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November 2004

20 posts from October 2004

Passion in prison follow-up

Jesus can still draw a crowd.

On Tuesday, at one of the prisons in central Michigan, guys crammed into a gymnasium to view Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. It was packed and their eyes didn't leave the screen for more than two hours. Why did he have to die? And, why the brutal death? Those questions came up more than once.

John Piper has written a book giving fifty reasons why Jesus had to die the way he did. It's a book that can glue itself to your mind. His findings point right back to the Bible. The guys at the prison were moved and were changed.

I go to prison at noon today

At noon today, we leave for Ionia and a state prison where the movie, The Passion, will be shown to several hundred guys.

Jesus Christ has been causing a stir throughout history. Can he do it again today at a minimum security prison in central Michigan?

He has a plan, I'm sure. I'll report back.

Friday Night Lights dissected

Last night, my wife, son and I saw the movie Friday Night Lights.  It was distrubing.  Sports have become life in our culture.  Adults and children hang their identity on sports and how well they or their team play them. 

Based on a book,  the movie shows how nuts people can get about athletics.  A person's worth can be determined by how well they hit, throw or catch a ball.  People pack stadiums and argue ad nauseum about their teams.  Parents get so intense about their kids' teams that they communicate their love and approval for their kids depends on performance.  That's sick and wrong and destructive.

Too bad people can't play sports for exercise and fun.  Joe Falls when he wrote a column for the Detroit Free Press described sports as the toy department of life.  Amen Joe.

This is my son


I missed out on having a father, but I didn't miss out on being one. My two kids, son and daughter, are gifts from God. They are great kids and I'm proud of them. They're both special. My son and I have been doing things together since he was very small. I'm proud of him as a son, as a man, as a brother in Jesus Christ and as a business partner.

Passion of the Christ in prison

I need some help!

Next Tuesday at Deerfield Correctional Institution in Ionia, a small group of volunteers will be part of two showings of The Passion of the Christ. The movie has been opened to the whole prison. For lots of guys, this will be their first real introduction to Jesus Christ.

It's a violent movie and volunteers will be there to help inmates sort it out and help them see where the only genuine hope comes from.

We need your prayers, big time. Hearts need to be open with the prisoners and with the corrections officers and the volunteers. Lots of stuff can happen to be an obstacle. We need prayers to remove any roadblock. More later.

A prison compliment

I've worked with volunteers during the past four years to help dads in prisons be better dads. Last night, one young guy with a toddler paid us a terrific compliment. Before he joined our group, he said, he had no one inside the prison to share his father concerns with.

Since he has joined he has found other guys who are either in the group or have been in the group. They are talking about their kids and about being fathers all the time. He feels he has been given a license to declare his dadhood.

It made me think that we really need dad support groups on the outside. A great job for the church. But, I fear they're too much like most of the guys on the prison yard.

It's just not manly to talk about your kids and about being a dad. What do you think?

Frustration in prison

Tonight our father's group in prison will talk about frustration. How big of a role does frustration play in your life and how do you handle it? How do you kids handle frustration?

Frustration is the first base on the way to a whole lot of problems. Lots of guys are serving big-time sentences because they didn't know how to deal with it. What can they learn in an hour? Our hope is that a spark is struck and they, at least, start giving it more thought and pass it down to their kids.

Just ask Dennis Rodman and Howard Stern

Nobody ever told me that dads were important to their kids. Growing up, I just knew it.

Don't take me wrong, I know that I was and I still am blessed. My mom was great. She gave me the greatest gift that a parent can give, sacrificial and unconditional love.

But, dads have incredible power and when they bow out of their children's lives, their power becomes even more obvious. Guys need to know this and so should women. Take the dad out of the picture and your removing one more anchor for your children.

Examples are Dennis Rodman and Howard Stern. Rodman, one of the great NBA players of all times, has not seen his dad in more than 30 years, according to Steve Farrar in his book, Anchor Man. His dad, Philander has two wives and 15 children. Stern whose radio and television programs are filled with shock sex and animal behavior talks about in Rolling Stone how during his life his dad alway referred to him as a piece of ... you fill in the blank. He says he never had a lot of self-esteem.

Then take a look at an analysis of 100 studies on parent-child relations by Ronald P. Rohner and let's get back together and talk.

We sang this in prison

You could see the bullet holes in the chapel walls. They were remnants from past riots at this prison for violent, youthful offenders in Ionia, a small prison town in central Michigan.

The guys at the chapel service were a wide-variety of young felons. When they came in the chapel, I kept my eye open for the location of the door, just in case.

My fear vaporized when the organist started playing and the song was Victory in Jesus. The place changed. It was as if we were in the presence of God and he was sharing the secrets of how to get through life and it was Victory in Jesus.

Red hot, burning, steamy passion

This summer at Promise Keepers in Indianapolis, Justin and I heard Erwin McManus, a young pastor from Los Angeles talk about the conference theme, Uprising--A Revolution of the Soul. It's easy to be distracted from the weight of somebody's words and not grab their import to your own life til later.

For me that was this morning. I'm taking a month off from work to ready myself for retirement from what has been my day job for a long time. At the kitchen table, I read McManus' words from page 5 of his book: "I am convinced in all of us there is a voice crying out, a confession waiting to be declared without shame, "I want to live!" Amen.

