Hawaii 2010

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Whisting Dixie for a week

I moved to the south at age 11, halfway through the fifth grade. I left the south the last week of 1989, so from 1961 through 1989 I lived in Alabama and Mississippi. Jr. High, High School, College, Seminary, Four years in a small town., six years on the Gulf Coast.

I moved to Phoenix AZ and unpacked and got to living in January of 1990, if we are still here through the end of this year we will have lived in Arizona 28 years.  I am thus, really South Western of equal division.

We try to return to the south every couple of years. Last time was four years ago. We only have time to touch base with New Orleans, where the culture, the music and the architecture keep us enchanted. We are staying in the Mazarin, which was the Hotel St. Louis when we stayed there 42 years ago on our honeymoon. Nostalgia!

We visit the gulf coast area of Pascagoula, Gautier, Moss Point where we lived for seven years before we headed west, where Laura was raised, where I served a church for over 6 years. Where we enjoyed daily fellowship with Laura's mother, Mary, a wonderful women.

We visit Pensacola, where my Sister and Brother in Law have lived, where my parents ended their years and where they are buried. There we remember many happy vacations, and stick our toes in the white sand beach and stare at the ocean we love.

For one week we become southern, charmed by the accents we hear, the traditions we observe, and the food we love. We see some friends, we are all aging. As I look back over my two geographical lives, my young life, and the one we have lived in our huge western city, I see the blessings of each, try to minimize in my mind and heart the hurts, heartbreaks, and near financial disasters we weathered. I also remember all the good days, the simple pleasures, the weekly, yearly routines we observed as our own family grew up together, imperfectly, but together.

We still see the big scars from Katrina and other hurricanes, we still see the poverty and struggles that endure in the south, and the list of saints who have passed on grows in our mind and hearts, and we are oh so much closer to the reality if the day....When the Saints Go Marching in...I want to be in that number, When the Saints go marching in. Gumbo, grits, BBQ here we come. See Yall Soon!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Prison Renewal, my surprising second career

I am in my tenth month as a Prison Chaplain. We have 2000 Arizona Inmates and about 500 of them are involved in weekly spiritual activity. I spend 40 hrs a week overseeing the various meetings, and getting new inmates hooked in and counseling several hours a day with Bible Questions,  advice, comfort, and often tough love.

I preach three times on weekends to about 240 individuals in attendance total at one of the three services. So three fourth of  our spiritual population are Bible studying Christians. I have baptized over 100 men and though we see some continue to struggle with the patterns in their lives we also see so many so full of joy and habitual change that any doubts I may have about spiritual transformation are put to rest with living proof each week.

Most crime involves alcohol and drug abuse, and the result of being raised in severely dysfunctional families and continuing to replicate the lifestyle in their own lives. There are innocent men in the system, and many who would better serve the public by paying restitution rather than this penal systems incarceration. There are evil men here who will not break with the criminal mentality that brought them here. There are many finding ways to continue the insane use of drugs to find short periods of the high that seems to give them meaning and purpose. Drug dealers are willing to lose money supplying prisons because they know they will one day be in, and they can keep users who will one day get out and return to the lifestyle. Its all sad and tragic.

But....while I have strength, I see them as human beings, I look into their eyes, remember their names as more than numbers, and offer hope, forgiveness, strength through the practice of spiritual disciplines, and grace, grace and grace that is greater than our sin.

I am respected, protected and as safe as one can be in a place of keys and button pressing doors and sliding gates and managed movements everywhere. I love encouraging the young officers who are making decent money to put up with the daily chaos of prison life. I enjoy the teachers and drug counselors who have the same joy in seeing men fall in love with learning and find pride in obtaining goals in education.  I enjoy the professional leaders with years in prison management try to create a human and safe environment while these men pay their debt for crimes they have committed.

I enjoy watching men set new career goals and create dreams of new life when they get free.
I enjoy getting a paycheck every two weeks at age 67, getting up at 5 am and seeing awe inspiring sunrises on back country roads in my commute to Eloy AZ and back.I enjoy the precious time with Laura after a day at work and the bliss of my two days off each week.  I enjoy knowing that the years of study and developing a winsome style of teaching are being used in this strange new second career.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Almost a LIfestyle Change

This was Kauai 2006 with one of my more pronounced bellies.

