Monday, December 16, 2013

greg the bra pastor

Day one took me to a meeting with Greg. Greg is a local pastor who has many cool traits and gifts. One of the descriptions of greg is his relationship to fighting human trafficing. He is part of an organization called free the girls. This organization not only tries and stop human trafficing they collect new and used bras. They send these bras overseas and women who have gotten out of human trafficing situations are able to start selling these bras in various countries to make a living. His church in chesterton is a warehouse and holding zone for bras. They as a church have sorting parties and there are people of all ages who have gotten involved in this cause.


I recently went to a funeral for a family friend of my wife's. I didn't know the person well, I don't actually think I had ever had a conversation with this person. As I sat in the funeral and listened to him memorialized I thought I would really have liked him, I could have learned so much from him and the way he lived his life.
At funerals there isn't to much negative stuff said. I do remember one funeral in general for a grumpy old man the nicest words the pastor could say was at least his dog liked him. But generally a funeral is a time where we say all the positives about someone that was cared and loved for. It doesn't make much sense why we do this at the funeral. Many times we talk nasty, back stab, and are just rude to people while they live yet hold them in high esteem when they die.
In Genesis one of the first things said about humans is we were made in the image of God. I think I have written a few things on this topic. I personally believe that this is a truth that changes the way we live our lives.
I am guilty of this more than anyone of putting agendas, plans, and ideas to the detriment of people. It is very easy to make people the enemy. If I honestly believe that man is one of the ways we can see the beauty and glory of God than I need to act that way. Of course we are fallen and corrupted a perfect creation. But I still believe that there is much truth in being created in the image of God.
So does this practically change my life? Theory is great, I have many theories, and ideas on a regular basis but most of the time they don't work, aren't long lasting, or even pretty bad.
I try to live life revolving around conversations. Each day I have the priviledge of meeting, and talking with people that are inspirational, amazing, surviving, and imperfect. We can dwell on the imperfections and try as hard as we can to change people. We can try and change their clothing, habits, political stance, faith structure, or anything that will make them perfect. Or we can try and show and be unconditional with our love, hope, faith, and perseverance.
I think it would kind of interesting for a while (maybe not all year Im too add for that) to highlight people I meet on a given a day. I'll try and take pictures but 1. you can't take pictures in prison/jail. 2. Random people I meet via craiglist for buying furniture may not be up for pictures.
This may not be helpful for anyone else other me. I forget so quickly those I meet even for a short snippet of time. Last Sat night I meet a couple who have an acoustic band whose songs are just about hot sauce.I met them as they bought a table from me via craigslist so the conversation in freezing cold can only go so long but the man runs a music studio. They invited me to one of their shows. Strange but intriguing. People created in the image of God creating music about hot sauce. Not to sure how that is important at all but interesting none the less.
I don't think each and every experience I have is awe inspiring or even meaningful on a deep level, but when people talk about a passion they have (many times a God given passion) conversation runs smoothly. You tend to have to end the conversation because they will go on and on. (not a bad thing but time consuming).
God teaches me things daily through other people, my problem is I am sometimes to bullheaded to listen.

Monday, November 25, 2013

With our tongues we bless and curse

James 3:9-10
With it (our tongues) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers these things ought not be.

I don't keep to many mementos from storage units I buy. I am not a sentimental person and tend to hang out to too much. But there are a couple of pictures I have kept on my desk for a couple of years.
They are school pictures from the 1950s. They are pictures of African American school pictures. This is before segregation. I wonder what happened to these kids, I wonder what life they lived?

I get fired up on occasion and the way we treat other people really irks me. I was listen to a friend talk last night and her daughter who has autism was speaking about her daughter. Some well meaning person came up to the family and said I am praying for your daughter to be healed. Her daughter within hearing distance said I am not broken.

Minorities, special need people, anyone not fitting into the social norm why do we generally curse and chastise them? Why are we so concerned about having different people fit into our culture?

