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Transition

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Transition

Earlier this week I watched a powerful documentary on people being released from prison. It was a story of two men who were sentenced under California’s outdated and recently reformed Three Strikes Law. Simply stated the law demanded that any criminal who was arrested and found guilty three times received a harsh prison sentence often 25 years to life. After almost 20 years of being in place, the penal system and the citizens of California realized it wasn’t effective, led to overpopulation in the jails, severely impacted people of color, and left a trail of broken families in its wake.

The documentary follows two of the thousands of men who have been released for petty, non-violent crimes, after serving decades in jail. The transition for both of them was difficult, however, one was able to get back on his feet stay clean and sober, get married and be promoted in his job. The other man, who had a strong family and church structure, struggled mightily. Old demons such as drugs and mental health issues kept him unbalanced and unable to find his groove the way the first man did. At the end of the documentary both men were still out and making their way the best they could.

As I watched the film I couldn’t help but feel for both of these men. I work with men who are incarcerated and addicted. Addiction is a powerful force for evil and destruction. Incarceration can also be a doorway to a life of crime and recidivism but I’ve also seen men who learn how to make different choices so as not to end up in the same predicament.

Men who do three things greatly reduce their chance of going back to jail or getting back into their addiction. The first is having a positive home environment that might not necessarily be with their biological family. The second is a full-time job, a chance to do something and receive. The third might be most important and that is living a life around positive people, folks who will pull you up not drag you down. These three things, which most of us take for granted, will help men stay balanced, sure-footed, and on the path to a new life.

Psalm 121
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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One Thought

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One Thought

Yesterday, a friend wrote on her Facebook page, to make sure you spell check political posts before putting them out there for the world to see. I commented snarkily; “How about not posting them at all?” To be honest, I grow tired of the division the current administration and media seems to thrive on and more tired of friends and family, people I love, choosing sides against one another.

Social media can be a great way to keep in contact with folks down the block and across the nation and world. It can be immensely helpful by giving people an opportunity to supply aid when natural disasters strike and notifying users around the world of prayer needs. I use social media for all of these things plus writing my blog. However, over the last year, there has been a noticeable trend towards nasty, mean and downright hateful posts and replies.

When I counsel men and couples on getting along with each other one of the disciplines I teach is the; “The Space in Between.” It is the understanding that between the action and reaction is a space. In this space, we decide how we are going to react and which consequences will come as a result. “The greater the space in between the better the chance of a good decision with positive outcomes. The shorter the space in between the better chance of making a bad decision with negative outcomes.

When it comes to social media I wonder if we shouldn’t reflect on the question; “Will this help? Build up? Bring people closer?

“No one regrets a harsh word unspoken.” -#Wisdom #Proverb

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Origins

Origins

In the last few days, I have developed a rash on my left hand. I don’t know where it came from but I only noticed it yesterday on the way to work. It doesn’t itch too bad but my hand is a little swollen. When she came home from work yesterday Beth looked at it and we tried to figure out what I had gotten into. There is, what looks like a bite, near the knuckle on my index finger. I haven’t been near any unusual plants or, as far I know, been bitten by anything. We began treating it last night with an anti-itch, anti-swelling cream and taking a Benadryl. It looks better today and hopefully will continue to disappear.

Since realizing I had the rash I’ve been lost trying to figure out what happened. It seems as if it appeared from nowhere but I know this isn’t the case. Somewhere, somehow I got infected but it doesn’t matter when it comes to treating it and monitoring it.

Wisdom teaches us that we will not always see new challenges and difficulties coming. There are times and seasons when things just appear and we must adjust our lives to it. Illnesses, financial struggles, job loss, people we love enduring suffering. We desire two pieces of knowledge we think will help us deal with these issues. We want to know why and how long. Why, how, did this happen to us and how long will it last before we can get back to normal. Often, however, we don’t have an answer to these questions but they shouldn’t stop us from accepting a new normal, adjusting to the unknown, and continuing to live while we recover.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Protection

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Protection

Today I weeded the grass around our trees and bushes. Tomorrow I will mow. As usual, I grabbed my phone and earbuds going out the door. I also took my clip-on which cradles the phone, protects it and comes in handy when doing chores or other jobs which require two hands. I don’t use the cradle much because it’s too bulky and in most work settings would get in the way when I sit down or am driving.

Though not used often one thing I know about the clip-on is the phone’s screen is facing inward not outward. This way the screen is protected anything you might brush up or hit it against. If you faced it outward, which I’ve seen many people do, it puts your phone’s screen at risk of being scratched or cracked.

