Saturday, September 26, 2015

Notes From An Interview on 'Adversity' - Part Two

Notes From An Interview on 'Adversity' - Part Two

In watching the brief video with your story of being incarcerated, it seems the big picture was left out in order to focus on this one life event. I want to look at what other problems you may have faced, and how you have handled these troubles of life.

Interviewer-Questions(Q): In our last conversation, we focused on what you thought about the adversity your victims faced. Now lets talk more about what has turned you into the person you are today.

My Response-Answers(A): 

Last time we spoke, we finished on the idea that there is no way to tell when and why bad things happen to people. 

Q: Without going back over all that we discussed, would there be anything you wish to add?
A: Yes, first- people can learn to make the best in whatever circumstances they face, deciding if they can turn the event into something positive.
And second- people can choose to see the good things that appear in the midst of their struggles, or they can focus solely on the negative things that happen.

Q: Can you look back into your life to give such an illustration?
A: Yes, when I joined the military, I wanted to be a special-operations diver, however I couldn't pass the physical requirements for pressurizing.

A: I have environmental allergies that are considered mild to moderate, but constantly produce swelling and mucous in my sinus cavity, which plugs my ears and wont let them pressurize. This is primarily what kept me from qualifying. 
The result throughout has been trouble sleeping at night, which when awake leads to poor concentration, slow response times, fatigue, dizziness, and a few others.

Q: How does that affect your life? 
A: I enjoy less outdoor activities, often appear tired, grumpy, and quick to anger. I would sleep through classes in high-school. But now I take multiple medications to reduce the symptoms.

Q: What would you say is a positive to all of this?
A: Well, rather than becoming a Spec-ops diver, I learned a job that helped me later when I left the military. Now, I tend to have some level of empathy when others experience similar symptoms because I know what they are going through.

Q: So could these appear as excuses for poor performance now?
A: No- growing up my mother would not allow me to make excuses of this type, so I constantly had to look for creative ways to do things in spite of my limitations.
Q: Who influenced you most while you were a kid and growing up? 
A: Growing up? Most likely my mother. She was rarely happy with her life, or my efforts, often using emotional manipulation to get what she wanted, or make others feel bad.
It taught me not to try and find my happiness in her or other people, which has its own drawback as I have learned the same traits.

Q: When did you decide to join the military? Get an education?
A: While in High-school; I didnt view education as being important, and I wanted to be self-directed. Somehow it made sense to leave my parent's side and their ideas of what I should do. Looking back its ironic that I joined the military in search of doing things my own way, but I also wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, and that proved a great experience.
As for college, I began taking classes while still in the military. It became clear to me that I couldnt enjoy a living on my physical performance alone, so I began looking for ways to make a living by using my mind.

Q: What other ideas did you have for a career?
A: Music or acting, but few people become successful in that, so I chose to go with what seemed more likely, and I used my electronics-training from the military to help me get a job, and my education.

Q: How did you become an alcoholic?
A: Probably when I was still a teenager. My father was often an abusive alcoholic, and both parents did it- drinking, and my friends liked it- getting drunk. I didnt like other drugs I tried, so I stuck with what was most readily available and acceptable to myself and others.

Q: What kept the desire (to drink) going though?
A: I think it was fueled by feelings of inadequacy; an inability to please myself by achieving the athletic goals I wanted, and the inability to please my parents with my grades- often because I didnt put in the effort. 

Q: Where have you found the most struggles since being incarcerated?
A: Wow- that could be alot to unpack. Making a marriage work. Not always physically defending myself when I wanted to. Trusting others. Trusting God. Earning my freedom by going through special programs for early release. Making all the meetings required after my release. The emotional frustration with constantly focusing on my short-comings while in the program, and in the required meetings after my release. Finding a job. Keeping a job. Getting to work without a driver's license. Finding myself as socially acceptable, especially when others were reluctant to trust me. I could continue, but it all seems self-defeating.

