Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What should one do when they are in prison?

Prison Ministry Support Group, a group I belong to on LinkedIn recently posted the following;

“What do you believe is the most important thing for a person in prison to do while they are inside name Five (5) important things.

A number of things came to mind but prioritizing tehm was a bit of a challenge but after some thought I responded with these five things.

  1. A minimum of 1 hour a day in Bible study (reading primary and x-ref scripture from a Bible study devotion, meditation, memorizing and prayer). Ideally do both an hour in both in the morning and the evening. Challenge yourself to read, read, read and then read something more on anything and everything that that you can get your hands on that is Biblically sound & Christian based. 
  2. Partake in weekly worship and or group Bible study that will include topics related to all aspects of family life (parenting, marriage, leadership), employment, accountability and responsibility towards others. If not already able to do so, learn how to truthfully share your hurts, your fears, your desires and then do it. 
  3. Partake in a cognitive thinking program ideally Christian based. Do self-examination of soul, spirit, hear and mind. Come to know your emotional wounds. Forgive those who hurt you, repent from bad behavior, poor choices, and blame and seek healing from all from God through Jesus Christ. Seek forgiveness from God for your wrongs and those you hurt if safe and possible. 
  4. Seek God’s purpose for your life; take self-assessment test, spiritual gift test, counsel with others who can and honestly assess your positives and negatives. Seek how you can utilize these gifts for God’s glory. 
  5. From day 1 of incarceration start developing a strategy plan for reentry. What MUST you do during 90 days prior to my release and up to the day of your release, the first 24-hours, 72-hours, a week, month, minimum to of 1-year. Have a minimum of 3 alternative plans for areas like housing (If all possible enter a Christian based reentry program for a minimum of 6 months), potential churches, and employment resources. 
Being a rebel I added a sixth one

Discover areas of interests and read and learn and enjoy. Whether it be history, biographies, how to or how does, trains, planes automobiles, cooking, photography, quilting. Treat yourself to a vastness of knowledge of persons, places and things that excite you. Know that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him.

Each could be expounded upon, clarified and debated for that matter as there is one an do or not do while incarcerated.

First and foremost everything should be done on the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 14:1 tells us
The fool says in his heart “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.

A fool does not believe in God because he has put his trust in himself. Thus he fails, he hurts, he cries out for God but there is no response of love, compassion or words of wisdom because being the fool, he does not know the gospel or if he does know the gospel, he chooses not to believe the gospel but even if he knows and believes the gospel, he does not put his trust in the gospel because he is a fool. Notitia, Assensus, Fiducia - Know, Believe, Trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Do not spend those days of incarceration being a fool.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Today is the day the United States observe Memorial Day. Originally know as Declaration Day as a day to remember those who were killed in the Civil War and the Spanish American War. In 1882 the name Memorial Day was first used but it did not come common until end of WWII. I'm not sure when it came to be as a day to remember all those who were killed in all American wars but in 1967 Declaration Day officially became Memorial Day and was officially named a Federal holiday.

However as it is with most things and mostly those good things in America, the original purposes of things have changed. Despite being founded as a Christian nation Christmas has now become the season to be jolly, Thanksgiving the day of gluttony and so forth, Memorial Day is no longer a day of remembrance of those killed in wars defending our freedoms, but rather the 'official start of summer.' Time to bring the grills out of winter storage, open up the swimming pools and to begin whatever else one sees as summer fun.

I'm not one that is anti cookouts, swimming pools (though out of respect for others I avoid bringing my pale whale bod to them), or summer fun. What I am anti is that the majority of American's have totally changed the purpose of Memorial Day and I'm sure many, my son included, are clueless to what Memorial Day is other then a 3-day weekend, time for fun and maybe just maybe have in the back of their minds that when the Star Spangled Banner is played at the Indy 500 and other sporting events it is just slightly more meaningful.

I love my country. Despite the mistakes it has made in liberty and justice for all it is still the country that does provide the most freedoms and justice for all and those freedoms did not come to be through hot dogs and burgers on the grill, not from 'Gentleman start your engines' or splish, splash at the pool. It came from last count, 1,343,812 men and woman who gave their lives in defending your right to sing 'take me out to the ballgame', to ask 'do you want ketchup on that dog', and much much more.