I have just started reading Fear and What follows "the violant education of a Christian racist" by Tim Parrish, very interesting read. A true strory set in the south during the 1950s. I have asked myself what would my response have been if I had been in that setting. With the majority of southern Christianity affirming racism would I have had the guts to do what is right or would I have believed what was being preached and truly questioned it?

If the whole world looked, thought, and acted the same then we could be pretty certain God was exactly like us. Of course it isn't that way.

So if God created this class of African American students, my friends daughter, Kyle and every other different person perfectly, why don't I see them the same way?

Why does my first response be to look at people through my lense and think if they just did this, and acted this way then life would work.

It looks different when we connect with people in areas of weakness rather than strength. Last night we were in the county jail, and I was worried for my friend Art to speak. There were a lot of young men, some of who I knew and I thought they are going to raze, and not listen to him. They are going to be disrespectful and this is going to be a bad experience. It didn't turn out that way at all.

The reason it didn't was because Art spoke from a place of weakness. He spoke about his life, imperfections and a lot of the trouble he did and had gone through as a young man. It was so quiet in that room as he spoke. This was after all sorts of shenagans happened as they all came in.

As I was observing the young men were engaged, they had probably been cursed for much of their lives. They had been ridiculed, they had been beaten down, but here was Art and he was blessing them. He was giving them hope, he was giving a tangible story and person to see.

With out tongues we bless and we curse. How easy it is for us to curse everyone and everything wrong. With the week of Thanksgiving how am I blessing people? How am I using my tongue to build up? Not condemning, not asking how can I fix your brokenness (maybe they aren't broke) but rather how can we learn from each other to be the people God created us to be.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

different decisions

Last night my wife and I were watching "the internship" a movie about two street smart minus book smart guys doing an imternship at google. I was laughing very hard at one scene specifically. They  played some harry potter game with brooms balls and crazy weird stuff. I was as clueless about this game as the two street smart guys in the movie were. Jill was a little miffed because she had read harry potter and understands this game that I cant even pronounce. In this specific scene the game is tied and the underdogs have momentum they have figured out the game, then all of a sudden this guy in a yellow suit jumps onto the field and one of the guys looks bewildered and says "who the blank is that?" My thoughts exactly. I guess the point was to grab that guy and steal some tennis ball from him and you win.
I have no idea I dont know anything Harry Potter.
Movies make light and exalt the different person. Not only are they usually the underdog but they are culterally clueless. They do things different than what everyone else is doing or do it in a totally different way.
It always amazes me of how much of my routine habits and general views of life are pretty ingrained and I view them as normal. Are they normal? To me they are. Generally speaking Im pretty comfortable with the way I do things. But does that mean that I would change if I was challenged?
Yesterday a group of us were talking about following Jesus and the word radical came up. Im under the impression that Jesus lived a life where people expected Him to follow the social cultural and religous norms. He did none of those. He made difficult and different decisions. I dont think He acted out of spite or shock. But yet He did shock people.
I have wrestled for a long time of what does it mean to live like Jesus. Ive wanted to see it in others.
What living like Jesus is probably looks a whole lot like the clueless guys in the movie. They probably dont know the church culture real well. When something that is normal to us they exclaim what the blank is that? We look at them in astonishment I cant believe you dont know that tradition or cultural importance of that.
Those are the people Im most curious about and want to be around. I want see those who may not be so concerned with pleasing the majority rather doing what is right.
It is very hard for me to read the Bible and not think that the heros would be chastised in our current culture. Building an ark(noah) being a converted murderer(paul) im not sure our culture would give them the time of day.
Yet throughout Christianity those who didnt succum to the religous culture are the ones who continue to inspire admonish and emulate the life of Jesus.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Who is the most unlike you person in your contacts on your phone? Who do you know (well enough to enter into your phone) that is different?
I have been thinking a lot about Jesus lately, and thinking about His life and my life. If I had written my perception of God and the story when He sent His Son here the script would have been much different.
I would tend to think of Jesus spending a whole lot more time in "religious" places. Carrying on deep theological talks with well versed and intelligent people. Not that He didn't do those things but that is not the context of most of the stories in the gospel. His story was carried out in the "normal" world with normal and even abnormal people. But maybe they weren't really abnormal.
I have been trying to wrap my head around something for sometime, how much of God's creating man both as a whole and individually has been screwed up by us humans?
What I mean by this if man was created in God's image how much of imperfection diasability pain etc is caused by sin and how much is actually good we just misinterpret it?
For instance what does Kyle look like in heaven? What is a perfect Kyle for eternity?
Of course there is all sorts of thoughts of running and physically doing things that he wasn't able to do on this earth. But is a perfect Kyle him with physical abilities. Im not sure, and the reason I am not sure is because of the way Jesus acted here on earth.
Perfection in people is not what we think it is, it would have been pretty easy for Jesus to say all you need to do is sit with the Pharisees and the religious people and that is what heaven is going to be like.
If heaven is so much like those religious places it must have been extremely uncomfortable for Jesus to spend a good chunk of His time in places that were nothing like heaven with people who did not resemble those in heaven.
Now I am not saying that Kyle won't have a whole body in heaven and won't be able to do physical activities, but I am not sure that is the point. I am pretty sure God has not anointed the white American healthy male Christian as the perfect species of creation. I am pretty sure I am not the lense that God views everyone else through. But yet that is what I sometimes believe or act like.
I am pretty sure there will still be a huge amount of diversity in heaven, but we won't care. I am pretty sure perfect teeth aren't going to be such an issue. I am pretty sure material possessions have little to no value. I am pretty sure the attritubtes of love joy peace patient kindness goodness and self control are going to overwealth us.
As I look at Kyle this is what I see- I see these fruits in his life, I see that he is emulating Christ even with his physical disabilities.
I don't think Jesus' point of spending lots of time with the the normal and the ab-normal as a way to turn them into religious rather I see there being a whole lot more like Jesus than we are comfortable with.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

