The USA is truly an incredible place to live, and yet it is not perfect. One of the things that needs to change is the penal system. We are a country based on freedom, and yet ironically, we are one of the most incarcerated people in the world.
Corrections (which includes prisons, jails, probation, and parole) cost around $74 billion in 2007 according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2016, the Prison Policy Initiative estimated that in the United States, about 2,298,300 people were incarcerated out of a population of 323.1 million.
Jack Nicholson had a memorable line in the movie A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth.” We have a problem and it is not going to change without fixing the root issue. We seem to be very efficient in punishing people but not so good at helping rehabilitate them and addressing the cause.
A Bureau of Justice Statistic study found inmates released from state prisons have a five-year re-arrest rate of 76.6%. A USSC study calculated comparable federal prisoners released have a 44.7% re-arrest rate after five years. How is that even possible? Those are grim figures that should wake you up whether you are in prison or you are free. Our prisons have revolving doors.
I don’t have any quick fixes, but simple observations. People in jail or prison need to know that somebody cares about them. Well, if you are reading this, I am that somebody. I care, my wife cares, and God cares. There are many people outside the walls who care for you (even if you don’t know them).
What can we do as a society to change this problem?
- Fix the family. Broken homes often are a statistic associated with incarceration. Having a stable family unit is a step in the right direction.
- Racism has to be addressed. We all bleed red, yet for some reason there are those who look at people different from them as somehow less than them.
- People who are free should never take their freedom for granted. It can be taken away in a heartbeat with one stupid mistake (as I am sure many who are behind bars can attest to).
- Stay in touch with the people you know who have been incarcerated and let them know you love them and are there for them. Do what you can to help them, encourage them, and just be there for them.
- Help those who are released to find meaningful employment. If they can’t find a job, what do you think is likely to happen?
- We all need heart surgery. Everyone has the same issue. Make sure you have a right relationship with God first and foremost, then work on loving others, regardless of how they look or what they have done.
- Forgive everyone. Yes, we have to reap the consequences of our actions, but everyone deserves to be forgiven and given another chance. Forgive everyone, including yourself. Give people the opportunity to succeed. Failure is only fatal if we give up on life itself.
- There is a proverb that says: Evil company corrupts. That holds true whether you are free or not. The people that you hang out with on a regular basis are inevitably a reflection of who you are. Choose your friends wisely.
I hope you don’t just read this and forget about it. We each have to do our part to change society for the better. I am asking everyone who reads this to do what they can…the best that they can to make this country an even better place to live for us and future generations.
“Gimme a break, will ya?” Have you ever felt that way? You just want to get a break and the cards you’ve been dealt are not going to win any games. Breakthroughs are tricky because we never know when they are going to come our way. All we know is that we will only break through if we are willing to push through.
Life is an incredible adventure, but it can be exhausting if you are just constantly focused on a breakthrough. Learn a valuable lesson and you will experience a lot less stress and gain the peace that has eluded you.
The lesson is this: enjoy the journey. Some people are so focused on the destination or goal that they miss all the blessings along the way. When we lose the joy of the journey, we can lose our way and miss our breakthrough altogether.
I had to take a LYFT ride the other day. The driver was a young single mom. She had 3 kids and was struggling to make ends meet. We had a long ride together, so I got to know a lot about her.
As I told her who I was, I shared my faith with her and encouraged her to draw close to God as she looked for her breakthrough. I asked her if I could pray for her and if there was anything specific she needed. Tears welled up in her eyes and she told me she had some health problems and needed healing.
I prayed for her and then left her with this: we had a “divine appointment.” She thought she was picking up someone who needed a ride, and I thought I was just getting from point A to point B. God had different plans. He sent me to her to encourage and pray for her.
She was the one who got the LIFT. God sends us divine appointments every day. We just have to ask for them, and then be ready to go with the flow. You will learn to see the opportunities to help people all along the way to your breakthrough. That is the secret to joy and peace on the journey.
Would you describe yourself as secure or insecure? Here are some characteristics to consider. If you are secure:
- You are not needy. You are content.
- You are not self-centered. You think of others first.
- You do not worry. You have faith.
