Time for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time when we recognize the blessings and graces in our lives.

I’d like to thank God for His love and His graces in my life of which there are many. I’d like to thank my wife, without her love and support I’d have a very dark and lonely existence. I’d like to thank my family for their continued support and understanding. Without them I’d be lost for direction. I’d like to thank my sister for all of her work with this blog. She really makes it happen. I’d like to thank those friends that have stayed with me. They are truly God’s perfect representation of caring for the prisoners in the world. I’d like to thank my readers, both current and new. Without you this blog would have no purpose.

I’m sure there are a hundred more things and people to be thankful for and I am.

I hope that, for all of you, these days are filled with God’s graces and blessings, family and friends and remembrances of what really matters in life.  ~jdoe

Thank You For Healing Me

by Matt Redman

Yes, You stepped in with Your power to save
Let forgiveness reign
Worked a miracle within

Thank You for healing me
I was dying beneath my shame
But You brought me to life again, I will sing
Thank You for freeing me
I was dead to the truth of You
But my healing was in Your wounds, and now I sing
Thank You for healing me

Though outwardly I may waste away
On the inside I’ll be more alive every day
As I walk through times of pain and grief
There’s a deeper truth inside of me…
You have placed Your life inside of me
So I sing

Thank You for healing me
I was dying beneath my shame
But You brought me to life again, and I will sing
Thank You for freeing me
I was dead to the truth of You
But my healing was in Your wounds, and I will sing
Thank You for healing me

Time and Time Again?

Anniversaries

Days we look forward to; sometimes with joy and sometimes with dread.

My040 Time and Time Again

My wife and I look forward to the anniversary of our first date with excitement because we’ve been together since.  That’s nearly 37 years!  On the other hand, I feel a level of sorrow as the date of my older sister’s passing rolls around.  She wasn’t even in her mid-40s when cancer took her.  Then there are those anniversaries that perhaps bring both good and bad feelings, maybe birthdays as we age.  I know I’m not looking forward to turning 55 next year, yet at the same time I do enjoy the recognition the day brings for me.

Recently, two anniversaries came hand-in-hand, and I wasn’t sure how to feel about them.

The first was the two year anniversary of my incarceration date.  On the one hand, it was exciting in that it meant that, in essence, two-fifths of my sentence was over leaving me with the challenge of getting through the remaining three-fifths.  I felt good about that.  On the other hand, it brought back into sharp focus the years of productive life I was losing and a reminder of the crime I’d committed.  So… some excitement and some sorrow.  It made me wonder:  How will I feel at the half-way point or even the three year anniversary?  Will I look at my time remaining as all downhill or will I feel even stronger about the wasted part of my life?

The second anniversary that followed immediately on the heels of my incarceration date was the 20th anniversary of this institution’s entry into operation.  We inmates were put on lock down for an entire day while the staff celebrated the day.  And it made me wonder:  Should we celebrate the life of such an institution or mourn its very existence?  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that I, and the others here, have a debt to pay for our transgressions.  Yet I still cannot see the joy in a society for having such places.  In the U.S. alone there are about 700,000 inmates incarcerated somewhere with about 50,000 waiting in holding locations for their institution assignment.

Isn’t celebrating the anniversary of such institutions sort of like celebrating the fact they’re all overcrowded with lives losing productive years?  When I made this connection I became upset.  I looked around at all the people who are capable, and willing, to return to society as productive, law abiding, citizens and yet are stuck here in punishment (the truth is that there is no real rehabilitation for anyone within the prison system so it’s all punishment).

My personal conclusion is that no one should ever celebrate the life of a prison but should instead mourn the need for and existence of, such an institution.

I wanted to check my outlook and so asked those I know inside for their thoughts around the staffs celebration.  Unanimously all said it was ridiculous to hold such a celebration because it couldn’t happen without the inmate population.  Several said they felt insulted and minimized beyond the scope of being punished for their crime.  Yet not one said that punishment was unfair or unnecessary except that all agreed that sentences are too long across the board.  But that’s another issue altogether unless you stop to think that maybe more reasonable sentences would actually reduce the number of prisons – and thereby reduce the number of institutional anniversaries.

I also asked one staff member how they felt about it and was told that it was really a day to recognize the staff itself.  My thought: Hold a staff appreciation day and call it that, even if it’s an additional day of staff appreciation for the year (they do hold multiple staff appreciation days already).

All these thoughts of anniversaries brought to mind something I was told by the psychologist I was working with prior to my incarceration.  I was growing anxious about the anniversary of the start of the investigation into my case and wanted to work through those feelings with her.  It was then she said: “There’s no such thing as an anniversary.  There are only days we attach importance to, sometimes unnecessarily and unhealthily.”  When I challenged that statement she replied, “Then tell me how today is actually different from yesterday,” and I couldn’t.  For example: When you get married, that day is different from the day before because you became legally bound to another.  One year later, however, you do not become unbound the day before the ‘anniversary’ so that on the ‘anniversary’ your status changes again back to being legally bound to your partner.  It actually makes a lot of sense.

And that’s why I’ve written this post.

We all have a choice to make about ‘anniversaries.’  We can invest whatever amount of emotional energy into the day we desire.  It is a choice.  I’ve decided not to invest negative emotional energy into the sorrowful ‘anniversaries’ that lie within my lifetime.  It’s not worth it.  My daughter was married on the second ‘anniversary’ of the start of the investigation into my transgression.  Should I feel sorrow and regret over my actions or excitement and joy for her new life each year on that date?  Wouldn’t the former taint the latter?  And why punish myself each year when I can celebrate my daughter and son-in-law instead?

Do yourself a favor, let go of the negative, sorrowful, ‘anniversaries’ and throw yourself into the joyous ones instead.  Life will become easier and more exciting. ~jdoe