In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Heart Boundaries

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Photo from Mindful
There was one young man who really got to me at CRC last night. 

He is all tatted up. His head is shaven and he has this tattoo on top that looks like some kind of seal. He has what looks like a red lipstick kiss mark tattooed on his cheek, he has something written in cursive on his head above his ear.  He has a bunch of other tattoos all over.  It's the first thing you notice about him.  He also has a serious countenance.  He is Latin and your first impression of him is that he is a gang banger.

When we were in our small group talking, I was impressed with him because early on in the discussion he brought up something he'd read that week.  I'm always impressed in life by people who read. Throughout the group discussion he was well spoken and voiced ideas that will serve him well in life.  It was obvious that he gets the concept of it not mattering what other people do or don't do because you have to choose who you are going to be.

At one point he said that people see him and probably think negatively based on his appearance but that, when he starts talking they see that he's got much more too him.  That's exactly how it was for me.  I find myself praying for this young man.

I pray that God would bring him close to Himself.  That God would prosper him and use him to help others while he's on the inside.  That he would be able to establish a healthy relationship with his child's mother. That he'd be blessed with a job when he gets out.  That he would become an inspiration to others and be used to God's glory. That he would be a father who starts a new legacy in this generation.

It seems to me that God's using these young men at CRC to get to my heart.  To enlarge the boundaries of my heart.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A bit of work craziness

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Graphic taken from Bing's Pinterest
I've noticed during the 2 weeks since I started back at Rockcreek that things are different than when I worked here before.  There's a serous lack of employees who can drive the company van, and major employee attendance problems.

This means that just about every day I'm getting call off calls from employees at one of the  3 homes with which I work.  It seems like there's always a huge struggle to find coverage.  Most frequently these call offs are for the PM and NOC shifts.  I've had face to face meetings with the staff at all 3 houses and one of the major issues discussed was attendance.  The ironic thing is that not everyone showed up at these trainings. I've been catching up with those who didn't show and talking about what was discussed at those meetings as well as explaining that attendance at trainings is just like attendance at the job- a person can't be a no call no show, they must call and let me know why they can't make it and get an authorization from me to miss.

Due to the driving situation, last Tuesday was very difficult for me.  I'd worked all day and then rushed to CRC to do the class.  As I left CRC I was happy and looking forward to going home and relaxing.  I checked my work phone and found messages regarding a client who had to go to the ER because he is non-verbal and was limping so we needed to ensure nothing was broken.  I sat in the parking lot of CRC and made calls for about an hour trying to get someone to come in and take the client to the ER.  I then realized that there was not anyone to get, so I went in and took the client to the ER.  Fortunately CRC is only about 15 miles from the house/facility where that clients lives. I didn't get back to the facility until 5:30AM.  Then I drove the 45 minutes it took to get home, took a bath, and went to bed for 1 1/2 hrs.  I then had to get up and get ready and be in to work for one of those house meetings, followed by a meeting with a day program and social worker about a client which did not go well.  I finally managed to get out of there by 2:30PM on that day, but still got calls and texts the rest of the day.  That whole situation was a bit too intense for me.  I need to get some time off work each day and be able to sleep for at least 5 hours. This is a salary job so I don't make any extra money if I have to do these kinds of things. I am OK if this doesn't happen but a couple of times a year, but if it happens all the time I feel that it's just too much. 

I almost had to go in and cover  a NOC shift last night (which is Saturday night and I'm theoretically off on weekends). In order to avoid going in to work myself, I told the staff person on duty  that she'd have to work a double.  In health care in general there is the understanding that if your replacement staff does not come in, and coverage is not found, that you must stay.  The staff person was upset at me and told her residential manager (RM) this morning that she was sick because she is diabetic and did not get to take her medicine.  I texted her and asked if she was OK.  I also informed her in the text that I didn't know that her working would cause her to miss taking medication.  I said that if I'd known I would have worked. She texted back that I knew she had diabetes.  I agreed that she had told me that last week but that all diabetics are different and I didn't know that her staying would cause her to miss medication doses.  In all honesty I am not sure if she did miss a medication does because most diabetics take an AM and PM dose; not medication in the middle of the night.  But still...

I pray that this does not become a regular event.  I pray for health of the employees at the facilities I cover.  I pray that there would be a spirit of responsibility and team work.

On this past Thursday the woman who is the program manager (PM) for my homes came to me.  She said that the other woman who is PM for the other 13 homes was quitting and Friday was her last day.  She said that she really likes working with me and wants a PM with whom she can partner and would really like to work with me.  I responded that I really like working with her too and, no matter what, we'll work together.  She'll either be my PM for these 3 houses or we'll be PMs together.  I prayed about it.  Every day I work for this company I want to be excellent and work as unto the Lord.  My main over riding feeling is that I want to fix problems, make things better, and be a blessing where I am at.  By God's grace I've developed some skills and have some knowledge that can be helpful in this setting. 

Friday the executive director (ED), PM and I met.  I basically told the ED that 2 of these 3 homes have huge problems and the good 1 has conditions out that we're seeking licensing to put back in. If they want to keep me there so that I can be of help in fixing all that, I'm good with it.  I told the ED that I know she's been telling me that for the first time she can remember they actually have several  Q applications (I am working as a Q right now); that they have more qualified  applicants then openings. So if she wants me to be a PM, I can do that.  There is a east and west side PM and I live closer to the east side homes. However, I was a PM for the west side homes close to 3 years ago. I told the ED that I could be a PM, if that's what they wanted, for east or west sides.  I told them that I just want to work where I'm of greatest service.

