Thursday, October 30, 2014


As I walked into the high school the cafeteria on my left was a buzz. Typical high school and jr high interactions, kids running, chasing, and teasing each other. There were about 7 sub groups of various sizes laughing, giggling, singing, and carrying on. Within all of this commotion and life was a table with one little girl, sitting staring at the ground, playing with her hands uncomfortably. She wasn't obvious as she was sitting in the back of the room away from all the life. She would look up occasionally but quickly look down as she realized that she didn't fit into any of these sub groups.

Loneliness it effects us all to some degree. But some much more than others. The picture of loneliness has begun to take a much broader picture than the just the out of place high schooler. One time I asked a man who was very successful in his early 50s, if he had any friends? He gave a quip about why I would ask such a thing, and then in a moment of honesty said no I wish I did and it has been something I have been praying and asking God for.

I was talking recently with a man who had been released from jail. As we were talking about this topic of loneliness he told me an interesting story. There are phones in the jail pods (pod is a set of 12-20 individual cells) and he said there will be guys standing at the phones without anyone at the other end. They will either be extremely quite or even carry on a one sided conversation. Men that either don't have any connections or family that has deserted them. That phone even though it didn't hold meaningful conversation held a physical symbol of connection.

Last week I was talking to a single parent and asked how their past month had went, the answer was well I work and then I am home every night with my kids. I miss adult interaction was the term they used.

Loneliness is all around us, if not to a large part in us. As Kyle told me one day I wish I had a best friend when we drove by two boys sitting on the side of the road enjoying each others company. I think many wish for that human connection but don't have it.

The little girl sitting alone at the table in the high school was my daughter Ellyse.  That visual image will stay with me for some time if not forever as I watched and observed her before going and picking her up. 

There are many statistics of how and when kids join gangs, do drugs, get pregnant, or various other social ills. I can see my daughter going down a path of trouble not because she is a bad kid but rather because this peer group accepts her.

It saddens me on a daily basis to see basic human interactions withheld from people. I spent the last 3 days listening to topics of truth, being right and others being wrong, and all sorts of other issues with society. In the end we can pontificate about all of these issues and demonize all sorts of things, but in the end two things stick with me. 1. I have so much garbage in my own life that I really can't begin to judge others. 2. People are the ones who get hurt, and alienated through rants and raves.

Taking the story of the creation from the Bible, God created man to have a relationship with Him and then realized the man would be lonely here on earth created other people to be in community with. I believe we were created to have community with both God and other people. Community with God sometimes is a whole lot easier than with other people.

In thinking through daily practical life, how do we approach human interaction? Is it a necessary evil or is each conversation and interaction a gift? How does our life change when we view interaction as a gift? I don't think that depths of conversation happen without intentionality.  When we see each person created in the image of God each day it is really hard to look down upon them or with judgement.

When we can see each of them in the same boat and messed up as we are, just trying to survive, full of fear, insecurity, anger, self hatred, and shame. This knowledge can change our approach and interactions with people each and every day. When we act on this the world is full of much less loneliness.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Being pushed from unlikely people

With his soulful brown eyes, green jumpsuit soft spoken Alvin (name changed) says my life looks nothing like it did when I was 19. I was a thug, I did a lot of dumb stuff and deserved to be in prison. When I got out I became really boring. My daughter said what happened to you? You are wearing cargo pants, and chap sweaters. Alvin had changed from young hooligan to a productive member of society. He worked full time, bought a house, and was a family man. His Saturdays were spent making pancakes, taking the kids to Disney movies, and mowing the lawn. He had served his punishment and now was on a different path. Then Alvin and his wife tried to help out his brother in law. His brother in law had been a crack head. He had a cycle. He would do well, get a job then all the money would be spent on crack and he would cause problems in the house, he would get kicked out, get clean and then start the cycle again.
Alvin wanted to help him and tried to, helping find numerous jobs. After about 3 times of this happening while in one his drug binges the brother in law became violent and Alvin had to step in so no one got hurt and the police were called. When they arrived the situation had deescalated but as they ran everyone's name they found that Alvin had served time for a violent offense and was still on probation. He was immediately arrested for probation violation and has been sitting in jail for 7 months while he awaits his fate. He could have to serve the rest of his original sentence which would be another 5 years. As Alvin was telling me his story he said I don't even remember what I was I like back when I committed my crime. I can't remember what kind of clothes I wore, what food or music I liked it is a different world.
As I left my conversation with Alvin, I thought he is taking this much better than I would. He is positive and helping other men who he is incarcerated with. In the past he had a reputation for fighting, causing problems, and being an annoyance. Those days are behind him, he is a model prisoner. His life has changed and no matter if he is locked up or not he will be a positive influence to those around him.

I thoroughly enjoy listening and talking to people who do things that don't go along with the norm. Mr. Stoner and Mr. Eads are two men I grew so fond of so quickly. I tear up as I think of these men. Both are over the age of 75. My experience of serving with Kairos a couple of weekends ago was nothing short of amazing. Both of these men walk with the aid of a cane  and help. What first drew me to Mr. Stoner was his voice. His voice reminded so much of a baseball broadcaster's. It was deep but soothing. I wanted to find out more about him, he had indeed done radio. it wasn't sports but a small station in central Indiana. Mr. Stoner had been going through chemo before our retreat and was going to start the Monday after we were done. I asked him what made him want to do the retreat. He said he was a retired law enforcement officer. Immediately I had to ask why he wanted to come into a maximum security prison?  He gave some simple answer of being invited to serve with a friend. That wasn't a good enough answer so I pried. I said don't you have a dislike for prisoners, most people in law enforcement can't stand them and don't think they will ever change? Mr. Stoner looked me square in the eye and said they are wrong. I have been praying for these men ever since I started law enforcement when I was in my 20s. He then said I wish I had known about this opportunity earlier.
Mr Eads was amazing early 80s Parkinson disease, wife dementia.
Both of these men during the retreat were in charge of prayer. They prayed the whole weekend for the men for the speakers, every aspect, but most of all that God would create a break through in their lives.

People like this inspire, encourage, keep life in perspective and push me to continue following Jesus.