Moving into the Fall the shift in weather has become noticeable. Last night we sat at home and watched a movie as a thunder storm moved through the area. The rain seemed to come in great noisy waves as the storm passed through. It made for a pleasant evening together as we were able to share that time with each other. It will not be long before we move into the holiday season again and shortly thereafter a New Year begins. The annual cycle moves on again, only it seems to get faster with each passing year. I notice that other aspects of my life seem to also move in cycles. I have times or seasons where I seem to be unusually productive and then it will shift ever so slightly and I will find myself looking again for direction. It is almost like God does not let me run very far in front of Him, so that I never find myself totally disconnected from His provision. I still find it a struggle to have those times when I seem to come to an abrupt stop in my focus and direction. As a matter of fact, I would have to say that waiting on God is one of the most difficult tasks in my life. Once I get a sense of bearings it is easy to be off on my own agenda and in these moments it is easy to lose the focus that I am here to serve my King.
Have you ever given any thought to the subject of Kingship in your own life? Is there a King in your life? What is the one thing that has the greatest hold upon your life? What would it take to let go of that completely? Is it impossible for you to see yourself living with this one thing in your life? As a former therapist I can remember so many people talking about things that they just could never let go of……and then watching the pain as they struggled to hold onto things that they could not keep. I am not just talking about material things, but spouses, children, careers, and sometimes even their own lives. It is a different sort of journey when you walk with someone who is losing everything they value in life. You can look back at the road behind and see how it is littered with all of the things that they once thought of as trophies. This is a common journey for everyone, since we will all eventually go the way of our ancestors.
Those making this journey who seemed to have the greatest peace were those who had found something beyond life itself. Something that was of greater value than all of the things that we accumulate during our lifetimes. I write to you about such matters, because I have discovered that some of the greatest gifts that I have been given seem to have come to me freely from others who held a different view of life than my own. Many times, I cast aside these little gifts because they were inconvenient at the time. They did not fit with my own expectations or desires. But later I was able to see how they had the remarkable ring of truth to them. In some cases I had already been told what to expect from the future days of my life. And what was great about those little gems was the fact that they were all true. So I try to find a way to relate some of those experiences in each of my letters, sharing with each of you the experience of being human. Recently I have had a few pieces of mail from readers asking me to drop them from my mailing list. What I noticed about each of these letters, was how respectfully each of the authors treated me in their requests. They were all kind and direct. For that I am extremely grateful and I will see that their requests are followed. I will also follow up each of those letters with a personal letter, because I was impressed with the quality of their humanness.
I gave a lot of thought to these few requests and wondered why my words would have triggered that response. I eventually came to realize that with each letter, I have been attempting to help shape some special quality in your own life. Trying to help you catch a different viewpoint on your current circumstances. Then I realized that perhaps the only way to maintain sanity is to hang onto what you already have…..perhaps there is a point at which you cannot let go of another thing, without losing the essence of who you actually are. If I have made this mistake in assuming, please forgive my error in judgment. Perhaps with age we are all prone to this type of error. I can boost myself up now and look back over 70 years of road. It gives one a different perspective on life. I want to put as much knowledge as I can in each of these monthly newsletters (knowledge capsules) and share them with you in the same way that they have been shared with me. I do not want to see anyone miss the opportunity of catching a new view on life. Not just a spiritual view, but a new view. That would be all that could sustain me if we swapped addresses. So what I would seek for myself, I attempt to respectfully share with you. When life is reduced to a number, then the only way to live that life fully is to create a new life every day and to live it to the fullest. The kindness I spoke of earlier coming from those who did not want to receive these letters anymore, really surprised me. It surprised me since living in the world, I do not often see that kind of kindness expressed among free people. Those brief words that were shared with me, made me stop and think seriously about the men who took the time to write to me. So for me, your words were like small gifts that you shared with me. I thank you for your courage and kindness in not just blowing me off. Thank you for letting me see some aspect of your own humanity. It has brightened my days.