The PM position pays about 20% more than the Q.  They both pay terrible for all the required education, knowledge, skills and work they take. I love the ED, the Rockcreek faciliteis, and this industry; which is part of why I keep coming back to work here. I feel OK about the fact that I only stay 1 -2 years when I work for them because I take no training, jump right into the work, and make things better.  I also feel OK because it's always just too  much, it interferes with the ability to have a life outside of work.  The 2 times I've left before, I gave a month's notice.

The PM and ED decided that I should be the west side PM.  I think that the PM was very happy because she is currently working as the east side PM and the east side, for all it's problems, is not as troubled as the west side. I recognize that it's going to be a big headache but am excited that I'll get to train a brand new Q. I really enjoy teaching and mentoring employees in this field. I feel like it puts all my experience to use.

I'm a bit afraid of all the staffing challenges and the possibility of having to come in and cover shifts or take clients to the hospital during my off time.  I have prayed that God would use me to His glory, so I'm believing that this will be part of that.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tidbits from class at CRC

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Photo from The Preacher's Word
One of the things that really blesses me at CRC is the young men who are so eager to change. Who are trying to learn what being a new person looks like in day to day life.  Who want to have better lives and are working to make that real.

There was a discussion during part of the break out portion of class this week that I found interesting.  One African American man who looked like he was 15 years old (but he had to be at least 18 since this is prison), who I'll call K, asked me some questions. Another couple of African American young men who I'll call E and T joined the conversation. E and T seem to be in their mid twenties. The conversation went something like this:

K: Does it always pay to be a nice guy? I mean, do you really do better in life or do people just take advantage of you?

Me: Wow, that's a great question. Because you know, sometimes it doesn't seem to pay off; not in the short run.  Sometimes it does seem like  you do all the right things and don't look like you prosper.  But since you asked me, I'll tell you what I believe.  I believe that whatever  you put out there in life is what you ultimately get back.  As Christians, we call this "sowing and reaping", Hindus call it karma.  But, whatever you want to call it, it is a true phenomena.

E: Didn't say anything but was watching me very intently as I talked about this and was nodding in agreement. 
 
T: I know that's true because when I was on the outside, I tried to be generous.  Once my girlfriend and I saw these homeless people and I gave them money.  I saw that they didn't have any shoes so when I got some new shoes I brought them my old ones.  Sometimes I'd bring them food. During that time I got a good job and made lots of money.

K: But what about the guys here who're always up in my stuff? Who mess with me.  Do I have to be good to them?  Won't they just take more?

Me: Have you taken the boundaries class yet?

K: Shakes his head  no

Me: That class will last several weeks and I think you'll really benefit.  In it we talk about ways to be a good person but set boundaries in our lives. Being kind and good does not mean letting people get over on you or take advantage.
 
E: Oh no, you can't be letting people mess with your stuff up in here.  There are some people who if your soul was a real thing that you could put in your pocket, they'd even steal that.  You have to have boundaries and guard yourself and your stuff. [On an aside note, isn't E poetic with that whole thing about if you could put your soul in your pocket, they'd take it.  That's profound.]

T: Looks directly at K and smiles.  Now I know what you're talking about.  That's something different from doing right and being good like we're talking about.  Those types of guys, you can't let them mess with you or take your stuff.  You only have your little bed and your few things, if you let them start taking stuff from you,  you'll have other problems. 

Later during this break out session, as we were going over the homework we came to a section with Bible verses where the guys were supposed to look them up and write about what the verses meant to them.  The verse was Romans 13:1. This time T and E had these things to say:

E: When I read that verse I thought about how it means that God has let every authority be here.  That means that since God has let me be in prison, that even the warden and the guards and the rules, God wants me to obey them. [If you understand prison culture, you'll understand that this is a huge revelation for E.  In prison culture the warden & guards are "the man" and looked at as the enemy.]

T: Yeah, like doing good at my job IS about working for myself to pay my rent and put food in my refrigerator, like I talked about earlier.  But it's also about doing good for God.  He's our boss over everything and all the other bosses.

Me: I so much feel that way T.  I've had jobs where I've worked real hard and the owner didn't appreciate it at all.  But I would remind myself that I didn't really work for the owner, that everything I do is for God.  Because He's been so good to me and given me so much.  I can never be anything but grateful.

E. Me too.  God's done so much for me.

I'm just so blessed by these young men's hearts.  The culture of people who end up in prison is called anti-social.  Anti-social culture is all about yourself, looking out for number 1 and not really respecting anyone or anything.  Rehabilitation programs try to teach what is called pro-social behavior; behavior that a person engages in to benefit both themselves and others.  Pro-social behavior respects authority.  Those who work in the criminology field know that changing anti-social values and mind set is not easy.  That's a huge part of why around 70% of released prisoners end up back in incarceration within 3 years.  It's such a blessing to me to watch God working in some of these young men's hearts.  To see them change and grow.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Unexpected Prayers

I have a confession to make - typically I'm not very good at prayer, I tend to feel like I'm "not doing anything" when I'm praying. Of course I know with my head that this is not true, but it's still how I most frequently feel.  But lately I find myself drawn to prayer.  Prayers of gratitude and prayers for the ministry at CRC.  Specific young men periodically come to my mind and I find myself praying for them.

Picture from Streams of the river
Picture from Streams of the River

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rockcreek Again

Later in the day this past Tuesday I saw that Rockcreek was advertising to hire a QIDP/Administrator. I've been thinking and praying about if I want to go back to work there. I've never felt totally "finished" there.  I love that company and those people. So I went ahead and applied again.