When I see people with their phone in the clip-on screen facing out I am always tempted to say something but never do. I don’t want to seem nosey and think; “They have to know it’s not in correctly! Perhaps they have it in backwards for a reason?” I also don’t want to embarrass or make someone upset. So, I try to ignore it thought my instinct is to walk over and put it in the way it belongs!

There are things in our life which offer us protection; jobs, insurance and medicine. Family and friends who care for us and help meet our needs. What we will allow or won’t allow in our minds, hearts, and lives. We make the choice to be protected or unprotected.

There is never a 100% guarantee that even if we avail ourselves of every protection offered we will not be harmed, heartbroken or wounded deeply. Wisdom, however, teaches us how to be protected and what’s worth protecting.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Thought

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Thought

When I woke up this morning my positive thought was; “It’s not Thursday!” Yesterday I had to go to the dentist and while there are times we must do things which bring us anxiety we can celebrate I am thankful I didn’t have to repeat the process today.

It’s also a beautiful day. Sunny with a few clouds. Temperatures in the low to mid-80’s. In a few moments, I will go and mow the grass. Some weeks, especially during the hot summer days, it’s more a chore than a joy but as the days grow shorter I will bask in the sun on my face and driving my little yard tractor.

One thought or several, can indeed change the way you see your day. I know in the future I’ll have to go to the dentist again. Soon there will be no need to cut the grass. By the look of the trees and their colors, the days will quickly be cold enough that even the sun won’t be able to warm me up.

One of the most positive thoughts, disciplines, we can have is focusing on the good each day brings and not the uncomfortable change which may come with tomorrow.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Gospel of Saint Matthew 6:34, The Master

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Code

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Code

This afternoon I stopped by a store to pick up some sodas for our incarcerated father’s class. I grabbed and carried them to the cashier station. I waited on the woman in front of me and when she was finished stepped up and watched the cashier scan the drinks and stick them in plastic bags. When it was time, I scanned my card and then entered my pin number. However, as soon as I punched the digits in I knew it was the wrong pin. I told the cashier and she reset the scanner. For a moment I couldn’t separate all the pins and passwords in my life and choose the correct one but finally settled on the right one. It worked and I walked out with my purchase.

As I drove to the jail I thought about the men in my class who were receiving their certificates of completion tonight. I thought about the different men in the program and how each of them has certain “codes” which work for them. For one humor might be the key, another is not being singled out in class but letting him join the conversation when he’s ready. Our goal at the jail is to give the men a collection of tools and skills which will keep them clean, responsible, have abilities that many people on the outside take for granted. However, getting them to participate and accept the knowledge is tricky. Not any one approach works with all. We must take the time, learning about the men, connecting with them, understanding the way they think so we can “break the code” that will help them make life changing choices.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Out of Sight

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Out of Sight

This past weekend I wrote about a tiny gray cat that has been hanging around the house. The last time I saw it was on Saturday. I had been putting food out for it hoping to convince it we meant no harm but unfortunately, the neighborhood dogs beat the kitten to the chow. It started raining yesterday afternoon and has been steady since then. Remnants of Hurricane Irma is giving us plenty of water and a bit of wind. My worry, however, is the kitten. Is it dry? Did a neighborhood dog get it? I haven’t seen it since the weekend and I have no idea where it is or what happened to it. So, I wait and see. Hopefully, it’s still hiding under the porch and will come out after the storm passes.

There are people in our lives like the kitten. A storm begins to batter them and they hide, afraid of its downpour and thunder. We long to help them, to show them kindness, to meet whatever needs we can if they would just come out of hiding. However, like the kitten, there are trust issues and perhaps they’ve been hurt before by people pretending to help or they’re used to people taking not giving. What do we do? We wait. If they come out of hiding during the storm we can cover them with acts of kindness. If they wait until after this is fine also. Kindness and love have no expiration date.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Eclipse

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Eclipse

I’m not sure I’ve seen as many people standing outside in the middle of a hot and humid day in mid-August staring at the sky. On my way to the county detention center, where I teach a class on Monday afternoons, it seemed there were groups of people at churches, grocery stores, restaurants, manufacturing plants and yes, even at the jail, looking up, waiting for the eclipse.

I didn’t pick up a pair of “NASA approved glasses” to watch the eclipse. I figured someone, somewhere would have some if I time to watch the eclipse. Sure enough, there was a corrections officer who let me use his and we handed them back and forth. The day turned a grayish hue. The crickets and other insects began to chirp. It was eerie for a few moments and then it started to get light again, I thanked the officer who let me borrow his glasses, and I went inside to my class.