the disconnect with Jesus

A couple of months ago I read a job posting the title of the job was "act like Jesus" pastor. It was amusing as I read the job description because it described a different way of life than most people are use to or even would want to emulate. As I think more about this concept I realize there is a huge disconnect between the life I live and Jesus' example.
I began to think of Jesus' life in practical terms, what did He do? How did He interact with people? What was important to Him? If I want to be like Him how would my life change?
This isnt extensive but just begins touching on what I see in Jesus' life.

-his interaction with materialism. This is so hard for me to grasp. Culturally we have an idea what moderation looks like. We have a thought in our minds of how we want to live comfortably. Im not sure if Jesus owned much if anything of physical value. When He was crucified the guards basically rolled dice for his last remaining possesions. If Jesus wasnt entirely concerned about physical possesions why am I? Why is this even anywhere on the scorecard of life? If anyone asked me to borrow anythong why would I say no even if I knew they wouldnt return it? I dont have a good answer to any of those questions from a faith perspectives but this is the way I live my life.

-being passionate enough to cause a problem. How awkward would it have been the day Jesus walked into the temple and basically put a beating on everyone using it for their own gain? Im sure there have been at least a few times in past 2000 years that the church has needed some shaking up due to using God for our own gain.

-not defending Himself. Jesus never demanded people to follow Him. I dont read His words attitide or posture as arrogent or condecending. Now He was straightforward loving but never rude. It is so hard not to be defensive when we talk about faith or other issues we feel we are right about

-he didnt cater to those in perceived authority. Why in the world did he pick the disciples he chose? Why was He calling out the religous people constantly? Why did he spend time with the underbelly of society? Why did he care so much for the sick and disabled? Why is it so hard for me to treat the outcast the same as someone who can help me ?