Wednesday morning Kimberly, Rockcreek's executive director, called me.  She told me that they actually have 3 Q openings but are in the process of hiring 2 Qs.  She said that neither of them have been promised any exact location and I could have my pick of any of the 3 locations and "start tomorrow" if I wanted.  She told me that she had 2 current, somewhat stable, program managers right now but if one of those slots were to come open I could certainly have the position (Qs supervise 3 homes and program managers supervise 4 or 5 Qs). She was eager for me to work for them again.

I told her I was happy to be a Q.  I mentioned that what I love about being a Q is getting to be around the people who live in the homes, that many truly wonderful people work for Rockcreek, and that if I do my job well I can really make life better for the people who live in the homes. I didn't say it to Kimberly, but one of the other things I like about working at Rockcreek is that so many of the Qs, house managers, Kimberly, and the HR director are all people that I like on a personal level.  The kind of people who it's fun and easy to talk with - I just find them interesting.  The kind of people I'd actually like to even hang out with in my personal time.

I didn't need to mention to Kimberly what we both know are the downfalls of being a Q.  It pays poorly, it's always a challenge to keep staff, you're on call 24/7 and get called a lot when you're off work. If you really have staffing shortages, sometimes you even have to cover for an line staff and work the floor. It is due to the downfalls that I've left working for Rockcreek on 2 other occasions.  The first time I worked as a Q for a bit over 1 1/2 years and then left to go try being an HSA in an immigration detainment center.  About 2 1/2 years later I worked for them for a year as a program manager.  I left that time because Rhea offered me a position as a nursing home administrator. Rhea had worked for me as a nursing director back in 2004 - 2006. She'd become a clinical director for a company that owned a few nursing homes and needed an administrator in the area where I lived.

On the good side it feels great to be wanted and appreciated.  I'm grateful to get a job. I know that I can go in there and do a good job for them and make things better.  However, to be candid, I'm struggling with my ego. I'm the only person I know with a license to be a nursing home administrator that would work as a Q or program manager in this type of setting. The pay is less than half what I'd make as a nursing home administrator. It's much less prestigious.  But I don't actually need more money.  It's most likely good for me to work hard at a more humble position.  It affords me the opportunity to practice having a servant's heart and humble attitude.

Moments


Photo from Nelly Cherry
Sometimes there's a moment in time that becomes fixed in your mind.

There were a few such moments during our last class at CRC.

The men have a workbook through which we are working.  Each week they receive a chapter that they work through on their own prior to class. The class includes 35 men and is set up so that there's a general opening introduction regarding the chapter we're working on that week. Then we break up into 3 smaller groups to allow for more intimate discussion.

When part of the discussion involved stuff that happened during their childhoods, I was moved by how truly terrible things had been for some of these guys. One man talked about how, starting when he was 6 years old, he had to get the money he needed if he expected to eat that day.  Another mentioned how there'd never been any kind of routine in his house since life had revolved around his mom doing whatever it took for her to get drugs. As I listened to bits and pieces of the nightmare experiences that comprised many of these young men's childhoods, I couldn't help but think why would we be surprised these guys ended up involved in criminal activities?

Several guys really grabbed my heart with their comments during our discussion about long term goals. Here are some of those comments that got me:

* "I feel kind of funny saying this and you might think I'm weird, but one of my long term goals is to not have a kid with anyone unless I'm married to her.  I already have one child but I'm not going to have any more unless I'm married to the mother before we have children.  My dad must have something like 20 children wandering around with lots of different women, I don't want to be like that."

* "You know, my dad's been in and out of prison my whole life.  This last time he's been out the longest he's ever been out - two years.  Everyone says I'm just gonna be like my dad, but I'm not.  When I get out my goal is to never come back to prison. I want to be different."

* There was a very quiet young man who I had to encourage to speak. He tentatively said, "I'm not sure if this counts as a goal, but I want to get my GED." When he made this announcement a few of the other inmates made comments such as "that will only be the beginning. You can do that and then keep going", "way to go, good for you", and a few clapped for him.

I was hit again, as I was last week, with that pervasive feeling emanating from many of the young men in that room. It was Desire.  Desire to change.  Anxiety about if they would be able to.  A bit of puzzlement as to how to really do it.

It is so rare in life that I come across such sincerity of heart in people who want to become different, who want to be better. I can't express what a joy it is to get to teach people with this attitude.

I pray for each of these men and look forward to seeing how God's gonna work in them.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lunch with Pam

I'm really rather selfish and tend to put myself in the middle of life, as if everything revolves around me.

Perhaps this is why I am so surprised that I enjoyed the three hours I spend with Pam today.  We went to this great fish taco place that has sort of a fast food place, but almost a restaurant, kind of set up.  We went after the lunch rush and there were lots of empty spots by the time we finished eating; so we sat drinking tea and talking for quite awhile. Then I took her with me to go buy some herbs for a hanging herb garden I'm setting up.  Pam used to have a huge herb garden when both my parents were alive and they had a ranch out in the country.  She's into herbs and knowledgeable regarding them.  It was a entirely pleasurable time.

Here I'm thinking I'm doing this thing for her, but it's me who ends up getting blessed.  Honestly didn't see that one coming.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

First time

Image result for prison ministry
Photo from ICIBC
Last night was my first night actually getting to go to the prison and volunteer with Prison Fellowship ministry. I found that these young men truly grabbed my heart. One of the things that kind of surprised me was how comfortable I was in that setting.

I'm volunteering with a youth offender program that pulls young men ages 18-24 out from the rest of the population.  They have a few older guys mixed in with these ones to provide leadership.   Maybe it's because I have 3 sons in their twenties, I don't know, but these guys just felt like kids to me.  My heart went out to them. They may look all "bad" and tatooed up, but they feel like people trying to figure out how to do life differently.