Afterward, I reflected on the experience and I thought about all the people standing outside looking into the heavens. They knew what they were looking for and most were prepared to see it. However, I wondered how often, on a normal every day, we encounter people who are looking for something greater than themselves and the lives they are currently living? Do we offer them words of wisdom to help show them the way? Do we live in such a way that reveals truth and peace? Will our lives eclipse the other bright shiny trinkets humans so often chase and allow them to know where to look and what to look for?

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Confusion

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Confusion

Earlier today I was trying to get the mowing done before a storm front moved through our area. I saw Beth come outside with our Siberian Husky, Trooper and waved at her. My attention went back to the mowing and when I looked up again she had Trooper by the collar with one hand and was shooing two brown dogs with the other. I quickly disengaged the blades and drove down the hill in our backyard to help.

The two dogs didn’t seem aggressive just curious but Trooper was also curious and you’re never sure what’s going to happen when unfamiliar dogs get too near each other. I jumped off the mower and had the brown dog’s attention now and Beth was able to get ours inside. I clapped my hands, marched toward the dogs, while yelling; “Go home! Now!” The younger of the two dogs began trotting home but the older one looked at me and wasn’t intimidated. Once I noticed Beth and Trooper inside I made my way back to the mower and headed again to the backyard. The older dog followed. I tried yelling again. It used the bathroom and continued to go wherever I drove and mowed. Finally, I finished mowing and told it to; “Please! Go home!” and thankfully, it did.

I don’t know whose dog exactly it was but I think it confused me with its owner. It never growled nor did its hair stand up, it just wanted to be loved, petted, played with? I’m not sure what it wanted which makes me confused as well.

Life is never predictable. We get confused and this makes us frustrated and desperate. We follow what seems familiar only to find ourselves in a strange place with no sense of direction. Hopefully, eventually, someone or something will help us find our way.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Snap!

Snap! –

Last night a fierce thunderstorm passed through the area and downed a huge branch off a tree right outside our bedroom window (see photo). The size of the damaged area leaves doubt as to whether the tree can be saved or if we will have to cut it down when removing the limb. I love trees, flowers, grass, spring, and summer, nature at its absolute best. It hurt my heart to see the beautiful tree, which is much older than I, with such a gaping wound.

I spent the week helping friends whose world, like the tree, has been torn apart. Two months ago everything seemed on track and then one of life’s damaging storms ravaged their lives and left them in doubt and afraid. They are looking at incredible odds against survival itself. They stand in the midst of what used to be their normalcy and are surrounded by debris, devastation, and the possibility of death.

Life is never predictable. It doesn’t have a reset button, can’t go back and fix things or jump forward to see how it ends. We weather the storms of life, pick up the pieces and pray for the strength, stamina, and the will to survive.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Together

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Together

A friend of mine had surgery not too long ago and is still recovering. As a result, he is unable to do yard work or any other outdoor project. One of the projects on his list for the summer was to remove several Red Tip bushes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photinia). Red Tips are great for privacy but can quickly grow out of control. Before his recent bout with the illness, he had started the removal but couldn’t finish the job. However, while he was in the hospital a group of neighbors got together and completed the project for him. They didn’t expect to get paid or rewarded in another way they did it because it was a way to help.

As I listened to the story being told to me yesterday my heart was warmed at the generosity we can show each other. A person told me recently; “The news is too depressing. I just don’t watch it.” I tried explaining that ignoring the news doesn’t make the world better but it does eliminate our ability to confront, counter the evil and darkness with good and light.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Borders

“If, as adults, we are only preoccupied by the security of our borders we have not matured as human beings capable of real freedom, of seeing the happiness of being citizens in the world of virtue – goodness, kindness, humanity, compassion. In this world of grace there are no borders.”
#LaurenceFreeman (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_Freeman)

Borders

Above is a portion of my morning reading this Lenten season devotional of 2017. It speaks to one of the most difficult battles we fight as people, a nation, and a community of faith.

It’s easy to separate ourselves from the world. To erect borders, laws, litmus tests, even vote for silly ideas such as a border wall which also includes 800+ miles of the Rio Grande river. We pull away from strangers and those different from us because we’re afraid. We’re afraid of losing things, being infected by things, having our normal lives disrupted and changed forever.

The last couple of months I’ve been on a Jars of Clay binge. In the house, on the lawn mower, in the truck, it’s all I’ve been listening to. Moving from one album to another, no particular order. This week it’s been; “The Long Fall Back to Earth. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Fall_Back_to_Earth)” The album is a unique one for the group as they experiment with a break from their usual sound. There is a song entitled on the album; “Headphones” that speaks to the temptation to stay in our own world as the rest of the world goes to hell. Its poignant and has resonated in my spirit the last few days.

