Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back To Reality

Vacation was awesome,
My wife's sisters and mom and all of the guys were awesome too.
I think we all had a great time. I don't think I have ever had such a relaxing time off in my life.
The beach was absolutely beautiful. I got some pretty cool pictures I think.
Now dealing with reality is I really couldn't afford to take the time off so now I must pay. I was even thinking of trying to get a second job somewhere just so I could sort of recover.
times are kind of hard in this town where we live, many people out of work (I'm sure we are not alone in that) and the jobs that are out there are getting harder to get and seems like they are paying less.
I felt kind of guilty when we were away, one for missing work and not earning money when I could have been. I also get this undercurrent of guilt because of the fact that we got to go do this and I could never afford to get such a house as this (even for a week) while there are people in this neighborhood who are really struggling. I mean we are too to a certain degree, I took a pay cut to take my new job, which is really cool and less stress than I have had in a long time. But we still have the same bills, I was getting sort of comfortable ( not that I was financially set or anything, but I had enough to pay for almost everything ) and now I am back to an earlier time, when it was week to week for real.
I really can't complain because almost all of my hardships have to do with my own life choices.
Had I not gone to prison, I would likely still be at the same job and I would still have the house that I lost to foreclosure. Life would probably look quite different than it does now. But the fact is I can't change the past and I need to get the things done that are in front of me.
I will get back on track eventually, it's just going to be hard.
Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing leaving my last job. But when I think back about the tension and stress and just the situation I was in, it was the right thing to do.
I also need to remind myself that God has made a way every time for me that I can't explain or begin to deserve. I'm not sure why He loves me, but it's fairly evident if I look back over the past 20 plus years. I also need to remind myself that, had I not lost everything to do with my old life, I might have never met Johanna and I would not have Calvin or Mike or A.J. and I wouldn't want a life without any of them now.
Things are still pretty rocky with my marriage and statistically, we shouldn't make it. We both tend to fall back into this defensive mode from being hurt so much and we act like nothing matters. But the fact is, neither of us wants a life without the other. Yeah when I am acting stupid at say 6:00 a.m. I'm sure it sucks to even be in the same house as me. But She loves me, I know it, like no other human ever has. Sometimes I get hurt too (although I am sure it is far less frequent) and I start trying to act tough and I want to just give up. But, I can't imagine a life without this family. Even though she says we aren't when she is freaked out about what is happening with kids or finances or both. But we are, we don't make sense and we are not an easy fit. All of us are so different, But there is love here. I hope I never have to live without that again.
Feeling so alone really stinks, even though I know God is with me, I really like it when my family is with me too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I am on vacation. I really can't afford the time off, but I needed it. This has been the most relaxing couple of days I have had in a long time. We have been here since Saturday night and I can only stay till Thursday night but it is so nice. My wife's family is so nice, all of them. I have these moments where I feel like an intruder but for the most part I feel pretty at ease here with them. We are staying in a beach house that I could never afford right on the beach in Saint Augustine, Florida. I live in Florida, but we don't have beaches like this down South on the West coast. I have taken some pretty cool pictures I will post a couple.
Sea oats in the morning

the morning sun on the beach

the board walk from the house to the beach

It's really pretty quiet and peaceful (except for the occasional screaming child) and I think this has been really wonderful so far. I am so glad I didn't decide to stay home.
Well I need to go rest some more,


