Saturday, March 22, 2014

Once this problem is solved then.......

I have spent a lot of my life waiting, not always a good wait though. It has been with the thought once this problem (whatever it may be) changes than I will do this (something positive, change etc.).
This mentality has been paralyzing at times, yet hopeful that once situations gets proverbially better than my life will be better.
There have been many worries especially when I was younger- once I get the perfect job, or once I get more money, or any other number of scenarios play out than it will be great.
Age catches up and the realization that this life now is reality, reality is no matter what situation I am in, I am the same person bringing the same issues, fears, weaknesses, and baggage into each situation with me.
Kyle has brought many of these thoughts to the forefront. Life won't physically get better, it may be a long time before Jill or I get a full night sleep. The almost impossibility of flying with Kyle makes traveling limited. Due to all his needs Jill and I going away alone for any amount of time is remote. None of those things are going to change. So how does this affect, impact, and even drive our thinking?
In spending many hours with men who look at life in prison I find hope and wisdom from them. I always ask the question how do you get through it, men who have served 20 plus years incarcerated tend to tell the same story. I fought it for the first five or so years. I did the same the things I did on the street, then eventually I realized that wasn't going to help. Usually they turned to faith, but in the end they had a peace even within their surroundings. Circumstances didn't change, their desire to be out with loved ones didn't change. Their character changed. From one of holding onto ideals of what life should be to making the most out of reality.

I remember the first questions I asked after Kyle was diagnosed with MD. I asked the doctor if his children would automatically have MD? I look back and think what a dumb question in the scheme of his life. The things I worried about, and the trivial things that worried me are so minor now compared to the struggles he deals with on a daily basis.

The ideals of life cloud our thinking many times about God, purpose, faith, and living. Last week Jill and I had the unfortunate experience of having our water heater go out for a couple of hours. The frustration of not taking a warm shower was great (in a warped sense). After kicking the heater a few times, and praying God please fix this thing. It ended up working a few hours later. As I was thinking through the process of why it worked. I was convinced it was the kick that worked. But I thought about faith, prayer, and interaction with God. Could God fix it? Sure. But the question is why would He fix it? Or better yet why are most of the prayers I pray about my own comfort and wants? Is anything going to happen (better or worse) if I don't have hot water? No. I will still be clean, and there are tons of people in the world (past and present) who didn't/don't have hot water, so why do I feel like it is my right to have hot water?

In my conversations with men serving life, I have heard it said many times. "People on the outside don't appreciate their simple freedom." I agree with that statement on many levels. In general we don't treat many aspects of life as gifts rather we treat them as rights. Things we deserve for whatever reason. Sure there are those that work hard and there are those who have reaped what they have sown. But this trickles down into attitudes, and daily actions.

What if life never changes? What if the problems never go away? Does this mean I am cursed,or God doesn't love me? I had my hopes that I would have won the billion dollars on the ncaa bracket and life would have been perfect, but I like everyone else didn't. As someone posted on facebook now onto to the next get rich quick scheme. That is our mentality, security comes from knowing I will be taken care of. Whether God likes me or not I can control my destiny by taking care of myself.

I have found that trusting God is difficult, because it doesn't lead to the same place I want to go. It leads to development in character more than comfort. It leads to having issues that don't go away fast, and growing in them. If the fruit of the spirit is one of the natural results of following Jesus: (having love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control) winning a billion dollars will not accomplish that in my life. It may in others but I am  not going to exhibit those qualities in winning.

In the end I am beginning to learn (not fully) that life isn't so much of quickly getting through struggles so normal life can go on. Rather that struggles are a part to grow through and in the end the appreciation for life, God's grace and gifts become so much more evident on a daily basis.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dan Rosenberger's testimony

My friend Dan died yesterday of complications regarding his fight with leukemia. As I was thinking about him last night and this am, I was reminded of his testimony he had written out a few years ago for a post I did, I thought it would be fitting to repost it.

