Friendships

This past week, a milestone in my incarceration passed … and its passing has left me with many emotions some of which are in conflict.

So what happened?

Someone I was close with, a friend, left to go to a halfway house.

His leaving at this time assures him of six months to find his way again in society after nearly seven years here inside.

My040 Friendship

This friend, we’ll call him Mike, was a lot younger than I. In fact, he’s the same age as my oldest and so some parental emotions grew in me. The desire to see him succeed in all things was strong, just as it is with my own children. He would often ask me for my opinion and advice in things he was doing to prepare for his release from exile. I always felt complimented by his bringing me into his confidence. I always responded in ways that I felt would help him to be successful in his reentry into society.

Mike is also intelligent and mature for his age which is interesting given his spending so much time inside while he was growing as an adult. Due to his maturity I also developed emotions of friendships. I often felt like I was talking to a peer instead of a man of 30.

Mike and I shared a passion as well – reading. He led me to many well written novels and to some authors whose work was above average in their genre. I introduced him to new genres and notable authors therein. I enjoyed our “book reviews” following the completion of a book read in common. I also enjoyed debating the relative merits of a book when we disagreed about and author or story.

But friendships of prison are temporary at best. Once released it is illegal for an outside felon to communicate with an inside felon and in fact, associating with another outside felon can violate the terms of one’s supervised release thus landing both back in prison. The Feds do their best to totally break all ties between felons. And this brings me to the emotion of anger.

Not all ties between felons are nefarious. I certainly would never pursue or encourage another felon to return to a life that brought them to prison to begin with. One aspect of prison is that it does make better criminals. Where else can a criminal go to find the wisdom of those that have succeeded in some measure and/or failed in other measures? Perhaps you’ve heard or read that, “prisons are an expensive way to make better criminals.” Well, it’s true. Conversations containing such statements as, “thanks, I’ll try this when I get out…,” or, “thanks, I’ll avoid that when I’m out,” happen almost daily. There are many who want to return to the lives of crime. I am not one and neither is Mike so a continued friendship between us would be clean of crime – but – it is forbidden due to those who would return to their former life.

The next emotion I feel is mourning. The loss of our friendship feels like, in many ways, the loss of a loved one. It’s permanent and leaves me behind as if I somehow survived something Mike fell victim to. It will take time to get over the loss. I pray for strength in this.

Lastly, I feel joy which is in direct conflict with the other emotions I feel. If I’ve met anyone who I believe will succeed it’s Mike. His drive, planning and natural abilities will lead him to happiness and success as a productive member of society. And I’m thrilled for him.

What have I learned from this?

That friendships are fragile and not of my own making inside. I lost all but one friend when I shared my crimes with them all before coming into prison, and I miss them. I miss Mike. I’ve also learned that friendships are cultivated over time and their resistance to failure comes from constant, positive, reinforcement. Finally, I’ve learned that all I can do here inside is feel joy for those that leave and then close the door to friendship gently.

Soon, I’ll transfer to another institution and I wonder how I’ll react at the loss of multiple friendships here in my current location. While I look forward to my new situation I fear the loss of my relationships here.

Appreciate your friendships. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and let them know you’re thinking of them for tomorrow they may be gone. It hurts to lose a friend.

~ jdoe

I Did It!

I’ve done it!

My040 I Did It
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Several days ago, I finished reading the Bible; yes, I read it cover to cover and it took me about 14 months to do it. I have a “Life Application Study Bible” that my sister sent in (thank you Sis!) and so I also read every study note written at the bottom of the pages. If you’ve ever seen or owned one of these Bibles, then you know there is more written in the study notes than actual verse in the Bible.  So, I don’t think 14 months is too bad given I read the equivalent of 2+ Bibles.

Many scholars of the Bible will tell you that it’s not necessary to read cover to cover but that instead you should seek out, through a concordance, verse that specifically applies to whatever issue, need, desire or event you’re dealing with.

But my own experience is that reading it word by word from beginning to end often brought to mind things from my past that I had never dealt with spiritually. It seemed that every book within the Bible spoke to some part of my life – past, present, and future. It also helped me to see when I’ve not lived the Christian life God intended. Reading it cover to cover also helped me to see where I struggle day to day – such as my being far too judgmental of others. As said in the Bible: remove the plank from your own eye before pointing out a sliver in another’s eye (Luke 6:42) , and, you will be judged by the same measure that you used to judge others (Matthew 7:2).