-he wasnt scared of socities outcasts. Touching lepers not stoning the adulteress being accused of being a friend of sinners.

Im curious to meet the person who was hired to be the act like Jesus pastor.  I can imagine it being extremely difficult not just because it is our culture but im not sure this flies in most organized religous contexts.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The perfect life

It won't be long before we get the first snow storm of the year. There is beauty the morning after a snow storm before anyone has touched it. It is perfect like a blanket covering the world. It doesn't take long before the perfection is taken away by footprints, cars, plows, and shoveling that perfect picture of the snow is gone so quickly.
We view life much like the perfect snow sometimes. At some point in time in our life we had a view of perfection in our life. We had an idea of what it was going to look like. It was going to be untouched beautiful, and perfect.
Then something happened, we married the wrong person, we were abused, our job wasn't all it was cracked up to be, we started a cycle of addiction, we became fat, our children became a lot more work than what we imagined, we didn't have enough money to pay the bills. I am sure there are a ton of other reasons why we are disappointed with our lives.
But we became disappointed. We may have had faith and we believed that God would give us the perfect snow life. We thought there would be time in the morning where we were relaxed and not worry about anything and enjoy coffee and time alone with God. Then we didn't and we felt guilty and so we added a different type of relationship with God than what we wanted. On top of all of this we think that we are the only ones.
We see others around us living much better lives than what we have. We see people in pictures smiling and having great times on facebook, and all we long for is that perfect life.

I may be entering middle age years, it seems like over the past few months a year I realize I am getting old. I have begun to realize that life isn't going as planned. It isn't a bad thought, but it is a realization that life isn't going to be perfect in the sense that I once thought.

Through the summer of fire, I think Jill and I have learned a lot. This was a summer I wouldn't wish on anyone yet it probably has been some of the best growing times we have had. Through broken bones, kyle sleeping less than he use to, and other family problems, it has not been fun or ideal by any stretch of the imagination. It has not been the perfect snow day. It has been the snow by the side of the road after the plow goes by, full of mud, gravel, and is pretty nasty. But yet it has been through this environment that we have begun to appreciate what is important.

I think there is so many misconceptions about faith and the role faith plays in ones life. I don't believe that God's role in my life is to make me happy or even to give me an easy go of it. I love comfort and desire comfort, but I also know that my life doesn't change through comfort. Comfort makes me lazy, comfort stops my desire and even the perceived need to grow. Life is perfect.

When life isn't comfortable than things begin to change, if by pure necessity. If the problems and the pain givers of life do not go away the choices are pretty simple fall prey to the pain or become a different person. Neither one is an easy choice, but unplanned pain brings us to a crossroad.

As I think about snow in the morning untouched and perfect, I also realize that snow is a whole lot of fun to play in. Whether it be sledding, building snow men, having snow ball fights etc. Much is life once we realize that it isn't going to be "perfect" and that is ok. Once we realize that we have unconditional love from God, we don't need to fear Him striking us down. Once we realize that all those smiles on facebook may be moments removed from an awful dragged out fight, once we realize that everybody we run into is struggling with something else also.

It is unfortunate that we feel the need to project perfection (as in the perfect snow fall) when the perfect life may still be what we have. The perfect life may not be the untouched snowfall but it may be the snowball fight, or sledding together.

The perfect life may not be the absence of problems as much as realizing that there will be some sort of problem or pain and enjoying the special gifts God gives us like the perfect snow fall.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


It has been a curious journey this year for the Red Sox. As I await tonights game with the possibility of them winning the world series, I wonder what made them successful? Why do they have a chance to win the world series and 28 other teams sit home and watch along side me. Of course there is a lot of credit due to numbers, signing and getting players that sybermetrically are amazing. But to the naked eye there are teams with a whole lot more talent. They even had a better a team two years ago talent wise and traded away 3 of their better players. Yet this year they have a chance to win it. How has the culture changed within the organization/team? How is that even measured. I am sure the management of the team said as a bonding experience you all need to grow beards. Yet there was a bond and culture that has become evident to even an outsider.