As I near the end of my tenth week of eating for healing I am pleased to report the slow steady downward creep of the scale, 209 today from the 227 when I started. A week ago I woke up just wanting to eat like a normal human and had a crunchy cereal and a muffin...and a blood sugar of 245 for the rest of the morning. I was upset with myself and had a resurgence of commitment that is going strong. I cannot eat like a normal person, I have two auto immune diseases caused by poor eating choices. I also am currently experiencing my first bout of diverticulitus which I am pretty sure was caused by eating the that can goes with a daily handful of pistachios. This is another reason to have a healthy gut flora fed by foods that nourish and heal. Now that Amazon owns Whole Foods maybe even some of the specialty stuff I need will be more affordable.

My coach and inspiration Julie Ferwerda gave me more info and eating ideas this week and my two days off have been problem free in terms of giving in to temptation. This is almost a lifestyle change. I say almost because I am human, and we will eat out and I will have a piece of bread. When I despaired of ever even loosing below 220, trying and failing again and again, and in ten weeks have broken through 220 and 210, this healthy eating is for me as long as I live. The day I hit the 200 mark I am going to share new photos.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

How I have slowed down time and observed a moment by moment physical cure

Shortly after my last blog on living with an incurable disease called artherosclerosis, a dear friend asked me if I would be willing to read a book on health and nutrition. I have read a ton of them, but the "wheat belly" you see in this picture stubbornly stuck around my middle.

The book explained the foods that cause inflammation and heart disease and listed a protocol to stop the damage if I was willing to change the way I eat. Given my heart surgery reality I started on June 19th, almost a month ago. Hence the title how I slowed down time, for the no eat list contained just about everything that made life worth living, and without them time seemed to slow down, as each healthy joyless meal passed.

But, to be honest, something else happened almost immediately, my blood suger highs and lows were gone, and a sense of well being flooded me as my gut was fed healthy salads, vegetables, and all the artificial chemicals from the sweeteners began to clear my system. After 17 years of going to be with high blood sugar and waking up with high blood sugar I am rock solid, and rebounding to normal like a person with no diabetes at all. Although I am not ready to show a before and after picture there is about 8-10 lbs less belly around my middle. Now I am slowly waiting for my three month blood test to share a longer term picture of what my A1c looks like, and to hope with hope that without inflammation the plaque build up will lessen or stop. Also, without the blood sugar spikes I am truly having very little food cravings and learning to enjoy the big ass salads, the yams, and my favorite healthy cheat...shirataki noodles!!!

For the first six weeks even beans have been forbidden, but soon, with the miracle of pressure cooking, they will be added to my diet and make things easier. So, this protocol is not for the faint hearted, but I am paying a price for healing, and beginning to enjoy the price. Yes, I did have a daily relapse at the three day conference this week, but not in the O Heck,  crazy way my diet failures has occurred in the past. I am so amazed as the healthy feeling of well being, I am excited about my new way of life.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

My life with an "incurable" disease

Medicine says I have an incurable disease. I have been living with it for 17 years. I will be 67 in two months. I am also told I can live well with both of my conditions. I have, but not without them creating interesting issues in my approach to life.

I have "atherosclerosis" a heart problem associated with but different from ateriosclerosis. This means my heart muscle and veins are still supple and my heart pumps close to that of a healthy adult my age. This problem followed the diagnosis of adult onset Type II diabetes. As a diabetic I am a fairly conscientious one, my AIC has always stayed just above the diagnosis number. But a genetic issue in my bloodline created a problem that led to the second disease.

In any normal heart a complex system of vein and artery care and repair always goes on in our circulatory system. Any inflammation is repaired by this system. Diabetes keeps inflammation high due to the nature of sugar having sharp edges as it stays too long in our system. The repairs build up and close the walls of the arteries with blockages called plaque.

Tuesday I went through the tenth angiogram, the first three after heart attacks and the last seven after finding oxygenation problems during yearly stress tests. Each time they have ballooned, or stented the affecting clog. I now have 19 of those little suckers. I get a poke in my groin, an hour on the table with a talented cardiologist and his team, a night flat on my back, several days of rest, and a new lease on life.

I return to work and living each day with the need for exercise, healthy food choices, and reducing stress as much as possible.

