Simon Says!

Remember the childhood game “Simon Says”?Simon_Says

  •  Simon says raise your left hand.
  • Simon says raise your right hand.
  • Put both hands down.
  • Sorry, you’re out. Simon didn’t say that.

As a kid, I remember playing the game in school and at different camps I attended. I also used to play it while I was a teacher. Simon Says was always a big hit. And believe it or not, even here in prison, it still is a big hit!

The last four weeks I’ve been attending the drug and alcohol program that is offered in our compound. Because I am one of the newer guys, I had to take a turn to organize the “upbeat ritual.” An upbeat ritual is really just an ice-breaker. Upbeat rituals are various types of games that are chosen to be played to get the other inmates in the program involved in something together. The upbeat ritual is done at the end of our large group session called “Community.” There are about ninety inmates in this session and it takes something really extraordinary to get everyone’ attention. The upbeat ritual is to be fun, get many people interested and, hopefully, provide some laughs at the end of the session.

Last week it was my turn to organize the upbeat ritual. The last four weeks we usually were given trivia questions by the one in charge; after a while, that gets to be boring and long drawn out. It was time for a change! I chose “Simon Says”. Before I told everyone what we were going to do, I asked for fifteen volunteers. Surprisingly, fifteen people volunteered immediately with no begging on my part. Then I told them we would be playing Simon Says. Nobody expected to hear that! I explained the rules……yes, there were some who had never played before….and I began giving out instructions. I started saying things very slowly, with time in between each command, but then got faster and faster as the game went on. One by one, someone would get knocked out because they didn’t listen closely. I would also confuse them at times by giving a command but then doing the opposite thing myself. For instance, I would tell them to touch their head, but I would touch my stomach.

Watching fifteen grown men of every size, shape, color and age playing a child’s game of Simon Says in prison was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long while. I doubt if any of them would be caught playing the game outside the prison walls. They all looked like robots, with such serious faces, moving their arms up and down at the same time. They were really into the game and didn’t want to lose. Those who were watching were laughing uncontrollably. When someone would get out of the game, the others would heckle them all the way back to their seat and got them to laughing more.

Finally with four volunteers remaining I used the old trick of having everyone scoot together if they were still in the game. And all four fell for it. You see, Simon didn’t say to do that…..so they were all out. Game Over. Those who were watching laughed the hardest of all. Hopefully, each one will remember playing the child’s game of Simon Says. I know I will remember it for a long time.

When I think of the game Simon Says and compare it to my everyday life, all I can think about is that God is my Simon and when He says something I need to listen. He does give us instructions and tells us how to live and what to do in every area of life, and I must listen and follow Him. James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen.” Jesus also says in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

It’s really that simple. God’s Word, the Bible, is our guidebook. He speaks to us every day and in all sorts of ways. Be still and listen to Him. Follow His lead and direction. Trust Him. As you do what Simon says, He is looking down on you with a smile and enjoying life with you. A simple way to live and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Stuff!!

clutterWhat is stuff? Is it junk? Personal belongings? How much stuff do you own? Have you ever watched the television show “Hoarders”? Here’s a short clip if you have not. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQqldk_Bg3o

Now that’s a lot of stuff. My Grandpa wasn’t a hoarder and he was clean, but he did own a lot of stuff. If he could not find something, instead of taking the time to look for it, he would just go to the store and buy another one. He could accumulate three, four, maybe even ten of the same item. He had enough hammers to own his own hammer shop (well, he was in construction) and be successful. I’ve also been inside a college friend’s house where there were tiny one foot paths going throughout the house, with piles of stuff three feet high on both sides of the path. Counter tops, furniture, everything had stuff on it. Apparently they could never find anything either and bought extra stuff they could not find! I’ve also been inside a house where the family loved to decorate their walls with stuff. There was not a single spot where anything else could be hung. It felt claustrophobic to me, as if all the stuff was jumping out at me.

Everyone has their stuff. Some stuff is considered treasure for some people while it is just pure junk for others. How many garage sales have you been to just to go through someone’s else’s junk, thinking you might find a treasure? Some people like to accumulate more and more, whether it’s someone else’s stuff or another tool or article of clothing they really “need.”

