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Monthly Archives: November 2014

CH…CH…CHANGES – Harold Lee Wilson II

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CH…CH…CHANGES
by Harold Lee Wilson II

Life can be very confusing at times. When you seem to have everything together, when all seems to be going smoothly and all your ducks are in a row, life happens. You are troubled, tested, tempted, tortured, and teased by the devil. Your life seems to take a 180 degree turn for the worse, leaving you feeling lost and confused about what to do next.

But, life is about changes. Change is one of the factors that determine who a person is and what that person is destined to become. God calls us to change our minds daily to be more like His Son (Romans 12:2). He desires that we change to become more like Jesus in all our ways (Romans 8:29). We are called to become more and more perfect each day, readying ourselves for the future that we are going to have with Jesus in Heaven.

But, this is where things get murky. We are called to be more like Jesus, and we already know from His Word that God does not change (Malachi 3:6). So, there is only one other option: WE HAVE TO BE THE ONES TO CHANGE. We have to be the ones to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus, not Jesus being transformed in the likeness of us. The Bible makes it clear the transformation on our part is the only way.

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” -1 Corinthians 15:51-52

We are going to be changed, as Christians, into something much greater than we currently are. We will become incorruptible, imperishable, and perfect. We will become like Jesus. Think if it was reversed! Think if Jesus was to become like us. What would have to look forward to? That kind of future is that for His followers and God’s children. Nothing I would be interested in seeing, in all truth.

Jesus makes it clear just how we are to change while here on Earth, before the great change we are all looking forward to. We are called to change to be like little children (Matthew 18:3). We must become like children, trusting and accenting of whatever our parents instruct us to do, if we are to see the final and ultimate change we are destined for. To become like children…what a strange concept. We are required to be understanding, forgiving, kind, loving, trusting, caring, respectful, and compassionate, lust as a little child would be. Of course, this is a tall order, and it is unlikely that any of us will ever fully accomplish such a lofty goal. Thank God for His forgiveness and understanding!

One of the most important changes that we have to make is to learn to treat others like God would treat them. Yes, we could stop at “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But, what is the good and glory in that? Instead, we should change our mindsets in regards to others and treat them not only better than ourselves, as told to in the Bible, but to treat them as God would. This means we are to respect them, love them, be kind to them, and encourage them in all they do. We are to bless others, teach others, help others, lead others, and assist others in their personal goals. To do so is to bring a smile to God’s face and to bring peace and joy to the lives of those who may be in serious need of it.

Making changes should be something that we each should do. We are not perfect. Nor are we always right. We have things in our life that we to remove, alter, amend, fly, utilize, and mutate. We need change in order to be able to adjust to the difficulties that come our way or to celebrate with the blessings that we receive.

Without the ability to change, we would be the same as we were when born…dead in our sins. Instead, we have altered our mindsets and have learned that there is only one way to live—for Christ!

Make some changes in your life today. Look at those things that have been holding you back and keeping you from loving and obeying God to the fullest. Only then, through transformation, will you discover your true potential, the potential that God knows you have and wants you to embrace. Only through an act of change can a child of the devil become a child of God. Trust me, I speak from personal experience in this.

Make the necessary changes in your life today and watch the blessing that will come your way. May God watch over you in all you do.

Prison, Dogs & God (part 1) – Brian Sewell

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Prison, Dogs & God

Brian Sewell

Lakeland Correctional Facility

(this original submission can be read in its entirety at: www.messageofhopeprisonministry.org/newsletters-from-inside.html)

Part 1 of 3

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a dog? Ever pondered what’s really going on amongst the wiggles, wags, and whiskers? When you think about it, we humans really have a lot to learn from what’s commonly described as “Man’s Best Friend.” Personally, I’ve always been a dog lover for as long as I can remember. Once at an early age I was viciously mauled by a German Shepherd actually requiring hospital treatment. Surprisingly enough, this unprovoked attack – although terrifying at the time – did not cause me to hate all dogs. While some would say this even would have justified a hatred for what caused it, you’ll never convince me of this!

Looking into a dog’s eyes, what I see is portholes to its soul. While some dogs seem to look right through you with a scare stare, what lies beneath their rugged exterior soon gives way, revealing the unconditional love that dogs possess. Love, when you think about it, is a word we humans use all too often without regard for its real meaning. The type of love I’m talking about is “Agape” love. The same kind of love that God has for all mankind. While we are quick to say “I love you” to someone we’re in a relationship with, or carelessly use these words to describe what we feel someone needs to hear in exchange for saying it to us, we fail to really comprehend what it is we are saying. Often our actions do not always live up to what we convey with our mouths. Dogs on the other hand, in my opinion, live up to the real meaning of love best described in the Bible.

