change

~Re-inventing Self~

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My desire to jump into a new line of work seemed perfectly obvious and natural to me because I wasn’t changing my strongest, underlying interest: Why do we humans do such unexpected and often irrational things?

“You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” ~C. S. Lewis

Change means reinvention. Each time a major shift happens in our lives—leaving a job or a relationship, moving, losing a loved one—we have to take control of who we will become or risk never reaching our full potential.

I’ve reinvented myself several times in my life. Most adults have.

But what I always forget is that we have to choose reinvention. Each time I’ve done it, I’ve forged my new path deliberately and with foresight.

When I’ve waited for my future to find me, I’ve waited in vain, lost in confusion and sadness, or I’ve gotten tangled up in a situation I didn’t want.

One morning, after struggling for months with grief and loss, I woke up and realized that I was having so much trouble moving forward partly because I had no idea what it was that I wanted to move toward. I was thinking about my past, but not what I wanted for my future.

Man with hands up

That morning, I woke with a vision: a crowd of people from the life I needed to leave behind with the sun rising opposite them and me standing between the two, the sun beating down on my face.

In the vision, I decided, finally, to turn from the group and walk toward the sun, my new life.

That vision told me what I needed to hear—that I had to take control of my future instead of letting my pain choose for me.

1. Create a vision for your future.

Sit quietly, close your eyes, and imagine the people, places, or situations that you need to leave behind. Now, imagine the future that you want, whether it’s simply a feeling, a group of people, or a situation such as a wonderful new job.

Imagine how it will feel to be in that new place.  Allow the picture to shape your future, the warm emotions began to appear on your face.

Stand for a moment and silently voice your appreciation for everything that came before. Once you’ve thanked the past, turn your focus toward God, and with compassion and gratitude, imagine yourself walking away from the past and into the future.

2. Write about your reinvention.

Imagine a scene from it or write about how you’d like it to play out. Where are you living? What do you do in the mornings, afternoon, and evenings? Who are your friends? What do you spend your days doing?

Continue writing for as long as this exercise feels invigorating and exciting. Write scenes, dialogues, lists, and plans. Make the future come alive. Write about how it will feel to be there. Keep your writing somewhere where you will look at it occasionally. Feel free to add to it.

3. Surround yourself with visual reminders of the life you’d like to create.

If it’s a new job in a particular field, put objects or images from that field someplace where you’ll see them every day. If it’s a home, find a picture of a house that you love and put it near your front door. It can be anything that reminds you of what you’re moving toward.

4. Now that you have a vision of your future, break it up into workable tasks.

What do you need to do, every day, to create that vision? Look for work? Meet new people? Search for a place to live in your chosen town? Make it specific. Make a list of everything you need to do and a schedule for when you’ll do it. Then do it and commit to keep doing it, one day at a time.

5. Every day, go back to that vision of you walking toward your future.

Every morning or evening, close your eyes and see yourself walking into the rising sun, toward your dreams, and reconnect with why you’re moving toward this new possibility.

Reinvention is neither easy nor always smooth. Often, we encounter resistance. We don’t want to let go, even of things that cause us pain or that are obviously already out of our grasp. We often struggle with limiting beliefs or stories about ourselves that hold us back from trying new things.

But there is one way to keep your compass pointed to this new life, even in the midst of any resistance or struggles you may encounter on your path.

Each time you find yourself slipping into old habits—isolating yourself, making excuses not to look for work, procrastinating on a task that might help you advance in your career—don’t bother wondering why you’re doing it or beating yourself up.

Just ask yourself this: “What can I do in this moment to keep moving forward?”

Then, no matter what you feel in the moment—lonely, self-critical, tired, lazy, or disappointed—do something to maintain momentum, even if it’s one small thing. There’s an old adage that says that true courage isn’t about not feeling fear; it’s about feeling fear and acting anyway.

Choose courage instead of letting your fear choose your future for you.

 

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I’m currently reading  Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman; it’s provocative in terms of making me think about the way I think – and is making me think about ways that I might “reinvent” myself (which, like Madonna with varying degrees of success, I try to do regularly. Ha!).  I’d suggest picking that up, if you’re interested in the way our brains work, and how we might rethink how we process information and make decisions – and so, identify how to reboot, reinvent and re-examine our biases and assumptions about the world.  How we make decisions and choices is critical to how you decide to reinvent yourself.

 

~Thinking Matters~

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“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).