The Bible begins with two books that, when read back to back, make for a great action movie – as does the last book of the Bible; so, it begins as it ends – with creation at its heart. And between these books is a whole lot of life and wisdom. One thing I learned is that there truly is nothing new under the sun. If you’re experiencing it in your life today I guarantee you there is verse and wisdom to help you to integrate your challenges into your life AND a lifeline to cling to.

When I shared my accomplishment of finishing the Bible with a friend here in prison he asked me what the greatest lesson was that I learned. On the surface it’s easy to quote the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and,”…love your neighbor as yourself,” [Mat 22:37-39] and so I did. My friend wasn’t satisfied and he rephrased his question to, “what was your biggest personal learning about your life?” I said I didn’t know and that I not looked at that relationship in that way as it never occurred to me to do so.

I lied.

I knew the answer and it’s been painful to accept the truth of it all. So, what is my truth?

I wasn’t the husband and father that God wanted me to be while conversely, my wife was, or tried to be, the woman God asked her to be.

Maybe I’m my own worst critic but the truth is when I’m called to account for my life I’ll have a lot to answer for. It’s not that I didn’t do anything right because I did but when the successes are balanced against the failures I’ll be found wanting. And when accounting for my failures I’ll have no rational explanations for my actions.

My friend also asked me if reading the Bible and applying it to my life changed my prayers. Again, I said I’d have to think on it but that my first reaction was that I now prayed more for others and less for me.

A partial lie.

The truth is that I pray fervently that my family will give me the chance to be the husband and father – the man – that God asks. I’m human. I’m a sinner. I’ll stumble, fall and fail but I will get up and try again if my family can forgive the sinner that I am I promise them I’ll make them the greatest part of my life. It’s a lot to ask but I have no choice as my family does mean everything to me here on earth so I ask them and I ask God for this chance.

Thinking through my friend’s questions caused me to become quite introspective. And, of course, I had to admit to myself that I cannot attain heaven without making significant changes within myself and ultimately without giving my life over to Jesus, my Lord and Savior. It is a universal truth.

I’m a sinner and I fail daily. I ask for forgiveness each night as I lay down and pray. I promise God to do a little better every day. And then I start this cycle, the next day, all over again.

My advice is to read the Bible cover to cover at least once and to find your truths; then pray for wisdom and guidance and forgiveness.

It’s all there in God’s Word. He gave His Son that we might have eternal life. Turn the pages and turn to Him.

~jdoe

Do Unto Others…

My040 Do Unto Others

Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Did you honor your mother? I made sure to send cards to the three mothers in my life – my mother, my wife and my sister and I also called.  I did this because I love them and it’s that feeling of love that brought me to contemplate what love is in Biblical terms.

The greatest commandment is to love God wholly and the second is to love others as you love yourself. I’ve been struggling with this second commandment a lot lately.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of people in prison that are not nice. It’s these people I’m having trouble “loving.”  They’re selfish, rude, inconsiderate and disrespectful – not much to love, right?

So, I set about discovering what was meant by “love others as you love yourself.” This effort took me throughout the Bible; yet it is was John’s three letters, along with the Holy Spirit, that helped me to see what it means to love others as I love myself.

Now, it must be said that I have no emotion I’d label as love for myself, at least not like I feel for my wife, mother or sister.  For me, I connected love with an emotion – and admittedly the emotion I feel for others in prison is NOT love.  It is discouraging trying to love others and feeling all sorts of emotions other than love.

So, I meditated on it and I listened for the Holy Spirit to talk to me and He did. The Holy Spirit told me to read the Bible! But wasn’t that what I was already doing? I felt a little let down by this direction as what I’d read provided no particular concept on love when it’s hard.

I’m reading the Bible from cover to cover right now. I’d just finished 2Peter when the Holy Spirit said to read the Bible and so as I continued reading, the next three books were John’s three letters. They’re like little gems in the Bible and are quick, easy reads. Yet they held for me, the answer to what it means to love others as I love myself and it gave new meaning to the phrase, “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

What I learned is that love can be an emotion, an action or both but that they are not necessarily connected. What drove this home for me was John’s constant talk of taking action to show love and his admonishment to love one another. For example, in 1John 4:9, we are told that God showed His love for us by sending His only Son into the world for us. Yes, God was reacting to an emotion of love that He felt for us but just as importantly He took action.  Again, in 3John 1:5-8, a letter to Gaius, John talks of showing hospitality to strangers and then sending them on their way in a manner that honors God. John was telling Gaius to take action, not to have love as an emotion for these strangers and it hit me…

I don’t need to feel the emotion of love in order for me to show love.