Tuesday, August 05, 2008


I want to Give a quiet shout to GRACE for the inspiration for this post. It's been a while since I wrote anything and I guess this as good a time as any. She posted about her latest experience in a small unorganized church that she attended Sunday. It was sort of amusing and kind of disturbing at the same time. But, one thought that came to my mind was about how we judge others when we are the outsider looking in.
It really started me thinking/remembering about one similar experience that I had.
As most people who have read my blog at all know, I was in prison for 2 1/2 years. I am not proud of that fact, but it has helped to form who I am. So, it is just a fact. Any way, this experience took place while I was in prison.
I had gone to work release (which was actually at the same camp I was doing time in) and one of the so-called benefits of that status was to attend outside church. Well at first in this program (because it was brand new, and we were dealing with guards on a work camp who now had to run a work release as well) there was no service we could attend. But there was a man sent to find us and to eventually get them to bring us to one church service a week . Some times we got to go on Sunday mornings and sometimes it was a night service during the week. There were even a few times when we were able to do both. But it was a very unusual experience to say the least.
We attended this tiny church that was dubbed a "mission" in a very small country town in North Florida. It was in a store front that was probably a laundry mat in a previous life. It was divided into two main sections with plate glass in the front of both places and no connecting door, you had to go outside to go into the other room. Any way, it was small, there were kids from the surrounding area that the volunteer youth leader and his young wife would drive around and pick up. They would drive around, see kids in the street and ask them if they wanted to go to Sunday School.
The pastor was a short little fella with an unbelievable southern twang accompanied by a full on high nasal tone. The Congregation was a mix of White, Black and Hispanic, mostly poor people from the now almost ghost town where the church and work camp were located.
Now, I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church, and I had many reasons for not attending church for a long time, once I was of an age where I could refuse to go. I was 16 I think when I told my mother one Sunday morning that I didn't want to go and (much to my surprise) she said,"ok". Before that day it was never an option, and I had not gone at all from the age of 16 to 29. I had spent every Sunday up until that day in a church somewhere and I was tired of doing what was expected of me. It was one of my first attempts at freedom (at least in my eyes).
Any way, I had been attending a Charismatic church before I actually went to prison, and what got me going there was the love that I sensed from God after I was charged, with a very serious crime and thought my life was over. God had showed me that He loved me in a very personal way and spoke directly to my heart and changed me forever when I was sitting in a county jail cell. So as soon as I could, I went to church and I kept going every chance I got, because that is how I understood I was supposed to honor God for his love for me.
I did however still have huge problems with the Southern Baptist denomination. I was very much against going back to a Baptist church.
Well, when you are in work release, you go to what ever church you can, if you want to go to church. So I went to an Independent Baptist Mission in a tiny broken down country town where most of the people you meet are dirt poor or corrections officers. Oh there were cotton and peanut farmers as well, they seemed to do ok for the most part.
It was quite superficial to me the way the order of service went. The pastor gave what some in my past have called a "sermonette" and we sang some old songs, and we usually had some food after the service. It was mostly a really nice gesture by some folks trying to ,"visit the prisoner".
I liked getting out from behind the fence, but I didn't see this as a spiritual feeding ground really, I sometimes had a problem taking it seriously at first.
Until, I think it was the third time I went to this mission and it was the first Sunday morning service we had gone to since I had been able to go. This seemed very much the same old thing with a sermonette and some hymns, along with a really nice group of people trying to do something good for the cause of Christ. Then there it was, the slap in the face. It was time to take up the offering. Now I will remind you that this was a group of people not exactly marked by wealth. There were maybe 15 people including about 6-8 prisoners in every service. They had abundance of pretty much nothing.
When it was time for the offering they didn't pass the plate around, much to my surprise. The pastor asked every one to come and bring their offering to the altar where there was a single offering plate that sat on a small pedestal . One by one, people went up and knelt around that plate and gave up what small offering they had to bring, including the short, ineloquent, full time construction worker/contractor, 60 year old pastor and his wife, holding hands.
I, never felt so convicted in my life about casting judgment on anyone as I did that morning. It changed me. God changed me that moment and opened my eyes to how real those people were. I never saw anything so beautiful in a church service before or since.
I guess I was wrong. I thought they were just going through the motions, I saw this as religion and as just an act that most of them were putting on, I didn't think it had anything to do with God; not really.
Then as I kept going they showed me how, in an unsophisticated way that some might discount as small meaningless gestures, to love people where they are. Sure, they were in an attractional model of church, so was I before and after attending there. But they got to know the kids they picked up off of the street and bought them school clothes and one night I remember every kid there got a new pair of shoes. And they would have celebrations for us prisoners when one of us was leaving or getting out. Even on our birthdays, we were treated like people who mattered to them. We were drug dealers, and thieves and violent criminals and they treated us like men. Not just men, family. We ate home made fried chicken and cakes and every bite tasted like the love of God for us. I never had it so good. I never saw Jesus in another person until my misconceptions were shattered by grace. And, even in the process of showing me how wrong I was about His people, God gently told me over and over that I am His, and He loves me right where I am , right now. I guess I should do the same.....
Thanks Grace, you really got me remembering something very important. The race is not given to the swift or the strong, but to he that endures to the end.
Thank You Jesus.