Each time this happens I face the possibility of bypass surgery...the final frontier of heart disease, and live with the possibility of a plaque collapse heart attack, and a sudden goodbye to this life. Now with 10 of these under my belt and 50 years of learning to live and walk by faith in God I am largely relaxed with the future, and the possibility I may leave earlier and faster than I wish or hope.

I live with my Charismatic friends wondering why that last sincere laying on of hands prayer did not work, and with my beloved who believes if I were a lot less thick around the middle this thing would go away, and my reading into all things metaphysical that tells me I might be able to think and meditate a healing modality, and my hope that if I make it to that bypass table, I will get ten more years, which ought to be long enough to leave thankful and with a longer check list on my personal bucket list.

Oddly, the best thing about living with heart disease is how easy and enjoyable it is to cherish the moment, and life fully in it.  And I will leave you with that, cherish the moments you have to life, love and experience it all. Believe that the end of this life is the entrance into a different but more amazing life....O, and watch your carbs, they turn to sugar!!!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

My Daily Blog becomes a Monthly Blog, and I am too pooped to protest

Well, it's the Crazy, lazy, hazy days of summer again, and my life has changed. I have completed six months as a full time chaplain, with commute giving away 50 hours a week and enjoying the challenge, the strange connections, and the new way of life that this work demands.

For that reason my poor blog suffers, but it will try to stay alive if but for the few.  Our pool remodel is finished, cost more than we hoped but is nice with blue shimmering tile, and nice floral fountains that make a delightful sound as they spill into the water. We are enjoying the back yard with the grand kids for the second week in a row, and the water temp has risen to perfect along with the June heat wave.  Laura got her last paycheck for substituting work this week and has eight weeks to relax. I am ready for a vacation, perhaps a trip back to our gulf coast roots later in the summer.

I wanted to experience the type of personality that ends in prison, and I have, all types. I am often stunned at the depth of violence and hate that can capture a life, or the dedication to lies, cheating, and deception that a person can rely upon. I am shocked at the racial hatred and how they beat upon each other, and upon their own if they think someone needs prison justice.

I see the love and transforming power of Christ in so many hearts as well, and this makes the whole experience more than worthwhile. That's all for now, the backyard afternoon delight in the pool calls me. Aloha to all.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Arizona, come on vacation, leave on probation!!

Our pool remodel and update is almost finished.

Blessings to you readers and friends, life is busy and my blog posts are few. But here goes.

I thought this title  was pretty funny when a fellow employee shared it with me this week. It is true that this law and order state imprisons folks driving through with marijuana in their possession just to use not sell.

Met a Rastafarian dude from Massachusetts who met that fate, and their religion is rife with the ceremonial use of the substance.

Now that I am in my sixth month I am amazed as how many of the guys I know on the yard, their stories, their lifestyles, their personalities. Fully one third of our 2000 inmates are part of the religious turnout, and I talk to more each day for special issues with family emergencies and various types of interactions. I walk through visitation weekly to meet their girlfriends and parents and wives and children and I know how big a price these families all pay for our penal system and for crimes that harm people and property.

Now that I have been preaching for a month they are eager to share with someone who they know will not prejudge them and someone who treats them as human beings. As I work I find myself still believing strongly in the power of hope, faith, and the transformative message of the good news. The Christian worship is strong, and joyful, and they are serious about growing in the Lord.

I do wish Arizona had a more active leniency and parole board. So many of these men are healed, and high functioning and more than ready to return to family and the workforce.  The sentences in AZ are all over the place and some are outrageously long for the crimes committed.

On the other hand I am reminded every single day of the devastation of drugs and alcohol and the power of addiction at which we are spending huge resources to help. I hear such frightening stories of how violent and cruel life on the edge of poverty caused by addiction really is. I can truly say that I am not wasting my time with these men, for so many have learned their lessons and are changed men.

On a family note, this work consumes 50 hrs a week with the commute, so Laura and I cherish our evenings and regular days off. Our decision to buy this beautifully comfortable home and fix it up for a profit is now on full burn as we plan one project as one is finished. I know this lifestyle is rewarding, but I also know that there will be a time to slow down, just not right now. Thankful for health, energy, exercise, and relatively healthy eating in spite of my own addiction to left and right Twix.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Unveiling of the Heart

With most of my library sold, or given away, I am thankful that the things deep in my mind and heart are still coming to my aid in the lifestyle of
Prison Chaplaincy.