Q: What do you mean by 'self-defeating'? Why does that matter to you at all now?
A: When we continually focus on our problems, the negative parts of our lives seem to take on more importance. Then I believe we miss opportunities for good. 
As an example- If I am working through a 12-step program, or focusing on my anger, or unhappiness with others, then its easy to miss the good that happens around me. 
When I get frustrated with my kids and focus on correcting them, then I miss enjoying their creativity.
When I focus on yet another twelve-step program, then I can miss building friendships with people who arent in recovery.
When I focus on my sin, I forget to look at God's promise of the future.
Its easy to become bitter when all we choose to see is the problems, but hope comes from focusing on whats possible in the future. 
This comes from my walking in faith with Christ, and the expectation I have in Him to provide far beyond anything I can imagine for myself.

Q: So, are you saying your life is better since you had all these kinds of adversity?
A: All I can say is I have learned to be happy in living with abundance, and while living with nothing, all because I have faith in God to see me through. And I have found unforeseen blessing in putting my trust in Him. 

It is likely there is more to still learn from you, but we will have to read about it in your posts.
Thank you for the time together.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Notes From An Interview On 'Adversity' - Part One

Notes From An Interview on 'Adversity' - Part One

In watching your brief video with the story of being incarcerated, it seems like much was left out, and I hear that there is a longer version that may not have been included due to time constraints. The longer bit makes me curious to know more, and how you have handled the troubling problems of life.

Interviewer-Questions(Q): Its seems like you have been through quite a bit. 
With all you have experienced, would you say you have been through more than the fair share of adversity in life?

My Response-Answers(A): No- I think all people go through some level of adversity in their lives, some of which appear more difficult because others hear about it and compare it to their own, then mistakenly believe they couldnt handle that same situation.

Q: You give credit to God for coming through many of these, but couldnt you also blame Him for some parts?
A: Could I? Yes. But would I blame Him? No. God allows me to experience adversity for many reasons, but I wont know or understand most of these until long after they occur.

Q: How would you then explain some of what you have lived with? Did God directly influence the event, or outcome? Or was He perhaps missing all together?
A: During these periods or events, I have had to learn to ask the question; 
Is this meant to test me? 
Is it an attack from Satan? 
Or have I wandered into an area where God is not walking alongside?

Q: Why would God allow you to be 'tested'? Is that His way of seeing if you are worthy of something? And why would a loving God allow someone supernatural to attack you?
A: I cant answer what God sees in my being tested, but I know I learn more about myself in these moments. God also allowed Satan to attack Jesus, so how would I say any attack on me is unfair if He allowed His own child to experience far worse?

Q: That doesnt seem like much of an answer, but more of a deflection. So I will ask it another way... Where is God in these moments? Doesnt it seem like He has abandoned you to the situation?
A: That brings up another question then- has Hes truly abandoned me? Or, is He giving me an option I dont clearly see until I stop and think about it? 

Q: I am not sure if that makes sense- so give me an example.
A: Ok- I drove drunk, so was God there? I believe so. But how far does His protection go when I am walking in the opposite direction?

Q: So, are you saying God abandoned your victims? I mean, He didnt seem to protect them from your actions?
A: Are we so sure? Neither were wearing their seat-belts, and the light-pole they ran into, after my hitting their car, it split their car's ceiling. It could easily have landed on either of their heads, killing them, or paralyzing them instantly for life.

Q: It sounds like you are minimizing the results of what you did. Are you saying their injuries weren't significant? 
A: There were minor-cuts, bruises and contusions, a broken arm for one, and a broken ring-finger. I wont say these are minimal, but I will say they seem smaller than what could have happened- paralysis, or death, and life in prison for me for manslaughter.

Q: So God didnt stop you, and you have lived through the results of making a bad decision. What allows you to sleep when you think about what you did?
A: When I saw the victims in court, I was grateful they were recovered. Then when I was released from prison, I was able to to cooperate so my insurance would cover their medical expenses, and provide for them financially by giving them money for their hardship.

Q: So you think money was enough for them to feel like they were made whole again?
A: No- they both went through pain, the fear during the ride to the hospital, the discomfort of being in a hospital, and the struggle of recovery in physical therapy.