I want to be a part of helping them do that.

We just started a class about job seeking.  I recognize that this is a real issue for these guys and that it's gonna be hard for them to get jobs when they get out.  I'm already praying for them. I also pray that God would help me remember all of their names (there were 26 there last night and a few got turned away.  I emailed the other volunteer about wanting to set up more chairs for next time because the prison staff sponsor told me that we can have up to 35 and next week is their last chance to get into the class). I pray that I can be an example of God's love for them and that God'll work what He wants in these men's hearts through this class.




Saturday, May 6, 2017

A more global perspective

https://www.northcentralcollege.edu/sites/default/files/styles/teaser_medium/public/Picture1.jpg?itok=WAqHv2xU
Photo from North Central College
I try to live life daily with an attitude of gratitude, but sometimes I may not appreciate how good I have it.

There's nothing like gaining a more global perspective to bring my blessed state into a more clear perspective.

Here's a few facts that have hit me as I've been reading What can I do? by David Livermore:
  • 20% of the world's population owns 74% of the world's financial assets
  • If you earn $50,000 a year, you're among the top 1% of the richest people in our world
  • If you earn $20,000 a year, you're among the top 11% of the richest people in our world
  • Just under 1% of the world's population (WP) dies from hunger every year 
  • Half of the WP is malnourished
  • Around 1/3 of the WP doesn't have access to a safe water supply
  • Almost 1/3 of the WP has TB (BTW: In the U.S. TB is fairly easily treated by taking several drugs for 6 to 9 months).
  • Drug trafficking is the largest organized crime ring in the global community 
  • Second to drug trafficking is human trafficking
  • 10% of the WP controls enough explosive power in nuclear weapons that they could blow up the entire civilization many times over
  • The Christian faith is estimated to be growing at a rate of 6.9% a year.  The largest portion of this growth is occurring in Latin America, Southern Africa, and Southern Asia.
Sometimes this type of information can be overwhelming.

I was encouraged by Livermore's referring to some information found through Global Perspective Inventory research. Their research found that individuals who understand global issues and see themselves as global citizens most often feel a need to give back to society and work for the rights of others.

As I'm reading this book I pray that God will show me ways to integrate my life, work, and giftings with ways to address these global issues.

Monday, April 24, 2017

What does the fact that I'm surprised say about me?

Enclos paroissial de la Martyre | La Martyre, Brittany, France:
Photo by Yann  Caradec 
It's funny how I'm suprised when I pray and God answers.

A few months ago I began studying the Bible book of Nehemiah.  One of the resources I'm using in my study is Kelly Minter's book Nehemiah, a heart that can break. From the start of the book, I've been struck by Nehemiah's heart that responds to the problems of others.  I've been moved as I've read about how he took the needs he saw to God in prayer and then acted. I've been praying that God would heighten my awareness of needs around me and how He wants me to respond.

Since I've been praying, God led me to Prison Fellowship Ministry and then to weekly luncheoning with my sister.

For the past several months my son Daniel has been talking about a ministry with which I was previously vaguely familiar: Voice of the Martyrs (VOM).  Today I went over to their website. I felt impressed to start setting aside time each week to:

  • Read a few paragraphs about a brother or sister in the Lord who is imprisoned for their faith. 
  • Pray for that person
  • Compose/choose 12 phrases that  VOM has set up to be in the receiver's language.
  • Print the 12-phrase letter
  • Address and set up the envelope for this letter 
  • Take the letter to the post office and pay and mail it
From start to finish it will take less than one hour per week.  Aside from the post office part I can do this at any time of the day or night.  This is a tangible way I can encourage and "make a difference" for a brother or sister in the Lord who's suffering for our Savior. Wow - what an honor.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The ministry I never wanted

My oldest sister used to live with my mom.  Her name is Pam. It's always been a question in the back of my mind as to where Pam would go when my mom would some day die.  She's rather flakey and never really held down a job. She's also stubborn & doesn't take care of herself.  She's one of those people who, when she's telling about life events, starts to add things to the account that aren't true.  As is frequently the case of many people of that type, she tells her stories so much that she actually believes them.

During my high school years Pam caused me a lot of pain and misery and we've never been close.  However, during the past 10 years or so I've come to a point where I just live in the immediate present where she's concerned.  Since I'm not able to change her behavior I don't mentally, or aloud, get into things I think she's doing wrong with her own life, my mom, or my mom's money. Since this change on my part, she and I have had positive encounters when I visited my mom. When everything is said and done she is my sister and I do love her.

As time went by Pam started receiving a small monthly check of around $560.  As my mother aged it became useful that she had Pam living with her. Pam is now age 70.

My mom passed away in mid March.  After much back and forth, Pam went to live with my niece Kara. Initially Kara had told Pam that her dog could come but it had to live outside.  They had a dog house for the dog and another dog already lives there.  The first day Pam moved in went well and the two dogs became friends. Pam convinced Kara to let Pam bring her dog inside.  However, the dog has some accidents and Kara reverted to her original stance of the dog needing to live outside.

I'd been meaning to go visit Pam but hadn't gotten around to it.  Ten days after she'd moved in with Kara I received this text from Kara:

"Well Pam wants out of there. I've been trying extremely hard to make this living situation pleasurable for her and she hates all of it. She is currently sleeping in our backyard with giggy (this is Pam's dog's name) when I asked her not to. It's just giggy that needs to sleep outside b/c he is ruining our house by going to the restroom inside. She wants to move out as soon as possible so if you have any alternatives that would be great! She has been name calling, lying to me, and going behind my back. She hates me and wants out as soon as possible."

