Life Connections (Life on the Inside – Part 6)

My040 Life Connections
Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

I have written twice of my desire to attend a program called “Life Connections Program,” [LCP] : Decisions, Decisions (Life On The Inside – Part 4)  and Done. And Done..   This program is faith based and is offered at two institutions, but not in the one I am currently.  One of the locations that offers the LCP is closer to my wife by about a three hour drive time. The other institution that offers LCP is 13 hours away from my wife, one way.  So, going to the second institution would severely limit her visitation due to the longer drive and added costs of such a trip. Currently she visits once a month but at the farther institution she probably only visit twice yearly.

So what’s my status?  I’m frustrated.  Current life connections are impacting my potential of attending this Life Connections program.  I am still waiting for a reply as whether I’ve been accepted and if so to which institution are they wanting to send me.

I turned in my paperwork in mid-March and it was not processed until the first week in August. I have no idea why it has taken so long to be sent to the overall program coordinator other than pure laziness on the part of my case worker.

What is a case worker? It’s the individual who is tasked with helping an inmate to grow and succeed during their incarceration. My case worker does not appear to be competent or motivated to do her job. Otherwise it would not have taken 4.5 months to process the paperwork and get it to the LCP lead. Meanwhile I sit with high anxiety waiting to find out where they will designate my move.

And why do I carry all of this anxiety?

When my case worker finally decided to get on with processing my paperwork she paged me to her office to find if I was still interested in attending LCP. I said I was as long as I was sent to my preferred location. In response she said there’s no guarantee and that I was, “rolling the dice,” as to where I’d be placed. She also said she could not recommend a location either (I later found out this is not entirely true – argh!) So I asked her not to process my paperwork until I had a chance to talk with the on-site coordinator here where I am. She handed me the paperwork and said to return it to her when I’d made up my mind. Four days later I spoke to the on-site coordinator about the two locations and he assured me I’d go to the one I want.  So, with that I tried returning my paper work to my case worker but she wasn’t holding open office hours as she is required to do. In the end I had to give the paper work to my counselor who then handed it in for me. This place is so dysfunctional it’s crazy!

So that brings me to today. Today my paper work is in the hands of the program coordinator in Washington, D.C. Hopefully, I’ll know where I’m going within the next few weeks. At that time I’ll write up another posting letting you know if I’m going to my preferred location. If not, then I’m going to back out of this effort because seeing my wife monthly is far more important to me than LCP.

I’m a man of prayer. I pray daily that I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be and I leave it in God’s hands. And that brings me to you. If you’re reading this post I’d like to ask that you too pray for me. Just pray and say, “Dear Lord, please place jdoe in his preferred location,” and then thank Him for His support.

I thank you all for your help and if you ever need someone to pray for something or someone, please feel free to ask through this blog. I will pray continuously for you/your need. Let’s work to support each other!

~jdoe

What Goes Around…

My040 What Goes Around

In one of my earliest writings I spoke about my having been placed in a cell with the drug king of my unit. (See Love Thy Enemy and Love Thy Enemy – Concludes)  He was also a hater, hating people with my crime. I told of how, after a month of his verbal abuse I was moved into a different cell. And this move coincided with my realization that by returning love to his cruelty I’d be living Jesus’ command to love one another.

What I didn’t write about was the third cellmate in that first cell. He would taunt me verbally and daily ask me when I was moving out. It was his verbal abuse though that was most distressing for me. Finally, he moved into the RDAP (Residential Drug Awareness Program) unit and so I was left alone, and I sighed a breath of relief.

Here, two years later, that third cellmate returned and he was placed into my current cell.

I had no idea what to expect of him. I wondered, and still wonder, if it’s possible he has changed in the two years he was in RDAP.

I also wondered what emotions I might have seeing, and living with, him daily. So, I set about examining my feelings around this new arrangement.

The first emotion I had to deal with was fear. I don’t think he’d ever instigate a physical altercation, but he might become verbally abusive. Yet in the two weeks he’s been with me he hasn’t uttered a single insult – at least not within my hearing.