I need simply to act.

Perhaps this is obvious to you, but it was a revelation for me! It changes everything about how I interact with those whose personalities and actions are challenging – I can act in a loving way and thus fulfill the second greatest commandment.  Just as I don’t feel the emotion of love towards myself I try to treat myself in a loving way and it’s that manner of treatment that God wants us to share and so, “do unto others…”

So I’m trying to put this into practice. It’s not always easy, as kindness is often taken as weakness inside these walls; and once you’re seen as weak you become a target for all sorts of abuses. But I’m trying none the less. I’m saying excuse me when others bump into me. I’m giving the beggar of coffee a spoonful of my instant and I’m listening to the “whiner” when he needs an ear – and other things as well.

Read the three letters of John (they’re brief and can be read in less than 30 minutes) and find your own blueprint for love.

~jdoe

Life On The Inside – Part 5

My040 Digging Ditches

By law all federal inmates must have a job within the institution in which they are incarcerated. I’m sure there are exceptions to this like death row inmates and those deemed too dangerous to be among the general population but for those who are able they must have a job of some sort.

My first job was being a weekend orderly within my housing unit. I’d get up every Saturday, Sunday and holiday at 4:00am and scrub the showers. It was an okay job as it left the rest of the day and all week to myself to do with as I please. However, it was also a dirty job that quickly became an “icky” job. I did this for nearly two years. And for the work I put in I was paid $17.04 per month. Now I have a new job.

I was approached by an orderly working in the medical services building about taking a position there as an orderly. I jumped at the chance as it would mean not cleaning showers anymore though I imagined I’d be cleaning bathrooms instead. Anyway, I applied and got the job. My responsibilities now include dust, wet and dry mopping the waiting room and entrance hall, disinfecting all surfaces anyone might touch in these same areas, vacuuming the rugs and washing the windows in all the doors and the front entrance. There’s a lot of surface area to care for but it’s not a tough job. Thankfully, I only do the bathrooms when the two orderlies responsible for the bathrooms are busy with something special; it’s been a month now and I’ve only done one bathroom. For this job I am paid $27 per month.

So what’s the downside to this orderly Utopia? I start at 7:00am and am done cleaning everything by 8:30am if I work diligently and non-stop. Sounds okay on the surface but the hook is that I must be there until 10:30am so I end up sitting for about two hours. I try to make busy work because my work ethic is that if I’m being paid then I’m working but you can only wash the windows so many times before there’s nothing really to clean. Yes, people put their hands all over the glass – it’s like being with a bunch of 3rd graders in here – so I can wash the windows a dozen times and still not keep up.

And I am not the only one who ends up sitting. ALL of we orderlies end up sitting. The two others have the responsibility for cleaning the hallways and offices. This takes the two of them about two hours to complete so we often finish at about the same time. When I ask them if I can help them they look at me and say, “no, we’re trying to keep busy too.” The fourth orderly checks people in as they arrive for their appointments, so his work is “on” during about ten minutes at the top of each hour and “off” for the remaining 50 minutes.

So why the waste of paying for the three of us to sit for two hours and the fourth to sit for nearly three?

Part of it is that there are nearly 2000 men here that need a “job.” And so every area (medical, facilities, education, plumbing, HVAC, etc.) has to over staff in order to allow the institution to say that every man here has a job. The waste is built in by the Fed’s own law. I feel fortunate to have a working job because those who have a “job” like sitting in the facilities building all day doing literally nothing are only paid $5.25 a month – not even enough to keep them in hygiene products each month. At least I have some extra cash left over after buying shampoo, soap, toothpaste and deodorant. (I should say here that my mother puts money on my account each month and so I am blessed with not having the monetary challenges so many in here have – thank you Mom! I try to help someone not getting any money from outside and on the $5.25 pay grade by buying them one or two of their hygiene products – my way of giving back and helping those really in need.)