Kara was at work when she sent me this text so we couldn't really talk then.  I called another niece and talked with her. This niece gave me the details on what had been going on. I let Kara know I'd come take Pam to lunch the next day and talk with her.

As I thought about what I'd say to Pam when we talked I had a desire to just confront her and tell her that no one would be giving in to her tantrums as my parents had her entire life, that she needed to learn to give in to other people's needs.  I wanted to emphasize how reasonable Kara is being and that Pam's not gonna find any place she can afford that will let her even bring her dog.  I wanted to make her go take a shower the moment I arrived.  But I prayed that God would give me wisdom and His words for Pam.

As it ended up Pam was waiting on the house steps when I arrived.  I took her to a salad buffet place and basically waited on her since she has a knee that won't bend, she walks super slowly, and getting up & down is difficult for her.  We had a nice lunch and sat for close to 30 minutes just sipping tea & talking when we'd finished lunch.  I didn't end up being confrontational.  I did manage to slip in that Kara has the right to make her own house rules, that it's warm in so Cal and her dog is fine outside, and that I don't know of another place she can find that would allow her to bring giggy.  I was extremely diplomatic in the way I presented these things.

My husband John is out of town right now and we texted a bit later that evening.  One particular text that he sent me really hit me:

"As you have done to the least of these...you've done it unto ME"

How I treat Pam is how I'm treating my Savior.

I never planned on having much to do with Pam after mom passed.  But I felt impressed to, for the time being at least, go see her weekly.  I believe that having someone befriend her and take her out once a week will assist her during this transition time.  On the one hand since I'm not working right now I have time.  On the other hand I don't have a lot of money.  But still...I feel like this is what God's saying. He's the one who supplies my money ultimately any way.  Also, the truth is that I do have enough money to do this for right now.  Plus, we're going to inexpensive lunch deals.

So I guess for now I'm having weekly lunch dates with Pam and praying that God would somehow use me to make things better there


Prison Ministry Fellowship

https://firstantiochchurch.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/prisonministry.jpg?w=700&h=458
Photo from FAC
I wrote a while back about being impressed to pursue ministering to prisoners or ex-prisoners.  The day I thought God was speaking this to my heart, I went online and looked into what was going on in this regard in my community.  I came across a group named Prison Ministry Fellowship.  I was familiar with this group because when my children were small we sometimes donated to the their project angel tree at Christmas time. So I contacted them and was emailed by Audrey, who is the southern California field director for this group.

It's been a process:
  • First I completed a PMF volunteer application and had to obtain 3 references, one of whom needed to be a leader or pastor at the church I attend.
  • Once my initial application was accepted, I was set up to complete 4 online courses.  Each of these courses had 4 modules and each module had between 3-6 lessons. ( I was super impressed with these courses. They taught about prison culture, how to teach, how to mentor, and the TUMI program.  They also provided relevant case studies that gave a clearer view of what this type of ministry would involve.)
  • Then I had to get a PPD.
  • Then I had a face to face interview with Audrey yesterday.
The interview was set for 1:30PM and I expected it would be an hour.  But we ended up talking and lost all track of time.  When I followed her into an office area to print off some paperwork for me, we were both astounded to find that the clock indicated that it was 3:45PM. It was a wonderful time together.  This woman has such a heart and passion for prison ministries and a testimony that almost made me cry.

It was interesting because I'd indicated all along that I have a desire to serve so I can work wherever is needed, but my big interest is mentoring women who've been released. When we met and actually discussed the needs, I found that they have a huge need for programs in the local men's prison. The local men's prison, CRC, is a medium level II correctional facility. They have a specific program CRC started back in November where young men ages 18-21 are somewhat separated out from the rest of the population. They need instructors to teach PFM pre-release curriculum to these inmates. The curriculum involves practical skills so the inmates have better chances of success when they leave the institution.  Topics include such things as job seeking, interviews, job maintenance, healthy relationships, personal goal setting, time management, etc. Audrey explained these courses as practical life classes with God at the back of them. PMF already has topic related experts who volunteer and teach courses on boundaries and anger management.

I have some mixed thoughts about working with that group.  On the good side I know they need the programs, they're scared children on one level, if they can get their lives together now they have such a better prognosis for their lives, and I've always had a soft spot for young men (most likely because I have 3 sons, who are currently ages 28, 24, & 23).  On the down side I'm guessing this group is less quick to open up and share because of their fears, they are more likely to think they already know it all, they are extremely testosterone-fuled, and I'm not sure I'd appeal to this group.  However, maybe I could be a positive mother figure for them.  I don't know.  I'm praying about it.

Audrey has a super great relationship to the warden there, so she said she'll get me a provisional clearance for the month of May. I just had to complete a provisional clearance form to be run by CRC.  Then I can go in and observe the pre-release classes for this age group, pre-release courses for the regular population, and TUMI curriculum for both groups.  TUMI is an acronym for The Urban Ministries Institute.  I looked over that curriculum and was very impressed. It covers college level Bible courses and is set up so that even people with low reading skills can do the work.  This curriculum was developed by a man who has a calling from God to equip ministers to work in urban areas.

I'm praying and waiting on the Lord regarding what He wants me to do.  Audrey felt convinced that if I come in and observe I'll find if I am meant to be involved in prison ministries.  She also has no doubt that when I observe, it will be really clear to me where I'm meant to minister.

There's a several page application I still need to complete so that CRC can clear me to volunteer there and I would need to go through a 4-hour CRC volunteer orientation that is offered once each quarter.

