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Malevolent or Benevolent

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Malevolent or Benevolent

Last night I listened to a podcast about the psychology of a stalker. A young woman, through no fault of her own, had encountered a patron at her work and treated him nicely, the way she did every customer. The man who received her professional courtesy and kindness took it as a gesture of a personal declaration of her love for him. From then on he would show up at her work, her home, parties and other places. At first, he would watch her for hours, then he began writing poetry, calling her at home, declare his love for her and her for him at different and unexpected places. She reported his behavior to the police, depended on friends to keep him away, moved twice to locations almost five-hundred miles apart. Still, he found her.

He wrote a blog about being a stalker in which he wrote about a love that was benevolent; kind, kindly, kindhearted, big-hearted, good-natured, good, benign, compassionate, caring. He insisted she misunderstood him and accused him of being malevolent; malicious, hostile, evil-minded, baleful, evil-intentioned, venomous, evil, malign, malignant, rancorous, vicious, vindictive, vengeful. He had plans of “fake” kidnapping her and after she went away with him, falling in love with him. His behavior was spiraling and finally, after attacking another woman, he was put in jail for thirteen months for assault, stalking and predatory behavior. Before, during and after being incarcerated, he wrote a book about a man who fell in love with a beautiful woman who eventually learned to love him. People can find the book for sale online today and the blog he still writes.

Love gone wrong, gone bad, corrupted, coercive and corrosive is not love but selfishness painted in illusion. As I listened to the podcast last night I couldn’t help but think a lot of what’s wrong with our world today is people not knowing the difference between malevolent and benevolent.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Right or Wrong?

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Right or Wrong

This morning I watched a political debate that quickly turned into a shouting, insulting, “I’m right and you’re wrong” diatribe from both parties. It’s disheartening to look at our present cultural landscape and realize not many people know how to talk to each other about things upon which they disagree.

One of the lessons I teach residents in my jail class is how to respect each other even if we disagree. We talk about eye contact (which may be while social media is the worst place to have a meaningful conversation), asking questions politely, consider your body language, what to do with your hands, monitor facial expressions, remember that listening is not agreeing and two people can be right or wrong about one subject. It amazes me that my jail students are often nicer, more respectful when discussing a difficult topic than many people on Facebook.

Hopefully, it won’t be this way forever. Debate and deep conversation are some of the values and pillars of a democratic society. I fear, however, perhaps we’ve gone too far and may never recover our civility.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Where You Heading?

Where You Heading?

I’ve spent much of this week thinking about my past and considering my future. It’s always scary, wondering what’s around the corner.

I started two new jail classes this week. One of the first disciplines I teach is for them to consider their present and think about their future. The first part is necessary because it helps us take stock of what we’ve done, who we are, and how choices have led us to this place in our lives. After you’ve accepted where and who you are, then you decide if it is where you want to stay. “If you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

Most of the men I work with tell me they want to make better choices, be better men and fathers but it’s not enough to want, action must be taken. Different choices must be made to be a different man and father. I explain that; “What you do today determines who you’ll be, what you’ll be, tomorrow.

This is true for all of us.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

I Love Her

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I Love Her

Earlier this week at one of my incarcerated father’s classes one I was listening to resident tell another about a woman who works with the residents at the jail. He said; “I love her!” A few minutes later he was talking about corrections officer and repeated; “I love her!” I couldn’t help myself as I asked him; “You love her?” “Yep,’ he shot right back. ‘Women, all of them. Short ones, tall ones, skinny ones and fat ones. I love ’em all. Except for the ones without teeth. They need to have all their teeth. That’s a real turn-off.” “It’s good to have standards.” I quipped. “Do you think perhaps your lack of judgment when it comes to women is part of the reason you’re in jail?” He thought for a moment and replied; “Yes.

There is a difference between love and lust, want and need. Those who follow their passions only end up making choices that negatively impact their lives. Those who know they shouldn’t have everything they want, their every heart’s desire, satisfaction to every immediate impulse, make better decisions that positively affect their present and future.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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

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

Punishment or Provision

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Punishment or Provision

This morning, at a County Jail Resource Council Meeting, the group was discussing the different programs and services offered to the residents of the facility. It was stated that we want to do more than incarcerate men and women, we want to rehabilitate them so they can gain the skills and talents to give them the best opportunity to get out and stay out.