I awoke this Palm Sunday to the news that cowardly suicide bombers had killed at least 50 people in two different attacks as they worshiped this last Sunday before Easter. My heart hurt for my brothers and sisters. There are no borders when it comes to pain, empathy, hope and help.

In the world of grace there are no borders.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Support

Support

Beth and I spent most of this beautiful, perfect weather, spring day, planting trees. Several plots of land surrounding our home have been bought lately and people are encroaching on our little slice of country paradise. So, we decided to plant trees along the line of our property to help keep it private and bucolic.

When you are planting new trees one of the most important things you can do is drive stakes into the ground and tie a string from it to the tree. You want to give it as much support as you can so that it can take root and thrive.

As we drove the support stakes into the ground surrounding the trees I thought about friends and family who are currently going through tough challenges and difficulties. They are like the newly planted trees. The storms of life are blowing through their lives and without the support of others, they won’t make it.

I want to be one of the supports for those around me who are hurting. Firmly planted, reaching out, grabbing them and saying; “I will not let you go. No matter what happens, I’ve got you.” After all, they would and have done, the same for me.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

To the Rescue

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To the Rescue

Today I completed my bi-annual training and testing for CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) for a person who has stopped breathing and Abdominal thrusts (also called the “Heimlich maneuver”) which is a first aid procedure used to treat upper airway obstructions (choking) by foreign objects. The training was good and the test wasn’t a problem but the thought of being the one someone was counting on to save their life still is unsettling.

I never considered being a police officer, fireman, doctor, nurse, soldier. These are folks who put their life on the line every day and/or have someone’s life in their hands. There’s a courage and confidence in them I don’t think I have to be able to do these vocations faithfully. I admire and support those who are able to step up and do these jobs so admirably.

However, there may be a time when I am put in the position of being the one who saves. I can only hope that the investment of time and attention in the course today allows me to perform competently until the professionals arrive.

After finishing the course today I also reflected on what it means to “save someone.” It’s not always stopped breathing, hearts not beating, throats choking or other physical emergencies. Sometimes it’s an open ear, kind word or selfless act.

There are people in our lives, those we encounter who need what we can give, we just need the eyes to see them. I wonder if there is a course for that…..?

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Serving Tea

Serving Tea

I had heard the story many times before. As he started talking I already knew how it ended. He’s an addict. He’s been one for almost as long as he can remember and will be one until he dies. The victory of an addict is not to stop being one but learning how to live life clean as one. He wasn’t living free, some of his old acquaintances had become recent friends.

The big three ways an addict stays away from relapse is a clean (drug, alcohol-free) place to live, a permanent job, and supportive friends. None of them are simple to attain and maintain but in my experience with addicts, the one which is the hardest to do is stay around supportive people. The reason this is so difficult for the addict is that oftentimes their addiction has hurt or destroyed the healthy relationships with family and friends which leave them with other addicts and pushers to be around when they are released from jail or a rehab center. It’s also hard to make new or mend relationships when at first you’re only sober moment to moment, hour by hour.

Wisdom tells us that we cannot stop negative people, negative thoughts coming into our lives and minds. However, we don’t have to stay or take up residence. We can choose to make our lives a priority, take care of ourselves so we can one day take care of others.

“You cannot stop negative thoughts from coming in the door of you mind, but you do not have to serve them tea.” #ZenProverb

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Future Need

burnbarrel

Future Need

It’s a beautiful Saturday here in middle Tennessee. Nice enough to plant flowers and vegetables, pick up sticks and limbs, and burn a collection of papers which have been growing in our house since last fall. I took two huge bags of forms, notices, credit card appeals, and receipts we wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands and little by little placed them into the flames which I’d started in our burn barrel.

I wasn’t paying much attention until a colorful receipt caught my eye. It was from the local volunteer fire department. I remember the man stopping by the house, ringing the doorbell and him explaining why he was collecting funds. We donated what we could and after he left we both agreed that when it comes to the folks who might one day receive a phone call to come and extinguish your house that’s on fire, you don’t want to be stingy.

As the receipt was consumed by fire I thought about the irony but I also reflected on the wisdom of investing in things which might not be needed immediately. However, if/when the time arrives you’ll be glad you took the time, gave what you had, respected, paid attention and didn’t ignore what might one day be your salvation!