The next was to look at how I feel about him as a human being. God said to love thy neighbor as you love yourself. I needed to then change my feelings about him as a destructive force in my life and turn it into a positive feeling that he was here.

And that lead into an examination of whether or not I had, or could, forgive him for his treatment two years ago. In my examination of my forgiveness I had to admit that I’d forgiven him a long time ago.

I find that forgiveness is more often for the person doing the forgiving than it is for those that have wronged us. I find I don’t carry any amount of the pain I suffered through him. Consequently, I had to admit to myself that I could accept him as a person and give the new living arrangement a chance.

So, here we are two weeks later, and he’s been very respectful toward me. It’s not that we have conversations, we don’t, but that we can live together in peace.

Has he changed? I really don’t know but whenever we interact I do my best to give love.

I think for me that the forgiving him first has allowed me to accept him. It has also allowed me to move on from what was a horrible beginning to my incarceration.

If you’re harboring ill will for someone who hurt you in some way, I would say that you need to forgive that person and their treatment of you. Forgiveness isn’t always for the tormentor but is instead for the one aggrieved.

Search your soul for the wrongs put upon you and start forgiving. It doesn’t mean you forget or condone the other person’s treatment of you; instead it means you’re releasing negativity and moving forward which in the end is loving yourself first and then returning love to the aggressor. God will love you for that as you are living His second greatest command.

Forgive – do it!

~jdoe

dream

“Let Jesus use you where you are.”  I’m trying to each day.  Are you?  This song by Josh Wilson reminds us how, and why we should.  ~jdoe

My040 dream small

“Dream Small” by Josh Wilson

It’s a momma singing songs about the Lord
It’s a daddy spending family time
That the world said he cannot afford
These simple moments change the world
It’s a pastor at a tiny little Church
Forty years of loving on the broken and the hurt
These simple moments change the world
Dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
Dream small
It’s visiting the widow down the street
Or dancing on a Friday with your friend with special needs
These simple moments change the world
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with bigger dreams
Just don’t miss the minutes on your way, your bigger things, no
‘Cause these simple moments change the world
So dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
So dream small
Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans from river
So dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
Yeah, five loaves and two fish’s could feed them all
So dream small
Dream small

Happy Anniversary

Anniversaries.

Days of celebration.

Two have come around.

My040 Happy Anniversary

The first is the second anniversary of this blog. And without you, dear readers, it would mean nothing. Thank you to those that follow my blog as well as those that visit occasionally or even just once. I consider it a privilege to write for you and an honor that you would come back to see my reflections from prison.

This blog has been therapeutic for me. It has helped me to write away a lot of emotional pain and detritus. As I’ve explored my faith I’ve worked to improve myself. I’m far from perfect, or even good or done, but I feel I’m a better man than when I was first incarcerated. And You’ve all shared my journey thus far and for that I am thankful to have had partners along the way.

The second anniversary is of more importance to me and it’s the 32nd anniversary of my marriage. The woman that has stood by my side through good times as well as bad is absolutely amazing. I’ve written of her before and I feel I’ve been able to share some of her through the words written here. I wish you could all know her personally for every life she touches is the better for it.

The time has passed by so quickly; where did it go? I can clearly recall the day of our wedding. Watching her walk down the aisle to me was inspiring. The look upon her face, that smile I love so much and the love in her eyes is still with me today. I can only say that she was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen – and still is today.

Yes, we’ve both aged. I have a lot less hair and a bigger waistline. She has lovely laugh lines at the corners of her eyes and a touch of gray in her hair and yet every time I see her I still see that same woman I married all those years ago. How blessed I am to have her in my life.

It’s a great week for me. Thanks to you all I’ve been able to share my musings from prison for two years. And thanks to my wife’s strength and commitment I have enjoyed the love of this woman for more than 37 years (32 years in marriage and more than 5 years dating prior to our marriage).

I love you dear wife and I’m looking forward to being by your side again soon. I hope all you readers are fortunate enough to have someone as special in your lives.

Be well and thank you all again.

~ jdoe

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