Sunday, April 30, 2017
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
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.