So as you officially begin your summer do remember you are starting it the way you are because of 1,343, 812 and counting dead soldiers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Philadelphia:History, Great Food, e-Books and More

I had the pleasure of joining my wife, Michelle, who consults for a hospital in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is one of those cities I have always been interested in visiting, primarily because of its historical past. Beyond the history part I wasn’t expecting much. Such is not the case. Philly is one of the more enjoyable cities I’ve visited. In addition to the historical sites, I found great food, interesting and bustling neighborhoods.

The historical sites included Independence Hall, which also included Congress Hall, the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin’s grave (it was in a cemetery with many others of that era), Betsy Ross’ house and several other historical places of lesser renown. The Philadelphia U. S. Mint was also visited but was less then I had hoped for.

Food! If you know me I love food and Philadelphia obliged my love for food by reversing my goal of loosing weight and adding 6 pounds. Michelle is being adamant about me signing up for fitness center. Since I am a good husband I signed up today. Though there has been a setback on my weight loss goal, I can at least say it was worth it, because, for the most part the food was good.

I had Indian from three different places, the winning place being Milnar and their Chicken Vindaloo. Shangi Gourmet was the sole Chinese entree but their General Tso chicken was satisfying. Miller’s Twist had a breakfast sandwich that I truly enjoyed. It consisted of the usual egg, cheese and bacon ingredients but was wrapped in pretzel dough. If there was a place near me in Cortland that sold this item I would be in trouble.

Visiting Philly and not having a Philly cheesesteak is not really visiting Philly. The place we were told that was the place for cheesesteak is Jim’s. We went on a Sunday afternoon where there was a customer line wrapped around the corner. People in the line told us it would be worth the wait. One hour later we sat down and tried our cheesesteak sandwiches. They were good but not worth an hour of waiting; maybe 15 or 20 minutes but not 60 minutes. None the less it was tasty and I can claim to having eaten Jim’s cheesesteak. Michelle’s boss said we should have gotten ours with Wiz. Yes, Cheese Whiz. Maybe next time.

Probably my favorite place of my visit was Reading Terminal. It is best described as a market place with many places to eat, bakeries, fresh meats and more. Reading Terminal was a bustling place that had me desiring more time to visit in order for me to try more places.

An unexpected find in Philadelphia was when I was prowling the historical sites I happened across a branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. I've been surfing the internet for a public library that allows non-residents to check out e-books. I decided I didn't have much to loose by going in and asking. I was directed to some guy at a desk. I totally surprised when he told me Free Philadelphia does indeed give out of state residents a library card for a yearly $15 charge. My long search for an e-book library has ended

One final enjoyment is the neighborhoods, each had its own area of places to eat and I mean a lot of places. Getting around by walking was fairly easy. It only took me my first afternoon to learn my way around a large area.

Sadly, there were a lot of homeless people in the parks and loitering on the streets but I never felt I was being pestered. There is a fair number of police walking the streets so worries of harm are unfounded.

Standing in Independence Hall I could not avoid the feeling of the historical significance in knowing that where I was standing was the place where many great men stood; George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and the list goes on. As I was driving home from the airport, upon my return to Chicago, I was listening to the audio book of David McCullough’s biography of John Adams and the narrator mentioned John Adams and his wife taking residence in a modest home on Arch and 4th Street. I smiled and thought I know exactly where that was.

All in all it was a trip I enjoyed immensely and I do hope to visit again, as there were other historical places I would like to see and of course a plethora of places yet to eat at.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Born Again

I’m not sure if it was actually on this day, since during that time of my life, 14 years ago, I was in a slippery funnel and it all was spiraling down at a very fast pace, but my best guess is it was on this day November 28, 1995 and as such I symbolically use this date as the day I received the greatest gift ever for all eternity, faith, in Jesus Christ!! I was born again.