The word, agape, describes a love that is based on the deliberate choice of the one who loves rather than the worthiness of the one who is loved (The Nelson Study Bible p. 1933 – outlined commentary). This kind of love goes against natural human inclination. It is a giving, selfless, expect-nothing-in-return kind of love. For example, you can verbally scold a dog or even spank its bottom for chewing on your favorite slippers; (Oh!, by the way…hitting dogs is never acceptable – regardless of the offense)! Surprisingly, after such an atrocity, a dog will almost always come back to you tail-a-wagging, ready to lavish you with affection or cuddle in your lap. It keeps no records of wrongs, accepts any hardship or rejection, and yet continues unabated for the sole purpose of being obedient to its true nature, which is love.

Through my life’s experience I’ve learned more about prison, dogs and God than I ever thought I would! You see, I’m a resident of the Michigan Department of Corrections. Some say I’m an inmate,” some say a “prisoner.” I’d say it’s a little of both. Regardless of how you choose to describe it, the fact remains that you are somewhere you don’t want to be. Man way not mean to live this way – dogs neither for that matter. However, I can honestly say…prison, dogs and God have taught me a great deal about the person I want to be, and about the kind of life I want to live – especially should the Lord and of course (the parole board) see fit to bless me with my freedom someday.

Before coming to prison I thought of myself as forgiving, loving, and caring. That’s the way I tried to live my life. Nevertheless, somewhere along the way, and I suspect through many injustices and/or perceived injustices committed upon me – I sometimes became crotchety, intolerant, and unloving. That all changed after the unspeakable crime I committed which landed me in jail, altering the lives of many forever. Coming to prison and having to face the harsh reality of my actions – taking into account the mess I made of my life and the impact it had on others – was extremely humbling for me! My once selfish and foolish behavior suddenly became transparent for all to see, including myself.

Although I had some knowledge about God and the Bible, what I had known was mostly learned from childhood Sunday school and lessons or the few times I was dragged off to church by family and friends. The occasional passing of a loved one compelled me to enter the threshold of God’s house, but solely for the purpose of funeral services. I believed in God and the limited amount of scripture I had read in the Bible, but never really thought of myself as being much of a Christian. I was as bad a sinner as anyone. I wouldn’t say that I was the “Chief” of sinners, or so I thought, but certainly I was no saint! Recognizing the brokenness of my former conduct and all it entailed, I was brought to the very end of myself. The shame, sorrow, regret, and remorse I felt, somehow I know had more to do with than just this crime I committed! It was like my whole life flashed before me in a mirror and I did not like its reflection. One good thing about hitting rock bottom through, when you find yourself in this position – there’s no place to go but up!

Looking back, I believe God’s pursuit of me began long before I ever knew it, however, as I explained before it took the brokenness of this life-changing event to really open my eyes to the Truth! After turning myself into the police I was taken to the Canton Police Department. There I was given the opportunity to make the proverbial phone call afforded to everyone who is arrested. Instinctively I called my father. This was the one time I wished I hadn’t had to call home…for I knew it would break Dad’s heart.

(to be continued…)

Prison, Dogs & God (part 2) – Brian Sewell

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Prison, Dogs & God

Brian Sewell

Lakeland Correctional Facility

Part 2 of 3

Already informed of what I had done by the continuation of coverage with the local news media, I suspect it somehow prepared him for this exchange. As you might imagine a father wanting to protect his child from anything, he told me that he loved me and was quick to warn me not to say anything to the police without a lawyer present! I interrupted him by letting him know that the police had already tricked me into a confession. Silence came over the phone and I could just about hear the tears swelling in his eyes as he said: “Son, the only one who can help you now is God!”

At that moment the phone was handed over to my cousin Justine. Being a Christian she had a word of hope to share with me. That’s when she began to tell me about “do over’s.” what she told me was so profound and really made a lot of sense. She said, “Sometimes in life we do things that we cannot undo – much like the crime you’ve committed.” She went on to remind me of the backyard baseball games we had as kinds. In those times when the ball was mistakenly hit over the house or into the next yard everyone would yell…”DO OVER – DO OVER!” Then you’d get another attempt to make up for your mistake. Before hanging up the phone she left me with these words:

“With God there is always a do over! No matter how far you stray, no matter how bad you messed things up, you can always come back home!”

I didn’t know it at the time, but her simple story about do-over’s – and the brief exchange I had with my father – would soon prove to be instrumental in bringing me to the place where I would later cry out to God. After my arraignment I was transferred to Wayne County Jail where I was eventually housed in the mental health ward. I was having a nervous breakdown as a result of everything that had taken place up to that point. It wasn’t long before I was prescribed psychotropic medication for my depression and anxiety.