Q: So it sounds like God has given you some peace about this part of your life? What makes that possible?
A: Well first, being able to see them in court and ask their forgiveness, then having the mother and grandmother say they would pray for me during my incarceration. And afterwards- knowing the money would help them, and seeing that they had recovered fully from the injuries I caused.

Q: In this whole process, do you blame the prosecutor and the court for not giving you a fair chance?
A: The laws here dont allow much flexibility for what a judge can do once I am seen as guilty. The only blame I place is on a faulty system that forced the victims to wait for years until they could receive any money from my insurance.

Q: What do you mean the system made them wait? What kept them from receiving any money?
A: My being incarcerated kept them from paying off their medical bills. In fact, it is quite possible the bill-collectors were pressuring them to pay, which increase the stress someone goes through after an event like this.

Q: So do you think what your victims experienced was fair?Did they deserve this to happen to them?
A: I cannot say why it was them who happened to be there, but I would ask if there faith in God is stronger now afterwards. 
Did God provide for them? 
Did He cover all their medical bills? 
Did He allow them to experience adversity, and then carry them through to something better on the other side?
Truly, these questions and answer are between them and God, but He has allowed me to find peace, so I do believe they are better-off afterwards.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

New Post: "Focusing On What's Important - During Prison"

Focusing On What's Important - During Prison

Life is a series of choices,
and it is Our responsibility - Yours and Mine,
to choose wisely what we will do with our time.

Before Prison, I was often bored & restless,
looking for something,
and not understanding what precisely...
I chose poorly.

I chose to fill my time with anything,
instead of something specific and worthwhile.

Sure, I had some valid 'good-things' to do,
like attending church and volunteering,
taking college classes, and spending time with friends.
But these led me to a feeling of Entitlement,
of filling my time with things less valuable,
and certainly things more risky.
But why not? Didn't I deserve it??
I was lying to myself.
Chasing momentary pleasures in an effort to fill an emptiness inside,
and to hide what was missing from my life...
Meaning. Purpose. A singular vision to strive for.

During Prison, I was faced with still the more choices...
and I took the time to do all I could to better myself.
But why? What is there to do when serving time while incarcerated?
Gratefully, I had some experience in living a life of monotony.
I had been in the military, and worked afterward for many years.
Same thing, everyday, with no real understanding of what lay ahead.
I would then reflect back on my time and ask the most valuable question:
"If I could do it all again, what would I have done differently?"
So I began working hard to live for something new upon upon my release.
It involved three(3) key parts:

  1. Live for something bigger than myself,
  2. Improve my ways of thinking by learning, asking questions, and exploring new ideas, 
  3. Pouring myself into other people.
First, if there was a meaning to life beyond my own enjoyment,
what was it?
I knew God, but what I was missing was walking with Him daily because,
I figured I could do it all on my own without His help to guide me.

This meant listening more, and obeying, which is difficult for someone like me.
You see, I like my independence, and I reject authority almost as I breathe.
I had to learn to submit, each moment of every day.

Second, I began to focus daily on reading  books and physical fitness.
I practiced math - certainly a thing i would never practice normally.
And I made sure to eat, sleep, and exercise 6-days a week,
with one-day of rest out of obedience to God.

Third, as I learned, I shared with others.
At first, it was only with my wife.
Praying together on the phone, and during visits together.
Soon other prisoners took notice, and I began a simple bible-study.
I certainly wasn't an expert, 
but God didn't always use the officials to lead His people,
and so I was obedient to share what I could where I was.
This even developed into a chance to teach and tutor,
These were prisoners who decided to work towards earning their High-School GED.

And what happened as a result of all this "Work"?
Well, I was busy each day.
Which left little time for getting into yet more trouble.
Second, I grew in knowledge.
And third, I developed better relationships with other people,
both those incarcerated, and people living free on the outside.

If you could do things over again, where would you start?

What one thing could you practice each day this week for 15-minutes?

Where could you improve your relationships?

You dont have to have all the answers,
but putting in the effort will allow more opportunity for God to pour into you!