Biking Mt. Evans

The summer of 2008 my brother Kyle and I went to Colorado to visit my sister and brother-in-law. We were going to be out there for a week and were looking forward to do some “campin’, hikin’, water-parkin’, and most excted about ‘bikin’”! Kyle and I were determined to bike up Mt. Evans.mountain-biking-2

Mt. Evans is a 14,000-foot mountain, one of 53 in the United States. It has the highest paved road in North America that goes all the way to the top. We talked about conquering it and riding our bikes all the way to the top. The base from Idaho Springs to the summit is 28 miles. Because I’m no Tour De France rider, I had to persuade Kyle to start at Idaho Springs, the halfway point. Now Kyle was in training mode for the Tour, so he was gung-ho in starting at the base. But because of time constrictions, he agreed on starting at the 14-mile mark where there happened to be a picnic area and lake. Quite a nice place in itself.

Thankfully we started there. The gradient on the uphill climb was from 5% to 12% the entire time. So in other words, it was extremely steep. It was one of the most physical things I’ve ever done in my life. I felt like an ant climbing this tremendously large mountain with no end in sight. But we kept going and the miles slowly ticked away. My legs were burning the entire way. I think our average speed was somewhere between 5-6 miles per hour, with many breaks along the way. I liked to call them scenic breaks, even if all we could see were trees before passing the tree line. Once we passed the tree-line, the scenery was breath-taking. We passed mountain lakes and even mountain goats alone the way.

After four hours of some grueling pedaling, we submitted Mt. Evans! Unfortunately, our stay at the top was short-lived as an approaching storm was barreling down on us, and we didn’t want to be caught traveling down the mountain on slippery roads with no railings. After taking a short break we made our descent. And let me tell you, that was by far the best and most rewarding part of the ride. For the first two miles down, we were tailgaiting a car until finally he pulled over and let us pass him. See, we were in it for the scenery (we did that on the way up); and we were in it for the speed. So we passed the car. With a slight sprinkle and no rails to protect us from dropping thousands of feet to our deaths, I only was able to top out at 50 miles per hour. Relax! That was only on the straight-aways. On the hairpin turns, I had to drop my speed significantly or I would shoot off the mountain. We made it down in half an hour, stopping only one time. It was simply an amazing ride. One of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. The view at the top was breath-taking and the ride down exhilarating! I thank God for giving me the ability and opportunity to do it, especially with my brother. Hopefully one day soon I can do it again (it’s on my bucket list).

Biking up Mt. Evans is a perfect analogy of your walk with Christ. Riding downhill at top speed is like falling away from God and into temptation. The speed of life and worldly pleasures compare to the pleasures of riding down a mountain. Anything can happen so quickly and, if you are not careful, the results could be devastating, like going off a cliff. The ride is thrilling but dangerous. Then when you hit the bottom of the mountain or hit rock bottom in life, God is waiting for you to turn back to Him. When you decide you need God back in your life, you start making that trek uphill for Him. It can be tough, long, and hard along the way like biking up a mountain, with temptations and sins wanting to pull you down. You may want to give up, but you know that if you want to reach your destination you must keep pedaling. The farther up you get, the more you mature and grow in your faith. When you reach the summit all the hurting sensations and weariness of the ride are worth it. Nothing compares to the top – nothing will compare to heaven! So keep pedaling!!

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Father’s Day Prayer

fatherhoodDear God, thank you for being a Father to the fatherless. Unlike me, there are so many men here who have had no fathers as role models growing up. My Dad did everything right, but I messed up. Forgive me, God. I do look forward to being a father myself someday. Bless all fathers and help them realize that a good father is one of the most valuable assets in their family and in our society. Amen.

He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. Proverbs 14:26

Book Recommendation

May 29, 2014

voice in the windI just finished reading “A Voice in the Wind” by Francine Rivers which was recommended and sent to me by my aunt. It is truly an amazing book, one of the best I’ve ever read and one that everyone should read. Briefly, it’s about a Jewish Christian girl witnessing to non-Christians during the time Nero was persecuting the Christians. Times then were not so different than they are now and it helped me to learn how to handle similar situations today! It’s a novel but one that gave me the desire to be used by our Lord.