- You are not driven by what other people think of you. You know who you are.
- You shun ingratitude. You are truly grateful for all that you’ve been given.
- You don’t confuse using things and using people.
- You don’t talk about people, you talk to them.
- You understand that being secure, you can make decisions without second-guessing yourself. You are careful and analytical, but decisive.
- You know that what you see on the outside is not always a match of what is inside someone. Beauty is not necessarily in the eye of the beholder either. True beauty is when you look at the heart. That is what God looks at. If that has beauty there is merit. Inner beauty always trumps outer beauty.
How are you measuring up so far? Do you want to move from insecure to secure in who you are?
- Once you know “whose” you are, you can rely upon “who” you are. God formed you. You are a miracle; one of a kind. You are His. No other person on earth has your exact DNA. That makes you special. You have a purpose on this earth. Once you accept that, it can take you to new levels in your faith, your family, your friends, and your future. You can be secure in God. He loves you completely. If you don’t get anything else, get that, and trust HIM.
- You have to know who you are. That is both simple and complex. You can choose to not believe it. You can know who you are and ignore it. Or…you can know who you are and walk out your destiny. That choice is totally up to you.
Don’t waste your time or your life trying to be a people pleaser. Trust me, you can never please everyone. There will always be the haters, but if you know who you are, it does not matter. That gives YOU the power, so use it wisely.
If you want to know what the perfect Father looks like, look at God… the Father of all mankind. He loves us completely in spite of our human frailties. That fact alone should give you pause to think. His love directs us, completes us, and gives us our daily bread. His love lights the way through the darkness and comforts us in the losses we encounter. He also corrects us when we are going astray just as any loving Father would. His love is generous, complete, and never ends.
Being a great Father is a daunting task for most men. It is a huge responsibility, but I do believe it is a worthy goal for any Father. You know what I believe helps make that a reality? Love God with all our heart first and foremost. The second thing is to love our fellow man as we love ourselves.
If you really want to take being a good Father to a different level, do those two things, but add one more thing to make it very personal: love your wife completely. Serve her. Honor her. Make her the priority that she deserves to be in your life. Listen to her. Protect her. Provide for her. You want to be treated like a king? Treat her like a queen. The children will love and respect you as a result.
Too many men miss this point and think they can be great Dads by spending a lot of time with their kid(s), but neglect or even abuse their spouse. That type of behavior is a ticking time-bomb. Sooner or later it is going to explode and the very thing the Dad was trying to nurture (relationship with his children) will very likely be taken from him.
Love God, love your fellow man, and treat your wife like a queen. Those three simple things will elevate you in the eyes of all and give you peace that passes understanding.
Happy Father’s Day!
What happened? I woke up and realized I am older than dirt! It seems like just yesterday that I was in college and had no worries other than studying for the big exam. When I was a kid, one day was like an eternity. Now…the years are ticking away like seconds on a clock, and the second hand is spinning like a ceiling fan on high.
It is a little unnerving, to say the least. One day you are young, have a head full of hair, and no wrinkles. You wake up the next day and you are this old geezer who is already planning his next nap!
What is my point here other than to get you to share in my misery? Make the most of your time, no matter how old you are. Whether you are young or old…learn to appreciate the little things in life. Take time to smell the roses. Notice the beauty in God’s creation. Don’t just see mobs of people passing you by. Look in their faces. Look in their eyes. Engage them.
Make your bucket list early in life and do it. Don’t wait until tomorrow because we don’t know how much time we are given. We know we have today. If you ever lost someone prematurely that was dear to you, you know the sense of bewilderment. A parent is not supposed to bury a child, but it happens every day to someone around the world.
Cherish the moments you have today with those you love. Let them know how much you love them. The fact that you told them that you loved them 30 years ago when you proposed does not count. Remind them daily in word and deed that you love them deeply.
When all is said and done, would you be happy with what was said and done? Did you give your best? Did you love others completely? Did you forgive everyone for everything that was done to you? Were you kind, compassionate, and encouraging to those that God brought into your path?
I hope you live today with great abandon. Like the popular sign says: Live, Laugh, Love. Do that today…everyday…all day.