Part of me wishes there wasn’t this waste and that I could work for the full 3.5 hours I’m at work but part of me sees the need for others to take part in the better pay pool. Yes, there’s waste of the human resources but in the end more will benefit from this waste.

My thinking is that if the Feds are going to incarcerate the world’s largest population of inmates then they should also find meaningful work for them to do. Some locations have something called UNICORE which is an internal company that turns out commercial products. Examples include clothing, steel lockers and patent write ups. There are others, but you get the idea. Personally, I think they should seek ways to increase UNICORE’s size and output so that every man has a “real job” to perform. Together with the areas I outlined previously there should be ample opportunity to employ all so that NO ONE is only making $5.25 per month (I also know of people making $0.00 per month but how this happens I’m not sure).

So while you’re at work over the next few days, stop and think how it would be to have to sit for more than half your workday, or even you entire “work” day, doing nothing. I know that there are times when it’s all people can think of but when put into practice it quickly becomes burdensome. Idleness is not an easy thing to live with while at work.

~jdoe

Done. And Done.

My040 Done and Done

Two posts ago, in Decisions, Decisions (Life On The Inside – Part 4), I shared that I had a decision to make concerning a program offered at another institution.  When I wrote that posting I said I’d have made my decision by the time you read the post.  That turned out to be wrong.  Today, April 15, I made the decision.  Why did it take so long to make my decision?  Reservations on my part mostly having to do with things other than the program.

My biggest reservation has to do with the fact that it has taken my two years to carve out a ‘life’ within this institution.  Putting together a circle of acquaintances and friends is not easy for me.  I’m introverted, and I am not the one to walk up to someone and introduce myself and then make small talk which would lead to making a new acquaintance or friend.  When I think of my small circle of people here they are primarily those who either approached me or introduced me to someone with whom I might share something in common.

Next is a fear that I will be put into an unsatisfactory living situation.  When I first came where I am today I was placed in a cube with a ‘hater’ who also happened to be the primary drug supplier for my housing unit.  A ‘hater’ is someone who, because of your crime, hates on you with verbal abuse and, in extreme cases, physical assault.  The one I was placed with was verbally abusive and threatened to have me beat up by those in the unit who relied on him for their drug fix.  Of course, I alerted the unit counselor of the situation asking him to move me before anything happened but he left me there for a month to the day.  During that month I lived in fear for my safety while putting up with name calling and insults as well as the exclamations of hatred and predicted harm if I didn’t move out.  That experience has kind of scared me.  (You can read more about that situation in Love Thy Enemy and Love Thy Enemy – Concludes.)

After this come the more minor fears such as finding a decent job in the new institution, learning the policies and procedures, using the showers per inmate standards, finding radio stations and programs, establishing an exercise routine, and the list goes on.

Imagine being plucked from the society in which you now live and being dropped into a whole new society, culture, and geography.  If you sat and contemplated this in its fullest measure you’d have an idea of what an inmate faces when changing institutions.

Having said all this, you might think I’ve decided against applying for the program – but no, I’m turning in my application this coming Wednesday, the 18th.  Why did I decide to do this?

In talking about the program and its benefits with my wife, while also sharing my reservations and fears, she said she’d support me whatever I chose to do.  However, she also shared a perspective I had not considered:  Maybe I was actually more afraid of change in general.  I had to admit to myself that yes, change does frighten me because with change comes some loss of control and comfort borne of familiarity.  She also pointed out that my Parole Officer may look on someone coming out of the program more favorably than someone coming out of general population who hadn’t made the effort to better themselves.  My wife is wise and observant.

Secondly, I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to talk to me and give me guidance in my decision, and I believe it has come in two ways.

The first way is through my study Bible.  I’m reading Colossians and the way my Bible is laid out is the top half of the page is the Bible passages and the bottom half is made up of teaching notes about the verses above.  Well, the teaching notes recently have been about trusting God and knowing that through Him all things are possible.  So, I’ve decided to put it in God’s hands because there’s a chance I won’t be accepted.

The second way happened yesterday as I walked the track.  I was walking along contemplating my decision and literally asking for the Holy Spirit to talk to me; to make it obvious to me what I was to do.  As I thought this, a guy I know only by sight and name came up behind me and put his arm around me.  As he did this he said, “Have you put your name in for the Life Connection Program yet?”  I was dumb founded.  I asked him how he knew I was thinking about it and he said, “I didn’t but you’re a spiritual person, so I figured you’d be interested.”  I’ve spoke to this guy maybe a half dozen times and there he was, putting his arm around me, and in essence, telling me to do it – in fact his last comment was, “Better pull the trigger on that,” as he walked away.  Couldn’t be more obvious could it?  Doesn’t that sound like the Holy Spirit speaking to me through others?