I have thought a lot about culture lately and observe it in ever facet and aspect of life. Culture is something we can not neccesarily define tangibly or even be able to put our hands around but it is the way we conduct and do life with those around us.

As I was thinking this morning I was thinking of tangible ways our family has it's culture. Part of our culture has been defined because of life circumstances. In general we go to bed early, this is partly due to the kids getting on the school bus before 7 in the morning. It is also due to the fact the Kyle gets up throughout the night and we are just plain tired. So most nights we are in bed and asleep by 9. That is part of our family's culture. Did we make a rule or a plan? No it happened out of life circumstances. Many times culture does not happen intentionally it happens naturally.

I was having a talk with a friend yesterday and he is someone I highly respect. He asked me to lunch and as soon as I sat down at the table. He asked me why are churches so screwed up? I just smiled because they are filled with normal people that is why they are screwed up. But curious of where he was going I aksed him what he meant.

He went on to tell a story, he had been visiting churches in the area trying to find a home where he and his wife could connect with people. They had visited a church on a Sunday and went back later in the week for a Bible Study. The Bible study was in the church building and they were the new comers. So they began talking about love and living out the fruit of the spirit- living a life with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control. They were talking about showing love in their life, when a man came bursting through the doors about an hour late. Out of breath he asked is this were the bible study is? He then apologized for being late. He explained how he had a fight with his wife, was desperate for answers and basically this is the only group he could think of to come to.

My friend said immediately I knew this guy needed someone to talk to, vent, share with. But being the the new person wasn't sure what to do. So for the next half hour the latecomer asked tangible questions about the topic like, if you get in a fight with a women who you disagree with how can you love her? My friend thought this guy needs someone to talk to. In hindsight he thought I should have taken the initiative and taken him and talked to him. My question to him was what did the leader do. His response was the leader told him that they needed to stay on task and go through the material.

Now being in that position I understand the dilemma of catering to one person or keeping the group on task. As I processed this yesterday, I asked what does this story say about church culture? What does this say about what is important and what isn't?

My friend told me a second story. He and his wife have been helping out with a ministry that helps with the less fortunate. He was at a dinner one night, and the church that was hosting it was a charismatic church. They fed the people and then did a service, during the service they started speaking in tongues and started encouraging the less fortunate to do so also. They approached to people sitting next to my friend, and they politely replayed that is great but we are just homeless and came here for a meal.

Culture, it seems so normal to us. It seems like everyone should love this so much because we do. We are so ingrained in our own culture that is hard to see through it.

My friend who was very troubled by the tangible needs of these less fortunate homeless people. Began thinking what he could do. If having a charismatic service wasn't the answer what was it. he wanted to share the love and hope of Jesus yet knows the tangible need of these people. So he runs a business and gave them work. His wife oversees them. One day they were working along side her and were a little confused. They said are you guys Christians? She wasn't afraid to say yes. Then they replied you don't act like them.

I am not sure what they expected. But their expectations is the culture that we are or portray. Culture sneaks up and is created with or without our permission. It becomes our default. It also begins attracting others that resonate with that culture.

Changing any culture is difficult, church culture is no different. But as I see people like my friend and his wife tangibly acting like they want the church to act culture begins to change.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The social norm