Upon professing my faith many friends, including my brother and sister, were mused and even perhaps amused. One does not truly know what thoughts are going through another’s mind. The most common response is one of respect and generally goes along the lines of ‘I am glad that you found something that makes you happy’, and ‘It is good to see you have turned your life around’. I can’t recall any negative comments. I did hear many along the line of ‘that’s great, it’s good for you but it is not for me’.

Before I was saved, I can recall myself saying many times to Christians I had met, ‘that’s great, I’m happy for you but it is not for me.’ The truth is it was and still is for me, it is for you and it is for all of us. It is the Good News, it is the Gospel.

What is the Gospel? In short it is truly knowing that we all sin, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We may not all have committed atrocious sins but if you ever spoke harsh words to your parents, taken something that wasn’t yours no matter how small, you have sinned. God is a zero tolerance God, a just God, so the atrocious sin of murder and the sin of a little white lie are considered by God as sin, plain and simple.

The consequence of our sin is death ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23a). Yes we all die a physical death but this death is not only physical, but a spiritual and everlasting death. The only way to avoid this death is through God’s gift of Jesus Christ, ‘the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23b). The key word for eternal life is “gift”, we cannot earn a gift. No matter how many old ladies we help across the street, no matter how many times we go to church or if we don’t lie or swear for a whole week or a bunch of weeks, we cannot earn God’s gift of eternal life. Thus we are all doomed to eternal death.

However, we do have the Good News ’but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). Jesus’ dying on the cross was Him dying in place of us for those sins, thus we no longer face eternal death. Jesus’ resurrection is God’s affirmation that He accepts Jesus dying as payment for our sins.

So does that mean I’m ‘in’ as in assured a place in heaven by simply knowing and believing in Jesus? Not quite, one needs to accept God’s gift of Salvation through Christ Jesus by confessing that you are indeed a sinner in need of salvation ‘because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved’ (Romans 10:9-10).

Those who confess they are sinners in need of a Savior from their ‘heart’ and not just from a passing emotion or a quick means to escape hell are assured of eternal life. ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1), and ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1).

When scripture says from your heart it is saying more than just simply believing in your mind a truth, it is saying that you have faith in your heart that Christ is Lord is true without no tangible truth other then the Bible. If you confess with your lips only and do not have believing faith in your heart, you are making a mockery of the gift and thus are not Born Again.

This is a lot for many to get not only in their minds but also into their hearts and I don’t expect this blog to be enough for you to have a believing faith but I hope it might make you seriously consider that my being Born Again, 14 years ago, was not something that was just good for me and now I’m a happy person. It was the greatest thing for me and it is the greatest thing for you.

It is for all of us because we all our sinners and if you doubt and reject the Good News you are rejecting Jesus Christ. You may not think rejecting the Good News is rejecting Jesus Christ and that you are good enough on your own merits to earn your place in heaven. I myself cannot convince you otherwise. That convincing can only come from God.

I challenge you before this day is out to be still and pray to God asking is there something more than my simply believing in You, Jesus Christ. Is it true that I don’t go to heaven simply because I’ve done more good things then bad things and those bad things weren’t really bad things? Do I really need to be Born Again? If yes to these things please put a sincere desire in my heart to seek and believe in faith the Good News.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Let's Party

I recall a comment my son, Cameron, made when we were discussing the importance of having God in ones life. His comment, paraphrased, was “maybe when I’m like 30 I’ll think about God, but right now I just want to party” .

Those words ached within my soul because I had been there and done that and even though I said as much, he like most kids when it comes to hearing parents words of advice gave a “whatever” response. Is partying a bad thing? Am I just an eye rolling, so boring Christian? Dictionary.com defines party when used as a verb as ‘to enjoy oneself thoroughly and without restraint; indulge in pleasure’.

I, at one time, like Cameron, had the mindset a life of partying was going to satisfy the desires of my heart. The world was telling me if I indulged my self in drinking, drugging and sex I would have a life of joyful pleasures. However, those joyful pleasures only lasted for a short time period not the lifetime I was expecting and I soon was once again dissatisfied with life.

