Get Out and VOTE!

Whether you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, please, please, exercise your right to vote this year.  The stakes are HUGE – for you, for your children, and for your grandchildren.

I am awed by Greta Thunberg who, at such a young age, has the ability to lead the world in climate change. I am impressed by survivors of mass shootings who are taking control, fighting against the availability of and lack of restrictions against guns, and fighting back against the oppressive thumb of the NRA. We are approaching an election where each candidate is passionate, and where each candidate has something vital to offer. Today we are faced with burgeoning prison populations, hungry, homeless, and a crumbling infrastructure. Long after I thought our country had healed, racism seems to have resurfaced. Prejudice and exclusion seem to be running rampant. Our country needs help. We need action. We need solution. We need a LEADER.

The upcoming election has pushed me toward taking a harder look at each candidate. Each has particular strengths and I find I like something about every single one of them. However, in order to choose who it is that I will support prior to the Democratic nomination, I feel I must define my choice to reflect my own values. I will ultimately support the person receiving the nomination, but I hope for a president whose values – at least in part – reflect mine. The Bible tells us to love one another, and to be strong in doing what is right, regardless of the evil around us. I see people who are hurting and in need everywhere I turn. My presidential choice will be for someone who understands these needs and wants to see that things change.

Yes, prisoners’ lives are important to me, but I am writing today to urge you to research the candidates, examine your priorities, and get out to vote! The need for action is critical. We can’t wait. Our climate will not wait. Together we can save our country, the climate, and make a difference in the lives of many – but only if we act now. Whatever your focus is, make the choice and step up to do your part. Commit. Act. Get involved. We need a united effort to save these United States! We cannot delay.

Price Alert, Price Alert!

Okay. It is my own fault. My book is, and has been, available on Amazon since it became available. The cost of my book is SUPPOSED TO BE $12.95. I rarely go onto the Amazon site to look up my own book, but I did recently. That day, the price was $273 plus change! REALLY?????? How does this happen? Today I checked and there were prices ranging from $19.97 to $265.27! Well, sure, I would love to sell one for $265.27…but THAT IS NOT THE CORRECT PRICE, NOR HAS IT EVER BEEN.

This really is a lesson to ALL of those of us who have something on the market:  keep watch! I slacked off, and it is no wonder my sales have been down! Good grief! My publisher has been notified, and they “are working on it,” but I am writing this to let you all know that my book, The Prisoner’s Prayer Book, is still available, is still $12.95 and you can contact me directly (at 2inspire@charter.net) if you don’t believe me.

This book is a book of simply written prayers, written from the point of view of prisoners, illustrated by prisoners. It is a perfect gift for that person you care about who is in prison – just as soon as the price information gets corrected! Fellow authors, stay alert.

Recognize ME!

Recently, I was blessed with an opportunity to speak to a group of prisoners. Finishing a little ahead of time, I opened it to questions or comments. Phrased in a variety of ways, I heard the same question over and over. How do we change society’s perception of us? What can we do to make a difference? What can we do from “inside?”

As a society, we tend to become judgmental when it comes to those who break the law. Too often we hear “Lock him up and throw away the key!” If that offender were a member of your family or someone you cared a great deal about, would you be as certain that they should be doomed to a life of confinement, leaving no possibility for an opportunity to try again? Haven’t we ourselves changed over the years? Remember that candy bar you stole when you were fifteen? I bet you don’t steal candy bars now! Your hairstyle, your looks, your likes and your dislikes have changed over time. Some opinions change over the years. How many times have you had “a drink or two” and gotten behind the wheel to drive? You were just fortunate enough not to harm anyone, and not to get caught.

People change. They grow. They learn. WE ALL DO. Often, they become better individuals. How then can we deny a person the chance to change? Every single person behind bars is a unique individual. He, or she, hurts, struggles, and hopes – just like you and me. So, when a soul wants to know “how can I let society know the Real Me?” I believe we should give pause…and listen…and work toward hearing every voice that has something to say.

What’s in YOUR Mailbox?

I’m probably dating myself by asking the question “do you remember the thrill of receiving a letter in the mailbox?” It was a moment that held excitement, anticipation and curiosity. That seldom happens – at least for me – any longer. Usually it is junk mail or bills that appear in my mailbox. But there are prisoners who never receive mail. There are prisoners who long to hear from loved ones who don’t write. There are prisoners who treasure every single piece of mail that comes from “the outside.” And there are lonely people at home or in nursing homes who feel abandoned and alone, who would love to be remembered.

Michigan prisoners do have access to an e-mail system. It is something of a deterrent to having to inspect incoming mail for contraband. But because of that contraband, greater restrictions have been placed on mail that comes into the prisons. In my opinion, commercial cards often don’t say the things I would like to say. Additionally, many are decorated with sparkles and sequins, items that are now prohibited. (To see the Michigan’s mail policy, go to:  https://www.michigan.gov/corrections/0,4551,7-119–428401–,00.html) Also, no matter how hard I try, e-mail never seems personal enough.