As we prepared for our trip to Disney world last year, Jill contacted them about housing. It was interesting the response she got. There was only a few options for a family of 5. Disney world is built for the ideal family of four. This is their norm, this is who they are marketing towards. The ideal family, the social norm.
On Saturday Jill and I went to a marriage seminar, there was 500 or so people in the room. It was good content but 6 hours tends to make my head spin so I began looking around the room and my mind began wondering. I was looking for the couple that didn't fit in, what was the norm of this group and who probably felt like the outsider? As I started taking in the crowd, it was diverse in age. There were people of all ages, there were even a few minorities. But then I started to look for what was missing. I didn't see any handicapped people, all of us were dressed basically the same. It was a very typical social norm for evangelical Christianity.
Last night as a family went to a Halloween event with some friends of ours. It was in a different area of the community than we live so my curiousity was peaked again of what type of people would come to it. It didn't disappoint, there were all the typical Halloween get up, and then there were some people (mainly adults) that I had to wonder if they were wearing a costume or not. If those were fake teeth or their real teeth? That culture was very comfortable. But that group would not have been so comfortable in a marriage seminar with 500 "socially normal" people.
I have been struggling with this for some time, the culture that we build around ourselves consciously or sub consciously. The things that we take for granted as a value everyone holds around us, the people that we allow to speak into our lives that basically just reaffirm everything we believe.
As I continue to get older, I realize that I can hear the same answers and hear the same information reiterated over and over again. I can become pretty stagnant in my thinking because of the people I spend time with.
I recently heard from a friend in the field of American missions that only 2% of the American church knows the poor. I am sure the stats are skewed, but what does that say about us following Jesus' example? When Jesus came into this world it wasn't the "social norm" that he was looking to engage or even affirm. It was those on the fringes, those who were not so well thought of or even well liked. The Pharisees and the religious leaders did a good job on upholding and maintain the social norm. They did a great job of both defining and living by the norm. Yet that wasn't so much what Jesus was trying to get us all to.
I am curious what it actually looks like to live by faith. It is easy for me to ask other people who are older or people that are very Biblical literate for an answer. I am sure I will get a very good answer, and I am sure I will get answer that is very theoretical. But what if I ask a single mom who struggles with addiction, who is trying to make ends meet. Who has had a rough past but is trying to live a life of faith. What is her answer going to be? Is there going to be value in her answer? Better yet am I going to value her answer?
As I have thought about my time teaching in prison, I am confident I have been of zero help to the men in there. I have given them great theory, I have given them even some good common sense. But practically speaking they have taught me so much more than I could ever have learned. It has been the best way for me to learn about a different culture, people, and circumstances. It has opened my eyes to the world from another viewpoint. The question is does this affect the way I live my life? Do I value what men who have committed atrocious acts say? Or am I so arrogant that I don't feel that I have anything to learn from them?
Jill has told me so often that people don't see Kyle they see a wheelchair, very infrequently do I see people engage in conversation with Kyle. Why is it because there is no value of what he would have to say? Do people think it is only a one way street where they can encourage him but he couldn't be an encouragement to anyone else? Again I have learned and seen tons more Kyle than the little value I pour into his life. He complains less than anyone I know, and yet he has the most to complain about. He treasures and enjoys life to a great extent. He is simple yet profound, but yet very few have seen or experienced this both from him or the many other handicapped in the world.
Jesus came to live (incarnation) among people. He lived within the margins of society. He enjoyed, communicated, recruited, and loved those that most of us pass by on a daily basis. Where do I miss the chances, and the opportunities to be blessed, learn, and grow from those that don't fall into the social norms?

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Over the past 8 nights I have slept about 3 hours 4 of them. This is due to various reasons but the main one is Kyle has difficulty spleeping and needs to be turned over, and needs various things every 1-2hours. I have a hard time going back to sleep once I wake up so I toss and turn, lay there just thinking for hours on end.

So last night as I layed in bed thinking, I was drawn to the idea of ideals. Ideals we have as children, how those morph as we are in our twentys, more so in 30s, and I am sure realization and possibly sadness as we hit our 50s and beyond.

I have a hard time coming up with 5 year and 10 year goals right now. Ideals help shape what our present and future look like. Ideals for what is the best case scenerio for my and my families lives.

What does an ideal situation look like when you are living with a child who is facing death in the next 5 or so years? What does an ideal situation look like when you see deterieration before your eyes on a weekly basis?