An old Rolling Stones song “Satisfaction” has the chorus “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” It was one of my favorite songs because, to me, it said a lot of truth. However, the song was a lie. There is a means to get satisfaction. It comes from the one I was rejecting, just like my son Cameron is rejecting. It is God.

Those who are not of God seek enjoyment through partying in worldly ways.
Hence, they never have a lasting satisfaction and think they are missing something in life but blindly continue a life of worldly partying in hopes of being forever satisfied. They are doomed. They are attending the world’s party and it is the wrong party. The right party is God’s party. The Host is His Son Jesus Christ who died for us so we can enter through the doors to God’s party.

God created us for one primary purpose, that purpose is to glorify Him, and when we glorify Him, we will indulge in eternal pleasure and have eternal satisfaction. To glorify God you must personally know Jesus Christ. A good read on how to go about knowing Jesus Christ personally and glorifying God is Man’s Chief End is to Glorify God.

I pray you will read it and party on, to the glory of God.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Reflecting upon 9/11

Probably the most common thing to ask about 9/11 is ‘where were you…’

I was in route to World’s Finest Chocolate, a client near Chicago Midway airport, when WMBI reported a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings. The initial report had it possibly being a private plane not a commercial airliner. Upon arriving at the client site, where I parked on the roof of the plant, I could clearly see Sears Tower and wondered how does a plane hit a big building like that, pilot heart attack? Once at my desk WMBI reported it was a commercial airline and shortly after that, the reports came of a second commercial airliner hitting the second tower and then a third hitting the Pentagon. I commented to a co-worker “We are under attack; we are seeing the start of a war.” Tragically, the day forever remembered as ‘9/11’ unfolded.

The tragedy of 9/11 happened eight years ago today. I have no words on the actual events of 9/11 but it does cause me to reflect on the unity of our nation the days right after 9/11 verses the division today.

I remember the members of Congress singing ‘God Bless America’, seeing a semi-tractor trailer driving down the highway with awesome artwork picturing an Bald American Eagle with wings fully spread in front of a waving American flag and under it the caption ‘You have awakened a sleeping giant!’ I honked my horn in approval and the truck driver bellowed his large diesel horn. Though it came under very tragic and catastrophic circumstances, I felt a great pride in my being an American that day for the simple reason the uniting of Americans. It was no longer the right and left exchanging trash talk, it was one nation and together, united we stand against our enemy!

Sadly it was only a few months later, the unity gave way to the ideologies of the left and the right. The enemy was not the one who killed thousands of innocent people, but those who had ideologies polar to each other.

We are not a prefect nation, but the United States of America is the greatest nation when if comes to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or in one word, 'freedom'. I’m sadden when I see its citizens not agreeing in respectful ways but disagreeing with words of negativity, even words of hate towards someone who doesn’t agree.

Why I try to respect someone’s opinions that oppose mine there are some things I wish someone would simply enlighten me.

Perhaps I am naive, but why are there so many who scream jaunt and jeers of anger towards America, especially those who live in this country, a country that allows them to scream jaunt and jeers of anger, when doing the same in the country they sympathize with in all likelihood will result in their imprisonment or even thier execution?

Perhaps I am uneducated but why are there so many who disrespect America’s leaders, a country that allows them the freedom to do so, but to disrespect the leaders in the country they sympathize with, would result in their imprisonment or even their execution?

Perhaps I am simply ignorant but why are there so many who spew words of hatred and want to squelch the evangelizing and love of Jesus Christ, but sympathize with a religion if you simply choose not to believe their religion beheads you?

To those who think I am na├»ve, uneducated, or simply ignorant, let me try to enlighten you to my ideology. I am blessed because I live in the United Stated of America where I have the freedom to speak freely against America’s policies and leaders and not fear imprisonment or execution and I am doubly blessed because I have Jesus Christ who teaches me to love those who disagree with my religion not behead them.

On this 8th year of remembering the tragedies of 9/11, let us remember the freedoms of the United States of America and the love of Jesus Christ and how blessed we are.

Friday, August 21, 2009

WoW! Was That Summer 2009 That Just Went By?

