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!

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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.

Additional Journal Entries of Life in Prison

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

Entry #73. 7/9/2013. Day 110
Tomorrow I’ll be signing the plea. I’m ready to go on my mission trip. It’ll be long, but I trust God for protection, strength, and words. I’m not too happy with the plea, but I have to take it. There are lies being said about me, but I trust God will deliver me from my enemies. He is in control. I love you, Lord.

Entry #74. 7/10/2013. Day 111
Well, I did, just signed my life over to God to be a missionary for a good number of years. It’s all in God’s hands. I trust Him. He already has my bed picked out, my cell mate picked out, and everything else taken care of. It will be long and hard away from my family and friends, but I trust and have faith in God.

Entry #79. 7/15/2013. Day 116
Court tomorrow. Lord, continue to be with all tomorrow from van drivers to attorneys to judges to families involved. Continue to work miracles in all. You are a big God and nothing is impossible with you. I trust You and love You. Great devo tonight about second chances. Talked to Mom and Dad on phone today and will see them and talk to them tomorrow at visitation. Can’t wait.

Entry #89. 7/25/2013. Day 126
I’m hungry, but am hungry most every night. The other day the CO told me I look very skinny and need to eat more. I wish I could eat more, but they don’t give us enough and it’s not good. Breakfast is the best, but they only give you like a mini-snack.

Entry #92. 7/28/2013. Day 129
Just got done cleaning and am listening to the Cards game on ESPN radio. We are losing 4-2 in the 7th. They’ve lost 2 in a row but still in 1st place by 2 games. I miss watching the games. Man, I wish my life was on a different path. I wish I was on the streets. But I know God has a plan and I’m continuing to trust Him. Another day done. Thank you, Jesus! I still believe in your miracles.

Entry #107. 8/12/2013. Day 144
Thank you, Lord, for giving me a sense of peace with everything. I’m looking forward to my future and the miracles God has in store for me. Finished my 28th novel today. Time to start another one tonight.

Entry #113. 8/18/2013. Day 150
Another milestone today with this being my 150th day. Crazy! Good devo tonight about prioritizing and getting your cargo to the finish line. Can’t wait for the finish line! Had a good talk today about prison with another inmate. Sounds way better than this place. Can’t wait to get involved. I’m sure I’ll be scared at first, but with God and time it’ll be all good.

Finding the Joy

The playoffs begin for the over-30 basketball league Aug. 4 at the fitness center here. The championship game is scheduled to take place Aug. 10 at the fitness center gym here.Down by two, with one-tenth of a second remaining to go to the championship! (To keep you informed, you need at least three-tenths of a second to even tip the ball into the hoop). With one time-out left, I used it, and wondered what kind of play I could set up to get off an impossible shot. I thought to myself, “This is middle school basketball and we do have one older referee so there is a chance that he thinks a shot could be fired up with one-tenth of a second remaining.” So I set up a play, and decided that these middle school girls playing are more interested in the boys sitting in the stands. There is not chance they will run this play correctly. (I once coached a girls’ team in Hawaii and told a player to kick the ball out to the wing when you’re trapped. The next time she was trapped, she did exactly that – she punted the ball out over the wing’s head!)

So I learned to never take anything for granted when coaching. We had the ball underneath the opponent’s hoop. The girl inbounding the ball yelled back and smacked the ball. The girls immediately forgot the play I just instructed them to do, but, miraculously, one girl didn’t break and she was left wide open underneath the basket. She received the pass and made the shot with no time left on the clock. And the elderly ref counted the basket!

We were headed to overtime and feeling quite happy with the scenario. The entire team and fans were elated!! Overtime was only three minutes long, so any chance we could get the lead first would give us a great chance to win the game and go on to the championship game. We hit a three pointer immediately with two and half minutes to go. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. The opposing team answered with a three shot of their own, got a quick steal and then two more points, took another shot for two more with a foul and making the free throw.

Game. Set. Match. We lost. We ended up losing the third place game as well.