Right now I'm just trying to do what I think God is leading me to do and taking it one step at a time.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Big Picture

My niece and I had been trading off accompanying my sister to watch over my mom. On Thursday
Photo from America Explained
I left out the door and then came back to say goodbye to my mom.  It didn't even seem like she knew I was there; which may have been due to the morphine I'd been giving her as frequently as the physician's orders would allow.  I'd stopped by the store enroute to home; the entire trip from my mom's house takes a bit over an hour.  When I was almost home my niece called and told me that mom had just passed.  

All I could feel was gratitude.  In the early morning hours, when I'd watched my mom's body struggling for each breath she took, I'd prayed asking God to just let her go in peace.  I'd said that it was all too much, she shouldn't have it so hard.  So then, to hear she'd passed, was a relief.  I'm encouraged to know that the 1 Corinthians 5:8 assures me that those of faith are present with God when they leave these bodies behind.

I was talking with John today about how  I grateful I am for these past few months because I've been able to spend more time with mom.  I'd bring food over to her house and cook a meal that we'd share together. We'd hang out and visit.  She was still relatively healthy, and totally lucid, until the very end.  I'm so grateful that I had that time.  If I'd been working I would not have been able to spend as much time with her.  It's interesting because of course I'd been deeply disturbed when I was let go at my job.  In the ensuing months I'd applied for numerous jobs.  I'd interviewed for 4 specific jobs that I could really see myself in, knew I was qualified for, and felt I did well during the interview - but never got the job.

Looking at it now, I'm just grateful for the time I've had.  Time to be with hear when things were good.  Time with her during her last days.  There was one night during those hospice days at home that stands out in my mind.  She'd taken my hand and kissed it.  At that point she was lucid but extremely difficult to understand when she talked to us. I was surprised and touched when she did that because it was not something my mom would do.

You just never know what God's got planned.  I can only see what's right in front of me, but God's got the big picture.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Powerless

Roses are red, violets are blue  I wish to be numb, for a day or two  Take my heart, I don't want it today  But tomorrow is a different day:
Saved from Squidoo
On the good side, I'm not numb any more.  I'm not questioning inside my head if I'm capable of feeling.

It's just that I can't let go and let myself feel all the pain.  I have to put it aside for now and use my head so I can act wisely.  Seeing my mom right now - more than 2 weeks of not eating and the last 6 days of not drinking - seeing her gasping for air and the rattle in her chest.  It's awful beyond words.

All I can do it give her 0.25ml Morphine every 3 hours to ensure she's pain free.  Periodically reposition her in what would seem to be a comfortable position.   Occasionally hold her hand and say how much I love her. Sing the old hymns she so likes with the hope that it comforts her spirit.

I'm grateful that Romans 8:26 assures me that the Spirit of God helps me pray.  I have a few words to say but my heart is longing with more than I know how to say.  I don't really understand why my mom can't just die instead of going through all this.

I feel so powerless.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Transitions

We are all just walking each other home. -Ram Dass  we just talked about this quote in nursing and then here it is on pintrest :):
Photo from Pinterest page
To say that watching someone die is difficult is not accurate. For me it is a heavy feeling that weighs on the general numbness that has been my constant state for the past week.

A week ago we took my 91-year old mom to the hospital via ambulance. She'd neither ate nor drank for the past week despite our best efforts. After the first couple of days of trying to decipher what the doctor was really saying amidst her many words, I realized that my mom was entering into that last phase of her life. It took a few more days to convince my sister who lives with my mom to bring her home on hospice. My niece & I agreed to share being at the house so my sister won't be all alone with mom. My sister cries frequently & asks if I'm sure mom won't just "bounce back". As if this is a decision I'm making.

I'm okay with this all in theory. My mom has been clear her entire life that she doesn't want to die in a hospital with a bunch of tubes in her. She was clear in the hospital that she just wanted to go home. I want her to be comfortable at home, receiving the steady trickle of people whose lives she's touched who want to come hold her hand & express their love & gratitude. Although I'm extremely awkward/inefficient at it, I'm fine with doing all those "nursing tasks" surrounding hygiene & daily life for my mom.

The thing that is getting to me is watching the effects of dehydration; the dry lips and sunken facial features. I constantly apply lip balm & swab her mouth with a wet spongette to help. But nothing can totally ameliorate the effects

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Practice

Photo from Even Rocks Cry Out
I've "tried" silence and solitude twice now.

In our bedroom, on my side of the bed, I routinely take time out first thing in the morning to praise & thank God as well as engage in my prayer list.  I also read some from the Bible and reflect a bit on what I've read.  So I've now inserted time for silence before I get into the Bible reading.

Right now I'm a bit mechanical in my approach.  I set my phone timer for 5 minutes. This time amount most likely would seem paltry to most people; but for me this is where I am at, the most I can do at this time. (I have a thought that some day I'll become one of those people who takes out long stretches of time such as half a day, an entire day, or a weekend to give God their undivided attention.  But I'm not there yet.)  Five minutes of me not talking.  Five minutes of me trying to silence all those thoughts in my head.  I start by just saying "I'm yours Lord".  I end, after the timer rings, by thanking Him that He would want to talk with me.  So far I just have thoughts bouncing all over in my head as I try to quiet down.

In Invitation to Solitude and Silence Barton writes about how it can be more beneficial to acknowledge disruptive thoughts rather than try to ignore them.  She writes about how fears, concerns, and repetitive ideas can be a glimpse into our interior selves.  She encourages the reader to bring them to God.  So far, for me, it's not really like that.  It's just that my mind is all over the place.  Being silent does not come naturally to me.