I am just starting on a new area of writing and will be working alongside an old friend who shares common interests with me. I have had a strong interest in understanding the notion of evil. What is it…where does it come from….how does it affect each of our individual lives? Over the years of my work I have been exposed to the effects of evil on many occasions, so I have a working knowledge of the subject. But I am no expert on evil, nor do I believe that any individual is an expert on evil. I do believe that we are only experts about how evil has impacted our own lives. I take the time to tell you about this area of research, as I respect the fact that you may have a unique view or observation which can add light to the subject we are exploring. Given that reality, I wanted to explain this subject matter to you and invite you to share anything that you believe will be of value on this topic or related to this topic. I believe that life is like a puzzle, we all hold pieces to the solution. So please consider this an invitation to participate in an honest study about the scope and nature of evil. Your thoughts and ideas will be welcomed and will be held as confidential. By the way, I do not assume that evil is always individual….many times it can be a community or national reality. In fact we can see from the events in the middle-east, that evil can have international implications. So I do not start out with any notions about race, religion, national origin, belief systems, or socio-economic status. Please share your thoughts, experiences and beliefs. It will all go into a knowledge pot and perhaps we can all learn some new things together.
By the way, I want to take a moment to clarify my thoughts for you. As an individual I am unable to seriously and objectively look at the topic of evil on my own. It is only by being rooted spiritually that I can make an effort to understand this force that impacts everyone’s lives. I can only understand it on a personal basis by looking at my own life. My own actions…..my own failures. No one else. I can make sense of the actions of others, only by recognizing similar patterns in my own life. That does not mean that I had to do the same act, rather it means that because of my own limitations and sinfulness I can empathically understand how explosive moments in time happen. I have had my own share of explosive moments and if my thoughts had ever become actions, I would have been confined forever. Knowing my own limitations and failures, I have a difficult time with those who have no ability to forgive or to see themselves possibly in similar situations. We live in a strange world, strangely intolerant of the actions of others, but wanting forgiveness for ourselves. As a friend of mine would say, it is the era of “hard-hearted people.”
This morning I had a conversation with that same friend and one more time our direction turned toward the twin topics of indifference and apathy. For most people living in the ”real world” they would be shocked to find out that sins of indifference and apathy are just as evil as the most violent crimes imaginable. Most people put a shield of protection about themselves and consider themselves to be “good” people because they do not see themselves as violating the major sins, or even if they have done so, they believe that God will forgive them for their sinful choices. What makes apathy and indifference so evil lies in the fact that I am willing to ascribe God’s forgiveness to all of my past deeds, but I do not extend the same attitude toward your sins. Or I plainly do not care what happens to you. It is an attitude of, ”I’ve got mine, now you go get yours.” What provides the ground in which this grows, is a life of selfish interests. I strongly suspect that many people are going to be shocked to discover the forgiving nature of God. As my wife has pointed out to me, if I am unwilling to forgive others than I cannot expect that God will forgive me. I also strongly suspect that the notion that, ”I am a good person” is part of the original lie that Satan fed to Eve and Adam as the ultimate justification for all of our personal actions. Human beings have turned that misbelief into a platform from which they can justify any action which comes into their heads. And for the most part, these are the free people that inhabit our world.
I am not justifying crime in any way nor am I excusing my past behaviors or those of other people. What I am clearly saying is that it is virtually impossible to look upon the actions of others in any meaningful way, until I have gotten an accurate read on my own thoughts, intentions, personal lies and deceptions, biases and prejudices, etc. Once I start to catch a glimpse of my own personal evil, I am convicted in my soul and have little stomach for looking at the faults of others, as I have seen my own wickedness and perversity. It is a remarkable and frightening journey inward. There is little help available from the outside world when you make this journey, because most people flee away from any notion of looking deep inside their own lives. Therefore they are bewildered when you approach them and try to discuss these kinds of topics. It truly is a lonely journey, but the most rewarding journey you could ever make in your life. Would you consider making that journey with me? I know the way and I will share all that I know with you.
I have spoken of the importance of trying to re-establish connections with family members and friends. I believe that this is an integral part of this journey. I understand that you may have many reasons why you would be reluctant to begin this engagement. But deep in our hearts I believe that every human being hungers for connection to others. Real, true and meaningful connections with someone who really wants to understand you. I am saddened as I have read about others who have left this life without ever having that type of relationship with someone else. By myself, with all of my good intentions I am unable to make this a reality between you and me. It takes some outreach on your part to make the initial connection. Trust that once you have made that effort it will not go unfulfilled. Your efforts will be rewarded. I have a file on my computer marked family letters. Inside that file I have written a letter to every member of my immediate family, those who are close to me and those who have long ago abandoned any pretense at a relationship. From time to time I go back into that file and update those letters to reflect things that have happened since my last update. Upon my death, each family member will be given their own letter. My wife is committed to seeing that this is accomplished. It is my own little way of keeping my side of the street swept clean. I do not want to pass on without having said that I regret, or I am sorry…and that I love you.