After finishing the book yesterday, I was on fire to tell everyone about God. But who could I tell, in solitary confinement? I got to thinking about how well I know my cellie? I’ve lived with him for 76 days and haven’t really taken the opportunity to ask him about his walk with Christ. I should say there’s been plenty of opportunities but I, unfortunately, passed on them. No time seemed to be the right time to bring up the subject…..and first I wanted to develop a relationship with him before I started preaching at him! And I wanted him to watch how my faith helped me get through each day. Actions sometimes speak louder than words. I prayed that God would give me the right time to talk to my cellie about God. And then I started watching for opportunities.

The next day the topic of heaven came up between us, so I used this opportunity to find out more about his beliefs. I know he believes in God, but found out that he wasn’t sure if he was going to heaven or not. I was able to quote Romans 10:9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,you will be saved. I then shared about God’s forgiveness and love. He asked many questions. God provided me the answers, and I encouraged him to pray and think about our discussion. So please pray for David to find the Lord and to accept Him into his heart. God is most definitely good and I thank Him for allowing me the opportunity to share His love with my smelly cellie!!!

Stories From the Crib – Part 1

Nick BolleaI never thought I’d ever spend 76 straight days in a room the size of a large bathroom. With a toilet, sink, shower, table, and bunk beds taking up the 100 square feet room, I’m left with about 40 square feet to do whatever I want. All the luxury and freedom to do what I want in the remaining 8’ x 5’ space! Many of you may wonder how I could possibly do it, knowing how active I have always been. Well, I’m still the same person – active and busy – only in a small space. What’s the difference? One can make it as boring, hard and miserable as they want……or make it as easy and fun as they want it to be. I choose the latter.

First full day in here: my cellie and I just got done eating lunch and we’re wondering if they were going to give us something to drink or if they forgot. About 2 minutes late the trap door opens, and two cups with pink liquid are set on the tray. I immediately take them, give one to my cellie and say, “Wow, good timing, pink lemonade.” I took two big swallows before I realized that this was not pink lemonade, and started gagging, as it turned out to be cleaning solution. Why it was in a glass I have no idea!!! To say the least, my insides were very clean and I was on the toilet for the rest of the day! Otherwise, no harm done!

Every 20 days we have to rotate cells…..those are the rules. There are 18 cells in our hallway and we just move to the next one down each time we rotate. These are always the worst days for me as I get comfortable and all settled in one place, the cell is clean and organized just the way I like it, and then we have to move in to another cell which has been used by others the last 20 days. Thankfully, we follow somewhat clean people, but, of course, since I am a clean freak, I need to scrub things down and wash everything before I want to be “at home”. Unfortunately, my “smelly” cellie doesn’t care about cleanliness and just plops his stuff down and goes about his business while I do the cleaning. He doesn’t seem to mind other people’s filth. I think I got the cleanliness attitude from my mom. When my mom stays at a hotel room, she immediately strips the beds of their comforter/bedspread, and she never takes off her shoes to walk on the floor. (I could be mistaken, but she may also wear socks to bed, along with a hoodie over her head, long pants and some sort of gloves, so not a single part of her skin touches the sheets and blankets. When she gets home she burns those clothes in a backyard fire just to be rid of them. HA! I’m kidding, of course….or maybe not. SMILE!)

So I think of my cell like a hotel room without the housekeeper, a television, pillows and a nice mattress to sleep on – or at least I pretend it is to keep my spirits high. I never walk with my shoes off and I’m constantly washing my hands. I won’t tell you what my cellie does or, should I say, doesn’t do, as it’ll probably turn your stomach. I just shake my head in disgust at him.

Anyway, after the cleaning is done, my mind then thinks outside the box. Every cell is exactly the same, and completely different also. What I mean by that is there’s always something that needs to be fixed with either the shower, toilet, sink or all three.