I figure that I just need to do it daily. Get myself into the routine, and eventually more will come  At the very least I think that my "time with God" each day is too much about myself.  I'm praising and thanking and asking for - which is all fine and good.  But when do I listen for what God might be wanting to say to me?  Certainly my time in the Word is that...but I think there might be more.  So, I'm thinking that God knows my heart and sees that I'm trying to set things up so that I give Him my complete, undivided attention each day.  From what I know of His character, I believe He will honor this desire.  I don't know how this will look, but I'm expectant.

After silence today I read from a devotional that I've been going through.  Then I took some time to review a book that we're going to be facilitating at church for a women's Bible study starting next month.  As I was glancing through the Bible study workbook my attention caught on a page with a photo of a woman who leads a prison ministry.  When I saw that picture a voice in my head said I want to do that. I certainly have the time right now; and even when I'm working again, I can take a few hours one evening a week or on the weekend to do something.   I have been blessed in my life to have a few people, who at various stages in my life, invested in me.  I've had some times in my life when I've been able to invest in others, but not as much as I'd like.  My heart always wants to be there for others when they are going through tough times.  But it does not naturally happen for me that I connect with people in this way very often.

So I went online and happened upon Prison Fellowship ministries.  I've been peripherally involved with them in the past through Project Angel Tree; when my children were little, some years we would buy presents to donate to Angel Tree as our family Christmas service project. I remember, years ago, reading about Chuck Coleson and his vision when starting this ministry.  As I looked through ministry opportunities on the website today I was drawn to opportunities to mentor a female prisoner directly prior to and/or following her release.  I thought about how tough it is for people to get jobs once they have a prison record.  I reflected on how some people in this situation don't have a healthy support system. I know that life is hard.  No one can take away life's hardships or pain.  But, in my experience, having someone to come along side and go through the hard times - not being alone - can be very powerful. I want to do that for someone. So I completed a very brief application and I guess I'll be contacted.  We'll see what happens.

I don't know if the silence time and this opportunity to serve are related. I do know that over the past few years I've been trying to implement what I call "immediate obedience". This is the immediate obedience thing, theory and my practice, in a nutshell:

I've often encountered Christians writing or talking about hearing God tell them stuff.  I've never actually heard a voice.  But sometimes there are thoughts in my head, that sound just like all the other thoughts, that I think are the voice of the Holy Spirit within me.  You know how when you're listening to the radio sometimes the station doesn't come in clear and it's all static-y?  Sometimes the God thoughts are like that for me.  I can't really hear them well.  I've noticed that when I spend time praising God, being thankful throughout the day, being aware of God, reading the Bible, reading books related to God, listening to uplifting Christian music, etc. that it's easier for me to hear what I think are the God thoughts. Under those conditions, these thoughts seem to come in more clearly.  Another thing that I've noticed makes it easier to differentiate the God thoughts from my own thoughts is what I call immediate obedience.

Immediate obedience is when I do what the thought is.  For example, the thought may be to go give that homeless person I see some money.  Or it may be to write an encouraging email to a specific person.  It can be all kinds of things.  I'm not absolutely sure that these specific thoughts are from God - but I figure if the thought is to do good for someone, it can't but be good to do it.  I've  also noticed that those specific types of inclinations or thoughts are typically the easiest for me to ignore.  Because I'll counter those thoughts with ones like Oh I'm too busy, or, my little bit of money won't really help the real problem, or some other reason not to do the thing.  It's very easy for me to get caught up on my own agenda for the day and the flow of the tasks for daily living. But I've found that when I think it's a God-thought for me to do something, and I do that thing right away (what I refer to as immediate obedience), that I can hear the God-thoughts in general more clearly.  When I engage in immediate obedience, there is less static in my head.









Thursday, February 9, 2017

Realizing powerlessness

rope You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope with less of you there is more if god and his rule:
Photo from Makeover
One of my favorite scriptures is the portion of Jesus' famous sermon on the mount that we refer to as the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. I'm especially delighted by the way Peterson paraphrases the first verse in The Message: 

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you  there is more of God and his rule.

My first marriage was to an alcoholic.  I became rather crazy trying to  control that poor man's drinking.  I finally got myself into Al-Anon. I'll  forever be grateful for Al-Anon because it was there that I learned about 12 step programs.  The first step that they talk about is accepting the fact that you are powerless.

The importance of recognizing my own powerlessness is the foundation for life.

When speaking of solitude and silence Dallas Willard once said that "it is a fallacy to think that one just needs more time. Unless a deeper solution is found, "more time" will just fill up the same way as the time we already have.  The way to liberation and rest lies through a decision and practice. The decision is to release the world and your fate, including your reputation and success, into the hands of God."  Willard goes on to observe that "Sin, Paul tells us, "was in the world", even before the law came. It forms us internally and pressures us externally. Hence we must learn to choose things that meet with God's actions of grace to break us out of the system. These things are disciplines of life in the spirit, well known from Christian history but much avoided and misunderstood.  For those who do not understand our desperate situation, these disciplines look strange or even harmful.  But they are absolutely necessary for those who would find rest for their soul in God and not live the distracted existence Pascal so accurately portrays. Solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciples because they most directly attack the sources of human misery and wrongdoing.  To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing. For extensive periods of time. All accomplishment is given up. Silence is required to complete solitude, for until we enter quietness, the world still lays hold of us. When we go into solitude and silence we stop making demands on God. It is enough that God is God and we are his. We learn we have a soul, that God is here, and that the world is my Father's world."

I appreciate Ruth Haley Barton's comments concerning the practices of solitude and silence.  In her book Invitation to Solitude and Silence she talks about her inner demons of the desire to perform, to be seen as competent, productive, culturally relevant and balanced as major obstacles to the practice of solitude and silence. I struggle with these same issues.  To "do nothing" seems crazy.  I feel anxious even thinking about it.  I get busy thinking about it to avoid doing it.