Another powerful thing that I put into my letters is the simple request, please forgive me. I am not responsible for how people respond to these simple letters, my job is to make sure that I have done all in my power to apologize for my painful errors in judgement and to try to heal whatever wounds I have inflicted upon others. I believe that many people in life would like to be able to accomplish this same thing, but for one reason or another they never get around to doing it. So one of the things that I try to do through Dismas Project is to help others tend to their personal affairs by writing these letters. To me it is a way of making amends for things that are past and beyond my control. If you can use a little help with this area of your life, I am willing to do whatever I can to help you make that a reality. If you have spiritual questions about things that you want to know more about, send them along and I will do all that I can to answer those questions. In this life journey I think it is very important that we share personal resources which each other to make life a little less painful.
It is late Thursday afternoon and I have brought my computer with me so that I can find a quiet place and just finish writing this letter. It has been a month of slowly shifting gears as I try to make decisions about where to put my focus over the next 6 months or so. Studies that have been done suggest that 100 million Americans have someone in the criminal justice system or they have had someone involved in a criminal justice encounter. That comes out to about 1 out of every 3 Americans, but for the most part these family members live out their lives in silence, shame and stigma. If I take the time to look for them, I do find some, but not a lot. Most people would rather remain anonymous. One of the things that Dismas Project will focus upon in 2016 is taping the stories of these family members and building an archive of their experiences. There should be an historical record of how people have suffered so that future generations can learn something from our mistakes. I have no interest in doing stories at the expense of these people, but rather by telling these stories I hope to educate people who may listen to them. I am going to put them all together in a program that will be called Surviving Justice. I am also doing a separate series of taped interviews with those who have been through a prison experience. I am calling that program Profiles in Change and the purpose is to educate those living in the free world, that even though we may have done some horrible things, people can still change. Especially under the pressure of a death sentence and being locked in a cell 23 hours a day. I do not have the power to set you free, but I do have the ability and resources to tell your story. If you are interested, send me a letter and let’s start to talk to each other. Your story is important.
Yesterday was the first time this year that I pulled out a jacket because the weather is changing and it was colder than average. I bought new tires today and had an alignment done on our car. Just the simple things that fill up my days. Nothing exceptional, but it keeps me focused. I have the list of things that need my attention and every day I try to finish several of the items on that list. Today I met a man who has a son with a warrant out for his arrest in Phoenix. Apparently when they were coming back from Mexico the border people found the outstanding warrant but did not arrest him. I suspect that it is for property damage, a misdemeanor. It scared the father to know his son has a warrant. His son has a mental disability and seems to be unable to care for himself. The warrant is over 8 years old and I cannot imagine why they would keep something like that active all of this time. Anyway, I am going to write a letter to the courts and see if it can be settled by mail. All they need is a little help to give them a small sense of relief. I am convinced that we are all here to help each other. That seems to be the primary purpose of life. I enjoyed reaching out to you in this letter and I hope that you will be comforted in a small way. If you asked to be removed from this mailing list it may take several cycles before everything gets caught up. So please be patient. Our publishing company, Lone Voice Publishing is always looking for manuscripts to review. If you have written something and would like us to take a look at it, please drop me a letter and I will get back with you.
Dear Lord, Another month has flown by and yet time can sometimes seem to be endless. You know all about my circumstances, please pour out Your Grace on me so that I can put the remaining pieces of puzzle together and live out my life with purpose. You know that You did not make anything that is a waste and even though I have made serious mistakes I believe that even now You can use my life, my experiences and my history to serve Your divine plans. You know that I am not someone given to praying a lot. I don’t know much about You. But people tell me that You would never lie. If that is true, then You must have made me for some reason. But I cannot possibly see how my life serves Your purposes. So all that I ask is that You would reach out and touch my life in some way so that I can learn how to have a relationship with You. I thank You for this day of my life.
Be blessed in all you do this month.
Kevin and Quinta