One of the programs is an art program. The residents come together and work on a project. A person who works at the jail said the first time he heard the announcement; “…report to the art room,” he thought he was in a school, not a jail. This and other programs offered at the facility have not been without their detractors. “Jail’s for punishing! It’s not for the inmates to have fun, be comfortable, doted on by the staff!

What most of the naysayers don’t understand is if these folks don’t learn good, responsible lessons from the teachers and mentors at the jail they will learn not so good stuff from each other. I’ve seen the cells, the pods, the lockdown rooms. Trust me they’re far from comfortable. As far our treatment of them, some have never known what it is to be loved, cared for, respected. To understand they are of value is the greatest lesson we teach. If they can grasp the truth that they are of great worth, the rest is easy.

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

Walls

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Walls

Residents in jail can earn the right by good, respectful behavior to work outside of the walls of the correctional facility. They do everything from road maintenance, to landscaping, to animal rescue, assembly line positions, and more. I heard one of them say the other day; “It’s great being able to get out, feel the breeze on my face on the ride there and back but coming back into the jail, putting on the uniform and being surrounded by walls again is the hardest thing I do each day.” According to him, it’s feeling like one has freedom but ultimately, it’s an illusion.

I’ve reflected on his words since then and think it also describes a lot of people who are not residents of the local county correctional facility. We are confined by the walls of our making. We allow others to set the standards of our lives, we worry about presenting ourselves the way we think others want to see us. We overextend ourselves financially, work extra hours, take out more loans, place ourselves on the precipice of financial ruin to; “keep up with the Jones’s.” Social media, instant weather, on the spot news updates and opinion pieces, chain us to our phones. We separate us from them in our politics, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, city vs. country, refugee or citizen, and countless other ways we wall off those different from us.

To be truly free is to recognize these parts of ourselves that are imprisoned, see our illusion, be awakened and empowered to tear down the walls that make us and others prisoners.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Love Lost

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Love Lost

This afternoon I sat in a classroom at the local county jail waiting for the men in my class to arrive. At jails and prisons, they’re never on your timetable, you are on theirs. Just outside my class is a phone the residents use to contact “those on the outside” be it family, friends, or others. A man was using his phone time and talking loud enough I couldn’t help but overhear his conversation. He was begging his mom to make contact with the mother of his child and find out if she would bring their daughter to visit him. Apparently, it’s been a while and he wanted desperately to see her, talk with her, be a dad to her.

This isn’t an uncommon scenario for those who are incarcerated. Their freedoms and controls are stripped away. They can no longer go see someone, do something when they desire, but instead must wait and hope that the object of their affection comes to them. I’ve had many dads in my classes who haven’t seen their children since they were incarcerated because the mom refuses to bring them to the jail. There are valid and questionable reasons which inform the mothers’ choice but the father is powerless either way.

Love confined, locked away, kept from its beloved is one of the great tragedies. Love fully blossoms when it embraces, touches, pulls close the one desired. One of the most difficult losses for our incarcerated fathers to accept is the lack of presence in their loved one’s lives. They understand it was their choices which made it so but they also know; “the heart wants what the heart wants.” So, they will keep asking, begging, trying to stay involved in the lives of those whose worlds consist of more than cement walls, metal bars, and constant reminders that love must be stronger than.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Smell of Freedom

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Smell of Freedom

The aroma of six pizza filled my truck cab today as I drove to the county jail. This is Celebration Week as we give certificates, serve pizza to the dads who have put up with me for the last 3 months and, hopefully, have learned to be better men and fathers. I arrived at the jail a few minutes early and began setting things up when I noticed a young man standing on the other side of a heavy steel door with a section of plexiglass in the upper middle. I raised my voice and asked him; “How are you today?” “Fine.” he responded, then added with a big grin; “I’m going home today!” “Congratulations!” I answered back. “I know you’re excited.” “Sure am!” I continued setting up the room and finally, the door buzzed opened and the man began to make his way across the room. As he reached for the door that would take him to freedom he said to me; “Hope you have a good day.” I smiled and replied back to him what the dads in my class have heard many times; “Make good choices! None that will bring you back here!” “I won’t,” he said and disappeared.

A few moments later the incarcerated fathers began to fill the room. They eyed the pizza sitting on a bench in the corner and smiled. “Good choices, make good men and good men make good fathers! Choice is destiny.” is how I begin every class. At the end, before we ate pizza and took pics of the men with their certificates I made them say it loudly! “Good choices make good men and good men make good fathers!” They nailed it and we enjoyed our final few moments together. When I got back to my office I bowed my head and prayed it would be more than words for them and me.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Right Time, Open Mind

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Last night, at the incarcerated father class hosted in the county jail, was a long night. Partnering with the correctional facility and teaching there comes with the understanding you are working on their schedule. Class began almost an hour late due to corrections’ staff trying to get almost 400 residents in their suitable places.