An interesting occurrence this past week. I have been functioning as a Chaplain in our little microcosm of prison life called Red Rock Correctional Facility for four months. The men know who I am, and how I act and react. But they have never heard me preach or teach, until last week. I had the opportunity to share my testimony and some of the life themes I teach. I did this twice in both chapels to our fellowships.

Instantly, the men sensed a kinship of vision, hunger for authentic truth, and have begun to seek me out for counsel and open up about the struggles they face living the life of a prisoner. It is as if I have gained trust and opened door for transformational experiences. There are few places where the lifestyle and close connection to men can provide this level of interaction. They are living in that fenced and secure enclosure all the time. They follow a regimented life with few chances to be human and their spiritual lives come into a sharper focus in prison that is deeper than life with the demands of work, family and freedom.

Many sense the unique opportunity that the disappointment of a prison sentence has given them. The chance to face who they really are inside and to seek change and healing.  They are also surrounded my men who continue in denial and live for drugs, alcohol and self destructive behaviors.

I look forward to seeing what happens as I stay available to those who want new life.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Facebook intolerance

I have grown weary of heresy hunters. The word is so serious that no one should consider themselves discerning enough to use it. When someone has a belief that differs from yours does that mean you can call them a heretic? Ridiculous! Sometimes people recommend a so called expert to put forth their warning. One attack upon the Book and Movie The Shack came from Charisma Magazine. Boy is that the Pot calling the Kettle Black. If I chose to play that game I would suggest that the people who love Charisma have chosen to follow some of the most corrupt religious hucksters any generation has ever produced. Heresy Hunters, O sure!!

I humbly suggest that we learn to have discussions about theological truth. I have spent 50 years as a serious lover of theology, a dedicated reader of all points of view, one who loved the allegorical freedom of authors like Lewis and Tolkien.  Please open your minds, fearful ones. Stop being so sure that your own family of interpreters have spoken the last word.  I say that to you proud Calvinists, and you odd lots of Charismatics, to your end timers and word of faithers.

Lets have some humility that someone may be onto something. Yes, I confess, I loved the Shack. I was in a needy and vulnerable place when I read it, in the hospital. And my studies have broadened my perspective on the theology of the Shack, but Young himself says we are to proud to leave position A, only to get stuck on position B, when we have not in fact seen all there is to see and understand about God and the Gospel.  Forgive the rant, Facebook is not the place to raise issues of heresy folks. Be respectful.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

My strange new life

One of my favorite hiking path pictures which gives the hiker the choice of more than one path to take, just like life.

Almost a month between posts...not good, I will lose my audience that way. Anyhow, now that I am in the groove of my commute, work, sleep, play new weekly schedule I am trying not to lose the things I enjoyed doing, like this blog.

With more time at the prison I am encountering some of the dark side of prison life that I will spend a few moments commenting upon. I am told that all prisons develop a political life that consists of power brokers who intimidate by threats of violence, and often act as judge, jury and executioner when they encounter someone who violates their ideas of proper behavior. This would include any who compromised other criminals during their conviction, like turning in a drug dealer or cooperating with the police. They do not tolerate anyone whose crime was of a sexual nature against children. They insist on reading all inmate communications to make sure no one breaks up their government of intimidation.  I find it discouraging and mystifying.

Nevertheless, so many in prison are trying to improve who they are, why they react the way they do and trying to be model prisoners during their incarceration.

They do their best to stay away from and above the politics, and I am there to find and encourage more of them to walk away from fear even when it enters their life in the form of this sick system of justice they have going.  I am a month away from finishing my trial period, and getting some vacation time that is building up each week over in the real column from the potential column.

We are hoping to make a return visit to the Big Island of Hawaii since we enjoyed a week there in 2013. Thinking about scheduling it during the time when whales are in the area, something we have never done. I have been getting better health checkups since my first retirement and my heart seems to be working fine without the recurring problems that plagued me for a time. I am hopeful but realistic about the future, I just know that I am walking in the path I need to be in for this time in our early retirement life.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Working on the weekends

Shannon is now a Junior in High School, raising money for a hoped for trip to Europe. She has had my heart for a long time.

As I start my third month at Red Rock, I finally made the switch from Mon-Fri work to being with the men on programs days, Saturday and Sunday. We have four services running at the same time on Saturday, for Xn, Spanish Speaking Xn, Jehovah's Witness, and Mormon. On Sundays we have Xn and Catholic services.

