There Must Be a Reason

An inmate came up to me during my last visit to the prison to tell me that a man we both know had had a stroke. A bit later, one of the other volunteers told us he hadn’t been found for two days. The paralysis is extensive, and they don’t believe rehabilitation will be possible.

I was taken aback at the news as I had just seen this man at Christmastime. At that time, he had been his usual jovial, warm, thoughtful self, vibrant in every way. I’ve known him for years, though – I’m sorry to say – more as an acquaintance than friend. On Christmas Eve he told me his wife had died almost two years previously. However, he had recently had a most wonderful vacation with all of his adult children, visiting the Grand Canyon.

Jonathan (as I will refer to him here) has been involved in prison ministry for a long time, as well as with AA. He was part of an Alcoholics Anonymous group at the prison, and I know, had made many friends there.

Thinking about him in his present condition caused me to ask myself the question so many of us ask when loved ones are stricken with tragedy:  Lord, why him?

From the reaction I saw in the inmates, I know he means a lot to them. Jonathan is the kind of man you just like. He exudes warmth and acceptance, always able to offer wise counsel, and has always been for me an example for how we should be living. Always able to meet a person on whatever level he or she is at, conversation is always more than empty talk. His very presence exudes warmth and acceptance. So, again I ask why him?

Perhaps it is because he is so likeable. Perhaps it’s because he has gained the respect of so many. Could it be that his very existence has served to create compassion in the hearts of men who may otherwise not  be likely to show it? The men in the group were visibly affected by the news of Jonathan’s condition. I hope and I pray their compassion for one man will, because of him, now flow more easily to others –  especially as they leave the prison setting.

Detoxing in the New Year

Detoxing. I’ve had a head cold for two weeks. A friend recently suggested a detox tea (which really helps), yet this “stuff” still has a hold on me. So it is with behaviors and habits and attempts we make to change our lives. While change can be invigorating, it can also be daunting. We can become paralyzed with fear – fears that we won’t be successful, that we will relapse, or that we won’t be strong enough or smart enough to succeed.

Fear saps energy and strangles desire.

So what must we do to get change to “stick?” For me, it seems that my attempts usually begin as halfhearted ones, never quite believing in the possibility of my own success. I need to be desperate, dare I say, hopeless. I need to feel that there is absolutely no other measure I can take before my head will allow me to take action. Only then does determination begin to take hold. With that spurt of resolve, I begin to see hope. I’m not always successful…but I begin. Sometimes I have to begin again and again, and still again.

When remaining in your doldrums and constant state of frustration is no longer something you can “stand,” take the opportunity to begin your plan for change. Detox yourself from those habits that are holding you back. Believe in yourself – and a Higher Power if you are able – and seek the good. Cleanse yourself of unwanted self-talk. Rewrite those words you hear over and over  in your head. Instead of “I am hopeless,” tell yourself “I have hope.” You might even write your own litany of phrases that apply strictly to you. Repeat the words over and over, day after day. Pretty soon, if you are not yet seeing the change, you will begin to feel the change. Go ahead, begin detoxing, and…become the change you want to see!”


Guilt. Oh, the scars it leaves! And, oh, the burden of always carrying it around! I have decided that the God I know would not want us to live with a lifetime of guilt.

I have been making a concerted effort to read the bible from beginning to end. I have half of the Old Testament yet to go. While plodding through Isaiah, I’ve been reading words like good news, peace, happiness, and salvation. “I…am He who comforts you.” “…Shout joyfully together.”

For years, I often went to church because I was told I had to go. Sometimes it was fine, but other times left me irritated and sorry I had gone. Today, I attend church because I want to be there. In this church, I find a church family that is warm, that knows one another and cares about each other. I see members who are involved, and who reach out. All of that makes me want to be there.

“Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the worthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Even through the violence one sees in the Old Testament, I read positive things. I hereby resolve that as I begin this new year, I know I am forgiven. And I know my God is a loving God. He is a God of justice, a God of comfort, and a God of love. I do not believe that He wants us to live our lives regretting and reliving actions and thoughts from our past. I believe He means for us to move forward, to do good, and to reach out to others.

No, I resolve to put the past behind me. What’s done has been done. I resolve to be a better person. I will reach out to those around me. I will attempt to share God’s love and compassion. I will not be negative, and I will not say hurtful things. The God I know is a joyful one, who wishes to share His joy in us with us, and I resolve to share that joy with others. Happy New Year to all!