What a challenging weekend this has been. I attempted to take on all the concerns of my life all by myself. I wanted to fix everything that was apparently wrong in the natural life I was living by trying to fix matters myself. Having faith means walking in it. Believing God for the things hoped for and the evidence of the unseen. I had to surrender to the natural thoughts I had about my son and daughter never getting out of prison, I had to surrender the thoughts of being unsuccessful in fore-filling God’s purpose for my life, I had to die to the feelings of failing at being an instrument totally used of God to perform the spiritual duties He has purposed for my existence in this life. Lord, I pray you keep me from day to day, show me how to worship and surrender to all the harassing voices of darkness, feed me until I want no more of the natural life style here on this planet. I see myself as He does tonight based off being in community this weekend. I shut all the windows and doors tonight and got before my God and this is what He said:

This is the happy season of ripening cornfields, of the merry song of the reapers, of the secured and garnered grain. But let me hearken to the sermon of the field. This is its solemn word to me. You must die in order to live. You must refuse to consult your own case and well-being. You must be crucified, not only in desires and habits which are sinful, but in many more which appear innocent and right. If you would save others, you cannot save yourself. If you would bear much fruit, you must be buried in darkness and solitude.

My heart fails me as I listen. But, when Jesus asks it, let me tell myself that it is my high dignity to enter into the fellowship of His sufferings; and thus I am in the best of company. And let me tell myself again that it is all meant to make me a vessel meet for His use. His own Calvary has blossomed into fertility; and so shall mine.

Plenty out of pain, life out of death: is it not the law of the Kingdom?

Do we call it dying when the bud bursts into flowers?

“Finding, following, keeping, struggling,
Is He sure to bless?
Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs,
Answer, ‘Yes.”‘

Educating You About Our Project – “One Constant Is Change”~Ministry~

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You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

Paul Owens orientation

Paul Owens, education coordinator for Welcome Back/Tarrant County, speaks at an orientation for new parolees.

 

Second Chance Alliance will be a ministry that helps ex-offenders re-enter society beyond prison. I am reminded of Paul the apostle who was Saul on house arrest and who received a second chance from God on the road of Damascus. May and I have been given a second chance and that stands the reason for this vision.

Men just released from state prisons in Huntsville arrived by bus in Fort Worth and gathered at the Tarrant County Parole Office. But before they re-entered the free world, they heard straight talk from someone who understood what they faced.

“You’re going to have to deal with some attitudes. You need to take your pride and put it aside. You don’t have it all together. That’s why you’re sitting here. Take it from a four-time loser,” said Paul Owens, education coordinator for Welcome Back/Tarrant County, a faith-based re-entry program for ex-offenders.

The men in the small room in South Fort Worth are among the 60 new parolees a week who attend re-entry orientation programs there, said Dalonika McDonald, unit supervisor for the Fort Worth District Re-entry Center.

Successful transition from life in prison to life in free society depends on three factors, Owens told the parolees—a support group, education and a job.

“The good news is you can make a change in your life,” he said. “You don’t have to go back.”

A bleak picture

But statistics predict many will return to prison. Nationally, about 650,000 people are released from prison annually, according to the Reentry Policy Council, a project of the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Two-thirds of state prisoners are rearrested within three years of release.

“Research shows that when people who are released from prison or jail return to the community, their job prospects are generally dim, their chances of finding their own place to live are bleak, and their health is typically poor,” the council’s website states.

Faith-based re-entry programs like Welcome Back/Tarrant County are committed to keeping ex-offenders from returning to prison and seeing lives transformed by the gospel, said Chaplain Jerry Cabluck, who leads the ministry.

The first 72 hours after an ex-offender is paroled often determines whether he or she re-enters society successfully or ultimately returns to prison, he noted.

A person who has been incarcerated for an extended time often returns to an urban area, without a driver’s license, with no knowledge of public transportation and with no idea where to find a job, he noted.

“When an incarcerated person is released, the first thing that happens is they encounter prostitutes, alcohol, drugs—sin and temptation right in front of them,” Cabluck said. “The Lord’s calling on my heart is to help ex-offenders learn basic life skills and provide a support network to help them resist the temptation to fall back into old self-defeating lifestyles.”

Welcome Back/Tarrant County provides newly paroled ex-offenders food, clothing and access to other services, such as health care and job-readiness training. The ministry seeks to connect the parolees with a church and mentors, as well as helping them pursue educational opportunities and find a job. The program places men and women in entry-level jobs, and at least 19 have enrolled in community college.

Mentor Care ministry video used by Welcome Back/Tarrant County.

In many ways, four-time-offender Owens is typical of the workforce Welcome Back/Tarrant County depends on, Cabluck said.

“We’re a green ministry. We recycle lives,” Cabluck said.

Ex-offenders relate well to other ex-offenders who know something about their life experiences.

• Three of four offenders released from prisons have a substance abuse problem. Only 10 percent in state prisons received treatment during incarceration.

• More than one of three reports some physical or mental disability.

• More than half—55 percent—have at least one child under age 18 who depends on the ex-offender for financial support.