Mourning the death of my wife, who I shot in a jealous fit of rage moments after discovering her in bed with another man – who also regrettably shot and killed, I was deeply hurting from within. Broken, battered, and bruised (physically and emotionally) I was beginning to have thoughts of suicide as a way of bringing an end to my suffering. I devised a plan to save up about thirty 50mg Paxils (a strong anti-depressant) which was more than enough to surely kill me. It was simple, I’d just take them all and fall asleep. Little did I know…God had other plans! On the night that I was about to swallow the deadly cocktail of pills something strange happened. I began to shake as tears streamed down my face. Just in the nick of time…I remembered the conversations I previously had with my cousin and my father. Surrounded by prison bars, concrete walls, and in plain view – I fell to my knees and cried out to God:

“DO OVER – DO OVER”

Suddenly I was that little kid again who hit the ball in foul territory – hopefully asking for a “do-over.” Tearful and trembling with fear of not knowing if He’d hear my cry…I somehow found the courage to continue. Emotional as I was, strangely enough I felt a sense of peace and calm come upon me like I’d never felt before. It was as if God had reached down and place His hand on my should to say, “Everything’s gonna’ be alright son…trust me.” I was sobbing uncontrollably as I began to confess all the terrible things I’d done my entire life. When I was finished I knew what I had to do! I flushed the pills down the toilet, accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and from that moment on I have never looked back. That was many years ago. So far it’s been an amazing journey of life lessons, self-awareness, change, forgiveness, healing, and spiritual growth, all of which has been the source of many blessings.

One of the most remarkable blessings to enter my life is this unique program here at the facility called: Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan. A prison partnership training camp for rescued dogs from within the local communities. The RPSM program is a very cool organization run by volunteers that work with Humane Societies and Animal Control Facilities to dramatically reduce euthanasia amongst these deserving animals – giving them a second chance at life.

They take adoptable, homeless dogs, carefully screen them, vaccinate, and spay/neuter them before placing them here in the prison for 10 weeks of obedience training. The dogs are assigned to carefully selected inmates like myself, who live with the dogs 24/7 and provide day to day care until they are adopted. It’s a win-win situation for both the dogs and prisoners. After completing the program the dogs are more adoptable, but what’s even more amazing is that bonding with these dogs has turned prisoner’s lives around. Not only are we providing a much needed community service, we are also learning a new vocational skill that we may someday put to use when released. The dogs really have a way of pulling on your heart strings and for some, like myself, in many ways we’re learning how to love again. With that all things are possible!

(to be continued…)

Prison, Dogs & God (part 3) – Brian Sewell

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Prison, Dogs & God

Brian Sewell

Lakeland Correctional Facility

Part 3 of 3

The dogs come here with a variety of background stories. Some are old, some young, even little puppies from time to time. For one reason or another, they are abandoned (sometimes due to circumstances) or as cruel as it may sound…they were just left behind by heartless people who could care less about what happens to them. Many are abused or neglected and were confiscated by animal control officers. It’s not uncommon to discover that these dogs often times have emotional and even physical scars from their pasts lives. Whatever their history they become outcasts. Unwanted by society, sadly, many meet their demise through lethal injection.

It’s only through dedicated efforts of loving, compassionate volunteers within the RPSM organization and their partners that a difference is being made to stop the insanity of destroying so many deserving and wonderful animals. Only a few fortunate ones find their way into the RPSM prison partnership program. Aside from being loved passed the pain of their former lives, the dogs are socialized and taught a variety of commands and special tricks, transforming them into obedient, loving, and loyal additions to any home. It’s clear that the dogs and the inmates training them have greatly benefited from this unique opportunity to share and learn lessons like: obedience, trust, loyalty, forgiveness, and love – which we all need to practice! I fondly remember one exceptionally talented dog who taught me, or should I say…reminded me of something that helped me in my walk with God.

One of the basic commands we teach the dogs is how to “heel.” This is when the dog walks alongside of you directly in line with your left heel. Some dogs master this command while others require improvement when they drift off course. One day as I was walking Avery, (the dog assigned to me) a little squirrel scampered across the path in front of us. One minute we were walking along, then everything changed in a hurry! I felt the tension as Avery’s body became rigid and began to pull toward the furry critter. Giving him a distraction, I did a 180° about face in the other direction to divert his attention back onto me. Avery came and resumed his rightful position by my side, however, his neck was twisted back with his eyes tightly fixed upon the critter. I was successful in getting Avery to follow me but I could not get him to look away from what demanded his full attention. Although he was with me physically his mind was with that little squirrel. Eventually I was able to regain control of Avery using the techniques I’ve learned.