Finally, making this move would put me within a half hour of my two oldest children, within two hours of my youngest child and shave three hours off my wife and mother’s drive to visit me, while also saving money in travel expenses.  Sadly, it will add three hours onto my sister’s drive to see me which does sadden me for she’ll go from half a day’s drive to all day.

So there you have it, my process for making my decision.  I’d be interested in your stories of difficult decision making and whether you felt God had interceded by given you a sign in some form.

As things progress around this I’ll keep you informed.

My advice:  Listen, for God does speak to you.

~jdoe

Forgiveness

During my wife’s last visit, we talked about forgiveness. We didn’t get into all the differences between my view of forgiveness and her view but I was left with a new perspective; one that I hadn’t ever considered before. The outcome for me is not being sure if I can forgive myself for what I’ve done to the family, both near and far. I do know that I’ll have lots of relationships to heal but I can’t help thinking that in order for them to heal I must both forgive myself and have the other person find it in their heart to forgive me too. Without forgiveness life would be a constant test of my will and commitment to living life anew in only healthy ways. While I have confidence in myself and faith that God will see me through, I’m not so sure I can count on others’ confidence and faith in me. I hope that for those of you withholding forgiveness for a wrong done to you that the song below will help you to see that forgiveness, while often hard and perhaps seemingly impossible, is what we owe each other, and perhaps ourselves, as followers of Christ Jesus.

~jdoe

Forgiveness by Matthew West

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those who don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
Takes everything you have to say the w

ord

Forgiveness, forgiveness
It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you’ve got a right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying set it free
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness
It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do
So let it go and be amazed by what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness
I want finally set it free
Show me how to see what your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Songwriters: Matthew West / Matthew Joseph West

Decisions, Decisions (Life On The Inside – Part 4)

My040 Decisions Decisions
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

I have a decision to make; by the time this posting hits the blog I will have made my decision but I think posting it will help others to see at least one program in the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) that is helpful.

As you all know, I’m on a spiritual journey as I serve my time. This time has given me the opportunity to concentrate on my faith in a way I would not have in the world. And now I have an opportunity to take the next step in my spiritual maturity.

The BOP offers a program called “Life Connections” wherein you have the time and assignments helping you grow in your individual faith, while also learning about other faiths. It’s an 18 month program offered at two institutions, neither of which is the one I’m in currently.

So why am I interested? Beyond growth in my faith, I feel that having a broader understanding of other religions will aid me in accepting others and not being as judgmental as I am. Also, I see my faith as foundational in my relationships with others. Finally, I see my faith and the lessons from this program as tools in my efforts, once out of prison, to avoid recidivism.

I’ve been given the application to fill out, which I have done. There’s a chance I will not  be accepted. But first I have to decide if I’ll turn in my application.

So why am I hesitating if my faith is so important to me?

Worldly concerns and fears.

I have carved out a life where I am. I have a bunk I like, have good cellmates, have friends and a routine I follow weekly. It’s taken me two years to achieve what I have and now I’m contemplating giving it all up.

Additionally, I’d have to go through the BOP’s transfer process which is VERY frustrating and I’m fearful for my safety in the transfer. In the process every level of security and crime is placed together in general population thus exposing people like myself to violent offenders. The way it works is every prisoner being moved is taken to Oklahoma City and warehoused there until an opening in their destination becomes available and the prisoner is then flown to their destination. It seems wasteful and unnecessary but it’s the government, so to be expected.

Once in my new location I have to worry about a new cellmate, developing new friendships and adjusting to a new prison’s operations.

Essentially, I’m giving up my comfortable existence now for an uncomfortable period at the new location. I know the discomfort is transient but it’s hard to put into words the stress and tension experienced in prison when trying to carve out an existence; especially for a sex offender.

So what to do? I feel a pull to make the move which is countered with my worldly fears and concerns. I’m about 80% certain I’ll apply, it will take some assurance within myself and through others like my wife. She’s supportive of whatever decision I make but has been instrumental in helping me to see the benefits of making the move.