I don't have any idea. I don't have any idea how exactly you deal with this in the midst of trying to live a "normal" life. As I think of just the sleep aspect, if I had to work a normal hourly job there is very little hope that I would be able to function on a long term basis. How does this affect our other kids? As I hear about parents having their children in sports, music etc how is not doing these kind of things going to affect Ayden and Ellyse long term?

Im not sure how one eye looks to the present and one eye looks to the future. What does the future look like? If survival is a word to describe the hear and now what does it look like when it is over? If most of my lifes energy was spent as a caretaker, then when that is done what does it look like? For all the sacrifice given to the present what is the toll it will take on the future?

Ideals, I am not sure if they are helpful or hurtful. The wonder of what if, the thought of doing something outside of ones ability. The desire for making a difference or even doing somewhat significant vanishes. Should it? Maybe we all go through the stage of ideal vs reality. Reality winning and settling for what is.

I am not sure I have the energy anymore for pursuing ideals. It is sobering, and somewhat sureal to think I was put on this earth to be a joint caregiver for my handicapped dying son. I am not sure how to do that well. I am not sure how to continue to turn down other opportunities, I am not sure how to be an emotional, and physical support. I am not sure how not to get frustrated when I have plans for a day that change because of sickness or other need. I am not sure how to use my best energy to help Kyle and use less than my best in other places.

All of these are sobering realities, and I am not sure how ideals should play into this.

Friday, February 8, 2013


The good and the bad are passed down to our children, grandchildren, and future generations. The recipes, the family stories, the laughter, the family traits, and mannerisms are all part of the fun that is past down generationally.

The problems are also passed down. Although we don't talk about class systems in America the way they are understood in a place like India they are among us. The chances of switching classes or escaping poverty is available it is not as probable as one would like to think.

What does our future generations look like? Chances are the majority of the people are going to be similiar to us and our standing in the culture.

I am struck by this concept more and more. I use to think when people talked about traveling to other places, visiting relatives, vactioning etc that it looked a lot like my experiences. But I realize now that when a "poor" person goes to visit these other places chances are they are going to be staying and visiting with those like themselves. They are not going to the same circles that I would go to when I go to certain cities or places.

This pattern and cycle takes a whole lot of effort.

It is with these thoughts that the topic of what does the future hold was the question for my prison class this week. In past weeks I had gotten some goofy answers at best of what the future holds. Rich, fame, women etc is a lifestyle that seems very attactive to them. But this week the answers were different.

A young twentysomething African American male stated I want to break the cycle. The men in family go to jail. That is what we do. Now knowing a little about this specific prisoner, he like 17 other men in my class are in for murder. This specific one killed someone execution style after a drug deal went bad.

So knowing about his background and always being one who won't take the right answer without probbing, I asked how is this going to change? How come you're kids aren't going to follow you right in here? He was a little less sure of himself at this point, he had the desire (at this moment) but not a whole lot of tangible actions that would lead him to creating a different future for his children.

Change no matter how small is, is difficult. Getting out of a cycle of unhealthy or not helpful habits is tough for us and for our future. Comfort is one of our biggest obstacles. Why change I am making it through? Why make it more difficult? Why work at something that I won't see the results for immediately?

How quick are we to change course when the path gets even a little unpleasant? I think through my life and escape is always an option. Whether that be a tense or unpleasant relationship, situation, or even something I don't want to do. But is this helpful? Not at all but pretty easy.

Life is much shorter than I realize or think about. Change isn't just about us in the here and now but change and breaking cycles is much more about our children and building foundations future generations will grow into.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Am I free?

Are you free? Another thought provoking question that came out of my prison class yesterday.

The topic was in regards to a story about Victor Frankl a Jewish man who was tormented and endured a Nazi death camp where he saw many of his family and friends die.