One example: The sinks in the cells are like a drinking fountain. The water shoots up and down for easy access to get a drink sinkof water without a cup. You push a button and it turns on for a few seconds and automatically shuts off. Some sinks shoot too far and actually go over the edge onto the ground, and other faucets just trickle out water. There is no happy medium. So you have to think of ways outside the box to make the sink work the way it needs to, or you could be without water for the three weeks in the cell until it’s time to rotate. Remember, there are no supplies to work with in the cell. So while my cellie continues to sit in other people’s filth, I’m busy taking things apart to make a top-notch prison sink. Well, I really don’t take apart anything but my pen. I disassemble my pen and use the plastic, bendable outer tube casing which has a hole that runs straight through. I take some tape I got from envelopes and wrap the tape around the base of the pen casing a few times. I shove the pen casing down the water fountain drain, wrapping enough tape around to cover the access space that the pen casing doesn’t cover so no water will shoot out when you turn on the faucet. I have to shove it down deep enough so that it gets stuck and won’t shoot out with the water pressure when it is turned on. Then I bend the other end of the pen casing so it points down, making an arc, taking a twisty tie that I found and more tape, and then tape and tie the pen casing so that it is pointing down. I then push the bottom to turn the water on and instantly get a nice Kohler sink with no deficiencies! SMILE! The water fountain just became a sink with a pen, tape, and twisty tie.

The inventions one can come up with when there is a lack of supplies and when you have the time to think. I’ll be able to fix anything when I get out of here. SMILE! Put me on a deserted island and I’ll build a mansion with coconuts and leaves! Until next time…….and more stories from the crib (Crib is prison slang for Cell)

Life Happens

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis poem/dialogue came to me one night while listening to a Christian song about life. In the first verse a non-believer is talking to himself about life. In the second verse, he carries on a conversation with God in regards to life in which God encourages him about life, even persuading the non-believer to become a believer and to do God’s work. The conversation ends in a very truthful way.

LIFE

Life
Struggle, anguish, frustration
Never-ending days
Troubles, afflictions, griefs
Is life fair?
Cancer, miscarriages, divorces
Bad always happening to good people
Job loss, sickness, death
Does good ever happen?
War, fires, hurricanes
Murders, terrorist attacks, kidnappings
Why, God? – if there is a God.

Do I turn to you, God?
Seek Me, find Me, know Me
Do I pray?
Ask Me, listen to Me, receive Me
Do I read Your Word?
Meditate on it, study it, memorize it
What good will all that do?
Gain understanding, wisdom, knowledge
How will that help my life?
Increase faith, trust, hope
How can I help the world?
Share with them, give to them, love them
What’s the big picture?
Eternal life, joy, salvation
But bad will still happen?
Yes, forever, always
Why, God, why?
S I N

Life will never be easy. There will always be obstacles in your way that will make one suffer and go through turmoil. Sin is a part of it. Sin – your own and other’s – can lead to devastating effects. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

God has been known to destroy entire cities because of sin, and even the entire world when God sent the flood to wipe out mankind. Consequence is a result of sin – I know this firsthand. But “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 And because of that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Bad things will continue to happen in our lives and in the world until Christ returns and defeats sin. In the meantime, all we can do is continue to trust in God, putting our faith in the One Who can deliver us from evil, tragedies and heartaches, and Who can bring us to eternal life someday – the life I look forward to. “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be save.” Romans 10:9

Life on earth – not so good. Eternal life – is there anything better than that!

Prison Essay

This essay was written on Saturday, April 26, 2014, in response to a homework assignment I had to do in regards to Time and Change. Yes, we even get homework in prison.

essayFour years, three months and three days – the amount of time that I have remaining on my sentence. I have quite a bit of time left to get my mind and body focused on how I want to live my life when I get out. Exciting thoughts are constantly running through my mind as I prepare for my future, as I know it’s going to be a great one, with God next to me every step of the way. For today is a new day, each day closer to experiencing freedom, and each day that much better than the day before. You see, I don’t just want to survive each day while in the SHU (Special Housing Unit – solitary confinement) or anywhere in prison. I want to “thrive” each day. I’m not living to survive, but to thrive. And that’s how I want to live the rest of my life.

Life is all about knowing who you are as a person and making those changes or adjustments to better your life. Many times in life you are faced with choices to hopefully better your life or in some cases, the choices can make it worse. From early childhood my parents taught my siblings and I to put God in the center of our lives. I tried to live that kind of a life but there were times when I started to slip and turn down the wrong path. God, in His mercy, would bring me back to His ways which was the better way to live.

As I grew older, I made some very regrettable choices, which drastically changed my life. Prison, unfortunately, was in my future. This is not what I wanted in life and I knew I had to make changes. When I arrived in prison, I wanted to make positive changes in my life to better my future. Right away I knew what had to be done. I have to keep God as my center piece all the time. Not some of the time or most of the time, but all the time. Without Him, my life would be in shambles and disarray. I want to look to Him with decisions, reaching out to Him in prayer, and never letting go.