I have been working for several weeks to get ready for the opening of the new Chapel next weekend. Begging, borrowing, and donating items to get an empty room ready for worship experiences. We put up four bulletin boards and a white board, and hung a TV on the wall for songs.  We have a jury rigged sound system for our praise band using two guitar amps and a boom box, all joined together with connecting cords.

The Xn worship services are maxed out, and the singing and serious listening are evident. I found the days without the activity of the classrooms to be quite pleasant, and I have had the opportunity to meet some families in the visitation room. This adds to my growing compassion for some of the men involved in our worship leadership.

With Laura working for a quarter, this commitment adds more to our time apart, but after one weekend I am sure I need to be there, and that my purpose for entering this type of ministry is being shown to me more clearly.  Saturdays and Sundays the drive up and down the commute are much easier.

So my Thursdays and Fridays are my new weekend, I get a round of golf, two days of later rising, and date night with my best friend, Laura.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Prison Life

Laura with her Mickey Retirement Wreath. We have enjoyed a lovely three day weekend.

Six weeks gone in my new life. I feel like I fit there. Prison life is living according to schedules, chow starts early, the six units take turns with the four recreation yards, including two ballfields to walk or run around. Over 60 percent of the men have jobs that keep the place running smoothly and every walk and floor clean as a whistle. Two half day classes in the program, weekly worship gatherings for each group, two non denominational services, one on Saturday, one on Sunday. Two counts during the day at 10:30 and 3:00, dinner in each unit is delivered instead of the chow hall, some rec. time at night but lights out at 10:30 and Beds made by 7:30. They have lots of reading time, lots of thinking time. Bible Studies in the units at night, some led by volunteers, some by prisoners, no prisoners are allowed to preach, one very gifted inmate leads the yoga class, the Narcotics Anonymous Group, and the small Buddhist gathering. He is writing a book on lowering stress in prison settings. ASU is going to  print it. He has a future outside.

I respond to phone calls about helping inmates, answer inmate letters, have an open door policy for short questions and visits, lots of paper work and emails back and forth, constant monitoring of the communication devices for signs of problems. Several lock downs a week when someone starts trouble or something goes missing. The officers run a tight ship, its very professional. Three shifts go 24 hours a day obviously unlike us in education and programs who keep daytime hours. I have eaten prison food three times, not great, but I have had worse at times.

So far one of the most interesting observations came to me from the head of Chaplains in Nashville. He said the primary character problem on inmates is arrested adolescence, they never grow up beyond instant gratification, selfish behavior, and blaming all their problems on others. This helps me to see when a man is ready to get his life together.  When they are, then the time in this place can really be correctional.  Drugs and broken homes, and gangs, all gang up to send the career offenders back again and again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

42, who knew!

My love at first sight romance celebrates 42 years next week. Who Knew!! Last night we ate Mexican and I had a Taco Salad, after which I began to enjoy the crispy bowl, during which my wife said, "you probably should not eat all the crust", at which I reminded her that she has been saying than for 42 plus years and I have never yet really obeyed her request. I paid for the Taco Salad, and I am eating all the Taco Salad, that's just the way I roll.
No, that's not me in the backgroud!!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My New Dysfunctional Family

Sometimes I feel like an old Edsel, they laughed at it, but it was just ahead of its time.

I have finished one month working in my new environment. On December 31st there was an accident on the road to the prison in an early morning fog. One female officer hit another with her car. He was on a small Scooter Bike. It was ruled accidental as she could not see his taillights and he was not going the speed limit. Two weeks before this young man had been awarded Employee of the Year. He never regained consciousness and bled out in the emergency room.

These are the tragedies that create families. The sadness and shock, the offering of comfort and counsel, the planning of the memorial service. I met the man once, we talked about the Bible and his living proofs of hell bound sinners. I liked him, and looked forward to working alongside him....not to be. Whatever happens after death is now his experience. We mourned together, and went back to work. So many people are uncomfortable around Chaplains, but they need us, and our perspective, and our gentle reminders that all flesh are like grass that wither away. I wept with them.

In corrections, the officers must have each others backs. We have red buttons on our walkie talkies that signal "man down", and everyone drops everything to go to his or her aid. On the day of the memorial, four times during inmate count, they called his number, waited, called again, waited, announced "man down", the end of his watch, and a rest in peace.  We all wept.