This incident reminded me of how we can so easily become distracted with things that take our focus off God. Sometimes we get excessively compulsive in our work, our hobbies, or even other things that we have absolutely no business whatsoever trying to pursue. We become fixated on these things to the point that we lose focus of our rightful position and all responsibilities. Often times this results in bad choices that are sure to have unpleasant consequences. It’s in these times that we must yield to God’s correction and get back on “heel” in our walk with Him. When we do that God promises: “No good thing will He withhold from us.” All that’s required is that we walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). When we stay of the path that God sets before us we are better equipped to make wise decisions in all areas of our lives. However, step off the path – one way of the other – we can easily be led astray. Left to our own devices we have the ability to get into so much mischief.

A reflection of my life often reveals thoughts of past hurts, disappointments, failed relationships, broken promises and shattered dreams. I would have never thought that my life – although being one of such incalculable offenses – would have ended up with me being in prison…not in a million years! Even more surprising, not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that someday I’d be training dogs in prison. While I’m the one doing the training, in the process it’s the dogs that are teaching me in more ways than one. Their special kind of love and willingness to forgive is an ever-present encouraging reminder how God sometimes calls us to action in areas that seem humanly impossible. For instance, when forgiving an atrocious act or even a multitude of offenses committed upon us over a period of time, feels as if it’s something beyond our ability to obtain. While we may or may not be able to achieve what God requires of us on our own, we can always rely upon His strength and correction to lead us in the right direction.

I’ve come to know that when we get “off heel” in our walk with the Lord, especially when things go awry, chasing after the wrong things or taking matters into our own hands only makes a mess. One look at where I am today and why is a prime example of this profound wisdom and truth. Thankfully (and for the time being) I’ve got “Prison, Dogs & God” to guide me in the right direction. While I’ve learned that sometimes in life we can really make a mess of things, I’ve also discovered that if you allow Him to – God can take your mess and make it your message! For myself and many of my fellow inmate dog handlers/trainers, that’s really what’s going on amongst the wiggles, wags, and whiskers!

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS STORY PLEASE SHARE IT WITH OTHERS

For more information about Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan Prison Partnership Program, or for more details on how to adopt a pet and view the dogs currently enrolled in the program, log onto:

www.rpsm.org

“ TO GOD BE THE GLORY! “

Give – Gerord Robinson

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“GIVE”

“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is MORE BLESSED TO GIVE than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

SO GIVE…
your life to Christ.
your mind, soul, and body to God.
your time to preach the gospel.
to those who are in need.
your heart to God.
praises to God.
thanks to God.
honor to God.
God first place in your life.
yourself away to God.
God your plans, dreams, and desires.
And you will be Blessed!

by Gerord Robinson

Rather Have Jesus – Robert Perron

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“Rather Have Jesus”

Precious gold and precious stones
Are so tempting to receive
They can buy us fleshly wants
But they can also leave us to grieve
Money can get us many things
But what does it do for love
It leaves us alone and helpless
Looking to the skies up above
If riches were laid out before me
Enough to last me thousands of years
I would have to deny every cent
‘Cause it would only lead to tears
There is no good life in mammon
And I’d rather have Jesus than wealth
He will hold us in His arms
And give us His Spiritual health

Soli Deo Gloria

By Robert Perron

Lump of Coal – Robert Perron

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“Lump of Coal”

What is coal but a lump
Something most use for waste
It doesn’t have much odor
Nor really have any taste
We can use it to light a fire
Or to cook up some barbeque
We can even heat up our house
If we want to use it as a fuel
But under great pressure coal changes
And becomes a beautiful sight
It turns into a brilliant diamond
That refracts God’s wonderful light
You could say we are like coal
Just ordinary people each day
But put us under some pressure
And we’ll change in an extraordinary way
Trials, testings, and persecutions
Come upon us all of the time
But bring each of them to Jesus
And He will make your life sublime
So the next time life seems tough
And you feel like a lump of coal
Let those pressures be used by Jesus
To make your life completely whole

Soli Deo Gloria
Robert Perron

Intimate Relationship With Jesus – Robert Perron

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“Intimate Relationship with Jesus”

I once heard if I have a HABIT and could remove some of it, let’s say the “H”, I would still have ABIT. If I could remove some more, I’d still have BIT. And if I could remove a little more, I’d still have IT. So the simple choice remains, do I choose the “I” or the “T”. The “I” stands for self-centeredness while the “T” refers to the cross. As for me, I choose the “T”.