I met Dan Rosenberger a few years ago under a very interesting situation. He was angry and irate at me for some issues dealing with his sons. It was a partially physical altercation and left me fearing for my life for a few hours. I hadn't heard from him much over the past few years and then we met and talked a few months ago, apologies were said and now we plan on going into prison to minister together. This was a God thing because I wouldn't or couldn't have orchestrated this.
Dan Rosenberger's story:
Where to begin? I lived a selfish, sinful life throughout my teens and twenties. A life of drugs,
alcohol and wickedness; after hitting bottom, losing my business and nearly my marriage, at
age 29 I accepted God’s gift of salvation and began a new life of faith. However, my pride
and impatience crept back to the forefront, and after five years of inconsistencies I grew
weary and walked away from the Christian life.
Over the next seven years my heart grew cold and bitter; I had tasted a life of freedom and
hope but without Christ my life was barren, void and without purpose. I again abused drugs
and alcohol, but more significantly, I became angry and mean-spirited. Those closest to me
bore the brunt of my anger; my wife and my sons.
Numerous times I attempted to return to the life I was called to, but I could not break free of
the bondage I found myself in; my “performance” was never consistent, and I could not
break free from the roller coaster between the flesh and a righteous life, so I always returned
to the world and the pain it brought me (Proverbs 26:11, Luke 11:24, 2 Peter 2:22).
It was not as if I didn’t have values and morals, I was a rather upright man, I taught
(enforced is more like it) my children to do right, to be honest, decent and hard working, I
did maintain a “conservative” value system, but I did not honor God and my heart grew
darker as the years passed.
I knew at the time what was wrong, for you cannot allow a starving man to feast on the
goodness of God and replace it with the false pleasures of the world and expect him to be
satisfied and content. As they would say down south: “That dog won’t hunt!”
I was living in misery and on a collision course with destruction.
All of this came to a head in January 2004, I found myself confronting an individual who was
harassing a family member and I chose a path of violence.
Arrested and charged with felony battery, I was facing eight years in prison even though I
had nothing more than a couple of DUI’s and a marijuana possession in my past. And the
truth is, his injuries were relatively minor (a split lip and a chipped tooth), but that is the
reality I was facing.
As the months passed leading up to the trial, the stress and pressure built until I had a
breakdown, the fear of losing my family, my freedom and the requisite fears of prison
battered me until I reached the end of my hope. In my despair I made a couple of futile
attempts at suicide.
It was then, at the end of everything, broken and defeated, I surrendered, and I pleaded
with God to rescue me. I held no illusions about bargaining with Him to save me from prison;
my plea was for Him to save me from the destruction of my life, regardless of the outcome in
This was September of 2004 and on October 28th I was sentenced to three years in prison.
The shock was much greater for my family and friends, as I was resigned to the path that
God had prepared for me. I knew, beyond any doubt that the Master in His mercy had
allowed me to experience this trial, and I knew He would bring me through it in a way that
brought Him glory and me personal victory I had never before experienced.
So I dove into the Word with fervor, devouring His truth and devoting myself to prayer and
ministry. Three days before Christmas I was transferred to Putnamville Correctional Facility in
Greencastle, Indiana. I spent the first six days there in a hundred year old building, in a cold
and dank basement cell. I understood more completely Paul’s words to the church in Philippi,
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”, Amen. The next eight
months were a season of spiritual challenges and growth like I had never known before; my
faith grew and I experienced victory over the anger, the lust and the temptations of the
flesh, Praise be to God!
I served twelve months total, with time off for good behavior. As my dear friend Tom
Richardson once said, I would have rather been anywhere else in the world, but it was the
best time of my life!
OK, that may be a slight overstatement, but in many ways it was incredible, seeing the
power of God working in my life and the lives around me. So now I am home again and
ready to begin the next stage of this exciting walk with the Master, I know not what paths He
will lead me down, but I am willing and enthusiastic about the opportunities and challenges
that are ahead.
I know that He guided me down these roads to bring me to this place in my life, a life I now
devote to serving Him, however He wills, Amen and Amen. (John 12:24)
I include this addendum for 2009. Leukemia, hard words to hear, but in August 2008 that is
what I heard, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. And so begins a new sojourn, one I did not
and would not have chosen, but the path I am on regardless.
Here is my journal entry from that August day: "So we have a name and it is Chronic
Lymphocytic Leukemia. That is a scary name, in fact this will probably take my life; but
neither this disease, the doctors nor even the treatment plan determine the date that
happens, or what happens in between.
My Father, the very One who designed and created bone marrow and white blood cells, the
One who gave His children the intellect to develop medicines and treatments and the One
who instills within us the desire to live and to thrive, He and He alone orders my days."
Live so Heaven will be different!

Monday, March 3, 2014


Sometimes we see common themes emerge in conversations over the course of time. One that has intrigued me of late is upbringing. There were a few conversations in the past week that have revolved around this topic.
Upbringing is not an excuse for long term, but in the short term it can really mess someone up.
What is deemed normal in many households is anything but. This am I was talking to a 25 year old who has been in and out of prison since he was 14. I asked what were the factors and reasons why you went down this path. "My uncle had me go with him to kill two people. We didn't kill them but I got an attempted murder case." This young man isn't from an inner city he is from the country in southern Indiana.
Another conversation with a young homeless man in our community. When I asked him about his home life, when I was in my teenage years my step mom told me I was a burden to them and that I should commit suicide so they wouldn't have to put up with me.
Another young man in his early twenties had gotten kicked out of his house when he was 12 and had hitchhiked through the us and had done various jobs. When I asked if he would go back to live with his mother? The answer was definitely no because of her drug issues.
The saddest yet most hopeful conversation was with a man this am in prison who has spent 37 years consecutively behind bars, but has been in and out of locked up facilities since he was 8. He is 53 and going to be released in two years. He came from an alcoholic family where both parents were drunk most of the time.
Even at 8 he knew something was different with his family. They were poor he stole and his dad would beat him but then take the stuff that he had stolen.
This man has every reason to be bitter, angry, and hopeless but that isn't the case. He has changed, in his own words. Prison hasn't defeated him. It took a long time though, he hasn't been a model prisoner, he struggled up until the last 10 years. He had gotten write ups, conduct reports, but for some reason there were some officers and inmates who invested in this man. They continued to challenge and encourage him. One night he shared he was watching a st jude telethon and it hit him that there were people in much worse condition than he was. From that point on he had a spiritual awakening and has devoted his life to raising money for others less fortunate than himself.
He did get himself in trouble for gathering donations for a cancer fundraiser and giving each donor a cigarette (nicotine is prohibited) the disciplinary committee said you have a great heart and your motives are correct but the means aren't good.
He is excited about getting out of prison, he has never driven a car, he has never went to an amusement park, never eaten a steak. He in an extremely innocent tone said one of the first things I want to do is play with some toy trucks in a pile of dirt.
One of the things that struck me in each of these conversations is that each of them don't want pity, they didn't want anything from me. The young man whose step mom had told him to commit suicide was extremely proud of being in college despite being homeless. The 25 year old is looking forward to getting out of prison and being a truck driver so he can support his 9 year old son.
Parenting affects a lot of our lives especially when we are younger, but it isn't a death sentence. It doesn't mean this is the way it always has to be.
The man who spent 37 years in prison asked me as we were leaving today why do you come here? My only response is so I can see hope.