Waiting, I filled the dry erase board with notes for the evening’s session. Finishing up I tried to wait patiently even buzzing the tower for an update on the students. I sat down, stood up, walked around, checked the notes on the board and kept checking my watch. A door clicked open and in walked a resident. We had never met and struck up a conversation. He was a talker! but in a good way. He told me about his sentence, his work release assignment and why he was incarcerated. We talked about his plans for when he is released. What obstacles he might face once paroled and resources that might help.

I should be honest and tell you I’ve tried meth a few times. Friends offered it to me and I didn’t want to say no to them. Sometimes I just need someone to talk to and hang around.” I smiled, walked over to my supplies, picked up a business card and handed it to him. “If you ever need someone to talk to who can help keep you walking in the right direction just call this number and remember, make good choices.” I said, looking him in the eye. The speaker in the room buzzed, his name was called and a corrections officer opened the door to take him out. I stood up, shook his hand and was thankful that occasionally these classes don’t start on time.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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for Granted

He hovered about as the other men left the classroom. I didn’t know what to expect, I never do when it comes to the incarcerated dads I am privileged to work with but who also keep me on my toes. He was tall, skinny, long grayish brown hair, missing most of his teeth and spoke softly. It was the first class of the spring semester and after everyone had left he came forward. He is soft-spoken with lines and wrinkles of a life filled with heartache and wrong decisions engraved on his face. I leaned forward as he struggled to tell me his secret; he couldn’t read. My heart sank.
Reading is such a vital part of our program and everyday life. There are homework assignments and times during class we read to ourselves and together. Not being able to read certainly presented another challenge for a man who has faced, and lost, his share of them including a drug addiction. I asked if there was another resident in the jail he could ask to help him and he shook his head; “No.” I breathed in silently and thought about the courage it must’ve taken to admit his weakness. “Then we’ll meet after each class and go over the lesson. Let’s start today.” We made our way over to a couple of chairs, sat down and began to review.

After we were done, driving away from the jail, I reflected on the different ways we can be imprisoned. It’s not just about concrete walls, bars, thick glass and heavy metal doors. Prisons can be addictions, basic education skills we’ve somehow missed, mental illnesses, bad attitudes, negative environments. Too often we take for granted so many blessings. The gifts we’ve received, the talents we’ve been given, the good, are not for hoarding but for sharing, multiplying and helping others find freedom.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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Safe is Not a Place

Last night it was my privilege to give a group of dads a graduating certificate from our Incarcerated Fathers’ class. We began the evening by highlighting the previous twelve weeks and the core values we’ve learned as we walked this path together. Then each dad was called up to the front of the classroom and handed an official certificate stating they had completed the course.

I asked the fathers what they had learned over the last three months. Answers included; “how to respect others, communicate, control emotions, expressing emotions in productive ways, better understanding of how to love their children and family, self-awareness and the need to keep trying and not give up.” I followed by inquiring what they would miss about the class. One father stated; “Being with a group of guys and not worrying about sharing, someone judging, knowing we’re all on the same level trying to be better men and better dads.” For a man to express this in a jail, with a group of men he spends almost every minute of every day was huge and humbling.

One of the keys to listening, learning and changing is feeling safe and jail can be a dangerous place. In spite of being filled with people it can also be depressingly lonely. You keep to yourself, mind your own business and try not to get on the wrong side of anyone. You’re on edge constantly and never let your guard down. For a place designed to keep groups of people confined and secure, isolation and fear are ever-present.

Bring together a group of men who’ve seen the worst this world has to offer, living in a place they don’t want to be, put there by both their choices and the choices of others, plop them in a room and trouble seems the likeliest outcome. However, the opposite can happen if you treat them with respect, listen to their stories, see them as equals and commit to walk this part of their journey with them. Do this and friendships are formed, confessions are uttered, weaknesses recognized, worth is bestowed and people become more than what they believed possible.

We are all so very much alike. What unites us is far greater than what divides us. What we need is someone to help us feel safe, a person who makes us feel accepted, loved, appreciated, valued for where we’ve been and where we’re going.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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