It's too easy to live life in neutral without being fully engaged.

I want to rekindle the passion in my life. And I'm not talking about sex. It's purpose, my purpose, something that I can burn for. My passion has been up and down. I want it to burn and to burn for Jesus Christ. He's the only thing that gives purpose to life.

I've either tried or seen a bunch of other stuff and it doesn't last. I'll report back.

Part #2--My goals for telling my story

Let me be clear for my reasons in telling my story.  There are lots of youngsters who lack dads in some way, shape or form.  They're paying a price.  The consequences is that the cycle of bad parenting will probably continue with them. 

For families to grow and prosper, for the institution of marriage to be elevated, kids need their dads or dad figure. Something needs to be done.  I'm convinced that government should not be the doer in this case.  It needs to come from our communities and our churches.

I'm not looking for sympathy, maybe understanding for me and others.  I've been blessed beyond what I deserve.  I am happily married and I have great kids.  The cycle is broken with me.  I want to see it happen for others.

This is for the kids, for the dads who are struggling or who have pulled out of fathering and want to get back in and for the moms who are left trying to pick up the pieces.

The Heart of a Father--A must read

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out why my dad could and would abandon me and my mother. This is something that gnaws at you, like termites in your soul that don't go away.

Then several years ago, my son Justin and I were at a Promise Keepers event at Soldier Field in Chicago. That's where we met Dr. Ken Canfield, the author of The Heart of a Father. His National Center for Fathering has done some groundbreaking research on the role of dad in their children's lives.

The book talks about how fathering practices, attitude and emotions are passed from generation to generation, from dad to son to grandson and on down the line.

It made me think about my father and what he got from his dad. I bet he drew the short dad straw. He never learned how to deal with the challenge of having your back against the wall or how to have effective relationships.

He makes the point that a dad needs to look at how he was fathered and if he has any beefs with his dad, he needs to settle them.

The book goes on to outline best practices for fathering kids. It's really good stuff. More later.

Part #1--My mother, a true hall of famer

There are Halls of Fame for all the things that belong in the toy department of life.  Think of it.  There's a baseball hall of fame, football and others.  These are things that really don't matter a whole lot in the scheme of the larger questions of life.

If there was a hall of fame for parents, my mother, Frieda M. Thorp, would be there.  There's no doubt in my mind.  She loved unconditionally and never accepted letting down or quitting as an option.

My mom met my dad while visiting my aunts then boyfriend turned husband at a Navy base out east.  This happened as World War II was ending.  My dad--Claude H. Thorpe--was a ship's carpenter.  He was from Duchess County, New York, lived in New York City and had been married once before.  My mom was born and raised on a farm in the Thumb of Michigan. 

Right after the war,, they married and settled in Bay City, Michigan where I was born in 1946.  My dad stuck around for 18 months and then he was gone. 

Preface--Tatum O'Neil and me

I just saw an interview between Katie Couric and Tatum O'Neil on the Today Show about her new book, A Paper Life.  It recounts her life with a very famous father, Ryan O'Neil.  Her whole identity was affected by a dad who wasn't doing his job.  She's now sharing her struggles with that.

My sixth decade of life is almost within view and I still struggle with my father experience.  It has touched my whole identity.  Memories are getting more fuzzy, but it's still there.

My dad deserted my mom and I when I was 18 months old.  He never came back.  He married again in another state and had another family.  I found him and was totally rejected.

I've learned a ton.  Maybe other's who are in the same situation can learn from my experience.

I'd like to use this blog to help sort out an outline for a possible book.

Stay tuned.

Presidential candidates ignore reality

Present a need to a politician and they'll try to fix it through a program. That was really evident in the last three presidential debates. Government can fix anything, take care of anybody. Hmmm... Do these guys really believe that?

I remember the 1964 candidate for president, U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater. He knew the limits of government. The more government did, the less freedom we would have. And what government did, it would not do very well.

That's not what people want to hear. The needs out there are unending, but government can't fill them all.

I've been around state government all my life. It does few things well. There comes a time where people have to take responsibility for themselves. Families and churches need to belly up and take responsibility for each other. Unfortunately, we are not doing that. Lots of people are headed for big disappointment.

Too many angry people

I work in a small legislative office where people call to comment and complain about all kinds of issues, some personal and some just views about things happening at the State Capitol. Our governor proposed a change in the schedule for collection of county property taxes.

Some local media reported it as a 33 percent tax increase and it wasn't, of course. It was just a shift in when a portion of the taxes would be paid.

People called the office and they were angry. They wouldn't let facts get in the way of their anger. There was no talking to most of them. Some got really nasty and rude and crossed the boundaries of proper behavior. And some of these were folks who should have had better manners. Anger. Does it seem like there's more in the general population?

The Detroit Free Press says yes in a current series of stories. It's a national phenomenon. What do you think?

Let me introduce my blog

I feel like I've got something to share. I'm 58-years old, a member of the first class of baby-boomers. There are some things I've learned and I'm not sure I've got it in me to write a book. In recent years, my life has revolved around my family, politics and prisons.

I believe firmly that we can learn from each other. I hope I have something you can learn from. I'll be back.