• Only one-third participated in educational programs in prison, and barely more than one-fourth (27 percent) received vocational training.

Seeing lives transformed

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Pastor Sie Davis understands life behind bars, life on the streets and how to bridge the two worlds.

“I was born in prison and born again in prison,” said Davis, a church planter who leads a residential ministry in Dallas to help ex-offenders make the transition to life in the free world.

His mother, who struggled with drug addiction, was incarcerated in the Goree State Farm for Women near Huntsville when she gave birth to her son in 1955.

“They didn’t know what to do with me. I was in the prison nursery nearly three months before my aunt came to get me,” he said. “I tell people I was the youngest parolee in the state of Texas.”

But it marked neither his final release, nor his last time in prison.

“I spent most of my life on the streets of South Dallas and 17 and one-half years in prison. It was on the installment plan. I was in prison four times,” he said. On the streets, he worked for his stepfather—Chicago Red, an organized crime figure known as “the Godfather of South Dallas.” On two occasions when he was imprisoned, he shared a cell with his biological father, who was doing time for drug-related charges, pimping and pandering.

During one of his periods of incarceration, Davis made a profession of faith in Christ. After his conversion, several prominent leaders in prison ministry helped mentor and disciple him. Even so, within six months after his release, he returned to prison on a drug charge.

Christian life in the free world

Many ex-offenders find living as a Christian in the free world after release more difficult, in many respects, than living as a Christian in prison, Davis said.

“People say, ‘Church is church.’ Church ain’t just church. It’s different in prison than it is out here,” he said.

African-Americans, Hispanics and Anglos worship alongside each other in prison—a rarity in the free world, he noted. Practices common in most churches—such as passing the plate to collect an offering—are foreign to men and women whose first worship experiences are in prison chapels.

Furthermore, offenders who first become acquainted with free-world churches through prison ministry volunteers may develop an unrealistic expectation of what it means to live as a Christian outside prison.

“They put on a show like they’re always happy, get along with everybody and have no problems. Come out, and you see they have struggles like everybody. There’s a lot of illusion that’s taken as fact,” Davis said.

Making the transition

Ex-offenders need help with employment, transportation and other services. But mostly, Davis said, they need help making the mental transition to life outside a penal institution.

“There’s a transition in the mind when a person goes into prison—moving from this big old world to go live in a little cell and never go more than two or three miles for years at a time,” he said.

Likewise, release demands mental transition. He recalled one ex-offender who constantly had to be reminded after release to zip his trousers.

“There are no zippers on prison uniforms,” he explained. “Things we take for granted, they don’t understand.”

In the last decade, Davis has devoted his life to helping ex-offenders. He directs the statewide Crossroads Unwinding ministry and its 12-step substance-abuse-recovery “Overcomers” program. He leads a residential program for recently released ex-convicts, with a location for men in South Dallas and a women’s facility in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas.

He is pastor of the Church of the Called Out Ones, and he works as a church-planting consultant with the Baptist General Convention of Texas to help start other congregations for ex-offenders. He also preaches in prisons around the state, sharing his testimony and seeking to prepare prisoners for life outside penal institutions.

Davis believes ex-offenders need to worship with other ex-offenders in the crucial months immediately after their release, but he also hopes mature Christians from traditional churches will serve as mentors to spend time with newly released prisoners, listen to them and help them grow spiritually.

“It’s tough. Ex-offenders have to behave over and above everybody else. They have to strive a little harder than anybody else. They come out filled with fear. They know a lot is coming against them,” he said.

“At the same time, the church has fear. We have to teach churches how to accept ex-offenders. …We need to educate the church. There’s a mission field right here—people who are getting out of prison every day.” Please click the insignia below to view our project. We are the hands, feet and body of Christ. Please help us to help our community. We have a plethora of education and holy spirit indwelling related to this matter.

 

Empower A Felon

I belief In Change-How About You?

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Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.

Gail Devers

Many times we’re faced with situations that can cause us to consider compromising our values.  Maybe you have been offered a job with a company you don’t respect…but you really need the job.  Maybe your beliefs are in the minority…but you don’t want to become an outcast as a result.  Or, maybe you disagree with your boss’s business practices…but are too shy or too afraid to rock the boat to stand-up for what you really think or believe. When confronted with these situations, it is sometimes difficult to stick to your guns or stand your ground.