As I was studying the other day, I ran into the phrase “intimate relationship with Jesus”. This is a strong bond, a friendship, an accountability I have. I should be kept accountable to meet with Jesus each and every day, fellowship with Him, share my deepest needs and concerns with Him, and live in His grace and mercy. Yet that word HABIT came back up in my thoughts. If I make it a habit to meet with Jesus daily, that’s O.K. But, if I have bad habits in my life, even if I just have the smallest bit of “IT”, that can hurt my relationship with Jesus.

To show my point, with these “Play on words”, look at the word “INTIMATE”. If I take the “IT” out of it in the form of “TI”, then I only have the word “INMATE” left. So if someone is still holding on to the “IT” part of a bad HABIT for themselves, then they become INMATES (or prisoners) to their sinful conditions, and leave the intimate relationship behind. Am I saying we should be perfect? No, by no means. We live in the flesh still, and are in sin’s presence every day. But we should not let habits of the sinful nature reign in our lives. We need to seek forgiveness from our Lord and Savior. That’s why He promises mercies that are new every morning (Lam. 3:21-23). From there God’s grace takes over. So, as I stated above: Have that strong bond with Jesus by talking to Him, sharing your concerns and needs with Him, just fellowshipping with Him, and He will make His grace and mercies abundant in your life as you form that “INTIMATE” relationship with Him.

AMEN

by Robert Perron

Was it Pride or Ego – Anthony Pallitto

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“Was it Pride or Ego?”

Before coming to this environment surrounded by concrete and steel bars I had the most amazing significant other (at least in the mindset I had back then). My girlfriend was always stating to me, “They named a street after you.” “One way!” You know it took me 15 years to figure out what she so graciously was trying to convey to me ever so elegantly. She was so kind to me in every endeavor.

So I ask myself, “Was that pride or my ego in my persona?”

I would go out to breakfast just about every morning before going to work with my co-worker. When my co-worker and I would go out to breakfast we were usually in a good mood – morning was and is my time of the day. Nothing gets a day off to a worse start than a surly waitress. You know the kind I mean. Without a trace of a smile she slams the cup of hot cocoa and or coffee ordered and splashes it on the shirt you just put on for the day. Watch out! Here come the silverware! Clunk. You ordered your eggs over light. But they come out charbroiled. By now you have confirmed that waitresses resent men and are bitter about their station in life. You think, “With an attitude like that no wonder she is a waitress.” Over the years we begin to look down on waitresses. Notice how waitresses are treated the next time you’re out, then watch how they treat their colleagues.

Men want and need to feel good about themselves. What could be more natural and more beneficial than to feel good about yourself – To have a good self-image? But when does being proud of our position or accomplishments become a sin? Is anything wrong with when our chest swells with pride when our teammate and or little brother or even best friend hits a homerun?

Pride is a sin of comparison in which we compare our strengths to the other fellow’s weaknesses. Something I experienced within these concrete walls and steel bars is how somebody is always comparing his own strengths to others weaknesses to make it appear that he is flawless. Nobody is perfect, just human!! In order to make ourselves feel better we put other people down. Sometimes verbally and sometimes just mentally. The easiest way to look down on others is to pick out people of less stature and accomplishments. And it’s particularly easy to pick out other people’s weaknesses to compare to our strengths. The subtle sin of pride beguiles every Christian man. The most invisible of sins, pride, seeps into the moat around a sandcastle on the beach. It requires no effort on our part to get, but all of our strength to keep out.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

by Anthony Pallitto

Turning Points – Harold Lee Wilson II

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“Turning Points (of Life)” By Harold Lee Wilson II

Verse One
Life is hard/and i t doesn’t always make sense
Where do you turn/When your weary and your strength is spent
What do you do/when everything you knew/is through/and over you
And you don’t have a clue/Just Who do you turn to

Verse Two
We’re told we would/go through trials and temptations
And we’d be bombarded/with all the world’s sensations
How do you resist/All of this/When it’s bliss/That you must desist
Just Who can you enlist

Chorus

The world/will make you feel lost
And try to hold you/at any cost
But turn your eyes/To the stars and Son
And when you need to turn away
Turn away towards the One

Verse Three
I’ve seen a lot/Even though I’m only thirty-two
I’ve been wrong too often/not knowing what to do
But I made up my mind/to finally find/Someone so kind/and true
Who knew/There was Someone to help me through

Repeat Chorus

Bridge
Let’s not pretend
We can do it on our own
That we need no one
That we can live life alone
We all need someone else
We all need a helping hand
Why not grasp the one
of God-Become-Man

Repeat Chorus to fade