No, God does not want me here. The choices I made put myself here. But God is using me, even in prison, and YES, even in the SHU, to train my mind to focus on Him and His godly ways, and to show me a straight path when I get out.

I’ve always considered myself a Christian, serving God by ministering to others. But even Christians fall short at times, as we are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory. When I get out of here, or I should say, starting today, my life is going to be just like it used to be, which is on fire for God. I want people to see the light in my eyes, the glow feel inside to be called a child of God. I want to continue to study His Word, growing in knowledge, and to teach others. I want to get back into a worship team band, dive into Bible studies, volunteer at soup kitchens and food pantries, go on mission trips, and show the love of God that I have inside of me. And with this way of living, I am one hundred and ten percent sure that I’ll never have a run-in with the law again.

God is my cornerstone, and to Him, from this day forth, I put my trust and faith. I will continue to surround myself with Christian friends, those who are positive and influential in my life, and those are encouraging and supportive. Having an accountability partner, who is a superb role model and a Christian, is one of my goals when I get out – one who I can talk to and tell my deep secrets and desires to – one who will help me stay on the right path.

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24. Each day in prison those are the first words that go through my mind when I crawl down the top bunk to await food through the trap door. Because God has created this day, I will rejoice. And I rejoice by spending time in worship every day, studying God’s Word, meditating and memorizing scripture. Why? Because I’m living my life for the Lord. I’m going to further my relationship with Him while in here, and take His Word to the streets when I get out. I know my many friends can already see a difference in me just by my letters. I will not let prison get the best of me. I will get the best of this prison, and use this time as the perfect time to further my knowledge and wisdom, and to lead others to Christ, so they, too, can feel the joy of the Lord. One final comment from the best book ever written, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans WILL succeed.” Proverbs 16:9

(By the way, I received an “A” on this essay)

Journal Entries Cont’d

Portions of Craig’s journal which he began on Day 37 of his incarceration at a county detention center.

Entry #114. 8/19/2013. Day 151
I’ve been reading a great book called “In the Eye of the Storm” by Max Lucado. Very inspirational. God is definitely working in me. I told a new inmate today that I’m going to pray for him. The look in his eyes was priceless. We do have some crazy, immature, mentally unstable people in here, but God is making me stronger every day. I wonder what my future is going to be like. I’m excited to find out.

Entry #117. 8/22/2013. Day 154
It’s my 5 month anniversary today. Another one down; a few too many to go. Been having some great conversation with an inmate named Lee. He’s in here for a homicide. Sad Story. But he’s gotten to know the Lord at another level and has turned his life to Christ. He’s a great guy and I know God has some amazing plans for him. God is good.

Entry #126. 8/31/2013. Day 163
First day of college football, and NFL starts on Thursday. I’ll definitely miss Fantasy Football this year. Weekends should fly by, so that’ll be good. One day at a time. Church was great today. Someone new asked me if I wanted to lead worship and play guitar if we get the approval to start up a worship team. I pray for that miracle. God is good!

Entry #132. 9/6/2013. Day 169
We had a shakedown done on us today. They were much nicer and cleaner without stuff this time than last time, although they took the majority of my clean clothes for some odd reason. I am left with only one underwear and one pair of socks for a week. I put in a request to hopefully get them back. It’s like the CO’s thrive on making others suffer. So sad. But Jesus still loves them.

Entry #137. 9/11/2013. Day 174
9/11 anniversary – 12 years ago today. Crazy! Thank you to everyone who fights for our country. We got locked down early for a fight in our dorm. Kids always thinking they are better than each other. We older guys in here just shake our heads at how immature these kids are. Started reading Proverbs today. Very good so far. Wish I had a Bible dictionary.

Entry #141. 9/15/2013. Day 178
I was able to talk to almost all family today at Mom & Dad’s house when I called. It was the first time hearing their voices in six months. I miss them all. Thank you, Lord, for that moment. Eva and Kendall sang to me. Good day of watching football, although the Rams lost at Atlanta. Thanks for everything, Lord!

Entry #142. 9/16/2013. Day 179
I started writing my apology speech today. I pray that God leads me in the right direction, and it’s very impactful to the judge. Nothing exciting today.