In addition to the Prisoner’s Prayer Book, a book of prayers for prisoners, The Prisoner’s Prayer Book now has note cards which meet current state requirements. They are available with or without an “ID” box on the back, and the best part is that you can write what YOU wish to say. The wildlife drawings on each design were drawn by a prisoner. Ordering information can be found on the Prisoner’s Prayer Book website:  https://prisonersprayerbook.com.  

Part of the enjoyment that comes from receiving a card in the mail is that it is tangible. It is personal. It can be looked at again and again, and doesn’t disappear after a certain amount of time as e-mails often do.

Make someone happy today by remembering them and sending a bit of yourself!

Moose

New Product: Note Cards

The Prisoner’s Prayer Book has a new product. Note cards!

I have had growing frustration over the years whenever I look for a card to send to a prisoner. Some are just stupid, some are romantic, and most just don’t say what you need them to say. Our prisons now refuse multiple fold cards, sparkles, and other commercial decorations. Due to the additional restrictions on what can be sent into prisons, I am suggesting prisoner art with space to say what you want to say.

A prisoner friend who draws very well volunteered some of his drawings. I have had his sketches printed on singlefold cards that measure just over 5 inches by 7 inches. They are blank on the inside and even have a box in which to put the prisoner’s name and number along with your address (another requirement). I also have cards without the identification box if one desires to use them for general correspondence with friends who are not in prison. They sell in packages of 6 for $10.00 (which includes shipping), and currently display a bear, deer, moose, wolf, bird, and orangutan.

My book, The Prisoner’s Prayer Book, is also still available and can be purchased via Amazon for $12.95. I am currently offering a special for anyone interested in purchasing the cards. Buy one package of cards and one book for a total price of $20 (that includes shipping). Orders can be sent to me at 2inspire@charter.net . Please be sure to specify cards with or without the identification box. (Sorry, but I do not accept credit or debit cards.) Please pass the word!

A Gift of Life

Hi all! I’ve been away from this for awhile. It has been a year filled with blessings and with sadness. I am one year into a new home and have successfully personalized it to suit me. Yes, I am blessed with having had the ability to do that. I am blessed with the parents I had, the education I’ve received over the years, and with friends and relatives who have meant the world to me. Not everyone has as many blessings.

This summer I was gifted with an experience to which some might cringe. The man I knew for about 15 years, who had been in prison for nearly 40 years and whose health was failing much of the time that I knew him, died. But, I was able to be at his bedside the day before that happened.

The warden’s office had alerted me the previous day that the doctor had said it could be days to weeks that my friend had left. I was given permission to visit and we set a time. Efficiency and kindness cushioned the entire visit from beginning to end. I was greeted with friendliness at the front desk – something that doesn’t always occur for prison visits. I was escorted to my visit through a maze by a kind and thoughtful officer. When I arrived at the room, another officer updated me on how quickly my friend had deteriorated. This man, too, was kind. He told me he had known my friend for many years, and that this one was a difficult for him. Then he left me alone with my friend.

I have to describe my entire experience as a gift. Merely knowing this man for 15 years was a gift. While the relationship began with letter-writing, I eventually visited him, and accepted phone calls. We had a connection that was special. I once knew a psychology professor who could pick up on dis-ease and angst as soon as he entered a room. It was like that with us. We could tell from each other’s voices whether something was bothering either one of us. I learned a lot about this man, how he came to be in prison (his fault) and how he continued to be in prison (NOT his fault, in my opinion).

I learned FROM him as well. He told me he used to be angry, but that he had changed.  I believed him. In his letters, in his phone conversations, gentleness and kindness were always present. He would help others around him as much as he could, and often take on distasteful jobs to help, jobs that other men there shunned. He was staunchly Catholic, taking his religion very seriously. I know that I could see Christ at work in him. I would like to think others could as well.

While at his bedside, I talked to him and prayed with him. He was no longer speaking and he didn’t open his eyes, but I know that he knew I was there, and I know that was what he had wanted. In much the same way as he accepted his incarceration, I believe he knew his time had come. My understanding is that he died peacefully the following day.

It has been nearly four months since then. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought “I wonder if he’ll call tonight?” before realizing the reality. I feel extraordinarily blessed to have known this man. Yes, he was a prisoner, but he was every bit as much a role model, a friend, and a comforter. He had sought a commutation numerous times, but – in spite of his deteriorating condition – the Parole Board continued to refuse to recommend it.

Well, he is free now. I’m proud to be able to have called him my friend. I will never forget this man. His life made a difference to me.

My respect and congratulations to Woodland Center for hiring staff who care, who are comfortable enough within their roles to show compassion and humanity – both to the prisoner/patient and to the public. Would that all facilities have such fine staff and provide such thoughtful care!

Birthday Reflections

Today, on this anniversary of his birth, I am celebrating Father’s Day. Though he has been gone for too many years, and was ripped from my life way too soon, my father made a huge impact upon my life, one that continues today, more than fifty years later.

If anyone reading this is a father, I am speaking to you today. What you say, what you do, and how you live your life, makes a major impression on the child you raise.

I knew the impact my dad had upon me, but when I met prisoners the impact a father has became even more apparent. So many of the men I talked with either had had no father figure at all in their lives, or they had been treated poorly by one. Often, though, that father had been absent from their lives for a very long time.