In prison, we are very limited as to how much stuff we can have. Since I just moved into a different building, I went from being assigned two 7’ x 3’ lockers with four shelves to one 4’ x 2’ locker. I didn’t’ have much stuff in the first place, but now I’m really limited as to what I can have. All of our stuff has to fit inside our lockers. Inside my locker I have all my clothes, my books, my food, my hygiene items, and any extra stuff I own (a few pictures, a calendar). It’s not much, but I’ve survived two years already with a very limited amount of stuff that I can call my own.

Imagine trying to cram all the stuff you own inside a 4’ x 2’ locker?  Would your clothes fit or what about all those shoes you own? Would your entire shoe collection fit inside the locker? What would you choose to put into it….things that you just could not live without?  How much stuff do you realistically need? Being in prison has really changed my mindset of what I actually need to survive, and it’s not much. When I am released, I’ll be doing some major spring cleaning and have a garage sale or two to get rid of those items I can live without.

Do you ever think about what kind of stuff Jesus owned in His day? How many different outfits did He own? How many pairs of shoes? He was a carpenter, so He must have had a lot of tools, right? I’m thinking the answers to the questions are “bare minimum”. Why do we need so much stuff today? How did this happen? Is it a want or a need? I had a friend in college who owned a particular pair of shoes for four years and had yet to remove the shoes from the box!

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves to not break in and steel. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-221. I’m not saying that you should get rid of all your stuff. We all need stuff to survive, and some of us need more than others. Sometimes God blesses us with many things. The next time you want to add to your stuff, though, think about your wants and needs.  You just might not really need to buy it. And maybe with the money saved, you could consider doing something that would glorify God.

Now a final thought: Jesus compared heavenly values with earthly values when He explained that our first loyalty should be to those things that do not fade, cannot be stolen or used up, and never wear out. We should not be fascinated with our possessions, or else they possess us. God alone deserves to be our master. Store up your treasures with God, focus your eyes on Him, and serve Him alone. That’s where you can find true treasure!

Snow Days!

snow_falling_on_blue_sky-1440x900The clouds are gray. The snow is falling. A thin layer of white is covering the ground. Ah yes…..the beauty and splendor of snow. With schools being closed in the Dallas area, the compound shut our school down, too!!!  Imagine that! A snow day in prison!!!! Because I work in the education department, I never imagined I would ever see a snow day again, especially living in Texas, but my work called for a snow day! God has a sense of humor, and I am enjoying my snow day.

As I sit in my room looking out the window, the gigantic wet snowflakes are covering the ground at an astounding speed. I guess everything really IS bigger in Texas, including the snowflakes! HA! Due to the weather conditions, the compound is closed for the third straight day. They say it’s a safety hazard for inmates to play outside in the snow. So we are required to stay inside. But wasn’t this the time during snow days from school that our parents bundled us up and told us to go have some in the snow?? And we went outside to play for hours at a time!

Everyone loves snow days…..kids, teachers….well, maybe not parents so much. The best snow days I recall are the times the schools called off classes for the following day due to a big storm coming in, and the storm ever came. A free day off of school for no reason!!!

Because of the snow days I’m experiencing now, those real snow days from the past have created a ton of memories for me. Here is a list of some great memories for me:

  • Snow forts
  • Sledding at Bluebird Park
  • Shoveling the driveway
  • Snowball fights
  • Making money shoveling driveways
  • Snow football
  • Snowmen
  • Watching my neighbor Bill shove his driveway every hour….not sure why
  • Sledding on ice while sitting on a shovel
  • Sleepovers
  • Playing on the frozen creek near my house
  • Smell of cookies baking…..my mom always baked cookies on a snow day
  • Hot chocolate
  • More time playing Pac-man on Nintendo
  • A night with no homework
  • Snow ice cream
  • Eating the huge frozen icicles that dripped from the gutters
  • Popcorn and a movie

Most of these have a story to go with it – such great memories from my past. So what kinds of memories come to mind for you? Is there one moment that sticks out in you r mind more than the others? Memories are great; they make us who we are and remind us where we’ve been. While I sit here today thinking about all my past snow day memories, all I can do is smile and laugh at the great times. As I watch the snow continue to fall where I am now, it excites me to think that someday soon I’ll be able to create even more memories in the snow – maybe it will be an actual snow day, or a planned activity like snow-skiing or sledding with friends.

Snow is one of my favorite things, and I’m so thankful God has blessed me with the opportunity, once again, to experience and enjoy one of His masterpieces – even in the hot state of Texas. His timing couldn’t have been more perfect!