Unfortunately, the more we compromise our values, the more of a negative impact it has on our mental wellbeing. And, the more we compromise our values, the more we continue to do so. You could say it becomes an insidious cycle. On the other hand, when we stand up for what we believe in, the benefits can have a tremendously positive impact:

  1. It Builds Self-Confidence: When others dictate what we should think, feel and do, it eats away at our self-confidence. We begin to distrust our own instincts and lose the ability to decipher what we really believe versus what everyone wants us to believe. Although it may be difficult at first, the more we stand-up for ourselves, the more we build our self-confidence. It takes guts to express an unpopular viewpoint…it takes guts to say no when it is so much easier to say yes…and it takes guts to risk losing a job, friends or opportunities because someone won’t like our opinion. However, the more you tap into your “guts,” the easier it gets, and the more confident you’ll become.
  2. It Helps you Develop a Strong Sense of Self: If we bow to others and their opinions, and do things their way, whether right or not, we start to lose our own identity and start to forget for what we truly stand. Further, the less you allow yourself to think freely and develop your own belief system, the more you become a follower without your own direction. On the other hand, the more authentic you are to your needs and viewpoints, the more you will understand your sense of self.
  3. It Develops Self-Respect: Would you respect someone who went against their own values because it was convenient or because it was more popular? Probably not. And, with good reason.  Wishy washiness is far from admirable, or for that matter, respectable.  Yet, if you encounter someone with a less popular opinion who stands their ground (assuming the opinion or belief is founded in ethical principles), you would most likely have great respect for them.  Same goes for the way you perceive yourself. The more you stand up for your beliefs, the more self-respect you will develop. If you continually give in to what others want and compromise your own values in the process, you are going to lose respect for yourself.
  4. It Builds Integrity: In a time when so many individuals are dishonest, do things to better themselves at the expense of others, expose their personal lives for a chance to be famous and do what feels good in the moment without thinking about the consequences, integrity is a characteristic that is especially unique.  Doing the right thing or standing up for your beliefs may not be easy, but when you do, you know that you’ll be able to look yourself in the mirror and feel good about yourself. You’ll know that you did the right thingand that you had integrity.
  5. It Helps You be Independent: As much as we like to believe that a hero or heroine will swoop-in to defend our honor, it is extremely rare. There are two things to consider here: First, if YOU don’t stand up for yourself or your beliefs, then how can you expect others to? And second, the person who you should ALWAYS be able to count on to stand up for you – no matter what – is you. What this means is that the more you stand-up for your beliefs, the less you will rely on others to validate them. You’ll reinforce your independence and ability to stand on your own two feet without anyone else to support you.

We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t make mistakes or give into what was easier once in awhile, but learning from those mistakes and standing for what we believe in the vast majority of time is what is most important.

Do you believe in yourself?  How has it helped you to reach your goals and be successful?

If you believe in change and a second chance for ex-offenders click the insignia and see if it is something you feel would change lives.

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New Assignments From God

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changing peopleI realized that my truest passion was for helping people change through faith in a higher power. That meant, for me, belonging to the church. Using my abilities to bring Christian doctrine to a postmodern world.

James McGreevey

Acts 7:30-34

The Message (MSG)

30-32 “Forty years later, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to him in the guise of flames of a burning bush. Moses, not believing his eyes, went up to take a closer look. He heard God’s voice: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Frightened nearly out of his skin, Moses shut his eyes and turned away.

33-34 “God said, ‘Kneel and pray. You are in a holy place, on holy ground. I’ve seen the agony of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their groans. I’ve come to help them. So get yourself ready; I’m sending you back to Egypt.’

Often the Lord calls us aside from our work for a season and ask us to be still and learn before we go out again to minister. And the hours spent waiting are not lost time. An ancient Knight once realized, as he was fleeing from his enemies, that his horse needed a shoe replaced. The prudent course of action seemed to be to hurry on without delay. Yet higher wisdom told him to stop for a few minutes at the blacksmith’s along the road. Although he heard the galloping hooves of the enemies’ horses close behind, he waited until his steed was reshod before continuing his escape. Just as the enemy appeared, only a hundred yards away, he jumped into the saddle and dashed away with the swiftness of the wind.

Then he knew his stopping had actually hastened his escape. Quite of God will aask us to wait before we go, so we may fully recover from our last mission before entering the next stage of our journey and work.

Reassignments and life changing events are so uncertain to our feebleness, but if we trust His leading we will be in the best positioning for His perfect will to be perfected.

Waiting! Yes, patiently waiting!
Til next steps made plain will be;
To hear, with the inner hearing,
The voice that will call for me.

Waiting! Yes, hopefully waiting!
With hope that need not grow dim;
The Master is pledged to guide me,
And my eyes are unto Him.

Waiting! Expectantly waiting!
Perhaps it may be today
The Master will quickly open
The gate to my future way.

Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting!
I know, though I,ve waited long,
That, while He withholds His purpose,
His waiting cannot be wrong.

Waiting! Yes, waiting! still waiting!
The Master will not be late:
Since He knows that I am waiting
For Him to unlatch the gate.