understanding of His will.

(I am traveling this week, so my posts may seem brief!)

Blessings on you all!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Would A Person Return to Prison?

Can you imagine living in prison
and the difficulty of daily life on the “inside”?
Would you ever think of prison
as a place where someone wants to go?
What if that life on the “inside”
made more sense to you
than the life we have in freedom out here?
In the past few days I have written about
the end of the story for our friends who fail
and how we can give them the support they need most.
I have also written about giving up when life seems tough.
So what happens when despair sets in...
and the loss of hope has us see only one option;
going back to prison to finish our days?

I never could have imagined this option to life,
until my first days in prison.
Where I met two men who Wanted to be there!
They had lived on the streets so long...
cold, wet, addicted to drugs and alcohol,
and starving for food and attention.
But without the help they needed so bad
they could only see a prison cell as the answer.
Need to eat daily? Go back to prison.
Want a bed to sleep on? Get a free bed in jail.
Cold and wet every? Stay dry & find clothes “inside”.
Want to go “cold-turkey” from an addiction,
but fear their availability on the street? Hide in jail.
Thats right - I said Hide.
Because there are still more stories I heard
of those who could no longer handle their life;
loss of their job, wife leaves them,
and the kids cannot stand to be around them.
So with no purpose, no plan, no hope or love,
they commit another crime.

Can You see why some may find an appeal
to living in a prison?
There is structure. The is routine.
And in an odd way, there is safety.

Will your heart reach out to these
who have lost so much
and see so little that remains?

“Love means to love that which is unlovable, or it is no virtue at all.” -G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Do You Ever Consider Giving-Up?

If so, why?
Do you believe the lie from satan...
that you cannot win?

When you have fallen,
stumbled, then struggled to get back up,
what makes you think you can never succeed again?

Watch this brief video by clicking the link:

Now tell me something...
can you believe what you saw?!?
The fact that she fell,
the fact that she was behind,
the fact that she had to run faster than her opponents,
just to catch up... should seem impossible.
And most people would agree,
including those who study Physiology & Anatomy.

The muscles, oxygen, and sheer physics it takes
to propel yourself at such a speed
should be unbearable to the human body...
but its not!
She didn’t Win because her body told her she could,
but because her mind followed her heart
and sent her body the clear message...

“I believe God made me for a purpose,
but he also made me fast.
And when I run I feel His pleasure!” -Eric Liddell

Do you think the runner in this video felt pleasure in running?
I do.
And I believe God placed it in her...
the joy to do what He made her for...
to Run fast!

Never doubt that God can use you to do something extraordinary.
Search for what it is He wants for you.
Seek it as if your life depends on it...
as if it were life giving oxygen,
or sustaining water.

Knowledge of the lord brings pleasure to those who seek Him.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Whats the End of the Story? -Part 3

As a rope binds twine together
to make a cord of incredible strength,
so to friends can strengthen one another.
But alone, we are a single, weak strand.
(The best vitamin for making friends? B1)
It start with You.
The right words may escape you,
but the action will speak even louder.
The best part of the “hand-cutting” story
where the two have pledged an oath
is when the friend leaves his home.
In traveling the world,
others will see the scar and know,
“this man is not alone,
he is spoken for - by someone dear to him.”
The scar became a symbol of protection
and few people would take advantage of that.
For if the man was trapped & enslaved,
taking advantage of by robbers,
or worse - killed,
all would know to expect “the friend”
to come looking for the other,
and to avenge their loss.

Are you so close to anyone
that they know they could count on You?
Would you wear a shirt with their picture on it,
letting everyone know who you stand by??
Would you walk with a friend
as they go through the toughest time in their life...
a terminal illness.
A bitter divorce.
A prison sentence.
Recovery from an addiction.

Make the plan now to show up for your friends.
Dont wait for them to ask.
Even if it may scare or embarrass you,
show up.

People may question the choices of your friend
but they will never question the value of your friendship,
and you can help them change the end of their story.

“A Real Friend walks in when...
everyone else walks out.”-Unknown

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Whats the End of the Story? -Part 2

There was a time
when two people would swear a personal oath
but spilling their own blood.
Taking a knife, they would each cut their own hand,
letting the blood fall to the ground as they swore allegiance,
to help one another and defend one another,
share with one another their resources,
to walk beside the other in the difficult times,
and to celebrate success together.
The two became one, because sometimes
we are not strong enough to stand alone.
I can feel bad for my friend when he fails,
but if I am not there to help him get back up,
what kind of friend am I?
Perhaps you know not where to begin.

For some, the best conversations we ever had
were when we sat in silence with our friend,
saying nothing verbally
perhaps not even a direct glance
and yet the best “talk” we ever had!
How can this be?
Why is this quiet time together so important??
Maybe... because we feel more “accepted”.
By being there with our friend, yet in silence,
they know we truly love them.
Because we ask nothing special of them,
nor must they listen to us speak.
Perhaps like a mirror
they simply reflect back to us
what we need most...
to know someone cares for us,
wherever we are in life - right now.

On Monday, we’ll wrap up “The End of the Story.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Whats the End of the Story? -Part 1

Last week I heard the sad story
of a man who had survived prison,
came out to begin ‘back-room’ preaching
only to return recently
not as a minister,
but again a convict.
I cannot tell more details of the story,
except of the sadness in my friend
who shared the heart-felt account.
These two had both been “preachers”
in the same town...
but on opposite sides of the street.
Somehow they developed a friendship,
by sharing word of the saving grace in Christ.
We all enjoy hearing stories of triumph,
when some-one “pulls themselves up”
and somehow succeeds in overcoming their past.
Yet sometimes, thats not the end of the story.
We hear about people who have everything
only to lose it all by doing something foolish.
How did they come to this?
Will we be able to avoid the same result?
Where is God in this situation?
And perhaps most daring...
What is my/your part in the story?
We are not meant to live alone
to “do life” isolated from other people.
Yet we often fail to ask for help,
and even more common... we fail to offer it.

Perhaps we are too far removed
to have known the severity of the problem.
“There just wasn’t time”, or “we didn’t talk anymore”,
are both convenient excuses
to help us keep ourselves “clean”.

What kind of 'friend' are you?

"What is the ultimate gift?

Giving to someone who hasn’t asked for help."

-William Arruda from Career Distinction


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Five Years Ago Today...

It was the day after the Superbowl
all the guests had left my house in tears,
only my wife and sister remained.
As we drove to court, it was still difficult to imagine...
I was beginning a 50-month prison sentence
for injuring two people in a drunk-driving accident.
Grateful they werent injured permanently,
and grateful I could earn an early release.

What would I become?
How would I survive?
What would the future hold after my release?

(This next part alone could sustain
content of this blog for another year)
The important parts of my life remained:
relationships my wife and relatives,
and the friends who have become like family.

What did I lose?
False hope in government to improve society.
False pride in myself - that alone I could
do anything that mattered without Christ.
False expectations in people,
and a fallen world ruled by satan.

What did I gain?
Power that does not come from me.
And a better ear with which to hear God speak.

What does this change in me?
I hold a New perspective:
That every person -
whether rich, famous, or powerful,
needs hope to grow
and love from others to thrive;
I now know I am here to inspire others,
and teach new ways to “see & think” about life.
To see problems as ‘challenges’
rather than life-ending disasters.

My friends are my "estate." Forgive me then the avarice to hoard them. - Emily Dickinson