There’s also a personal gain in making the move: I’d be closer to my wife, children and mother which is positive in terms of visitation. On the other hand, I’d be farther from my sister whom I love dearly and whose visits I value greatly. Right now I’m halfway between my wife and my sister and this move would add about three hours onto my sister’s drive when she came to visit.

I’ll let you know my decision in my next posting. Until then be well, be happy,  be YOU!

~jdoe

The 2012 Life Connections BOP Memorandum

Life On The Inside – Part 3

My040 Education
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Education

The last question posed by my friends about life on the inside regarded educational opportunities.  Again, as with my other entries in this series I can only relay what is true of this institution.

The only real educational opportunity is to support those pursuing their GED.  There is a set of classes, taught by other inmates, established for those who never graduated high school.  While there are teachers on staff, all of the classes are taught by inmates.  I don’t know how these particular inmates are chosen to be the actual teachers, but they do a fairly effective job.  I’ve been told that it’s Federal law that those who do not have their high school diploma or their GED certificate must enroll in the GED program.  However, there are many people without their diploma/certificate that are not.  How or why this is true I do not know.

The next level of ‘education’ are the Adult Continuing Education (ACE) classes.  Again, these are classes taught by inmates and cover a wide variety of topics.  The topics are determined by what the inmate wants to teach.  Some examples of course topics include: Paranormal Activities; Real Estate; Stock Market; and Commercial Driver’s License.  Some, like Paranormal Activities have no real educational benefits for life after prison.  Also, the ACE classes go don’t earn the students any college credits so taking the ACE classes is really a measure of an inmate’s desire to do something with their time and drive to do something that may glean some level of information.  I took the Small Business course and was pleased with the class.  The inmate teaching it was interesting to listen to and obviously knew what he was teaching.  I’ve also taken the stock market class and was very disappointed.  While the teacher knew the info, he did not teach a broad overview of the market, instead he focused on one small aspect of trading and we spent the entire sixteen sessions on that one thing.  In my opinion, it was a failure.

For those like me, with a college degree there is no real further educational opportunity offered by the institutional.  Also, they are not helpful if an inmate wants to pursue correspondence courses.  It is entirely up to the inmate to find any such coursework.  They do not allow inmates to take these outside courses if the course requires access to the internet, video tapes or CDs.  All work must be exclusively pen and paper.  This severely limits what’s available and for the most part limits someone’s achieving a degree.  I was hoping to get a two year degree but gave that up.  While not impossible to get a degree, it would be excessively difficult.

Overall, how do I assess education inside?  Beyond the GED program I’d say they’re not serious or interested in helping the inmate.  It’s sad as they create a wasteland for those truly trying to better themselves.

And what is worse is that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has sponsored studies done showing that the higher a person’s educational level the less likely they are to recidivate!  The numbers clearly support that education is directly tired to keeping offenders from returning to prison.  It would benefit society if the BOP were serious about education.  It’s one more example of how there’s essentially no focus on rehabilitation for the inmate.

If you have any questions about life on the inside, please feel free to ask.

~jdoe

I’m A Winner

Have you ever called yourself a loser?

I have and sometimes still do.

It’s a harsh label and one I wish I didn’t use.

How many times have you looked at another person and said to yourself, “At least I’m not as bad as that person.”?  Isn’t that really the same thing as calling another person a loser; at least situationally, only to find yourself doing the same thing?  For example, I find myself saying it daily as I walk the compound here.  People can’t seem to get the idea that you should walk as you drive – on the right side of the walkway.  And minutes later I find myself walking on the left.  Then I justify it within my head by saying something like, “At least I don’t do it when there are people walking toward me.”  That’s when I find myself gently chiding myself with a, “You’re just as bad as those who walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk.”  In essence I’m calling myself a loser.

When I think of having landed in prison I also call myself a loser.  I knew that what I was doing was against the law, yet I chose to risk prison to satisfy my addiction.  Only losers do that, right?  So by that definition, I’m living with about 2000 other losers.  Yet I know people inside this place that I would not label that way so why do I still generalize the way I do?  Perhaps it’s to make myself feel better about myself – at the expense of others.

On the lighter side, I sometimes lose my train of thought in conversations, lose my reading glasses and ballpoint pens (though I suspect they’re actually stolen).