But...the desire for more is still there.  The fact that I can't seem to work out what to be doing in my life right now exists.  In my application for 150 different jobs that have not resulted in employment, I see the fact that I'm not making "it" happen.

Seeking Solitude and Silence

I really like this one. It seems lonely, but its how it was supposed to be.:
Photo from gentleman essentials
Blaise Pascal noted that "all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own room", he found that the reason for this inability is "the natural poverty of our feeble and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can comfort us when we think of it closely". Pascal said that people turn to diversion to distract us from ourselves.  He explained that "Hence it comes to people so much love noise and stir; hence it comes that the prison is so horrible a punishment; hence it comes that the pleasure of solitude is a thing incomprehensible".

This seems true of the world I see around me. In the culture around me I see a constant addiction to cell  phones and listening devices.  When I've traveled and shared rooms with people from work, I've found that it is common practice to never allow there to be any quiet; that people turn on the TV when they enter a room even though they're not watching it.  People tell me that they do this all the time at home.  This drives me crazy.  Aside from work or to obtain information, I don't use my cell phone much.  I adore long walks at the beach, or any beautiful outdoor place, without any kind of listening device.  I want to just drink in and enjoy the silence.

Pascal also observed that people are driven to diversion and develop the confused idea that rest is attained through excitement. He wrote that people "always to fancy that the satisfaction which they do not have will come to them if, by surmounting whatever difficulties confront them they can thereby open the door to rest".  I can see that in the frenzied vacation pursuits of so many.  Not that exciting vacations in and of themselves are wrong; in fact, that might be very right for some one.  It's just that I don't think these excitement laden activities will produce the peace, connection to God, and rest for the soul. As long as exciting vacations are pursued for what they are, they can be great.

Pascal believed that people have "another secret instinct, a remnant of greatness of our original nature, which teaches that happiness in reality consists only in rest, and not being stirred up". When I think about these words of Pascal I'm reminded of these Bible elements:
  • In Genesis we're told that man was created in God's image
  • In the Garden of Eden there was not sin and man had perfect communication with God
  • In the old testament I read about the sabbath and a rest.  In the Exodus story God provided manna for His people and they only collected enough for their daily needs.  But on the 6th day they collected enough for that day plus the sabbath rest day.
  • In the new testament Jesus made His famous statement in Matthew 11:28 - 29 about how He'll give us rest.

I  recognize that, although I'm not as addicted to the noise agents of my culture, I have my own barrier.  It's something I developed during my lonely childhood in my crazy family.  I write scripts in my head.  Sometimes it's about what could or might happen in my own life, but frequently it's a story about someone else in a life with such and such going on.  It's like I read a fiction book of my own making in my head while I'm walking, cooking, or engaging in some other life activity which doesn't require concentration. This thing that I do isn't bad in and of itself, but sometimes I use it as a barrier from the pain or questions in my head that I don't know what to do with.  Sometimes I use it as an escape.

 I think that Pascal, and all the other mystic and contemplative writers, were onto something.

So, it is with this in mind that I've determined to embark upon a quest to understand and implement what many refer to as spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Adrift

Explore petervanallen's photos on Flickr. petervanallen has uploaded 4362 photos to Flickr.:

Right now I'm a bit lost.

I'm jobless and looking.  I've applied to 150 positions, engaged in phone interviews for 9 jobs, made it to face to face interviews for 3 jobs, and mentally tried-on-and-got-excited about 4 positions that never panned out.

During this time I:
  • Completed 2 required courses for the MA program I'm working on
  • Came upon a free treadmill and started walking 4 - 5 miles daily while watching TV (mostly Taiwanese dramas)
  • Spent bunches of time cooking for, and visiting with, my 92-year old mother
  • Hosted all 3 of my sons + girlfriend + wife + girlfriend's daughter + grand daughter for the Christmas and New Year holidays
  • Been blessed to make numerous beach trips to HB that included long walks at low tide with John at Bolsa Chica or Sunset beaches
  • Read numerous fun, fiction, books
  • Visited my oldest son, wife, & granddaughter in Texas
  • Engaged in numerous discussions with my youngest son regarding his dreams, goals and future
  • Prayerfully tried to provide requested advice to my middle son regarding his relationship with his girlfriend and his finances 
  • Started learning Spanish using a free phone app (Duolingo)
  • Prepared to help facilitate the new women's Bible study at church
  • Engaged in lengthy theology and/or political discussions with John

I know that God has a plan and I choose to trust Him.  Sometimes my emotions are right there with me, and sometimes I struggle with feeling like a failure.  One thing I have noticed is that my job and my identity and way too strongly linked together.

Right now I'm especially feeling adrift because I only need 3 more courses to complete this MA program and none of them are offered right now. I feel as if I've applied for every possible job for which I can think of and am a bit lost as to what to do next.  I'm grateful that John's income makes it so that all our needs are met so I don't have a lot of financial pressure.

But I want more.......

I want to do more
be more
experience more
help other people more
and I'm unclear where to start

Gather me to be with you

I came across this prayer from Ted Loder in his book Guerillas of Grace; it echos the words in my own heart:

O God, gather me now                                                                                                                                
to be with you
as you are with me.                                                                                  

Soothe my tiredness;
quiet my fretfulness;
curb my aimlessness;
relieve my compulsiveness;
let me be easy for a moment.

O Lord, release me
from fears and guilts
which grip me so tightly;
from expectations and opinions
which I so tightly grip,
that I may be open
to receiving what you give,
to risking something genuinely new,
to learning something refreshingly different.

O God, gather me
to be with you
as you are with me.
Amen

Photo from My Quiet Place

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