When I was little, my father read to me and told me bedtime stories. He took me horseback “riding” around a corral. I remember walking through a field where he pointed out a snakeskin that had been shed. He would comfort me when I woke from a bad dream. Together we looked at the stars and made up stories of life on other lands. He encouraged my creativity. He challenged me with our very own spelling bees.

Fathers, I want you to know how extraordinary you are to that precious child of yours! Guide him, encourage him, challenge him, love him. You will be remembered forever if you do!

Happy birthday, Daddy! You are my hero.

People, Wake Up!

Our nation is in a dire state. Evil seems to run rampant. I hate and am appalled by a blatant disregard for life, even for that of our precious earth. The nation in which I grew up was one of compassion. It was welcoming. We knew respect and dignity. Most alarming is the lack of those who are willing to speak out against the current atmosphere and lead. We need a leader! Where are those who would speak out and take the high ground? I am haunted by a disrespect for life that seems to abound in too many venues.  It surrounds us in so many ways! Too often, it seems that greed and materialism have become most important. Too often, those we once admired, now leave us open-mouthed and speechless, wondering whatever happened to self-respect? We have recently witnessed glimmers of a rising revolution with the #MeToo movement. These voices have come from out of the shadows, from those who have not previously spoken out.

WHERE ARE OUR LEADERS?

I must believe that they are in our midst. They are you and I. We mustn’t let the hate, intolerance, and disrespect for life – which we are witnessing far too often – become our own identity. We must not allow common decency and respect for one another to fail. We must take our country back from those who would attempt to hijack it. We must save ourselves and we must save the land on which we live. Ours is a country built on freedom. Our forefathers fled intolerance such as that which we are witnessing today. We have so much for which to be grateful, and yet we denigrate it and take it for granted.

We can still salvage the country we used to love, but we must stand true and strong to those things that once made this country great – to decency, to morality. We must be true to ourselves, stand up, and do the right thing. We must love this very earth. Let us love one another with the passion we need to resurrect our country from its current malaise. Let us love one another with the passion required to rebuild us into a diverse nation of individuals who stand for respect of one another and humanity to man.

Love one another. Do good to those who hate you. And may God have mercy on our endeavors!

Home!

I am home.

The last year has been a time for both a thoughtful retreat from my previous life and an unfettered time to make decisions on moving forward.

My downstate haven came at just the right time. The haven itself was rather secluded, but it was surrounded by “city,” something I had left behind many years before. The pace was faster, and I missed the very private spaces I’d become accustomed to for “thinking.”

After serious soul searching, some decisions gradually became clear. Most importantly, I realized how I did – and did not – want to spend the rest of my life.

I have hurt and had time to heal.While I suspect there will always be a part of me that continues to hurt, for the most part, I now feel able to move forward. I have returned to what I now consider my “forever home,” Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I am surrounded by nature. Whether near or far, my life has been made much fuller by supportive friends, friends who have become my family over the years. I feel blessed, hopeful, and am ready to move ahead.

As they often do, my thoughts turn toward prisoners – those I know who remain incarcerated, and those who have been released but who struggle to survive on their own. If we have family and friends, appreciate them. Too often, families do not remain in touch with loved ones who are sent to prison. Too often, friends drift away. Because felons are not allowed to associate with other felons upon release, any positive bonds achieved over their time of incarceration are severed.

How devastating it would be to have no one!

Take some time today to consider your blessings. You probably have more than you think you do. Perhaps there is someone to whom you’ve been intending to reach out. Consider especially those who have no one. Reach! Life is short. We ALL need SOMEONE. Surely, you have enough in your life to be the one to show that care!

Where Indeed Are the Heroes?

It dawned on me recently, after watching a medley of old westerns, that I grew up in a special time. I grew up when Good Guys fought for the Right Thing and won. While there were fist fights, they were nothing like the violence we see today. Those shows had morals to them. Each one taught a lesson of some kind. THOSE were the morals with which my generation grew up. And it is those kinds of morals that impress me still today.

I don’t know if the kids growing up today have any such television shows to watch. Who are their idols? What do they value? Is there anyone they want to emulate?

As I consider my childhood and look back on my experiences to date, I appreciate and treasure those years. Having participated in prison ministry, I see how values shape individuals, how very important parents are, and how people who stand up for good STAND OUT.

My prayer is for our country today. We so need those values. The influence of those we consider role models is vital to our future.

Men I have met who have been prisoners often have a deep sense of honor – which sometimes surprises me…yet when I see it, it warms my heart. I have observed that people are amazingly resilient, but the tragic horrors that have been, and are being inflicted upon our brothers and sisters need to stop. I know there are good people out there – somewhere. Now is the time for them to shine! To those of you who are strongly convicted, who know right from wrong, who want to make a difference, I say “Now is the time.” Now is the time to stand up for this country that has served us well for over two hundred years. The Constitution defends our freedoms. Don’t let those freedoms be taken away! Too often we take freedom and the many blessings in our lives for granted. Whatever good has been instilled in you, now is the time to let it shine forth. We need you. This country needs YOU.

Yes, we all need more heroes.