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Passion

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Passion

Earlier today I attended a Health Council meeting where one of the featured speakers was a woman who worked for a non-profit agency that collected and supplied blood for hospitals and clinics. She was a good speaker and the story she told was full of passion and emotion. She related how her son had been born with Downs Syndrome and Autism. For her and her family, this wasn’t a burden to bear but a lesson to be learned on how to love differently yet still unconditionally.

When her son was 4 months old, however, he was diagnosed with Leukemia and needed many blood transfusions over a period of time to fight the disease. The problem was not enough of her son’s blood type was available to give her son the help he needed. So, the mother decided to call up the local Red Cross and see if she could put together a blood drive event where people would come and donate blood. The Red Cross said; “yes” and she went to work. She wasn’t simply collecting blood for someone anonymous but for her son who needed it so desperately.

Thankfully, her son has been in remission for the last 6 years but the woman still sets up blood drive events for her non-profit all over the state of Tennessee. She explained; “I know what it is to be in need and if I can help meet other’s who have the same needs I just can’t say; ‘no.'”

A good lesson in wisdom and grace.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
thewannabesaint.com

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Seeing Clearly

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Seeing Clearly

Yesterday morning, between sessions with a couple and an individual, I walked out to my truck to get some face lotion. During the winter months, my face has severe dry spots which require lotion every day. However, I usually forget when getting ready so I have an extra container of lotion in the cab of my truck. I opened the door, took off my glasses, grabbed the lotion container and began to apply it to my face.

It was cold standing out in the parking lot so I thought I’d finish inside. The difficulty was that I couldn’t put my glasses on until the lotion was fully absorbed. Everything was blurry as I locked and closed the truck door, and began walking back to my office. It didn’t take long for my limited peripheral vision to notice a car pulling into a nearby spot. It startled me because I couldn’t tell how close or far I was from being run over! Fortunately for me, the driver saw me and was sure not to knock me across the parking lot.

After I finished applying the lotion to my face I thought about times in life when we don’t see clearly. We are stumbling, bumbling around and bound to get into trouble if someone doesn’t watch out for and help us. Not being able to see clearly is difficult and dangerous. Hopefully, others will help guide us along life’s path and we’ll be on the look out for those whom we can do the same.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Wait and Trust

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Wait and Trust –

Twice today, once by an ambulance and another by a fire truck, I was forced to move over to the far right lane on my way to and from Nashville. Most other drivers did the same and traffic slowed to a crawl until the emergency vehicles passed or exited. The law states drivers are required to get out-of-the-way so those who are on their way to help someone in need can get where they’re going as fast, and safely, as possible.

I try to remember to pray for the unknown victims to which these emergency responders are headed when I encounter them. I also reflected today on the times in our lives when tragedy and unforeseen crises hit. Often times our urge is to hurry and try to fix everything ourselves. However, in many cases the best thing we can do is slow down, get out-of-the-way, wait and trust that help is on its way.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Two Sides 

Two Sides – 

Earlier this week I received a phone call about a father who needed help as soon as possible. There were insurmountable and dangerously difficult obstacles he was facing and the concerned caller made sure I understood the need for me to connect with the dad.

So, I called the dad and explained why I was calling and offered my immediate assistance in anyway I could help. After a long pause the father told me; “Thank you.” but he was fine, handling everything life was bringing his way and appreciated my offer but at the present time wasn’t sure he needed any. I told him again if he changed his mind to call me anytime. He said he would and we disconnected.

I was confused at the original caller’s insistence of the father needing immediate help and the dad’s assured response that he was doing just fine. I then reflected on the wisdom teaching of knowing all sides to each story and person before acting. Once again it’s a lesson hard to remember and to put into practice. 

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Accsued!

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Accused! –

What do you do when you discover someone doesn’t like you? It’s a difficult question to ask and answer. Beth and I were talking about it this weekend and then yesterday and today someone I haven’t seen in almost a decade, out of the blue, let me know, in no uncertain terms, they don’t like me at all!  Unknowingly I hurt them and they still bear the scars. After reflection and prayer I asked forgiveness and offered to make restitution but both were rebuffed. Presently there doesn’t seem a road which takes me to the heart of the matter so we can discuss the issues and connect once again as friends.

One of the hardest experiences to deal with is knowing someone doesn’t like you, knowing you have wronged them, or at least they have felt wronged, and you can’t do anything to make it right. So, for now, an apology, an act of grace, a hand which has been slapped away will be put aside until there is another opportunity to heal the wounds I’m accused of inflicting.

Wisdom tells us that we are weak, selfish, near-sighted and ego driven. Hopefully, I and this one who doesn’t care for me will be at different places on our journey the next time we connect and the outcome will be different.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
thewannabesaint.com

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