The word happiness brings all sorts of memories to my mind: winning a basketball game, opening presents on Christmas morning and receiving a Nintendo as a young boy, family vacations to Florida, Chicago, and Colorado, eating a pecan pie, being selected as first team all-state in water polo in high school, and staying up all night at sleepovers. Everyone wants to be happy. But does happiness last forever? What happens when the Nintendo becomes old and breaks down, or when the vacation is over, or when staying up all night turns into a crabby affair the next day? Happiness can get replaced with sadness as in a basketball game.

Then there’s joy. Running deeper and stronger, joy is defined as a quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives – that He will be there no matter what. Happiness depends on material objects and having things go our way, but joy in Christ can be in our lives no matter what. Happiness is temporary, but joy is lasting because it is based on God’s presence within us. As we discover God’s will for our lives, we find contentment. As we understand the future He has planned for us, we will express joy. Don’t base your life on material things for happiness, but on God for joyfulness. When life is going bad and you feel like complaining and crying out, Christ still reigns and we still know Him and have Him in our lives, so we can rejoice at all times. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” God has given you this day to live and to serve Him – be glad and full of joy!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I’ll say it, Rejoice! Philippians 4:1

Cherokee Tribe

dark woodsAs a Cherokee youth moved into manhood, the tribe had a custom of taking the young man into the middle of the woods on a dark night and leaving him there by himself. Needless to say, the young man heard every owl hoot, every branch rustled by the breeze, every falling pine cone, and even scurrying rodents. He had no trouble imagining that every shadow was a black bear looking for a meal. It was usually a terror-filled night for the youth who anxiously awaited the comfort of dawn.

What happened at dawn? As the young Cherokee strained his eyes to see his surroundings more clearly, one of the first things he would see was his father standing watch nearby, with weapons ready to protect him. The boy, of course, had no idea that his father had stood guard all night.

Throughout our lives we will encounter many scary moments. We will feel alone, anxious, abandoned, frightened, etc. But during none of those moments does our Father, our Heavenly Father, leave us. Just like the young Cherokee, every moment of every day, we are protected. God won’t let anything happen to one of His beloved children.

One scary moment that I can remember was my first year of deer hunting when I was 12 years old. The week before opening day my Grandpa and I set up our stands. My stand was about a quarter mile hike from the road in the woods. My Grandpa’s stand was a less strenuous hike, only about 100 feet from the road. Both ways to get to our stands were marked with orange tape, which made it easy to find, or so I thought. On opening day a week later, at about 5am, my Grandpa dropped me off on the side of the road with all my gear, and I started to make my trek into the woods to find my stand all by myself. Obviously at 5am it is still pitch black out, but I had a flashlight. And with the light I was able to find the first two or three orange markers. But then – I can remember this like it was yesterday – the winds picked up, I started hearing noises, and I walked aimlessly around which seemed like miles, but was only feet I’m sure. I could not find any orange trail markers. It was like they all disappeared. The winds were howling, the trees were moving, and I was absolutely certain there were all sorts of animals running around me. I panicked and was terrified! Thankfully, I had a walkie-talkie, so I walked out from under some trees and called my Grandpa. He told me to wait a few minutes, try again, and if I still couldn’t find it to come walk to his stand. Already in a panic, I skipped the trying again part and walked immediately to his stand which I found with ease. My Grandpa’s deer stand was like a small house and plenty of room for two, so he welcomed me into his stand with open and loving arms.

Unlike the young Cherokee I at least had the comfort of knowing my Grandpa was only a call and a short hike away. He didn’t want my first hunting experience to be a bad one, so he comforted me when I lost my way. He was there for me the whole time and never abandoned me. Deuteronomy 31:6 ways “Be strong and courageous; do not fear or be in dread of them. For the Lord your God goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” My Grandpa was there for me just like God will always be there for us. When you’re going through some rough times, call out to Him. He wants to help you and will help you. Even though you can’t see Him, you can put your faith in Him, knowing that He will be your shield, your fortune, your rock. He’s got your back.

A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”Psalm 34:19.

Later that morning I went back to my own stand and found it without any trouble. All along, I happened to be just feet from it.