He realized that although he didn't have any physical freedom he still had the ability to think, imagine, and have self will. He excercised these freedoms and as able to influence many of those around him and guards for good.

So in the context of the question asked of me, there are many people who have liberties. But freedom comes in many different shapes and sizes.

For instance finacial freedom- if we make choices that include running up credit cards, over spend, and push ourselves to the max finacially do we have freedom? We have liberties to do all of those things, but hat does that do to us? We become slaves to work and money. We have to work ourselves ragged to pay off those things, and the stress that accompanies those choices.

We are free to make any choices we want in life- but what about choices that we make that are not for the better? Many people walk around with the guilt of these choices. They walk around with so much fear that they will be found out. That if they are found out what will people think?

So the question was a loaded one, yes I am free in the sense that I am physically not incarcerated. Yes I have the liberty to walk wherever and whenever I want to. But does that make me free? Are there people that have less freedom outside of the walls of a physical prision than those inside? I firmly believe yes.

I am not sure I can answer that question 100% yes. The fear of the future grips me quite a bit. Kyle's future, a life of pain and hardship surrounding that. "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matt 6:34. This is a verse I try and hold onto each day.

Life can be extremely overwhelming and many times we live in dread and fear over what will come next. But does that paralyze us? Does it keep us from being free?

I want the answer to the question of am I free to be yes, but there are areas of fear that need to be constantly confronted.

Friday, January 25, 2013


I am constantly struggling with hindsight. Lost in thoughts of wondering did I do the right thing, was that the right decision, was that the right move? Sometimes the thoughts can be paralyzing from moving forward.

A few years ago I read a book called Wisdom of crowds. Basically it was a book about studies asking the question are the majority of people right and should you base your decisions on what everyone else is doing? In short the answer is no.

The spiritual side of decisions is am I walking God's will, what is God's will for my life? In short many people are paralyzed by those thoughts also. With the worry that I am going to do something out of God's will that many people do nothing.

I will be the first to say not every decision in my life has been the most calculated, or even the wisest move. I have made a lot of decisions that I regret, not only from a right or wrong standpoint but also from a this was a huge waste of time standpoint.

The decisions that we make with Kyle on a daily basis is extremely tough and we may see the confirmation of right or wrong now but the full effect is going to be in a few years.

As I think through past, present, and future decisions I think not only about outcome but also character. In essence I believe that I represent what it means to follow God, and in some ways give a glimpse into God's character.

So what am I looking for in regards to confirmation? If the wisdom isn't in what the majority of the people say. What about the few?

One of my prayers each day is God allow me to have the courage to follow you even when I want to think only of my self.

It is easy to make decisions based on what will perserve me, my money, my selfishness etc. I realistically desire to make a few decisions each day that aren't based on that.

A couple days ago I was selling some dvds on craigslist. They for a minor amount of money but I was feeling extremely stingy that day and extremely selfish. A person offered me less money and I almost let them have it.  I looked at the text I sent him and it was much nicer than the mood I was in.

I begrudgingly accepted the amount and was hoping he wouldn't show up so I could sell them somewhere else for $20 more. The selfishness was creeping in for $20. (I am easy to pay off).

The young man showed up at my house, as I opened the door I knew I knew him but couldn't place him. We began talking and he shared how he was going to a show in Milwaukee. I asked him show like concert? His response was yea. I then asked him if he use to go to shows in Portage? You mean at Real Life was the answer.

(Long story short, I use to host concerts for heathen teens ( I say that in an affectionate loving way) of Portage back when  I was a youth pastor. I recieved so much flack and killed my desire to ever work with teens again. I regreted for a while ever doing those shows.)

He got excited when he found out I was the one who hosted them. He remembered me and told me I was driving by that church the other day and me and friend said "That is the church that loved teenagers."

I am not sure if there is better confirmation. Of all the words that can be said or used to describe a church or followers of Christ that is it.

As we all make decisions what is our confirmation going to be that we are doing what is right?