I thought those summer vacations from school went by fast, the summer of 2009 makes those summers seem like a one-hour dental cleaning by a dental hygienist whose own taste buds never sensed mouthwash.

I’m sitting in the comforts of my living room in the condo I affectionately refer to as the Loves Nest, listening to the rumbles of thunder and the soft patter of a steady rain, off in the distant of the misty landscape I can see the cornstalks that are now bustling seven plus feet in height. It seems like it was just last week those same cornstalks were poking the tips of their new life above the dark rich soil.

Where did the summer of 2009 go? Did I party to hardy on my birthday back in May and consequently fall asleep and without knowing it experience a 90-day siesta? If I couldn’t recall all the happenings of this summer, I would easily think I had.

Nonetheless, as fast as the summer was, it was a summer to remember. Even if the only memory of this past summer was my spending it with a godly woman, it was a summer to remember. But God is much more awesome then that. He used this summer in so many glorious ways to recall all of them would be hard but as the long hot summer days soon will be turning in to some crisp chilly autumn nights I thought I would share of some of God’s summer blessings.

Though in no particular order a definite top blessing was my wife Michelle, my heart just fills with tears as I begin to think of the joyful blessing God has given me in her. There are many things to share of how God blesses me with her being my wife but without a doubt, her love for the Lord makes me grow in my love for her daily. All those years of feeling sorry for myself, because I desired a wife, but God would not give into my timing despite all my whimpers. His timing, make so much sense now, in my own timing I wouldn’t of had one iota of a chance loving Michelle as God calls a husband to love a wife. Not that I’m great at it now, but at least now I have that one iota of a chance and how I pray that each day that iota will blossom into so much more.

Another blessing is my mom’s decision to come live with Michelle and me next year. How can one really describe all my mom has given to me in my 53+ years of life. Maybe in heaven I will but in this side of life, there is no way I know how to accomplish that task. I hope that God will bless Michelle and I with the ability to love if only a portion of the sacrificial and unconditional love my mom exhibited to my bother and sister as a single mom and still does to this day. Mom all I can say is God blessed me with the best mom I could ever have had and I love you and forever thankful to you and God.

It is hard to think I would deserve any more blessings being who I am but well that is why my God is so awesome because He never stops blessing me. Though not as tearful as the above, God has given me a clearer vision for my call to prison ministry, and it is just like God when I think I’ve got the vision 100% and am ready to run with it as a full-time vocation he humbles me and blesses me with even more vision and of course more wisdom. Such was the case this summer in taking an eight-week online course focused on correctional ministries. One can never learn enough when it comes to serving God especially if in that serving; they truly desire to glorify the One they serve.

Though my connecting with Peter may have actually happened prior to the start of summer, Peter and his wife Naomi have been a blessing in building my trust and faith in God and the call to prison ministry. I truly believe one of the primary purposes God brought Peter and Naomi in my life is to be a vessel in opening the door for Soldiers of Christ Prison Ministries. On August 28, Soldiers of Christ Prison Ministries begins a 41-week training session, authored by Peter, in Sheridan Correctional Center. This training session is focused on healing the wounded hearts of the inmates and for them to come to know who they are in Christ Jesus. I ask for prayers that the One I’ll be serving will be glorified and those who I’ll be training will become living testimonies to 2 Corinthians 5:17

Oh this post is getting long and don’t wish it to bee too long but there was the blessing of being reunited to a childhood friend, Timmy (though I think he prefers Tim now), who I’ve been trying to find for some 25 years. There was the blessing of renewing my relationship with my cousin Dean and his wife Judy, the icing of that blessing was coming to know they profess a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

There are many more blessings I could share that came in the summer of 2009. There are blessings that I can’t recall and there are blessings I won’t realize as blessings until a later time. Why am I worthy of these blessings? Truth is I’m not. However, that’s what is so neat about my God, when I think I deserve a blessing I’m often wondering when it will come. When I’m honest, confess my sin, repent, and fear God, He blesses me richly.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13

It was a fast summer and one of many blessings and as much I am thankful for the blessings I do hope the fall will be a tad slower in pace but selfishly just as full of blessings.