When I think about being separated from family and friends I also call myself a loser; a loser of time and interaction.  I’m also a loser of my career and income important to my family’s well being and security.

Fortunately, I have a family and some friends who do not label me as a loser and I wish ardently that I could see myself through their eyes.

Recently, during a time when I was really down on myself, I started thinking of famous losers.  Those who perhaps appeared successful or were actually successful in some measure or measures.  I figured that if I could find one or two maybe I could look at myself differently.

The first person I thought of was Elvis Presley (yes, I’m a fan).  Elvis had it all; fame and fortune but he died of a drug overdose losing everything.

The second person I thought of was Jesus.  I know that today we don’t see Him that way but in His day many would call Him a loser.  Think of it – having no earthly possessions, rejected by those in power, betrayed by one of His disciples, scourged, and dying the tortuous death of a criminal with unbelievers surrounding His crucifixion with taunts of “Save yourself if you’re the Messiah!”  Pretty much the description of a loser.

And yet …

Today we see Jesus for who and what He is – our Lord and Savior who lost His life that we may live.  By losing His life He turned us into winners – if we turn to Him.  With this new perspective I can redefine myself as a winner, right?  Think of it!  By accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, asking that the Holy Spirit fill me and doing my honest best to live as God wants me to live I become a winner!  Sure, I may lose some day-to-day battles and have lost a lot in my past but when thinking of the race that truly matters I may come out a winner.

My040 I'm A Winner

Won’t you run this race with me?

~jdoe

To My Love

My040 To My Love

Valentine’s Day.

A day to celebrate the one we love. I’ve sent out my cards. Yes, I said cardS. Why more than one? I have four significant women in my life – mother, sister, daughter and wife. Each is important to me in unique ways but it’s my wife I want to write about now.

My wife and I met in high school while out ice skating with mutual friends. I thought she was stunning. She had, and still has, the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen. When she smiles I go weak in the knees.

About three months after meeting her we went on our first date and we’ve been together since. That’s not to say we haven’t had difficult times but through them all we always returned to each other.

So how long ago was that first date? That was 37 years ago. I’m now 55 so well over half my life has been spent with this amazing lady. It seems like only yesterday I was asking for her at her front door while being scrutinized by her father.

Words. What words can do my wife justice?

She’s loyal, dedicated ,earnest, reliable, true, wise, inspiring, faithful, honest, helpful, kind, sincere, a terrific mother, a good friend, daughter, sister, aunt. She’s intuitive, smart, dependable, funny, serious, creative, complicated and simple. She’s fun, competent, talented, achieving, tireless, brave, independent, admirable and the list goes on. Words are simply inadequate to convey what is in my heart and on my mind when it comes to this lady.

I can’t imagine life without her. I wonder who I’d be had she not entered my life. My successes are, in large part, due to her unwavering love and support.

She is my rock and my light.

I love this woman with all that I am or ever will be. She completes me and fills the voids in my heart and soul.

If I could say just one thing to her I would say, “thank you.” Thank you for choosing me to give yourself to.

I love you babe.

~jdoe

Thank you Dierks Bentley, Josh Kear, and Ross Copperman for writing such a fitting song, lyrics follow

Woman, Amen

Performed by Dirks Bentley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXOTJ-tluUU

I’d lose my way and I’d lose my mind
If I faced one day on my own
I know I was saved
The night that she gave this drifter’s heart a home

Every night I should be on my knees
Lord knows how lucky I am
I’ll never say near enough
Thank God for this woman, Amen

This world has a way of shaking your faith
I’ve been broken again and again
But I need all the cracks in my shattered heart
‘Cause that’s where her love gets in

Every night I should be on my knees
Lord knows how lucky I am
I’ll never say near enough
Thank God for this woman, Amen

She gives me faith
She gives me grace
She gives me hope
She gives me strength
She gives me love
Love without end
Thank God for this woman, Amen

Thanks for the moon and the stars up above
Forgiveness’ a sin in your undying love
Every twist every turn for the way you made sure
All my roads led to her

So tonight I will fall down on my knees
‘Cause Lord knows how lucky I am
I’m gonna shout at the top of my lungs
Thank God for this woman, Amen
And thank God for this woman, Amen

She gives me faith
She gives me grace
She gives me hope
She gives me strength
She gives me love
Love without end
Thank God for this woman, Amen